Tag Archives: New Orleans Saints

Chip Kelly, Jim Haslett, and the Calming of Nerves Before Kickoff

I am currently writing this post while watching Chip Kelly’s old team tied with a school featuring “Washington” in its name. Go figure.

Anyway, I will cut to the chase here: I am nervous for today — Way more nervous than I anticipated being when I made my predictions before the season.

The Redskins absolutely demolished Jacksonville last Sunday while the Eagles had some problems with the same Jaguars team back in Week 1. They are currently fourth in the league in points allowed, and Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan figure to try to take advantage of a makeshift Eagles offensive line.

DeSean Jackson is back in town, and while I do not know how many snaps he will be able to play with that shoulder injury, he will be motivated to make the ones that he does play count.

Mike Shanahan is out. Jay Gruden is in. I never believed the younger Gruden to be particularly brilliant, but he is probably a better coach right now than Shanahan was throughout last season.

Most importantly, Kirk Cousins will start at quarterback for the injured Robert Griffin. That frightens me, and I would much prefer to face Griffin if given the choice. Griffin to me is like some extremely volatile stock. You have no idea what you are going to get with all of the variables, but given recent history (the Eagles were 2-0 against Griffin last season), you feel like you would have a somewhat solid plan.

Cousins seems like more of a known commodity in ways as much as that might run contrary to his limited game experience. What I mean is that while Cousins may not be capable of winning a game by himself like RG3 occasionally is, he also will not single-handedly lose one.

Billy Davis called two nice games against Griffin last season, but the Eagles have never faced Cousins before. All of this scares me.

One thing that does not scare me though is that even with the Skins’ coaching regime overhaul, Jim Haslett remains the defensive coordinator. Chip Kelly absolutely owned Haslett last season as the Eagles combined for 57 points and 845 yards in two victories against the Skins.

Haslett found a way to get a few stops late in games, but the Eagles had already poured it on enough where stalling a few times did not really matter.

Haslett is not bad at his job. He took a then moribund Saints franchise to the playoffs during his first year as head coach back in 2000, but Haslett was bad at his job against Kelly’s up-tempo offense last season.

In the Week 1 opener on Monday Night Football, it looked as if Kelly was playing chess while Haslett was struggling to grasp the simplest rules of checkers. The first half of the second game when these two teams met at Lincoln Financial Field was more of the same, and hopefully later today will be as well.

The Redskins — to their credit — made a lot of coaching and personnel changes, and I am pretty nervous for this one, but when I want to calm my nerves, I think back to last year and how Haslett still runs the Skins defense.

Some things hopefully have not changed. Do it, Chip.

Fist Pump GIF

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Nick Foles, Overcoming Adversity, and Earning Patience

Regardless of the twists and turns that his NFL career takes, the numbers ’27 and two’ will always be synonymous with Nick Foles.

It represents the touchdown to interception ratio that the Eagles’ third-year quarterback posted during the 2013 season, (technically 29 and two if you count the two touchdown passes thrown in a playoff game where Foles out dueled future Hall of Famer Drew Brees).

It also represents an NFL record and normally serves as a conversation starter about the signal-caller going forward. Foles believers cite it to illustrate just how good he was last year and to show that they are convinced he is a franchise quarterback. Foles doubters mention that the two numbers are not sustainable and that some regression in 2014 is guaranteed.

The exercise is a great example of how the same statistic can be bent in different ways to form two complex arguments.

Foles’ projections for 2014 are all over the map. I personally put him down for 32 touchdowns and 10 interceptions before the season started. Regardless of what folks think he will do for an encore though, those numbers ’27 and two’ should have one unifying trait between fans and detractors.

They should be a reminder of patience as the year gets into full swing — Way more patience than what was exhibited Sunday afternoon when Foles got off to a less than stellar start against the Jaguars in the season opener.

A promising season was less than 30 minutes old, and calls for Mark Sanchez began to ring out both at Lincoln Financial Field and throughout Eagles Twitter. Philly.com even went as far as to put up a poll about the topic as the Eagles struggled through an ugly first half that saw them head into the locker room down 17-0.

I am not sure how much the page has been visited post-Sunday but as of clicking on late Thursday night calls for Sanchez were still at 33.1 percent.

Eagles-Jaguars Poll

Thankfully, Chip Kelly, Pat Shurmur, and Bill Musgrave stuck with their Pro Bowl quarterback knowing he had recovered from adversity before and could do it again.

Benching a quarterback who is healthy but ineffective has always been a real sensitive topic to me. The position comes with so much prestige that you cannot simply put the toothpaste back in the tube once it is out.

If you pull a quarterback coming off a breakout season less than a half into a new one, you better be sure the good version of Sanchez from the preseason isn’t a mirage because you may never get Foles back once the trigger is pulled.

It is not like baseball when your ace has a bad start and the manager takes the ball telling him to try again five days later. Five days later may never arrive in this instance.

Sticking with Foles paid off as the quarterback went 15-for-22 for 183 yards in the second half with two touchdown passes. The 68-yard bomb to Jeremy Maclin may have been a bit of a coverage bust, but the 25-yard pass to Zach Ertz to cut the Jaguars lead to three had some nice touch on it.

Foles was certainly shaky during the first 30 minutes, but it should say something about him that he was able to bounce back quickly, just like last November where he threw seven touchdown passes two weeks after playing an awful game against Dallas that saw him exit with a concussion. At the time, it was believed that Foles had fumbled away his chance to win the starting quarterback job with Michael Vick recovering from injury, but he quickly got another shot and made the most of it.

Lost in all of this as well is that Foles was not the only quarterback to have some Week 1 issues. Tom Brady avoided throwing an interception but was 29-for-56 — a measly 4.4 yards passing per attempt — in a 33-20 loss to the Dolphins.

Completions Attempts Yards Turnovers Score
4 8 46 2 (fumbles) 17 — 0
6 9 56 1 (interception) 10 — 0

Take a look at these blind quarterback stats for a second. The top column is Foles’ first three drives. The bottom column is Andrew Luck’s first three drives against the Broncos Sunday night.

Luck, the Eagles’ Week 2 opponent, did not have a particularly good start to the season either, but nobody freaked out and called for Matt Hasselbeck to replace him because Luck was the number one overall pick in the draft back in 2012. He gets a pass for any bad stretches he experiences, chalked up to growing pains and learning on the fly. Foles was the 88th pick in the same draft class and the sixth overall quarterback selected. He does not get those passes because most third round picks are perceived to not be franchise quarterbacks.

You would think after 2013 that we would be past this, but apparently that isn’t the case. The fact that Foles was a third round pick should be irrelevant after what he did last season. Foles’ numbers were better across the board and both quarterbacks won their respective divisions. The only difference was Luck got to play one more game because his defense held when he led a fourth quarter comeback in a playoff game while the Eagles’ special teams let Foles down.

The Colts were my Super Bowl pick, and I also had them winning on Monday when I did my Eagles predictions, but I cannot wait to see the reaction should Foles outperform Luck like he did with Brees last January.

This should be a fun time when it comes to following the Eagles. It reminds me of the 2000 and 2001 Andy Reid teams where the talent was good enough to get to the playoffs, but sky high expectations had not yet set in to the point where watching was more stressful than fun and anything short of a Lombardi Trophy would be considered an absolute failure.

The big difference I see between now and then is that the Giants were still pretty formidable in those days before falling off for a few years. Right now, the rest of the NFC East is awful.

Foles won way more than he lost in 2013 (nine wins compared to three losses specifically), and I often think about tying that into a Chip Kelly quote a few days after the playoff loss to the Saints last year.

Kelly was essentially asked by a reporter if he considered himself an ‘NFL coach after completing his first season in the most competitive league in the world. In typical Kelly fashion, he responded by saying that he thought he was an NFL coach 10 times and not one seven times, an obvious ode to the Eagles record.

Well, if we apply the same logic, Foles was a franchise quarterback nine times and not one three times. Seventy five percent — That sounds pretty damn good to me.

A record setting touchdown to interception ratio, nine wins, the first NFC East title since 2010, and a flawless fourth quarter playoff drive. Natural regression suggests he cannot repeat that, but let your mind wander for a second. What if he does? What if he comes really close to those numbers again?

And you were ready to potentially throw all of that away because of one bad half?

If Nick Foles did not already have your trust going into Sunday, he probably did not earn it, however, he should have earned your patience last season, and that should last for way more than a half.

Feeling Lucky: 2014-2015 NFL Predictions

The Seattle Seahawks will put a halt to a near-decade long streak, becoming the first team since the 2005 New England Patriots to win a playoff game coming off a Super Bowl title.

Pete Carroll’s squad will do more than just win one game in January though. They will once again represent the NFC in Glendale on February 1, 2015, but the Seahawks will not repeat as champions.

If you picked up on the subtle headline hint, Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts will dethrone the Legion of Boom and hoist the Lombardi Trophy nearly five months from now.

Andrew Luck rises, Russell Wilson nearly does it again, Nick Foles takes another step forward, Colin Kaepernick takes a small step back, and Robert Griffin’s slide continues.

That and more as we predict team-by-team records and how the playoffs will play out below.

You can choose for yourself how much stock you put in my predictions. Last season, I did nail Seattle as my preseason Super Bowl champion but picked them to beat the Texans in the big game so…welp.

I cannot promise that I will be spot on. If I could, I might as well be in Vegas right now, but unlike hack Mike Freeman, I will try to hold myself accountable if they are embarrassingly bad.

Without further ado, let’s hit it.

NFC East

Eagles (11-5) (2)

Giants (8-8)

Redskins (6-10)

Cowboys (5-11)

Thoughts: It would be a big surprise if the Eagles do not win this semi-comfortably, and if things go according to plan, they will jump out to a quick one-game lead over everyone after this weekend. The Giants are not as bad as some seem to think but won’t be good enough to seriously challenge for a wildcard spot. Redskins and Cowboys bring up the rear in a relatively weak division.

NFC North 

Packers (10-6) (4)

Bears (9-7)

Vikings (8-8)

Lions (5-11)

Thoughts: The Seahawks can make just about an squad look bad, so I’m not reading into the Packers loss last night a ton. Aaron Rodgers hides a lot of their flaws, but they will once again find a way to take the division. The Bears come up just short again, the Vikings are a pleasant surprise, and the Lions remain the Lions.

NFC South

Saints (10-6) (3)

Bucs (8-8)

Panthers (8-8)

Falcons (7-9)

Thoughts: Always the toughest division to handicap. I think the Saints are a cut above the rest and expect Tampa Bay to be better now that they are free of the Greg Schiano experience. I love me some Kelvin Benjamin, but who else is Cam Newton throwing to outside of Greg Olsen? The Falcons get the honor of being the best last place team in the league.

NFC West

Seahawks (13-3) (1)

Cardinals (10-6) (5)

49ers (10-6) (6)

Rams (3-13)

Thoughts: It nearly happened last year, and this season it actually will — Three playoff teams out of the wild, wild west. Seattle avoids the Super Bowl hangover. I am no Bruce Arians fan, but that Cardinals team is solid. They beat out the 49ers, but Jim Harbaugh’s squad overcomes a rough start to grab the final playoff spot in the conference. The Rams win the Jameis Winston/Marcus Mariota sweepstakes.

AFC East

Patriots (11-5) (3)

Jets (8-8)

Dolphins (7-9)

Bills (4-12)

Thoughts: The more things change, the more things stay the same. The Pats roll once again while the Bills sit in the cellar. The Dolphins and Jets hang around but can’t quite crash the playoff party.

AFC North

Bengals (10-6) (4)

Ravens (8-8)

Steelers (7-9)

Browns (4-12)

Thoughts: Andy Dalton once again gets the Bengals to the playoffs and once again loses in the first round. The Ravens just miss for two straight years. I would have had the Steelers with another win or two a month ago, but they just looked awful in the preseason. Johnny Manziel gets the gig pretty early and Cleveland but makes numerous NFL front offices breathe a sigh of relief that they passed on him last May.

AFC South

Colts (12-4) (2)

Texans (9-7) (6)

Jaguars (5-11)

Titans (4-12)

Thoughts: The Colts have this thing clinched by Week 12 with the Jaguars and Titans as complete afterthoughts. Bill O’Brien works his quarterback magic and gets the Texans to the playoffs in Year 1.

AFC West

Broncos (13-3) (1)

Chargers (11-5) (5)

Chiefs (8-8)

Raiders (3-13)

Thoughts: The Broncos cruise to another division title as they play out the schedule hoping for redemption in the playoffs. Mike McCoy’s Chargers take another step forward while Andy Reid’s Chiefs take a slight step back. The Raiders remain the Raiders, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Playoffs: 

AFC Wildcard Weekend

Chargers over Bengals

Patriots over Texans

NFC Wildcard Weekend

Saints over 49ers

Cardinals over Packers

AFC Divisional Playoffs

Colts over Patriots

Broncos over Chargers

NFC Divisional Playoffs

Eagles over Saints

Seahawks over Cardinals

AFC Championship Game

Colts over Broncos

NFC Championship Game 

Seahawks over Eagles

Super Bowl

Colts over Seahawks

Would love to hear your predictions if you have any because FOOTBALL BACK

Chip GIF

Introducing Your Official Alex Henery Kickoff Tracker

We’re going to attempt brevity here because I would like to eat dinner before blogging and tweeting about a preseason football game.

The chart below is your official Alex Henery kickoff distance tracker, which will be updated all night during the game. I wish we didn’t have to do this, but based on the playoff game against the Saints last year, we do.

Kickoff Number End zone Touchback Starting Field Position  Average Starting Field Position 
1 Yes (-4) No 17 17
2 Yes Yes 20 18.5
3 Yes (-1) No 22 19.7
4 Yes (-6) No 24 20.8
5 Yes Yes 20 20.6
6 Yes Yes 20 20.5
7 No (+5) No 26 21.3
8 Yes Yes 20 21.1
9 Yes (-2) No 29 22
10 Yes Yes 20 21.8
11 Yes (-4) No 21 21.7
12 Yes Yes 20 21.6
13 Yes (-6) No 21 21.5
14 Yes Yes 20 21.4
15 Yes (-4) No 21 21.4

Cody Parkey chart here

Kickoff Number End zone Touchback Starting Field Position Average Starting Field Position
1 Yes (-5) No 15 15
2 Yes (-4) No 45 30

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

The first five kickoffs came against the Bears while the last six were against the Patriots last Friday night. As you can see, Henery’s kickoffs have been pretty good through two games, so hopefully we’re tracking a lot of touchbacks and deep kicks into the end zone tonight.

When I have time, I will clean this chart up before the regular season starts, but it will serve its intended purpose for now.

If Cody Parkey or Murderleg sees some action, we’ll adjust accordingly for them in the chart.

For a more detailed post on Henery and the Eagles situation at kicker, click here.

“The Kid from Stanford Who They Got Playing for ‘Em” is Going to Be Really, Really Good

No, I’m not talking about fifth round pick Ed Reynolds.

This blog post is inspired by a question that my dad would repeatedly ask last Eagles season every time Zach Ertz made a big catch.

“Is that the kid from Stanford who they got playing for ’em?” 

I am unsure if he ever learned the rookie tight end’s actual name.

No worries, “the kid from Stanford” went on to have a very solid first season in midnight green, finishing his rookie campaign with 39 catches for 491 yards and five touchdowns (including a playoff game with three receptions for 22 yards and the go-ahead score with under five minutes remaining).

(5:18 mark of the video to see the pretty touchdown)

Extrapolate the final eight games of the regular season over a full year, and the total would come out to 44 receptions for 536 yards and eight touchdowns.

Now in his second NFL season, Ertz is going to be even better. Through two preseason games, he has posted six catches totaling 86 yards and a nice touchdown last Friday night against the Patriots, using his size to get open and haul in the red zone catch from Nick Foles. (Vine available here if it does not embed properly)

Early on last year, Chip Kelly and the Eagles coaching staff was hesitant to put Ertz on the field a ton because he needed to improve as a blocker and had struggled with some drops in the preseason.

Kelly, rightfully so, still loves Brent Celek, who is going into his eighth season with the birds, but it is going to be impossible for him to keep Ertz off the field this year. Look for the offense to feature some more two-tight end sets and do whatever it takes to get Ertz on the field.

I realize what I am telling you here isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it’s exciting to have a young weapon who is on his way toward becoming a stud.

This chart from Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com paints an even more complete picture. Sorted by yards, it compares the rookie seasons of some of the game’s current elite tight ends, and the only player to post better numbers than Ertz is Rob Gronkowski with the Patriots in 2010.

Tight End Chart

In his final season at Stanford in 2012, Ertz posted a line of 69-898-6, and I foresee him doing something very similar to that this year, just add in a few more touchdowns.

The only tight end in the league who is a lock to put up better numbers than Ertz is the Saints’ Jimmy Graham. Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron will be hard to beat, but I would not at all be shocked if it happened, which brings me to this.

Zach Ertz Tweet

Do that, dawgies.

I am fully expecting to hear “Is that the kid from Stanford who they got playing for em?” a ton over the next five and a half months.

Henery, We (May) Have a Problem

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

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

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

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

Alex Henery missed a kick that he needs to make. 

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

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

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

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

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

This concerns me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Henery Pro

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

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

Henery College

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chip Kelly is so Damn Innovative that the Eagles are Planning for the Year 2104 According to Their Training Camp Program

Earlier this afternoon the Eagles held their first open training camp practice at Lincoln Financial Field.

For many fans, it was their first time back in the stadium since the Saints ended the Eagles season shortly before midnight back on January 4.

Like most teams do, the Eagles distributed training camp programs as people made their way through the gates of the Linc. The program is pretty cut and dry with your season schedule, a roster, some player features, and a few advertisements.

The opening sentence of the “Offseason Recap” section sticks out though.

In the truest sense, the building of the 2104 Philadelphia Eagles roster began just days after the 2013 season ended. 

The logical conclusion is to simply believe someone made a typo. But could there be more to this?

Remember last November when Chip Kelly got tired of answering questions about his quarterback situation and named Nick Foles the Eagles “starting quarterback for the next 1000 years.”

Well, maybe Chip decided a millennium is a long time to commit to a guy, but there’s nothing wrong with nine decades.

I will gladly take Kelly and Howie Roseman planning 90 years in advance over Jerry Jones still believing it is 1994 down in Dallas, completely puzzled when it comes to managing a salary cap.

So, mistake by some intern who inverted the numbers or a fantastic Freudian slip?

#MakesYouThink

Related Eagles coverage you might enjoy:

Mike Freeman sucks

Nick Foles is for real

Jim Johnson was awesome