Tag Archives: Darren Sproles

Eagles Bye Week Haiku

For the first time since Labor Day Weekend, we have a Sunday (or Monday) sans Eagles football.

As I wrote last week after the birds shutout the Gants on Sunday night, this is a great time for the bye week from an injury standpoint, but emotionally it’s a bit of a drag because this team has been really fun to watch and were really clicking last week.

In 2013, the Eagles bye fell after Week 10 and put them in a position to be fresh for December. It obviously arrives earlier this year, but with Jason Kelce, Evan Mathis, Darren Sproles, and Mychal Kendricks all trying to make their way back, a Week 7 vacation isn’t so bad.

The Eagles come out of the bye with road contests at 4-1 Arizona and 3-3 Houston. If they can split those two contests and be 6-2 through eight games, I’d be more than content. That is exactly where I thought they would be before the season.

Unfortunately University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale has not been kind to the Eagles. They were blown out 27-6 in a Week 3 contest back in 2012, and I still have nightmares of Larry Fitzgerald running wild through the Eagles secondary during the first half of the 2009 NFC Championship Game.

The Eagles enacted a little revenge last season with a 24-21 victory at Lincoln Financial Field, helping to eventually keep the surprising Cardinals out of the playoffs, but next week will be one of their toughest games.

We can worry about that tomorrow though. The Eagles are 5-1, so let’s enjoy the somewhat early bye week, root against the Cowboys, and of course, hit the haiku.

Time to get healthy 

Demons await in Zona 

Go Giants today

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Five Eagles-Giants Numbers That I Would Like to See Around Midnight

Ah, another edition of Eagles-Giants Sunday Night Football is upon us.

Following two 1 p.m. kicks against the NFC East rival last season, it is nice to be back in primetime again. After all, this was an annual thing from 2007-2012 before a brief hiatus in 2013.

The Eagles are winners of the last four Sunday Night matchups against the Giants going back to December 2009, but getting to five may be tougher than originally expected. The birds are sitting somewhat pretty at 4-1 but have not looked great doing it and enter the highly anticipated contest with a depleted offensive line and banged up linebacker core.

After losing to Drew Stanton at home to fall to 0-2, the Giants have gone from the brink of disaster to winners of three straight. They are confident, and in a way, the game may be more important to them. The Eagles will at worst go into their bye week 4-2, but Tom Coughlin’s squad travels to face the surprising Cowboys next Sunday and then follow that up with a stretch against the Colts, Seahawks, and Niners after their bye.

A lot is at work, but if the Eagles win, they will be in excellent shape in a shockingly decent NFC East regardless of how this Seahawks-Cowboys game ends.

Here are five numbers that I believe could lead to a big home victory tonight:

  1. At least two Eli Manning interceptions — In the Eagles most recent five wins in this rivalry, Manning has thrown nine total interceptions. He looks like a reborn man under new Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, but part of the reason I am picking the Eagles is because I’m banking on a couple key second half turnovers (and subsequent Manning faces). You hearing this, Malcolm Jenkins?
  2. Less than 60 yards for Victor Cruz — Since becoming a part of this rivalry in 2011, Cruz has averaged 90.5 yards per game and turned in five touchdowns in six contests. When he plays well against the Eagles, the Giants seem to play pretty well against the Eagles. It will be up to Brandon Boykin to stop that from happening tonight.
  3. More than 70 yards for Zach Ertz — After racing out to an insane start through two games, Ertz has been pretty quiet as of late. He has not totaled more than four receptions or more than 43 yards over his most recent three games and even had a costly fumble against the 49ers two weeks ago. I think him exploiting the Giants linebackers could be key to jumpstart Nicky Foles and the Eagles offense should they go stagnant at some point. The stars come out on Sunday Night. Do the damn thing, my dude.
  4. A minimum of six carries for Darren Sproles — In Week 1 against the Jaguars, Sproles carried the rock 11 times for 71 yards. Since then, he has received only 14 carries. If the Eagles are going to make a deep January run, LeSean McCoy will need to find his 2013 self at some point, but right now, they need to win a key divisional game, and Sproles is averaging 6.9 yards per carry. He needs to touch the ball. Please, Chip.
  5. One special teams or defensive touchdown from the Eagles — The Eagles have scored at least one special teams touchdown in their last three games and at least one defensive touchdown in past two games. Conventional wisdom would suggest that has to end at some point, right? Yes, but maybe not tonight as there is some history here. DeSean Jackson comes to mind, but the Eagles also scored in this matchup last season at Lincoln Financial Field when Najee Goode swooped up a muffed punt. Goode is injured and Jackson is obviously not here, but Sproles is here, and so is special teams ace Chris Maragos. Keeping the streak alive one more week would go a long way toward keeping the Giants out of a first place tie in the division.

There you have it. We got two, 60, 70, six, one, and hopefully a big W to head into the bye week at 5-1.

Take it away, Chip.

Fist Pump GIF

Three Fun Eagles Passing Statistics For You

Waking up 2-0 instead of 1-1 just feels great, doesn’t it?

Below are three Eagles passing stats to pass along to you on this Wednesday morning (pun semi-intended).

1. Nick Foles is the only quarterback to throw for 300 yards in both Week 1 and Week 2 — Foles currently sits second in the league in passing yards trailing only Matt Ryan. He is tied for fifth in attempts with 82 and could certainly improve upon his 58.5 completion percentage (last year he finished at an even 64 percent) but certainly nice to see the production. More on Foles here if interested.

Foles Passing Stats

2. Zach Ertz is the NFL leader with 23.3 yards per receptionJimmy Kempski over at Philly.com has some additional stats on Ertz that you might enjoy. The real impressive thing to me is just how steady Ertz is. Michael Floyd of the Cardinals is second on this list behind Ertz, but he already has logged a 63-yard reception. Ertz might not be outchea catching 80-yard bombs from Foles, but he is no doubt a consistent, big play machine.

3. The Eagles are the only NFL team with three players in the Top 25 for receiving yardage — Darren Sproles is fourteenth at 166, Ertz is one spot behind him, and Jeremy Maclin comes in at twenty-third with 142 yards through two games.  This will be tough to maintain going forward but certainly fun to look at for the time being.

Eagles Receiving Stats

As I mentioned yesterday in a chart, the Eagles have been pretty bad in the first half and terrific in the second half. I am not sure how much longer they can afford to play like that, but you can clearly see that the numbers are still there at the end as Chip Kelly’s offense gets it done.

Thinking about what they could accomplish with a complete game is fun.

Howie Roseman and Chip Kelly Look Really Smart with Some of Their Offseason Acquisitions Right Now

Darren Sproles and Malcolm Jenkins helped end the Eagles season last year at Lincoln Financial Field as members of the New Orleans Saints.

Fast forward eight months, and they are now integral parts of the Eagles 2-0 start.

Sproles was a flat out stud tonight. The 31-year old running back looked not a day over 25, running for a 19-yard touchdown to tie the game at 20 in the third quarter and catching seven passes for 152 yards (only 20 less than the entire Colts team).

Sproles also helped jump start a stagnant Eagles offense in Week 1 with a 49-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter.

Jenkins nearly forced a fumble last week and had an interception with the Colts leading 27-20 late in the fourth quarter. Absolutely no way Patrick Chung would have made that play in a spot like that or at all for that matter.

When the Eagles gave up a fifth round pick for Sproles in March, Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman essentially justified it by saying that if Sproles was available in the fifth round of this draft, teams would certainly pick him.

The actual draft, unlike 2012 and 2013, is not yet yielding positive results. The only rookie really seeing any playing time is second round receiver Jordan Matthews. Marcus Smith is a big time project. Josh Huff would likely have a role if healthy but is still recovering from a shoulder injury. Taylor Hart and Jaylen Watkins have both been healthy inactives.

With little impact from the draft, it is absolutely vital that additions made via trade and free agency pan out, and so far between these two plus the recently acquired Cody Parkey, they are.

Well said, Connor. Well said, indeed.

Connor Barwin Tweet

On the First Sunday of September in the Year 2014 Jeremy Maclin Rose Again

I tried to write the hackiest headline possible just for kicks. Didn’t enjoy it too much.

Jeremy Maclin, playing in his first meaningful game since December 30, 2012, after missing the entire 2013 season with a torn ACL, only caught four passes today, but he certainly made them count.

Jeremy Maclin Stats

Two of the receptions led to first downs on third and long, one of them keeping the drive alive that led to Darren Sproles’ 49-yard scamper to get the Eagles on the board.

The play everyone will remember though, and rightfully so, is the 68-yard touchdown that broke a 17-17 deadlock midway through the fourth quarter as the Eagles pulled away against the Jaguars.

I have yet to see video of the play, but Bleeding Green Nation has a nice screengrab to illustrate just how wide open Maclin was.

Maclin Wide Open

From what I can tell, a Jaguars corner thought he was going to have safety help on Maclin over the top, and well, he didn’t.

If you want to call it a coverage bust, you have the right to do so, but for a guy who overcame a second serious knee injury to make it back as a staring wide receiver in the NFL, it had to feel good.

Always a solid receiver but never posting a 1000-yard season, Maclin somehow inherited a reputation of being soft.

A month and a half ago, there was a pretty big hit piece published against him with a lot of confirmation bias at work.

Two and a half weeks ago, he crumpled to the Lincoln Financial Field grass in a preseason game. Everyone initially feared the worst — that his season might be over before it started and with it his career. Thankfully though, he got up and walked off.

Still, questions lingered about how he would look in a real game and if he could reestablish chemistry with Nick Foles.

Whether or not Maclin can make it through 16 games unscathed remains to be seen, but he did his best to answer some of the more immediate questions earlier today.

Some people tried to bury Jeremy Maclin’s career six feet under, and on the first Sunday of the month September in the year 2014, he rose once again.

The (Tons of) Good, The (Bit of) Bad, and The (Holy Crap that was Downright) Scary

I cannot think of a more appropriate title for the 31-21 beatdown that the Eagles just administered to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I will inevitably leave one or two things off this list that you believe belongs (feel free to let me know in the comments), and I unfortunately do not have video or pictures to document the plays, but I wanted to get some quick hitters out there.

Let’s hit it and go through each category:

The Good: 

  • Nick Foles’ quick slant to Jeremy Maclin for a first down on the initial touchdown drive.
  • Foles’ completion to Riley Cooper on a slant late in the first quarter for a first down.
  • LeSean McCoy looking explosive on an outside zone read.
  • Maclin catching six balls(one less than the Steelers team combined) for 43 yards in the first half (Much more on him later)
  • Brent Celek making epic catches while losing his helmet — Still chugging along after seven years
  • My dude Zach Ertz being my dude with two nice catches for 24 yards.
  • The double screen to McCoy on the first touchdown that completely baffled two of the game’s best defensive minds in Mike Tomlin and Dick LeBeau.
  • Darren Sproles looking like he still has a ton left in the tank, averaging 5.33 yards per carry.
  • Malcolm Jenkins finishing plays with a few nice pass breakups — Part of the reason they signed him for his coverage skills.
  • Nolan Carroll erasing the memories of Roc Carmichael and Curtis Marsh with an interception.
  • Vinny Curry hungry.
  • Brandon Graham hungrier.
  • Marcus Smith more comfortable throughout the third quarter.
  • Alex Henery hitting a 36-yard field goal late in the second quarter. (I wish this was all I had to write about him)
  • Henery putting kickoffs in the end zone. Cody Parkey also putting kickoffs in the end zone.
  • Mark Sanchez threading the needle to Trey Burton, looking like one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league.
  • Ed Hoculi (His presence more than how the game was actually called)
  • This picture SmoothiesChip: “Yo dawgy, nice drive, we getting smoothies after the game, what flavor you want?” Nick: “Doesn’t matter to me, coach, just trying to be the best smoothie eater I can be every day. Appreciate you asking for my input though.”

The Bad

  • Foles’ interception right to Troy Polamalu on a screen pass gone wrong when Sproles fell.
  • A few running plays blown up, specifically McCoy losing five yards on the fourth play of the game.
  • A few drops by Cooper on what appeared to be catchable passes from Foles. Haul those in, Coop Dawgy.
  • On the other side of that, Foles was juuust a hair off on a few balls, specifically a wheel route to Sproles that would have gone for a touchdown.
  • Antonio Brown lighting up the Eagles backups.
  • Curtis Marsh
  • Yellow flags, yellow flags, and more yellow flags.
  • Brian Baldinger calling Allen Barbre “Barber” again.
  • Henery inexplicably missing a 31-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. I said he would win the job, so I need to stick to my guns there, but the leash just got way shorter. We officially have a problem. I am researching free agent kickers as I write.

The Scary: 

  • LeSean McCoy had an x-ray on his thumb after scoring a sweet touchdown. Thankfully doesn’t appear to be an issue.
  • For a moment, it looked like Jeremy Maclin’s season ended before it started as he planed his foot and crumpled to the ground in the second quarter. Thankfully, as the broadcast went to commercial and Eagles Nation held their collective breath, Maclin walked off the field under his own power and returned the next series to make a few more receptions. I can’t pretend to go inside a player’s head, but I imagine if I were Maclin, I would be rather scared every time I made a hard cut. Unfortunately, I think we are in store for a few more scares like that this season. Let’s hope they are just that — Brief scares and nothing more.

Pretty eventful for a preseason game. Do not be misled by the final score. The Steelers put together some nice drives in the fourth quarter, but the Eagles at one point held a 31-7 lead as their backups on offense marched down the field against the Steelers defense.  (Specific stats here if you desire them)

Overall, the offense got us pumped up, the defense eased a few concerns, the supposed starting kicker jeopardized his job in the fourth quarter, and the number one wide receiver nearly gave us a heart attack.

We’ll have more to talk about later, but this seems like enough to digest and think over for now.

Henery, We (May) Have a Problem

The Eagles played the Patriots in Foxboro for their second preseason game last night and more or less looked like the Eagles while doing it.

Nick Foles was accurate, Brent Celek made a tough catch, Zach Ertz was a stud, LeSean McCoy was explosive, Darren Sproles was fast, Billy Davis’ defense bent and forced a huge turnover before it broke on the next drive, and Alex Henery missed a kick that he needs to make.

While i have watched a few minutes of a replay this morning and will probably check out the full thing later, there will not be a live blog style post this time. A combination of yellow flags, vanilla schemes, and green backups made three plus hours difficult to evaluate play-by-play.

I enjoyed the hell out of that last week, but I’m not sure how well it served readers, so I want to hone in on the final 10 words of the second paragraph.

Alex Henery missed a kick that he needs to make. 

Friday morning, I published a post stating five things I wanted to see last night before the birds came home. Second on the list was for Henery getting to attempt a field goal, as the Eagles were never in position to do so against Chicago.

The shaky fourth-year kicker ended last season on a sour note with a missed 48-yard field goal on the second play of the second quarter in the playoff loss to New Orleans. The Eagles would go on to lose the game by two points.

The stadium was different, the weather was warmer, and the stakes were lower, but Henery lined up for a 47-yard kick in the second quarter, and the result was not pretty.

A Vine is available here if there is trouble with the video embedding. I realize that’s not the highest quality Vine, but if you follow the ball, you see that it comes down about five yards wide right.

This would be his only attempt on the night, so after two preseason games Henery is 0-for-1.

This concerns me.

I tend to view preseason games and how they might apply going forward with a ‘history has a way of repeating itself’ thought process. It is the exact reason I wasn’t concerned with Foles’ two interceptions versus the Bears. One below average quarter of relatively meaningless football doesn’t overrule a historic season, but the problem here with Henery is that we have seen this movie before.

The old adage is that placekickers, like quarterbacks, get all of the criticism when they mess up and all of the glory when they come up clutch, except examples of the latter here are in short supply.

In three years in the league, Henery has only three field goals that gave the Eagles a lead they previously did not have in the fourth quarter of a game, one of them being a chip shot from 26 yards against the Giants in 2012.

This can be chalked up to a lack of opportunity, but Henery’s 2013 season doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence that he could nail a kick at the end of a game that turns a loss into a win.

The biggest kick I can think of that he has hit is a 47-yarder in the first quarter of the division clinching game at Dallas last season. It gave the Eagles a 3-0 lead, one they would never completely relinquish in a 24-22 win to take the NFC East.

This is a screenshot from Pro Football Reference of Henery’s three year NFL career

Henery Pro

The overall numbers still look good, but after going 15-for-16 in 2011 and 2012 combined from kicks between 40-49 yards out, Henery was only 7-for-10 their last season.

Now, this is a screenshot of Henery’s Nebraska career courtesy of ESPN.

Henery College

Only one miss between 40-49 over the course of four seasons. For Henery to become the kicker the Eagles thought he was when they spent a fourth round draft pick on him back in 2011, he needs to get back to being nearly automatic from that range. Being shaky from 50+ can be forgiven if one is just about automatic from closer than that, but Henery was far from it last season.

In total, he left 18 points off the board in 2013, and the Eagles were still the fourth highest scoring offense in the league. That may not seem like a lot, but the misses directly contributed to a loss against the Chargers in Week 2, didn’t help a few days later against the Chiefs, and of course the playoff loss to the Saints.

The Eagles are a good enough offense that Henery can miss a few field goals and the numbers will still look shiny, but they are not yet a good enough team for misses not to cost them if that makes sense.

The basic formula to them winning games in my mind is to score at least 24 points (normally doable — 13 times last season) and for the defense to hold teams to 21 or fewer points (doable but slightly less so — 10 times last season), but sometimes — like for example against Drew Brees and Sean Payton — you need all the points you can get to win the game and can’t leave any off the board.

Before that miss against the Saints, Henery had been perfect for six consecutive games. There is plenty of evidence to suggest he can be a reliable kicker, but something has seemed slightly off since Week 2 of last season.

I find it a bit surprising that the Eagles decided to bring in rookie Carey Spear as fake competition rather than inviting some veteran to push Henery in camp.

This is what Chip Kelly had to say about Henery’s miss last night, courtesy of the excellent Birds 24/7 and Tim McManus.

“Yeah, I’m confident in Alex,” he replied. “But again, we’ve got to convert in games, too. I’ve been real excited with him in practice and I think he’s worked on some things with Coach[Dave] Fipp in terms of placing the ball on kickoffs better and hitting things as we’ve gone through training camp, but we also have to do it in the game.”

That doesn’t translate to a ‘your job is on the line’ warning, but it also doesn’t read as a ringing endorsement for a guy Kelly inherited, rather than brought here on his own. I fully expect Henery to begin — and hopefully finish — the season as the Eagles kicker, but Howie Roseman may want to study the waiver wire and have a contingency plan ready there.

In some brighter news, it does appear progress has been made on kickoffs:

Kickoff Number End zone Touchback Starting Field Position Average Starting Field Position
1 Yes (-4) No 17 17
2 Yes Yes 20 18.5
3 Yes (-1) No 22 19.7
4 Yes (-6) No 24 20.8
5 Yes Yes 20 20.6
6 Yes Yes 20 20.5
7 No (+5) No 26 21.3
8 Yes Yes 20 21.1
9 Yes (-2) No 29 22
10 Yes Yes 20 21.8
11 Yes (-4) No 21 21.7

* Numbers in the end zone column indicate where the kick was fielded

In a perfect world, the field goal accuracy will improve similar to what the kickoffs have done so far, and when I tweet this post out in a few minutes, someone will retweet it five months from now to troll me when Henery is having a great season.

For an Eagles team capable of making a deep run but having little margin for error to do it, that would be awesome.

Right now though, we can only go off what we know from the past and what we currently see. It didn’t count last night, but Henery had a chance to push some concerns aside.

Instead, he pushed it wide right, and in doing so, brought back a painful memory from less than eight months ago when it counted for a whole lot.