Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Case for Dallas

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I don't like saying nice things about the Cowboys, but in the interest of science I decided to give it a try. I'll now make the case for Dallas winning on Sunday.

First, this is a good team. They are 10-5 and they've earned that. The team has been fairly consistent. Their longest win streak is 4 games. Longest losing streak is 2 games. All teams have ups and downs, but Dallas never got sky high or hit rock bottom. Their biggest loss of the year is only by 10 points.

Dallas plays good defense. They are 3rd in the NFL in scoring D. In 3 of the last 6 games Dallas has held teams to 7 points or less. We've only done that once all year. Any team that can keep people out of the end zone like that is playing pretty darn good football. Their defense is a bit like the '07 Eagles. They are really tough, but don't come up with takeaways. The Cowboys have 11 INTs this year. Asante Samuel has 9. Takeaways are gold in the NFL and that is a weakness.

Dallas has been building a strong team for really the last 4 years. The one problem was that Jerry Jones didn't understand the importance of character and chemistry. Unfortunately he seems to have figured that out this year. Gone are TO, PacMan, and Tank Johnson. Miles Austin emerged at WR. CBs Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick have played well on defense. A young D-lineman like Stephen Bowen has emerged with extra playing time.

The '09 Cowboys feel much more like a team than a circus. Jerry Jones embraced controversy in the past because it kept Dallas in the news and that was a good thing in his mind. He now seems to at least somewhat understand that controversy and football don't always mix well.

There are still elements of...bizarreness. Wade Phillips came across poorly when talking to the media about December losses a few weeks back. He didn't seem like the leader of a football team so much as a White House spokesperson trying to manage a media crisis (either party...this isn't a political statement). Phillips is now a cheerleader with his team having won 2 games. WR Roy Williams stays relevant by talking to the media about his failure to play WR well. Only in America...

Tony Romo is having a good year. He's only got 24 TDs, but he's cut down on his INTs. Tony has only been picked 8 times so far this year. He's only fumbled 6 times this year. He had 32 coming into the year. Tony seems much more at ease now with a stable clubhouse and huddle.

We all know that Tony hasn't won any playoff or January games. This is a different Tony and a different team. They can win defensive battles (7-6 over WAS). They can win ugly games (26-20 over KC). They can also win on the road (at PHI, NO). Dallas did break through their December hex and win consecutive games. This Dallas team has a tougher feel because of all these things. They do play at home this Sunday, which gives them another advantage.

The offense is versatile. They run the ball better than last year. The Cowboys can also beat you in the air. Miles Austin is a big play WR. Roy Williams makes a big play at least once a month. Jason Witten is still among the best TEs in the league. Points aren't as abundant as last year, but the offense can move the ball.

Enough. I can't go on. Must change back to Eagles talk...


EAGLES STUFF

Quintin Demps is saying that he will play Sunday. Great news. We need him as the KOR. Macho's mistakes killed us last week. Demps is very good on KOs and field position could be important. Also, you may remember that we ran back a KO for a score vs Dallas in the first game, but a penalty nullified it.

Mike Vick will reportedly play. I hope this is a valid report and not just the Eagles saying that to give Dallas another situation to prepare for.

The team recently checked out some players. Teams are always looking for guys to add once the season ends or in case a roster spot comes open. Here's the story:

--Link--

One of the items covered in there is that we lost PJ Hill of the Practice Squad. He was signed away by WAS. We added RB Allen Ervins to replace him. I need to check my computer at home for notes on him and S Brandon Harrison, another player we just recently signed.

I will put up a Strategy & Matchups post tomorrow. I've got plenty of thoughts on beating the evil Cowgurlz.

_

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Case for Philly

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I'm skipping the Know Your Enemy thing this week because we know Dallas so well. I will have a strategy and matchups post on Friday.

Philadelphia at Dallas on Sunday should be a good game. I think both teams are capable of winning. There are all kinds of trends to study and you can frame an argument for either team. Rather than cover everything at once I decided to start with the argument for why the Eagles will win. Tomorrow I'll cover the Cowboyz.

The Eagles are the hottest team in the NFC, having won 6 games in a row. During the 6-game winning streak the Eagles have played good football. They aren't overachieving in a way that makes you nervous. Some teams play at such a level you know they can't sustain it. That isn't the case right now. Heck, we've yet to see the Eagles really play a complete game.

The Eagles have owned Dallas in late season games and re-matches in this decade. Dallas won in 2005. That's it. And even in that game the Eagles had to gift-wrap the win and give it to Dallas. You may (nightmarishly) recall McNabb throwing a pass to the right side that Roy Williams picked and ran back for the winning score. Still, Mike McMahon almost got the Eagles back into FG range to win. Unfortunately the receiver dropped the pass.

Tony Romo has really struggled in re-matches with our D. The obvious reply to that is that Jim Johnson is no longer running things and that changes the situation entirely. I don't fully buy that. Sean McDermott is running the same basic scheme with many of the same players. It isn't like we shifted to the 3-4 or Tampa 2 or anything.

In the first meeting the Eagles gave the game away. Dallas won 20-16, but 10 of those points came off turnovers. The other TD came on a long pass when several defenders made a mistake at the same time. The OL was still being shuffled quite a bit at that time. That helped the Cowboys get pressure on McNabb. We also made a ton of mistakes, especially the rookies.

Jeremy Maclin was still figuring things out back then. He had 22 catches in 7 games leading up to Dallas. Jeremy's worst game of the year was Dallas. His early bobble/drop/deflection was picked off and set up a short TD drive. He had another pass thrown his way that was picked off. He committed a penalty when trying to make the tackle on that play. Jeremy's caught 27 catches in the 5 games since then. Several of those catches have come on game winning drives. He isn't dropping passes or making dumb mistakes. This isn't the same guy they saw in November.

Role players have really emerged. Tracy White has really come on in the last month. He's become a good Nickel LB. Darren Howard has played better recently. Alex Smith has become a good blocker for us. Mike Vick and the Wildcat package have become an effective weapon. We're still not 100% sure if he'll play.

We had only played one close game prior to the first Dallas meeting. We lost that at Oakland. Since then we've won 3 close games. We've shown the ability to come from behind in the 4th Qtr and make clutch plays on offense and defense.

Make things simple if you want. We've won more games on the year. We've got a longer winning streak. We're the number three scoring team in the league. We have an elite offensive and STs weapon in DeSean Jackson. We have a QB who tends to win in December and January. We have a good FG kicker. We have a coach who knows how to win.

We're the better team right now.


ON THE LIGHTER SIDE


When logic fails, get creative. More reasons we'll win...

* Victor Abiamiri and Jason Witten have the same number of TDs, 1. When our Nickel DT can score as well as your stud TE...you're in trouble.

* Dallas hasn't beaten a team with a winning record in more than 10 days. We have.

* Andy Reid could clearly win a belly-bucking contest with Wade Phillips. Big Red would dominate him.

* Joe Banner did a cost analysis of the situation and found out it is better financially if we win. We all know that Joe secretly runs everything.

* Bunk and Patt were promised an extra pork chop if they shut down the Dallas running game.

* Eldra Buckley is "Mr. January".


PRO BOWL STUFF

I had no major problems with any of the Eagles selections.

DeSean Jackson
Leonard Weaver
Jason Peters
Trent Cole
Asante Samuel
David Akers

Peters didn't have a great year, but he played pretty well after the first couple of games. There weren't great OT choices in the NFC this year.

I know a lot of people wanted Sheldon to make it. He had a good year, but I'm still mad at him for biting on the fake vs DAL in November.

The Pro Bowl is more of a popularity contest than anything. It still means something to the players, but plenty of talented guys get snubbed. You need to play on the right team and in the right scheme.

_

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Early Dallas Talk

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I'm trying to figure out my thoughts right now. I can make a convincing argument for and against us winning. I just don't know which to believe at this point. Anyone who thinks Dallas is an overrated joke is mistaken. They might be getting over-hyped, but winning 10 games shows that the team is better than last year. Don't expect a 44-6 thrashing like the '08 finale.

Dallas has won 2 games in a row.

DAL 24
NO 17

DAL 17
WAS 0

This followed a 2 game losing streak.

NYG 31
DAL 24

SD 20
DAL 17

There is one trend that fits all these games. In the 2 wins Dallas had good halftime leads. In the 2 losses Dallas was behind at the half, although just a small margin. The point isn't that Dallas can't come back. The point is that Dallas is a front runner.

The Cowboys play their best when things are good. Give them a lead and they are in a comfort zone. That takes the edge off and relaxes them. Put them behind, even if only a few points and suddenly there is pressure. That changes things. The Cowboys can overcome it, but they don't thrive under pressure.

Dallas has won a couple of tight games, but they were against mediocre teams (KC, WAS). And Dallas needed a lot of luck to beat WAS.

They did beat us in a close game, but that is somewhat misleading. The game was tied at 13 when they connected on a long TD to go up 20-13. We added a FG, but weren't able to get a stop on defense. The winning TD came with more than 8 minutes left. That's not exactly a nail biter like some of the other games.

If we can get a lead at halftime and make Dallas play us in a tight game I think that will give us an advantage. We've been winning the close games. We're a different team than the one they faced back on Nov. 8th.

An Eagles blowout would also be highly acceptable.


ROSTER MOVE

I've been checking, but don't have any info yet on who the Eagles will add. They are looking into several scenarios. They could add Dallas Reynolds from the Practice Squad. They could add a young player to develop for next season. They could add someone to help on KO returns depending on Quintin Demps health. We'll find out soon enough.
_

Monday, December 28, 2009

Game Review is Posted

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Here ya go...

--LINK--


JJ ON IR

Jamaal Jackson
tore his ACL yesterday and is done for the year. I'm sure we'll stick with yesterday's look, Nick Cole at C and Max Jean-Gilles at RG. Stacy Andrews may or may not be ready. I'd rather go with guys that are comfortable in the offense.

Hopefully JJ will heal up before August. However, this is about the time last year that Stacy hurt his knee. The big difference is that JJ knows our offense and style of blocking. All he has to do is rehab. This does open a door for Cole and Mike McGlynn next summer.

Bad news for JJ. He was having a good season.

_

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Early Postgame Stuff

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PHI 30
DEN 27


Absolutely bizarre game. We got up 27-10 and looked great. Then we fell asleep for most of the 2nd half and Denver tied the score at 27. A big scramble by McNabb helped to flip the field late in the game and led to us getting good field position on the subsequent drive. Jeremy Maclin made a great sideline grab that set up the winning FG.

You can look at this game any number of ways.

* We survived
* We choked after building a big lead
* We got lucky
* We won a key game
* We were clutch

I'll let you be the judge. I'm all over the place after today.

I think one thing that really hurt us was losing C Jamaal Jackson to injury. I'll have to check the score, but we had control of the game when he left. (Correction - score was 0-0 and there was 5:36 left in the 1st Qtr). Nick Cole was awkward as the C. He has the ability to play there, but doesn't have many reps there this year. He was just rusty.

Donovan McNabb was red hot to start the game. Then Denver adjusted and he struggled mightily. That wasn't all good D. Donovan got out of his comfort zone for some reason. People can complain about the playcalling, but there were too many passes badly off target.

Jeremy Maclin stepped up in a big way. He caught 6 passes for 92 yards. Brent Celek had a huge 1st half, catching 4 passes for 121 yards and a TD.

Westy came back and looked fine. He ran 9 times for 32 yards and caught a pair of passes. We didn't run very well in the game. RBs were 22-79. Again, I'm curious what those numbers were after JJ went out.

The defense had a mixed game. We only allowed 241 yards. We tackled okay. We played the run well. We came up with 3 sacks and got decent pressure. The problem is that we let Denver go 3 of 4 in the Red Zone. The defense was given a short field twice, once from a fumble and once from a short punt. Both series turned into TDs. The defense was given tough circumstances in both situations, but failed to step up. The defense did rally late in the game. Denver was limited to 3 points in the 4th Qtr. They only had 41 yards.

Random Stuff

* Macho had a nightmare day as KOR. He fumbled twice, one being recovered by DEN.
* Macho played FS in the game. I'm not sure what happened to Sean Jones.
* Sheldon Brown played through injury again. He had a good game.
* Akeem Jordan stepped up late in the game.
* Tracy White played well on STs and as the Nickel LB.
* Patt and Bunk controlled the middle of the field. Good to see them have a strong game.


I don't want to lose sight of the fact we beat a Broncos team playing for their postseason lives. The Saints lost to Tampa. The Vikings lost last Sunday to Carolina. This is the time of the year when anything can happen. We saw that when the Panthers demolished the Giants on Sunday. We withstood a furious comeback by Denver and found a way to win. I'm not thrilled with the way it happened, but we've talked about this Eagles team and the fact they are more clutch than other recent groups. Resiliency goes a long way this time of the year.

http://www.nfl.com/liveupdate/gamecenter/54700/PHI_Gamebook.pdf

In case you haven't seen it...PHI @ DAL will be 415pm on Sunday. NBC is going to show CIN/NYJ. That's odd, but I'm ecstatic. I wanted no part of another Sunday night game. Waiting all day would kill me.
_

Gameday - DEN

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Here are the inactives:

WR Kevin Curtis
OL Mike McGlynn
OL Stacy Andrews
TE Martin Rucker
QB Mike Vick - 3rd QB

DT Trevor Laws
FS Quintin Demps
CB Geoffrey Pope

No shockers in that group.

From the Broncos:

Tom Brandstater (3rd QB), WR Eddie Royal, CB Ty Law, RB LaMont Jordan, S Vernon Fox, FB Spencer Larsen, G Seth Olsen and DL Chris Baker are the inactives.


MEADOWLANDS MASSACRE

I've been watching CAR destroy the G-men. With 5 minutes left it is 41-9. Wow. The Giants started red hot in the game and then Mario Manningham fumbled. That play was like a light switch. CAR came alive and the Giants went to sleep. Jonathan Stewart is near 200 yards.


ANOTHER BIRD LEAVES THE NEST

Say what you want about our organization, but other teams sure like our young guys. S Reshard Langford was signed away by the Chiefs. He showed some promise this summer, but wasn't quite good enough to make the roster.

_

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Strategy & Matchups - DEN

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Sorry for the delayed post. My nephews drained every bit of energy I had and I've been a zombie all Saturday. Anyway, I'm finally done. The first test was finishing the post. The second will be to see if it actually makes any sense. If not, I'll just blame my nephews.

Denver is a confusing team. I kept thinking I would figure out the Broncos. Never really happened. The defense has been good all year, but the offense is highly inconsistent. In their eight wins Denver averages more than 25 points per game. In six losses the team averages 12 points per game and hasn’t scored 20 points in any of the contests. The tough thing is trying to figure out what makes them work and not work. Quarterback Kyle Orton has been up and down in wins and losses. Same for rookie runner Knowshon Moreno. Turnovers haven’t been an overwhelming problem. It just seems like in some games there are costly mistakes. How the heck do you plan for that?

Orton was the starter for Chicago last year and led the Bears to a win over us. I’m sure that gives him some confidence. He made some terrific throws in that game. His numbers look good this year (rating is just under 90), but the low point totals in the losses tell you that there are problems. Last week Orton was only 19 of 34 in the loss to Oakland. The Broncos struggled in the red zone and only scored one touchdown all game long. That kept the Raiders in the game and they won with a late score. Had Denver been better than 1-of-4 in the red zone they probably win that game. Going just 4-of-15 on third downs also hurt them a great deal.

The passing attack goes through Brandon Marshall. He has 93 catches. Eddie Royal is next with 37, but he's reportedly going to miss the game. That means Jabar Gaffney and Brandon Stokely should get more PT. It doesn't mean they'll get many passes. Marshall is just as likely to get more touches. One oddball thing caught my attention in checking out the numbers. Marshall had his three highest yardage totals all in losses. Maybe extra yards for him is a good thing for us. The biggest test for us in regard to Marshall isn't coverage, but rather tackling him. He only averages 11.6 ypc. A lot of short throws come his way. We must stop him to limit RAC yards.

I'm curious to see what we do in regard to TE. Daniel Graham is the starter, but Tony Scheffler is the better receiver. I'm sure we'll aim our coverages toward Scheffler. That could mean that Graham has a chance to catch a pass or two in certain situations.

I think the matchup at the LOS favors us. Trent Cole vs Ryan Clady is going to be a fun matchup to watch. Both guys are outstanding players. I think we can get some work done against the RT, rookie Tyler Polumbus. I've seen him get bullrushed in a couple of games. Juqua Parker can be a solid bull rusher. So can Jason Babin. The best fit would be Victor Abiamiri. He’s played very little defensive end in the last couple of months. Abiamiri has the strength and power to drive Polumbus right back into Orton. Will Abiamiri get reps at left end?

As for DT, something occurred to me the other day. Trevor Laws has sat out the last couple of games. The run defense in those games hasn't been good. Clearly Trevor isn't a great run defender, but I wonder if the few snaps he plays help to rest our starters and that makes a difference. Could be just that we've faced good running backs and that is the key to the last 2 weeks. It will be interesting to see if Trevor plays and if that has any affect. I do think Bunk and Patt should control the middle in this game. I'll be disappointed if they stay blocked.

As far as our offense against their defense...I know a lot of people are focused on the Broncos bad ranking in run defense (22nd). That stat is somewhat misleading. They don't give up four or five yards on every run. The Broncos stop the run pretty well most of the time. They do get burned by big plays. Last week Oakland ran for 241 yards. You have to break that down to really understand it. 173 of those yards came on just eight carries. The other 26 runs averaged less than three yards per attempt. Big plays can be had, but you must live with the short gains in order to get to the big plays. That isn't always something that Marty and Big Red are willing to do. Let's hope we have some early success or a big run or two in order to keep the ground game going throughout the game.

I think the key runner will be Leonard Weaver. Last week Michael Bush burned Denver with some good upfield runs. Weaver isn’t as gifted or as big as Bush, but has a downhill running style and good burst. I think quick hitting running plays with Weaver could have some success.

Westy will play on Sunday. He's returning as a role player, not the key offensive weapon. I'm sure Reid and Marty will come up with some smart ways to get Brian involved. Something tells me he'll get at least one screen pass his way. I'd love to see us use him on a wheel route against any Denver LB not named D.J. Williams.

We all know that the Eagles running game isn't just standard tailback runs. Our WRs have 12 carries on the season. We also have had good success with Mike Vick recently. He got hurt early vs SF and left the game. He's not a lock to play Sunday. If he sits out, maybe we use some of his plays with Westy as the QB. We did that vs the Saints and had some success.

I think our vertical passing attack will be important. Denver has some talented veteran DBs, but they don't run as well as they used to. They have some young guys with speed, but those players lack experience. I think the best way to test the secondary is by stretching it wide and deep and making the guys cover a lot of ground. Throwing short lets them cover tightly and come up and whack the receivers.

This is a good game to get back Jeremy Maclin. His deep speed is a good fit for the Broncos. We've just missed on deep balls the last two weeks to Reggie Brown, who was playing Maclin's spot. Denver can roll coverage to DeSean's side, but with Maclin on the field that evens out the situation a bit more.

Let's talk about Dawk for a second. He will be fired up and raring to go. That could work against him early on. Might this be the week we bring back the Flea Flicker? Or go play-action and see if he'll bite up on a simple fake. Or just run a double move right at him and see if you can get him to bite. I'm not here to rip our former hero, but it would be dishonest to act as if he didn't have some holes in his game. Dawk does not have the wheels to run with DeSean (not many Safeties do). That is a matchup we want. I'm sure Marty and Andy will have some plays designed for DJax to face Dawk. Mike Nolan knows this and will have some counter-measures in place. Will Denver play Dawk more like a SS because of that? Will they have him play really deep? Dawk can be a terrific centerfielder, but you hate putting him 15 yards off the ball because he's so good in the box. We all love Dawk, but I hope he is miserable for 3 hours on Sunday.

Our OL should win the matchup with the Broncos front. Jason Peters has the toughest test. He'll be charged with blocking LB Elvis Dumervil, who leads the NFL with 15 sacks. That is almost half of the team's total. No other player has more than 4. I think we can get push in the run game. Jamaal Jackson should be able to block NT Ronnie Fields.

We got a lucky break from the schedule makers. Last week we played San Francisco. They run a 3-4 defense. Mike Singletary is now the head coach, but he took over last year at midseason for Nolan. Both teams run the same scheme and both units were at least partially built by the same guy. That doesn’t mean we’ll know exactly what Denver is doing because we just faced the Niners, but playing them back to back sure can’t hurt. At this time of the season you’re looking for any advantage you can get.

Do you remember what happened last year in the next-to-last game? WAS beat us with great D, 10-3. The offense is playing better now. I would be shocked to see us play a game like that right now. Still, we were hot last year going into that game. None of us saw that game coming. You never know what will happen. This team does seem different. We've handled adversity a lot better than in the past couple of years. We have yet to see the team put up a complete showing. This game would be an okay time to do that.
_

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve Football Talk

16 comments
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There is some talk about whether the return of Brian Westbrook is a good thing. This question sounds ridiculous, but it actually has merit. One of the keys to a winning streak is chemistry. Players get into a groove. Add in the fact we're 7-1 in games without Westy and I think you can say the subject is worthy of discussion.

At this point we've established that our running game is highly situational. LeSean is the I-formation back and base offense runner. He gets the bulk of the screens. He plays in most of the shotgun sets. Weaver plays in most of the 1-back sets. He is generally the short yardage runner. He's good in pass pro. Also factor in Mike Vick. He is the QB in many short yardage and GL sets.

Here comes Westy. Good thing? I think it's okay. This isn't Brian Westbrook, key to the Eagles offense. This is Brian Westbrook, role player. He will get mixed into the equation. He's still a gifted player. He can block and catch. That's a good skill set for 10-12 plays. Westy can also play in the slot or out wide in some pass sets.

It will be interesting to see who sits. Eldra Buckley is a good STer. We don't need him on offense per se, but can we take him off the coverage units? We'll see what happens on Sunday.

There have been some reports that Brian may retire after this year. Someone asked me why he'd come back this year if he was going to retire in a few months. I have no inside info on Westy's future. I could see him coming back or hanging up the cleats. If he does decide to call it quits then I can easily understand coming back this year. He's only got a couple of regular season games left. We're in the postseason. Brian wants a SB, not some stats or personal glory. Playing in 2 to 6 games is a risk, but not an unreasonable one. Coming back next year means camps, Training Camp, preseason games, and 16 regular season games just to get back to this point. That is a lot more of a risk.

Brian is a proud veteran. He wants to play in these huge games if possible. He's now lucky that the offense doesn't run through him. He can just be a cog in the machine. That takes physical and mental pressure off him and lets him just play. Let's say we go to the SB the long way. That would be 6 games. Maybe Brian is important and plays 20 snaps per game. That is 120 plays. Normally that would be about 9 quarters for him, not 24.

I think Westy can make a couple of key plays for us. He's still the master of the screen play. There is some other importance to him playing. We could get a preview of next year, if he does return. The days of Westy being "the guy" are done, no matter what. Let's see if he can thrive in a rotation or if that just isn't a good fit for him any more. It was great in 2003, but a lot has changed since then.


DENVER

I'll post thoughts on the Broncos tomorrow. This is another quality test for us. We're playing a good, but not great team. We don't know them at all. We've had good luck with them in Philly in past years. We shut out Elway in '92. We whipped them in '95 on Sunday night. Rodney Peete looked like Joe Montana in that game. We lost at Denver badly in 1998 and 2005. That might have been TO's final game as an Eagle. What a jackass.


DAWK

It will feel very weird going up against him. Still, we beat Reggie when he was a Packer in '93. Victor Bailey caught a big pass to set up the win. We beat Seth and Clyde in the first meeting of '94. We swept TO in 2006. We beat Hank Fraley last year. I think we can handle Dawk.

I've never cheered against Brian Dawkins. This is going to be weird. I love the guy, but I hope we run by him time after time. He's a hero til Saturday and then again on Monday, but Sunday he's the enemy. I want to make his life miserable for 3 hours. I'd prefer that misery come from losing to us, but he could always rent Pearl Harbor and get the same effect.

Dawk isn't fast anymore. We need to make him run. DeSean better have his head on a swivel. Dawk will try to lay him out. Most of Dawk's big hits in space come on bigger, slower receivers (Amani Toomer) or they come vs TEs (Alge Crumpler). His big hits in the box are on RBs and QBs. He will drill our RBs as they go to the ground.


MISSING OUT ON MORENO

I was furious with DEN for stealing Knowshon from us. Jeremy Maclin looks like a pretty good player so I guess I can forgive them. And we did do well with Shady. Moreno is going to be a real good player. Their offense is a work in progress.

I freely admit that in 2008 the WR/RS I coveted was Eddie Royal. I was very upset when Denver took him. Settling for DeSean Jackson was okay, but Royal was my guy. Oops. Please, o great football gods, let Shady vs Moreno turn out the same way next year. Please.


NYG or DAL?

I'd rather not face either team in the playoffs. I don't fear either one, but I hate playing teams that you know like that. I'd rather deal with someone that we're less familiar with.

Obviously the goal is to steal the #2 seed from MIN. If we do that, I'm not going to worry about who we play. Teams with the bye generally do very well. That wasn't the case last year, but I'll gladly take my chances.

I really don't worry too much about who we'll have to play. This is the playoffs. If you're going to win the SB you're going to have to beat good teams along the way. It would be great to see a tough team get upset to make our path a bit easier, but there aren't really any gimmes in the postseason.


WAS, DAL OWNERS

Jerry J. and Dan Snyder are a big part of the problems for each of their teams. I wrote about Jerry last October when he made the Roy Williams deal. Here are some clips from that post:

I think Jerry Jones erred in making the deal (for Roy Williams). The Cowboys had enough talent to win the Super Bowl without Roy. They had enough talent last year. Pure talent hasn't been an issue recently. What the Cowboys lack is intestinal fortitude.

When I initially heard about the Cowboys injury situation I was happy. You never want players to be hurt, but as an Eagles fan it gets frustrating at times when our guys constantly seem to go down and our rivals stay healthy. Then I started thinking about the situation.

Suddenly Dallas was faced with adversity at midseason. This wasn't a curse for them, it was a blessing. They would run the ball more to protect Brad Johnson. The OL would become dominant. They could mix in rookie Tashard Choice as a backup to Barber. Being more conservative on offense would put pressure on the defense and give them a chance to develop an edge. In short, they could find the formula for winning in the postseason. The Cowboys would be ready for January football.

And then Jerry Jones went and blew it by trading for Roy Williams. The move makes Dallas more explosive now. The move gives them a #1 type of WR for the future. I mean, TO does have to retire at some point...right? This wasn't a dumb move by Jerry Jones. It just wasn't the right move to bring the Cowboys a Super Bowl.

Jerry knows how to build a Pro Bowl team. We still don't know if he knows how to build a Super Bowl team. Jimmy gets credit for the 1992-1995 teams. Parcells then put together the nucleus of the current group.

My bet is that the Cowboys don't make it to the Super Bowl, let alone win it. They won't lack talent. They simply won't be able to overcome some other team that has a bit more junkyard dog than the 'Boys. Toughness can outdo talent in the postseason.


Jerry has been better this year, but the Cowboys are still too much of a circus for my taste. That team needs a football guy to run things and bring a sense of order to the organization. Jerry is his own worst enemy.

As for Dan...he's a worse version of Jerry. Dan just buys players and coaches. He can't understand that this isn't like putting together a chess set. Football players aren't interchangeable. Personalities are critical. You need some chemistry, either between the players or between the players and the coach. The Niners were pretty harmonious under Bill Walsh. They won. The Giants were highly dysfunctional under Bill Parcells. They won. People think the Gatorade bath was a fun thing. It started when a Giant player was mad at Tuna and did it to say "Screw you coach, we won the game after all". It quickly evolved into a good thing. The Cowboys players feared Jimmy Johnson. They won.

Dan might be great in baseball or the NBA where a couple of stars can carry a franchise. The NFL is all about teams. The way you build a good team is to hire the right guy and let him do his job. WAS hasn't had that since Bobby Beathard left 20 or so years ago. Shanahan would help, but he had problems building a team in DEN after the greatness of 1997-98. Sure, he gets credit for that, but having John Elway already there was the real key. John is the greatest QB I've ever seen. Inheriting one of the greatest players in NFL history isn't something that will happen if Shanny goes to WAS.


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone.
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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Know Your Enemy - DEN

6 comments
***

The Broncos started off 6-0. They were the toast of the NFL. Coach Josh McDaniels was a genius. QB Kyle Orton was doing his best Tom Brady impression. The defense was playing lights out. Elvis Dumervil was averaging more than a sack a game. It was darn near impossible to score on Denver in the 2nd half. Life was good. And then the clock struck midnight.

Denver has gone 2-6 since then. McDaniels is just another young coach. Orton is back to being Kyle Orton. The defense has holes. Dumervil is playing well, but he's clearly mortal. And the defense isn't stopping people in the 4th Qtr. Life ain't so good.

This isn't exactly the Titanic. This is more like the USS Yorktown after the first wave of Japanese attacks at Midway. The ship is hurting, but might make it. Our job is to now be the next wave of planes from the Hiryu that goes in to finish off the Yorktown, I mean Broncos.

The Broncos offense is relatively balanced run/pass. Rookie Knowshon Moreno is the feature back. He does have 879 yards, but only averages 3.9 per carry. Correll Buckhalter is having a good year as part of the rotation, but has battled some injuries. The passing attack feeds the ball to Brandon Marshall. He's got 93 catches. The next 3 guys in terms of receptions (WR, WR, TE) have 100 combined. Marshall has 10 TDs. The rest of the team has 7 TD catches. That part of the offense is unbalanced. The OL has one star, LT Ryan Clady. He's big and athletic. Very talented player. The other guys are all workman-like blockers.

The passing game is somewhat ball control. They're 17th in the league in pass plays of 25 or more yards. I know several of them have come due to short passes and long RAC gains. They are 13th in the league in RAC yards. The Broncos have some guys with speed and athleticism, but you don't regularly see them attacking on offense. Denver is 17th in yards and 20th in scoring. They have Red Zone problems. Maybe they need to trade for Mike Vick in March.

The defense uses a 3-4 scheme. Mike Nolan is the DC and he's good. Denver is 3rd in fewest yards allowed. They're tied for 6th in fewest points. They are only 22nd in run defense, though. Despite a ton of change this unit is playing well.

None of the DL are impact players. NT Ronnie Fields is probably the key guy. He has to have some control of the middle for the edge attacks and creative blitzes to work. The LB unit has some players. The force off the edge is Elvis Dumervil. He leads the NFL with 15 sacks. Check out this stat. Dumervil only has 0.5 TFLs on the year. He's not making plays in the backfield, but he is getting to the QB. Weird. Does that mean he gets a bunch of coverage sacks? I haven't watched a ton of Denver in the last month or so. The other star LB is DJ Williams. He plays on the inside. DJ leads the team in tackles. He also has 3.5 sacks, 4 TFLs, 7 PDs, and 3 FFs. He can get to the ball or make plays. The secondary is led by CB Champ Bailey. He's still one of the best in the business. Champ can cover, hit, tackle, and play the run. The addition of Dawk at FS has been very important. He gives them a good player in the middle of the field and a high character leader.

Couple of quick numbers. They are 4-3 on the road. They are 2-1 vs NFC East. No Denver team has ever beaten the combination of Donovan McNabb, Joe Mays, and Dimitri Patterson. Denver is on a 2-game losing streak since beating the Giants on Thanksgiving night. I'll leave it up to you to figure which trend is most important.


PLAYERS

QB KYLE ORTON - Too good to be "average". Too inconsistent to be "good". When he's on, Kyle is very effective. He beat us last year as QB of the Bears. Orton can be deadly accurate at times. He puts good touch on his throws.

RB KNOWSHON MORENO - Energetic rookie. Runs with a lot of emotion. Has a good burst. Should develop into a very good runner as he gets experience. Won't go down on first contact, but he's a big step down from Frank Gore. Has 22 catches on the year, but only averages 7 yards per reception.

TEs - Daniel Graham is the blocker, but also has 22 catches. Tony Scheffler is the tall, athletic receiver. He's got 30 grabs and 2 TDs. Scheffler is a good downfield receiver. He also has good RAC skills.

WRs - Eddie Royal exploded on the scene last year, but his production is way off. Last year he caught 91 passes. He's only got 37 this year. Eddie runs good routes. Has plenty of speed. I don't know if he's the problem or it is Orton or the coaches. Royal only averages 9.3 yards a catch. Crazy. Brandon Stokely is the slot guy that doesn't get used much. Only 24 passes have come his way. He is a tough, clutch receiver. He's only got 14 catches, but 3 went for TDs.

OL - Clady is the stud. Russ Hochstein is the LG. He came over from the Pats. Casey Wiegmann is the C. He is best known from his days with the Chiefs. The last time he missed a start Bobby Bowden was considered the best coach in college football and Duce Staley was our best playmaker. Chris Kuper is the RG. Tough, tenacious, overachiever type. Rookie Tyler Polumbus is the RT for now. He has okay feet, but is light in the saddle. He can be bullrushed and pushed around. He has 6 starts on the year and he's allowed 5 sacks.

DL - Kenny Peterson is the RDE. He's got 1 sack and 2.5 TFLs. He does have 37 tackles. Vonnie Holliday is a backup, but has 4 sacks, 2 TFLs and 2 FFs. He still has talent. Ryan McBean is the other starter. None of these guys is a big time playmaker. The 3-4 calls for DL to do the dirty work while the LBs get all the glory.

LB - Mario Haggan is the SAM. He was a STs demon for Buffalo in the past. He is tough and physical. He plays the run well. Lacks the burst off the edge to be a good pass rusher. He does have 8 TFLs. Dumervil is the pass rusher from the weakside. The ILBs are Williams and Andra Davis. Andra is a good tackler and run defender, but isn't strong in coverage. He is an effective blitzer (3.5 sacks, 8 TFLs). Top backups are Wesley Woodyard and Robert Ayers. Woodyard is a high motor type. Ayers is a talented rookie adjusting to LB.

S BRIAN DAWKINS - I haven't had a chance to closely watch our old friend each week, but he's pretty much the same old Dawk. Very good around the LOS. Good centerfielder. Occasionally struggles in coverage. Doesn't run the way he used to. I've seen him miss a couple of tackles. He had an easy shot at Michael Bush last week, but basically whiffed and that turned into about a 23-yard TD. I wanted Sean Jones to emulate Dawk, not the other way around. Dawk is 2nd in tackles. He got a couple of picks recently, both on tipped balls. He's having a solid season for the Broncos.

CB - Bailey is the star. Andre Goodman is the other starter. He leads the team in INTs and PDs. Goodman is a quality player. Rookie Tony Carter was the #3 guy last week and played okay. Granted he wasn't facing a daunting passing attack, but Carter held his own. For the season Denver CBs have a total of 6 INTs. They don't get beat a lot, but don't make a ton of plays. I remember those days.


STs - Mitch Berger was an Eagles draft pick in 1994...under Rich Kotite. Do punters last forever or what? Berger is having an okay year. Matt Prater is a solid PK. Eddie Royal and rookie Kenny McKinley have split time at RS. Royal is the more dangerous player.



Some Links of interest:

DEN stats


DEN depth chart


Last gamebook
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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

New Column Posted

17 comments
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I wrote about the OL this week.

--LINK--


As much as we love the skill players, the Big Sexies up front are just as important. They have a lot to do with the 5-game winning streak.

I remember back in late October on of the ESPN jackasses saying that our OL problems were going to be a factor all year. Essentially he said "there's nothing they can do about it". Ha freaking ha.

OL is one of those areas you can improve if you have good coaching and some depth. The Eagles have both. Look at WAS from last night. They had a bunch of old guys on the line. Mike Williams? Is that really a guy you want on the field? WAS keeps playing these older re-treads and it keeps them from developing young players. I know they've been badly hurt by injuries, but the point is that they choose bad replacements. Go sign guys from Practice Squads. Levi Jones? Sure, he can be an effective band-aid. Giving him this PT won't help you in the future. 2009 is a lost season. You need to develop guys for 2010 and beyond. Jones and Williams should not be guys on the field at this point.

We signed Stacy Andrews as a FA, but had Nick Cole and MJG already in place. We have young guys like King Dunlap and Mike McGlynn ready to fill in if needed. We had Justice in place if anything happened to Shawn Andrews.

Things were rough at the beginning of the year when we were shuffling players around. That caused problems. We didn't lack talent. We simply needed to get healthy and figure out which 5 guys to play. Normally that happens at Lehigh, but injuries pushed that into the season. By mid-November we had our answers and the OL is now playing lights out. Let's hope the boys stay healthy for the postseason.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Game Review is Posted - SF

13 comments
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Not the most exciting game to re-watch, but a good, solid mid-December win.

--LINK--


The Vikings loss last night really helped us. We can earn the #2 seed in the NFC if we win out and MIN loses once more. They play at CHI and then host the Giants. I'm sure the Vikings will be favored in both games. Still, there is some weird stuff going on with them. Last night Childress tried to bench Favre, but Brett wouldn't leave the game. And Brett hasn't been Mr. December in the last 4 or 5 years. At least we have hope. Getting a bye was a crazy longshot 3 weeks ago. Now it is an attainable goal.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Solid Win Over SF

15 comments
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I'm just getting ready to start on the Review, but figured I would post some initial thoughts. The win wasn't pretty. The overall team played pretty well, but Donovan McNabb had an off day. He wasn't awful or anything like that, but he didn't have his A-game. There were two main problems that I could see. McNabb forced the ball to DeSean. Donovan threw to him 10 times. The other WRs had 11 combined throws come their way. I have no problem with DJax being our primary target, but a few of those throws were really forced. Both of the INTs were passes to DJax that Donovan had no business throwing. The other problem was happy feet. McNabb would drop back and his feet were going up and down in a hurried fashion. He wasn't relaxed in the pocket. The blocking was fine, but McNabb was just anxious for some reason.

The good news is that he played well enough for us to move the ball and score points. Donnie was 21-36-306. He had 1 TD, 2 INTs. He also ran for a TD. That was huge. RZ execution was critical. He saw an opening to the left side and took off for an 8-yard score.

DeSean did have another big game. He caught 6 passes for 140 yards and a TD. He's now over 1,000 yards for the year. He added another 50 yard pass play. Brent Celek also had a good day for us. Kevin Curtis was real rusty.

The offense gained 422 yards. We were 6 of 14 on 3rd downs and 3 of 5 in the RZ. I was happy with our running game. Weaver and McCoy combined for 26-100. LeSean had a TD. Those numbers weren't helped by long plays. Our best run was just 9 yards.

The defense had a strong bounce-back effort from last week. We held SF to 261 yards and 13 points. They were 0 for 11 on 3rd downs. We had 3 sacks and came up with 4 takeaways. Maybe most important was the fact that we tackled well. SF receivers got very few RAC yards. The Niners only had one drive that covered more than 50 yards and more than half of that drive came due to penalty yards. That wasn't great Eagles defense, but it was good.

Trent Cole came up with 2 sacks. Asante had a pretty good day as a tackler. He also picked off a pass. Sheldon was terrific in coverage. He broke up 3 passes. He also forced a key fumble that saved us at least 3 points.

I know Andy's decision to go for it on 4th down will be a hot topic. I thought it was a bad idea before the snap and an even worse idea after we were stopped. The only thing I can guess is that Reid sensed the need to get something going. The team certainly wasn't flat, but there was an odd vibe to the game. The stadium wasn't full due to the weather. We only had a 7-3 lead at the time. It felt like Reid was trying to give a boost to the team. That play might have failed, but the thinking behind it might have worked. We scored on 3 of the next 4 drives. I didn't like the decision. I'm not trying to defend it. I just want to understand what Big Red was thinking and how the decision fits into the overall game.

We've now won 5 games in a row and we're 10-4. We remain on top of the NFC East. For some reason that makes me want to constantly check the NFL standings. We did clinch a playoff spot (8th time in 11 years). That's great. We still have work to do. MIN is losing to CAR as I type this. That keeps us in the hunt for the #2 seed in the NFC. That would be awesome to get. A week's rest can be huge in the playoffs.

We might get Westy back next week. We are another week close to Maclin returning. I haven't read anything about Vick yet. Akeem Jordan played pretty well. Kevin Curtis got back on the field. We're not in great health, but there is some reason for optimism.

10-4. 1st place in the division. Playoff bound. Not too shabby.

-gamebook-
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Quick Update

72 comments
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PE.com column is posted.

--LINK--


Here are my keys to the game:

Ball security – San Francisco is very good at forcing fumbles. Safety Dashon Goldson loves to put his helmet right on the ball. LeSean McCoy has a loose style of carrying the ball. He tightens up in traffic, but he needs to be extra careful this week. Donovan McNabb also needs to be careful in the pocket.

Kick protection – Last year the Niners blocked a field goal and ran it back for a score in the game against us. That play had a huge impact on the game. Last week, we allowed the Giants to block an extra point. We managed to win both times, but that will catch up to us eventually. Ted Daisher needs to have his blockers tighten things up.

Double Davis in the red zone – Vernon Davis has 11 touchdown catches on the year. The rest of the team has nine. Most of his scores come in the red zone. If San Francisco gets down in that area, we must double Davis and take him away. Make quarterback Alex Smith find someone else to throw to.

Keep running – The Niners are fifth in the league in run defense. They have a good nose tackle in Aubrayo Franklin that clogs the middle and they have a pair of outstanding inside linebackers in Takeo Spikes and All-Pro Patrick Willis. We must stick with the run even if it isn't working great. I think Leonard Weaver could be effective with his quick hitters. Our best hope with McCoy is to run him from the three-receiver set. The key blocker is center Jamaal Jackson. If he can block the nose tackle, we might have some success.

Tackling – This has already been covered all week, but it is true. We must tackle better. We need to make the Niners earn every yard. They lack explosive weapons. Let them throw the ball short, but come up and make the stop. Do this and they'll have a long day.

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Gameday - SF

6 comments
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SalPal just made his first relevant point in probably a decade. The fact that kickoff is pushed back to 4:15 helps SF. They are a West Coast team. They are used to playing 4pm games. One of the reasons that those teams struggle when coming east is having to deal with a kickoff that comes at 10am based on their body clocks.

The weather could hurt their passing game. Alex Smith doesn't exactly have a cannon for an arm. It is supposed to be windy. You can bet we'll focus on short/intermediate routes. Donovan has a good enough arm to throw in any conditions. We have the better running game (statistically), but they have the better RB. It will be interesting to see which team can have more success on the ground.

***

Today's game feels a bit like the recent matchups with CHI and WAS. We needed comebacks to win each game. The problem in CHI was turnovers (2 fumbles, 1 INT). In WAS we were only 1 of 4 in the Red Zone.

We've gotten better in the RZ recently. We're running more and Mike Vick has hit his stride in our RZ packages. The problem has never been moving the ball. Scoring TDs was the hurdle. Now that situation seems much better.

We don't turn the ball over with great regularity. When we do, we struggle. That killed us in the loss to the Saints. I think people may forget that because of the 48 points allowed. 7 came on a long defensive TD. 14 points came on a short field due to turnovers.

If we can limit turnovers and convert in the RZ we could deliver a blowout win today. The offense is starting to really click. The defense will be fired up after last week. I'm very curious to see how the guys will play. For some reason I'm thinking of the GB game from 2004. They came to The Linc and we beat the crap out of them. That was a December game that followed some close wins. We piled up almost 600 yards of offense and 47 points. With the weather I don't see anything quite like that happening, but I can see us winning big if we play a complete game.

***

DRAFT TALK

I think LDE and CB are the two priority positions. We need a pass rusher to play opposite of Trent Cole. We need a CB for the future. Sheldon is playing well, but he's getting up there in age. Jack Ikegwuonu didn't pan out. Joselio Hanson is purely a slot guy.

I know many people think we need a FS. I have mixed feelings. I still have hopes for Macho Harris and Quintin Demps. I'm fine with adding another player, but only if the guy is a clear upgrade on those two. Eric Berry will be a Top 10 pick. I don't think we have much of a chance to get him. He would be ideal. Taylor Mays has the size and speed, but he's not an instinctive playmaker. There are other guys, but no one that feels like a "sure thing". I do like ECU's Van Eskridge quite a bit.

We could address DE or FS via trade or free agency. CB really should be a draft target. We're looking for a young guy to develop.

The problem with DE is that you are hit and miss with those guys offering immediate impact. Trent Cole had 4 sacks as a rookie, but they came in a couple of games. Jerome McDougle never developed. Derrick Burgess played his best football for us as a rookie. We've also seen that FA can be tricky with DE. The situation will be decided as the Eagles see who the prospects are in each area. The draft looks pretty good. I'm not sure about FA because of the CBA situation and not knowing who will actually be available.

I'll get into specific targets down the road. I'm still studying tape and trying to figure out who I like.
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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Strategy and Matchups - SF

13 comments
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Sorry for the late post. Christmas shopping and bad weather made for a long Friday. On to the good stuff.

SF has one major disadvantage in this game and that is being a road team coming off a Monday night game. I don't have the stats in front of me, but over the last decade those teams have really struggled. Add in the fact that SF won an emotional game over the division rival Cardinals and it could be tough for the Niners to have their A-game.

I'm sure some might argue that the Eagles could be flat coming off the big win over the Giants. We're normally at our best in December and with this being a home game I think the team will be ready to play.

Let's start with our defense. They didn't play well last week. SF is an interesting opponent. Their offense is built on short throws and running Frank Gore. Tackling will be crucial in this game. If we limit their RAC yards it will significantly hinder their offense. Gore and WR Michael Crabtree are very talented, but neither is a speed demon. TE Vern Davis is the most explosive offensive player. SF likes to be methodical and move the chains. They don't throw downfield that well. Taking away RAC yards is crucial.

Last week we were in good position to make plays. The problem was that the initial tackler missed. The backup tackler missed on several plays. A third tackler even missed a few times. I will be shocked if our guys come out and repeat that performance. Tackling became a focal point in practice this week. The coaches really got on the players. It seemed like last week we tried to strip the ball a lot. I'm sure players were told to focus on making the tackle first and then going for the strip. Turnovers are hugely important, but not at the expense of actually making the tackle.

RB Frank Gore ran 19 times for 101 yards last year when we played SF. He was really hard for us to stop. Gore pushed the pile for extra yards several times. Frank is the most physical runner in the NFL. This is exactly the kind of challenge we need. Our goal is to win Sunday, but also get ready for the playoffs. We need to be tested. I think our defense will step up. We have a proud, veteran defense that will want to show that Sunday night's performance was the low point and we're now on the way back up.

Frank loves to hit seams up the middle on quick run plays. We must get off blocks up front and control gaps. LG David Baas pulled quite a bit last week vs ARZ. The Giants had their LG Seubert pull on us. Both were very effective. That can't happen again. We must attack blockers. Gore is a N-S guy. Make him run E-W and he's not nearly as effective.

LB play wasn't good last week. That must change. Rookie Moise Fokou will play a lot at SAM. Chris Gocong has had a quiet year, but also Fokou is a better matchup for Vern Davis in the passing game. Trot and Jordan will split time at MIKE. Spoon is the other guy. These guys must be in the right gaps on run plays and they must either stop Gore or at least slow him down so the second defender can get there to finish the tackle. You can bet SF will try to get Davis matched up on Trot going down the seam if possible.

The Giants won the LOS last week. Our DL had some good moments, but not enough obviously. SF has a solid interior trio of blockers, but Patt and Bunk should hold their own vs those guys. Trent will be dealing with Joe Staley at less than full strength. That should be a big advantage for us. Cole hasn't had a sack in the last 2 games, his longest such streak of the year. It can be tough to get to Alex Smith. He tends to throw the ball quickly. Last week he used the snap count to get ARZ offside several times and that slowed their pass rush. Our guys need to watch the ball. Don't want to give SF 5 free yards.

The secondary is also looking for a bounce-back game. SF doesn't have great receivers. Crabtree is the best. He can catch the ball in traffic, but also runs good routes and knows how to get open. He and Josh Morgan both have good size. I'm sure Vern Davis will get some DB coverage on a few plays. Smith is inconsistent on intermediate and vertical passes. He will also force the ball into coverage. We play the ball pretty well and should have some opportunities for picks or at least PBUs. Tackling is critical. Get 'em down or at least really slow 'em down. Hopefully Hanson will play better now that he's knocked the rust off. Sean and Q must have a strong game in run support.

I like the matchup of our offense and their defense. SF is really strong in the middle of the field. They have a good NT. They have good ILBs. Their Safeties come up and hit/tackle well. I think our ability to stretch the defense deep and wide will hurt them. SF doesn't have great speed on D. Willis is one of the fastest LBs in the league, but the other players are more physical than fast.

DeSean Jackson will be huge in this game whether he catches 1 pass or 8. We need him running vertically to push the Safeties back. That opens the middle for Celek, Brown, Avant, and Kevin Curtis. SF was able to stifle ARZ because the Cards threw short and intermediate passes. They didn't stretch the D.

As long as we protect McNabb and he is on target I think we'll be able to move the ball. Scoring in the red zone will be tough. DeSean's speed doesn't have the same effect. Hopefully we'll continue to see creative playcalling and Mike Vick will be effective in our GL running package.

Running the ball will be tough. SF is 5th in run defense and only allows 3.7 ypc. We need to have some success so that Big Red and Marty will stick with it. Last week ARZ had some good runs with quick hitters off the edge to Beanie Wells. Those plays looked similar to our runs with Leonard Weaver. Give the ball to #43, please. Good things seem to happen. I think it would be wise to run McCoy a lot from the 3-WR set. That forces SF out of their base defense. One thing that scares us all is the way Shady holds the ball. He swings it wildly as he runs. He does try to cover it up when defenders close in, but it never looks completely safe to me. SF has 4 players with 3 FFs. They can hit. You can bet that hitting McCoy's arms will be a big part of their gameplan. If Jamaal Jackson can single block the NT Franklin then we could have some success running against their base D.

We should be able to handle the Niners pass rush for the most part. Justin Smith, Haralson, and Lawson are good rushers, but are a notch below Tuck, Kiwi, and Osi, who we just handled. Brooks will come in on 3rd downs and give Peters a tough time. Ahmad had 3 sacks last week. Their LB and DB blitzes are a concern. Spikes and Willis are excellent downhill attackers. They will test McCoy's blitz pickup skills.

SF has pretty good STs. P Andy Lee is a weapon in terms of field position. Because we can be a big play offense that isn't a huge a concern for us as some teams. We do need to block well on FGs and PATs. Ray McDonald is very good at getting upfield quickly and blocking kicks. SF blocked a FG last year and ran it back for a TD against us. Can't have that. Maybe last week's blocked PAT will be a good thing. Ted Daisher needs to get after his guys to tighten things up. Quintin Demps will be the KOR. He had a good return last week and did a terrific job all last year. He'll give us good speed. Maybe some success on KORs will help him to play better on D.

I expect a tough game from SF. They almost beat the Colts. They had MIN beat, but Dre Bly dropped a pick and then Favre pulled off the miracle. Both those games were on the road. SF is tough. I do think our speed and playmaking ability gives us the advantage.
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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Know Your Enemy - SF

13 comments
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The Niners are 6-7 with hopes of still winning their division or getting a Wildcard berth. They have been up and down all year long. They started off 3-1, but 2 of the wins were SEA and STL, a couple of bad teams. SF then got to the heart of their schedule and things got rough. They lost 4 games in a row. Since then they have righted the ship and gone 3-2.

SF is tough on defense. They're only 18th in yards allowed, but all the way up at 8th in points allowed. SF runs a 3-4 scheme. The heart of the D is a dynamic duo of ILBs, Takeo Spikes and All-Pro Patrick Willis. Spikes is the wrecking ball that does a lot of the dirty work. Willis is the star playmaker. The Niners aren't huge or fast. They are tough.

The offense is odd. SF started the year as a power running team with Shaun Hill at QB. That changed near midseason. WR Michael Crabtree removed his head from his butt and signed with the team. They made Alex Smith the QB. Since then SF has become a passing team. They are 3rd in the NFL in terms of pass/run ratio. Can you imagine a team not having good offensive balance? How embarrassing...

Smith has played well since getting his old job back. SF is more dink and dunk than big plays, but they have the personnel to carry out that kind of attack. And they do like to mix in RB Frank Gore when they can. He ran for more than 160 yards last week in their win over Arizona.

The OL is a work in progress. Injuries have been a major problem. Starting LT Joe Staley missed recent games, but is on the mend. That's good since his replacement, Barry Sims, is now hurt and not likely to play. The interior players are all good run blockers. David Baas, Eric Heitmann, and Chilo Rachal are phone booth guys. Put them in a tight space and they will pound on you and battle you to the echo of the whistle. Baas was very effective at pulling from LG and being the lead blocker on runs to the right side on Monday night.

The offense is 27th in yards and 18th in points. It has been better of late. They have 4 straight games of at least 17 points. The passing game has definitely come to life with Alex Smith as the starter.

PLAYERS

* ALEX SMITH - Talented QB. Most comfortable in the shotgun and making quick reads/throws. Will force the ball into coverage at times. Good accuracy. Downfield throws aren't great. Better on short and intermediate stuff. Has some athletic ability. 15 TDs, 9 INTs. Rating is 83.3.

* FRANK GORE - One of my favorite RBs in the league. For my money, the most physical runner in the NFL. Some guys are bigger. Some are thicker. I don't see anyone break as many tackles as Frank. Rarely goes down to the first defender. Has good burst. At his best on quick hitting plays up the middle. Runs hard. If he has a seam Frank will turn a short run into a good gain. Doesn't have the speed to consistently take those plays all the way, but he does have a couple of long TDs this year. Has 43 receptions on the year.

* VERN DAVIS - Enigmatic TE has finally become a playmaker. Excellent Red Zone weapon - 11 TDs. Good blocker and receiver. Very dangerous when he's got the ball in his hands.

* MICHAEL CRABTREE - The real deal. He can run routes and get open. He has very good hands. He has terrific body control and RAC ability. Lacks top speed, but he's everything you want in a workhorse receiver. Very impressive player considering how much time he missed.

* JOSH MORGAN - Another young WR. Excellent size. 39-418-2. Leads team in WR catches, but Crabtree will probably pass him Sunday. Josh hasn't fared so well in the small-ball attack. Only averaging 7 yards per catch the last 7 games.

* DELANIE WALKER - Athletic, versatile guy. Has the same size as Leonard Weaver. Walker plays TE, H-back, and all over the place on STs. Has 13 catches, 3 runs, can be the KOR, and also is excellent at covering kicks.


* DE JUSTIN SMITH - He impresses me every time I watch SF play. Smith might have a better motor than Trent Cole if you can believe that. He plays as hard as anyone in the league. SF uses him at DE and NT. I think he's played standing up some. I know they did some of that last year. Only has 2.5 sacks, but he can get pressure off the edge.

* NT AUBRAYO FRANKLIN - Who? Exactly. Sits in the middle and quietly does the dirty work. Not monstrously big, but has a thick, powerful build at 6'1, 320. Quick enough that he can make plays in the backfield (5 TFLs). Eats up blocks and lets Spikes and Willis flow to the ball and make plays. Franklin doesn't get a lot of hype, but he has developed into a good NT.

* OLBs - The Niners play several guys. Manny Lawson is having a career year. He's got 5.5 sacks. He's a tall, athletic guy. Good burst. 3 FFs. Parys Haralson is a player I've always liked. He lacks Lawson's big frame and natural ability, but Haralson is an excellent effort player. He's powerful and plays hard. He's only 6'0, but that helps him with leverage on blockers. Ahmad Brooks is a pass rusher off the bench. He had 3 sacks, 2 FFs last week. Very quick off the ball.

* TAKEO SPIKES - Former Eagle signed with SF and has been a perfect running mate for Willis. Spikes is still one of the most physical LBs in the league. He will take on blockers. Not a great playmaker anymore, but does have 3 sacks and 2 TFLs.

* PATRICK WILLIS - The best MLB in football. Complete player. Outstanding tackler. Great range. Covers from sideline to sideline. Hits with power. Good instincts. Also a good pass defender. Only weakness is that he doesn't shed blocks all that well. Run right at him and you've got a chance. Check out his stats: 132 tackles, 4 sacks, 8 TFLs, 3 FFs, 6 PDs, 2 INTs.

* SAFETIES - Former Eagle Michael Lewis is the SS. He's just as we remember him...good hitter and tackler. Very up and down in coverage. Dashon Goldson is the FS. Interesting young player. He's got a lot of potential, but has to eliminate mistakes. Very good hitter. Has 3 FFs this year. Likes to put his helmet right on the ball. Has some coverage ability. Played CB in college. Knows how to play the ball and has 3 INTs on the year. He can be an erratic tackler. Dashon will sometimes try for a big hit and then miss. Mark Roman is the top backup. He's got plenty of experience and is solid off the bench.

* CBs - Shawntae Spencer is an impressive cover guy. He is fast and athletic. Made a real impressive coverage play on Larry Fitzgerald on Monday. Went up high and extended to disrupt a catch attempt. Great timing, athleticism. Tarell Brown is a player that opposing QBs will target. Brown will make them pay occasionally (8 PDs, 2 INTs). Dre Bly leads the team with 10 PDs. He can cover, but his best days are behind him. Nate Clements was the other starter, but has been benched.


STs - P Andy Lee is one of the best in the league. He averages just under 48 yards per punt. Lee does a great job at pinning teams deep. PK Joe Nedney is very good.

The returners have been erratic. PR is the biggest problem. SF leads the league with 7 fumbles on PRs. Ouch.


Stats Links:

* http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/teams/stats?team=sfo
* http://hosted.stats.com/fb/teamstats.asp?teamno=25&type=stats
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EAGLES STUFF

Kevin Curtis will play this week. I haven't heard anything about how he looks in practice. The one concern I heard about was conditioning. Going from rehab to running routes up and down the field is a big jump.

Sean McDermott noted that one reason the Eagles were sloppy on defense last week was that they started going for big plays. I wondered if the strip of Jacobs and subsequent TD had an effect on us. Mikell tried to strip the ball all game long. Either that or he was practicing starting a lawnmower. Hopefully Sean and Big Red will get the guys focused on tackles and not turnovers this week. We always want the ball, but only after the opposing player has been stopped. Going for the strip instead of making a good tackle leads to mistakes and lots of points for the bad guys.
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Random Stuff

10 comments
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Here's my PE.com column. I talked about the importance of winning close games.

--LINK--


ROSTER MOVES

We cut RB P.J. Hill and put him on the Practice Squad. We promoted TE Martin Rucker from the PS to the regular roster. This was done for 2 reasons. The first is that Brent Celek is banged up (thumb, back). The second is that apparently some other teams were sniffing around Rucker. The Eagles must think he could challenge for a roster spot in 2010. Rucker was a gifted, productive pass catching TE at Mizzou. He does fit our pass happy mode.


FINAL GIANTS NOTE

Check out this blurb from Paul Domowitch:

* On their last 8 carries Sunday, Giants running backs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw gained 6 yards. On their first 21 carries, they ran for 109 yards.


Our defense did get their act together late in the game. At least to a certain extent.

-- link --


RE: Darren Sharper

He simply wasn't very good last year in MIN. Darren had 1 INT. He wasn't making plays and he's never been a gifted run defender. Darren has fit in perfectly with the Saints scheme and he's also benefited from playing with the lead most of the year. I'd be willing to bet that most of his picks have come when the Saints were winning and he could focus on the pass.

Darren has been great this year, but I wouldn't count on a repeat performance. This really feels like one of those magical years that veteran players have every now and then.

I would not have been happy had the Eagles signed him in April or whenever. I thought he was done. I was wrong about that. Still, I don't know that he'd have been nearly as good for us as he's been for the Saints. They play a ton of Cover 2 and that is a great fit for him. Also, we haven't had the lead for 75% of the season the way the Saints have.
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Game Review is Posted - NYG

18 comments
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Here it is:

--LINK--


I felt better about the defense after re-watching the game. The defense was sloppy. That can be fixed. We still have some talent.
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Monday, December 14, 2009

Some Monday Thoughts

12 comments
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I'm only about halfway done on the Game Review. I'll post it tonight or first thing tomorrow. Tonight gets complicated because our next opponent, SF, is playing on MNF. I want to see them and get a better feel for what they want to do.


About the defense...it was bad last night. It has been up and down this year. Keep in mind that this is a work in progress. We worked in 2 "new" guys in Hanson and Jordan for the first time in a month. Each had some good moments, but I'm sure the continued shuffling didn't help matters last night. Remember how the OL was struggling at midseason? Then we benched Stacy and made Nick the RG. The starting OL has been terrific ever since.

The DL is in place. The back seven is a different story.

The LBs are all over the place. I think you'll see the primary unit being Gocong-Jordan-Spoon when Akeem is able to fully start and play the whole game. Trot is a stop-gap. We need Akeem on the field. The DBs are adjusting to each other. Q and Sean are the Safeties. Hanson is now back in the slot. Those guys have to work together when covering the middle of the field. I didn't see a lot of Macho last night. Demps did play, as the 3rd Safety I think.

We need the guys in the back seven to get into some kind of a comfort zone because sloppy D will get us killed in the playoffs. It is hard enough to win when you play good D.

The pass rush was a problem last night. Give the Giants a lot of credit for that. Trent Cole normally is good for a few pressures, but they kept him blocked. We do need to cover better and I think we will as the players get in sync. We just need that to happen pretty darn quick.


SOME QUESTIONS

RE: turnovers

Trent's FF was completely legit. He hustled to get Jacobs from the backside and cleanly knocked the ball out. I'm not saying Trent intended to knock it loose, but that ball was forced out. Jacobs didn't just drop it because of wet conditions. The Eli fumble was pure luck. Sometimes you need a little of that.


RE: tackling

We did a terrible job of tackling in this game. It wasn't one guy or one part of the defense. Everyone had a hand in this. Normally we're pretty solid at tackling. We had some issues vs WAS, but did fine vs ATL. I'm not sure what to make of this. It definitely bears watching. Tackling is something that can be corrected. The coaches really need to get on the guys about getting in proper position and then wrapping up their targets cleanly. Too often we had guys reaching for players. The weather could have had something to do with that, but I think our players are at fault more than anything. I think the Giants 3 biggest plays were short passes that turned into long gains because of bad tackling. Can't have that at this time of the year.


RE: LeSean

I thought he ran pretty well last night. He only had 10 carries for 28 yards, but he passed the eyeball test. We got away from giving him the ball because Weaver was so effective and the passing game was so explosive. I'm still fine with LeSean. The fact Andy was feeding him the ball late in the game says a lot.


RE: Asante Samuel

He was brought to Philly to be a playmaker. That's it. He wasn't brought here to be a shutdown corner. He wasn't one in NE. Asante has always been a gambler. He comes up with enough big plays that it makes him a good CB. He had one bad tackle last night, but that area has been better in recent games.


RE: this group compared to JJ

The 2003 defense gave up a lot of yards. That group was lucky and prevented points. In 2006 we were 15th in yards and points. Injuries affected both units. Guess what our biggest problem is right now? Injuries. Put Stewart Bradley at MLB and you have a much better D. If Akeem Jordan was 100% and we had him all along the D would be much better. Heck, Omar would be better than what we've got now.

The defense was badly burned by NO, SD, and NYG. What do those teams have in common? They are 3 of the highest scoring teams in the league. They burn most teams they play. We're 10th in total defense. That tells you that more is going right than wrong.


RE: PR vs KOR

Completely different. KOs have all 10 guys flying upfield at the same time and they know where the ball is going. Blockers are at least 10 yards away so these guys get to really build up a head of steam. KORs need to be able to run N-S. Defenders start about 60-70 yards away. That means there should be some running room initially. KORs cannot dance. They need to attack the seams in the defense. Brian Mitchell was great. He would catch the KO and run up the field. He wouldn't worry about making any moves. He tried to use his blocks, but did so at full speed. The KOR wants to either get the ball to the 30 or have a 25-yard return. All depends on where he catches the ball.

Punts are more erratic. Blockers take on defenders at the line and slow them down. The ball can go all over the place because of wind and/or a poor kick. The PR's job is to catch the ball and make the first guy miss. His goal is to get 10 yards. The PR is only 40 or so yards from the defenders at the snap. He knows he'll be dodging defenders from almost the second he catches the ball.

KOR ... must be strong, fast, and a tough runner.
PR .... must be quick, shifty, and able to make guys miss.


RE: Spoon

I didn't think he played well, but he didn't stand out as a major problem. I'll let you know what I see when I'm done reviewing the game. I'll watch him as best I can.


RE: extra point vs 2-pt conversion

We scored to take a 36-31 lead. We kicked the extra point. That was the right thing to do. There is a lot of game left at that point. Make the lead 37-31. Then, if you come up with a FG you have a 40-31 lead, which is 2 possessions. If you go for 2 and miss it, you need a TD to build a 2-possession lead. One of the things coaches do is to think in terms of possessions. You have to see the big picture to think like that. How much time is left in the game? Is going for 2 worth it now? Etc.

I don't believe in chasing points until you get inside the 12 minute mark of the 4th Qtr. Going for 2 to extend a lead to 7 is chasing points. Only do that when you're desperate, time is critical, or it feels like the right thing to do.

When we scored with 5 1/2 minutes left in the game that was the time to go for 2. We did and extended the lead from 12 to 14, 2 full TDs. That was obvious, but the smart thing to do. At that point you know the Giants are probably only going to have time for 1 or 2 possessions. You want to put as much pressure on them as possible. You want as big a lead as possible. The risk was worth the reward. Luckily, it worked for us.


RE: Mike Vick

He is playing well the last 2 games. That's very encouraging. I'm now starting to wonder if the Eagles are contemplating keeping him around next year. He does help with our RZ issues. Can you pay a guy $5M for 8 plays a game? Probably not. We'll see what happens. He's become a good role player. I still have doubts about him as a starting QB. He is slow in making reads and his passes aren't on time or as on target as they should be. Good backup / role player, but is he meant to start???
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Great Win at NYG

18 comments
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PHI 45
NYG 38


I did not see this game being a shootout. It was and then some. The only other games like this that come to mind are:

1992 - PHI 47, NYG 34 ... Vai punches the goalpost after PR score
2008 - NYG 36, PHI 31 ... turnovers contributed to the scores


I want to focus on the positives for a minute. We won a big game...on the road...in the division...with a lot on the line. There were plenty of breaks in the game and most went against us. So what. We own Sunday night. We are now the clutch Eagles. We make big plays and score in the Red Zone. The pass protection was great. McNabb wanted to throw downfield and that meant he needed time. The big sexies up front gave it to him. McNabb then did a good job of getting the ball to his receivers for big plays. He missed Reggie Brown on one play, but made up for it by throwing for a TD on his next pass.

We had a 91-yard TD drive in the 4th Qtr that ate up the clock and gave us a 14-point lead. McNabb didn't miss a pass on the entire drive. He also hit Avant for the 2-point conversion. That was a great drive to watch. That was as good as it gets. Marty Mornhinweg did a fantastic job of calling plays and the guys did a great job of executing.

Now let's talk about the defense. Things were not so good on that side of the ball. There are several reasons for this:

* Tackling - for much of the game we did a terrible job of tackling. We let short passes turn into long TDs because we failed to tackle. We let short runs go for and additional 5 to 7 yards because we failed to tackle. This normally isn't a problem for us. Bad night.

* Poor MLB play - Trot had plenty of tackles, but he stayed blocked for most of the first 3 Qtrs. We must get better MLB play. I'll make more in-depth comments after studying the game.

* Eli was on - much as Eagles fans hate to do this you sometimes have to give credit to the other team. Eli had one of his "on" games. Think of the little dump pass to Bradshaw. We had Eli going down and he gets that little dump pass off. 31 yard gain. Eli did a similar thing when Babin had him on the way down in the end zone at the end of the game. Eli threw some great downfield passes. Manningham cost him a couple of TDs with sloppy routes.

* Blocking - the Giants OL had a great game. Give those guys their due. They consistently blocked us well. That OL was the best in the NFL last year. They started this year as the best before having problems the last couple of months. The Giants blockers rallied up and had a great showing tonight.

* No rest - We scored on big plays on offense. We scored on D. We ran back a punt. That meant that the defense didn't get much rest. They were right back on the field in a hurry. That can wear you down when playing a physical running attack like the Giants. This wasn't a huge factor, but it sure didn't help.


There is some good news. We scored a defensive TD. That helped quite a bit. We made some timely plays on D. We had a stretch late in the 3rd where we stopped them a couple of times. We also got good pressure on the last drive of the game. That killed any hopes of a miracle.

Great win. It wasn't pretty, but I can't say enough about the fact this team can now win some games where there are some hurdles to deal with. I'm liking what I'm seeing.
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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gameday - at Giants

102 comments
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New PE.com column is posted.

--LINK--


SUNDAY NIGHT

I'm so happy this is a SNF game. We are dominant on Sunday nights, having won 1 in a row. I don't see how the Giants can hope to stop us. Seriously, it will be interesting to see how we play. All it takes is one good game or win and a team changes the way it feels about something. The Giants owned us when Reid first go here. They won 7 or 8 straight. Maybe more. The exact number isn't important. We beat them on a MNF game in 2001 and that ended the streak. We then beat them 7 of 8, with the only loss being with Feeley in OT.

Against CHI we proved we could win a close game on Sunday night. Now we need to show we can win a blowout on Sunday night. How's that for a balance of logic and wishful thinking?


GOODBYE MR. HOFFA


This is likely to be our final game at Giants Stadium. They could host us in a playoff game, but that probably won't happen. There are good and bad memories at Giants Stadium. I don't have time to go back and list 'em all. I'll throw up a couple of games from the Reid era.

2001 - We beat the Giants 10-9. MNF game. McNabb hit Thrash for a TD late in the game. That ended our losing streak to them. McNabb has basically owned the Giants ever since that game.

2003 - Donovan played very poorly due to a hand injury. We trailed 10-7 late in the game. They punted to Westy. He ran it back for a TD and we won 14-10.

I was going to list the famous Herm Edwards play, but I can't recall where that was played.
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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Saturday Night's Alright for Posting

4 comments
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Reuben Frank had a great article yesterday on our run defense.

--Link--

Here's the highlights:

The Eagles for a third consecutive year are among the NFL's best at stopping the run. With four games left in the regular season, they're No. 7 against the run after finishing No. 4 last year and No. 7 in 2007.


The Eagles are 8-4 but 6-1 when they hold their opponent to less than 100 rushing yards. They've held opposing backs to 3.8 yards per carry - which is No. 5 in the NFL. And they've now gone 22 consecutive games without allowing a 100-yard rusher, which is remarkable considering that in the 59 games immediately preceding this 22-game streak, they allowed 20 backs to surpass 100 yards. Only the Vikings (37 games) and Steelers (30 games) currently have longer streaks without allowing a 100-yard back.


The Eagles are on pace to allow 78 rushing first downs, which would be their fewest since 1992. They're also on pace to allow 1,581 rushing yards, which would be their third-fewest since 1992 but also their third straight year under 1,600 (or 100 per game).


A few years back we had Dhani and Darwin and couldn't stop anyone. Now we've gotten so good against the run that we almost take it for granted. The improved run defense starts with the DTs. Patt and Bunk don't have great numbers, but they control the middle of the line on a regular basis. That makes it much easier for the LBs and DBs to flow to the ball and make tackles.

VET HELP

Brian Westbrook and Kevin Curtis are starting to practice. What can we expect from them? I think Kevin is still mainly an insurance policy. When he's 100% Kevin is a good player. I just happened to see a couple of highlights from last year's NFC title game and one of them was a slant that KC caught and turned into a gain of 47. We'll see if he gets on the field or if he's still a work in progress.

Westy is a guy that I want back. Shady deserves to stay the starter and primary RB. Westy is still a guy that you want to get on the field for some passes and even a few run plays. He hasn't had a great year, but he still has his moments. He is good at helping with the blitz. He is still really good on screen passes. Westy is also dangerous down the field as a receiver. We don't yet know if McCoy can do that.


PRACTICE SQUAD

There has been quite a bit of shuffling recently so I decided to post the updated list:

OG Dallas Reynolds - looked good this summer ... can play C or G
OT Gerald Cadogan - good LT at Penn State ... could play G or T
WR Jordan Norwood - limited player ... small ... more quick than fast ... longshot
WR Dobson Collins - good size (6'2) ... good RAC ability ... lacks top speed
TE Martin Rucker - excellent receiver
FB Joel Gamble - I don't know a thing about him ... from Shippensburg

CB Chris Roberson - corner with some potential
SS Reshard Langford - looked good at times this summer ... has potential

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Strategy and Matchups - NYG

7 comments
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I have to think NY will come into this game focused on taking away our running game. They used to do that with Westy. We burned them with McCoy/Weaver in the first meeting. I'm sure they will plan to shut down the run to put the game on McNabb's shoulders. The hope is that they can pressure him and/or he'll have an off day.

The Giants blitz attack didn't get a bunch of sacks last week, but it did keep Romo under pressure. Tony had to dodge bodies left and right. He still threw for a lot of yards, but the Dallas offense only scored 17 points in the first 56 minutes of the game. They added a TD late to get them to 24.

The Giants used a lot of "stemming". That is when they have defensive players moving around prior to the snap in order to confuse blockers. The Giants took that a step farther by having most guys standing up right so that blockers wouldn't know who was rushing and who was dropping into coverage. DC Bill Sheridan saw some other teams using this effectively against Dallas and decided to "borrow" the idea. The players liked it so I'm sure we'll see some of it. The good news is that we can study the tape to see tendencies and try to get a feel for it. Plus, we've faced that kind of stemming before...just not from the Giants.

Since the '07 debacle we've made protection a focal point of our Giants gameplans (they only have 2 sacks in the last 4 meetings combined). I expect this week to be no different. I think we'll be okay if Jason can stay healthy and we have stability on the OL. I am a bit nervous about their DB/LB blitzes. We need LeSean/Weaver to block well and keep McNabb clean. We also need Donovan to be careful about holding the ball too long.

One of the benefits of Big Red and Marty being nervous about the Giants rush is that it causes them to run the ball more than usual. We had some big plays in the first game. You can bet that the Giants will want to shut down McCoy and Weaver. We don't need a repeat of the long TD runs, but it would be nice if we could have some success on the ground.

The Giants secondary isn't having a great year. S play has been very erratic. Michael Johnson isn't 100%, but is expected to start. Aaron Rouse is the other starter. We must test these guys with downfield throws. Neither one is a great coverage player. The CBs for NY have been all over the place. Corey Webster struggled last week. He's had a down year. Terrell Thomas is playing pretty well. Bruce Johnson is very up and down as the #3 guy. I like his potential, but he might be replaced with Kevin Dockery.

Jason Witten caught 14 passes last week. We could target Celek a little more than usual if the Giants are going to be vulnerable in some areas. Some of those throws could also go to Jason Avant.

You can bet AR/MM will test the DBs, deep and wide. We have a matchup advantage. However, we must get good blocking and accurate throws for the passing to work. Sunday night's forecast calls for temperatures in the 35-45 range with rain/snow possible. Those aren't ideal throwing conditions. However, Donovan has had some good days when the weather isn't ideal. Hard to say how that side of things will play out.

In the last game we started off with a conservative gameplan that focused on RAC yards and getting the ball to the RBs. That set a good tone. We opened things up on later drives. I hope we do the same thing this time out, but there's no guarantee it will work as well.

3rd downs will be interesting. Dallas was great on 3rd downs last week (more than 50%). In the first meeting with the Giants we started 5 of 8 before finishing 6 of 11. That's outstanding. It's also poor defense by the G-men. Let's hope that trend continues on Sunday night.

One thing to watch in the Red Zone is a play we like to run called Flip 90. Dallas ran a fake F90 last week and then threw a quick pass to Roy Williams for a TD. Everybody bit. We'd be smart to give them the same formation and actually run Flip 90. The DBs are likely to be hesitant after last week. We also haven't run this play in a while. Teams started to catch on to it at some point and we had to file it away for a while.

Our defense has done a very good job on the Giants offense over the course of the 3-game winning streak vs them. We've limited their running game and Eli has been unable to get his team into the endzone consistently. We're getting some pressure and we've also come up with some key turnovers.

You may recall Asante picking off an early pass in the first meeting. I'm sure the Giants will try to exploit that. They'll run a pump-'n-go or something on him. Asante could very well bite on the fake. We need the pass rushers to get pressure and the Safeties to stay deep and not give up touchdowns.

The key, as always, is to stop their running game. I have good faith in our DL. One player it will be interesting to watch is Victor Abiamiri. He missed the first game. VA is our best run defender on the edge. He's played mainly LDT the last month, but this might be the week to use him more at LDE. I'll be curious to see if we do that or stick with Parker/Babin.

The real area of curiosity is LB. Akeem Jordan is likely to play, but where and how much? I think he'll see time at MLB, but we haven't heard for sure. Big Red said they would see how Jordan looked in the game as they tried to figure out what he could do. This could just be pre-game BS to keep the Giants off guard. You never know. To slightly alter an old joke...how do you know if a coach is lying in a pregame press conference? If his lips are moving.

The coaches would not play Akeem if he was struggling in practice. That said, there is a world of difference in game tempo and practice tempo. Akeem passed the first test of doing well in practice. Now we need to see how he does in a game.

The secondary must control Steve Smith. He is deadly on 3rd down. Joselio Hanson is back in the slot, but he got burned by Smith in the first game. We actually put Sheldon in the slot on a few plays to deal with Smith. I'll be interested to see how we handle this situation. Do we put Sheldon inside? Do we leave Hanson there and double Smith? Sean McDermott has an interesting challenge in designing a plan to stop Mr. Smith on 3rd downs.


COMMENTS

RE: Eric Berry

He is likely to be a Top 10 pick, but he's not a lock to go in the Top 5. Teams rarely value Safety that highly. Eric is the player that I covet the most in the entire draft class. I think the Eagles will love him, but I don't see us putting together a huge package to move up for him. It would be one thing to move from 12 to 5 or something like that, but going from the 20s up that high would be costly. Eric is such a great player that I'm happy to discuss him, but don't get your hopes too high.


RE: Mike Vick trade value

I think he'll have little value. There are a couple of key factors to consider. Where do we project him in the future? I haven't seen enough from Mike to think he's definitely starter material in 2010. Someone pointed out that he could look a lot better with a full offseason and TC to get ready. Fair point. However, that overlooks a key bit of info. Vick was never a polished QB. He was a dynamic athlete that had some passing ability. He's no longer a dynamic athlete. And he's still not polished. A team can bring him into the mix as a backup/role player, but you don't pay a big price for guys like that.

Also, Vick is only under contract for one more season. His salary is $5.6M. That's high for a backup. If he was signed for a couple of years at a cheap rate that would make him a lot more attractive. I'll be shocked if we get anything of real value for Vick.


RE: Kolb/McNabb

The Eagles are committed to Kolb being the QB of the future. The question is whether that is 2010, 2011, or some other year. I hate to be a wuss and bail on the issue, but the bottom line is that we need to see how this season plays out to really know what will happen. We can discuss scenarios, but as the way beyond mediocre songstress Natasha Beddingfield once sang, "the rest is still unwritten".
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