Tag Archives: LeSean McCoy

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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An Early Chance to Exorcise Dallas Demons

Reactionary posts to the NFL schedule being released normally aren’t my thing.

There are a bunch of folks feverishly playing win-loss with the schedule not yet even two hours old and meaningful football still nearly five months away. I have always maintained that I don’t go on the record with predictions until the conclusion of the final preseason game. Why do so now when you have even more information at your disposal on Labor Day Weekend?

Despite the opening sentence here and aforementioned paragraph, I thought this would be a good time to emerge and update this blog for the first time since the fateful day in January when Chip Kelly gave several Eagles fans mini heart attacks before winning a power struggle against Howie Roseman.

I’m doing this because I deemed it necessary when I checked my phone at 8 p.m. and my eyes gravitated towards the following:

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 9.20.45 PM

That’s a home opener against Dallas — The first such occurrence since the 2002 season, and the earliest the teams have played since 2008.

From an emotional standpoint, it’s exciting. From a football standpoint, it’s scary. It’s scary because the Eagles have a disturbing recent trend that I don’t believe is addressed nearly enough:

They can’t beat Dallas at home.

Dallas has escaped Lincoln Financial Field with victories in three consecutive seasons. Go back all the way to 2007, and the Eagles have only held serve at home against their arch rivals twice. The average margin of victory in the past three Cowboys victories is 13.3. In other words, it hasn’t been that close.

It set the Cowboys up to win the division back in 2009 and did the same last December, this time keeping the Eagles out of the playoffs altogether. Had the Eagles won on that miserable Sunday night, they would have essentially had the NFC East wrapped up with two weeks to play. Instead, they lost their grip on the division and playoff positioning.

Had the Eagles repeated their Thanksgiving day performance and won a game that many expected them to, who knows what might have happened. Nick Foles might still be the Eagles quarterback — or maybe Mark Sanchez. Kelly, with a playoff team for two straight seasons, may never have felt the need to march into Jeffrey Lurie’s office and demand more power. Maybe LeSean McCoy would still be in midnight green and DeMarco Murray still in Dallas.

No one knows.

What we do know is that the Eagles have struggled on their home turf recently against their biggest competition for the division crown.

Week 2 presents a chance to end a losing streak that spans four seasons, three quarterbacks, and two head coaches. Given the wild offseason that could get even more crazy next Thursday, the football world will be quick to judge how the Eagles look coming out of the gate.

It’s only one game, but it sure is symbolic, and it could determine how much games a few months down the road matter.

Other Random Schedule Thoughts:

  • The Eagles are 6-2 in primetime under Chip Kelly. No qualms about opening on Monday Night in Atlanta.
  • Speaking of one of those two losses, if there’s a random game I want to win, it’s the contest against the Saints at home stemming from the playoff loss in January 2014. A faction of Eagles Twitter who never liked Nick Foles has mockingly labeled it the ‘Foles left the field with a lead’ game. After outplaying Drew Brees and leading a nice fourth quarter comeback to put the Eagles in the lead before a raucous home crowd, Foles and the Eagles offense stood on the sideline while the Saints ended their season on a field-goal at the gun. I sometimes randomly wake up in the middle of the night thinking about that game and what could have been for both Foles and the Eagles. There’s a score to settle.
  • If I had to pick an early trap game, it’s potentially Tampa Bay. It’s not that I think they’ll be good, but it’s sandwiched between a couple tough opponents and an easy chance to be looking ahead.
  • Love that there’s a bye before the second Dallas game in early November.
  • Love even more that we’re turning up on Turkey Day again, this time in Detroit.
  • While it didn’t help against Seattle last season following a mini bye after Thanksgiving, a few extra prep days for the Patriots certainly cannot hurt.

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

That Sucked: Eagles-Cowboys Haiku

The opening kickoff was fumbled, and with it slowly went the Eagles grip on the NFC East — for now at least.

You all watched the game. Mark Sanchez was bad. The secondary was worse.

For much of the night, the Eagles looked unprepared as Chip Kelly and Billy Davis seemed a step behind Jason Garrett. It’s hard to win against a 9-4 when you turn the ball over four times.

I quite honestly am exhausted and not in the mood to spend a ton of time talking about it, preferring to look ahead at some of the scenarios and way the Eagles can get help to the playoffs.

Let’s hit the haiku and hope tonight wasn’t the final game at the Linc this season.

Dez Bryant goes wild

Secondary needs rebuilt

Save us Andrew Luck

 

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

Sad Eagles-Seahawks Haiku

When I used to cover Penn State, I found that a few of my better game stories came after emotional losses. They were a team playing with nothing to lose. Victories were fun, but defeats were — for me at least — easy to shake off given the situation they were facing.

Unfortunately, the Eagles — my first love — produce different emotions, and trying to throw something together about that game is proving to be difficult.

Ten days ago, it felt like the Eagles were on top of the world. and the defending Super Bowl champions sent them crashing back down to earth. Thanks to a muffed punt and some gutsy play-calling by Chip Kelly, the Eagles took a 7-0 lead.

The euphoric feeling quickly evaporated though as they would only score seven more points throughout the day as Russell Wilson did Russell Wilson things en route to 24 for the Seahawks.

Some less than stellar officiating may have helped them get to 24, but the Eagles were so thoroughly dominated on the stat sheet that I don’t feel I can devote a ton of space to bashing officials without pointing out the lopsided numbers.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 8.32.35 PM

Not pictured in that screenshot is that Doug Baldwin, a rather pedestrian wide receiver, had more receiving yards than the entire Eagles team. After playing an efficient game in Dallas, Mark Sanchez never truly looked comfortable.

This was the lowest point total for the Eagles in a game since their last regular season home loss — against the Giants on October 27 last year — and it may have been the most out of sync the offense has looked since then, save for maybe the 49ers game earlier this season.

The Eagles were outplayed in a lot of areas and shown how far their quarterback and secondary play still needs to progress before they can hang with the Seahawks, and yet there are some plays and moments where it’s hard not to wonder ‘What if?’

The ineligible Seahawks lineman downfield on their first touchdown drive that wasn’t called, the ill-advised timeout with a minute remaining in the second quarter, the pass that sailed through the hands of Zach Ertz early in the fourth quarter, and last but certainly not least, the Malcolm Jenkins dropped interception later on in the fourth quarter.

Ultimately, the Eagles are EXACTLY where I expected them to be after 13 games of this season. What I did not expect is some other teams like the Cowboys and Lions to have the exact same record. The NFC playoff picture is really tight, and 9-4 doesn’t go as far as it may have in past seasons.

It is still very likely the Eagles find themselves in the NFC playoff field. It will be a near certainty should they beat Dallas again next Sunday, this time at the Linc where they are 6-1 on the season, but rather than playing for a complete division clinch and a potential inside track on a first round bye, both are a bit dicier than they would have been with a statement victory today.

Like most losses, today really sucked, but it wasn’t a death sentence, just a wake-up call, and we’ll all feel more awake after we beat Dallas at home on Sunday night next week.

Let’s hit the haiku, win the game next week, and check on the health of Nicky Foles.

Refs bad Sanchez worse

Outclassed by Russell Wilson

Trust Chip after loss