Tag Archives: Josh Huff

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

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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.

Stay Alive and Survive: Five Numbers I Hope to See in the Box Score when Eagles-Redskins Concludes

I would be lying to you if I said I was fully confident in the outcome of today’s game.

The Eagles have not won in nearly three and a half weeks going back to Thanksgiving. Weaknesses on both sides of the ball (specifically the quarterback and secondary) have been exposed as a rather firm grip on the NFC East slipped away, but there is hopefully light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a 3-11, dysfunctional Washington Redskins team.

In three games going back to Week 1 of the 2013 season, Chip Kelly has owned Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett (so much so that we wrote a post specifically about it), averaging 31.3 points per game.

Earlier in the week, I had some bad flashbacks to a Week 16 game in D.C. in 2008 between these two teams that the Eagles lost 10-3, making their road to the playoffs a bit more difficult then, but that seemed more characteristic of an Andy Reid coached team.

Despite a rough two weeks, the Eagles have been very good against inferior teams under Chip Kelly this season, and that should ideally continue today.

Let’s take a look at five numbers I hope to see that should get the Eagles to 10-5.

  1. Robert Griffin sacked at least five times — Part of the reason the first Eagles-Redskins game was so close is because of the amount of time Kirk Cousins had to throw. Cousins was not sacked once in the three-point Eagles victory, but Griffin has been dropped 28 times in seven contests this season. While this might seem like a lofty stat, the numbers back it up that it is reachable, and should it happen, it will be a long day for the Redskins offense.
  2. Less than 130 combined receiving yards between Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson — While neither of these receivers necessarily pose the matchup problem that Dez Bryant did last week, both had strong games in the Week 3 meeting combining for 16 receptions, 255 yards, and two touchdowns. The Eagles secondary has been heavily scrutinized, and rightfully so, over the past few weeks, but they tend to have a decent game when people least expect it. Against a struggling quarterback in Griffin, now would be a good time for one.
  3. One or fewer turnovers for the Eagles — Turnovers have been a noted issue all season long for this team. The only turnover free game they played was a Monday night beatdown of Carolina in early November. Zero turnovers is a lot to ask for, but in the first Redskins game, the Eagles limited the giveaways to one and will be in decent shape should they repeat that today.
  4. LeSean McCoy averaging more than four yards per carry — Some might say I have become obsessed with this statistic, but the significance cannot be understated. The Eagles are 5-0 when the Pro Bowl running back averages at least 4.1 yards per carry. They are 4-5 in other games. In the 2013 opener when Chip Kelly unveiled his NFL offense on Monday Night Football, McCoy had one of his best career games with 184 yards on 31 carries. A repeat of that today would be awesome.
  5. Josh Huff with at least 45 receiving yards — It is a shame Huff Daddy has made some of the rookie mistakes that he has because it is easy to tell that he has potential, and had they not occurred, he would likely be stealing snaps from the ineffective Riley Cooper. I am hoping that occurs today some after the rookie showed explosiveness with with a 44-yard reception against Dallas. Rise again, Huff Daddy.

There you have it, folks. We got five, 130, one, four, 45, and hopefully a nice win to move to 10-5, putting some major pressure on the Cowboys tomorrow afternoon.

The Chip Kelly fist pump was born in that magical Week 1 game in 2013, and I could use a repeat of it today as we get ready to cheer for Andrew Luck tomorrow.

Fist Pump GIF

Five Numbers I Hope to See in the Box Score when Eagles-Seahawks Concludes

Before the season, I predicted that the Eagles would head into today’s game with a 9-3 record and a 6-0 mark at home. And then I picked them to lose to the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks, thinking Pete Carroll’s defense would be too much for them.

Well, sure enough, the Eagles enter this highly anticipated NFC showdown at 9-3 and undefeated at home, and the more I look at the matchup, the more I think they’re going to improve to 10-3 and 7-0 at home.

Even after holding both the Cardinals and 49ers to three points in back-to-back weeks, the Seahawks just don’t scare me that much away from CenturyLink Field. The Eagles have been lights out at the Linc this season, and I expect that to continue today.

Let’s hit the five numbers that I believe could help make it happen and hope to see in the box score as this one concludes:

  1. Less than 70 rushing yards for Marshawn Lynch — The Seahawks essentially run their offense through two players, Russell Wilson and Lynch. With Golden Tate in Detroit and Percy Harvin exiled to the Jets, that’s it. Contain them, and you win the game. Seattle is 3-3 this season in games where Lynch is held below 70 yards. They are 5-1 when he eclipses that mark. After holding the NFL’s leading rusher DeMarco Murray to a season low 73 yards on Thanksgiving, the Eagles front seven should be ready to go.
  2. At least one sack for Fletcher Cox — The third-year defensive end has a sack in three of his last four contests and had his formal coming out party in front of a national audience on Turkey Day with two tackles for loss to go with the sack. It really seems like Cox is coming into his own after battling consistency issues early on in his career. Dropping Russell Wilson one or more times today would be a great way to show that.
  3. Mark Sanchez completing at least 63 percent of his passes — After dealing with some accuracy issues and only completing 56.7 percent of his attempts against the Panthers and Seahawks, Sanchez has been on point over the past two contests going 50-for-72, equating to 69.4 percent. I don’t expect that today against the Seahawks secondary, but staying above the 60 percent mark will be key in keeping the offense moving in perhaps his toughest challenge to date.
  4. Darren Sproles returning a punt at least 20 yards — If the Eagles have a distinct advantage in one area today, it is special teams. I’m expecting an impact play from either Sproles or Huff Daddy, and ideally there will be way more Seahawks punts than Seahawks kickoffs.
  5. LeSean McCoy averaging more than four yards per carry — Reports of McCoy’s demise were greatly exaggerated. The Eagles Pro Bowl running back has looked electric over his past two games, but the Titans and Cowboys front seven is no Seahawks. Running room will be tougher to come by today, but the Eagles are 5-1 this season when McCoy averages four or more yards per carry. Let’s make it 6-1 and push it to three straight games in a row over the century mark.

The Jeremy Maclin-Richard Sherman matchup gets an honorable mention and warrants watching as well obviously. I don’t expect Maclin to go for 150+ yards like he has three time prior this season, but he should be able to hold his own.

There you have it, folks. Seventy, one, 63, 20, four, and hopefully double digit wins and playing for a second consecutive NFC East title next Sunday night.

Fist pump away, 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