Categories include an EXCLUSIVE weekly Offensive Line Report (Rushing TD’s (6 points)+ 3rd downs converted by handoffs(1 point) + sacks allowed (-2 points)= score); as well as Drive Killer (Int – FR – 4th down Tackles – FF – TD).
New Category Ace is for Kick return TD’s, Returners run-down, kicks blocked, etc.
Drive Killer : (S) MLB T.J. Edwards (0 – 1 – 0 – 0 – 0)
Sack Leader : (S) DE Brandon Graham (3 – 1.0 – 0 – 0)
I hear you asking, “What about all the stuff that stats don’t reveal?” Well, that’s the reason for these Four Things articles. It’s to point out what we need to address BEFORE the game. Then AFTER the game, there’s a no-bullshit assessment of whether or not the Eagles did any of what they needed to do, to ensure the win.
So how much of what I mentioned in Four Things: Colts did the Eagles actually get around to doing? Well let’s see:
1) Run the Ball: I established at the beginning of the season that “Run the ball” means “hand it off”. That has to be clarified with a QB like Hurts. His running isn’t always a called run by the coaching staff. In fact, it rarely is. So our commitment to running can’t be determined by his carries, regardless of how many he has in a game.
That said, Hurts carried the ball 16 times today. The three RB’s on the roster combined for just 17. Starting RB Miles Sanders(13 – 47 – 3.6 – 0 – 0) had all of 5 carries in the first half, and was frequently subbed out for lesser players, who keep proving that. We made our bones running the ball. It’s our identity. Getting away from it is the primary reason why it keeps looking like the Eagles have forgotten how to play offense. (NOT DONE)
2) Drop’em!: Little bit of irony on this one, but we’ll take it. Our Defense had a bad opening drive, where the Colts rushed for 50 yards, on a 75 yard drive for their touchdown. Singular. They ran for 99 yards on the day, again with 50 of it on that first drive.
We got punched in the face, tightened our chinstraps, and went back in. Face first. You see the final score, right? We put players down and weren’t having all that pile pushing nonsense. At one point the Colts thought they had a pile moving, but we held the ball carrier up and FS Marcus Epps (5 – 0 – 0 – 0) clawed the ball out of his hand, and Edwards recovered. But we didn’t spend the game doing that! (DONE)
3) Open up the Passing Game:Without TE Dallas Goedert here to catch half a dozen TE Screens, the ball had to be distributed differently this week. That 22 yard TD to WR Quez Watkins (2 – 2 – 31 – 15.5 – 1), across the deep middle was exactly the sort of attempt that we need to see on a weekly.
Better still Smith, wasn’t running a bunch of six yard routes, which helped create room for Hurts to take off. Shallow routes stymie the run game by keeping defenders close to the line of scrimmage. Run those turkeys off! We did a great job of that this week with the route running alone. The completions were icing on the cake. (DONE)
4) Get Heat On Matty Ice: We got 4 sacks on him, but we really didn’t seem to rattle him much. The ball was where it needed to be, when it needed to be there. Honestly, to look at him, to look at his eyes (check it out if you catch a re-broadcast), I don’t think there was much we could have done to rattle him.
I think his benching a couple weeks ago, shook him harder than any sack ever could. As a former player, I should have taken that into consideration. Calling for us to rattle him, was a lost cause in the first place. Like frequent reader Andrea, he’s an Exton product. We were never going to shake him. (NOT DONE)
This week we got 2 of the Four Things, and walked out of Indy with a GUARANTEED WINNING RECORD for the 2022 season. Now we get to “welcome” Green Bay to the Linc, in prime-time, to see if they want to contribute to our pile of W’s.
On The Whole:
ONCE AGAIN, THE NFL’S NUMBER ONE TEAM, AT 9 – 1!
How ‘bout them Cowboys! Doing something useful for a change, and dropping Minnesota to 8 – 2, for us. That gives us not only the head-to-head tie-breaker over Minny, but a one game margin of error at the head of the Conference.
New York being literally run over for an ‘L’ of their own, makes them and Dallas both 7 – 3, and gives us a TWO game margin of error in the Division. This means rooting for the giants to beat the Cowboys on Turkey Day, to ruin a Dallas sweep and dampen any tie-breaker advantage. Big picture, folks!
Now back to THIS game itself!
First of all, hats off to Defensive Line Coach Tracy Rockerfor integrating DT’s Ndamukong Suh (2 – 0.5 – 0 – 0) and Linval Joseph (4 – 0.5 – 0 – 0) in less than a week. Hell, Joseph even started this game. We gave up 152 rushing yards on Monday. We gave up just 99 six days later.
But enough handjobs and high-fives. I have few serious gripes. There was entirely too much of the Eagles trying to be cute, and giving carries to a couple of RB’s who don’t break tackles. Hurts picked up a game deciding first down on 4th and 2, late in the 4th quarter, but the handoff to RB Boston Scott (2 – 4 – 2.0 – 0 – 0) on the prior 3rd and 4, was a bad call. That’s a down for a franchise QB, not a back-up RB.
Also on Hurts fumble, why was Sanders blocking DE Yannick Ngakoue (3 – 1.5 – 0 – 0) one-on one? On a down like that either a better protecting need to be called or Hurts has to get that ball out of his hand immediately.
He’s the DT that the Eagles have put on Injured Reserve. Remember when they carted him off the field on Monday ni-, oh right. They didn’t. The Eagles put him on I.R. on Wednesday the 16th. This is Sunday morning the 20th. Quick! What’s his injury? Anybody? Anybody? His injury is sucking ass, and being pushed aside for two better players, that’s what his injury is. Please! Go to the Eagles website and get the details on this “injury”. I’ll wait…..
Over the last 5 weeks, the Eagles have allowed 124 rushing yards or more, in every game. It got really bad after the Bye week, when we allowed 144, 168, and 152 respectively. Many things factor into that. Not bringing arms to tackle attempts, holding runners up to claw at the ball, tackling shoulders instead of thighs. All of which are quickly correctable.
The biggest reason we’re getting run through however, is because we’re getting beat on the line of scrimmage. The knee jerk from fans, has been to either blame DT Fletcher Cox for falling off, or to blame the injury to DT Jordan Davis. Both are correct, but only in a round about way.
Cox was being asked to play more snaps than usual, as the coaching staff hoped he could fill the hole left by Davis, both as a presence and rotationally. As a result, we’re running Cox into the ground. In fact, we’re using him the opposite of how we should be using a player his age. (More on that in the upcoming Quarterly Report. Yes, it’s late. I know. Bear with me.)
So the Eagles added 34 year old DT Linval Joseph, and then DT Ndamukong Suh, who is 35. While Joseph is more of a space eater for the run game, Suh is a flat-out disruptor of blocking schemes. Even when he doesn’t make the play, he frequently causes havoc.
Understand, the worst of our run defense has coincided with the ramp up in snaps for Tuipulotu. Over the last three games, he’s averaged 33% of the defensive snaps. And that is not a good thing! I made it clear in last years Draft Reportthat I didn’t see selecting him as a good move. He stuck anyway.
I repeated my point about Tuipulotu in this year’s Pre-Draft Preview. My specific choice of words: “Marlon Tuipulotu played like trash, with a side order of ass last year,”. Yet he kept seeing the field this year. And the more he did, the more others like Cox were asked to compensate for everything that Tuipulotu can’t do. Which, you know, is pretty much everything.
Cox eats double teams and disrupts the pocket; DT Javon Hargrave is an ‘A’ gap penetrator who gets to QB’s; Davis is a space eating, pocket collapser. Those are our true DT’s. While DTMilton Williams can play that spot, he’s more of a DE/DT tweener. He’s coming along, but we still don’t really know who he is, just yet. Tuipulotu is just a 300 pound guy. Hell, I’M a 300 pound guy! There should be more qualifications than that, to get a roster spot.
When Davis went down, we were left with a bum (Tuipulotu), and two guys who specialize in slipping the point of attack, not holding it. That’s not saying that Cox and Hargrave can’t play the run! We all know that they can. But that’s not where their salary size comes from.
Do you realize that at worst, if Suh and Joseph don’t contribute much as players, those two, plus Cox and Hargrave, will be pouring wisdom into Davis. Meanwhile we have no timetable on Tuipulotu’s return date. Which is totally understandable without an actual injury to assess.
STILL atop the NFL! Despite last week’s loss to Washington. We did some things last week that are uncharacteristic for us. We barely ran the ball. We turned the ball over four times (two real, one bullshit, one on the game’s final desperation play). Even still, up until that last play, we were only down five points.
Now because Washington ran the ball a lot and controlled the clock, rumor is, this is the blueprint for how to beat us. So expect the Colts to try to copycat. Of course, the operative word in that sentence, is “try”.
Last time I checked, we still had LT Jordan Mailata. We still had LGLandon Dickerson. We still had Hall of Fame C Jason Kelce. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t RT Lane Johnson still play here? I get the feeling, that they’re going to want to impose their will on an undersized Colts defensive line. Like I said… Just a feeling.
A win here, and the Eagles are guaranteed to finish above .500, and will still have a strangle hold on the NFC East. Also, we’ll still sit at the head of the table in the conference. Especially if Minnesota loses to the Cowboys. (That game works for us regardless of how it goes.)
A loss here, and the Eagles still are at the top of the division. Even when the giants beat Detroit. Coupled with a Minnesota win, we’d lose the NFC’s top spot, but if we lost, then we’d sort of need a Cowboys loss more, to keep a tighter grip on the East.
Both us and Minny losing keeps us in the NFC’s top spot, but the Cowboys would inch closer to us and the giants.
The point of Four Things isn’t to predict a winner, it’s to discuss which tactics would give our Eagles the best chance to win this game. So here are the Four Things that we need to focus on this week, versus the: Colts
1) Run the ball: If only for the sake of letting our Defense get a breather. We brought in reinforcements for DTFletcher Cox, but DT’s Linval Joseph and Ndamokung Suh are coming off their couches. (Maybe off-the-couch players, is how you beat an off-the-couch coach? Perhaps there’s some wisdom couched in that there somewhere? I’ll stop. I’ll stop. C-OUCH! Banged my knee.)
Seriously though, the Colts also have an undersized front seven. They have LB’s who can fly around and make stops, but they don’t generate many big plays. We hardly touched our run game last week, so our big fellas must be hungry for some contact. It’s time we let them impose their will, and show the NFL that the KING, still lives.
2) Drop ‘em!: Enough with this holding the ball-carrier up, to swipe at the ball, bullshit. Just make the gall-dang tackle! Just get the guy on the ground!! There is no reason to let a RB churn a 2 yard gain, into a 5 yard gain. There even less reason to let it happen consistently. It makes 3rd down almost impossible to win.
3) Open Up the Passing Game: In nine starts this season, WR Devonta Smith has averaged double digits per reception in just three of them. In nine games (three starts), WR Quez Watkins has seen all of 17 attempts in his direction. His shock at getting his hands on a ball, and his over-eagerness to make a play was evident in him trying to do too much, and fumbling.
With TE Dallas Goedert on I.R., this Offense will need another home run hitter, who can threaten a defense, and open things up inside for the run game. We can’t keep making WR A.J. Brown the only deep threat in town.
4) Get Heat On Matty Ice: Before he was benched in favor of a rookie, QB Matt Ryan was already out there seeing ghosts. So we need to hit him early, even if it’s late. By which I mean, be willing to draw a couple of flags, just to rattle him. We need to get him off his game early.
Ryan has never been the most athletic QB, and his arm isn’t what it used to be. He is still in this game at his age, because of all the mental parts of his game. Take that away from him, early. The rookie they had replace him, looked bad with a week of practice. If for any reason Ryan has to come out of the game, that rookie will have less prep time. Or maybe we’ll get to see third string QB Nick Foles.
If the Eagles do these Four Things, then we’ll be virtually impossible to beat. That being said…
We go eight games with no losses and the NFL barely notices us. We lose one game (and make no mistake, Washington didn’t win it, we lost it), and suddenly people are picking the Colts to beat us.
The disrespect is real!
No matter. The Eagles have a point to prove this week. They didn’t last week and came out flat. Actually if we’re keeping it Wilt,
the Eagles have started flat for a couple of games now. Last week’s loss was just the kick in the pride, that this group of grown men needed. Hell, it got General Manager Howie Roseman to flex his phone call muscle, and Owner Jeff Lurie to flex his check writing muscle.
Don’t expect flatness to follow moves like that.
Prediction: EAGLES 25 – Colts 16
WARNING: I don’t have the faintest clue as to what a point spread is, and I know even less about how it works. I know football and that’s IT. If you use Four Things as a gambling tool, you are trying to lose your money, and will deserve it when you do.
Check back in a couple of days for Four Things Reviewed, and we’ll discuss how this game went.
UNDEFEATED. Still! We overcame adversity in the desert, snatching 139 rushing yards from a team that was only giving up 87 per game. This week we get a division rival that has given up 117 rushing yards per game, while only facing bottom feeder offenses.
They lean on their defense, which features a voracious pass rush, which was fortunate enough to face FOUR struggling offensive lines (and lost to one of them). Our Offensive Line, led by RT Lane Johnson, C Jason Kelce, and LT Jordan Mailata, is not struggling. Our Line is physical and dominant.
We’re told that styles make fights? Well, ding…ding.
A win raises us to 6 – 0, and keeps us at the head of the NFL table. With our opponent being 4 – 1, they are currently one game behind our 5 – 0. A win here opens up our lead in the East, putting distance between the two teams. A loss pulls us even record-wise, but would give them the lead in the East, by head-to-head tie-breaker.
The point of Four Things isn’t to predict a winner, it’s to discuss which tactics would give our Eagles the best chance to win this game. So here are the Four Things that we need to focus on this week, versus the: Cowboys
1) Score points: There’s a stat that says the Cowboys defense hasn’t allowed any opponent three touchdowns in any game this season. That’s 100% true. However, a lot of context is left out of that. Every team they’ve faced, already has trouble scoring three touchdowns in ANY game.
I’m fond of saying that the Universe’s favorite flavor of justice, is irony. So since we’re talking about not being able to score three touchdowns, the Cowboys offense is also in that club this season. Our Eagles on the other hand, have done it EVERY WEEK, except last week. Three touchdowns should put this game out of the Cowboys reach.
2) Drop the Mic(ah): Getting TE Dallas Goedert some quick, short passes would make the day super easy for QB Jalen Hurts. The Cowboys almost exclusively use OLB Micah Parsons as a pass rusher off the edge. So when he rushes forward, there’s going to be a vacated area right behind where he was lined up. That vacated area is where Goedert needs to camp out. So either Goedert gets to feast, or Parsons has to cover.
Just some quick short passes, where Goedert can quickly turn upfield for an extra 4 yards or more. Eventually their secondary will load the box to stop the run, and those short passes. Whenever that happens, Goedert can chip Parsons, to give Hurts time to take advantage of one-on ones-on the outside, or WR Quez Watkins down the hash.
3) Stay At Home: Same as most weeks. Just get DE’s Brandon Graham and Josh Sweat to set hard edges against the run. With RB Ezekiel Elliott no longer being very explosive, and RB Tony Pollard needing a build-up to break tackles; the easiest way to contain the Cowboys run game, is to bottle it up behind their line. The idea is to take away the run early, and put the game on QB Cooper Rush’s shoulders.
4) Rush Rush: The left side of the Cowboys offensive line is a car wreck. C Tyler Biadasz is no Travis Frederick. G Connor McGovern is the guy they passed over, to sign and start what’s left ofJason Peters, who will apparently put on red pumps and work that corner, for anyone who offers league minimum. But with Peters injured (show of hands if you’re surprised), the Cowboys now have to start the guy they said “Naw” to. At LT is penalty king Tyler Smith.
The game here is simple. DT’s Jordan Davis and Javon Hargrave help collapse the left side of the line, and make Rush reset his feet. He’s smart, and knows where he’s going with the ball, due to his familiarity with the system. So don’t waste time trying to trick him or fool him. Instead, make it about the physical limitations that kept him from getting drafted. His lack of arm strength, foot speed, and needing plays to run on schedule.
If the Eagles do these Four Things, then we’ll be virtually impossible to beat. That being said…
The Bengals scoring offense, ranked (17th) is the highest ranked scoring offense that the Cowboys have faced. The Eagles have faced Detroit (3rd), Minnesota (12th) and Jacksonville (15th). The Cowboys average 18.6 points per game. We average 27.0 and have yet to score fewer than 20. They’ve reached 24 points once this season. We put up 24 points in a quarter. Twice so far.
The Cowboys are an over-hyped defense, coupled with an over-hyped QB, that have both had tons of mediocrity somehow omitted from their stories. Let me contextualize this Cowboys defense, and their “amazing”pass rush. Four of the five teams they’ve faced, have deep offensive line problems:
* Tampa Bay lost two starters to I.R. during the preseason and one more during the first game vs the Cowboys.
*Washington’s C and one of their G’s (who is also their back-up C), are on I.R.
*The Bengals troubles go back to last season, and their offseason answers (one of which is former Cowboy La’el Collins) have blown up on the launch pad.
*The Rams have both of their G’s on I.R. and their C is gutting out a foot injury. It’s why they’ve given up 21 sacks and average just 62 rushing yards per game. (Perspective: We average 160.0)
The Cowboys offense has scored all of 7 touchdowns in five games. Sorry, that’s 7 touchdowns in four games. (Tampa Bay held them to a single field goal.) Despite those facts, everywhere you look, there’s more praise for their QB because he’s 4 – 0 this season.
We’ve seen adversity and they’ve been handed roll-over games. Yet the media wants to talk like this is a meeting of two evenly matched teams?! Naw. You gotta miss me with that trash.
Prediction: EAGLES 28 – Cowboys 16
WARNING: I don’t have the faintest clue as to what a point spread is, and I know even less about how it works. I know football and that’s IT. If you use Four Things as a gambling tool, you are trying to lose your money, and will deserve it when you do.
Check back in a couple of days for Four Things Reviewed, and we’ll discuss how this game went.
CORNERBACKSDarius Slay and James Bradberry are seen as possibly the best starting Man-to-Man duo, in the NFL. If that’s the case, then they should be allowed to play more Man and less Zone. If that happens, then we should see them lining up closer to WR’s, instead of giving them cushions of five yards or more.
Eagles fans spent 2021 calling for the head of Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon. Whether it was the huge cushions, the lack of blitzing, the unimaginative use of the LB’s, we weren’t happy with last year’s meager 29 sacks and 12 interceptions. Eagles brass (who had assembled that roster), hinted that maybe Gannon just needed better players.
So they went out and added a premier pass rusher in LB Hasaan Reddick. Added a premier CB in Bradberry. Even added some speed with LBKyzir White. And that’s just among the proven NFL veterans! We also added two top-shelf defensive rookie talents. So “a lack of talent to work with” is no longer an excuse in Philadelphia.
Now that we have the cover men, we can shrink those cushions and make QB’s hold the ball a second or two longer. That will give our pass rush time to get their mitts on him. Or that QB can be an idiot, and throw the ball against tighter coverage. Sure, every so often that will result in a big play for the opposing offense, but it will also mean more chances at the ball for our Defense.
Giving swagger to a defense requires showing confidence in it first. If you want something to sprout, you have to water it first. Work, THEN results. There are no shortcuts. Being lazy today, only robs you in the future.
We went and got the guys. Now let’s let them play their game.
LETTING FS Rodney McLeod walk as a free agent, was probably a little premature. While I think FS Marcus Eppsis ready for the starting role; it would have been better to increase Epps snap share for the first four weeks, then hand him the keys on Week 5. If for any reason he looked shaky, McLeod should have still been here as insurance.
Instead, what we did was jump right off that bridge. Maybe not the most careful move, but it’s easy to see why the Eagles did it. Hell, I’ve been yelling for months, that they should. Epps has generally looked good with extra snaps (usually at SS). Also, given his age (26), and his contract situation (Unrestricted Free Agent after this season), the Eagles need to know what they have.
That said, we need to stick with him when things get bumpy for him. Let me repeat, a lot of his best tape comes at SS, so playing alone, back deep, he’s going to be learning a new gig. Though Anthony Harris has started at FS (in Minnesota), his deep speed is questionable. While K’Von Wallace can run, his eyes are less experienced. Epps is unseasoned, but the clear option here.
We didn’t draft Epps, but we signed him when Minnesota cut him, just eight weeks and 12 defensive snaps into his rookie year. He’s been an Eagle ever since. We raised him. Nurtured him. Brought him from deep bench, to possible starter. What is the point of stockpiling young talent, just to develop it for other teams? Don’t do that. Start Epps, and stick with him. Period.
COUPLE weeks ago, I said that we should pass on adding fading stars like CB James Bradberry and instead, focus on developing our young players. In fact, Bradberry was one of two stars that I specifically named in that article! For the record, I still think sticking with youth was the way to go. However, since Bradberry is an Eagle now, I want to make a few things crystal clear.
First, James Bradberry, welcome to the Eagles. You said that our Defensive Line is what tempted you to come here. That is our gift to you. That being said, to him who much is given, much is expected.
Second, in itself signing Bradberry isn’t a bad move. He’s been a good player in this league for years now, and he has active hands, in terms of denying the ball to receivers. He gave up a ton of yards in 2021, but I’m not concerned that he can’t play anymore. I’m concerned that his starting, means our youth doesn’t gain much experience. That will keep us from developing that youth, and hurt our long term picture.
Third, I’ve spent this offseason banging a pot to draw attention to CB Zech McPhearson. He was a fourth round pick in last year’s Draft, and spent 2021 learning, and rightfully sitting behind CB Steven Nelson, whom we brought in on a one year deal. Giving a player a one year deal, basically says that that player isn’t in the long term picture. This ostensibly, put McPhearson in the on-deck circle.
So when Nelson was allowed to walk, my thinking was “BOOM! The future is now”. Instead, we inked another player (Bradberry) to a one year deal. It would be one thing if we’d added a CB in this years Draft; but since we didn’t, that makes it seem like McPhearson is still our top young guy waiting in the wings. So why the delay? Long term it makes no sense at all.
My only guess is that the Front Office sees something about the team that says “PARADE!” this year. If that’s the case, there are a couple of key things we’ll need to power through first. But I’ll wait to discuss that, in this year’s upcoming ‘THE 12’ series.
PROPERLY armed, the Eagles can win the NFC East. We’ll need to do some remodeling, but not full-on rebuilding. With the current combination of the Eagles being really good at some things, and our rivals being bad at some things, the door is open. More than just a little. We just need to add the right pieces to shore up our own weaknesses, before we attempt to stroll/walk/dip through it.
We have what seems like 700 picks in this Draft, but today I’m just going to focus on these five:
Round 1: No. 15 (from MIA)
Round 1: No. 18 (from NO)
Round 2: No. 51
Round 3: No. 83
Round 3: No. 101 (from NO)
Here are the players I want to see become Eagles this week:
Round 1: No. 15 – DT Jordan Davis: Some might consider this a few picks early, others will say it’s an outright reach. There’s a good chance that he won’t even be there at 15, so I wouldn’t gamble on that. Just to be sure, I’d offer this pick (#15) and #101 to Houston, for the #13 pick, to avoid losing Davis to Baltimore at #14.
What I see is five years (rookie contract) of a space eating, run-stuffer who absorbs double-teams, and helps to keep our LB’s clean, in a division that still runs the ball. Adding this guy would upgrade the entire defense on that alone. When DT Fletcher Cox is gone next year, Davis gives us someone to build around. He’d also help keep DT Javon Hargrave effective, and let DT Milton Williams play more DE.
Round 1: No. 18 – WR Treylon Burks: The Eagles made overture after overture to free agent WR’s this offseason, all of whom turned us down. Eventually the Eagles settled for WR Zach Pascal. Yes, settled. If you think our Front Office is done trying to upgrade our WR position, then you my friend have lost the plot.
The Eagles have fast guys at WR (Watkins, Hightower). We got guys you never heard of (Allen, Cain). Guys who can’t catch (Reagor). We have clever guys (Ward), TE guys (Arcega-Whiteside), shrug-worthy guys (Pascal). What we don’t have, is a big, fast, and physical guy. And that’s where Burks comes in.
Burks is so different from WR Devonta Smith, but WOW, what a potential combo! Smith is a precise route runner who creates separation and gives the QB, friendly places to put the ball. Burks can win contested catches and shed tackle attempts. So for each of them, Safety help is needed to prevent a routine catch from turning into six points. Which would make it very hard for a defensive coordinator to write a coverage concept, that wouldn’t get shredded on a weekly basis.
Round 2: No. 51 – S Daxton Hill: Though he plays a lot of Nickel CB, he can play anywhere in the secondary. Let me reiterate: Anywhere in the secondary. He’s a DB with 4.3 speed, and it shows up on film. Many athletes leave their impressive 40 times at the Combine. This kid had his on display before he got there. Better still, he attacks the football and causes interceptions for other players off of deflections.
The F.O. chased CB Stephon Gilmore in free agency, but they didn’t chase a bunch of CB’s. Pretty much just Gilmore, because… Well because he’s him. Otherwise we have Slay, Maddox, and 7 young CB’s to evaluate. Spending a high pick on another one, only makes that evaluation more complicated.
What we need, is a FS with Jaws-like closing speed, who is nearly impossible to outrun. This could be that guy.
Round 3: No. 83 – DE Joshua Paschal: He didn’t rack up a ton of sacks in college, and he’s not a pass rush demon. What he is, is a big, assignment solid DE. He sets the edge vs the run, and gains consistent penetration, proving disruptive both as a DE, and DT. He even flashes the ability to play as a 3-4 DE.
The best thing about him, is that he doesn’t just make plays when he isn’t blocked, or when he’s poorly blocked. This guy makes plays even after beating squared up offensive linemen. He plays a man’s game already. The idea of sitting him next to Jordan Davis for the next three of four years (or longer) is a happy thought.
This is how I’d like to see the first three rounds go.
Some NFL Drafts have good fourth rounds. When we look back in 5 years, I doubt this will be one of them. This is a shallow draft, in terms of finding many difference makers at RB, TE, QB, G, and DT. That being the case, we should grab what we need, and everything from the fourth round and on, view as a lottery scratch-off.
LAST year the Eagles went 9 – 8 and made the playoffs. The year started off with the team going 2 – 5. Then Head Coach Nick Sirianni started babbling about flowers, and how the team was flowers, and how flowers need to be watered daily, and we just knew that he was about to be fired. Instead, the players embraced their inner daffodils, and went on a 7 – 3 tear. What followed was a playoff exit so quick, that the Eagles should have just played the game in street clothes, with their luggage on the sideline. Should fans be excited about the Eagles immediate future, or was 2021 just fool’s gold?
With the NFL Draft just 13 days away, let’s get a look at the Eagles roster, as it stands today:
QB: Jalen Hurts (8 – 7, 61.3, 16/9) for all of his athleticism as a runner (784/5.6/10), he struggles with reading defenses and his timing. In fact, I called him a one read passer, months before anyone else began to talk about it. He can keep drives alive with his legs, but without being a better passer, he’s not maximizing his weapons, which by definition, is holding them back.
Gardner Minshew (1 – 0, 68.3%, 4/1) isn’t a back-up, he’s a second starter. His arm isn’t a rifle and isn’t laser accurate, but those same critiques have been made about the starter. Minshew is hyper-competitive and brings truckloads of swagger. Though he lacks Hurt’s mobility, Minshew can scoot and find the sticks when he needs to.
Though the two players at this position are different in their approaches, the overall effect (and we saw this in 2021 when Hurts was out), is that there isn’t a massive fall-off in efficiency, when either steps in. While this position isn’t remotely top ten, it gets the ball into the end zone reliably, and it’s super-stable. (+)
RB: Miles Sanders(754/5.5./0) didn’t score at all in 2022, but he was the second leading rusher on the team behind the QB, who had two more carries on the year than Sanders. Part of that was Sanders missing five games. The other part of that was that the QB wasn’t of much use if he wasn’t running.
The 5’6” 203 pound Boston Scott (373/4.3/7) was re-signed for some reason. His presence doesn’t make much sense, given that 5’9” 200 pound Kenneth Gainwell(291/4.3/5) is a younger, cheaper version of Scott, and he runs better routes. Also on the roster is 5’9” 193 poundJason Huntley(70/3.9/0), whose game is also very Scott-like.
Last year when the Eagles run game terrorized the league, they had a powerback in Jordan Howard (406/4.7/3) to wear down defensive interiors. Howard is no longer on the roster, and the Eagles no longer have a physical runner on the roster. Without a physical runner, they will not see the run game dominate that way it did in 2021. (-)
WR:Devonta Smith(64/916/14.3/5) set the all-time Eagles mark for receiving yards by a rookie. His numbers however, are misleading. In nine games (HALF) he caught 3 or fewer balls. In eight games (HALF) he had 50 or fewer receiving yards. In seven games his catch percentage was 50% or lower. These are not the marks of a number one receiver. If you want to argue that Smith isn’t the problem, then be prepared to point out exactly who is.
Quez Watkins (43/647/15.0/1) saw 3 targets or fewer, in ten of the seventeen games he played. He had 50 or fewer receiving yards, fourteen times. The under-use of Watkins is nearly a crime. Speaking of crime, Jalen Reagor(33/299/9.6/2) continues to steal the Eagles money, and murder fan hopes.
Free agent addition Zach Pascalwas added due to his familiarity with the Eagles coach, and system. Pascal isn’t a burner, and doesn’t have the best hands. While he may have been signed to add a veteran voice to the position, he doesn’t add an accomplished veteran voice. This position is a sloppy patchwork, and it needs some order put to it. (-)
TE: Dallas Goedert(56/830/14.8/4) Is the total package at TE. Not only is he a good in-line blocker, but he can also be a downfield threat.Jack Stoll(4/22/5.5/0) is a blocker who saw just 5 targets last year. If he can’t be developed into more of a receiving threat, his presence will make covering the other receivers easier.
Tyree Jackson (3/22/7.3/1) was making progress switching from QB to TE, then tore his ACL in the season finale. The Eagles love him, but he’ll likely be on I.R. into the season. Richard Rogers (2/11/5.5.0) was brought back (once again), to provide reliable depth as a receiver. (-)
OT: LT Jordan “IHOP” Mialatais just 24 years old. Massive, mobile, intelligent, and highly aggressive, Mialata is a people mover in the run game, and a brick wall in pass protection. RT Lane Johnsonhad another All-Pro season and even caught a 5 yard touchdown. The first of his career.
Andre Dillardwas once thought of as a bust, now he’s seen as sort of a luxury. Dillard doesn’t supply Mailata’s physical dominance in the run game, but when asked to fill in, he was more than up to the task. Le’Raven Clark is sort of a reclamation project. He was allowed some bad habits in Indy, but the Eagles think they can be cleaned up and net the team a steal. (+)
G: LG Landon Dickerson spent his rookie season putting on a show. He was a huge part of why the Eagles led the NFL in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. Jack Driscollis a super-versatile, work-pail guy. He stepped in for the injuredIsaac Seumalo, and had nine starts before his year ended on a high ankle sprain.
Nate Herbig isn’t the most athletic fellow, but he’s also not about to walked back into the QB. Sua Opeta is also serviceable. (+)
C: Jason Kelceis widely regarded as the best in the sport. Does that say enough? Depth? Jack Anderson is the back-up and he also plays G. (+)
In A Nutshell: The Offensive Line is the true engine of this unit. Ridiculously deep and versatile, it makes it possible for the team to platoon RB’s, trade TE’s mid-season, start a back-up QB, and still score without benefit of a well-conceived passing attack. There is no skill position that was upgraded during the offseason. (-)
DE:Josh Sweattied for the team lead with 7.5 sack last year. In past years he’d been a productive blindside rusher. However, when Brandon Grahamwas injured, Sweat stepped into playing as the strongside rusher, and he seemed over-matched. The responsibilities switch and physicality seemed too much for him initially, but as the year wore on, he picked it up.
Derek Barnett is actually a solid football player. The problem with that, is that he wasn’t drafted merely to be “solid”. As a result, he’s not judged by what he produces, but instead by what he doesn’t produce. That said, while it makes total sense for the Eagles to draft an upgrade over him, it also made sense to bring him back for 2022.
Graham has never been a 10 sack player. So it’s only natural to wonder what he has left at 34, and coming off the torn Achilles tendon, that cost him 2021. He’s been very good at getting pressure, and even better at setting the edge vs the run game. Tarron Jacksonwould surprise me if he makes the active roster this year.
This position is the epitome of what plagues the Eagles. At this (and other) positions, they Eagles have tons of “good solid” players, and “good solid” locker room guys. What the Eagles need is a player who gets actual sacks, not just pressures. A player who destroys plays, not just disrupts them. This position needs an impact player. (-)
DT: He doesn’t get to the QB like he used to, butFletcher Cox was brought back for one more year. Him being frequently double-teamed, at least opens things up for others. One of those others, isJavon Hargrave. Hargrave tied for team lead with 7.5 sacks, and had 18 QB hits (more than doubling his previous career high of 8). He also posted a career best 63 tackles, with 9 (career high) being for a loss.
Milton Williamsstarted two games in 2021. Both were against Dallas. Now let us never speak of that again. I’m kidding. Actually if you look at his stat line in both games, you’ll see that his numbers reflected the growth in his game. For example, in the first game he was tentative and waited for help. In the second game…
Marlon Tuipulotu played like trash, with a side order of ass last year, but then again I said he would. He’s too slow off the line. Slow motion in college, means you will be a still picture in the NFL. The Eagles added Renell Wren to the roster. Wren is a reclamation project with an injury history. Cincinnati junked him, but the Eagles think they can restore him.
We’ll see. (+)
OLB: Free agents Haason Reddickand Kyzir White were given nice contracts to come back to the region. Reddick is from New Jersey, but he played football in Philadelphia, in the Eagles stadium, for the Temple Owls. White is from a suburb of Allentown PA, which (depending on traffic on 76), is about an hour and half from Philly. Both grew up being Eagles fans.
Reddick has 23.5 sacks over the last two seasons, and was signed to bolster the pass rush. While the Eagles have had ‘backers who could pass rush, they’ve never employed a designated one in a 4 – 3 system. So this is historic. White reads like a smaller (just 216 pounds), faster version of cast-off Alex Singleton. Sort of a run and chase player.
Davion Taylor was drafted as a third round project two years ago, and aside from durability issues (both seasons ended on I.R.), his play is coming along nicely. This position gives the Eagles a scary Nickel, and a rock-solid base rotation. Patrick Johnson is listed at this position, but really, at 248 he needs to add 7 to 12 pounds, and put his hand on the ground. (+)
MLB: T.J. Edwards is so underrated that it’s nearly a criminal offense. His 130 stops were just seven behind the Eagles all-time mark of 137, (set last year by Alex Singleton). Edwards had six games with double digit tackles, and is now the Eagles signal-caller. He had to fight for his role and he won it, no question.
Old rumor on Edwards, was that he’s more Tackle to Tackle, than sideline to sideline. Initially the Eagles seemed to be listening to that, and took him out during passing situations. Despite starting 6 of 8 games, he played about 34% of the defensive snaps, and the Eagles were 3 – 5 for their troubles. Once the Eagles (suddenly!) started leaving him on the field for 95% of the snaps, they went 6 – 2. Then they sat him (and the other starters) for the 21 – 56 loss to Dallas.
Shaun Bradley has become a core Special Teamer, but he doesn’t add much value as depth, due to the fact that he’s only played 131 defensive snaps in 2 years. Incidentally, he and Haason Reddick were college teammates. Davion Tayloralso has some experience and value here. (+)
S: Culture change! With longtime mainstay, Rodney McLeod finding a new home in Indy, the Eagles are left with a number of question marks and short-term answers at this position. Expect to see the Eagles spend one of their first five Draft picks here. That said, let’s talk about who’s currently under contract.
Anthony Harris is returning after a less than stellar 2021. While he posted 72 tackles, he had just 1 interception and 3 passes defensed. Marcus Epps is the next most experienced player here, but he’s only started eight games in three seasons. Behind Epps, is K’Von Wallacewith six career starts in two seasons. Jared Mayden has no starts in his one year career.
While Epps has shown flashes in limited opportunity, Wallace has seemed slow to pick-up on NFL football. Epps could be very good with more seasoning, but he likely won’t see that opportunity. (-)
CB: The Eagles have seventy of these guys on the roster, but let’s focus on just the top four. Darius Slay posted five takeaways, and three scores, while allowing just 33 receiving yards per game. The guy simply went berserk in 2021.
Zech MacPhearsonplayed 179 defensive snaps as a rookie in 2021. He was targeted all of 17 times, only allowing 9 completions, for 96 yards. That’s 96 yards on 179 snaps. Opposing QB’s saw him out there and opted not to take their chances. He may be why the Eagles elected to let Steven Nelsonstroll off into the wilderness.
Avonte Maddoxhad five starts in the Nickel, and contributed 1 pick and 2 forced fumbles across his 2021 campaign. Andre Chachere is a bigger, more physical Nickel. He allows catches, but he looks to deliver the big hit. Which is why his missed tackle percentage was so high (21.1). A position switch would suit his level of aggression.
The Eagles are still trying to add top-shelf FA talent here. That said, this team could go into Week One with these guys, and it would be a solid group already. (+)
In A Nutshell: Linebacker and pass rush were seen as trouble spots for this defense, and so both deficiencies were addressed. While talent at Safety is a question mark, the players have played in the system , so they’ll know where they need to be, and will know how to communicate. (+)
K: Jake Elliott went 30/33 (90.9%) kicking field goals. All of which were career highs. He was a perfect 3/3 from 50 yards and out. He also hit all 44 extra points. Clutch. (+)
P: Arryn Siposs was having a great 2021, then things got shaky for him down the stretch. In four of the last five games, he averaged under 40 yards per punt. On the season he averaged 43.9, which isn’t bad, but it should have been better. (+)
In A Nutshell: The Eagles can depend on their legs to help bring victories.
Offensively this team doesn’t scare anyone passing the ball, and they won’t be as dominant running it this year. Given that the Eagles did nothing talent-wise to improve the Offense so far, it’s going to be hard to supply any sense of urgency to players on that side of the ball.
Defensively, there were a couple of low key changes, with one being a clear upgrade. Also the return of Brandon Graham’s on-field leadership, should pay very high dividends. This side of the ball stands a real chance of being much improved in 2022.
Last year the Eagles got to face a number of weak teams at the end of the year. They made it to 9 – 8, and snuck into the playoffs. Good news everyone! The Eagles get to play the rest of NFC East again this year. Most of which has weakened. So 9 – 8 is not only possible for the Eagles, but likely. Honestly, they are a couple of lucky bounces away from 11 – 6.
LAST year Dallas went 12 – 5 and won the NFC East. They earned a home playoff game. Then they proceeded to shit the bed 17 – 23, against a 6th seed 49ers team. People will want to critique how the last play of that game went down, but the fact is, the game shouldn’t have even been a contest. This has long been the story of the Cowboys. The larger, deeper issues are frequently ignored, in favor of shiny distractions. That said, is this the year they change the story?
With the NFL Draft being 13 days away, this is what the Cowboys roster currently looks like:
QB: Dak Prescott (11 – 5, 68.8%, 37/10) won his division, and posted career highs in completion percentage and touchdown passes. This included 13 TD’s and 0 interceptions over the final four games. He also had five games with 300+ yards passing, and five games with a completion percentage over 75.
Those stats point to him being back from the ankle injury that stole his 2020 season. Well, mostly back. One of the things that has helped Prescott in the past, has been being big and mobile, not just a big target. In an average year with 16 starts, Prescott averaged 60 rushes, 305 yards, 5.0 pyc, and 5 scores. Last season his numbers were (48 – 146 – 3.2 – 1). Keep an eye out.
Preseason Hall of Famer Cooper Rush (1 – 0, 63.8% – 3/1) added to his legend when he went undefeated in 2021. Filling in for Prescott during Week Eight, Rush put 325 yards on the Vikings, in a 20 – 16 Cowboys win. Seems that this position is worth every penny being spent on it. Ben “Bring It On” DiNucci is also still cashing his paychecks. (+)
RB: For the fifth year in a row, Ezekiel Elliott (1002/4.2/10) saw his rushing yards per game decline. He was held to fewer than 50 rushing yards in eight games last year. He only cracked the century mark twice. He did manage to rush for 1,000 yards though. That has to count for something. I guess.
Tony Pollard (719/5.5/2) is an average player. Fortunately for him, he seems to know it, so he hits holes as quickly as he can. He’s not a threat to break a 60 yard run, so he makes up for it by producing smaller chunk runs, more consistently. As long as his 205 pound frame is playing the “RB 1B” role, fans will wonder why he doesn’t get more than 8 carries per game.
Dallas also has three FB’s on the roster, most recently signing free agent Ryan Nall. They won’t keep three, so this is clearly an “iron sharpens iron” type of move. In any case, look for the team to flashback to the 1990’s, to re-emphasize lead blocking. Just the fact that they’ll be the only team doing it, will make them very hard to prepare for. Especially for a generation of defenders who wouldn’t be familiar with FB as a routine weapon. (+)
WR: I said last year that three was a crowd here, and I was right. However instead of ditching Michael Gallup (35/445/12.7/2), they traded Amari Cooper(68/865/12.7/8) to Cleveland. This means that CeeDee Lamb (79/1102/13.9/6) has graduated from Robin to Batman.
Over his first couple of years, even in a lesser role, Lamb has been plagued by drops and lapses in focus. Now that he’s going to have more intense attention focused on him, there have to be serious questions about if he’s mentally ready for the role.
Gallup lost nearly half of last year being on I.R with a calf injury. He then played in eight games before tearing his ACL, and going on I.R. again. His return goal is Week One. Which would mean no training camp. Steelers free agent James Washington (24/285/11.9/2), was signed to a one year deal. Essentially swapping out Cooper for Washington. That is clearly a step down.
There can be no arguing that this group is several steps back from what they were a year ago. That said, if Gallup can stay healthy in 2022, this trio could still be dangerous. (+)
TE: Boom! Dallas hit Dalton Schultz (78/808/10.4/8) with the franchise tag, before anyone else could take a shot at luring him away with a long-term deal. Schultz proved to be a sure-handed security blanket in 2021. While not an explosive athlete, his presence in the red zone will help provide the run game with more room to operate.
After cutting Blake Jarwin, there are bodies, but there really is no reserve talent here. Given the amount of traffic that will come Schultz’s way, this position will produce. However, if Schultz can’t stay healthy this season, this position is screwed. They are literally one player deep here. Just one. Uno. Single-ito! (-)
OT: At the moment LT Tyron Smith and swingman Terence Steele are the only real game in town. Smith hasn’t played a full season since 2015. Last year he played just 11 o f 17, and this year he’ll be 32. Not a good look! Steele has been more of a fill-in than a regular starter. Some weeks he played on the right, and when Smith was out, Steele played left.
While the talent is decent here, there is absolutely no consistency or reliability here. Making matters worse, there is no real depth. They have Isaac Alarcon, Josh Ball, and Aviante Collins. None of whom played a single down of football in 2021. (-)
G: All-Pro Zack Martin gives this line a rally point at RG, but he’s likely going to spend a good portion of 2022, helping the guy who will be working on his right-hand side. Babysitting doesn’t allow a player to operate at maximum ferocity. So expect the right-side of the line to suffer. At least early in the year.
Connor McGovern is still on the roster and started six games in 2021. However, it’s hard to pin down just how the Cowboys organization views him. At the moment he’s the clear LG, but a single flap of butterfly wings in China, might change that. Matt Farniok played a total of 23 offensive snaps, late in three games in 2021. The average score of those games: 50 – 14.
Right now it seems like there’s a weakened right, and the left is largely a question mark. Maybe the Draft is where an answer will come from, but as of this moment. This position is weak. (-)
C: Tyler Biadasz was the only lineman to start every game, so hooray for durability. He also had 9 penalties in 2021, which was second only to a guy who’s no longer a Cowboy. At this point no one seems entirely sold on Biadasz. That’s largely because he’s still being unfairly compared to Travis Frederick. A guy named Braylon Jones is the back-up. Iffy starter and no depth? (-)
In A Nutshell: The Cowboys have weapons, but right now, they lack reliable players on the offensive line. Employing a throwback wrinkle like routine lead blocking, might help the run game, but it’s going to hurt the passing game. There is no way to put a FB on the field, without taking some speed off the field. Should be interesting to watch. (-)
DE: DeMarcus Lawrence is no longer a premier pass rusher, but he can still get pressures. He also sets a pretty good edge vs the run, making things easier for those playing behind him. Free agent Donte Fowler looks to inherit the starting role vacated by Randy Gregory (DEN). Fowler had a couple of good years in 2017and 2019. The Cowboys are hoping to re-ignite that.
Dorance Armstrong will give a good effort, but is by no means a special player. Which is why Fowler was added. Tarell Basham is just a back-up. He plays from a two point stance, and at 6’4” that leaves his chest exposed at the snap. He also spends far too much time watching football, while he’s on the field. They also have some guy named Chauncey Golston. (-)
DT: Osa Odighizuwa got the fan base excited with how disruptive he can be, but his 280 pound frame seemed to wear down over just 14 weeks. No shame in that for a rookie, but this year he won’t be a rookie. Keep an eye on him. Carlos Watkins won’t cost any coaching staff a single wink of sleep. Yet Dallas re-signed him.
Neville Gallimore missed most of 2021, but once healthy, he took over for Odighizuwa, and was sort of “Meh”. Quinton Bohanna is a 360 pound gap plugger, who changes direction as well as an Applebee’s. This position is a cry for help. (-)
OLB: Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons is the total package. He pass rushes. He covers. He slices, he dices, is non-stick, and stain resistant! Parsons has been hyped as the next Lawrence Taylor, likely stemming from Parson’s 13 sacks as a rookie. That said, despite playing 904 snaps on defense, he only produced 84 tackles, and just two games with 10 or more tackles.
On the other side is Leighton Vander Neck. Sorry. Vander Esch. Injuries have rendered him half the player that he was as a rookie, which is why the Cowboys signed him to a one year “prove it” deal. Vander Esch hasn’t recorded 50 solo tackles since 2018, and playing outside in this system, will almost ensure that he doesn’t again in 2022. There is no depth here. (+)
MLB: I said last year, moving 211 pound FS Keanu Neal, to LB was stupid, and it turns out that I was right. AGAIN! Neal is now in Tampa, and now it seems that the middle will be manned by (drum roll) Luke Gifford?
Gifford played 32 defensive snaps in 2021. He only played 1 defensive snap in 2020. Maybe he won the coaching staff’s trust with those additional 31 snaps? It would not surprise me to see Vander Esch take over this spot. However until the subject comes up, I can only “speculate.” (-)
S: Jayron Kearse came into 2021 having played 73 games with just 12 starts. In 2021 he was given 15 starts, and had a pretty “meh” year. Just 2 interceptions, but he did lead the team in tackles (101). It was enough to convert last year’s prove it contract, into a two year pact.
Malik Hooker and Donovan Wilson are former starters who are under 27 years old. Both will likely compete for the other starting spot. Unless a player is drafted high here. (-)
CB: Trevon Diggs led the NFL with 11 interceptions. Cowboys fans would like for that to be the whole story, but it isn’t. He had 11 interceptions, because teams didn’t shy away from targeting him 103 times. Why not target a guy giving up 907 passing yards and 16.8 yards per catch? (For contrast the Eagles Darius Slay was targeted just 85 times, gave up 10.7 yards per catch, and just 535 yards.)
Anthony Brown’s first year under the new defensive system yielded 16 starts, 71 tackles, 3 picks and 17 passes defensed. All were career highs. Surely he’s looking forward to 2022. Jourdan Lewis started 13 games as the Nickle and also saw career highs in interceptions (3), tackles (61), and passes defensed (11). Kelvin Joseph rounds out the top four. How trash do you have to be to have played in 80 games with just 1 start, in your rookie year? Ask C.J. Goodwin. He knows. (+)
In A Nutshell: It’s the Cowboys. So whether they over or underachieve, you always expect to see a ton of talent on this team. So when looking at this unit, it’s amazing to see how hollow it is, right down the middle. Three positions: DT, MLB, and S, seem to be waiting to find salvation in the draft. Not wise. (-)
K: Chris Naggar is what people in sportscasting call, “a landmine”. Just one slip of the tongue… Dear Cowboys fans: You’ll be comforted to know that Naggar is experienced, and has never missed an NFL field goal attempt. He hit the 37 yarder that he kicked last year. He however, was just 1/2 (50%) on extra points. I have Brett Maher’s phone number if you want it… Hell, right now Bill Maher might be a better option than what you have. (-)
P: Bryan Anger was re-signed after averaging a career best 48.4 yards per punt, with 0 blocked, and opponents averaging just 6.5 yard per return (+)
In A Nutshell: I spent 4 years as a comedy writer, and even my twisted imagination couldn’t come up with something like the Cowboys Kicker situation. It’s pure comedy. For rival fans, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. (-)
The Cowboys are in trouble. They have spent so much money (QB, RB) and draft capital (WR’s, CB’s, LB’s) on peripheral players, that they haven’t made sure that they can win in the trenches. On either side of the ball. Unless something huge happens, Dallas is going to spend 2022 getting out-physicalled, and never really get a chance to find their footing in many games. The lack of quality depth (OT, TE, G, DE, DT LB, and S) means that when injuries start to hit, the drop-offs will be dramatic. This team feels 8 – 9, but we’ll call it 9 – 8 because New York is still in the division.