Tag Archives: Zach Ertz

Countdown to Eagles Football — 44 Days: Who is the Face of the Franchise?

Editor’s note: This is the first installment of a 44-day series counting down the days until the Eagles season begins. Most parts will not be as weird as this one.¬†

The first question that we answer in our series will be the easiest.

It’s also a unique one in that for better or for worse, the Eagles are one of the few teams, hell, maybe the only team in the NFL, where the coach comes to mind more than one particular player. Sam Bradford, should he somehow turn into the franchise quarterback that made him the first overall pick in the draft five years ago could potentially emerge as the answer to this. DeMarco Murray theoretically could as well, but it’s difficult to hand that label to someone who previously suited up for your biggest rival and has yet to play a down for the Eagles.

A case could be made for Connor Barwin, but not many 3-4 linebackers jump to the forefront when you think face of the franchise. When the schedule was released in April, the Eagles went with an image of Zach Ertz, another who could be in the conversation but isn’t there yet.

The past two paragraphs partly underscore the issue of having a somewhat talented roster that lacks a surefire franchise quarterback, but that alone downplays Chip Kelly’s influence and clout, both within the franchise itself and perception around the league.

Since Kelly’s arrival, the Eagles have attempted to rebrand themselves as this innovative franchise that talks, thinks, and acts quicker than its competition.

They are like a startup that has a really cool idea and business model seemingly ready to disrupt the market, but execution needs to go from good to great for that to happen, and whether or not they can do that remains to be seen.

Maybe this is a better analogy.

If Chip Kelly was a metaphorical person, he would be the kid who moved into your neighborhood from across the country when you were entering high school. He is a few years older than you and has his license. He’s promised to take you cool places, so you ride with him.

Your parents don’t think it’s safe, and you even admit he drives way too fast at times, but you’re intrigued. After all, your neighborhood needed a bit of life to it. It’s normally been a pretty good place, and 10 years ago, you put together an awesome team that took on the best neighborhood around. They cheat and no one likes them, but sadly you lost by three points and haven’t gotten close to them since.

Two summers ago when Chip first moved in, you went on an epic road trip. Despite running out of gas towards the end, it was the best summer since 2004. You actually traveled a little further in 2008 with your elementary school friend Andy, but there was something new and special about 2013.

Last year you thought you were gonna do it again, but midway through the trip, your muffler broke and had to be replaced by a less talented and more inconsistent muffler. Your biggest rivals caught you on the final laps and celebrated what was yours the summer before.

Sometimes you think Chip misses the west coast. He talks more than occasionally about an old girlfriend, Marissa Marriot, and you’d do anything to get them back together. Marissa’s off at college at the University of Tennessee, and even though you know Chip misses her dearly, he reminds you to be ‘where your feet are.’

His feet are firmly on the gas pedal, and he’s revving the engine faster than ever before.

‘Chip, Nick was my best friend,’ you say to him as he stops short at a red light. ‘He was a huge reason why the trip two yeas ago was so fun. Why isn’t he allowed to ride with us this year?’

Chip doesn’t really answer, but Sam is awkwardly sitting in the backseat. His crutches take up a lot of room and block part of the rearview mirror. Chip could care less. Rearview mirrors are not a safety tool to Chip. Rather, they’re a symbol of inefficiency, an invitation to concern yourself with those chasing you rather than looking forward to new horizons.

All of a sudden he cuts across three lanes of traffic without signaling once.

‘CHIP WATCH OUT, WHAT THE FUCK?’ you scream as several cars begin honking. ‘My GPS didn’t say we were supposed to go that way. Have you lost your mind?’

‘We gotta go pick up Sam’s friend DeMarco,’ Chip says to you in the most nonchalant way that someone could announce a trip-altering decision.

At this point you put the car in park and demand answers, other drivers still honking, some of them even cursing and demanding that you do not get back on the road.

‘Chip, we never talked about any of this. Let’s pull over, grab a smoothie, chill for a little while, and talk all of this through.’

He will have none of it. ‘That’s an inefficient use of time,’ he says, putting the car back in drive before he even finishes talking.

For a brief few seconds, you get the car back in park again before he reaches for the gear shift.

‘Chip I got an idea. How about we go visit Marissa at Tennessee? We’ll have to pay a lot more in gas and tolls and will have to make great time once we leave, but I think it would be worth it.’

‘Let’s dispel this right now,’ he says with an exasperated look on his face. ‘I think we need to stop talking about Marissa.’

Despite this suggestion, he himself isn’t done, and you know it.

‘Marissa is the greatest girl I have ever been around, but we’re not going to sacrifice this road trip just to see her when we have a ton of other things to do.’

You wait a second to see whether or not he’s finished this time. Chip rarely shows a ton of emotion around you, but this is telling. You know how deep his love for Marissa runs.

‘So we need to stop talking about Marissa but then you go right back to talking about Marissa again?’

‘You being a wise ass?’ he shoots back at you with a look of disgust.

While you process the rhetorical question, Chip starts up the car. You’re off again, 40 miles per hour above the speed limit with Sam and DeMarco sharing old stories about their Oklahoma days in the backseat.

How did we get here? What the fuck is going on?

Chip speeds up more, and you lean back and take a deep breath realizing that the cop you just passed isn’t reacting.

Several hours have now gone by. You begin to spot a few highway signs for Atlanta, confirming that you’re going the right way, at least for the time being.

You’re still occasionally thinking in your head ‘Chip slow the fuck down, you’re going to get us killed,’ but that thought takes a backseat to you screaming ‘FASTER, FASTER,’ as some lesser drivers are clearly overwhelmed and left in the dust.

For better or for worse, you’ve bought in, because you think the destination could be a lot of fun — maybe even super fun.


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

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

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

Good morning, good morning, good morning, dawgies.

Let me tell you, I feel like a kid on Christmas morning right now, about two hours away from heading down to Lincoln Financial Field for my first game since the Week 16 Bears beatdown on Sunday night last season.

As you already know, there is no Cody Parkey kickoff contest today because we will be singing the Eagles fight song as the birds are lining up for them, but we do have our five numbers post.

The Eagles have some awful recent history against the Titans that we won’t devote a ton of space to mentioning. Know that it’s bad, and know that these are five numbers I hope to see that could reverse it today and give the Eagles their tenth straight regular season victory at the Linc:

  1. At least one interception thrown by Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger — The Titans sixth round rookie signal-caller has thrown one interception in all four games he has played in. Good timing for a defense that had to deal with Aaron Rodgers last week.
  2. Less than 50 rushing yards for Bishop Sankey — The Titans will use another rookie to try to make things easier for Mettenberger and keep Chip Kelly’s high-powered offense off the field. Aside from one big run by Eddie Lacy last week, the Eagles run defense held their own and has done so for most of the season. That will ideally continue today.
  3. Mark Sanchez completing at least 60 percent of his passes — For the Eagles to get to where they want to be over the next month with Sanchez steering the ship, he has to be more accurate. In his first two games as a starter, he is completing only 56.8 percent of his passing attempts. While that is actually higher than his 55.3 percent average throughout his career, he has missed open receivers a bit too often. I would feel much better if this can improve even slightly to reach 60.
  4. LeSean McCoy averaging more than four yards per carry — I have not mentioned the Eagles running back in this space a ton simply because I expected him to get back on track with the return of Evan Mathis and Jason Kelce, but that hasn’t happened with him only totaling 107 yards on 35 carries since four of the five projected starters on the offensive line have been back together. McCoy has only averaged four yards per carry in four of 10 contests this season, but the Eagles are 3-1 in those games. Let’s push it to 4-1 today.
  5. My dude Zach Ertz eclipsing 70 receiving yards — After a couple down weeks with limited snaps, Ertz seemed to get back on track some with a 55-yard performance on four catches last week. He has not eclipsed 60 since posting 86 yards against the Colts in Week 2, and the Titans secondary should give him an opportunity to finally do that again today.

There you have it, folks. One, 50, 60, four, 70, and hopefully several renditions of ‘Fly Eagles Fly’ as the home winning streak reaches double digits.

Let’s go to the game.

Fist Pump GIF


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.

Eagles Shutout the Giants Victory Haiku

That was awesome. Best game the Eagles have played since the beatdown of Chicago in Week 16 last year — also coincidentally a Sunday Night game.

Shady McCoy looked like the Shady McCoy we know and love. They stalled and settled for a field goal their first time in the red zone, but Chip Kelly’s offense was just about rolling from the start. Billy Davis coached circles against Ben McAdoo.

Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry, and Trent Cole made life miserable for Eli Manning, and Cody Parkey and the rest of the special teams crew did their thing.

This team doesn’t play for another two weeks. From a football standpoint, that is good. It means one less missed game for Jason Kelce, Evan Mathis, and Mychal Kendricks. From an emotional standpoint, it sucks, because I really freakin love this team.

For all of the problems, they are 5-1 without having played their best football before tonight and 2-0 in the division. The Giants schedule is brutal. It’s pretty much a two-team race between the Eagles and Cowboys, and I’ll more than take my chances with that.

Eight straight regular season wins at home. Pretty sweet after 10 consecutive losses between 2012 and 2013. Let’s make it nine against the Panthers on November 10th.

Between a bad interception and allowing a long third down pass early on, there are certainly things to fix, but let’s hit the haiku and enjoy this one:

All black everything

Foles to Ertz be still my heart

Eight sacks five wins bye