Tag Archives: Connor Barwin

Countdown to Eagles Football — 44 Days: Who is the Face of the Franchise?

Editor’s note: This is the first installment of a 44-day series counting down the days until the Eagles season begins. Most parts will not be as weird as this one. 

The first question that we answer in our series will be the easiest.

It’s also a unique one in that for better or for worse, the Eagles are one of the few teams, hell, maybe the only team in the NFL, where the coach comes to mind more than one particular player. Sam Bradford, should he somehow turn into the franchise quarterback that made him the first overall pick in the draft five years ago could potentially emerge as the answer to this. DeMarco Murray theoretically could as well, but it’s difficult to hand that label to someone who previously suited up for your biggest rival and has yet to play a down for the Eagles.

A case could be made for Connor Barwin, but not many 3-4 linebackers jump to the forefront when you think face of the franchise. When the schedule was released in April, the Eagles went with an image of Zach Ertz, another who could be in the conversation but isn’t there yet.

The past two paragraphs partly underscore the issue of having a somewhat talented roster that lacks a surefire franchise quarterback, but that alone downplays Chip Kelly’s influence and clout, both within the franchise itself and perception around the league.

Since Kelly’s arrival, the Eagles have attempted to rebrand themselves as this innovative franchise that talks, thinks, and acts quicker than its competition.

They are like a startup that has a really cool idea and business model seemingly ready to disrupt the market, but execution needs to go from good to great for that to happen, and whether or not they can do that remains to be seen.

Maybe this is a better analogy.

If Chip Kelly was a metaphorical person, he would be the kid who moved into your neighborhood from across the country when you were entering high school. He is a few years older than you and has his license. He’s promised to take you cool places, so you ride with him.

Your parents don’t think it’s safe, and you even admit he drives way too fast at times, but you’re intrigued. After all, your neighborhood needed a bit of life to it. It’s normally been a pretty good place, and 10 years ago, you put together an awesome team that took on the best neighborhood around. They cheat and no one likes them, but sadly you lost by three points and haven’t gotten close to them since.

Two summers ago when Chip first moved in, you went on an epic road trip. Despite running out of gas towards the end, it was the best summer since 2004. You actually traveled a little further in 2008 with your elementary school friend Andy, but there was something new and special about 2013.

Last year you thought you were gonna do it again, but midway through the trip, your muffler broke and had to be replaced by a less talented and more inconsistent muffler. Your biggest rivals caught you on the final laps and celebrated what was yours the summer before.

Sometimes you think Chip misses the west coast. He talks more than occasionally about an old girlfriend, Marissa Marriot, and you’d do anything to get them back together. Marissa’s off at college at the University of Tennessee, and even though you know Chip misses her dearly, he reminds you to be ‘where your feet are.’

His feet are firmly on the gas pedal, and he’s revving the engine faster than ever before.

‘Chip, Nick was my best friend,’ you say to him as he stops short at a red light. ‘He was a huge reason why the trip two yeas ago was so fun. Why isn’t he allowed to ride with us this year?’

Chip doesn’t really answer, but Sam is awkwardly sitting in the backseat. His crutches take up a lot of room and block part of the rearview mirror. Chip could care less. Rearview mirrors are not a safety tool to Chip. Rather, they’re a symbol of inefficiency, an invitation to concern yourself with those chasing you rather than looking forward to new horizons.

All of a sudden he cuts across three lanes of traffic without signaling once.

‘CHIP WATCH OUT, WHAT THE FUCK?’ you scream as several cars begin honking. ‘My GPS didn’t say we were supposed to go that way. Have you lost your mind?’

‘We gotta go pick up Sam’s friend DeMarco,’ Chip says to you in the most nonchalant way that someone could announce a trip-altering decision.

At this point you put the car in park and demand answers, other drivers still honking, some of them even cursing and demanding that you do not get back on the road.

‘Chip, we never talked about any of this. Let’s pull over, grab a smoothie, chill for a little while, and talk all of this through.’

He will have none of it. ‘That’s an inefficient use of time,’ he says, putting the car back in drive before he even finishes talking.

For a brief few seconds, you get the car back in park again before he reaches for the gear shift.

‘Chip I got an idea. How about we go visit Marissa at Tennessee? We’ll have to pay a lot more in gas and tolls and will have to make great time once we leave, but I think it would be worth it.’

‘Let’s dispel this right now,’ he says with an exasperated look on his face. ‘I think we need to stop talking about Marissa.’

Despite this suggestion, he himself isn’t done, and you know it.

‘Marissa is the greatest girl I have ever been around, but we’re not going to sacrifice this road trip just to see her when we have a ton of other things to do.’

You wait a second to see whether or not he’s finished this time. Chip rarely shows a ton of emotion around you, but this is telling. You know how deep his love for Marissa runs.

‘So we need to stop talking about Marissa but then you go right back to talking about Marissa again?’

‘You being a wise ass?’ he shoots back at you with a look of disgust.

While you process the rhetorical question, Chip starts up the car. You’re off again, 40 miles per hour above the speed limit with Sam and DeMarco sharing old stories about their Oklahoma days in the backseat.

How did we get here? What the fuck is going on?

Chip speeds up more, and you lean back and take a deep breath realizing that the cop you just passed isn’t reacting.

Several hours have now gone by. You begin to spot a few highway signs for Atlanta, confirming that you’re going the right way, at least for the time being.

You’re still occasionally thinking in your head ‘Chip slow the fuck down, you’re going to get us killed,’ but that thought takes a backseat to you screaming ‘FASTER, FASTER,’ as some lesser drivers are clearly overwhelmed and left in the dust.

For better or for worse, you’ve bought in, because you think the destination could be a lot of fun — maybe even super fun.

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Five Numbers I Hope to See in the Box Score When Eagles-Cowboys Concludes

If you read this post and suddenly think “hey this sounds kinda familiar,” that’s because it most likely will be. On Thanksgiving, the Eagles had a perfect gameplan and executed nearly perfectly in their 23-point beatdown of the Cowboys in Dallas.

We hit on two of our five numbers that day and came extremely close on two more as the birds embarrassed the Cowboys in front of a national audience.

Tonight they will try for a repeat with control of the NFC East one again up for grabs and the stakes even higher this time with only three regular season games remaining.

The plan will be similar: Force the Cowboys to be one-dimensional and set the edge against DeMarco Murray while getting LeSean McCoy going on offense and mixing in high percentage throws for Mark Sanchez.

Whether or not the Cowboys can adjust remains to be seen. Conventional wisdom says it will not be quite as easy for the Eagles tonight, but if it is, the box score could look somewhat similar to two and a half weeks ago.

Let’s hit the five numbers that I believe could key an Eagles victory and hope to see around midnight tonight.

  1. Less than 65 rushing yards for DeMarco Murray — Beating the Cowboys starts with beating DeMarco Murray, and the Eagles have been one of the most successful teams at beating the Cowboys recently because of their ability to beat DeMarco Murray. That was a weird sentence, wasn’t it? In his last 17 games, Murray has been held below 75 yards twice — In Week 17 against the Eagles last year (48) and on Thanksgiving (73). Tonight, I’m setting the bar at below 65. Do it, and we’ll be celebrating come midnight.
  2. Tony Romo sacked three or more times — This one is also quite simple. When sacked three or more times this season, Romo is 1-3. When dropped behind the line of scrimmage two times or less, he is 8-0. You hearing this Connor Barwin, Trent Cole, and Vinny Curry? Let’s get after it.
  3. Mark Sanchez completing at least 60 percent of his passes — In the first Eagles Cowboys game, Sanchez completed an insane 69 percent of his passes. Overall, he is 3-0 with the Eagles when surpassing the 60-percent benchmark and 1-2 when he is below that. Get there tonight, and the offense should be moving just fine.
  4. LeSean McCoy averaging more than four yards per carry — Another trendy statistic. In games where McCoy averages more than four yards per carry, the Eagles are 5-0 this season. In games where he does not, they are 4-4. McCoy had his best game of the season on Thanksgiving with a season high 159 yards. Do it again, Shady.
  5. Jordan Matthews with at least 80 receiving yards — Matthews, like the rest of the Eagles offense, was a little quiet against Seattle last Sunday, but the rookie had a huge 27-yard touchdown reception from Sanchez in the first Cowboys game, and the middle of the field should once again be open. Sanchez loves looking Matthews’ way, and he should have every opportunity to have a big showing tonight.

As honorable mentions, I expect my dude Zach Ertz and Darren Sproles to make a few key plays tonight. So there you have it, folks. We got 65, three, 60, four, 80, and hopefully a huge home win that leaves us playing for a second consecutive NFC East title next week.

Take it away, Mr. G and Chip.

Fist Pump GIF

#BirdDay Statement and Sole Possession of First Haiku

That was awesome.

What a gameplan by Chip Kelly and Billy Davis. What an opening drive. What a game.

Aside from what turned out to be a harmless LeSean McCoy fumble in the third quarter, the Eagles just dominated their NFC East rival in their house for all of the nation to see.

Mark Sanchez exorcised his demons of Thanksgiving past and outplayed Tony Romo, who admittedly entered today having a terrific year.

McCoy more than doubled DeMarco Murray’s output on the ground, as the Cowboys running back was held to a season low 73 rushing yards.

Jeremy Maclin at one point had more receiving yards than the entire Cowboys team and outperformed Dez Bryant.

Chip Kelly was miles ahead of Jason Garrett and Rod Marinelli throughout the afternoon.

We can nitpick and point at the Eagles red zone struggles. That is a legitimate concern, and the attempted fade pass to Riley Cooper seemed like a real odd call towards the end of the first half, but honestly, I’m too excited right now to get into that.

The Eagles are now 3-0 in the division while Dallas is 2-2. As I wrote earlier this morning, today would not decide the division, but the Eagles now sit in a prime position to repeat as NFC East champs. A win two and a half weeks from now at Lincoln Financial Field, where they are 6-0 this season, against the Cowboys, would just about clinch things.

There is more I want to write, and if time permits, I will dive into some deeper and more analytical things tomorrow and Saturday, but we’ll worry about that in a little while.

Happy Thanksgiving, Philadelphia, let’s hit the haiku.

Bird Day in Big D 

Sole possession of first place

Tasty Cowboys tears 

Five Numbers I Hope to See in the Box Score When Eagles-Cowboys Concludes

I would be lying if I said I had a great feel for what is about to transpire later today as the Eagles and Cowboys do battle down in Texas with the winner at least temporarily claiming sole possession of first place in the NfC East.

I was pretty sure the Eagles would lose to the Packers 11 days ago, and I was certain they would win last Sunday, but this one is really tough to pin down.

While I have gone back and forth throughout the week, I am on record in another post this morning as picking the Eagles 30-27, and here are five numbers I hope to see that could get them there:

  1. Less than 60 rushing yards for DeMarco Murray — The Cowboys running back already has 268 carries over 11 games. Last year, he only had 217 in 14 games. Dallas will try to pound him to make things easier and more balanced for Tony Romo and company, but the Eagles run defense should hopefully be up to the task. In 17 of his last 18 games, Murray has rushed for at least 63 yards. The one game he didn’t? The season finale last year against the Eagles where he only ran for 48 yards on 17 carries.
  2. Tony Romo sacked more than two times — In 10 starts this season, the Cowboys quarterback is 7-0 when sacked two times or less and 1-2 when sacked three or more times. You hearing this Connor Barwin? The Eagles pass rush will have to be much better than it was two weeks ago against Aaron Rodgers when the Packers signal caller had all day to throw, but getting to Romo and his bad back a few times could go a long way.
  3. Josh Huff returning a kickoff 35 yards or more — After what has been a tough rookie season featuring a shoulder injury and some rough mistakes, Huff Daddy rose up last week and took the opening kickoff to the house against the Titans. Expecting that again today might be a bit much, but if Huff can have a couple decent returns that shorten the field for Sanchez and the Eagles offense, it would be a big help. A shorter field means less hypothetical throws to make mistakes on before reaching the end zone.
  4. Mark Sanchez only throwing one interception — As usual, I am budgeting at least one interception for Sanchez, because well, that’s what he has done throughout his career, but any more than that could swing this game in the Cowboys favor. One of the picks last Sunday may have been more Riley Cooper’s fault than the responsibility of the quarterback, but for however much longer he holds this job, Sanchez has to start doing a better job taking care of the football for the Eagles to have success against some of the upcoming teams on their schedule.
  5. At least 80 receiving yards for Jordan Matthews — This might seem like a high expectation to put on a rookie, but in his last three games with Sanchez, Matthews has posted 138, 107, and 77 yards respectively with no less than five catches in each game. There is no reason that strong rapport shouldn’t continue today, and the Eagles will be in great shape if it does should this one turn into the shootout many expect.

There you have it, folks. Sixty, two, 35, one, 80, and hopefully a huge road victory go along with delicious food.

Happy Thanksgiving, folks. Let’s win another big game in Dallas.

Take it away, Chip.

Fist Pump GIF

Eagles Crush the Titans Haiku

That did not quite have the euphoric feeling that the Week 16 contest against the Bears brought last season, but for a 1 p.m. kick against a bad AFC team, it was pretty good.

After what has been mostly a miserable rookie year, Josh Huff took the opening kickoff to the house, and while the Titans — with a little help from the officials — hung around for a half, the Eagles never looked back, leading by at least six points from start to finish.

Watching a game live doesn’t lend to the best analysis, and quite honestly, I’m not sure a ton can be learned from what transpired today. In many ways, it was another case of the Eagles beating up on a bad team before they get tested by a better one in a few days.

Give the birds credit for bringing it though more or less from start to finish. It would have been easy to overlook and be unprepared for this game, a bad characteristic of Andy Reid coached teams that led to some of the miserable recent history against the Titans, but aside from two ill-advised interceptions by Mark Sanchez, the Eagles played a mostly mistake free 60 minutes of football.

LeSean McCoy had one of his best games of the season, and Jordan Matthews continued his strong rapport with Sanchez. Cody Parkey’s streak of 17 consecutive made field goals ended, but he quickly started a new one with three second half kicks.

The secondary and linebackers had a few too many breakdowns in coverage but held Zach Mettenberger to a 51.2 completion percentage. Connor Barwin and Trent Cole balled out.

Mychal Kendricks is really good. Marcus Smith is really bad.

The biggest positive of the day had to be getting the running game going as McCoy and Darren Sproles both scored touchdowns and more importantly averaged more than four yards per carry. Whichever team runs the ball more effectively could very well be the key factor in Thursday’s showdown in Dallas, and McCoy heading into that tilt feeling good can only help.

Sanchez still requires a ‘wait and let’s see him play against better teams and defenses’ approach. His accuracy was improved, but he seems a lot more comfortable throwing on the run than standing in the pocket and delivering good passes. His two interceptions were worse than most of the picks thrown by Nick Foles, and this brings his total to six in less than four games.

Sanchez is certainly good enough to beat bad teams, but the Eagles only face two more bad teams on their schedule between the Redskins and Giants. To get the birds to where they want to be, he’ll need to beat the Cowboys at least once and the Seahawks.

Elements of Thursday scare me. Tony Romo against Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher really scares me. The game looks a lot more daunting than I anticipated before the season, but Dallas certainly looks beatable tonight so far.

Let’s hit the haiku, keep rooting for the Giants, and hopefully have sole possession of first place by midnight.

Huff Daddy rises

Jordan Matthews shines again

Ten straight at the Linc

Eagles Shutout the Giants Victory Haiku

That was awesome. Best game the Eagles have played since the beatdown of Chicago in Week 16 last year — also coincidentally a Sunday Night game.

Shady McCoy looked like the Shady McCoy we know and love. They stalled and settled for a field goal their first time in the red zone, but Chip Kelly’s offense was just about rolling from the start. Billy Davis coached circles against Ben McAdoo.

Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry, and Trent Cole made life miserable for Eli Manning, and Cody Parkey and the rest of the special teams crew did their thing.

This team doesn’t play for another two weeks. From a football standpoint, that is good. It means one less missed game for Jason Kelce, Evan Mathis, and Mychal Kendricks. From an emotional standpoint, it sucks, because I really freakin love this team.

For all of the problems, they are 5-1 without having played their best football before tonight and 2-0 in the division. The Giants schedule is brutal. It’s pretty much a two-team race between the Eagles and Cowboys, and I’ll more than take my chances with that.

Eight straight regular season wins at home. Pretty sweet after 10 consecutive losses between 2012 and 2013. Let’s make it nine against the Panthers on November 10th.

Between a bad interception and allowing a long third down pass early on, there are certainly things to fix, but let’s hit the haiku and enjoy this one:

All black everything

Foles to Ertz be still my heart

Eight sacks five wins bye

You the Real MVP, Eagles Special Teams

Between Nick Foles, Jeremy Maclin, Zach Ertz, Brandon Graham, and Connor Barwin, there are no shortage of offensive and defensive contributors to credit for the Eagles come from behind victory yesterday against the Jaguars, but it may not have been possible without the performance of the special teams unit.

The Eagles lost seven contests last season, and special teams were a big factor in at least four of them with the Chargers, Chiefs, Vikings, and Saints game all coming to mind. Yesterday, Dave Fipp’s unit helped swing momentum and steal one.

We already have spent a ton of time talking about how Cody Parkey was awesome. I have no idea what this kid is going to turn into, but counting the preseason finale, he is now 5-for-5 on field goals with three longer than 50 yards.

The 51-yard kick to tie the score in the fourth quarter looked like it would have been good from 55 or 56. His kickoffs were also insane.

Game # Opponent Kickoff Number End zone Touchback Starting Field Position  Average Starting Field Position 
1 Jaguars 1 Yes Yes 20 20
1 Jaguars 2 Yes No 13 16.5
1 Jaguars 3 Yes Yes 20 17.67
1 Jaguars 4 Yes Yes 20 18.25
1 Jaguars 5 Yes Yes 20 18.6
1 Jaguars 6 Yes Yes 20 18.83
1 Jaguars 7 Yes No 13 18

Before Parkey stole the show though, there was Brandon Bair, blocking a Josh Scobee 36-yard field goal attempt that the Jags kicker likely makes 98 out of 100 times as long as he gets it off. At the time, it would have put the Jaguars up 20-0.

But wait, there’s more! Darren Sproles averaged 15.5 yards on punt returns. We knew this already, but Donnie Jones was just ridiculous. He had six punts, and five of them pinned the Jaguars inside their own 20. One landed at the Jacksonville one on a great special teams play by Brandon Boykin, and the only punt not inside the Jaguars 20 was attempted from the Eagles own 12.

Here is Jones’ day in chart form:

Punt Number Ball Spotted Before Punt Ball Spotted After Punt Net Yards
1 Eagles 37 Jaguars 11 52
2 Jaguars 40 Jaguars 11 39
3 Eagles 12 Jaguars 47 41
4 Jaguars 39 Jaguars 9 30
5 Jaguars 49 Jaguars 10 39
6 Jaguars 44 Jaguars 15 29

On four of those kicks in Jaguars territory, Jones didn’t have a ton of margin for error, and still got the job done. The Jaguars only scored three points off of Jones’ punts as the other 14 were the result of Eagles turnovers.

Perhaps it will not be smooth sailing for 17 weeks, but when the worst thing you can say about the special teams is Darren Sproles calling for a fair catch when he had room to run, things went pretty damn well.

Hey, Eagles special teams:

Real MVP