Monday, November 30, 2009

Game Review is Posted - WAS


Great news...we won!!!


You always get scared in a close game, even when re-watching it. I know that doesn't make any sense to a logical person, but we're Eagles fans. Logic has very little to do with how we think.


RE: where the team is right now

We're 7-4. Last year we were 5-5-1 at this point. We almost got to the SB. That team was healthier and not quite as young. That team also couldn't win close games.

We've still got a shot to win the division. We've got a good chance to make the postseason. We're winning close games. That's huge.

Are we a Super Bowl team? Who knows? Was Arizona a SB team at this time last year? No way. They went. They led late in the game and almost won. That's why I keep telling you guys to throw out the old formulas. The NFL is different these days. You must be able to win tight games. That is the key to winning a SB. This isn't some new revelation I've cooked up to match our last 2 wins. I've said this for quite some time.

We haven't beaten a good team this year, aside from if you want to count the Giants. At the same time, this team just turned the corner in some ways. I'd love a rematch with SD or DAL right now. I'd love to find out if we could make the plays needed to beat them this time out. ATL does have a winning record so they'll be somewhat of a tough test. We'll see how injured they are.

Remember that teams change from week to week in the NFL. We're not the same team as we were vs the Saints. We're not the same as we were 3 or 4 games ago. We're now making clutch plays. That builds a kind of confidence that can stick with a team.

RE: defense

The MLB situation is hurting us. Not having Hanson in the slot has hurt. Hopefully Jordan can come back this week. MmmBop will sit out one more game.

As for a DE opposite of Cole...he's not here. That is going to be an offseason fix. As we get healthier we can blitz more and offer the pass rush a boost that way.

RE: Vince Young

He's playing great right now. That comeback yesterday was really impressive. I've watched him the last few weeks and Vince is playing legit, good football. I'm not especially a fan of his, but I'm glad he turned his situation around. The NFL needs good QBs. I like Jeff Fisher and want to see him win, so that makes me happy.

RE: Harvin vs Maclin

Percy was a major risk at pick 22. He had some real character issues down at UF. They haven't shown up this year, but you always have to know they could. I think going with Maclin was the smart move. Less risk, similar reward. Jeremy is what we needed...a good receiver. Harvin is a weapon. We've already got DeSean. I like having someone who runs crisp routes and can do the little things. It will be interesting to judge this receiver class over the years.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Immediate Reaction - WAS


We trailed by 8 points in the 4th Qtr. We were at our own 10-yard line. We went 90 yards for the TD and got the 2-point conversion to tie the game. Then we got the ball back. We marched down for a FG to take the lead. Then the defense held the Skins to 4 & out.


This team has shown in the last 2 weeks that it is different than previous Eagles teams. Last year we failed in comeback attempts vs both WAS and CHI. We came from behind to beat them in consecutive weeks this season. I can't stress enough how important that is.

The key to winning a SB in the current NFL environment is the ability to win a close game. We've lacked that in recent years. We were the kings of "almost". I'm clearly not projecting that these wins mean we'll go win the SB, but they are a very positive sign about the progress of the team.

Any team can win when they are clicking on all cylinders. We're as good as anyone in the league when we've got our A-game. Now we're showing that we can win ugly. That's a huge development.

There are plenty of mistakes and problems to solve from this game, but we still found a way to win. The coaches and players did a terrific job in the last 8 minutes.

A word about the Skins. They are now 3-8. They are 0-4 in the division. That team is better than their record shows. Against the rest of the NFL they are almost .500. Winning games in the NFC East is hard. Very hard. I'm not sure that fans of teams in other divisions appreciate just how tough the NFC East is. Give the assistant coaches in WAS a lot of credit. They do a good job with those players. And I cannot wait for London Fletcher to retire. That dude kicks our butts every time we face him. I keep trying to tell London he's too small, too slow, and too old to be any good, but he just won't listen.

The big concern now is the status of Bunk and DJax. Gotta hope those guys are okay. We've got another big game next Sunday. The Falcons won late today and remain in the thick of the playoff race.

Gameday - WAS



RB Brian Westbrook
RB PJ Hill
WR Kevin Curtis
QB Kevin Kolb
OG Stacy Andrews
OG Mike McGlynn

LB Akeem Jordan
CB Geoffrey Pope

No real surprises here. Big Al is out for WAS. That hurts them, but they have enough other weapons on defense that we still have to play well to have success.


SalPal reported that he's hearing there will be a big Mike Vick package today. We'll see. Sal has reported that about 4 or 5 other times it seems like. Hasn't really happened yet.

If we run the ball as well this week as we did last week in the base package we don't need him for more than a couple of plays.

Winning today is important. We have a chance to get to 7-4. We have a chance to get to 3-1 in the division. We also want to keep pressure on the Cowboys. They haven't handled that well in previous Decembers.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Saturday Stuff


Game preview for is now posted.


There are a couple of things not covered in yesterday's preview.


The Eagles lost OG Paul Fanaika off the Practice Squad recently. That loss didn't bug me much. Paul is a big physical blocker, but never looked like a good pass protector. Those guys seem like an odd fit for us. To replace him we signed Greg Isdaner. He left WVa after his Junior season. That was a mistake. Greg was a solid college player, but has limited pro potential. We'll see what Juan Castillo can do with him.


Apparently Pro Football Weekly has an item in their latest issue that praises Donovan McNabb as the NFL's best December QB. I can't find the article at so it must be paid content. McNabb, Andy Reid, and the Eagles do seem to be at their best in the month of December. Part of it is AR changing up the gameplan, but I think a lot of it is the mental and emotional toughness he's instilled in this team since 1999. We also have a lot of high character players. You can see that when the season gets to critical stages.

Friday, November 27, 2009

WAS Preview


The Skins come to town on Sunday for a big game. It's big for us because we're in the middle of the playoff chase. It's big for the Skins because it puts them one step closer to ending this nightmare season.

Things haven't gone well for WAS, but the wheels have started to come off recently. Last week they outplayed Dallas for at least 55 minutes, but gave up a late TD and lost 7-6. PK Shaun Suisham came into the game having not missed a kick all year. He missed 2 in that game, including one that would have put the Skins up 9-0 midway through the 4th Qtr.

Injuries are getting out of control. RB Clinton Portis is still feeling the after effects of a concussion. Backup Ladell Betts hurt his knee Sunday and he's done for the year. CB Deangelo Hall might not be able to play this week. STer H.B. Blades is dealing with a knee injury. Albert Haynesworth missed last week and might miss this game. The Skins lost another OL when Chad Rinehart got hurt last week. That's now 3 linemen on IR this year. FB Mike Sellers battled a hamstring injury in practice. He'll probably play, but that's something to watch.

WAS also remains a dysfunctional team. We recently found out that coach Jim Zorn and playcaller Sherm Lewis barely talk during the week. Wow, that's just no way to run a team. On gameday Lewis calls the plays from up in the box. He sends the play down to offensive coordinator Sherman Smith. If it is a pass, Lewis makes the specific call. If he wants a run, Lewis just tells that to Smith and then Smith calls the specific run play. What could go wrong with a system like that?

Defensive assistant Jerry Gray is wrapping up his time in WAS, but for a good reason. He's getting ready to take over as head coach at Memphis. That has to have some effect on him.


We already know the Skins pretty well so I'm just going to cover a few players.

RB ROCK CARTWRIGHT --- He may not be the biggest guy or best athlete, but he's a quality football player. Rock took advantage of extensive playing time last week. He had 13 carries for 67 yards. He caught 7 passes for another 73 yards. He's totaled 190 yards of offense in the last 2 games combined.

QB JASON CAMPBELL --- Up and down year. Hasn't led the team to many points or wins, but his numbers aren't nearly as bad as you'd expect. Jason is completing 66% of his passes. He's got more TDs than INTs. His rating is 86.1.

TE FRED DAVIS --- We knocked Chris Cooley out in the first meeting and Davis has been the TE ever since. You may remember that he really struggled as a blocker in that game. Davis has done okay as a receiver. He's got 23 catches on the season and one TD.

WR DEVIN THOMAS --- He's been a major disappointment in his year and a half in the NFL, but I saw some real good signs last week. Thomas did a good job in covering kicks on STs. He also took over as KOR when Rock became the full time RB. Devin took one KO back 38 yards and showed good effort and toughness on the return.

OL --- Veteran Levi Jones has taken over at LT. He's been serviceable so far. Edwin Williams took over at RG when Rinehart got hurt. He's a UDFA from Maryland.

DT KEDRIC GHOLSTON --- He started in place of Big Al last week. Quality backup/spot starter. High motor guy with some quickness. Has a sack and 2 TFLs on the year.

DE ANDRE CARTER --- He's still playing at a high level. Andre has 8 sacks, 5 TFLs, and 3 FFs on the year. His speed gave us problems in the last game.

FS LARON LANDRY --- He's been very up and down this year. Last week I thought he played really well. Landry helped to control the middle of the field. I don't think WR Roy Williams enjoyed spending time with Landry on Sunday.

CB --- Last week Fred Smoot, aka SmootSmack, and Hall were the starters. Carlos Rogers will take the place of Hall. Carlos hasn't had a great season. He'd been recently benched in favor of SmootSmack.


If you remember the first meeting, our offense came out red hot. There was a good flow to things and then Westy got hurt. Our offense never really felt the same after that. With him, we ran 9 plays for 123 yards. Without him we ran 47 plays for 139 yards. Ouch. That's hard to believe. We didn't have one offensive snap in the Red Zone in the entire game. Also hard to believe.

WAS did win vs the Broncos two weeks ago and last week held Dallas to just 7 points. The Skins know how to play defense. They normally give us a hard time. Any reason for optimism this time around? Yes. Our OL is coming off their best game. We're pretty healthy up front and the rotation at RG is over. We're sticking with the best 5. In the first game we had several missed assignments on run plays where defenders went unblocked. Now that we're getting some continuity up front those kinds of mistakes are going away.

Our running game was huge last week. We had 30 carries for 157 yards. Set the numbers aside. We ran the ball well on the go-ahead drive. The winning TD was a run. The blocking by non-OL last week was good. LeSean McCoy ran really well. The coaches also seemed to figure out what plays were working for him and stuck with them. If we can run the ball like that this week, we'll win.

Donovan McNabb has played really well in the last 5 Qtrs. We'll see if that carries over. We have done a lot of no-huddle in that span. No reason to back off that. WAS isn't the deepest team because of injuries. Going no-huddle can wear down their players. Remember, no-huddle doesn't mean hurry up. It simply means that you get to the LOS without huddling and that means players aren't coming on or off the field. You go with who's out there.

DeSean had a big night in the first meeting. He ran for a 67-yard TD. He caught a 57-yard TD. Those plays really made the difference in us winning and losing last time. We can't count on getting the big plays on Sunday. That's why the running game is so crucial. We also must do a good job on 3rd downs. We were just 4 of 15 the first time around. Back to DeSean for a second...he had a long PR TD last year in one game. He should have had a long TD catch in the second game (drop in the EZ). He had big plays earlier this year. DeSean's speed and explosiveness are a problem for the Skins.

WAS is pretty erratic on offense. They scored 17 on us. They had the bye week and then put up 17 at Atlanta. WAS scored 27 points in an upset of Denver. Last week they had 6 points at Dallas. I think our defense can control their offense. The key is limiting their running game. Against Denver they ran for 174 yards. Don't let them run and they will struggle to sustain long drives and score touchdowns.

In the first game we limited Portis to 43 yards. Campbell threw 43 passes. That's the kind of imbalance you want. We got good pressure on Jason (at least 6 sacks). Some of that was the DL, some was from blitzing. We scored 13 points of turnovers in the first game. It will really help if the defense can force several turnovers in this meeting.

Will Witherspoon had a huge game. He picked the batted ball and ran it back for a short TD. He also had a sack and was all over the field. Akeem Jordan played well at WLB. Injuries will change things up at LB this time around. Spoon slides out to the weak side. Trot will start off in the middle. He played well last week. His knee was bothering him Thursday night, but hopefully will be okay for Sunday. Joe Mays will be mixed into the lineup. He'll obviously play more in passing situations.

I'm not sure what to say about the secondary. We'll have to see how Asante and Sheldon hold up. Sean Jones will need to be aware of deep passes. He likes to be aggressive, but Moss has deep speed. If he gets by a CB we need Jones to be able to get to him and make the play. Don't let the Skins have a long TD. Stop the guy, even if it is at the 1-yard line. Make them earn TDs.

WAS does a great job of covering kicks and punts. DeSean is an elite return weapon. He had a 29-yard return in the first game. Macho has looked good as the KOR. He'll have his work cut out. Last game we didn't have a KOR go 20 yards. If Blades misses the game that would help us out. He's a very good STer for them.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Numbers Talk


* Donovan McNabb's QB rating is almost 10 points higher this year than last. His yards per attempt is also substantially up (6.86 to 7.72).

* Who here thought that 10 games in Leonard Weaver would have more carries, yards, TDs, and a high YPC than Michael Vick?

* We're running the ball more effectively this year. We averaged 4.0 ypc last year with a long run of 39 yards in '08. This year we're averaging 4.6 ypc. We've got 3 runs of 41 or more yards.

* Last year we really spread the ball around. We had 10 guys with at least 18 catches. This year we've ditched that style. We're feeding the ball to our key players. Only 6 guys have 19 or more catches. There are still 6 games to go, but it isn't likely anyone else will join that list. Leonard Part 6 is next in line with 9 grabs.

* Last year the top 4 WRs (DJax, KC, Avant, Hank) combined for 160 catches and 9 TDs. This year we have a trio of WRs doing the bulk of the work. They have combined for 106 catches and 11 TDs. That puts them on a pace for 169 catches, 17 TDs.

* TEs combined for 64 receptions and 4 TDs in 2008. Celek alone has 50 catches and 5 TDs this year.

* The big dropoff is catches by RBs. Last year Westy and Buck combined for 80 grabs. Westy and Shady have 42 this year. This dropoff doesn't bother me that much.

* DeSean Jackson's big play return ability has hurt him this year. He had 50 punt returns last season. This year he's only got 20 so far. Teams are kicking out of bounds or trying to pin him along the sideline.

* Last year Green Akers was 8 of 10 from 40-49. This year he's 9 of 11. Average distance of a made FG last year was 32.8. This year it's 37.1.

* It feels like Sav Rocca is having a bad year, but the stats aren't so obvious. Last year he had 77 punts and 24 went inside the 20. This year he's got 48 punts and 19 have gone inside the 20. Last year's net punting average was 39.5. This year it is 38.6. Numbers aside, he does have 3 bad shanks that led to opponents scoring points. He also tends to get worse as the weather gets cold. We'll see how the numbers look in January. At the least, he does need serious competition next summer.

* Now to defense. We're on pace to have the same number of sacks and TFLs. INTs are up, FFs are down. Our yards and point totals are down (rankings wise). All the problems at LB have had an effect. Also, it sure seems like we're facing better offenses this year.

* I don't know what to make of Darren Howard. His numbers are similar to last year except for the one key stat...sacks. He's down from 10 to 2.5. There have been a few plays where he was just a step behind Trent in getting to the QB. Is that the only difference? Last year Trent had 9 sacks and 7 TFLs. This year he's got 8.5 sacks and 5 TFLs. I'm glad to see the increased production from him.

* Bunk has been more of a playmaker. Last year he had 2 sacks, 1 TFL. This year he has 1 sack and 4 TFLs.

* Sure seems like we're getting less production from the Safeties. Last year we had 4 INTs, 16 PDs, 6 sacks, 9 TFLs, and 10 FFs. This year we have 3 INTs, 15 PDs, 1 sack, 4 TFLs, and no FFs. The coverage plays are actually up, but we do miss Dawk's presence in the box.

* Chris Clemons, VA, and Trevor Laws are having quiet years. They have combined for 3.5 sacks and 3 TFLs. Inuries have slowed Victor, but production is down.

* Last year CBs had 7 INTs. This year they have 10. We are playing the ball well.

* Check out numbers from the LB corps. 2008: 5.5 sacks, 27 TFLs, 3 FFs, 1 INT, 17 PDs. 2009: 4.5 sacks, 9 TFLs, 2 FFs, 3 INTs, 13 PDs. The one area with great difference is TFLs. I'm not sure what to make of that. Last year Disco Stew had 9 all by himself.


I mentioned yesterday that Trot might be the answer at MLB. I need to clear up some confusion. He could be the temporary answer. We are waiting for Jordan to come back and take over WLB so that Spoon can shift back inside. That gets our 3 best LBs on the field. Trot is a band-aid not a long term solution.

I was doing some reading on WAS. Boy, injuries are out of control with that team. Portis and Betts are both out. They lost another OL Sunday. No word yet on if Big Al will play this week. We probably won't know until game time with him.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Busy Tuesday


You're a die hard Eagles fan. You've just woken from a 6-month long coma. You ask a buddy to fill you in on the Eagles. Here's what he tells you:

"Trot may be the answer at MLB. He looked good last week."

"Winston Justice just got a contract extension."

"Westbrook is out with concussion problems and his future is up in the air."

"Antonio Dixon and Jason Babin are outplaying Trevor Laws and Victor Abiamiri."

"David Culley has turned into a good WRs coach. We're developing so many young receivers that we can't keep them all."

"Oh yeah...and Temple is headed to a bowl game and could win as many as 12 games."

What would your reaction be? "I don't understand this world and I want to go home."

The big news of the day is RT Winston Justice getting a contract extension. He signed a 4-year deal that will keep him here through the end of the 2013 season. 6 months ago I wanted this bum cut. Now I'm happy to have him locked up long term (and not in an asylum).

The deal makes sense for both sides. Winston clearly isn't a normal player. It took him several years to figure things out and become a good player. He's comfortable at RT. He's comfortable with the organization and in Philly. Why risk going elsewhere and having to deal with change? He didn't get to shop his services, but there is something to be said for getting the money now and staying somewhere you are comfortable.

The deal clearly makes sense for the Eagles. They now have stability on the OL. Next year Stacy Andrews will take over at RG. The other 4 spots should remain as is. We need to re-sign Nick Cole for depth purposes. We'll also have Dunlap and McGlynn off the bench. Some other young guys will be in the mix. We can do whatever we want to with Shawn Andrews. Trade him. Cut him. Just don't count on him as a starter.

I'm very happy for Winston. We see a lot of players really struggle when things don't go well. He kept plugging away and rewarded the Eagles patience. One thing to remember, he just turned 25 this September. He came into the league young. Winston took advantage of the situation this summer. He got a chance to play and made the most of it. Good for him. And us.


Newest PE.column is up.


It is mostly stuff from the Game Review that just got fancied up.


Sadly, the Jack Ikegwuonu era is over. The Eagles released him today. I guess he could return to the Practice Squad. We'll see about that. You just have to wonder if he can run well enough to warrant a spot. Is he going to get better?

The team signed CB Geoffrey Pope. He's bounced around the league for a few years. I liked him as a prospect coming out of college. I had him rated just below...Ramzee Robinson. How weird is that? Here's a link to my pre-draft write-up on him:


Here is the info on his whereabouts the last 3 years:

Pope (6-0, 186) started the 2009 season on the Cincinnati Bengals active roster and appeared in four games, playing mostly on special teams. He was waived on October 8, but was signed to their practice squad the next day and has been there for the balance of the year.

Originally a rookie free agent signing of the Miami Dolphins in 2007, Pope spent the entire preseason there but was released as part of the team's final roster cutdown. He signed to the New York Giants practice squad on September 3 and remained there for the entire regular season before being promoted to the active roster for their playoff run, appearing in both the NFC Divisional game and NFC Championship game.

Pope spent the 2008 preseason with the Giants and was briefly on their practice squad before signing to the Bengals practice squad on September 3. He was promoted to the active roster two weeks later and appeared in eight games, playing mostly on special teams.

We needed to add someone in case Sheldon or Sammie gets hurt and really misses time. Patterson did fine Sunday. Macho can play the slot. Ramzee Robinson hasn't played too much on defense, but the Eagles see something in him.

Game Review is Posted - CHI


Here is the DGR:


The more I think about it, the more impressed I am with LeSean McCoy. Really good game from him. We need that down the stretch.

Also, Trotter played pretty well. I was shocked.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday Thoughts


I'm only halfway through reviewing the game. Last night was a weird experience for me. I haven't yelled that much at the TV all season. This game was really important so I made sure to voice my opinion. Late in the game there was a punt coming to us. DeSean saw the ball wasn't catchable. He tried to warn a teammate that the ball was in the area. That got me nervous. Then DeSean had the ball bounce his way. I screamed "Get Away!!!" as loud as humanly possible. I wondered if the neighbors might call 911 about some bizarre incident. I drank a couple of beers to calm my nerves and only got through the 1st half. I'll finish the game tonight. I do have some thoughts...

We complain a lot about the Eagles (like any good fanbase would). We want them to run the ball more and more effectively. We want them to score TDs when we get in the Red Zone. We want more creative playcalling. Mix in Mike Vick if we're actually going to have him on the roster. We want clutch play late in the game from both sides of the ball. We want Donovan McNabb to lead us to a comeback win, as a good veteran QB should be able to do.

We got all those things on Sunday night. All of them.

Was the game perfect? No, not even close. We had 3 turnovers. We got sloppy with penalties in the 2nd half (only 3 in the 1st, none real costly). Our tackling was uneven. At times we were real good, other times Bears were able to get upfield and move the chains. The pass rush was largely ineffective. We gave up a 72-yard run to a player in his first NFL game on his first NFL carry.

People are obsessing on the blown coverages. Let's talk about them. The first one was a play-action pass. Q blitzed off the edge. Gocong had Olsen on the play. Chris bit on the play fake and let Olsen get a couple of steps on him. FS Sean Jones was slow to rotate over. Cutler overthrew the ball. The very next play was 3rd/2. Asante was playing the chains. The Bears guessed he might do that and threw a slant and go. Asante bit on the pump fake and left Hester wide open for a TD. Cutler overthrew the ball once again. They settled for a FG. People talk about those plays as if the Bears lost 14 points. No. The bad throws cost them 7 points. They did kick the FG so it was only really a net of 4 points lost. That is worlds different than 14 points.

As for the coverages...we got caught with our hands in the cookie jar. Our players are taught to be aggressive. Asante is one of the biggest chance-takers in the league. Sometimes it works. Other times he gets burned. You can't tell him to play it safe. That's not his game. Gocong was the more troubling of the two in my mind. He's got to think coverage first on that play. He knows Q is blitzing. Chris is a smart guy, but that was a dumb mistake on his part.

The other blown coverage came in the 4th Qtr. The Bears had 3rd/5 from their 30 with just under 4 minutes left in the game. We stacked guys all over the LOS. Cutler dropped back and WR Johnny Knox used a double move to get Sheldon to bite. Then Knox got behind him for what would have been the go-ahead TD. Cutler overthrew the ball. I think Sheldon has got to know better on this play. I always preach "situational awareness". With no S over the top, you need to stay back and break on the ball when you see it in the air. Sheldon got greedy and that almost cost us a long TD and possibly the game.

Several analysts have pointed out that Jay was throwing cautiously all night. Better to be long downfield so that the passes don't get picked off. Only throw to guys who are real open. That cost the Bears a couple of TDs. The flip side of that is that Jay's lack of aggression also limited our chances to pick the ball. Q dropped an easy pick after pushing Greg Olsen from behind. Sheldon almost made a great INT. Those weren't errant throws so much as good defensive plays. Jay basically played keep-away with our defense. That limited his mistakes as well as costing him TDs.

The thing I'm happiest about is that we overcame some adversity and found a way to win the game. Too often we're sorting through the reasons the Eagles lost. This week the defense came up big when the offense turned the ball over. 3 turnovers led to just 3 points. That has been a weak spot all year long. The offense had a scoring drive in the 4th Qtr where the longest play was 11 yards. There were no fluke plays or generous defensive penalties. We marched the ball down the field for the go-ahead TD. Once given a lead, our defense came through. They held the Bears to 21 yards on 9 plays in the final 5:31 of the game. We also got an INT to seal the game.

This was the kind of win we needed. Our players now know that we can pull out a game in the 4th Qtr. We can also hold a late lead in a tight game. We've still got some issues to deal with. We're very banged up at CB. I don't know what to make of MLB. The offense went MIA in the 2nd Qtr and first part of the 3rd Qtr. The turnovers were frustrating, but you have to tip your hat to Peanut Tillman on 2 of them. The only DB I know of with more FFs is Mr. Brian Dawkins.

We remain in the middle of the playoff chase. We'd be seeded 5th as of today. That's based on our 5-2 record in NFC games. The division is still up for grabs between us, NYG, and the Cowgirls. We'll be playing each other the last few weeks so anything can happen. If only Shaun Suisham had hit that FG yesterday...

Here's the PHI/CHI gamebook in case anyone wants to check it out:

-- LINK --


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Great Win in Chicago


The streaks are over.

* We won on Sunday night.

* We beat the Bears.

* We won a close game.

* Donovan led us on a 4th Qtr comeback.

Boy, that feels good. There were plenty of things to be happy about. We had 30 runs for 157 yards. We ran for a 1st down late in the game when it was critical to eat up some of the clock. The OL had a good day run blocking. Andy managed the game very well. We had all our timeouts late in the game if needed. We were 2 of 3 in the RZ. We also got a long TD pass. We blocked a FG after a turnover. The quick change defense was outstanding. We had 3 turnovers, but didn't give up many points. I have to check to verify, but I think it was just one FG.

Most importantly, the defense came up big late in the game. We stopped CHI to preserve the win. We were the clutch team. Feels good to say that.

Next up, WAS.

Oh yeah...if the season ended today...we'd have the #5 spot in the NFC.



OL Stacy Andrews
RB Brian Westbrook
WR Kevin Curtis
OL Mike McGlynn
QB Kevin Kolb
RB PJ Hill

DB Quintin Demps
LB Akeem Jordan

-- LINK --

Crazy day of football. Let's hope all the wildness is gone and we have a nice quiet 73-0 win over Chicago.

Gameday - CHI


It's now about 245pm. Kickoff seems like it is about 3 days from now.

The Giants are up 17-7 on ATL at the half. UPDATE...ATL just scored a TD. 17-14 score now.

Dallas trails WAS 3-0 at halftime. Go Skins.


Chris Berman made a prediction that Michael Vick would be a guy to watch in tonight's game. He and Andy are somewhat close. I don't know if this is a guess on Boomer's part or if Big Red gave him some inside info.

I wondered if Vick might not play in short yardage and/or goal line situations. I didn't talk much about it because we've thought "this is the week" for a while. I've given up on guessing when Vick will come in and actually do something. Berman's comments carry more weight that most broadcasters because he actually follows the team and does have a friendship with Reid.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

New Column is Posted


My Bears preview is up at

-- LINK --

As always, I added a little new material.


* I was told by someone that Nick Cole will start at RG. That's good. Stacy Andrews would really struggle with Tommie Harris.

* No word yet on the LBs from what I've heard.

* Some college stuff is posted here if you're interested:

-- LINK --

* I'm gonna be stir crazy waiting for tomorrow night to get here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Strategy and Matchups - CHI


Let's start on defense. There are 2 simple keys to beating Chicago. First, you need to limit the running game. Matt Forte is the key to their offense. Don't let him get going. That shifts the pressure to Jay Cutler and the passing game. The second key is to make Cutler pay when he makes mistakes. Jay takes chances. You must catch the ball when the opportunity arises. When he gets picked off, they tend to lose.

I have not been impressed with the Bears run blocking this year. The interior trio all have good run blocking skills. I'm not sure what the problem is. I know they've had to deal with some injuries. Maybe that is a big part of the struggles. Pace at LT doesn't seem to get much push at all. I can't say the RT (Williams) has caught my eye one way or the other.

I think our D-line should be able to handle these guys. Of course I thought that last week and the Chargers did a good job of blocking us for most of the game. Clearly the LB play was a big part of our problem last week. That leads us to the big question of the moment...who's playing where?

Chris Gocong will be the SAM this week. That is a 100% guaranteed lock. I think. The guy getting the most snaps at MLB has been...Joe Mays??? Yep. He played his best game against the Chargers. Granted, that was only on STs. Does that merit a look at MLB? On the surface, no. What we don't know about is how well Joe has practiced in recent weeks. If he's been stepping it up Wed-Fri, then maybe he does deserve a chance to get back on the field. The fact that the Eagles kept him around through all the roster shuffling we've done tells you they think he still has a good future, at least as a role player.

Spoon slides out to WLB. He's spent half his career out there so that isn't a major problem for him. He didn't have a great game vs SD, but was hardly a problem for us. I know some will wonder why Spoon doesn't stay in the middle and then start Tracy White at WLB. My guess is that they don't think Tracy is physical enough for the way we ideally like to use our WLB. Again, that's strictly a guess. The most interesting aspect of all this is that last week's leading tackler, Moise Fokou, will be sitting on the bench. I'm surprised they didn't look at him inside or consider sliding him to WLB and leaving Spoon in the middle.

Will we get good enough LB play to handle the Bears run game? I expect we'll do better than last week because Chris will be back where he should. Spoon is fine at WLB. That's gives us stability at 2 of 3 spots. I have no idea what to think of MLB. That is a complete mystery.

One thing I should mention is that I'm not hearing that any particular lineup has been finalized at this point. We may not know what really will happen until Sunday night.

The Bears passing attack is built around 2 key receivers, Devin Hester and TE Greg Olsen. We must tackle well when dealing with Hester. He catches plenty of short throws. The key is to eliminate RAC yards as much as possible. Olsen is a good TE. That, of course, is a concern for us. This year we've had some struggles witch covering TEs. I can live with Olsen catching his share of passes. We need to make him work for those catches. Most importantly, we need to keep him out of the end zone.

Sheldon is practicing and expects to play. We'll need his tackling. Asante has to tackle or at least slow the Bears receivers down. Luckily, Hester and Knox are fast guys, but not big buys. Asante handles speed better than size. We need him to play the ball well on those passes that Cutler throws his way. This is the kind of game where an INT could be huge.

The Bears throw a lot of short passes. We got burned by WR screens in the Dallas game. The Bears burned us with screens last year. Do we back off our blitzing because of this? McDermott won't get passive, but he may have to change up the way he attacks. We do need our CBs to play the WR screens better and we need the DTs to help out on screens to Forte. Don't let him get a clean release. Hold him. Grab him. Shadow him.

I'll be disappointed if Darren Howard doesn't beat Josh Beekman a time or two when we're in our Nickel package. I hope McDermott learned his lesson about the DEs and we stick with Trent on the right side and the group on the left side.

As for the offense...I really hope we use the gameplan from the Giants game. We lined up in the Ace Formation and ran Weaver between the tackles. We ran McCoy out of the I and some other formations. We mixed vertical throws with a focus on moving the chains.

The key up front will be having Jason at LT and Todd at LG. That gives us a pair of outstanding players on the same side. That has to help in the run game. I'm not sure what will happen at RG. Nick Cole should start at RG ahead of Stacy Andrews, but I haven't seen that announcement yet. Cole is the better player right now. Don't get too down on Stacy. He's a better player than he's showing right now.

The Bears are playing more man coverage than I recall from past games. The way to attack that is with crossing routes and some vertical routes. Make the CBs run and chase the receivers all over the field. The matchup we want speed wise is Tillman on DeSean, aka Peanut on Peanut. DeSean has the speed to run all over Tillman. There is a size advantage for Tillman and I'm sure he'd try to be real physical.

Donovan was hot in the 2nd half last week. I am really interested to see if that carries over. One interesting idea would be to come out with 4 WRs and go no-huddle from the start. See if Donovan is still in a good rhythm. Obviously I want us to run the ball more than last week. I would not go no-huddle all game or anything like that. Reggie Brown played well last week. He played well vs the Bears last year. One reason to go no-huddle with 4 WRs is to get him on the field.

The Bears annually have very good STs units. Our coverage on Sproles was outstanding last week. We'll need to keep that up. I'm excited to see Macho Harris as the KOR. He looked really good on his 2 returns last week. DeSean muffed a punt vs CHI last year. I don't want a repeat performance. Akers missed a pair of long FGs last year that really hurt us in the loss. Can't have a repeat of that.


We stink on NBC. We're 0-7 on Sunday night games since the switch to them. We did win a Saturday game on Christmas in '06 on NBC. Why the losses? We've played a lot of good teams.

DAL 20-16
NYG 36-31
CHI 24-20
NE 31-28
DAL 38-17
NYG 16-3
IND 45-21

This streak needs to end. We've also lost consecutive heartbreakers to the Bears. Can't deal with that again. One we got the lead and let them go on a long drive. Last year we stalled at the goal line when Martha Schobel decided not to block.

Chicago is on a cold streak. We've lost consecutive games, but we lost to red hot Dallas and red hot SD. That doesn't change the fact we lost, but at least it was to good teams that were playing well at the time. We need to beat the Bears. This isn't the kind of game you want to lose.

I know people are down on the Bears, but if they win this game we'll both have the same record (5-5). Chicago is struggling, but they are not some awful team. They're just playing sloppy football right now and making mistakes. We've done that the last couple of weeks and it has cost us. We must eliminate the penalties. Chicago will look to do the same. We have more talent and we're the better team, but that doesn't mean a darn thing if we don't play like it on Sunday night.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Know Your Enemy - CHI


The Jay Cutler era started off great, but things aren't so good right now. The Bears have fallen to 4-5 and are in the midst of a 2-game losing streak. They've now dropped 4 of 5 games. Like us, most of their wins are against weak competition. Take away the Week 2 victory over PIT and the Bears only have wins against SEA, DET, and CLE. That isn't exactly murderer's row. The Bears barely held off SEA, even without Matt Hasselbeck. And the Lions hung in the game longer than I expected.

The Bears offense is built on the running game. The problem is that their OL isn't doing a good job of blocking right now. Matt Forte is only averaging 3.4 ypc, but I think he looks fine. He just doesn't have holes to run through. To be fair, I haven't seen every game. Maybe he's going through a Sophomore slump. I just know that I've seen him in several games show me the ability that was there all last year.

The passing attack is more productive with Jay Cutler, but there are still problems. Jay has 17 INTs so far this year. And he throws them in bunches. He's got 4 multi-pick games this year. Not surprisingly, the Bears are 0-4. Jay had a 3-game stretch early on when he only threw 1 pick. The Bears went 3-0. No one will ever question his talent. Cutler can do some amazing things. His field vision and decision-making are a different story. He can spot receivers all over the place, but he either ignores or fails to see defenders. Other times he simply forces the ball into coverage. Jay isn't afraid to take chances. Part of this may go back to his time at Vanderbilt when he did have to force things to keep up with better SEC teams.

Jay is a gifted downfield passer. He's accurate and has a terrific arm. His short throws are up and down. His intermediate throws are problematic. He'll throw across his body sometimes. That works on occasion, but leads to more problems than big plays.

Chicago's offense is erratic. They have 5 games of less than 17 points. They have a couple of games with 30 or more points. It really seems that the key is to shut down the run game. In their 5 losses the Bears best rushing performance was Forte getting 55 yards against GB on opening day. In their wins Matt averages 77 yards per game.

The Monsters of the Midway...these guys aren't. They've held 3 opponents to 17 points or less. In the last month both Cincy and Arizona have put 40 points up on Chicago. The defense has 18 sacks and 9 INTs. Those are okay, but not ideal numbers. The Bears are 10th in total defense, but down the ladder in scoring defense.

They seem to be playing more man coverage than I've seen in the past. Peanut Tillman had a nightmare day trying to cover Larry Fitzgerald a few weeks back.

The Bears lost last week to SF on a Thursday night game. Chicago was incredibly sloppy with turnovers and penalties. Cutler threw 5 picks, including one in the end zone at the end of the game. They lost 10-6.


QB Jay Cutler --- The good news: 62% completion rate, 14 TDs. The bad news: 17 INTs, 19 sacks. And only 4 wins. I should note that some of his picks are due to bad luck. He's had receivers slip while running routes. He's had guys bobble passes. The umpire last week got in the way of the receiver and fouled things up on a crossing route. Struggles at times in the RZ (2 INTs vs SF). Jay has struggled in night games so far this year. There is a question of whether playing at night has anything to do with it or if he's simply faced better teams at night (GB, ATL, SF).

RB Matt Forte --- Numbers aren't great, but still a good player. Dangerous in the open field. Had over 100 yards receiving in the loss to SF. Was very effective against us on screen passes last year. Matt is 2nd on the team with 38 catches this year. Has good hands and is a legit receiver. I like Forte as a runner because he has a good combination of size and speed.

TE Greg Olsen --- Very gifted receiver. Has 34 catches and 6 TDs this year. Not the world's best blocker or most dangerous RAC guy, but if you want a TE that can get open and catch the ball Olsen is very good.

WR Devin Hester --- Leads the team with 48 grabs. Still a work in progress in his shift from RS/athlete to WR. Bit of a feast or famine guy. Has at least 5 catches of more than 33 yards, but still only averages 12.4 ypr for the year.

WR Johnny Knox --- Speedy rookie. 30-360-3. Learning the ropes of the NFL, but has big play potential.

WR Earl Bennett --- 35-454. Young guy has impressed at times this year. Has good RAC ability.

LT Orlando Pace --- Okay pass blocker, struggles on run blocks. Still a heady veteran, but father time has definitely caught up with him.

LG Josh Beekman --- Struggles in pass protection. Got pulled in the SF and replaced by Frank Omiyale. Beekman is a good run blocker.

RT Chris Williams --- Young guy that is in his first year as a starter. Played LT in college so he's getting used to the right side. Credited with allowing 4 sacks this year. Called for a very dumb penalty last week. Dove at a defender near a pile late in the game. Talented young guy, but makes his share of mistakes.

DE Adewale Ogunleye --- LDE. Good pass rusher. Already has 5 sacks this year, which leads the team.

DT Tommie Harris --- Explosively quick DT. Disruptive guy. Has 1 sack and 2.5 TFLs this year. Sometimes will play out of control a bit, but offenses have to account for his penetration all game long.

DE Alex Brown --- 2nd on the team in sacks with 4. Leads in TFLs with 6. Excellent motor. Came up big on the GL series vs us last year.

LB Lance Briggs --- The man that makes it all happen. Leads the team in tackles. Also has a sack, 3.5 TFLs, 3 PBUs, and an INT. Always seems to be around the ball when I watch the Bears play.

LBs --- Hunter Hillenmeyer is the MLB. Nick Roach plays SLB. They have switched positions in recent games as Chicago tries to find the best configuration. Hunter is a solid vet. Roach has playmaking ability. I liked him a lot coming out of NW.

CBs --- Zack Bowman and Peanut Tillman are the corners. Both guys are over 6-feet. They've combined for 5 picks. Tillman has been a good tackler in his career. He's third on the team in solo stops and has 2 TFLs and 3 FFs.

Safety --- Danieal Manning is one starter. Josh Bullocks started beside him last week. Al Afalava has played quite a bit, but is battling an injury. Al leads the team with 7 PBUs. He practiced this week and should play. Al was a big time hitter at Oregon State. I had real concerns about his ability to cover.

PK Robbie Gould --- Lacks a great leg, but very accurate kicker.

RS Devin Hester --- Quiet year so far. Long return of 33. Only returning punts.

RS Johnny Knox --- Ran a KO back 102 yards for a TD vs DET. Averages 27.4 per KOR. Fast.



Derek over at Iggles Blog posted some thoughts about my recent McNabb comments.

-- LINK --

He is a good writer / thinker and offers some interesting info. He really came at the situation from a statistical standpoint. I know some guys don't like stats, but I think they can be very useful.

Derek's main beef was with my point that McNabb is too in love with the big play. He offers some evidence that the big plays are working and a good part of the offense.

First, I do like the big play being part of our passing attack. Years ago there was a correlation between the team that led the league in yards per pass attempt and trips to the Super Bowl. Everybody ran the ball back then so the team that threw vertically the best was the one generally getting the best combination of blocking, QB play, and receiver play. I haven't kept track of that stat in recent years, but the correlation started to go away when the league really started throwing the ball a lot more. Point is...vertical passing attack usually = good team.

I stand by my contention that McNabb overly relies on big plays. Let me try to explain. I think we'd all agree that DeSean Jackson is one of the most explosive, dynamic players in the league when the ball is in his hands. Right?

DeSean has 7 career receiving TDs. 8 if you count the Dallas fiasco from Week 2 last year. We'll add that one in for the heck of it. Doesn't really change anything drastically. The TDs:


at Dallas - 61-yard TD/non-TD ... caught the ball at the 7 and almost ran it in
at Chicago - caught the ball in the end zone
vs Arizona - 5-yard TD ... caught the ball at the 3 on a crossing route and ran it in

at Arizona - 62-yard TD ... caught the ball at the 10 and ran it in.

2009 w/ McNabb

at Washington - 57 yard TD ... caught the ball at the 15 and ran it in
vs NY Giants - 54 yard TD ... caught the ball at the 18 and ran it in

As a bonus, DeSean had a 51-yard reception vs Oakland that was all in the air.

2009 w/ Kolb

vs New Orleans - 71-yard TD ... caught the ball 31 yards downfield and ran the final 40
vs Kansas City - 64-yard TD ... caught the ball on a short throw and ran it 58 yards for the TD

Had a 43-yard grab vs KC where he caught the ball 18 yards downfield then added 25 on the ground.

DeSean has played 26 games with McNabb (incl. playoffs). He's got 6 TDs in that stretch. They feature a total of 53 RAC yards.

DeSean has played 2 games with Kolb at QB. He's got 2 TDs. They feature 98 RAC yards.

DeSean Jackson is a weapon. Get him the ball and let him make plays for you. Kevin Kolb did that. Those plays were much higher percentage than Donovan throwing the ball 50 yards downfield to him. DeSean has 269 RAC yards this year. More than half came in the 2 games started by Kolb. That's not just a "wow" stat. It's almost alarming.

When I say that Donovan is overly reliant on big plays I'm focusing on the word "reliant". Donovan needs them to deliver our points. You can't do that. Good teams need sustained drives to lead to TDs, not just big plays.

I don't have the time to go back and chart every scoring drive this year. That might make for a good offseason study, though. I do know that we've scored 17 offensive TDs with Donovan at the helm. 9 of the scores came on plays of 20 or more yards (run and pass). That means that in 7 starts Donovan has led us to 8 TDs in the Red Zone. Not good.

McNabb is fine when we're out in the middle of the field. Get into the Red Zone and he becomes a completely different player. His inability to make quick reads, to hit players in stride, and to be efficient catch up with him. The crutch of the deep ball is gone. McNabb can no longer swing for the fences, so to speak. If Donovan was less enamored with deep balls he might have honed these skills.

There was a costly play on Sunday when Donovan threw incomplete to Reggie downfield and missed a wide open Avant on a shallow cross. The box score just shows an incomplete pass. It doesn't tell you that McNabb killed a drive by missing a wide open target on what should have been a very high percentage throw.

We have no way of charting every snap where Donovan looks downfield first and then goes elsewhere, but not in the flow of the play. Think about the number of times he hit stationary targets Sunday instead of guys on the move. He drops back, looks downfield and then checks down to Celek or McCoy...standing flat-footed. They run for a few yards, but get tackled. Hit underneath receivers early in the play on the move and you might have something.

San Diego designed their scheme to take away deep balls. They basically left open the middle of the field and hoped we'd stall out as the field shrank. Worked very well in the 1st half.

Donovan came alive on Sunday in the 2nd half. We only had one huge play in that game and it was an intermediate throw to Avant that he turned into a 58-yard gain because of RAC yards. I hope McNabb is able to take what he did in that 2nd half and carry it over to this week. If so, we could be getting ready to go on a winning streak. This offense is loaded with guys who can make plays if you'll just get them the ball.

Nobody wants to return to the small ball attack of 2000. That was ugly stuff. Our vertical attack puts a lot of pressure on defenses. We just need Donovan to focus a little bit more on moving the chains, especially on 3rd downs. The big plays are great, but we must be able to score when it takes a long, sustained drive.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Misc News


We got some good injury news on Wednesday. CB Sheldon Brown was able to practice and thinks he's got a good shot to play on Sunday. If he's unable to play we slide Dimitri Patterson out there. Nothing against Mr. P, but I think Sheldon is a slightly better player. Our defense is predicated on coverage.

Update on Westy from the tests went well. That doesn't mean Westy is anywhere close to playing, but it does mean he's in okay shape. The concussion out in San Diego was a mild one (as opposed to the one vs WAS). Here's the key quote:

"We are very encouraged by Brian's progress, we believe that he has an excellent prognosis and we expect a full recovery," reported Drs. Maroon and Collins. "We developed a comprehensive physical rehab plan for Brian, and we will repeat the detailed testing in the next two to three weeks.

Jason Peters practiced and is expected to start. We need him at LT so that Todd can play LG and we have our best possible players on the field.


I've read quite a few Eagles fans ripping LeSean McCoy in recent weeks. I think we need to understand a few things. I've picked on LeSean in regard to a couple of specific issues, but I still see his talent and think he's had a good year. Look at his numbers:

86 - 353 - 4.1 ypc - 2 TDs ... Rcvg - 23 - 181 - 7.9 ypr

People do realize LeSean is a rookie, right? He's had a better rookie year than either Brian Westbrook or Duce Staley. LeSean is about to pass Charlie Garner's numbers. The only guy ahead of him is Correll Buckhalter and LeSean has a real good shot to top him. Here are Buck's numbers:

129 - 586 - 4.5 ypc - 2 TDs ... Rcvg - 13 - 130 - 10.0 ypr

LeSean has played behind a makeshift OL. Buck got to run behind Tra, Jon, Honey Buns, Welbourn, and Jermane Mayberry. That was a great OL.

LeSean hasn't shown us anything great this year, but what did Westy do in 2002? His long run was 18 yards. His long catch was 20 yards. LeSean has a 66-yard TD run and a 45-yard reception. He's light years ahead of where Brian was at this point in 2002.

My biggest beef with LeSean is that he's looking around too much. He needs to be less hesitant and concentrate on getting upfield for whatever yardage is there. In college he was a master at reading his blocks, reading the defense, and finding creases to run through. He has that ability in him. He's just got to adjust to the speed of pro football. When he does and he starts to play more instinctively we'll see just how good he can be. LeSean has the physical ability to be a good starter in the NFL.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Article + Some Answers


New column is up. As usual, some material you've read but I added a couple of new nuggets just to keep you awake.

-- LINK --


RE: LBs for this week

I've asked around to see if anyone has an idea what we'll do. No one is sure right now. Tuesday is a day off in the NFL. No practice. We won't see how the LBs are set up until tomorrow.

I'll be really surprised if Sean McDermott leaves the guys where they played on Sunday. Gocong was lost at MLB. Spoon had a quiet day. Here's what we should do:

SAM - Gocong
MLB - Spoon
WLB - Fokou or Tracy White

I think Fokou has played some WLB for us going back to mini-camps and even early TC. They moved him to SAM while at Lehigh if my memory serves correct. If Moise doesn't know the WLB spot then sit him and put White on the field. He can start for a week or two. I want Gocong, Spoon, and Fokou on the field, but I'd rather have a rookie out of place than two veterans.

Originally I had Fokou pegged as a WLB. He's got that kind of size and skill set. The coaches like him at SAM. I'm not sure exactly what it is, but they really think he's the future for us at that spot.

RE: McNabb

Understanding and talking about Donovan is difficult. He's had a really unusual career. Early in his career Donovan was forced to put the team on his back. He did a great job of making plays, limiting mistakes, and doing whatever the team needed. He started to change in 2002. I've always attributed that to his natural progression (year 4) as well as the arrival of Antonio Freeman. Donovan suddenly had a gifted receiver who could make difficult catches. We also opened up the playbook because we had 3 solid receivers. Thrash looked good back then and Pinky was a player on the rise. There was hope for our receiving corps. I digress.

Donovan was great in the final 10 games of 2003. The offense featured our Triple Headed Monster at RB. The WRs were adequate. We had a pair of good TEs. Donovan was efficient and led us up and down the field every game. Then Westy got hurt in the finale and we sputtered in the playoffs.

The conference title games of the 2003 season featured brutal press coverage by NE and CAR. That drove the NFL to enforce contact rules more stringently, thus opening up the passing game around the league. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Daunte Culpepper, McNabb, and Drew Brees all had career years. That wasn't by accident. The change in rules had a profound effect.

Two other things changed Donovan. One was the arrival of Terrell Owens. All of a sudden Donovan had an outright weapon to throw to. The two of them formed a deadly duo. That year the offense went from efficient to explosive. We'd never seen anything like that. It was great at the time, but has somewhat haunted us ever since. The other event was a famous play against Dallas on MNF. Donovan scrambled for 14 seconds before firing a pass to FredEx for a 49-yard gain. That play really instilled in Donovan the belief that if he could wait long enough someone would get open and a big play would be there for the taking. The next 2 weeks we played the Skins and G-men. Donovan was sacked in each game while running around and trying to keep the play alive. He also fumbled on those sacks and we lost the ball.

Donovan seemed to be at the top of his game coming off the great '04 season. However, circumstances changed. Todd Pinkston got hurt in TC and missed the year. That took away a starter and guy who could stretch the field. Correll Buckhalter got hurt. We had a talented rookie named Ryan Moats, but he was struggling to learn the playbook. Suddenly Westy was our only real RB. We added Lamar Gordon, but the coaches weren't fully comfortable with him. Things got bad when TO went all TO on us.

You had Donovan without Pinky and with a belligerent TO. Rookie Reggie Brown was learning on the fly. Chad Lewis was gone. L.J. was solid, but still inconsistent. Westy was the only RB we trusted. He was somewhat fragile so that meant we wanted to be careful about overworking him. The pressure was on Donovan and the passing game to carry the team, but there weren't the weapons to make it work the same way.

Donovan quit running in 2004. He only had 41 runs in 15 games. In a full season with him healthy that number had been in the mid-80s. Donovan thought of himself as a pocket passer in 2004 and moving forward.

Complicating matters in 2005, McNabb took a huge shot to his chest in the season opener. He also was dealing with a sports hernia injury. He's not at 100%. He doesn't have a full array of weapons. He has little in the way of a running game. Donovan is convinced he's a pocket passer because of the success of 2004. Unfortunately the NFL relaxed on enforcing the pass defense rules. Receivers were back to fighting DBs to get off the ball.

Donovan hasn't been the same guy since the beginning of 2005. He's not the athletic QB we remember from the old days. He's not the elite pocket passer that he thinks he is from 2004. He had a chance to maybe develop into a top flight pocket passer, but the brutal circumstances of 2005 basically killed that idea. Also, physically gifted players like Donovan usually lack top fundamentals because they've been able to get the job done on sheer athleticism. His love of big plays from 2004 hurt him. He has the ability to be an efficient QB, but lacks the consistency to do it week to week, sometimes half to half or even drive to drive. Those old instincts kick in and he wants to go downfield.

Donovan used to be a great QB late in games. He would run if needed. He would make things happen. He came alive when the pressure was on. That stopped after 2004.


* beat OAK late, but game was tied at 20 when he led us on a FG drive
* beat KC in a comeback, but game was tied entering the 4th Qtr and we got the lead
* lost at ATL 14-10
* lost at WAS 17-10
* beat SD 20-17, but it was on the return of a blocked FG by Matt Ware
* lost to Dallas 21-20...we had the lead when McNabb threw pick-six to Roy Williams


* lost to NYG 30-24 in OT ... we had 24-7 lead ... no points in 4th Qtr
* beat DAL 38-24 ... McNabb hit Reggie on flea flicker for 40-yd TD to give us lead
* lost at NO 27-24 ... had 4th Qtr lead
* lost at TB 23-21 ... Westy had long TD off screen pass to give us late lead
* lost to JAX 13-6
* team proceeded to win several close games down the stretch with Garcia at QB

I won't go into all the struggles in close games of 2007 and 2008. We know them pretty well.

The point in all of this is that Donovan seems to have lost his mojo. He is still athletic enough to run, but won't do it. He has enough talent to be a solid game manager type QB, but prefers the long ball. Notice that in a couple of the '06 games he did connect for long plays to give us the lead. He just can't seem to lead us on a long drive to do that.

The long ball is great when it works. The problem is that you're going to have off days. That's when you must be able to move the chains and play down-to-down football. McNabb has trouble doing that.

He's not helped by the offense as run by Andy and Marty. As I've noted before, that trio seems to bring out the worst in each other.

I think one of the keys to judging McNabb is what your standard is. He used to be compared to Brady and Manning (rightfully so). Those guys continue to play at an elite level. Manning is better now than ever. Donovan is a descending player. If you compare him to Romo, Eli, and Campbell...McNabb is still a good player. He was an elite QB. He was an elite player. That is no longer the case. I don't have full confidence that he can win a Super Bowl, unless we get lucky enough to build a huge lead because of big plays and oddball TDs. Donovan just doesn't seem to have the ability to go toe-to-toe with a good QB. Rivers made clutch throw after clutch throw for SD on Sunday. Romo did that in the 4th the week before. Donovan hasn't shown that ability since the playoffs last year, but even then we always had the lead. Can he handle the pressure of playing from behind?

RE: Reid

Andy Reid is a terrific head coach, but he's still a flawed guy. No doubt about that. I won't even get into the running game discussion. We just talk in circles because the normal world sees things one way and Andy sees it another.

I do think AR can win the SB, but I have serious doubts as to whether he and McNabb can get that done together. I think a more efficient QB would make a huge difference. I'd love to have seen the 2006 offense (Garcia at the helm) with the 2008 defense. That might have won the SB going away.

Andy is also guilty of relying on Donovan's ability too much. He lets that get him in the mindset that going for big plays is okay. We then face DAL or NYG and he plays small ball. The offense clicks a little better. The next week we're back to chucking it around the yard and playing inconsistently. I'm not sure why Andy can't see that correlation.

He is changing a bit each year. Andy used to coddle McNabb. That no longer happens. He really went after Donovan following the TB loss in '06 when Mcnabb threw the ball to LJ prior to the half and he was tackled. The clock ran out and we missed an easy chance to attempt a FG. Andy benched Donnie last year. That was unheard of a few years back.

Andy is now more vocal on the sidelines. He doesn't call plays anymore and you see him interacting with all our players. He is supportive, but also will get in a player's face. Coaches too. He was really on Ted Daisher a few weeks back for a mistake.

Andy changes a bit each year, save for the running game. That gives me hope that he could lead us to a title.

Donovan has been more of the same each of the last few years. I'd love for him to prove me wrong and start winning some close games. I would gladly eat crow. I'm just Doubting Thomas at this point.

Quick final note...I do love McNabb for what he's done for us Eagles fans. Don't ever think I'm anti-Donovan or anything like that. He has been a godsend for our franchise. I'm just trying to give you an honest opinion about what the situation is with him and the future. Guys don't tend to get back their mojo after they lose it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Game Review is Posted - SD


Before the review...let's talk about a few things. We must fire Andy Reid. We need to bring in a winner like Jeff Fisher (3-6). Or Jon Gruden (who got fired because he couldn't beat the lowly Raiders with the playoffs on the line). You know John Harbaugh would have this team winning like his (likely) 5-4 Ravens. You getting my drift? Andy ain't perfect, but he's better than we sometimes think.

The coaches in the NFC with a better record than us:

Sean Payton
Brad Childress
Wade Phillips
Ken Wisenhunt

The only guy on that list I'd take over Big Red is Payton. He seems like the real deal. That said, Andy has more playoff appearances in the last 3 years (2 to 1). The Saints are a lock this year. The Eagles are very much up in the air.

Listen, we all get frustrated with Andy. He drives me insane. But we tend to lump faults together and blindly throw them at AR.

* He doesn't change --- Are you kidding me??? Andy used to be the king of small ball. Now we run a vertical offense. Andy used to call the plays. Now Marty does it. We used to have problems with delay of game penalties. AR brought clocks to Lehigh back in 2006 and that eliminated that problem. We used to not aggressively work in rookies on offense. That's changed. Andy was patient and passive with building up a WR corps. We now have one of the best sets of WRs in the entire league.

* Andy isn't aggressive --- Not true. Didn't he invent the onside kick to open a game? We can't do that anymore, but he will mix in an onside kick during games about once a year. I know we did it vs NE in 2007. Can't remember if we did it last year. Throwing the ball deep is aggressive on offense. Using trick plays is aggressive. The conservative approach is to run the ball and play it safe. Andy went for it on 4th/inches from inside our own 40 a couple weeks back. He will roll the dice when he thinks it must be done or he likes the odds.

* Andy can't win the big one --- Unnknown. Bill Cowher began his career in 1992 and won in 2005. Tom Landry was a rookie coach in 1960 and won his first SB in 1971. Don't assume that because Jimmy Johnson or Bill Walsh won it early on that you have to win the game immediately or all is lost.

About that last point...the chances of AR winning a title with McNabb are very low. That is my big problem. I've written about them before. They bring out the worst in each other. Reid needs a more efficient QB. McNabb needs a different style of offense, although I'm starting to doubt whether he can in fact win a title. Yesterday's comeback encouraged me, but McNabb has to build off that. I need to see him play at a high level for several games.

That ties in to another key point. We are still in control of our own fortunes. The Eagles would be in the playoffs if the season ended today. We're 5-4 overall and 4-2 in the NFC. The next couple of weeks become crucial games. We have no fudge room. Dallas losing yesteray kept us in the thick of the NFC East race. And Dallas still has to face the Saints and Chargers.

Nothing is over. No one needs to be fired or cut. The injuries are piling up and that is a major concern. We must get the veteran players to stay healthy and the rookies to eliminate dumb mistakes. If we do that, the Eagles still have as good a chance of anyone outside of New Orleans. I know the Vikings have a great record, but Favre has faded late in the season. I'm curious to see if he can maintain his current level of play.

Getting back to Andy for a minute. The one thing he and I will always disagree on is running the ball. He's got his theories, I've got mine. It bothers the heck out of me that he's so stubborn about the run game. I think that is a legit area where he's wide open to criticism. I love a lot about Big Red, but I will never fully understand his thoughts on line play and the run game. I don't want you to think that I see him as perfect. Far from it. I do think we sometimes get so focused on being critical of him that we say things without thinking the whole situation through.

Now for the review...

-- LINK --

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Too Late, Not Furious Enough


We lost 31-23. That's now 2 losses in a row. Last week it was 4 points to Dallas. Now we lose by 8 to the Chargers. Both games have one common denominator: mistakes.

If you could change a handful of plays from either game...we win. The problem is that you can't do that. You have to learn from mistakes and play better the next week. We didn't do that.

* Moise Fokou was called for a late hit penalty. Stupid play. Last week he had a pair of bonehead penalties which really cost us.

* Jeremy Maclin was called for offensive interference on a 3rd down where he made the catch to move the chains. Jeremy got his hands on the CB and didn't do much, but you can't be so blatant with extending your arms when trying to push off. Gotta be subtle. That penalty killed a drive. Jeremy also fielded a punt at the 5. Last week Maclin had some costly mistakes that hurt us.

* Sav Rocca shanked a punt when we were backed up near our goal line. That set up the Chargers at our 40 and led to their first TD. Earlier this year Sav had a shank in a similar situation.

* We had an offside penalty on 3rd/short. That's happened before this year.

* Asante blew a coverage that led to a TD. Looked like he bit on a pump fake. Sheldon did the same darn thing last week and it cost us a TD. Ugh.

* Tracy White was called for an illegal block on a PR where DeSean had gotten to the SD 35-yard line. Blocking penalty cost us a TD last week.

These mistakes have nothing to do with lack of talent. These are mental errors. I'm sure the coaches have gone over these situations time after time. I don't understand why the player continue to screw up. Several of the mistakes were made by rookies. You understand that rookies are going to screw up. You just hope they play well enough to counter-balance the mistakes. As for veterans...harder to forgive them. They should know better.

I didn't have a beef with the playcalling by the O or D for the most part. The early Red Zone struggles were very frustrating. On the first trip we ran Weaver up the middle, threw an incomplete pass to Celek, and then ran Buckley up the middle. I love the fact they used Buckley, but why give him the ball on 3rd down. Eldra had 2 meaningless carries late in the Giants win. He hasn't had a touch since. He hasn't carried in a pressure situation...maybe since college. If you want to use him, give him the ball on 1st down and then again on 2nd down. Let him get a feel for things. Just throwing him out there on 3rd down was dumb. I'm sure they've practiced the play, but that isn't the same thing as running it live in a pressure situation.

What is wrong in the RZ? Combination of things: 1. Personnel 2. Playcalling 3. McNabb. We have smaller, quicker skill players. The RZ is a condensed space. Speed and quickness aren't as useful in there. Size and strength are more important. As far as plays...we tend to be a horizontal team in the RZ. That just doesn't work well. Our offense is vertical by design. We stretch the field and that creates good gaps for receivers. Down deep we can't do that. We need to run base plays and execute them precisely. I don't understand why we won't run a slant.

The McNabb comment is based on the last couple of years. Early in his career Donovan was a huge threat near the goal line. He ran for 6 TDs in 2000 and 2002. That threat put tremendous pressure on defenses. Donovan wasn't a great passer, but he didn't have to be. Play fakes were more effective. We've had RZ problems for 3 years now. Donovan has 3 rushing TDs in that time. Defenses don't have to worry about him as a runner. Now there is pressure on McNabb to throw the ball well. There are a couple of problems with this. Donovan doesn't often "throw guys open". He likes receivers to be open. In the RZ you need to anticipate what will happen. Donovan waits to see guys come free of coverage and then targets them.

Think about the best QBs in the league now. Brees, Brady, and Manning will take chances. They put the ball up there and let their receivers make plays for them. McNabb seems reticent to do this. He's given Maclin and Celek some chances, but too often Donovan wants to be perfect with his read and throw. That's impossible in the RZ.

The lack of a consistent running attack is also a major factor. Offensive linemen need to get into a rhythm. They can't spend most of a drive going backward in pass protection and then be expected to fire off the ball in the RZ and blow defenders off the ball when they are in a short yardage defense. This is one thing that I don't get about Marty and Andy. They either don't understand this or seem oblivious to it.

Settling for FGs instead of going for it...complicated subject. I wanted Andy to go for it on the first situation, but I also understand the George Blanda wisdom that the first points are the hardest. Make sure you get on the board. The next series we had to kick because it was 4th/7. The third FG situation was most annoying to me. We had 3rd/1 from the 7 and threw an incomplete pass to DJax. Even worse...the play was the rollout to the right. I cannot stand that damn thing. Why oh why???? We were down 21-6. The smart thing would have been to run up the middle. That either gets you the 1st or might set you up with 4th/inches. Down 15 you really need to score a TD.

The best argument for kicking is that we'd driven to the 7 from our 16 and getting no points would have been crushing. There is logic in that argument, but I think we screwed up starting with the 3rd down call.


I don't want to drone on all night about problems. There were some bright spots.

* Jason Avant had a great game. He caught 8 passes for 156 yards. He made one sensational catch.

* McNabb and the offense really clicked in the 2nd half. We had almost 300 yards of offense in the 2nd half. We scored 17 points.

* Donovan did a terrific job of running the hurry up offense in the 2nd half. He looked comfortable and things clicked. Let's hope that groove carries over to next week.

* Macho Harris filled in at KOR late in the game and looked good.

* I loved the fact that the guys didn't quit. We were down 28-9. We scored 14 straight points to get right back in the middle of it.

* McNabb dropped back 57 times, but only got sacked twice. And that was with Herremans at LT.


* Westy suffered another concussion. He might be done for the year. There are 7 regular season games left. I'm sure we'd sit him for at least 3 weeks. Is it worth it to take a chance that he'll be ready to play at that point? Maybe. We'll see. You have to wonder if Larry Johnson will get a phone call.

* Sheldon got hurt. He's got a hamstring problem. We need that to be a short term issue. If he's gone for a few weeks we're gonna be hurting. Is Dimitri Patterson starting material? We'll find out.

Gameday - SD


San Diego is a non-conference game and isn't critical in that sense. I do think winning today is important. The Eagles would improve to 6-3. Getting 3 games above .500 can be significant. Last year the team didn't reach that mark until 14 games in (8-5-1). We were up and down for most of last year. We overcame that and got into the playoffs, but the topsy-turvy season hurt us.

We needed a lot of help to get into the playoffs. Do you remember the last day of the season? We were 8-6-1. We needed Tampa and Chicago to lose. We had to beat Dallas. I watched both the early games. Chicago got out to a 10-0 lead. That got me nervous. Then the Texans came alive and scored 21 straight points. They built a 14-point lead in the 4th Qtr and won 31-24.

Oakland at Tampa was a wild game. I figured the Raiders had very little chance to win, but I hoped for the best. Oakland had a 14-7 halftime lead and I started to believe. Anything was possible. Then the Bucs scored 17 points and had a 24-14 lead in the early 4th. I was highly despondent. My buddy Matt called and told me to stay positive. Next thing you know the Raiders score to cut the lead to 24-21. Then RB Michael Bush busted off a 67-yard TD run. Oakland was back in front. They added a late FG and held on for the 31-24 lead.

Other people set us up and we took care of our own business by beating Dallas 44-6. That turned out to be a great day and exciting finish to the season. As fun as that was, you don't want those kind of situations to come up. More often than not things don't all work out as needed.

Beating the Chargers won't guarantee us anything, but it would help us to stay near the front of the pack. That is important in my mind. Winning teams develop a kind of confidence. They expect good things to happen and that leads to guys making plays. The Eagles of 2000-2004 were a great example of that. I want the current team to get back to that level.

Winning is also important because we're still in the middle of the NFC East title race. I don't want us to have the mindset that being a Wildcard team is okay. Winning on the road in the postseason is tough. Every win we get keeps us near the top of the division and improves our chances of winning the title.


Remember how good the offense looked on the first 10 or so plays against WAS? We ran and threw the ball well. McNabb was good. The guys up front blocked well. Westy got hurt and the offense struggled much of the remainder of the game.

Brian will be back on the field today. I'm interested to see if he plays a lot early on. Big Red has to know that our offense is much more successful when we start fast.


Last week the guys on ESPN almost all picked us. I knew we were doomed at that point. This morning they all picked the Chargers...except for Chris Berman. That makes me like our chances to win.


The inactives are now known. Not good:

LT Jason Peters
OL Mike McGlynn
WR Kevin Curtis
RB P.J. Hill
QB Kevin Kolb

DB Quintin Demps
LB Akeem Jordan
CB Jack Ikegwuonu

This means that Todd Herremans will be the LT. Nick Cole will be the LG. Stacy Andrews will be the RG. Now I'm nervous.

The good news is that San Diego doesn't have anyone like Jay Ratliff on the inside. Merriman is mostly a power rusher these days. Todd should be able to deal with that, but Peters was a much better fit for stopping him.

Jeremy Maclin will probably be the KOR with Demps out and Hobbs on IR. Jeremy had a good return last week, but the pressure will be on him today as he does it all game long.

There are no major surprises for San Diego.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saturday Stuff


My column is up. It is a mixture of game preview and observations on the situation we're in.

-- LINK --


* LB Shawne Merriman has been bothered by a sore foot this week. That could affect him on Sunday. Here's an article with some info:

-- Link --

* No word yet on what will happen with Victor Abiamiri. He might be healthy enough to play this week, but how can you sit Jason Babin? Jason has been productive the last couple of weeks. I don't want him on the bench.

A radical thought would be to sit Trevor Laws. We have Bunk, Patt, and Dixon still as the primary DTs. VA can play DT. Darren Howard can play DT. Against a physical running team I would keep Laws active, but SD likes to throw the ball. This is a week when you could get away with sitting Laws. Of course, the coaches could always just keep VA on the bench.

* Aren't we due a big game from Westy?


Friday, November 13, 2009

Strategy and Matchups - San Diego


Let's start with the offense. The Eagles will need to score points to beat San Diego. As I wrote yesterday, the Chargers have put up at least 21 points in each game. That means we need touchdowns. Getting to the 20 and stalling out won't work this week. The offense must get into the end zone.

We've gotten a good feel for each game so far pretty early on. If we don't score a touchdown in the 1st quarter that is a sign that it could be a long day. With that in mind, how should Andy/Marty call the game early on? I think the first play ought to be 3 WRs, with a TE and RB. Run a play fake and throw deep to DJax or JMac. You have a chance at a big play or penalty. You also get the defense on their heels instantly.

San Diego runs a 3-4. We just faced that style of defense last week. That means the blockers should have a good feel for what to do. One big difference...SD doesn't have DeMarcus Ware or Jay Ratliff. They can get some pressure, but I don't fear their guys like I do Ware and Ratliff.

We do need to run the ball. The Chargers struggle vs the run. We'll have a full backfield this week with Westy's return. I'd love to see 20 or so carries between him, LeSean, and Weaver. The Chargers have a rookie starting at Safety, Kevin Ellison. If we can get him coming up against the run that could open downfield passing lanes for the wideouts or Brent Celek.

No matter how we do it I want DeSean to get 5 touches this week. He's too good to not have the ball forced to him. San Diego has been shuffling guys around on defense. Using DeSean on an End Around might be a smart way to test the Chargers and their discipline. I would also line him up at QB and have DeSean take direct snaps. Get #10 the ball.

Jason Peters isn't 100%, but he will play. That's big. He's powerful enough to handle Merriman's strength and agile enough to handle his burst. Herremans will need to be on the lookout when Merriman stunts to the inside. Todd anchors pretty well, but Merriman has some real power when he goes all out. Jamaal is big and powerful enough to handle the various guys who will play NT. If he can block them by himself, we can get some work done on inside runs. This is where Westy will have a lot of value. He knows how to find the small spaces up the middle and turn those plays into 3 or 4 yards. LeSean is still looking for a hole to run through. Those don't always exist in the NFL.

Donovan needs to play well. He's got to start fast so that the offense builds up some quick confidence. When big play opportunities do come up, Donovan has to be on target.

One of the things that hurt us last week was field position. We constantly needed to go the long field to even get into scoring position. Dallas has very good kicking and coverage units. San Diego punter Mike Scifres is one of the best in the league, but their coverage isn't so good. Teams average 13.5 yards per PR. That's the 2nd worst figure in the league. The kickoff coverage is middle of the pack. We need to help the offense out with good returns whenever possible. Those hidden yards can have a huge impact on a game.

Our defense will have their hands full with Rivers, LT, Sproles, Gates, VJ, and Floyd. That's an impressive array of weapons. I think you still start with the run, even though the Chargers are struggling in that area this year. Don't let LT get going. Put all the pressure on Rivers and his receivers. The key to controlling their run game is Bunk and Patt handling the middle. The Chargers have backups starting at C and RG. Our guys should win the battle inside most of the day.

Sproles is scary because of his big play ability, but he isn't doing a lot this year. His long run is 21 yards. He's got 1 TD on the ground. He's been better as a receiver. Darren has 25 catches. He's scored 2 TDs and has an 81-yard play. While he isn't having a huge impact so far this year on offense you do have to play him smartly. We don't want his breakout game coming against us. I'm sure the LBs and Safeties will focus on him every play that he's on the field. We don't want any part of Sproles vs Gocong in open space.

I'll be interested to see how much we blitz in this game. I think our D-line matches up pretty well with their O-line. Cole should have some success with LT McNeill. Marcus is a tall, high-cut guy. Trent can get down in a track stance and really stay low. That will make it really tough for McNeill to block him. Parker, Babin, and Clemons all have the burst/speed to beat Clary on the other side. Clemons could especially be a problem. After watching Osi blow by McNeill on Sunday I wonder if Chris might not get a couple of snaps at RDE. Just let him speed rush. RG Louis Vasquez gave up a sack last week. He's only a rookie and could have his hands full with our Nickel and Dime units. I think Babin would be good against him.

If we do blitz a lot I'd have to think that it will be up the middle. San Diego has a makeshift group inside. Rivers isn't fast or mobile. Plus, we'll have Gocong at MLB. This is a time to unleash him up the middle and see what he can do.

We must be relentless in this game. Last week Rivers and the SD offense struggled most of the day. He had 134 passing yards with a few minutes left in the game. The Chargers got the ball late and Rivers led them downfield for the go-ahead TD. Rivers is tough. He'll sit in the pocket and take a beating if necessary. He'll throw 50 passes if necessary. The team can't relax. SD can strike quickly and get right back in the game. This also is a reason the offense must consistently move the ball and score. You don't want to leave the Chargers any hope. Rivers will have some success against us. We need to keep the pressure on him and pick off errant passes when we get the chance.

The matchup between their huge WRs and our smallish CBs will be interesting. Our guys can cover and play the ball, but Floyd and Jackson can make catches even when we're all over them. Just think back to the days of Burress over Sheldon. FS could be important in this game. San Diego likes to stretch the field. We need the deep Safety to rotate to the ball and be able to help out the CB. Sometimes this will be Sean, other times it will be Quintin. I don't think we can stop their wideouts, but we do need to limit them as much as possible.

Gates is going to be another tough matchup. I'm sure Sean McDermott will use a variety of players and coverages on him. All 3 LBs will get a chance. Jones and Mikell will get chances from their S position. You wonder if they'll try a CB on him at times. You don't shut down Antonio Gates. Just try to limit his big plays.

SD got to face a defense similar to ours last week. That helps them out. It also can help us. We got a chance to see what they handled well and what they struggled with. We have a better secondary than the Giants. The flip side of that is that we have smaller CBs who won't match up as well.

I don't know what role Dimitri Patterson will play in this game. SD seems to really feed the ball to their starters. They obviously mix in some different sets, but we may see a lot of base offense. If so, Patterson could spend a lot of the game watching. Because he's "new" to the defense the Chargers could decide to go 3-wide and attack him. They just haven't done much of that kind of stuff this year.

Going a step farther...Gates and VJ have combined for 84 catches. Rivers has 166 completions. They really feed the ball to their two primary star receivers. If we focus on them that will force Rivers to spread the ball around more. That's a double-edged sword, though. You might get other guys to struggle with making plays, but you could also see someone step up and make plays. The other thing is that defenses have tried to shut down VJ and Gates all year with very little success. We did a solid job last week of limiting Witten and Austin. There is hope. Someone just tell Sheldon not to bite on a play fake on 3rd/long please.

San Diego is 2-2 at home. We're 2-1 on the road. I tend to think this game will bring out the best in us. We won at CAR and at WAS. Those aren't easy places to win. Our loss was at Oakland when the team had a nightmare day. We'll be in the right frame of mind for this game. We won't be taking the Chargers lightly. I expect a solid showing from the team. If we can eliminate some costly penalties and make a play or two on defense I like our chances.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Know Your Enemy - SD


San Diego started 2-3, but has now won 3 in a row. They're playing better football. It also helps that they beat KC, Oakland, and a struggling Giants team. I'm not sure what exactly to think of the Chargers. Tons of talent, but they still seem like a somewhat dysfunctional team.

The offense that was built around stud RB LaDainian Tomlinson has gone all pass, no run. Sound familiar? They are last in the NFL in yards per carry and rushing yards per game. Tomlinson hasn't been healthy for much of the year. That trend continues this week. Darren Sproles is the other RB. He's dynamic as a returner and receiver, but hasn't looked special as a runner. He does lead the league with 1,397 all-purpose yards (most as a RS). How bad is their running game? SD has 9 less carries than the Eagles. Yikes.

QB Philip Rivers is playing well. The numbers that stick out...he's completing just under 60% of his passes and also averages more than 8 yards per attempt. Anything over 8 is considered excellent. That shows you a vertical passing attack. He has been sacked 18 times and has 6 INTs.

The offense is ranked 17th in yards, but 8th in scoring. The Chargers sound more and more like us. The big difference is consistency. SD has scored 21 points or more in every game. That's impressive. The downside is that they've only scored more than 28 points once, when they put up 37 on KC. They can score, but they aren't explosive.

The Charger defense is 11th in yards allowed, but only 20th in points allowed. They run a 3-4 and things have been up and down this year. NT Jamal Williams got hurt a few weeks back and they really struggled without him. Opponents are running for 130 yards a game on San Diego.

You need to look at the Chargers D based on early in the year vs now.

Gms 1-4 ... 7 sacks ... pass defense was 20th ... record of 2-2

Gms 5-8 ... 15 sacks ... pass defense is ranked #5 ... 3-1

* The Chargers defense had a streak of 145 plays that were held to 25 yards or less broken by a screen pass to Hakeem Nicks last week.


WRs --- Vincent Jackson is having a terrific year (42-722-7). He's got good speed and great size. Jackson has developed into a very good player. Malcolm Floyd got the starting gig on the other side recently. He's a big guy with downfield ability as well. Both receivers are at least 6'5 and 225. Both guys average at least 17 yards per reception. Floyd seems to be on the left most of the time with Jackson on the right. Legeduu Naanee is a WR/TE/H-back hybrid. He's got 16 catches.

Marcus McNeill --- Tall LT at 6'7. He's allowed 4 sacks this year. Osi beat him with a good speed rush last week.

Kris Dielman
--- Starting LG. Best of the interior blockers.

Jerome Clary
--- RT gets the job done more with effort than talent. He's given up 5.5 sacks this year.

Antonio Gates --- Still an elite TE. He's having a good year (42-590-2). May not make the highlight plays of the past, but he's still a force in the middle of the field. Has a catch of at least 19 yards in each game. Long play is only 37 yards, though. Does have the 2 TDs, but they came in the blowout loss to PIT. Hasn't scored other than that. Weird.

NT --- Jamal Williams has been replaced by Travis Johnson. And Ian Scott. And Ogemdi Nwagbuo. Occasionally even Alphonso Boone will slide in to the middle. The Chargers lack one guy to handle the job so they wisely mixed in several. It isn't an ideal solution, but it is working okay.

Shaun Phillips --- Generally plays on the left side. Leads the team with 5 sacks. Athletic pass rusher. Good burst. Also has 5 FFs and he's 3rd on the team in tackles. Better rusher than cover guy. Got beaten by TE Kevin Boss for TD last week.

Shawne Merriman --- Has a pair of sacks in each of the last 2 games. That sounds good, but the eyeball test tells you he's not back to being the force he was. Got to Eli on the final play last week...but he was unblocked. The other sack came when he looped inside and got by LG Rich Seubert. Merriman doesn't lack effort. He plays hard. He uses power rush moves more than I remember from the past. On the sack vs Seubert, Merriman slanted inside and overpowered the big guy. Shawne got under his pads and drove Seubert back, then had a path to Eli. Occasionally they will move him around. Lined up over a slot receiver in one set last week and knocked the crap out of the guy at the snap. Clean, legal, and smart.

Stephen Cooper --- Leading tackler on the team. Solid player. Not a playmaker. Couple of TFLs and FFs, but no INTs or sacks.

Eric Weddle --- Impressive player. I was a big fan of his at Utah, but his first 2 years in the league were only okay. Seems like the light has finally gone on. Plays full speed. Flys to the ball. Hits well and is a good tackler. Productive. Has a sack, 3 TFLs, an INT, and 4 PDs.

CBs --- Quentin Jammer and Antonio Cromartie are big, talented cover corners. Antoine Cason and Steve Gregory also get playing time. Cromartie has had an up and down season for various reasons. He seems to have bounced back recently. He has a pick and 3 pass break-ups in the last 4 games.



The LB unit is going to look a bit different. Akeem Jordan is out this week and the coaches decided to move guys around. Chris Gocong will slide to the middle. Moise Fokou will stay at SAM. Will Witherspoon will play WIL. Try saying that after 10 PBRs.

Gocong played a handful of snaps in the middle at the end of a game earlier in the year. I think it was vs KC. I thought Chris looked natural inside. I'm interested to see what he can do.

Spoon has spent half his career at WIL and half at MIKE. Moving outside will be just fine with him. Fokou will have his hands full. He'll be matched up against Antonio Gates on some plays. That will be a big test.


I talked about Macho Harris possibly playing in the slot. I'd completely forgotten about Dimitri Patterson. That's what happens when role players get hurt and miss time. Out of sight, out of mind. Patterson had a good summer playing CB and in the slot. He could be a solid replacement for our good friend MmmBop.

The real worry is what happens if Asante or Sheldon gets hurt and misses more than a couple of plays. Dimitri isn't a guy I'm sure I want on the field as a starting CB. I have no idea what to think of Jack, obviously. He wasn't impressive this summer, but time can make a big difference for guys coming off injury. I don't know how Ramzee Robinson fits into all of this.


Bryan Smith will start this week for JAX. Last I heard he was in St Louis. Then the Jags got him. He's played as a backup and now will start at RDE. Good for Bryan. Doesn't say much about the Jags defense, though.

Matt Ware has become a good role player for the Cards. They seem to know how to use hybrid guys down there.

Rod Hood is playing for the Titans and has 2 picks in 2 weeks.