SEASON Reviews are usually done at the end of the season. (Duh, right?) A few are done at the halfway mark, and/or at the end. Starting in 2017, Eaglemaniacal.com began treating the season like a game, and breaking it into four quarters. Since football is a hard sport, we’ll take a hard look at where our team stands at the moment (in relation to where it started), and where it needs to go next.
STATUS: 9 – 7, WINNER of the NFC EAST, 4th Seed in the NFC, Sole Playoff Representative of the Division.
W New York giants (4 – 12)
W Washington Redskins (3 – 13)
W Dallas Cowboys (8 – 8)
W New York giants (4 – 12)
Combined: (19 – 45)
We needed to win all four games. We won all four games.
People can talk about how “unpretty” the wins were. They can talk about how bad our opponent’s records were. Doesn’t matter. We’re here, and no argument made against that, can change that. We fought. We clawed. We earned this, because we kept believing and we stuck together.
Losers fall apart (giants). Losers tap out (Like Zeke did). Losers change horses midstream (See: Dan Snyder). Winners win because they don’t quit. They give an all out effort. Winners get to feel elation. Winners get to know that they were vindicated. Losers? They can only wish to stand where we do today.
QB: (A) Carson Wentz put this team on his back, and made those around him better. Amazingly enough, he also made himself better as over these last four games he’s been more cognizant not holding the ball forever as he waits to make a big play. The game winning touchdown he threw at Washington, was an example of him trusting his receiver to make a play, not just his own arm. As a result, he’s now doing a better job of throwing guys open. There are still overthrows of his deep ball, but I suspect that will iron out when he gets some higher grade firepower back on the roster.
RB: (B) Some fans would give this position a higher grade, but that would mean only seeing the good and not the bad. Jordan Howard hasn’t touched the ball in this quarter. So Miles Sanders and Boston Scott have taken up the load. They both have at times, been dynamic with the ball and reliable as blockers. What neither has been, is an inside runner who consistently finishes runs hard. Both are great to keep on the field, especially as compensatory pieces, but neither is a true Alpha. Teams don’t get worn down and tired, tackling those guys. Howards absence has highlighted the need for him. (Or at least someone (Holyfield) like him.)
TE: (B) This position is usually the Zach Ertz Show. However, injuries have given Dallas Goedert and Josh Perkins a chance to strut their stuff, showing not just talent, but reliability. Goedert in fact, despite being a back-up, developed into a Top Ten player at his position (10th in yards, 9th in catches, and only 6 players at his position have more touchdowns).
Perkins leaves something to be desired as a blocker, but for a 3rd string target, he’s an absolute luxury. He’s the Range Rover that you only drive when your Tesla Model X, and Mercedes G-Class are being detailed. Good thing we had these guys too! The broken rib that Ertz suffered in Week 16 would have been a death knell for teams like Kansas City, or San Francisco. However, since our reserves are so silky smooth, Philadelphia hardly felt a bump in the road.
WR: (D) Greg Ward by himself would get a “B” grade. Over the last quarter he’s put up 21 catches for 210 yards (10.0 yards per catch), and one game winning TD. The other 3 players active at this position, over that same span, posted 8 catches for 113 yards (16.6ypc) and no scores. To be fair to Deontay Burnett, he only played in the last game and still caught 2 for 48. That means the other two players produced just 6 catches for 85 yards over 4 games. Amazingly, our Eagles won 4 straight games despite this.
OT: (C) We’ve played the last three games without Lane Johnson. We instead relied on Halapoulivaati Vaitai to man the right side. Vaitai hasn’t been great, but he’s been servicable. In fact, many of his mistakes seem more attributable to coaches not compensating for his athletic limitations. Jason Peters has been Jason Peters as a blocker, but his name is being called far too often for penalties recently.
OG: (C) Isaac Suemalo remains an up and down player. While he moves well in space, he’s not particularly stout at the point of attack. Brandon Brooks was playing at a Pro Bowl level, until he was hurt during the last game of the season. Matt Pryor stepped in and handled himself well, but he hasn’t played a single full game in his two year career.
C: (B) Despite less than stellar Shotgun snapping, Jason Kelce is doing a good better of the blocking calls, so there were fewer “A” gap rushers running free this quarter.
DE: (B) Brandon Graham isn’t getting sacks like he did around midseason, but he is doing a much better job of playing the run first and keeping contain. So I find myself not missing Chris Long quite as much, as I did around midseason.
Derek Barnett would do well to study containment. He flattens out too soon to chase down the line, and usually gets neither the pressure nor the tackle. Instead of doing his job first, he’s trying to make the play first. He’s playing inside-out and it frequently leaves us vulnerable on his side whereas Graham is locking down the other side.
Vinny Curry! We won a Super Bowl starting that guy on the blindside. In the two games he played for the injured Barnett this quarter, Vinny was making a case that maybe we have the wrong guy starting. Hey, I’m just being honest! Josh Sweat has cooled off somewhat since midseason, which is probably part of the reason that Philly’s own Shareef Miller was added to the active roster as the season came to a close.
DT: (A) Statistics don’t tell the story of the job that this position is doing. They are playing excellent team concept football, dictating that RB’s can’t run up the middle and that QB’s can’t step up or hang I the pocket. They aren’t recording many stats, but they’re causing opposing offenses to run off-schedule. Amazing.
Adding man-mountain Anthony Rush to the rotation with Fletcher Cox, has helped limit teams desire to run the ball inside. In fact, we went from a 3 – 4 team before Rush, to 6 – 3 since. I assure you that’s not a coincidence. If you think it is, check out both Dallas games, both before and after Rush was added.
OLB: (C) T.J. Edwards is an upgrade over Kamu Grugier-Hill. He’s more physical and instinctive, and so far there’s nothing to indicate that we’ve lost anything in underneath coverage. Nate Gerry hasn’t made a splash play in a while, but he’s making a lot of clean, unassisted tackles. Nothing is being schemed for him, but that feels like it may change in the postseason.
MLB: (B) The feel of the Defense has changed since Nigel Bradham took over for Nate Gerry in the middle. Opponents haven’t been able to rely on their run games in weeks, so we’ve made offenses one dimensional against us. And not just against bad offenses. We held the NFL’s #1 offense to 9 points (3 field goals). Bradham isn’t making splash plays, but he’s everywhere we need him to be, when the moment arises. We didn’t have that with Gerry, and we didn’t always have that last year, with Jordan Hicks. We may be making plans for Nigel to play on the inside if the Eagles pick up his option.
S: (C) Malcolm Jenkins is even playing Special Teams. That is leadership by example. It says no job is too small or unimportant. It sends a message that every play, every down, is all hands on deck. Rod McLeod is frequently in tough positions when the ball is thrown long, some of which he can’t recover from. The scheme does him no favors.
CB: (B) Since Miami the DC seems to be letting these guys play a little more Press Coverage at the line. It’s still not enough, but some Press, beats no Press at all. The results speak for themselves. Players at this position have 18 passes defensed in the last 4 weeks. An unit that showed improvement last quarter, continued that trend.
Sidney Jones (whom I all but left for dead in my last report), has made clutch plays in three of the last four games including an interception while covering a receiver, who in a previous game had skinned us alive. Rasul Douglas lacks the long speed to be routinely put in man situations, but if the ball isn’t thrown over his head, he will try to get his mitts on it. There is also no denying that Jalen Mills and CreVon LeBlanc add a fiery competitiveness, that has rubbed off on their fellow corners.
Talent-wise, we have no A+ or even A type players, at this position. We have a number of B level guys, who all have some sort of obvious limitation. So what we have here, are no stars, but a stable of solid to very solid players. That being said, due to the system we play, these guys will give up big plays here and there. However, recognizing all this doesn’t mean I graded them on a curve. This position got what they earned.
LS: (A) Rick Lovato is consistent.
P: (B) Cam Johnston stepped his game up in these last four games. Last quarter saw 20 punts for 12 returns (60% return rate), for 79 yards (6.5ypr). This quarter had 22 punts for 9 returns (40%) for 51 yards (5.6ypr). That’s across the board improvement, but those aren’t the most baller stats.
Of those 22 punts only 3 were fair caught and only 1 was a touchback. Of our 28 punts down inside the 20 this year, 11 were in these last four games. Of the 9 punts that we downed this year, 6 were in this quarter. That says that Cam took a real hard look in the mirror and opted to work within the system. That’s some real big boy stuff, right there
K: (C ) Jake Elliott was 5 for 8 kicking field goals this year, but two of those misses were from 55 and 53 yards, outside, with intermittent gusts of wind. Spend a day attempting 30 yarders, before you judge this guy too harshly for those. Kickoffs remain a concern though. 21 kickoffs, 10 returns (47% return rate), for 245 yards (24.5ypr).
That return rate is up from 36%. The returns ar up from 23.7. We are trending wrong people!
PR/KR: (F) I won’t even post the numbers. Our return game is a wide-open wound.
KC: (C) Teams are taking more chances trying to make a big play, by attempting returns, that means it’s only a matter of time before someone gets lucky against us. Worse yet, when teams do return it we don’t stop them well short of the 25. So for opponents, taking a chance on a return is a risk-free proposition.
SINCE LAST QUARTER:
We won the division and made it into the tournament that will determine the league champion. We got our shit together when we needed to, and we had our selves a successful season. Yes, I said it was a successful season. As in Regular Season.
Now we’re trying to have a successful Post-season. THAT success will be determined by hoisting the SB trophy in February. Make no mistake though, we accomplished the first part of that quest already.
Bask in that. Until Kickoff Sunday at 4:40, vs the Seahawks.
MISSION FOR THIS QUARTER:
The regular season is over. We are now in the post-season. There is no quarter given here. Not by the calendar, nor the fans, nor the opposition to come. There is however, a mission, and it is this:
Win one game. Win a second. Win a third. Then win that fourth game.