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The Least

Posted: December 6th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

The NFC East is the worst division in football. After the Cowboys loss to the Bears on Thursday night, all four teams have losing records. How the mighty have fallen…

Dallas remains in first place with a record of 6-7. The Eagles can tie for first if they beat Eli Manning and the Giants on Monday night. If the Eagles win out, they don’t have to worry about tie-breakers. The NFC East will be theirs.

Before we go that far, can the Eagles beat the Giants?

The Eagles are a better team than the Giants, but as we saw last week, that guarantees nothing. The Eagles are only going to win if they play better.

I’m glad Pederson is mixing things up and trying to get through to his players. You can question the timing of this. Why not last week?

Pederson tried a different tone last week and it didn’t work. We’ll have to see if this does. Brandon Brooks and Brandon Graham said the right things and that is encouraging, but we need to see results before we can start to talk about the changes being effective.

I hope the Dallas loss on Thursday can serve as a motivator for the Eagles. Dallas came in claiming to be a desperate team. They said all the right things. They marched down the field and scored an early TD to go up 7-0. Life was good.

Next thing you know, the Bears were up 24-7 and Dallas was in disarray.

The Eagles should have learned plenty by losing to Miami, but seeing Dallas fall apart as well should teach them a lesson. Play all 60 minutes with a sense of urgency. Don’t get a taste of success and then let up. Play with an edge all game long.

Dallas lost last week and the Eagles didn’t take advantage of that. Pederson knows his team can’t let that happen again. They must win on Monday night to show they aren’t just alive mathematically, but emotionally as well. Having a favorable schedule doesn’t do you any good if you don’t take advantage of it. Can the Eagles go win a crucial game? Can they play smart, tough, disciplined football?

The Eagles should have all the motivation they’ll need. We’ll find out if that’s true on Monday night.

This is one of the strangest, crazies football seasons I’ve ever lived through. You really don’t know what to expect on a week-to-week basis.

Maybe we should just embrace the chaos.

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Build for the Future

Posted: December 5th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

Super Bowl teams are built over time. Coaches usually have a four or five-year plan. Bill Walsh won the Super Bowl in his third year with the Niners. Mike Holmgren won the Super Bowl in his fifth year with the Packers. Pete Carroll won the Super Bowl in his fourth year with Seattle. Andy Reid took the Eagles to the Super Bowl in his sixth season.

Things don’t always work this way, but coaches know they need to time to acquire the right players and install their schemes and systems.

Doug Pederson won the Super Bowl in only his second year with the Eagles. That was great and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but from the perspective of building a strong team for the long haul, you wonder if that was too much too fast.

That turned out to be a special group and a special season. The problem is…how do you duplicate “special”?

Think about the Super Bowl, the actual game. Corey Clement played the best game of his young career and looked like he was going to be a key player for the future. Alshon Jeffery made an incredible TD catch and played well. He looked like a stud receiver. Nick Foles played the game of his life. Halapoulivaati Vaitai was the left tackle in that game and got the job done. The coaching staff called a trick play at a key moment and it was executed perfectly. The winning TD came on a brilliant play design. The Eagles threw something at the Pats that they hadn’t seen.

Clement hasn’t done anything since the Super Bowl.

Less than two years later, Jeffery looks five years older. He’s not nearly the player he was then.

Big V struggles in mid-season games now.

Foles hasn’t come close to his level of brilliance from that postseason run.

The coaches haven’t had the kind of answers in the past two years that they did that day.

You generally build a strong core of players and then know you’ll add or lose some other players along the way. That core spends enough time together to develop habits and culture. Bill Walsh was a perfectionist when he ran the Niners. He had a great coaching staff that knew how to teach. They were demanding. Practice wasn’t about being “good enough”. It was about the pursuit of perfection.

Jimmy Johnson’s Cowboys were insane off the field, but great on it. The players were tough on each other. The coaches were tough on the players. Johnson was tough on everybody. He has admitted that coaching style ate at him. He didn’t do that in Miami and the results showed. Johnson said he just couldn’t keep that up. Being the bad guy 24/7 wears you down.

The Eagles lost players and coaches after winning the Super Bowl. That happens. Things were tougher than usual for the Eagles due to all the injuries over the past two years. How many games in that span have the Eagles had their best 22 players on the field? Heck, how many have they had the top 20 or even just 18?

I still believe in Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz. The Eagles still have some outstanding pieces in place. Johnson, Ertz, Cox, Graham, etc. Young guys like Derek Barnett, Miles Sanders, Avonte Maddox and Dallas Goedert all look to be key players for the future. There is more right than wrong.

That said, the Eagles do need to look hard in the offseason at how to build for an extended run. Forget about chasing the short term Super Bowl. Build a team to play together for several years. They need to be really selective about which older players stay around and which ones get added.

Jeffrey Lurie talked about the need to add a lot of players in the draft classes of 2019 and 2020. The Eagles didn’t do that in 2019. They do need to do that in 2020. This team needs young talent. And the coaches need to embrace the young players.

Don’t patch.

Don’t repair.

Build for the future.

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What’s Going On?

Posted: December 4th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

Mack Hollins has struggled all year. When the media asked about Hollins, Eagles coaches stood up for him. They threw a variety of hollow, awkward answers out in support of their player. All coaches do this so it was hardly a surprise. Coaches criticize behind closed doors and show a positive front to the outside world. That’s just Coaching 101.

But there are some cases where the coaches have to let reality creep in a bit. And Hollins was absolutely one of those cases. Hollins might be a fantastic person. He might work hard in practice and be a lovable teammate. What he’s not is an NFL receiver right now.

But the Eagles stuck by him. They kept giving Hollins snaps. He failed to produce, but would still manage to have costly penalties. It was maddening.

That all changed on Tuesday. The Eagles finally came to their senses and cut Hollins, a move that should have been done weeks ago.

The reason for the move is almost as frustrating as watching Hollins play this year.

Another team reportedly wanted to sign Sua Opeta. The Eagles decided that they didn’t want to lose him so they cut Hollins. They cut a player who has played every game this year and been on the field on a regular basis for a rookie backup who isn’t likely to play this season.

That is both crazy and the right thing to do.

It is crazy because it took some other team wanting Opeta for the Eagles to finally give up on Hollins. They should have seen this themselves. Weeks ago. Roster spots are earned, not given. Hollins simply hasn’t earned his this year.

I get the Eagles hesitance to give up on a young player they think still has good potential. Hollins looked good as a rookie. He was valuable on STs and solid on offense. There was a lot to like. Injuries cost him 2018. The hope was that he would be a good role player now that he’s healthy. That just didn’t happen.

I’m all for being patient with young players, but they have to show you something or this has to be at a position where the guys ahead of them are playing well. That just hasn’t been the case in 2019. The Eagles were desperate for WR help and Hollins never showed anything.

I’m glad they let him go. It had to be done, even if the timing and reasoning were less than ideal. Bring Hollins back in the offseason if you want, but this should be a desperate team right now. Only contributors should be playing. Keeping Hollins around had to be odd to some of his teammates. How was he helping? Greg Ward has shown more in two weeks than Hollins all year long. Stevie Wonder knows Hollins should have been cut.

I hate being critical of Hollins because he seems like a good guy, but this is the NFL. You produce or you get cut.

Opeta is an interesting young player so I can see why the Eagles wanted to keep him. He could be a backup G or even C in the future. The team liked what they saw from him in the summer.

As you think about the Hollins situation, it isn’t encouraging. Why was he here this long? The Eagles could have cut him weeks ago and put him on the practice squad. I can’t imagine any other team was going to claim him. His tape this year just wasn’t good.

Was the personnel department pushing for Hollins to stick around? Maybe, but the coaches kept playing him so that would make you think they wanted him on the field. Was that Doug Pederson’s call? Mike Groh or Carson Walch?

If it was the coaches, that makes you question what they are seeing/thinking. Hollins may have been great off the field, but at a certain point you need players who produce. You have to play the best players. If guys aren’t getting the job done, get rid of them. I know that sounds harsh, but this is the NFL. You cannot keep a team of guys you like.

The Eagles erred in bringing back some veterans the past couple of years and they seem to be players the coaches have a strong bond with. That’s not ideal. You must be able to be ice cold when it comes to making personnel decisions. Ice F’ing cold.

Johnny Unitas the Charger.

Ronnie Lott the Raider.

Reggie White the Carolina Panther.

Forget about past accomplishments and who you like the most. Find me guys that get the job done. I’m not saying to go sign Antonio Brown. Clearly you need players who can function as part of a team and within the organizational structure. But there has to be middle ground between him and having likable underachievers.

The Eagles roster looked great on paper back in August. It really did. Unfortunately lists of names don’t always translate well to reality and that’s certainly the case this year. Maybe there was just too much hype and the players bought into it. The vibe hasn’t been right with this team all year. Chemistry hasn’t been good.

I would say this. Be careful about playing the blame game with this team. Swap Frank Reich for Mike Groh right now and you’ve still got problems. Replace Carson Wentz with Nick Foles and the Eagles might be worse than 5-7.

The 2017 Eagles won the Super Bowl as an organization. A lot of people had a hand in that. And the 2019 Eagles are a mess of mediocrity as an organization. That includes Howie Roseman, Doug Pederson, the coaches and the players. Everyone has a hand in this mess. You could argue Zach Ertz is the team’s MVP for the season, but his drops on Sunday were killers. There isn’t just one guy to blame or one thing wrong.

A lot needs to be fixed.

I am curious to see how this team finishes out the season. Have the Eagles finally hit rock bottom or will they grab a shovel and keep digging?

A strong finish won’t be enough to wipe out the stink of a 5-7 start, but it might give us a few clues about who is worth bringing back for next year. If guys can’t play with a sense of desperation at this point, I don’t know why you’d want them around in the future.

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Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

Posted: December 2nd, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

Jeffrey Lurie has to be one frustrated man. He believes in his coach. He believes in his GM. Lurie has a star QB in place and plenty of talent in place around him. Somehow, that team is 5-7 and on a three-game losing streak.

I’m sure part of Lurie would love to make a rash move. Fire somebody. Anybody!

When a team underachieves like this, someone has to pay, right? Lurie has to let the masses know that he’s not happy with what he’s seeing and someone is going to pay the price.

But then we have to go back to what I said to start with. Lurie seems to like the key guys…Howie, Doug, Carson, etc. They brought him a Super Bowl and that isn’t to be taken lightly. Besides, would firing someone right now really accomplish anything?

Lurie isn’t prone to knee-jerk reactions so he’s not likely to do anything, nor do I think he should. In-season moves rarely work.

I do think Lurie needs to have a meeting. He needs to get some answers. And Doug and Howie and anyone else involved should be somewhat uncomfortable as they give the answers.

The Dolphins have a young roster that seriously lacks talent. They have a rookie head coach. They were 2-9 coming into the game and didn’t exactly have a lot of fan support in the stadium. Somehow, that team was better prepared and played with more urgency than the more talented Eagles who still have hopes of making it to the postseason.

The roster that Howie has so carefully put together was beaten by a group that has been thrown together over the past couple of months.

Miami coaches adjusted their gameplan during the game. Once they saw DeVante Parker make the first grab over Ronald Darby, they started trying to get him the ball. The Eagles never could figure out a way to stop that. Miami’s ground game wasn’t working so they gave up on it. The Eagles ground game was working, but the coaches gave up on it.

And in that one moment when the coaches needed a special play, Miami had one. The Eagles didn’t call timeout, instead relying on preparation from the week. The play worked and you can argue that’s the difference in the game. Call the friggin’ timeout, Douglas. There is no reason to take that chance.

Not good.

If Zach Ertz doesn’t drop that pass inside the 5-yard line, the Eagles probably win the game. We’d be griping about how it was closer than it should have been. Ertz didn’t make that catch. Mr. Reliable had a bad game. On the opposite side, Parker had the best game of his career.

In a way, that’s the theme of the year. Eagles players have been oh so close, but just don’t get the job done. The team they’re facing makes a few critical plays and wins. So what’s the problem?

Is the roster not good enough?

Are the coaches not good enough teachers to get their players to play better?

Is Pederson’s message not getting through to the players in terms of motivation?

Pederson can talk about being close and just having a couple of plays go wrong. That’s true, but it is also the point. Good teams make those plays. The Eagles aren’t making those plays. And I hope Pederson doesn’t talk about the 3-9 Dolphins being a good team behind closed doors. Gimme a break.

I would love for Lurie to tell Doug that the Dolphins are a bad team. 3-9 isn’t an accident. But they were better than the Eagles on Sunday and what does that say?

There is a need for honesty and accountability.

Lurie needs to let Pederson know that he’s got two tasks right now. First, getting the Eagles into the postseason. Second, a brutally honest evaluation of the players and staff. Changes must be made in the offseason. What we’re seeing isn’t good enough.

As for Howie, Lurie has to do that evaluation himself. The Eagles have made some moves that looked great on paper, but aren’t working out that way. What has gone wrong? How do you fix it? And the Eagles need more from the draft. What has gone wrong there?

Changes won’t come until the offseason, but the discussions behind closed doors need to start now.

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Day of the Dolphin

Posted: December 1st, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

The Eagles led 10-0. Miami didn’t quit and took a 14-13 lead in the second quarter.

The Eagles led 28-14 in the third quarter. Miami didn’t quit.

They scored 23 unanswered points.

23.

What a disaster.

The Eagles defense had no answer for Ryan Fitzpatrick. Miami piled up 409 yards and scored 37 points, both season highs. Their previous highs were 381 yards and 26 points. That should give you an idea how bad the defense was.

There were some tough penalties in there and the DBs had good coverage on some plays that still turned into big gains, but the defense never could come up with stops. They had no answers. None.

The Eagles now drop to 5-7 and they’ve lost three games in a row.

Amazingly, the Eagles still control their fate. If they win out, they will win the NFC East. It is very fair to wonder how likely that is after watching this team. The offense was a mess the previous two games. Today they moved the ball and scored points. The defense, which had been red hot, was awful.

There are a lot more questions than answers right now.

The worst part of all this is that apathy could start to set in. Do you even care if the Eagles get hot and win some games? It is impossible to believe in this team right now. You can have some blind faith and that is a big part of being a sports fan, but the reality is that this group simply makes too many mistakes.

The 2-9 Dolphins out-played and out-coached the Eagles today. They are now 3-9 and have won 3 of the past 5 games. The Eagles are 5-7 and have lost three in a row. Miami had nothing to play for but pride. The Eagles had plenty to gain.

You can argue that this is the worst loss of the Doug Pederson era. We’ll need some context to really know if that is true, but Pederson’s team didn’t do anything to make him look good.

I have not had a good feel for this team all year and I still don’t. I have no idea if they’ll come out swinging or embrace mediocrity like a warm blanket on a cold night.

What a miserable way to end a holiday weekend.

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