Thoughts and analysis on the Philadelphia Eagles



We've Moved!!!!

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www.BleedingGreenNation.com

Bleeding Green has officially completed it's move to Bleeding Green Nation. Bleeding Green Nation is going to bring us better exposure and give the readers much more power to be involved in the discussions and the community. Literally everything about the new site will be better. The look and feel, the ability for readers to get involved, the feeds are easier... Plus Blogger has been a pain for me lately and I've not been able to get things out as fast as I'd like. The new site fixes all that. It's all in all a huge upgrade and I really hope everyone likes it.

We are now a proud member of the SBNation.com family. I encourage you guys to check them out and see the amazing amount of great coverage they give most every MLB(uncluding the Phils!), college football and NFL team as well as many other sports.

I want to thank everyone that helped this site grow so fast and I hope you all enjoy the home!

PLease come on over and check it out. Bleeding Green Nation


That's more like it...

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Ahh, there's that feeling again. The feeling of a solid, convincing win. The Eagles trounced the 49ers 38-24 in a game that was a big step in healing alot of the wounds from the Giants loss.

I admitted before the game that I just didn't feel "up for this game. I didn't seem to have the same kind of excited anticipation that I usually do as gameday draws closer. Luckily, the Eagles felt none of these effects. They came out like a team mad about what happened last week and looking to prove something. And they did.

The 49ers are not a great team. We know that, but the Eagles handled them as a good team should. The Birds had their way with the Niners and beat them with relative ease. The bottom line is that good teams beat bad teams. The Eagles took care of business.

Now onto some thoughts about the game.

Game Ball to Brian Dawkins - It's funny, all the talk before the season was about what kind of impact guys like Matt McCoy and Broderick Bunkley would have. We all debated whether offseason free agent aquisitions like Darren Howard and Shawn Barber would help solve the ills of this defense from last year. However, somehow lost in that discussion was guys like Brian Dawkins and Jeremiah Trotter. They are now and have always been what the defense comes down to. Dawkins especially imposed his will on the game, he was the guy who stripped Frank Gore at the goalline and caused the Patterson TD. He continually put big shots on guys and generally just refused to allow anyone to pass by him. He gets the game ball in my opinion.

Reggie Brown - I've been a bit dissapointed by Reggie so far this year. He's been a solid red zone threat, but for the most part he's dissapeared in the first 2 games. What we saw yesterday was a bit more encouraging. He had his first career 100 yard game and did the job of the #1 WR with Stallworth being a late scratch from the game. Plus, I can't say enough about his blocking. On several plays Reggie could be seen throwing fantastic downfield blocks that sprung more than big one for the Birds. He is blossimg very quickly into that physical, Heinz Ward tpye of reciever that he was scouted as being. Still, there were things I didn't like from Reggie. Namely, his hands. He had a few drops, including an easy TD pass that McNabb put right on his hands. Those things need to improve, but overall I was pleased by most of what I saw from Reggie.

Is there an Akers issue? - After having a stunningly good preseason where he was routinely banging in 50+ yarders, Akers is struggling so far this year. He banged in a FG off the crossbar in the Texans game on a kick he usually has no trouble with. He missed one off the crossbar against the Giants, albeit that was a 48 yarder. Still, Akers has a repuation that he can make those kicks. I'll excuse a 48 yard miss every once in a while, I won't excuse a miss like he had yesterday. He badly shanked a 38 yarder that is normally a chip shot for Akers. I've heard some people raise the issue of the holder and whether David is comfortable with Dirk Johnson after having Koy Detmer as his holder for his entire Eagles career so far. I might buy this as an escuse had I not seen him making the kind of kicks he was in the preseason. He had no trouble with Dirk then. It's still to early to panic about Akers, but he needs to step up. Kicker has always been a strength here since Akers arrived and eventually we'll need him to make a big kick. Right now, I have to admit I'm not entirely confident in his ability to do so.

Pass Rush without Kearse - All in all I was satisfied with the job the defensive line and the pass rush in general worked. Alex Smith was sacked 3 times and was constantly pressured and forced to move around and throw on the run. Plus, I counted no less than 4 or 5 times that he threw balls away as he was being dragged down. He was flagged for one intentional grounding, but the call was overturned after the refs conferenced. trent Cole registered his leauge leading 5th sack in 3 games and Darren Howard got his first as an Eagle. I'm still looking forward to seeing the defensive line tested against a better offensive line but so far, so good.

McNabb lives up to his promise - After the Giants loss, McNabb said something to the effect of "that will never happen again as long as I'm at QB and have something to do with it." And when the 49ers started their mini comeback, McNabb took the team on his back squashed it. He called a brilliant audible at the line and found Schoebel for 60 yard gain that ended whatever momentum the Niners had.

The Secondary stinks, I know - Rod Hood made what most people felt was a surprise start after being injured in last week's game. He was questionable all week with a bad heel and it was assumed he wouldn't play, but he toughed it out and gave it a go... with less than stellar results. Hood was burned more than once and was clearly limping after every run. He simply didn't have the speed on the bad heel to keep up, and more than once took himself out of the game. Michael Lewis was generally better in pass coverage this week, but made at least one mistake in the second quarter where he got turned around and allowed a big gain after Hood was burned on a play. It's hard to say what we are supposed to expect out of this unit right now. Between Lito Sheppard and Rod Hood the secondary is missing 2 of it's top 3 corners. The fact is that any team reduced to playing 4th or 5th stringers at corner is going to suffer. Until Hood and Lito get healthy, the team is simply going to struggle. Nothing is going to change that. No team in the NFL has 4 or 5 starting caliber corners. So while hear the complaints of Eagles fans about his unit, I have to ask "What did you expect?" and "How can you really lay blame to anyone(except Mike Lewis of course)?"

Alex Smith is lame - Did anyone else find it a bit lame how Smith ran the last drive as if he was trying to tie up or win the game? The team is down over 3 TDs and he's spiking the ball with 6 seconds left so he can get one shot at the end zone to pad his stats agains the Eagles backups. I know that 49er coach Mike Nolan may hae wanted to get the team some real life experience at running a 2 minute drill, but I found it a bit distasteful.

Stats - The Eagles come out of the week still ranked #1 overall in the NFL in passing and #1 yardage on offense, McNabb still leads the NFL in passsing, the team is scoring the 3rd most points in football, they are 5th in the NFL in rushing with 129 yards a game, and they are tied for the leauge lead in sacks.


Eagles vs 49ers - Anyone excited?

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Anyone excited about this weekend yet?

I'm really not.

I just don't know why that Giants loss was so deflating... But combine that with the fact that the Birds play a bad and completely uncompelling team in the 49ers I'm just not feeling the fire for this weekend. Still, come gameday I'll be there watching and hopefully they'll give us something to cheer about. A big win this weekend would go a long way in making me feel better about the direction this team is headed this year.

The 49ers are a team that so far this year has lived off of big plays and pressuring the passer. Last week, they piled up 6 sacks against the Rams and put up touchdown plays of 32 and 72 yards both on the ground and through the air.

Their QB is 2nd year man and former 1st overall pick Alex Smith, who after a brutal rookie year has started to show some flashes of why he was the top player taken in the 05 draft. Still, the book on beating him is no different than beating any other young QB. Throw lots of different defensive looks at him and bring pressure.

So far the Eagles lead the NFL in sacks, but their fearsome pass rush is once again suspect with Kearse out for the season. Fortunately, the 49ers offensive line is less than intimidating especially given that former all pro guard and maybe future hall of famer Larry Allen is out.

Smith does have some weapons though. Highly touted rookie TE Vernon Davis, who has tight end size and wide receiver speed looks like he could blossom into the best TE in football... so far however, he's been off to somewhat of a slow start. He has 5 catches for 37 yard, 1 TD and 1 fumble lost so far this year. Smith's biggest weapon has been offseason acquisition WR Antonio Bryant. He has shown a ton of big play ability averaging 122 yards a game so far this year. He's another guy with decent size (6-2) that could certainly cause problems for the Eagles very beat up secondary. Lito Sheppard is out and Rod Hood is listed as doubtful to play this weekend. That likely means we'll be treated to another week of Joselio Hanson starting at CB.

My hope is Jim Johnson tries to play to the strengths of his team rather than sticking so hard and fast to his system. Typically, the Eagles have not played matchups with opposing WRs. Lito and Sheldon would basically stick to covering a side of the field and take on whatever WR the offense would choose to throw after them. With 2 solid corners and another solid one off the bench that's a fine way to play... However, with the secondary depleted as badly as it is I think it's been proven that the philosophy does not work with any personnel. Last week we saw Sheldon Brown, clearly the best corner on the team with Lito & Hood out(maybe even with them in), sticking to the right side of the field while the Giants sent Plaxico Burress to the left to pick on Joselio Hanson. For some unknown reason Jim Johnson refused to alter his system and let our 4th corner take on the Giants top WR and we all know how we paid for that. Although admittedly, it was Brown who Burress went over the top of for the final TD. That said, Antonio Bryant is not the size of Burress but he's still clearly best WR the 49ers have. I'd like to see Sheldon on him every snap he's on the field. No matter where he lines up, Brown should follow. That's playing our strength against theirs.

Something very encouraging we've seen from the Birds this year has been their ability to stop the run. In week one they held Houston to 70 rushing yards as a team and in week 2 held Tiki Barber to just 51 yards on 21 carries. They face a decent test again this week in Frank Gore who has rushed for 214 yards and 3 TDs so far this season. Like I said earlier though, the loss of starting LG Larry Allen will hurt the 49ers in this department as well...

The Eagles offense comes in to this game ranked #1 in the NFL. McNabb leads the NFL in passing yardage, LJ Smith leads all TEs in catches and yards, Donte Stallworth is 3rd in the NFC in receiving yardage, and surprisingly the team ranks 4th in the NFC in rushing yardage.

The offense, unlike the defense, is relatively healthy. Brian Westbrook was questionable with the same knee inflammation as he had before the Giants game, but he will play this weekend. He appeared to show no ill effects against the Giants.

If the Eagles offense just plays it's game, they should have few problems against the 49ers. Their defense has shown improvement, but still lacks many playmakers if any. Rookie LB Manny Lawson has looked very good so far with 2 sacks last week, but otherwise their linebacking corps is not terribly impressive, especially since Julian Peterson left in free agency this past offseason. This should be yet another game where LJ Smith should play a huge part as he presents a serious matchup problem for the San Fran linebackers.

So far the Eagles have done a great job protecting McNabb, as he's been sacked only twice this year. The pass protection will be tested this week against the 49ers who, as I said earlier, sacked Marc Bulger 6 times last week.

Ashley Fox from the Inky got a very interesting quote from Donte Stallworth about he feels he played so far. Statistically his season has been quite good, but we all saw how he came up short in overtime last week. Refreshingly, he's actually acknowledged this.

Stallworth said, "I don't feel like I've made the plays when it's counted, when the game's on the line, especially in the fourth quarter. I dropped a ball in overtime last week. The week before, I dropped one in the fourth quarter. That game was pretty much in hand, but that doesn't matter. The fourth quarter is when you're supposed to step up and have the best part of your game, and I don't think I've done that so far. But I'm working to correct that, and hopefully I can get better at it.
An NFL WR who takes responsibility for his own play? Weird... I find the attitude very refreshing. That said, don't drop any more balls in overtime Donte...

In the end, this is still a road game which shouldn't be a complete cakewalk. Plus, this is big statement game for the Eagles. Do they come out angry and stomp the 49ers, never letting up regardless of how far ahead they are? Or do they come out flat, still seemingly shocked from last week? I honestly don't know the answer to that question. They all have said they put the Giants' debacle behind them... But I need to see it to believe it. Still, I'm going to go optimistic give their opposition this week.

Eagles 30 49ers 17


Can the Phils help the Eagles?

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Says Eckel

It's not official, but word is if the Phillies make the National League playoffs -- they went into last night one game behind the Dodgers for the wild-card lead -- the Eagles' games with Dallas this year could be switched.

According to someone with knowledge of the situation, the Phillies could have a home game on Sunday, Oct. 8. That's the same day as the Eagles' scheduled home game with the Cowboys. The Eagles are scheduled to play at Dallas on Christmas night.

Even though the teams no longer share the same stadium, it could cause a logistical nightmare to have a playoff game and the Cowboys game the same day.

In the past the NFL has accommodated Major League Baseball by switching home games when it was appropriate.

And the Phils won another game tonight with Brett Myers throwing a complete game with 12ks... They are now 1/2 game back to the Dodgers who are losing as I write this.

When I read this in the story written by the Eagles' beat reporter "according to someone with knowledge of the situation", I immediately assumed that this is something the Eagles have looked into and are clearly hoping will happen. You can bet if the Phils win the wildcard, the Eagles will lobby hard to get the Oct game switched to Dallas so that they can get the Xmas game in Dallas moved here. We've all been dreading that almost unprecendented 3 game divisional road game stretch... I don't think anyone wouldn't trade an early home game to get one more later in the year, especially to break up that brutal 3 game stretch.


Time to look forward

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Since Sunday I've boycotted sports in general. I was so disgusted with the loss this past weekend I avoided ESPN, sports radio, sports on the web in hopes of not being reminded of what happened. I didn't care to hear what the pundits had to say about the game, I didn't want to see highlights. Nothing. I wouldn't even play Madden. In fact, my main connection to the sports world has been all the comments about the game left here and on myspace for me.

It's actually been pretty interesting. I didn't realize how much of my time is taken up by sports. I get up in the morning and throw on sportscenter as I'm getting ready, I'll usually flip to sports radio in the car, check the Eagles website and other sports new sites on the web at work, flip on PTI when I get home... My past few days have been filled with Saved by the Bell reruns in the morning, actual work at work(gasp!), and Batman Begins the video game after work...

However, I came to the inevitable conclusion that I eventually would have to face this game and look forward to this coming weekend. I still won't watch ESPN this week, but I'm ready to get back into it... So here goes.

First, I was really bummed to hear the new that Jevon Kearse was lost for the season. It seemed pretty obvious to me as he was carried off the field in agony that this was going to be the case, but it was still a blow to hear it. I felt really bad watching one of the few guys that never gave up on that game and had continued to give everything he had being carried off. The Phreak started this year on a tear with 3.5 sacks and really seemed on track to have maybe the best year of his career. Defensive line may be the deepest unit on this team which means we shouldn't panic over this loss, but it is a loss nonetheless. Kearse is likely the best all around defensive end on this team and the line will suffer for his loss. I can't foresee anymore 8 sack games without the Kearse. Still, that doesn't mean they can't be effective. We've seen some tremendous play so far out of backups Trent Cole(who also had one tremendously STUPID play!!!!) & Juqua Thomas. Plus Darren Howard, who hasn't gotten a sack yet, has been rather solid.

I'm unsure what they will really do to replace Kearse yet though. They've been very vague on that point. We know they'll activate Jerome McDougle and the former 15th overall pick is going to get his last shot to prove himself. At this point you'd have to guess that Juqua Thomas will start at LDE and McDougle will back him up with Cole/Howard rotating on the other end. I have to wonder though if they'll ever try putting Howard or Cole at LDE so they can get the most talent on the field at once.

**update***

Andy revealed his plans for the line today. Trent Cole will take over as starter at right defensive end, where's he been backing up Howard. Howard will slide over to start at left defensive end. Juqua Thomas will back up LDE and Jerome McDougle will back up Cole at RDE. Darren Howard started his career at LDE and compiled 17 sacks in 2 years there.

Howard on the Eagles website

"It's not anything new," said Howard. "My first two years in the league I played on the left side and my last four I played on the right side. I played a bunch on both sides. I should make the adjustment real quick.

"I haven't played there in a long, long time, so it's a process. That's how we're going to line up for right now and we're going to go ahead with that for right now."

*****

Now, I'd like to make once small statement about the game this past weekend. I've noticed a common thread from the Eagles fans I've talked to and heard from. It appears that a lot of fans are blaming Andy Reid and his playcalling in the 4th quarter for the loss. Now, while I wasn't thrilled with his playcalling I hardly can blame that loss on playcalling. If your starting RB can't hold on to the ball in the 4th quarter, if your receivers can't catch perfectly thrown balls for first downs, if your lineman can't avoid taking stupid penalties... no amount of good playcalling will ever fix that. Blaming this loss on playcalling is far too simplistic to me. This was a team that didn't think they could lose and when things got tight they panicked. Now, I can certainly lay blame on Andy for that as his team needs to be more disciplined. However, just blaming him, luck, or the playcalling excuses an atrocious performance from the players on the field.

I'd also like to address the secondary. I'm not sure exactly what to say about. Clearly it was atrocious and a huge a reason the Eagles blew a 17 point lead in the 4th quarter... but at the same time I fine it hard to figure out where to lay blame for that. Certainly Mike Lewis deserves some for blowing the coverage on the first Toomer TD. I blamed Rod Hood for the Moulds TD in week one, but this was all Lewis. He also couldn't hold on to the fumble that turned into a Giants TD when he was alone and fell right on it... So blame goes to Lewis for sure. But do we also blame Joselio Hanson? Sure, he was picked on all day. However, he is a 4th corner and he was matched up one on one with Plaxico Burress. So while I certainly think he should have done a better job, I find it hard to blame him for struggling. I also find it hard to blame Jim Johnson because the guy was missing his #1 and #3 corner after Hood went down. However, I did scream at the TV several times "Why is Sheldon Brown not on Burress!!!??". Of course, we learned on the last play that it probably wouldn't have mattered anyway as Eli Manning threw a pass up for grabs on his way to the ground and Burress just went right over Sheldon and hauled in the game winning TD...

If Lito and Hood can't get back soon the Eagles are in serious trouble no matter how good the pass rush is.

I'll preview the 49ers game next. Is anyone really even looking forward to that game yet?


Disbelief

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Normally, on Sunday night I write a recap and dissect the game, pick some players that I thought stood out, and the ones I thought could do better... But after the display today what's the point? We all know what happened.

Today's game went from one of the top 5 Eagles wins in the past 5 years to one of the top 5 losses. This is right up the Tampa loss in the NFCCG, the Carolina loss next year, the Dallas loss last year... This is the kind of game that has molded Eagles fans into what they are today. I suffered through those losses and probably became a better fan for it, but this game somehow seemed worse to me than those championship game losses. Those were losses that we thought before the game that the birds were the better team and found out otherwise very soon. This Giants game was different. The Eagles showed they were good enough. They manhandled the Giants and physically dominated them through nearly 3 quarters to a degree I've never seen. 8 sacks? That's unheard of. The offense moved at will. They showed that they were the better team. Then they gave up. They gave it away.

This was a game that saps your passion as a fan. It's hard to look forward to gameday next week. It's a bummer to go to work tommorow. You start to wonder if the team is going to stop caring and quit, should you? Can you?

In the grand scheme of things it was one loss, I know that. The difference is that last year one loss could be blamed on injury. In years' past one loss was just a bump in the road on to a result we all knew was coming. We all knew those Eagles teams for the past 5-6 years were playoff teams. We don't know that about this one. This is one loss that we can't write off due to injury or as a bump in the road. This one loss seemed to say that this team flat out isn't good enough. That's only happened 3 or 4 times in the past few years. This is a feeling usually reserved for a playoff loss.

I'll get into this game early this week. There are some things to look at and discuss and we'll get into that, but for now I'm just going to leave this alone and let it sink in. I wanted badly to sit here at my laptop and start blasting this team and several select players... but what's the point? This was a collapse on all levels, to immediately start pointing fingers one way or another would be to deny the absurdity of the collapse we were all forced to watch today.

Leave me a comment here or on Myspace and just tell me your reaction to what we saw today. Point fingers if you want, talk about it philosophically, curse someone out... do what ever you like. Consider it group therapy.


Eagles vs Giants - Take the division back?

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After holding the NFC East title for 4 straight years, the Eagles surrendered the NFCE to the Giants last year. So it should seem fitting as the Eagles set out on their quest to reclaim the east that they would meet the Giants so early on.

Bottom line for this game is that it's in Philly. The Eagles should win this game. They are not the injury and controversy riddled 6-10 team from last year and if they see themselves as a contender this year they simply must beat their division rivals at home. Despite this only being week 2 this game is important for several reasons. First and foremost being that we all know how important those division and conference records are come years' end. If the Eagles are locked in a race for the NFCE title or a wildcard berth, winning a division game like this at home early on will be invaluable. Plus, it puts the Giants at 0-2 facing a trip to Seattle in week 3.

Key Matchups

Eagles interior offensive line vs Giants DTs. I think a lot is on Andrews/Jackson/Herremans. If they can maintain the pocket and keep the Giants from getting pressure up the middle, the Giant's dangerous edge rushers should be neutralized like they were in the Colts game. Time after time you saw Strahan or Umenyoria come flying off the edge, only to see Peyton Manning step up in the pocket to easily avoid them. Plus, the Giants defensive tackles played well against the run. So in addition to having the success the Colts' did in the pass block, the Eagles interior line has to open some holes for Westbrook & Buckhalter.


Westbrook/LJ vs the Giants LBs. As talented as the Giants LBs are against the run and in the pass rush, they are weak in coverage. Antonio Pierce is a pro bowl caliber run stopper but is weak when he drops back in coverage and Lavar Arrington is just shockingly bad in that dept. Lavar is especially prone to biting on play fakes, which we all know McNabb does very well. The other starting LB for the Giants is former Eagle Carlos Emmons who has lost a step after a few years of injuries, but generally looked pretty good against the Colts. This should be a matchup that the Eagles should exploit with passes to Westbrook out of the backfield, which as anyone who watched the Eagles for even 5 minutes will tell you, is a staple of their offense. Plus, LJ Smith coming off a solid game in Houston should also be in for a big day against the Giants LB corps, let's just hope while he preys on their pass coverage weakness they don't prey on his run blocking weakness...


Dexter Wynn. Although it seems kind of ridiculous to think that a 4th corner will have any impact on the game, Wynn will also likely be returning kicks and possibly punts as well. That does put him in a position to have a big impact on the game. He was cut before the season and just re-signed to the team following Lito's injury. I'm kind of interested to see what Dexter Wynn can do... This is a kid that may be facing his last shot to make it as an NFL player. They already cut him and he has to know that if he doesn't do something big he'll probably be cut again when Lito comes back... So who knows? Maybe the desperation and desire to play pro football will drive Wynn to do good things. In the end, I don't really have a ton of expectations for him... but he could very well be the most motivated player on the field Sunday.


Eagles DBs vs Plaxico Burress and Jeremy Shockey. I'm going to let G Cobb take this one since he did such a good job talking about this matchup on his website.

I can tell you right now that there's going to be a lot of talk about size advantage that 6'5" wide receiver Plaxico Burress and 6'3" Amani Toomer have over the Eagles cornerbacks 5'10" Sheldon Brown and 5'11" Roderick Hood. Rather than getting taller when Hanson comes into the game, you get even shorter at 5'9". Wynn is also 5'9" so they wouldn't be able to put him in to negate the height advantage.

The Giants have got to be thinking about getting these tall receivers isolated on these cornerbacks. They have to figure that if they can't get these guys one on one with the smaller cornerbacks they can throw the ball up high and have a field day. You can believe that on goalline, Brian Dawkins is going to take over at the corner spot because although he's not much taller, he is strong enough to out-physical the taller wideouts for position in order to avoid a completion.


Clearly a lot of emphasis will be on the front four to get pressure on Eli Manning without blitzing so that the corners have safety help.

Finally, Matt McCoy vs Tiki Barber. This may very well be the most crucial matchup of all and it pits one of the top running backs in the league vs a guy starting his 2nd game in the NFL... Scary huh? Saying Tiki Barber is the key to the Giants' offense is an understatement. He is their offense. Tiki is one of only 2 players in NFL history to account for 40% of his team's total offense in back to back years. If last week's game was any indication, he's headed toward his unprecedented 3rd straight year accounting for a huge chunk of the Giants' total offense. Their offense, run and pass, begins and ends with Barber and stopping him is the key to stopping the Giants' offense. Certainly Trotter will figure mightily into the scheme to stop Barber as will the Eagles defensive line, but McCoy is probably the key. He played outstanding against the Texans' run game laying some big hits, filling gaps, and blowing up runs in the backfilled. If he can play like that again, the Eagles are in very good shape. If he gets sealed off on blocks or he overpursues, both things we saw at times in the preseason, the Giants will run Barber at his side all day and he'll give the Eagles nightmares.

Stats to watch

Tiki Barber is riding a string of 5 consecutive 100 yard rushing games in the regular season

McNabb needs 253 yards passing to get to 20,000 in his career.

This is as good as gets, these are the games we watch football for. Division rival coming to Philly for the home opener... This game could vault the Eagles' into a lot of experts' top 5 teams or it could negate their performance against the Texans as them beating up on a bad team.

My prediction(which was perfect last week): Eagles 17 Giants 10.


Injuries and the lacking return game

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On the Eagles side the big injury loss is Lito Sheppard. He has a high ankle sprain and the speculation is that he could miss 4-6 weeks, although I've yet to hear that from the Eagles themselves.

What this means is that Rod Hood will slide into the starting CB role. Not a big deal there as Hood as good a nickel DB as there is in football and performed very well when he started last year after Lito went down with an injury to his other ankle. It gets dicey after Hood. Joselio Hanson moves into the nickel slot and former Eagles 6th round pick Dexter Wynn was resigned this week to fill the 4th CB spot. Hanson had been an undrafted journeyman before this year where he shined in the preseason for the Birds. If he plays to level he did against he 2nd teams in the preseason the Eagles should be fine... however if he shows flashes of why he was an undrafted free agent before this season there could be trouble. That said, worrying to much about the nickel corner is nitpicking a bit. The Giants don't exactly have dangerous WR threats after Burress and Toomer. Tim Carter has one career TD and caught only 10 passes last year.

This injury aslo affects the return game. We all know Jeremy Bloom was to be the team's kickoff amd maybe also punt returner was put on IR before the season. Lito had been slated to return punts in the Houston game, but when he was hurt early Westbrook was forced to handle punt return duties... Despite the fact that Westbrook is the best PR on the team, it doesn't appear that Andy wants him back there. Combine that with fact that Mahe missed the week one game due to injury and that the Eagles cut KR Bruce Perry this week... that leaves the team with no certain returners. Newly re-signed Dexter Wynn has experience returning both kickoffs and punts plus Mahe is apparently going to practice this week but he's still questionable to play. So there could be some solutions coming... but nothing terribly exciting.

On the Giants injury front starting RG Chris Snee is likely out and TE Jeremy Shockey has an ankle injury but is listed as probable. The injury to Snee, who did a good job preventing a push from the Colts' DTs could be very significant if his replacement(presumably Rich Seubert) struggles with the Eagles talented inside pass rushers Mike Patterson(5 sacks last year), Broderick Bunkley, and Darren Howard on passing downs.


Losing games you should win - An NFC East report

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After week one in the NFL we now have our first real picture of how the NFC East looks. Now, I'm not going to use this to make a prediction on how the rest of this season will go but there are some things we learned about teams.

There are games that good teams win in the NFL and there are games that even good teams lose. A good team should win any game they play at home. If you expect to be considered a playoff team and a real contender you have to win your home games regardless of how good your opponents are. Same for your division games. However, going on the road against a playoff caliber team and losing is not something to panic about. You really should lose that game. Winning those tough road games is usually what separates Superbowl teams from ordinary playoff contenders.

So what can we take from what the NFC East did this weekend?

Cowboys - This is not the worst loss in the grand scheme of things for the Cowboys. The Jags are a playoff team from last year that went 12-4, and the Cowboys missed the playoffs. Dallas really had no business winning this game on the road against a quality team like Jacksonville. Now, I have no doubt that they aren't encouraged by the way they lost with Bledsoe throwing 3 picks... but it won't be a game where Dallas looks back on say "that's a game we should have won and it cost us our season." This was a "should lose" for Dallas. The same may not be true for NY & Washington however...


Giants - The Colts are a good team. They had a first round bye and homefield advantage in the playoffs last year. They won their division, however so did the Giants! The Giants had no business dropping a home game to another good team. That's a game that they are going to have win a tough road game that they should lose to make up for. In a division that looks to be competitive as the East is, dropping "should win" games such as this is the first nail in your coffin... Especially when you consider the Giants have 2 "should lose" games in the next weeks.

Redskins- This was probably the worst loss in the NFCE in week one(thanks Brad Childress!). The Skins hosted the Vikings on Monday and lost 19-16. I won't even bother with weaknesses this reveals in the Skins' offense... that much is obvious. All you need to know about this game was that a playoff team from last year in their own house lost to a non playoff team. That's a "should win" game if I ever saw one. Granted, the Vikings are a solid team that looks be in for a solid season, but they still had no business beating Washington at home. This is the kind of game you look back on and regret. This is the kind of game that the Skins now have to make for at some point later in the season. They go on the road to meet NFCE rival Dallas next weekend in a game they really should lose. Like the Giants, they risk going 0-2 to start the season... which in a good division is going to be very difficult to comeback from, even though it's still so early.

Eagles - The Eagles were the one team that was favored to win and had a "should win" game that did win. The Texans were the worst team in the NFL last year, and even though it was on the road the Eagles clearly should have won that game. Next week, the Birds also have a "should win" game at home against the Giants. The Giants are a quality team, but no team has any excuse for losing division games at home. That's a surefire way to ensure you won't be playing in January.


Eagles 24 Texans 10

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Today was just about everything I expected(actually it was exactly as I predicted 24-10... bows). The Eagles thoroughly beat the Texans as they should have.

There were highly touted units that delivered, young players that came up big, new stars emerging, veterans impressing, players injured last year coming back in big ways... The game the Eagles played today was everything you wanted to see from a team in it's first game. Let's get into it...

Positives

The pass rush looked like everything it was advertised to be sacking David Carr 5 times. 2 from Trent Cole.

The offense played very well overall but in particular they did the job on third downs converting 8 of 13. That's an encouraging stat no matter how bad the team we faced was. That shows poise, nerve, and effective playcalling.

Matt McCoy played very very well. This guy has taken a lot of heat the past year and half and a lot of it was for good reason... But he really showed up today. He was around the ball, he led the team in tackles, he wasn't getting sealed off on blocks, he was delivering some hard hits including one that forced a fumble. This team lacked playmaking LBs last year and McCoy made plays today.

McNabb was fantastic. He spread the ball around to 7 different receivers, he completed 24 passes for 314 yds and 3 TDs for about a 69% completion percentage. He ran for first downs when he needed to, he led a perfect hurry drive with :53 seconds left in the half for a TD. McNabb looked every bit the pro bowl, MVP candidate QB we've seen in the past.

I really think a star was born in Philly in the form of Donte Stallworth. Eagles fans have an obsession with WRs and they fall in love quick... After today I think they've fallen for Stallworth. He was every bit the deep threat playmaker he was advertised to be and more. We all knew he was fast and could catch the deep ball, but he ran the Eagles style offense very effectively today. He showed strength catching those quick slants and he looked in perfect synch with McNabb. If they look this good together after less than 2 weeks of practice, it's exciting to think what they can do by season's end

Brian Westbrook proved yet again why he is the key to the Eagles offense. He had 132 yards from scrimmage and absolutely carried the team to a TD on the first drive after the 2nd half. The Texans had absolutely no answer for him in the run game or the pass game.

Negatives

There weren't may of these, but I did note a few key ones.

First was the secondary. They continually let the Texans' receivers catch balls underneath for solid yardage, much like they did in the preseason game vs the Ravens. They have to be more aggressive and not be so worried about giving guys such big cushions. If the Texans had a decent line or QB they could have done a lot more damage underneath.

Rod Hood flat out blew coverage on the Texans first score. He bit bad on a play action fake and let Eric Moulds go free by him.

Sheldon Brown was put on the Texans' #1 Andre Johnson after Lito went down with an ankle injury(x rays negative)... and he was burned bad. There was one specific play where Sheldon lined up facing the QB with no help over top and just let Johnson run by him. Overall, Johnson had 101 yards receiving.

Reggie Brown has to go on my list here. He did catch a TD, but that was only 1 of 2 receptions for him on the day. I think a big part of that was because McNabb lost confidence in him after the interception in the first quarter. Just like he did in the preseason, Reggie again failed to come back to the ball after his cut. He ran a nice out pattern, made his cut... then waited for the ball. Of course DB saw that and just jumped it for the pick. You can't stand still and wait for balls to come to you in the NFL.

Quick pluses/minuses

+Thomas Tapeh for several good blocks, especially where he took out 2 defenders to spring Westbrook for a TD

+ LJ Smith for having a good game making 6 tough catches. He took some big hits, showed good hands and was the reliable target for McNabb that he was for the first half last year.

+ Correll Buckhalter for getting 50 yards on only 8 carries and playing with fire. He ran hard, he had burst and speed and refused to go down when hit. He was the perfect compliment to Westbrook today.

+ Trent Cole for abusing the rookie left tackle Spencer for 2 sacks

Overall, this was a great start to the season. They played a bad team on the road and roughed them up. Combine that with the fact that both Dallas(thanks to their QB's 3 picks) and the Giants(thanks to their QB's pick near the end) both lost... and the Birds are in good shape one game into the year.


Eagles vs Texans - House of Pain 2?

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It's been 15 years since the Eagles last traveled to Houston. The last time was the infamous "house of pain game" in which the Eagles' vaunted defense in the early 90s brutalized the Houston Oilers, physically battering them and holding a good team that nicknamed their stadium "The House of Pain" to 6 points. Jerome Brown's famous quote as he walked off the field, "They brought the house, we brought the pain."

They return to Houston to face a considerably less formidable opponent this time around in the Houston Texans. The worst team in the NFL last year, the Texans selected DE Mario Williams to help bolster their pass rush. Many had assumed that the Texans would pick USC RB Reggie Bush or even OT D'Brickashaw Ferguson to help bolster their poor offensive line. So far in the preseason,
Williams has not distinguished himself and their starting RB Domanick Davis is out for the year.

In place of Davis, the Texans will start rookie 6th round pick Wali Lundy at RB.
Along their offensive line who has given 208 sacks in David Carr's first 4 years, they will be starting rookie 3rd round pick Charles Spencer. Spencer will have the job of facing Jevon Kearse.

The Texans do boast 2 pretty good WRs in Andre Johnson and Eric Moulds. The question will be whether Carr ever has a chance to get them the ball. Texans coach Gary Kubiak was famous in Denver for his for blocking schemes, but it's hard to see what he will be able to do against the Eagles new sack happy defense which registered over 20 sacks in the preseason. He has a lack of talent and unproven rookies on the offensive line and his starting RB who has twice rushed for over 1,000 yards and could keep pass rushes honest is out. It's hard to see how the Eagles' defense shouldn't dominate the Texans.

The Eagles' offense is still somewhat of an unknown. We've all seen how well McNabb has looked in the preseason and his presence alone should be enough to beat the Texans, but there's a lot for the offense to prove. How will Westbrook look after missing 4 preseason games? Will Buckhalter continue the to show the improvement he did in the preseason? Finally, what will Donte Stallworth do in his first game(real or exhibition) as an Eagle?

The Texans have one good corner in Dunta Robinson, who you would assume will be matched up with Stall
worth. While he's a good player, Robinson is not an elite corner and should provide a good but winnable matchup for Stallworth. This should mean lots of opportunities for Reggie Brown.

In addition to rookie Mario Williams, the Eagles should look to exploit rookie MLB Demeco Ryans. It'll be interesting to see how he fares if the Eagles continue to run up the middle as they did in the preseason.

I'll also have a close eye on the special teams. The Eagles coverage teams looked fine in the preseason, but they showed very little in the return game. Bruce Perry will be returning kicks and thanks to an injury to Reno Mahe it looks like Lito Sheppard will be returning punts. Brian Westbrook may also be called on to return a few punts in certain situations. If Lito can show them something returning punts, he may make Mahe expendable...

In the end, the Texans are not a very good team. Gary Kubiak is a smart coach that should steer that franchise in the right direction, but this is just the very start of that. He has a long way to go. The Eagles have no excuses here. Their new look defensive line should dominate the Texans O-Line and harass David Carr all day. I can see 4 sacks. McNabb and the offense should at least score a few TDs against a Texans D that is better than their offense, but still not very good.

My prediction - Eagles 24 Texans 10


Andy is getting nuts.. and other notes

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Andy is getting nuts... and I'm kinda liking it. Some interesting stories developed this week about players playing out of position that I found very intruiging. This is stuff we've never seen from Andy and frankly I like it.

First off, Brian Dawkins will be playing linebacker on certain passing downs. Dawkins talked about it in his press conference this week.
"Putting me closer to the line of scrimmage is great because I believe it's going to allow a lot of other guys to free up, because you can't watch me to see if I'm going to come down and blitz, I'm already down there."
It's a pretty interesting prospect that I think was brought on by a few things. For one, we've all seen out linebackers get eaten alive by tight ends. On passing downs, putting Daw
kins in at LB would match up the tight end with a legit cover guy, plus that tight end would likely become responsible for handling Dawkins should he be blitzing on the play, which would neutralize the TE inthe pass game. I also have to assume that ANdy has liked what he's seen from Sean Considine in coverage. More than once this offseason Reid has singled him out for praise, and while he is certainly not hte intimidating hitter Dawkins is... Considine looks to be a very good cover safety, Dawkins is as good as it gets at reading passing lane and getting picks that way but his string suit was never man to man coverage. By having Considine back there on certain passing downs the Eagles may actually be strengthening their pass coverage.

Probably the most bizarre position change is that RB/KR Bruce Perry has been practicing as a DB this week. Perry, who is likely the 5th running back on the roster and is basically here to return kickoffs will serve as the emergency 5th corner. While I highly doubt we'll ever see him take a snap at corner, it's very interesting to see Andy experiment like that.

Combine those odd position switches with the ones we've already seen DE Darren Howard going to DT on passing downs and Center Nick Cole coming on as a fullback in goal line situations... and it should be at least some fun stuff to watch this year.

BTW... The football season officially kicks off tonight with Pittsburgh vs Miami!

Later today or tommorow I'll post my preview of this weekends' Eagles season opener against the Texans.


Will we "Run the Damn Ball?"

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The early signs seem to point yes. Andy has repeatedly re-affirmed his commitment to running the ball in the offseason. We've seen some evidence of that in the preseason as the balance between run and pass has been good. Plus, the naming of Marty Morningwheg seems to have also had a positive effect as far as running the ball goes. As offensive coordinator in San Fran, Marty's offense twice led the NFL in rushing. "“Marty brings the attitude that we're going to run the ball" said Brian Westbrook this week.

Speaking of Westbrook, I've been very encouraged by the brashness we've been seeing from him lately in terms of lobbying for more carries and for the run to be featured more. It's a very uncommon thing in the Andy Reid era to see players criticizing the gameplan(aside from TO of course), and demanding more touches(again.. aside from TO). Westbrook had this to say:
"Last year we were definitely trying to get the ball to T.O. a lot," Westbrook said. "And its tough when you're a running back and you don’t get into the flow of the game early on. If you go into the second quarter and you still haven’t really touched the ball very much because you've gone three-and-out, it’s tough for you to get into the flow of the game. And that kind of affects the rest of the game. "
He went on...
"You have to get in there early and get some work, so you can see what the defense is doing and set them up for later in the game,” Westbrook said. “Even if you only get one or two yards, maybe you're going outside on one play a couple times and then on the next one, you cut it back inside and surprise them. You don't have the opportunity to do that when you run the ball once or twice a quarter.
Then he flat out said what we've all been screaming to Andy from the stands..

It's going to translate into wins, he said. “When coach Reid sees he's having success running the ball, he'll be more in tune to call more running plays.

“We've been practicing it a lot. It's going to be tough going out and passing the ball 40 times and winning. You're better off running the ball and keeping the defense off the field so it doesn't get worn down playing 45 minutes a game.”

Yes Brian! We couldn't agree with you more. I love this attitude from Westy. He's a veteran on this team now, who is secure here with a long term deal and is an important part of the offense. This is how a leader acts in my opinion. He says what's on his mind and he wants the ball, but he doesn't do it in a negative way. He says that the coach is going to see how well he plays and that he'll prove to the coach why he needs to run the ball. He praised the philosophy of his offensive coordinator. He spoke his mind and he did in a way that was focused on helping the team as a whole.

Plus, it looks like Correll Buckhalter is back and is going to be relied upon with a plentiful workload in game one according to Andy. Reid also said that we should expect to see Buckhalter and Westbrook on the field together occasionally.

One more interesting note on the running game came out of the final preseason game. We saw the mammoth center Nick Cole, who was a bit of a surprise to make the team, work as a fullback on the goal line. Whether he ever plays that role in an actual game remains to be seen, but having a guy the size of Cole plowing a hole is an intruiging idea...

An interesting note not related to the run game is that newly acquired WR Donte Stallworth will start Sunday against the Texans. The word from practice is that he's having no trouble picking up the playbook and is familiar with most of the terminology from his days in New Orleans. It makes you wonder what was wrong with Jabar Gaffney that he couldn't pick up the playbook seemingly at all in an entire offseason and Stallworth is doing it in 2 weeks...


Fraley, Gaffney, Parry, Reed, McCants all gone

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The roster cuts came deep today as the Eagles trimmed their roster to 53... It's been a very interesting week for this team and a lot of veteran Eagles we've been used to seeing. Pinkston and Detmer both long time veterans of this team were cut earlier in the week(as I predicted the Vikings and Brad Childress signed Pinky today). And today Hank Fraley who has started season after season for the Eagles at center(81 games) was traded to the Cleveland Browns.

Oddly enough, the Eagles went hard after free agent center LeCharles Bentley seemingly because they thought Hank Fraley wasn't good enough... However, after an apparent handshake agreement with the Eagles Bentley jumped for Cleveland at the last minute. On his first play of practice, he injured his knee and was out for the ear. So in an odd twist of fate the Browns now have Fraley as their center... The Eagles will get a conditional pick in 2008. Obviously Jamaal Jackson is the team's starting center and Nick Cole will back him up.

Josh Parry, the bird's starting fullback last year was dealt to the Seattle Seahawks for a future pick. Clearly, Thomas Tapeh impressed Andy enough to win the starting FB job.

JR Reed, a great story from the offseason, was flat out cut. He came back from what everyone thought was a career ending knee injury and really fought for a place on this team. I was rooting for as I'm sure all Eagles fans were, but as I've written here several times he's just not the same player he once was. The spark he had in the return game was gone and he struggled in the secondary. Considine and Mikell are your backup safeties.

I was somewhat surprised to see that both Jabar Gaffney and Darnerian McCants were cut. I fully expected Gaffney to be gone, but it had seemed like McCants may have done enough to get himself a roster spot. In the end, it turned out that neither was going to make it because the Eagles chose not to keep 6 WRs. Reggie Brown, Donte Stallworth, Jason Avant, Hank Baskett, and Greg Lewis are your receivers.

I was disappointed to see Chris Gocong placed on injured reserve for the season. However, with him and Jeremy Bloom both being obvious projects meant for next year... maybe a season watching won't be so bad. Still, as a 3rd round pick it would have been nice to see what Gocong could do. Speaking of 3rd round picks, the Eagles 3rd rounder from 04 Matt Ware was also cut.

Some interesting names not on the cut list... RB Bruce Perry, who you would think would be the kick returner now that Reed is gone. CB Joselio Hanson, who was undrafted and didn't play last year but impressed in camp. Jerome McDougle whose injury history is well documented and was hurt again this offseason with a broken rib also made the team.

An interesting note... The Eagles are carrying 6 backs and 5 WRs. Could that mean more running? Westbrook, Buckhalter, Tapeh, Perry, Mahe. & Moats all seem to have made the final roster. Mahe & Perry seem to have both made this team to return punts and kickoffs respectively... That seems odd to me.



I won't bother getting into my normal post game recap here as it really is worthless after a final preseason game like this. I can't think of any reason anyone would care to read about the game as a whole... but there are a few interesting storylines from last night.

While the starters sat, the 2nd team shined. The AJ Feeley(9-12 for 131 yds) led Eagles offense torched the Jets in the 2nd half to the tune of 17 points. Feeley looked better than he has in years. He look ed very comfortable in the offense and to be back in Eagles green. He's got himself a job as the backup QB for here for several years if he wants it...

As for guys that needed to do well and did. Look no further than Darnerian McCants. A guy who was already lauded all preseason for his special teams play, McCants stood out last night
grabbing 4 catches for 61 yards the first of which was a great grab where he went up over the DB and hauled a pass in for 20+ yards. Jabar Gaffney, the Eagles sole free agent WR pickup who has been fighting it out with McCants for the last WR spot, caught 3 balls for only 23 yards. Rookie Jason Avant also played very well and looks like he may very well blossom into a very physical, effective wideout. At this point it's very difficult to see how Jabar Gaffney can make this team. It looks pretty clearly like the WR corps is Brown, Stallworth, Avant, Baskett, & McCants.

Ryan Moats also played well. Picking up 65 yards on 16 carries. He showed a lot of burst, was very quick, sure handed... He probably also cemented his place on the team.

Today at 6pm all teams must trim their rosters to 53. There's always surprises and a flurry of signings to follow so it should be interesting. The first big surprise was that the Lions cut former #2 overall pick in 03 WR Charles Rogers, who may well rank up there with the big busts of all time so far...


It's on tonight!!.... Not really.

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Tonight the Eagles face the Jets in the final preseason game of the year in what should be the one of the most meaningless games you'll ever see. If you're still watching by the second half, you're a better fan than I.

Andy has already stated that most, if not all of the starters will not play at all. Still, there are a select few guys worth watching that have one last chance to earn a roster spot.

Ryan Moats: The team's 3rd round pick last year it's surprising to see that he's on the bubble. However, the re-emergence of Buckhalter has put Moats' job in question especially considering that the Eagles could be in the marke
t for a bigger back if one comes available after the cut down date on Saturday. If Moats shows something tonight he should easily cement his place in the RB rotation as nop team wants to be cutting a 3rd round after only one year.

Jabar Gaffney: Gaffney apparently can't understand why he has slipped so far down the depth chart, but he finally has realized that his job is in serious jeaparody. This is from a Courier Post story

"I guess sometimes I wasn't going the speed he(Andy Reid) would like," Gaffney said, "and some of the younger guys were flying around, I guess, a little bit more faster than I was."

Still, the demotion puzzled him. He didn't think his play had dropped. Not to the point where he ran with the second and third teams.

"I wasn't really sure what was going on," he said. "I was out there playing. I wasn't really feeling a drop in my play or whatnot. When my number was called, I caught the ball."

You better figure out what's going on quick Jabar. With McCants being a solid special teams player and Greg Lewis playing well last game.. you're the odd man out.

JR Reed: His story has been great so far. He came back from a nearly impossible injury and has actaully palyed well at times this preseason. However, he visibly has lost the extra step and spark he had in the return game. To add to that, he also played poorly as a safety against the Steelers ones and twos. Probably the best thing going for Reed at this point is that Matt Ware, who was switched from CB to safety this offseason has not played well at all. Reed may make the team by default if Ware continues to dissapoint. Still, I'd like to see Reed give us some glimmer of hope that he can still be a return threat.

Thomas Tapeh: He's been locked in a battle for the fullback spot with Josh Parry all preseason. Honestly, I have no idea who is ahead at this point. Fullback is a very nuanced position that is hard to evaluate just by watching the regular netwrok feed of the game. You really have to have the positional game tape to see what a fullback does from play to play. Josh Parry has been given the night off, presumably because he started all last year and Andy knows what he can do, so expect Tapeh to get plenty of time tonight and a have a real shot to win the starting FB job.

I'll be back this weekend with some thoughts and observations about this game and hopefully the Eagles final 53 man roster. Teams need to cut their squads to 53 men this saturday, so after the team makes their cuts they may very well go shopping for an extra piece or two that didn't make other teams' rosters.


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