Tag Archives: Jordan Matthews

We Turnt AF RN: Eagles-Cowboys Walk-off Haiku

I said five hours ago that whoever won tonight would host a playoff game in January.

While an Eagles loss certainly wouldn’t have resulted in me giving up on the rest of the season, a victory would bury Dallas, unable to recover from 2-6, even with reinforcements in the form of a Pro Bowl quarterback on the way.

Despite two ridiculous pass interference calls late in the contest and some self-inflicted wounds along the way, the Eagles did what they had to do. Their next three opponents are a combined 7-17. It’s a two-team race, and the Giants don’t scare me.

Let’s hit the haiku and enjoy the end of the Cowboys’ season:

Die Greg Hardy Die

Jordan Matthews breathes again

Cowboys coffin closed

Countdown to Eagles Football — 43 Days: How Did Chip Kelly Do in HIs First Offseason with Full Control of the Roster?

Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of a 44-day series counting down the days until the Eagles season begins. The first part can be found here

Unlike yesterday’s question, the answer to this one is a lot more complicated and significant in terms of determining both the Eagles short and long-term outlook.

When Chip Kelly demanded final say over all roster decisions thus removing Howie Roseman’s title and responsibilities as Genera Manager in early January, he did it with one motivation in mind:

To make personnel decisions that would help take the franchise from good to great. Despite back-to-back 10 win seasons and an NFC East title in 2013, Kelly made the determination that the Eagles were too much of a fringe playoff contender and not close enough to competing for a Super Bowl where a few roster tweaks could get them there. He needed something more.

The merits of Kelly’s estimation can certainly be argued. As a counterpoint to Kelly’s findings, the Eagles beat a Colts team on the road that won 11 games and advanced to the AFC Championship.

They hung with the then defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks on the scoreboard in December before succumbing to a 24-14 defeat but were thoroughly outplayed and beaten up throughout the game.

Perhaps the biggest game in favor of Kelly’s argument was the embarrassing 53-20 mid-November loss to the Packers at Lambeau Field where Kelly’s Eagles were outclassed by a Green Bay team that ended up being minutes away from reaching the Super Bowl over Seattle.

Regardless of how the determination was made, it happened, and Kelly set out to overhaul a roster that will have at least 10 new starters come September 14th in Atlanta.

After three wild trades, some controversial departures, several free-agent acquisitions, thousands of Marcus Mariota rumors and one surprisingly calm draft, how did Kelly do in his first offseason running the show?

On the surface, it appears Kelly made parts of the Eagles better. The addition of Kiko Alonso in the LeSean McCoy trade gives the Eagles their most talented inside linebacker since Jeremiah Trotter’s first stint in midnight green.

Whether or not DeMarco Murray can come close to repeating a career year in 2014 remains to be seen, but him and Ryan Mathews give the Eagles more running back depth while simultaneously weakening their biggest division rival.

Byron Maxwell is an instant upgrade in the secondary, one that was in desperate need of improvement when facing Dez Bryant, Odell Beckham, and DeSean Jackson twice a year.

Rather than overpaying to retain the services of Jeremy Maclin, Kelly elected to go the cheaper route and attempt to replace him with rookie first round draft Nelson Agholor. Had the Eagles overpaid for Maclin, they may have been unable to afford a guy like Maxwell.

All of these moves on paper make sense. On the opposing side of things, Kelly did not do much to upgrade offensive line depth or talent at the safety position, two spots that are glaring question marks as the Eagles head into camp. Any injury to the likes of Jason Peters, Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce, or Malcolm Jenkins could spell doom for the birds rather quickly.

Then, there’s the biggest move of all. Kelly’s first offseason will largely be defined by the successes or failures of Sam Bradford in his system and Nick Foles in St. Louis. Kelly did not simply elect to swap quarterbacks with him getting the less accomplished one. He also surrendered a 2016 second round draft pick for the oft-injured Bradford who is scheduled to make 13 million dollars this season in the final year of his rookie contract while Foles is scheduled to make less than two million with the Rams.

The previous two sentences underscore the biggest question mark about Kelly as a GM. It is abundantly clear to anyone who has watched the Eagles over the past two seasons that the man can coach, and his ability to identify talent going back to his Oregon days is impressive.

The unknown lies in the asset management component of being a genera manager, something that can often be overlooked but essential in ensuring that the team is set up well for both the present and future.

Would a more experienced GM have been able to execute the Bradford-Foles trade without giving up the extra draft pick, something that maybe could have enticed the Titans more in an offer for Mariota. When Kelly signed Maxwell and Murray, was he bidding against himself in those negotiations and did he need to pay them as much as he did?

When Roseman had heavy influence in the draft, there are stories of Kelly overvaluing certain players like Jordan Matthews, Josh Huff, and Taylor Hart, wanting to select them a round before most other teams would have, and having to be walked back by Roseman, assuring him that they would be available when they picked again.

Maybe veteran GM’s wouldn’t have the guts to do what Kelly is doing, and if Bradford stays healthy and turns into the franchise quarterback that the Rams once hoped he would be, no one will care very much about the lost second round pick.

Still, football players are not acquired in a vacuum. There is an opportunity cost, both present and future, to every decision made, and whether or not Kelly can master the asset and resource allocation part of the job remains to be seen.

As I have stated previously on Twitter and in 10 Things I Think I Think, I don’t believe Kelly’s offseason has the Eagles worse than the 2014 season, but there is a small fear that he rearranged chairs on the Titanic as opposed to strengthening the collective roster.

Ultimately the Eagles are in better shape with Kelly doing everything as opposed to Kelly coaching somewhere else and doing nothing at all. Time will tell whether he is as capable of a general manager as he is a coach.

The first seven months have sure been something

10 Things I Think I Think About the Philadelphia Eagles Heading into Training Camp

If you followed on Twitter earlier this morning, I shared ’10 Things I Think I Think’ about the Eagles as training camp gets underway.

While this isn’t considered part of our 44-day series, stuff like this is fun to do on occasion and will surface every now and then. Be it predictions or random thoughts, a post is a good way to expand on 140-character tidbits.

Below is our first edition of 2015:

  1. Cody Parkey is really good. It’s theoretically hard for a rookie to only miss four kicks and be even better in Year 2. He’s capable of it. Note: There isn’t much else to add here. It was clear that Parkey’s leg was tired toward the end of last year, never having been through a 16-game season before. Still, Parkey was 8-for-10 on field goals beyond 40 yards out while also consistently putting kickoffs in the end zone and should again set the bar high in Year 2.
  2. Marcus Smith is not. Odds may be against me, but I’ll stick to my prediction that he doesn’t make the 53-man roster out of training camp. Note: Most roster projections will have Smith on the team, but it’s less of a slam dunk than people think. Smith doesn’t play special teams, and while part of that can be chalked up to the unit being so good last year that they didn’t need the services of a rookie, there’s no room for the first-round disappointment if he doesn’t show major strides from a pass-rushing standpoint in camp.
  3. Nick Foles and Sam Bradford will both have good seasons, but I am much more confident in Foles having one than I am Bradford. Note: Foles, in what was perceived to be a ‘poor’ season last year before getting hurt in early November, was still more productive than Bradford has been in some of his better seasons. A lot of excuses have been made for Bradford, and some of them, including a lack of skill position talent around him and a poor offensive line, hold water, but many assumptions have also been made about a career year in a quarterback friendly system that are less than a guarantee.
  4. Re-signing Brandon Graham was probably the correct decision, but I am concerned about how he holds up in a full-time starter role. Note: Graham, to his credit, has shed the ‘bust’ label that was stuck on him early in his career but has still never played more than 43% of a team’s total snaps during the season. The goal of free agency and player personnel decisions is ultimately to pay more for what you think you can get in the future and less so what you got in the past, and that’s what the Eagles did here. Let’s hope it was a wise investment.
  5. If Graham can play, this is the best Eagles front-7 since early Jim Johnson days, and it has the potential to be even better than that. Note: Kiko Alonso has a chance to be the best Eagles linebacker since Jeremiah Trotter’s first stint here. Consistency is a question, but this unit should be a major strength.
  6. Vinny Curry will be extra hungry this season, and if he puts his napkin on his lap, Billy Davis might even let him have a second dessert. Note: After playing sparingly as a rookie during the 2012 season, Curry has improved year-by-year, first with four sacks in 2013 and then reaching nine last year to go with four forced fumbles in an increased role on the defensive line. Bet your friend that he gets double digits this year and thank me in mid-December.
  7. There’s two NFL coaches I would take over Chip Kelly, and both coached in the Super Bowl last year. Could make a case for Harbaugh/Tomlin too. Note: Considering 15 other coaches have won playoff games and Kelly hasn’t, folks could certainly have a bone to pick with this one. Still, I think there are some who if starting a team right now would take Kelly as their coach in a heartbeat. Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll, by the way, won a combined 29 games in their first two seasons as NFL coaches. Kelly, by himself, has won 20 after taking over a 4-12 squad.
  8. The Eagles opener scares the shit out of me. They have really struggled against Dallas at home. Lose to Atlanta, and you’re looking at 0-2.  Note: The Eagles are 2-0 in season openers under Kelly, although last year’s was certainly far from perfect with the 17-0 halftime deficit to the Jaguars. Hopefully the record stays unblemished as playing a division opponent on short rest who you can’t beat at home recently would be a scary task.
  9. Nelson Agholor will have a better rookie season than Jordan Matthews did last year, and concern about wide receiver depth is overblown. Note: We’ll get more into this during our series. Coop Dawgy is not good and ideally will lose playing time rather quickly, but the rookie from USC should ease the pain of Jeremy Maclin’s departure.
  10. I don’t know if the Eagles are better than last season, but I’m semi-confident they’re not worse, and for the time being, that’s alright. Note: Part of me is worried that Kelly reshuffled chairs on the Titanic as opposed to ultimately strengthening a roster that needed strengthening, but I don’t believe he made them worse. That, all things considered, is not an awful situation in early August.

Chip Kelly, Ed Marynowitz, Howie Roseman, and the Symbolism of the Name Marcus in a Quest to Make the Draft Fun Again

I still vividly remember when it happened — when following 16 months of progress, the Eagles made a grave mistake with their greatest opportunity to inject talent onto a roster that had improved significantly over the aforementioned timeframe but still needed much work.

The 2014 NFL Draft was loaded with studs, and even after being slotted with the 22nd pick following an NFC East division title in 2013, the Eagles theoretically sat in a prime position.

One of the most fun things about watching a draft for fans is having that crush on one particular prospect and hoping he’s on the board when your team is on the clock — creating that hope that you somehow get your guy.

The guy who I decided I wanted the Eagles to take in the first round was Marqise Lee. A receiver who had put up monster numbers at USC. He had a few big games against Chip Kelly’s Oregon teams, and it seemed like a perfect match for a team that had a need at the position. As it turns out, the Eagles had other plans at the position, waiting until the second round and selecting Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews. That worked out perfectly fine. What happened a round earlier didn’t.

For a few brief moments though, I thought I was going to get my wish as Roger Goodell made his way to the podium to announce the 26th pick of the draft. With many of their original targets gone, the Eagles had traded back from their original 22nd slot to the 26th pick, allowing the Cleveland Browns to select Johnny Manziel. Manziel likely was the worst pick of the entire first round, a move that will eventually get everyone in the Browns organization who played a part in it fired.

What the Eagles did was not far behind though. Lee was still on the board, and I was convinced he would be the pick. Goodell started reading: “With the 26th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles select, Mar…”

YES! HOLY SHIT! HELL YEAH! ”

“…cus Smith. Linebacker, Louisville.”

What? No.

That was not supposed to happen. I knew a little bit about Marcus Smith. I knew he had a decent number of sacks at Louisville. I also was aware that most media outlets and teams had a second or third round grade on him. The Eagles, who for a few seasons, had preached a ‘best player available’ approach when it came to drafting, had panicked and reached on a player who had no business being a first round pick.

Smith never recorded a single defensive statistic during his rookie season with the team. He was inactive for several games, and the puzzling decision would ultimately set off a power struggle in the Eagles front office months later. It potentially got Tom Gamble fired from his player personnel role and cost Howie Roseman his general manager title.

How did a team that for the most part had made very solid personnel moves for a year and a half drop the ball so badly here? To our best knowledge, this is what happened.

The Eagles went into the draft with six players they were targeting in the first round:

Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

Wide receiver Brandin Cooks

Linebacker C.J. Mosely

Linebacker Anthony Barr

Cornerback Kyle Fuller

Safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix

Unfortunately, they gauged the board incorrectly, and when the Saints traded up to take Cooks at 20, and the Packers nabbed Clinton-Dix at 21, none of their targets were left.

“What the hell?” “This is bad.” “Typical Eagles trying to outsmart everyone else. Reminds me of Andy years.”

These were a few texts I got immediately after Smith’s name was called.

“Need to do some more research,” I texted back, hoping that there was some way to explain this.

There wasn’t. This was really bad, especially considering how other NFC East teams improved. The Giants used their first round pick to select the aforementioned Beckham, arguably a once-in-a-generation receiver, who eclipsed 90 receptions, 1300 yards, and double digit touchdowns in his rookie year. The Cowboys, unfortunately, intelligently passed on Manziel, and used their selection on Zack Martin, who also made the Pro Bowl as a rookie while helping the Cowboys to solidify their offensive line as they took the division from the Eagles and returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2009. The Redskins didn’t have a first round pick but used their mid-second round selection on linebacker Trent Murphy, who actually saw the field and contributed in 2014.

‘Who made the Marcus Smith pick?’

It was a question that Eagles fans would ask for the past year, reaching a fever pitch in early January as Kelly fought for full player personnel control. As I have hypothesized back then, I have a tough time believing that pick was Kelly’s. The coach did not speak highly of him during the season, and I find it unlikely he would have kept Smith inactive in a meaningless Week 17 game, if he knew that he would have to defend the pick to Jeffrey Lurie a week later during a power play. That just doesn’t add up.

Kelly, in March, seemed to confirm these thoughts, placing the blame on the now demoted Roseman for the Smith pick and failing to improve the team during the first round of last year’s draft.

Some Smith truthers in an attempt to sound smarter than everyone else and go against mainstream thinking solely for the sake of doing so, have maintained that he was not a reach. I am on record saying that I do not believe he will be on team when the Eagles cut their roster down to 53 players before the season starts. A rookie learning curve is one thing, but when a guy can’t even compete on special teams, that raises a serious red flag.

With Roseman having no say in personnel matters, Ed Marynowitz is now Kelly’s right-hand man in preparing for the draft, and he, at least from my perspective, inspired some confidence the other day when saying the team believes there are 8-10 difference makers in this year’s draft.

That suggests, at least in theory, that Kelly expanded the Eagles board, and knows a repeat of last May cannot happen again if the franchise is to go from good to great.

There is, of course, one who stands above all in that group of 8-10 players. It is no secret that Kelly covets his former Oregon signal-caller. The only question left to answer is whether through this convoluted offseason of quarterback roulette, he can entice some team, be it Tennessee with the second overall pick, or another club to get up high enough in a trade to be reunited with Marcus Mariota.

The feasibility of moving up high enough for the signal-caller is one thing. Whether or not Kelly should do it is another one entirely.

It is a classic debate in the principle of opportunity cost. One could fill an entire economics textbook with some of the scenarios, rumors, and proposed trades, and the semester would still end before the professor had time to teach all of it.

On one hand, with all of the picks and players he would be giving up, Kelly may never have the ammunition to build a good enough team around Mariota to win a Super Bowl. Pushing back on that concern is the classic ‘Yeah but you can’t win without a franchise quarterback,’ and Kelly already decided that the closest thing he had to one in Nick Foles wasn’t good enough to be the chosen one going forward. Why is anyone to believe that Sam Bradford is any different?

There is no shortage of risk in such a move when it comes to resource allocation, but it is difficult to believe the player itself wouldn’t pan out. If Mariota were to fail under the tutelage of his former coach in the NFL, then Kelly certainly isn’t the coach that I and many others believe him to be.

More than likely, both would be successful in a long-distance relationship occasionally texting each other “I miss you. Let’s hang out.” “I miss you too.” “I’m sorry I left like that, but I had to.” “I know. We had some awesome times together that fall back in college.” Nothing wrong with admiring from afar, but maybe just maybe, this real-life story has a fairytale ending in marriage Thursday night.

Last year when Goodell shockingly uttered the name “Marcus Smith,” the joy of the draft was gone. Regardless of what transpired from there, the thought persisted that the Eagles brain trust squandered a major opportunity to get an impact player that could have contributed right away.

A few months later, the fears were confirmed, and they began to pay the price when Smith was inactive for games. A few months after that, they were division champions no more. Gone was Roseman’s job a few weeks later.

The joy was gone, but the hope is that Kelly and Marynowitz, by being more prepared for different scenarios, can restore it in a matter of days.

Perhaps by shocking the NFL world in a much different way this time and having Goodell say the name ‘Marcus’ for a second consecutive year.

Go Ahead and Open Up the Mock Drafts Now

The clock has stuck midnight. The fat lady has sung. Insert your preferable cultural reference here.

An Eagles season that had so much promise as recently as 14 days ago is now over.

They will end the season with a better record than at least one of the 12 teams in the playoffs and maybe more, but unlike an exhilarating end to the 2013 season, there will be no January this time around, no NFC East title, no home playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field.

A big reason why the Eagles suffered this fate is because aside from the Colts, Cowboys, and maybe the Panthers, they couldn’t beat teams that have qualified for the playoffs often enough.

In some of those contests like the Packers and Seahawks game, they were outclassed. In others like the Cardinals, one or two fluke plays could have easily swung things and made a difference in the season.

Meaningless regular season football really sucks. We thankfully have not had much of it in the past decade, but for the second time in three years, there will be a Week 17 game at the Meadowlands with little to directly play for.

Perhaps in ways the repetitive location is fitting in this instance. It was only two short years ago that a 4-12 team quit on their soon to be ex-head coach Andy Reid in an embarrassing 42-7 loss to the Giants to cap off a lost season.

For all Reid did for this franchise, he left the roster mostly in shambles. There was a running back, a couple wide receivers, and some injured offensive linemen, but depth at any position was hard to come by. The defense was devoid of homegrown talent, and the secondary was (and mostly still is) a complete wasteland.

Between an offensive genius taking the NFL by storm, career years from LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson, historically good quarterback play from Nick Foles, a draft class that provided immediate impact in the form of Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, and Bennie Logan, and an offensive line staying healthy for all 16 games, the Eagles were able to go from 4-12 to a 10-win team that nearly knocked off Drew Brees in the playoffs.

Billy Davis, a defensive coordinator with a spotty track record and much to prove, took a jumbled collection of noodles and ketchup and made a presentable Italian meal out of it.

Everything clicked and were it not for a bad kicker and a fluke return, the Eagles may have well reached the NFC Championship Game in Chip Kelly’s first season.

Many of those aforementioned things did not click this season. Jackson is wearing a different uniform. McCoy, while still very productive, was far from the player who won the rushing title last season. Nick Foles threw more interceptions and got hurt. When Foles was healthy, the offensive line was not as the quarterback would constantly fear pressure playing behind backups and end up retreating and throwing off his back foot immediately after taking a snap.

Outside of Jordan Matthews, this year’s draft produced little impact. Josh Huff provided one of the most electric moments of the season but made a ton of rookie mistakes in the process. First round pick Marcus Smith cannot play. While the jury remains out, there is little indication to think Jaylen Watkins and Taylor Hart can at the moment.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but the way to expedite the process in the NFL is to draft well. Years of bad drafting under the Reid regime eventually caught up with the team. In 2012, they started to reverse course some, but too many dysfunctional issues overshadowed a strong rookie class in Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Vinny Curry, Brandon Boykin, Foles, and Bryce Brown. It wasn’t enough to save their jobs, but it was progress.

Kelly and Howie Roseman continued that progress in 2013 but took a big step back this past May by bungling their first round pick in a talent rich draft, fumbling the best chance they had to inject talent onto an improving but still semi-flawed roster.

With a little bit of luck and mostly really solid coaching, the Eagles have gone from a punching bag to a decent team in two years but remain a couple notches below some of the NFL elite who will be playing in January.

Key decisions will be made before May, and some holes will be plugged in free agency. For better or for worse, we will be blogging throughout those periods, but the way to keep building Rome, the way to prevent three consecutive losses in December, will be to nail the May portion of the offseason and prevent a repeat of what took place in 2014.

We are more than five months away, but go ahead, unfortunately. Open up the mock drafts.

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

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-Packers Sad Haiku

Welp.

There have been more panful losses over the past calendar year, but the Eagles have not looked that overmatched since a visit to Denver last September.

That was really, really bad. The entire country saw how good the Eagles can look against a struggling team last Monday, and today, most of them saw how bad they can look against an elite quarterback.

The way I see it, there are three approaches one could take after what transpired over the past three hours.

1. Jump off the Walt Whitman. The Eagles are a fraud, pretenders and not contenders at 7-3. Chip Kelly was ridiculously out coached, and Mark Sanchez isn’t good enough to get them to the playoffs. The defense is awful, and Dallas is going to win the division. 

I don’t believe any of that for a second. I do have some obvious concerns about Sanchez, and the defense certainly underachieved today, but that line of thinking is a big time overreaction for a team still sitting pretty.

2. Today wasn’t a big deal at all. Aaron Rodgers does this to everyone, and the Packers caught a few lucky breaks. LeSean McCoy will get on track, and the pass rush will be better. We have nothing to worry about and will be fine in a January rematch. 

I would buy into this rationale more than the first approach, but completely tossing this game out of the window would be brushing away some clear issues. The Eagles are better than what they showed today but came up short on a big stage.

3. The Packers are nearly unbeatable at Lambeau with Aaron Rodgers, but the Eagles never gave themselves a chance. Between bad penalties like Trent Cole jumping offsides on third and long in the first quarter and untimely turnovers, this one unraveled quickly. The Eagles are still 7-3 and in great shape. They haven’t been blown out in quite some time and were perhaps due for a letdown, but doesn’t make it hurt any less. 

That is the way I mostly look at this. The Eagles are still in excellent shape overall but are trying to survive with a backup quarterback and a secondary that features three players who likely would not start for most other teams between Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, and Nate Allen. Rodgers, being one of the smartest and beset signal-callers on the planet, knew that and targeted Fletcher early and often.

In a chance to showcase himself for potential head coaching gigs next season, defensive coordinator Billy Davis looked miles behind Packers head coach Mike McCarthy.

Short yardage situations in the red zone are still a troublesome issue, and LeSean McCoy doesn’t look like LeSean McCoy even with 80 percent of the offensive line together.

Unfortunately, this team is still trying to recover from a few awful draft classes toward the end of the Andy Reid regime and are not getting much impact from this year’s rookies aside from Jordan Matthews. Marcus Smith, Jaylen Watkins, and Taylor Hart cannot get on the field, and Josh Huff is making mistakes every time he gets on the field.

The Eagles are at a point where while their roster is greatly improving, they still can’t afford to miss on many guys and need immediate impact from rookies whenever possible. They are getting absolutely nothing from their first round pick, and it hurts against an elite team like the Packers.

It is also becoming increasingly important that the Eagles win the division and find a way to get the second seed for a first round bye. 5-0 at home, 2-3 on the road. Despite being a very good road squad in 2013, they are clearly not the same team away from Lincoln Financial Field this season and need to end up there in January.

Thankfully there is a path for that. The Packers, Lions, and Cowboys all have three losses, and the Cardinals face four teams currently above .500 in their last six games.

A roadmap exists, and it starts next week at home against a bad Titans team before Turkey Day in Dallas.

Stay tuned for an announcement about something on our blog this week, but in the meantime, let’s hit the haiku and try to shake this one off some:

Fletcher picked on bad

Rodgers, Nelson, Cobb, oh my

Still seven and three

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

In less than three hours, the Eagles will try to do something that no NFL team has done in more than two years — Beat the Packers in a regular season game at Lambeau Field when Aaron Rodgers is the quarterback.

The Eagles of course left Lambeau with a 27-13 victory last November, but playing against Seneca Wallace and Scott Tolzien does not quite compare with facing one of the greatest signal-callers on the planet.

Still, despite many folks predicting a Packers win today, understandably so, I believe the Eagles will be in the game late and could steal a big one if a few things fall into place.

Here are five numbers that I believe could key a win in Lambeau for the second straight year:

  1. Less than 80 receiving yards for Jordy Nelson — Randall Cobb is great. He has scored touchdowns in six consecutive games and eight of nine contests on the year, but the Packers receiver who really scares me is Nelson. I think Brandon Boykin should be able to match up with Cobb, but defending the 6-foot-3 Nelson poses a mismatch. If Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher can rise to the occasion and do it, it would go a long way toward an Eagles win.
  2. At least one interception thrown by Aaron Rodgers — Should this happen, it will mark the first time since December 2, 2012 that the Packers quarterback will have thrown an interception at home. Rodgers on the season has only thrown three picks versus 25 touchdown passes — a Nicky Foles 2013 esque ratio right there. The Packers are 0-2 in the two games where he has been intercepted though. Force him to do something that he has not done in nearly two calendar years, and I will feel much better about the Eagles chances. Some credit for this stat goes to Andrew Porter, who pointed it out earlier this week.
  3. Three or more three and outs from the Packers offense — Turnovers are great, but Rodgers won’t commit many of them, so the Eagles defense will need another way to keep the Packers dangerous offense off the field, and the most efficient method is forcing a punt after three plays. The Eagles defense played pretty well in losses to the 49ers and Cardinals but seemed to tire late from being on the field a lot. I’m not a big time of possession guy, but keeping Rodgers watching from the sideline as often as possible would be nice today.
  4. Mark Sanchez completing no less than 60 percent of his passes — Sanchez was very good last Monday night, but the one area where the revitalized quarterback seemed to struggle a bit was with his accuracy, going 20-for-37 and completing less than 55 percent of his passes. Sanchez was off target to some open receivers at times. Against a struggling Panthers team, that was okay, but it could hurt today if he has to keep up with Rodgers in a shootout. Improved accuracy — even just by a small margin — could go a long way in keeping Chip Kelly’s offense rolling in the cold.
  5. More than seven receptions by Jordan Matthews — We like watching Jordan Matthews catch passes. Mark Sanchez likes throwing passes to the Eagles rookie receiver. Matthews announced his presence in a big way six days ago with seven catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns on nine total targets. Matching that yardage total could be difficult, but a similarly productive game would be awesome.

Other factors including getting my dude Zach Ertz more involved in the passing game and an improved running game will be impactful as well, but these are the big things that jump out.

You will notice a lot about the Eagles defense in today’s post. It’s a big day not just for the unit, but for Billy Davis career wise in my opinion. If the Eagles defensive coordinator wants to run his own show one day, he has a serious chance to impress today.

Buckle Up, dawgies, ought to be a wild afternoon.