It’s the Little Things

Life is good in Eagles Nation.

Carson Wentz is the greatest QB to ever play. The offense is scoring points. Jim Schwartz and the defense are on a warpath. No QB who has faced the Eagles wants any business with doing it again. Sam Bradford netted a first round pick. The run game suddenly exist again. Now if the WR’s (and secondary) can just hold on to the damn football, watch out.

Now unfortunately the realities of being a comically underemployed recent college graduate mean I have not had time to dig into the All-22 footage and really get a good feel for the offensive line play. However, this one play did stand out and I thought I would share my thoughts on how it is so much more than meets the eye, and really impressive. As the title of this post suggest, it’s the little things that make all the difference.

The Play

At first glance this is just a simple “Power” play. Wendell Smallwood shows good burst and acceleration. The line creates a nice hole. Solid 13 yard run. Nothing to write home about, let alone a meandering post.

BUT… The play shouldn’t have worked.

The way it was executed, is not the way it was drawn up.

Allen Barbre is supposed to pull and kick out DE Arthur Moats. TE Trey Burton is supposed to follow up on the inside of Barbre and ISO block the LB (preferably inside out as well).

None of this happens though, because Arthur Moats makes his reads, and diagnoses the play, compresses the hole, and “wrongarms” Barbre. This is perfect technique. Up to this point in the play the Steelers coaches will be happy and the Eagles coaches will be annoyed that it didn’t work, but it would be more in the “the other guys get paid to play football too” category. Nobody is getting cusses out for this play on film, if it just ends here.

But it doesn’t.

Barbre has the wherewithal to pivot his hips around Moats, and then use the defenders momentum against him to wash him out of the play. Burton also adjusts on the fly and instead of going inside Barbre, or just running into him, goes around Barbre to the outside, and still gets a block on the linebacker.

The final piece of the puzzle is rookie running back Wendell Smallwood. He shows good patience. When he first gets the ball, the hole that should be there isn’t. It would be easy for a young runner to panic and bounce the run to the outside or simply try to bury a shoulder into the mass of bodies. Instead he isn’t in a rush, a gap emerges, and Smallwood accelerates through it for a nice gain.

This play doesn’t happen last year. Last year Allen Barbre couldn’t figure out who to block on inside zone (and given that inside zone was 40% of the offense that’s a big deal). This Eagles team is getting better each week. And with better play design and coaching that is alot more effective, it leads to plays like this.

 

Tyler Aston is a contributor at Eagles Rewind. You can yell at him on twitter @Astonia67.

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Looking for a Linebacker

TYLER ASTON is a contributor at Eagles Rewind. You can follow him on twitter @Astonia67.

The Eagles are in the market for some young backup linebackers. This makes more sense than brining in an over the hill vet on what is effectively a rebuilding team. Najee Goode will be a free agent next year. Joe Walker looked good in the first preseason game but has far from locked up a long term spot. The team gave Myke Tavarres a ton of signing bonus money and he will almost certainly at least make the practice squad, but plays WILL (same position as Goode) and is making a big jump in competition and transitioning positions. Deonte Skinner may make the team but hasn’t exactly been lighting things up during the preseason. Quinten Gause is probably more of a practice squad guy, and bless his heart but I don’t think Don Cherry is going to make it.

Despite all the handwringing about the state of the position, in looking around the league for this post, the birds are probably middle of the pack in terms of overall linebacker depth. The Eagles are most likely in the market for a SAM or MIKE Linebacker. Let’s take a look at some potential options.

LJ Fort: 6’0, 232lbs, 26 years old, STEELERS

Jordan Zumwalt: 6’4, 235lbs, 24 years old, STEELERS

Tyler Matakevich: 6’1, 235lbs, 23 years old, STEELERS

In my opinion the Steelers have the best overall LB depth in the league right now. One or more of these players will be available. Fort played college ball at Northern Iowa but and played a decent chunk for the Browns back in 2012. Has been bouncing around the league since then trying to find a home. Fort has had a very strong showing in Steelers camp and is turning some heads.

Zumwalt was a guy who flashed every time you watched UCLA in 2013. Every game he had a monster hit or bigtime run stuff that made you sit up and pay attention. Considering that UCLA team also had Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, and Myles Jack, that is no small feat. The downside is his overall game tape was much more mixed. While he would flash a big play you often wondered about his football IQ. He’s yet to be healthy in the NFL, but has the raw talent. Bit of a project but perhaps a fire and brimstone DC like Schwartz could help him.

Matakevich is the local star. He was the driving force behind Temple’s strong defense last year. Extremely productive college player with high football IQ. He’s a bit small and not terribly athletic which is why he was selected in the seventh round and not where his stat line would have you guess. He’s probably never going to be a starter but for a team like the Eagles having a savvy capable backup MIKE backer to provide insurance for Hicks certainly helps.

Marquis Flowers: 6’3, 250lbs, 24 years old, BENGALS

Flowers started his college career at Arizona as a S. Eventually moved to SAM Linebacker. Came into the league at 6’2 231lbs, but has since grown into that frame. Ran a 4.51 at his pro day. Made the Bengals roster in 2014 and would have last year if not an injury in the final preseason game. The Bengals have a good track record of developing linebacking talent. He seems to have done well this preseason and the Bengals like him, however he just seems to be caught up in a numbers game. Flowers has good size and athleticism to be a modern NFL SAM backer and cover linebackers.

Shaq Petteway: 5’11, 230lbs, 22 years old, CHARGERS

Petteway doesn’t really fit a need for the Eagles, he projects as an undersized WILL in the birds scheme. I bring him up however because the Eagles seemed to like him in the predraft process, and worked him out as a fullback. He stands no chance at making the Chargers roster as a 34 OLB as he’s about 3 inches and 25 pounds from being an undersized pass rusher. Petteway would more be a guy that the birds sign to the practice squad and tinker with at fullback and maybe some defense on the side.

John Timu: 6’0, 245lbs, 23 years old, BEARS

Timu was a two time captain at Washington on units that featured Marcus Peters, Kikaha, Danny Shelton, and Shaq Thompson. Timu started 3 games at the end of last season for the Bears but after heavy investment at the position in the offseason may be on the outside looking in. Timu is the kind of player you look for in a backup MIKE, maybe not the flashiest player but everytime you watch his tape you walk away going “that sumbitch can play football”.

Paul Worrilow: 6’0, 230lbs, 26 years old, FALCONS

Worrilow is the most established player on this list. If the Eagles want a more established player to provide insurance for Hicks, this should be the target not a player in his 30s. He has 230 career tackles, 4 sacks, and 2 INTs. Worrilow was a UDFA from Delaware back in 2013 and because the Falcons were so devoid of talent on defense he became a starter almost immediately and has remained in the lineup. He’s stuffed the stat sheet and has been solid but struggles with missed tackles and basically being the front 7’s best player for 3 years. The Falcons finally invested in the position during the offseason, and seem to be trying to transition him to a backup role this season. Worrilow is basically Atlanta’s LB version of what Nate Allen was to the Eagles, a solid if unspectacular starter but much maligned due to surrounding circumstances. He’s a local guy and could probably use a change of scenery. He’s not going to be cut, but a late conditional and a fringe Eagles roster player could be enough to get Atlanta to part with him.

Jared Norris: 6’1, 240lbs, 23 years old, PANTHERS

Brian Blechen: 6’2, 230lbs, 24 years old, PANTHERS

Jeremy Cash: 6’0, 215lbs, 23 years old, PANTHERS

The Panthers are the one team who could challenge the Steelers for best overall LB depth. Each of these three guys are interesting in their own unique ways. All were team captains, all are high football IQ guys, two were college teammates of Eric Rowe. Norris is the thumper. He’s your classic ILB/MIKE, and was my favorite UDFA at the position this year. Norris should never be a full time starter but has enough of the tools that he should be able to overcome his lack of elite athleticism.

Blechen was on and off the practice squad for Carolina last year, as they were converting him from a jumbo safety to an LB. I noticed Blechen while watching Rowe’s college tape. This S/LB tweener kept flashing. 2 hours later I had built a shrine and sworn my allegiance to him. It was weird. Blechen probably should never play on defense but could become a special teams standout. The Eagles have Maragos at DB, and Braman at DL. The Linebacking room needs a hair on fire special teams standout.

Cash was a college star at Duke. He’s just a weird projection to the NFL. He’s a box safety who didn’t run super fast. 10 years ago he would have been a top 40 pick but he went undrafted. The NFL is starting to find ways to get these types of players on the field in nickel sets, but they simply aren’t as desirable as they once were. Cash could eventually become a starter but if the Eagles brought in Cash they would have to design a role for him, perhaps in the 3-3-5 nickel sets they have been tinkering with during training camp.

Protecting Wentz

The Eagles drafted the future of the franchise last night after trading up to pick number 2 to select Carson Wentz from North Dakota State. They gave up alot of draft capital in order to do so. Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson have staked their jobs to his performance. So now it’s about protecting their investment. They have brought in a bevy of QB coaches to help him develop. They plan on being patient with him. There is an old adage that a good Tight End is a the best friend of a young QB. The Eagles have three young Wide Recievers and solid depth at the position.

The best way for the Eagles to protect their new Quarterback is to invest in the offensive line. The first reason is obvious, plenty of young signal callers have taken large amounts of punishment playing behind poor offensive lines. This led to developing bad habits: footwork breaks down, they start to see ghosts, they stop seeing the whole field and focusing on not getting hit. Additionally they can just outright get hurt.

The second reason Offensive Line is crucial for a young QB is being able to establish a strong run game. Ideally you don’t want a QB to have to go out and take fifty 7-step drops to try to win a shootout.

The Current State of the Eagles Offensive Line

The Eagles OL in 2015 was not good. They gave up too much pressure and struggled to run the ball. This was compounded by a constantly rotating lineup with injuries taking a major toll. The good news is that the new scheme will lighten some of the burden. Play calling will be more diverse. The Tackles will get more help from running backs and tight ends in pass protection. The run scheme will be a more balanced selection of gap scheme and zone scheme in contrast to the pure zone run during the Chip Kelly regime. They also went out and signed two new potential starters.

The presumed starting 5 looks something like:

Jason Peters – Stefen Wisniewski – Jason Kelce – Brandon Brooks – Lane Johnson

That’s a solid starting 5, but has alot of long term questions, and won’t be in anyone’s top 5 rankings of the position groups. Jason Peters is a potential Hall of Famer, but is 34, has been unable to stay healthy the last couple of years, and seems to have lost a step. Peters is expensive and unlikely to be on the roster past this season. Wisniewski is the presumptive starter at LG, and is a solid starter but is only here on a one year contract, and has not played Guard since his rookie year in Oakland. Jason Kelce is one of the most unique centers in the NFL. His athleticism and ability to play in space make him a weapon. He has been up and down the last couple of years but is still a solid starter and should bounce back in 2016. Brandon Brooks was brought in from a scheme in Houston that ran a combination of both zone and gap schemes, and should fit from that perspective. He’s a mountain of a man at 6’5 345lbs, and when he’s on, can move people against their will in the run game. Lane Johnson is the former #4 overall pick and signed a lucrative extension to stay with the Eagles in the off season. He is the future Left Tackle. He’s been good so far in his career but has yet to take the next step to becoming a great player.

The Reserves: Allen Barbre, Matt Tobin, Dennis Kelly, and Andrew Gardener have all started for the Eagles during stretches of the last few seasons. They are all solid reserves. However the Eagles would certainly like to get younger and try to develop some young OL with higher upside.

The Deep Reserves: Josh Andrews was the backup Center last year. He can play some guard, but has a pretty limited ceiling and has never started. Brett Boyko was a UDFA who made the practice squad last year. If the Eagles do not bring in much help during the draft he could push Dennis Kelly to be the swing tackle. Barret Jones was a highly decorated OL coming out of Alabama, but has yet to start a game is JAG. The coaching staff seems to like Malcolm Bunche. He has a good profile. I worry about him though because he has been and underachiever with great tools his whole career. Both at Miami and UCLA he forced his way into the starting lineup only to be extremely underwhelming.

So the 4 things the Eagles could use, they won’t be able to get them all but this is my wishlist:

  1. A Tackle who can start this year when Peters inevitably gets hurt.
  2. A Guard to push Wisniewski for the starting LG job.
  3. A C/G to push Kelce and improve depth
  4. A swing tackle of the future

Offensive Line Prospects:

Here are some players who I think fit both the scheme, needs, and should still be available.

Joe Haeg, T, NDSU 6’6 304lbs

What better place to find a guy to protect Carson Wentz than the guy who has been doing it already? Haeg was a walk on in the same class as Wentz, started at Right Tackle for two seasons before kicking over to Left Tackle the last two. He reminds me alot of former Eagle Todd Herremans. Both are good technically, played at smaller schools, can play LT in a pinch and have T/G versatility. Haeg could compete at LG in 2016 and then kick out to RT in 2017.

 

Max Tuerk, C, USC, 6’5, 298lbs

What would happen if you took Jason Kelce’s movement ability, added in Lane Johnon’s frame and sprinkled in Jon Runyan’s desire to give a little extra after the whistle blew? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Max Tuerk. Tuerk was a 4 year starter at USC. He played just about every position while he was there. He’s got a rare combination of feet, size, and movement ability. He can probably play all 5 offensive line positions (short arms make LT iffy). If Tuerk hadn’t torn his ACL last fall I believe he would have gone in the later part of the first round. He could go anywhere from just outside the top 40 to the top of the fourth round, depending on how teams view his knee and positional future.

 

Connor McGovern, G, Mizzou, 6’4 306lbs

Connor McGovern is just the latest of really good Mizzou OL. Justin Britt and Mitch Morse were both 2nd round picks in 2014 and 2015. Morse just happened to become the starting Center and a homerun pick for Kansas City. His OC was some guy named Doug Pederson. McGovern is a 3 year starter having played RG, RT, and LT. He’s probably more of a guard than tackle in the NFL but in the right scheme could play some out on the edge. He’s technical and strong. High football IQ. He’s got a bit of piss and vinegar to him. When people say “you can find good guards in round 3” McGovern is who they are talking about.

 

Christian Westerman, G, Arizona State, 6’3, 298lbs

Westerman is a player I struggle with. He’s a good athlete, freak in the weightroom, and solid on the football field. He checks every box you want, yet I always finish watching his film confused. He’s good. He should be better. He’s like a 5 tool baseball player who hits .265 and 15 home runs. That’s good, but you’ll always kinda wish they would hit .290 and 30 dingers. Maybe NFL coaching will help him. He could just as likely make half a dozen pro bowls as be a guy who turns out like Wisniewski.

 

Alex Lewis, T, Nebraska, 6’6 314lbs

Lewis is a guy who started his career at Colorado. He arrived as a TE, but was moved to OL as a sophomore and started at LG and LT. Then things got weird. Lewis did 45 days in prison for a bar brawl where he put an Air Force Cadets head through a wall. He transferred to Nebraska and has started ever since, and things seemed to have settled downo off the field. On the field he has solid feet, and good size with long arms. He isn’t the most powerful guy but has enough. He reminds me alot of Michael Schofield. If his background checks out he is a good developmental T who could be the starting RT in 2015. Let’s just hope the judge was right in saying: “I have no doubt alcohol was a major factor here,” Butler said. “This was a classic example of too much alcohol, too much testosterone, bad result. I see it almost daily.”

Graham Glasgow, C, Michigan, 6’6, 307lbs

Glasgow is a very tall guy for an interior OL. But he plays with great pad level. He’s a powerful guy, with solid not good athletic ability. He has experience starting both at guard and center over the last three years. To me he profiles best as a G early in his career, he doesn’t sit in the seat well in pass pro and playing him at G should minimize these issues while he works on some range of motion and technical tweaks.  Needs to do a better job staying on his feet. He got much better as a football player after Harbaugh arrived. He went from a guy with DUI issues who was pretty average to a good interior OL, and Harbaugh mandated that he be roommates with his grandmother to keep him out of trouble. I love that.

Joe Thuney, G/C, NC State, 6’5, 304lbs

Another guy who has played absolutely everywhere. Made starts at RG, RT, C, and LT. Another guy with great technique, and a high football IQ. Academic All-American. Not the most powerful but wins with his brains. Profiles best as a backup G/C in the short term with a solid shot at becoming a starter down the line. Think of a rich mans Julian Vandervelde.

What Rhymes With Guenther? Being clever is hard

Seriously being clever is hard. Guenther the Hunter? Guenther wont have a Punter? When he uses the bathroom he’s known as Guenther the dum…

I digress.

Overview:

Guenther has been an under the radar name that has intrigued me while looking at candidates for the next Philadelphia Eagles head coach. Guenther is a Richboro native and Council Rocks graduate. He played Division 3 football locally at Ursinus College. He became a head coach at a very young age and has experience winning hearts and minds of the region on the recruiting trail. He has spent the last 15 years grinding his way up through the NFL coaching ranks. He has head coaching experience as well as experience working in all three phases in the NFL. He’s worked for two of the best defensive minds in football with Marvin Lewis and Mike Zimmer. If the Eagles hire a defensive guy I’d rather have Guenther than McDermott.

Resume:

1994-1995: Western Maryland (McDaniel); Graduate Assistant

1996: Ursinus College; Defensive Coordinator

1997-2000: Ursinus College; Head Coach

2002-2003: Washington Redskins; Offense Quality Control

2005: Cincinnati Bengals; Defensive Staff Assistant

2006: Cincinnati Bengals; Assistant ST/Assistant DB

2007-2011: Cincinnati Bengals; Assistant ST/ Assistant LB

2012-2013: Cincinnati Bengals; LB coach

2014-2015: Cincinnati Bengals; Defensive Coordinator

How he got here:

After a successful college career at Ursinus College where he set the program mark for career tackles, Paul Guenther spent a few years at Western Maryland (now McDaniel) before returning to his Alma Mater to become the DC. When the head coach left to start an FCS program at Jacksonville State, Guenther became the new head coach. He was only 25 and was the youngest HC in college football. Despite his youth Guenther compiled a 25-18 record as head coach including 10-2 and 8-3 records in his final two seasons. He left after the 2000 season due to disagreements with the college president about the level of commitment from the school, as well as to pursue coaching at a higher level. He was hired by the old ball coach to be the offensive quality control coach in Washington. In 2005 his time with Marv Lewis and Hue Jackson in Washington led to the Bengals hiring him. Since that point he has slowly worked his way up the ranks in Cincinnati.

In 2012 Guenther was given full control of the LB room. Along with Mike Zimmer he helped bring out the best in talented head case Vontaze Burfict. He helped turn Vincent Rey from fringe roster player into a highly productive if unsung starting linebacker. He taught an old dog new tricks when he got James Harrison who had been a 34 OLB his entire career to become an off the ball linebacker in the 43.

When Mike Zimmer was hired away, both Zimmer and the Vikings as well as Jay Gruden who he had worked with during their time in Cincinnati both tried to hire him as their DC. Cincinnati wasn’t going to lose both OC, DC and promising young defensive coach so they promoted Guenther to DC. Here’s how he’s performed:

2014:

  • 22nd in Yards Allowed
  • 20th in Passing Yards Allowed
  • 20th in Rush Yards Allowed
  • 12th in Points Allowed
  • 32nd in Sacks
  • T-10th Takeaways
  • 14th in DVOA

2015

  • 11th in Yards Allowed
  • 20th in Passing Yards Allowed
  • 7th in Rush Yards Allowed
  • 2nd in Points Allowed
  • 9th in Sacks
  • 6th in Takeaways
  • 10th in DVOA

 

The 2014 number are not great. That unit was pretty mediocre. However the 2015 group has been pretty good. That shows an ability to improve a unit and learn from shortcomings. When you consider the 2015 Bengals offense has scored a lot (7th), and the defense has had to play with the lead, the numbers are even more impressive.

Takeaways:

Paul Guenther isn’t a homerun candidate. You’re not going to win “shiniest new toy” for hiring him. But he’ a local guy (which Lurie seems to value), with head coaching experience, a diverse background, has paid his dues, can work with “big personality” players, and comes from a team with a strong defensive identity. The Eagles don’t need to win the press conference. They don’t need a big ego. They need a well-rounded coach. Paul Guenther fits that criteria.

 

Sources:

http://articles.philly.com/1997-04-10/sports/25529329_1_paul-guenther-assistant-defensive-coach-ursinus-college

http://articles.philly.com/2000-11-30/sports/25614248_1_collegeville-school-ursinus-coach-ursinus-president-john-strassburger

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/coaches/GuenPa0.htm

http://www.cincyjungle.com/2013/11/20/5126662/a-master-at-work-behind-the-scenes-bengals-linebackers-coach-paul

Taking Stock: The coach is gone, long live the coach

Well, shit.

I did not see that coming. When Adam Caplan tweeted a couple of days ago to not assume Chip Kelly would be back, that made sense. I assumed Jeffery Lurie would be doing some due diligence through back channels to get some perspective. Taking stock of the team after a tough year would be the prudent decision. Talk to people who are well plugged in to see who could be available and could have interest. Jeffery Lurie has a reputation as a good owner because he seems to know what he doesn’t know. Yet here we sit, only a couple of days later, and everything has changed. This moment serves as an interesting Rorschach test of sorts. So I’m going to provide my analysis on where the Eagles are and where things are going to go from here.

When I set out to write my post about this week the central theme was going to be flawed but fixable. Herm Edwards has an adage “There are about 25 plays a year that make the difference between being 10-6 and 6-10.” http://www.montereyherald.com/article/NF/20151021/SPORTS/151029951 Most teams fall somewhere in this meaty part of the bell curve. Think about that for a second. Variance on right around 1% of the snaps a team plays over the course of an NFL season is the difference between a good year and a bad one. Going to the playoffs or getting fired. Things are going to be very different now. A rebuilding year or two looms.

It’s lazy and at best misleading to say the 2015 Eagles failed because they weren’t talented and had bad schemes. All NFL teams are flawed. That’s a byproduct (or desired effect if you’re more cynical) of a hard salary cap. Even the best teams have half a dozen starters where you just scratch your head and say “sure I guess”. All offensive and defensive schemes are flawed. You beat cover two by attacking the hole between the corner and safety. You beat option attacks by loading the box and maintaining leverage, forcing them to throw.

The 2015 iteration of the Eagles failed because their areas of strengths were not able to patch over the holes, or in some cases gave out themselves, like a building breaking piece by piece. The additional strains of each successive failure causing more pieces give out.

The offensive line was going to have two JAGs at guard. That isn’t as disastrous as it’s made out to be. The Shanahan/Kubiak school of zone blocking has always made due with marginal talent at the position and thrived due to strong cohesion. Also you were going to have Peters, Kelce, and Johnson bookending them. Except Peters has been visited by father time and health and is no longer a starting LT in this league, Lane battled a myriad of injuries and didn’t take the next step in his progression, and Kelce had the inverse of a career year. Add in the fact that there were stretches where basic principles of zone blocking escaped them and suddenly a situation which should have been ok became bad.

Not even a lick of common sense to be found anywhere. None of these are physical limitations.

 

Suddenly without the ability to run inside zone, the fundamental building block of the scheme, Chip struggled to find answers to fix the ailing run game. That would have been ok, but he had a QB new to the system coming off injury that wasn’t prepared to handle having to shoulder the burden of carrying the offense. The run game finally got on track somewhere around the Jets game and was solid for a stretch, but then the receiving corps decided they really weren’t all that into catching the ball. Add in lots of untimely penalties, and pass blocking that faded as Peters got hurt and became ineffective, and the offense which should have been fine, ate itself.

Outside of a rough opener the defense was pretty darn solid for the first half of the year. Then Jordan Hicks got hurt, forcing a one legged Kiko Alonso back into service, put more burden on an aging Demeco Ryans, and there was another linebacker who wore 95 but we will refer to him as John Doe because he apparently went into witness protection at some point early in the season. The 34 2-gap is designed to get stops on early run downs to force the other team into 2nd and 3rd and long. This worked relatively well for 2.5 years. Finally the burden of pace and the lack of ILBs killed the run defense, and the whole thing came unraveled. This would have been ok if we had the 2013 offense and could get into shootouts.

One by one an element of the team broke, until Kirk Cousins yelled “JENGA!” and finally brought the whole thing down for good. No Kirk, I do not particularly like that.

The play the perhaps summarizes the 2015 Eagles better than anything I write can:

 

Chip. Oh Chip. I come not to bury you, nor to praise you. The GM Chip experiment was bad. Not franchise ruining. But I would have to grade it as a D. The playcalling wasn’t great either. Hopefully Chip finds more people he feels comfortable delegating to at his next stop. He simply felt overwhelmed at times this year. The offensive scheme hasn’t been “figured out” because it’s not a gimmick. It’s just a spread tempo, with a zone running scheme and WCO passing game. I think the most fitting sentiment about Chip would be

Chip has stayed largely stagnant in an ever evolving league. How many times did we see packaged plays this year? Like 5? If he’s to be successful at his next stop he needs to take some time off to self scout.

There will be lots of stories in the coming days about Chip is an ass or a weirdo. Some will try to rehash the tired racism claims. NFL head coaches are strange people. Bill Belichick probably isn’t exactly a cup of tea. Noted “players coach” Rex Ryan has had alot of players talk alot of trash about him in the press this year. Bruce Arians isn’t exactly discussing the musical stylings of Lil Boosie with Jon Brown. Winning makes all those types of things go away.

 

Jeffery Lurie has become much more present in the last month. The firing was pretty uncharacteristic as well. I only hope he isn’t suddenly feeling his age and becoming desperate to win. That historically is the way to become the sucker at the table.

 

It appears Howie Roseman will be back as GM. He gets a lot of shit from certain crowds. A lot of it is the moronic “he never played so he doesn’t know what he’s doing” crowd. There’s also an uncomfortable amount of anti-semitic dog whistling from some of his detractors. I’m not going to make Howie out to be Ozzie Newsome, Ron Wolf, or Bill Polian he’s a more than capable GM. He excels at valuation both in terms of draft resources and cap management. If he can surround himself with strong evaluators, it can work. The Machiavellian streak is concerning, but for now I can live with it.

 

The pool of coaching candidates currently underwhelms the soul. Adam Gase headlines this group. He would be a solid hire. Hue Jackson has HC experience and a diverse resume. Josh McDaniels would be a head scratching hire. Replacing Chip with a coach from New England, a reputation for offensive wizardry, an abrasive personality, and a penchant for questionable personnel decisions would be quintessential face-palm. I’m intrigued by Mike Shula. If that name sounds familiar, yes he’s the offspring of Don, and the guy who bequeathed Nick Saban a wholly mediocre Alabama program. But he’s currently running the most exciting (from a football dork standpoint) offense that has overcome many issues with personnel. Sean Payton may or may not become available.

 

Chip is gone. Howie appears to be back in the picture. Jeffery Lurie may be starting to meddle. A rebuild looms. What a time to be alive.!?

Arizona OL and how they matchup against the Eagles

The Arizona Cardinals sit atop the NFC West at (11-2). The Cardinals have gained the most yards from scrimmage, they rank second in points scored. Carson Palmer has the second best passer rating in the league. Their three leading rushers (CJ2k, David Johnson, Andre Ellington) average 4.2, 4.3 and 6.9 yards per carry. The Cardinals have a talented attacking defense, but the offense is loaded.

Everyone knows future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald. John Brown and Michael Floyd are popular fantasy WRs. The return to form for Chris Johnson has been fun to watch. The ascent of David Johnson from Day 3 pick out of Northern Iowa to breakout RB will certainly be discussed on all the pregame shows. So I will not be talking much about these players.

Instead I want to focus on the match up against Arizona’s offensive line, which will be the key factor in determining the outcome of this game. Yes, I’m going to talk about fat people. We have feelings too, jerk.

THE STARTING 5

LT: Jared Veldheer

LG: Mike Iupati

C: Lyle Sendlein

RG: Ted Larsen

RT: Bobby Massie

OVERVIEW:

The Cardinals line has been a mess for a long time. To rectify this Cardinals GM Steve Keim went out and signed Veldheer from the Raiders prior to the 2014 season. This past offseason he made Iupati the second highest paid Guard in football with a 5 year, $40 million contract. Both have played well and helped solidify the OL. Sendlein is super swell in the alliterative name category. He’s been a constant presence in the Cardinals lineup since 2007 (yes he’s been around so long he played in THAT NFC title game). He’s physically unremarkable but a solid experienced vet. Larsen is a journeyman who replaced former 7th overall pick Jonathan Cooper a few weeks ago after Cooper continued to struggle with inconsistent play and injuries. He’s a similar caliber player to Andrew Gardener or Allen Barbre. He won’t kill a line but can be exploited. Massie would probably be best served as a swing tackle and not a starter. He’s the weak link.

RUN GAME:

Somewhat surprisingly the Cardinals run game is at its best when leveraging horizontal blocking concepts or with heavy fronts (60.8% of runs come out of 2 or 3 TE sets) used to create favorable angles with down blocks and pulling OL. For having arguably the best phonebooth guard in the game and a LT who can move people the Cardinals aren’t as formidable when coming straight downhill as one would think.

Wide Left: 28 attempts – 7.9 YPC

Left: 91 attempts – 4.9 YPC

Middle: 114 attempts – 3.2 YPC

Right: 92 attempts – 4.4 YPC

Wide Right: 22 attempts – 5.7 YPC

PASS GAME:

The Cardinals are T-4th for fewest sacks allowed with only 21 given up. However they give up the 6th most overall pressures allowed (sacks+hits+ hurries) something Billy Davis is certainly aware of. The Eagles may not be able to get home but they should be able to harass Palmer.

TAPE TIME!

I expect Connor Barwin to have a big game. Bobbie Massie is prone to bouts of turnstileitis:

Barwin could have a night reminiscint of the Panthers 2014 game against Massie:

Sendlein is susceptible to a good bull rush (paging Bennie Logan)

Veldheer is 6’8. For Graham to be successful he’s going to have to go away from his preferred bullrush and bring back the ragdoll-rip that he used against Tyron Smith in Week 9.

This last one isn’t of particular note but it makes me laugh. Watch the Center…

WHEEEEEEEEEEEEE! Crossed over like Iverson playing Nosetackle.

CONCLUSION:

In order to slow down the prolific Cardinals attack the Eagles must win in several phases. The linebackers need to maintain proper leverage and fill holes against the heavy TE run sets, the DBs have to try to slow down the stable of Arizona WRs. Fletcher Cox will have his hands full against Veldheer and Iupati, so the other members of the defensive front will need to step up. The matchups are there. Time to beat Bruce Arians and his atrocious choice in hats.

 

FLY EAGLES FLY