Eagles v. Giants Week 5: Post-Game Notes

A win’s a win, and the Eagles are now 2-0 in the division (and the conference).  There were some bright spots, and of course some sore spots as well (though those are less surprising).  Here are my immediate takeaways:

– The Eagles scored 36 points.  Yes, it was against a bad defense, but it reinforces the point I’ve been trying to make:  “Chip Kelly’s offense” works, and it works very well.  He doesn’t have the talent yet to really let things go, but the results are already there.  If Kelly doesn’t succeed in the NFL, it won’t be because his “college” schemes don’t work.

– Chip did make what I believe was a big strategic error, though it didn’t matter in the end. After scoring a TD in the 4th quarter, the Eagles led by 7 points.  Chip elected to kick the extra point to make it an 8 points game.  I disagree with that call (vehemently).  The Eagles defense clearly can’t be relied on.  Additionally, the Giants had no time-outs.  As far as I’m concerned, Chip needs to take every opportunity to use his offense to make things easier for his defense. Getting 2 points there makes is a 2 score game, again, in the 4th quarter when the Giants have no timeouts.  Missing it still gives you a 7 point lead.

Was Chip really that confident that the defense could defend a 2 pt conversion?

This was exactly the type of high-leverage situation that the 2 pt conversion should be used for.  Low risk (still lead by 7), BIG reward (make the Giants score twice).

It didn’t end up making a difference, but that doesn’t make it the right call.  If you can’t get it right when it doesn’t count, there’s no reason to believe you’ll get it right when it does.  This defense needs help, and being aggressive in those situations is a good way to give it some.

– Nate Allen doesn’t seem to understand even the basics of safety play.  On the first drive, he inexplicably got beat deep two times in a row.  It shouldn’t happen once, but I understand that everyone makes mistakes and occasionally misjudges a WR’s speed.  HOWEVER, for it two happen two plays in a row is inexcusable.

Nate, you’re not that fast, you can’t let WRs get behind you, especially when you’re supposed to be the “help”.  Also, the tackling angles are just terrible.

I dont mean to suggest that everything bad is because of Nate, Earl Wolff certainly had his issues, as did the CBs, but Nate’s were the most glaring and costly.

– Nick Foles can play.  This shouldn’t surprise anyone.  When he does come in, though, the Eagles must throw the ball.  Straight handoffs to McCoy aren’t going to work unless Foles has already established himself as a threat.  Additionally, play-action should be almost mandatory.  It took Chip way to long to call it.  Use the threat of Shady to give Foles space, and he’ll move the offense.  Then, once the defense has been forced to back off, you can give it to Shady.

– This game was a good illustration of the difference between a BAD team and a MEDIOCRE one.  Anyone who thought the Eagles were “bad”, should have been disabused of that notion by the end of today’s game.  Overall, if the Eagles are a “true” 8-9 win team, their current record makes perfect sense.  Lose to the really good teams (KC and Denver), split against other mediocre teams (SD and Washington), and beat the bad teams (Giants).

For me, the surprise so far hasn’t been the Eagles, it’s been the opponents.  The Eagles still look like the team we expected, it’s just a matter of how the rest of the division comes out (I’m hopeful).

– The Eagles pass rush isn’t good enough, and I’m blaming the scheme.  I hate that their playing the 3-4 with players clearly not suited for it.  It’s showing in the results.  Even against the Giants, one of the league’s worst offensive lines, the team struggled to get any pressure without blitzing (until late in the game when Giants were forced to pass).

I guess I just don’t understand the value of “installing” the defense.  This is a multi-year project, but I don’t see why you can’t wait to install the base defense until you have the pieces to make it work.

– No turnovers.  Big part of today’s win.  Everyone took care of the football, save one throw by Vick that should have been picked (deep completion to DeSean).  The team did, however, take 8 penalties for 88 yards.  Some of them were questionable and others flat-out wrong, so I’m not going to blame them for that.   Overall, a much “cleaner” game than we’ve seen recently from the team.  If they can keep that up, it’ll go a long way towards mitigating the poor defense.



Eagles vs. Broncos: Post-Game Thoughts

Abbreviated post-game thoughts due to two reasons: Breaking Bad finale is on soon and I need to prepare, and there’s really very little from today’s game that qualifies as important.

– This was an “upside” game, so don’t freak out that they lost.  Getting destroyed by one of the greatest offenses in recent history doesn’t tell us anything about the team.  For the most part, I’m giving the defense a pass.  Denver has put up points on everyone so far, and 14 of the points allowed came off STs.  No shame in it.

I’ve definitely got some issues with Bill Davis’ play-calling and personnel usage (play Vinny f@ck%*g Curry for f*$@k’s sake), but the fact is that there was likely no “answer” today.  Write it off and move on.

– The biggest takeaway was the apparent revelation that Chip Kelly has been castrated.  Knowing you’ll need a lot of points and then kicking a FG from 4th and 4 inside the red zone is an absolutely ridiculous, suboptimal, indefensible, (insert own adjective here) decision.  It’s a decision that “Chip Kelly” is not supposed to get wrong, and I’m at a complete loss as to why he did.

Something to watch going forwards.  If Chip isn’t aggressive, then he isn’t really “Chip”, he’s just some guy.

– Lane Johnson…needs to be much better.  When you take an OT (or anyone) in the top 5, he absolutely MUST be a “stud”.  So far, Johnson isn’t close. Yes he’s a rookie and we should expect some inconsistency, but we should also see flashes of greatness, and I don’t think we’re getting that.

– It’s important to keep things in context, especially this early in the season.  The Eagles have 3 losses against teams with a combined record of 10-2.  The next three opponents have a combined record of 2-10.  As a result, the next few games will tell us a lot more about the Eagles than these last three have.  Denver and KC are ranked 1st and 3rd in point differential right now, and both teams are undefeated.  Losses there don’t mean anything other than that the Eagles are not among the best teams in the league (which we already knew).  Here is the Eagles remaining schedule:

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How many of those games really scare you?  The fact is, the Eagles probably just finished their toughest stretch of games.  I know they’ve looked bad, but remember that they won’t be playing anyone nearly as good as Denver for the rest of the season.

– The Cowboys might not be good.  Dallas has 2 wins, but they’ve come against St. Louis and the Giants.  Not exactly on par with KC and Denver.  I still believe the Eagles can be the best team in this division.

– Next week is VERY important.  Probably doesn’t need to be said, but getting a win against the Giants, who look AWFUL, is vital.  Either the Eagles are as good as I think they are (in which case they’ll win comfortably), or they’ll lose to the winless Giants (in which case they’re as bad as the national pundits say they are).  Regardless, we’ll know a lot more than we know today.

That’s all.  Keep your head up.  No reason to panic yet.  If the Eagles lose next week, though, then you have my permission to lose your shit.



Hey, Wha happened? Eagles vs. Chiefs Post-Game notes

Eww.   Maybe those Thursday night games really are a bad idea.  Both teams looked awful; lots of mental errors and sloppy mistakes.

The upshot, of course, is that the Eagles are now 1-2, and head to Denver next week, which is a likely loss.  As a result, I expect to see people jumping off the bandwagon at a steadily increasing pace over the next two weeks.  Me?  I’m staying.

The ultimate question is: Are the Eagles bad players or are they playing badly?  The short answer is that we don’t know.  Some players we thought would be good might not be (Todd Herremans?).  However, each the following factors played a significant role in at least one of the Eagles’ losses:

– Muffed punt.

– Ass-Snap (what I’m calling the Kelce debacle from last night)

– Multiple illegal formation penalties on the O-Line.

– Poor clock management

Notice the similarity? They’re each INTERNAL problems that have nothing to do with talent.  In theory, the Eagles can fix every one of them.  That’s what I mean when I say “playing badly”.  While the Eagles certainly need some talent upgrades at multiple positions, that isn’t why they’ve lost 2 games.

So, I think the best way to proceed is to split the good notes from the bad.  Which do you want to see first?  Thought so.

The Bad

–  Since 2008, NFL teams have converted on:

3rd and 10 –  20.7%

3rd and 15 – 10.8%

3rd and 19 – 7.0%

The Eagles allowed the Chiefs to convert one of each of the above situations.  It was the most frustrating part of the game.  I’m not going to go into it in great detail here, I’m assuming the play-diagrammers will handle that (if not I’ll put one up next week).  However, those stats (pro-football-reference.com) prove what we already knew…on 3rd and 10 or longer, the Defense MUST get off the field.  Those situation don’t require anything special.  Playing your base defense and tackling should come close to assuring the offense doesn’t pick up the required yardage.

Allow 3 such conversions is just terrible defensive play.

– According to the NFL game book, Vinny Curry played just 12 defensive snaps. (I’ll just let that one simmer).

Zach Ertz, he of the high second round pick, had just 1 reception for 5 yards.  Through 3 games, he has 4 catches on just 6 targets.  Given where he was selected, he HAS to have a bigger impact.  His blocking needs to improve before the team can put him on the line, but his receiving skills are supposed to be excellent.  So….where are they?

Michael Vick looked like Michael Vick.  Hate to say “I told you so”, but I stressed this throughout the preseason: Vick is going to have games like last night.  It’s inevitable.  He doesn’t make progressions, holds the ball too long, doesn’t move well in the pocket, has a lot of balls tipped at the line, and consistently doesn’t see open check-down receivers.   Those are his weaknesses; it’s unfortunate that we saw all of them last night.  It’s rare that he’ll play that poorly, but you have to expect it at least 2-3 times per season.

– The offensive line struggled.  Another one of my preseason themes was that, if the Eagles are going to contend for a playoff spot, the Offensive line has to be the strongest position group on the team.  I do have to note that they were playing against a VERY good defensive line last night.  Tamba Hali is really good,  Dontari Poe looks like he’ll actually be a disruptive player, and I don’t know who Justin Houston is, but he already has 22 career sacks in just 35 career games.  Still, the line needs to be much better, and as we get further into the season, it becomes less likely it’ll get there.

There’s a lot more “Bad” from last night, but I’d like to have a good weekend, so I’m going to move onto the other side.

The Good

– A number 1, as I explained at the top, the Eagles have beat themselves!  That’s little consolation when it comes to the W-L record, but the fact is, it DOES matter how you lose. The Eagles are not losing on skill.  That means it’s possible for the team to stop hurting itself and win a bunch of games.

This is still the NFC East.  It’s early, but it looks like nobody in the division will truly be eliminated until they lose their 9th game.

– The Eagles played TERRIBLY against a good defense and scored 16 points.  That’s not a bad scoring “floor”.  For reference, last season the Eagles scored fewer than 16 points SIX times.  Once the defense gets fully built, it will be very difficult to outscore this team.

– The Eagles next stretch of games looks a lot less daunting than originally thought.  Playing the Broncos in Denver is very difficult, but the key to this stretch was that the Eagles THEN play the Giants and Bucs, both on the road.  Granted, if the Eagles play as poorly as they did last night, they can lose to anyone.  However, road games against the Giants and Bucs don’t look nearly as bad now as they did before the season started.  It still looks like the Eagles come out of it at 2-4, but 3-3 is at least foreseeable.

I promise there’s more good, but I’ve gotta go catch a flight to New Orleans.  Moral of the story:  It’s too early to panic.

Eagles vs. Chargers: Post-Game Thoughts

The result is obviously a disappointment, and once again there’s a lot to discuss.  I’m going to structure this with bullet points.

– The benefits of Bayesian Analysis.  Before the season, I had the Eagles as a 9 win team (maybe 9.1 if we’re being exact).  Before this game, I had the Eagles as a 9 win team.    Now, I STILL have the Eagles as a 9 win team.  Remember we’re talking “value” not actual wins, but the point is you should never forget your original beliefs.  Human thinking is subject to a LOT of different cognitive biases, among which is the Recency Effect.  In short, people usually overweight more recent experiences and underweight older events.  This will need a full post, but the quick point for now is that the Eagles look very much like the team we expected to see.  If we are searching for the team’s “true” value, the game today is just one piece of evidence, which must be added to our prior information and viewed in context with everything we “know”.  The Eagles lost a game they should have won; yet that’s no reason to panic.

– The offense is SCARY good.  The Eagles’ offense played a rather poor game.  Sloppy penalties, dropped catches, overthrown passes, a missed field goal.  And yet, the Eagles still scored 30 points.  If those mistakes are cleaned up, the team very easily could have scored 40+.  That’s extremely encouraging.  I expected the Eagles offense to be very good, but it looks as though it can exceed my expectations.  Last season, just two teams averaged more than 30 points per game (Patriots and Broncos).  I think the Eagles, this year, can get very close to that mark.  

– Bill Davis needs to improve. The defense was terrible, and much of that is due to low talent and bad play.  However, it looked to me like Davis could have attacked the game much differently.  The biggest disappointment, and ultimately the biggest reason the Eagles lost, was the play of the Defensive line.  I said pre-game that pressure was going to be the key to the game, and clearly the Eagles failed in that respect.  The players share some blame, but after a certain amount of time, that blame shifts to the DC.  This is pending a full All-22 review, but it looked like there were a LOT of A gap blitzes (right/left of the center).  They didn’t work, but Davis kept calling them.  

After it was apparent the Eagles couldn’t get pressure with either 4 pass-rushers or the blitz, Davis should have changed tacks.  How about moving to the 4-3?  I saw it once or twice, and it’s possible I just missed a few other times, but given that the team’s personnel still best fits the 4-3 alignment, that should have been a 2nd half staple.  

I know what a lot of you are saying.  Nate Allen is terrible and the CBs were bad (besides Boykin, who had a solid game).  However, Nate Allen is not a long-term guy.  Presumably, the CB corps will see some upgrades next offseason as well.  That leaves Davis as the only “long-term” guy we need to worry about.

This was going to be ugly for the defense regardless of what Davis did; but I had hoped to see a few more in-game adjustments, if for no other reason than what they were doing wasn’t even coming close to working.

– Chip Kelly screwed up the End-game.  Lost in the speed of the game was Chip Kelly’s poor late-game management.  In short, on their final drive, the Eagles should not have been in the no-huddle offense.  At that point, it’s clear the defense can’t be relied on to get a stop.  Additionally, given the situation, running clock would likely have forced the Chargers to burn a TO or two.  Chip stayed with the no huddle, and in doing so left more than enough time for SD to move into game-winning FG position.  That was an unforced error, and one that cost the team dearly.  

Also, while more subjective, Chip’s play-call on the one snap Nick Foles played was puzzling.  Foles’ strength is his short-medium accuracy and pocket presence.  Given 2nd and 10 in the red zone, the Eagles just needed to pick up a few yards, hopefully giving a re-entered Vick a manageable 3rd down.  Instead, the call was an end zone fade.  With Foles coming off the bench cold, it was a very strange call to make.  

In theory, Chip should improve with experience.  However, it’s not as if these are situations he hasn’t faced before.  In his first true “pressure” test, Kelly failed.

– This week’s game against the Chiefs is BIG.  If you’ll recall my preseason “roadmap to 9 wins”, the first benchmark was after week 3, at which point the team needed 2 wins.  I explained that it really doesn’t matter which 2 teams the Eagles beat (though the Redskins would be nice), just as long as they came out 2-1.  Obviously, to hit that mark, the team needs to beat the Chiefs.  

– The Silver Lining.  Part of my confidence in the Eagles performance this year lay in the fact that the NFC East is not a terribly competitive division.  I expected the Redskins to be good, but figured the Cowboys and Giants were both coming into the season overrated.  Through two weeks, things could not have gone better for the Eagles.  As I’m writing, we’re 2:30 minutes away from a Giants loss, meaning all 4 NFC East teams dropped games today.  8 wins might take this division this year.

Eagles v. Redskins Review, Quick Notes

So….that was fun.  Rather than do my typical post-game review, I’m just going to mention a few player-specific notes and address a larger points.  I’ll have more detailed comments later this week after the All-22 tape is available.  I’ll start with the larger point.

How nervous were you during the second half?

My guess is very.  Put simply, the game ended up feeling closer than it should have.  The “momentum” clearly shifted in the second half (meaning the Redskins played better than the Eagles then).  However, the game was really never in doubt after the initial offensive explosion.  Here is the Win Probability chart from AdvancedNFLStats.com (if you follow me on twitter you saw a version of this last night).

Screen Shot 2013-09-10 at 7.11.34 PM

First, let me plug AdvancedNFLStats.com.  The site has live graphs like this for every game each week.  If you usually watch with a computer in front of you, add this to your game-watching experience. Above, I’ve highlighted the point in the 2nd half at which the Eagles Win Probability was lowest.  If you look closely, you can see that according to this site (which I tend to believe), the Eagles still had a 90% chance of victory.  Were you that confident?

The reason I highlight this is because it helps to contextualize just how big the Eagles lead was (and how well the team played early on).  It also helps to counter the “momentum” story that is so easily derived from a game like that.  It felt close and looked ugly, but after halftime, the result was really never in doubt.

The Eagles probably went to a prevent-light defense too early (I’ll check on the film).  That allowed the Redskins to score a few times and make the final score competitive.  Overall, though, this wasn’t really a contest.  Bottom line: The Eagles went on the road and demolished the defending division champion.

Quick Thoughts:

– Vick missed a number of wide-open receivers.  Tough to dwell on it too much, but in a closer game those plays will matter.  He needs to be better.

– The O-Line was all over the place performance-wise.  That, as I explained before the game, needs to change.  The O-Line needs to be a consistent strength of the team.  I’ll get a better idea after review, but it looked ilk Herremans and Johnson in particular had some isues.

– Trent Cole had a great game.  I have to check to see if his big plays came out of a 4-3 alignment or not, but regardless, that was a much better performance than anyone was projecting.  If he can again be a disruptive pass rusher, the whole defense will look a lot better.

– Didn’t see much from Sopoaga, but that could be a good thing.  The Eagles handled the rushing attack surprisingly well, and Spooky is hardly being counted on as a pass rusher.   Note that he actually played fewer snaps (1 less I believe) than Bennie Logan, so we might actually be seeing a big early depth chart move here.

– The Eagles CBs looked competent, in some cases even good.  Cary Williams had a spectacular interception, as well as a sack.  That’s the type of impact you expect from a “true” #1 CB, which nobody really believes Williams can be.  For one game at least, he was close.  Until I review the tape, I’m giving the 2nd half defense a bit of a pass.  It looked like the DBs were playing back, meaning they weren’t really trying to break up the passes. It’s possible the D just fell apart as the Redskins offense (i.e. Griffin) warmed up, but I think the score and situation had a lot to do with it.

– Special teams looked GREAT.  We’ve discussed how just getting average STs play would be a huge help.  It looks like the Eagles will get that and more.  Frankly, I don’t remember a better all-around game from the Eagles on STs.  Damaris had just one kick return, but it was for 27 yards.  Alex Henery hit just one field goal, but it was from 48 yards (though he kicked it twice).  Donnie Jones had 4 punts downed within the 20 yard line, including 2 within the 10 yard line and one the was Fair Catched at the 11 yard line.  He also had just 1 touchback.

I’ve been harping about field position a lot, so it was nice to get such a clear example of its importance in the first game.  Defense is a lot easier to play when the other team has to go 90 yards for a TD.  Overall, Washington started just 2 drives beyond its own 20 yard line, and one of those began at the 21.  The Eagles had 8 such drives, ignoring the final one (note some of those were the result of TOs, not STs).

Finally, it’s been brought to my attention that FO has now raised it’s Win projection for the Eagles to 9 games, bringing it exactly in line with my own…better late than never I guess.

Much more later this week.  For now, enjoy the best game the Eagles have played in a long time and help yourselves to another round of the Chip Kool Aid.

Post-game notes: Eagles vs. Giants.

First things first:  Thank you to the Eagles for not winning, thereby securing the #4 pick (chance at #3 as of this post.)

Now to the game:

Wow…truly epic destruction.  Perhaps the defense figured that since none of them made the Pro Bowl, they could replicate the experience by playing this game as though it was in Hawaii.  There are really few words that could adequately describe the performance of this team today, but I will highlight one:  SAD.

As in, it’s really SAD that Andy Reid’s final game as head coach of the Eagles will go down as one of his team’s worst games ever.  Prior to the game, I was very concerned that the team would put it together to honor their coach, with Vick playing well in hopes of continuing his career and the Eagles pulling out a victory over the tailspinning Giants and ruining their draft spot.

Needless to say, that concern was sorely misplaced.

Here are my immediate notes:

– Is Michael Vick’s career over?  My gut says no, but I find it very hard to believe that there is an NFL coach/owner that believes he can be a difference maker for a contender.  Additionally, he’s about the last “veteran” you’d want to come in as a backup and help tutor a younger QB.  Perhaps Rex Ryan will make a play with him, but I don’t see a real role for Vick next year.  If he does get the job somewhere, expect that team to regret that decision.

– Do we still have LBs?  The Eagles entire LB corps registered 1 tackle in the first half.  Let that sink in for a moment.  In what was a terrible year for Eagles LB play, today was probably the worst individual game.

– B-Graham was silent.  Hard game to judge Graham on, but he was fairly quiet nonetheless.  I’ll be watching him closely on the film, but it looked like he did not have the same energy today as he has had most of the season.

– Has Nnamdi been Space-Jammed?  There may be no bigger example of unmet expectations than Nnamdi Asomugha.  Either he has had a precipitous decline in skill (likely combined with being overrated in the first place) or his skills have been stolen from him by pint-sized aliens hell-bent on world domination.  Either way, he’s not coming back.

– Is Trent Cole victim #2?  Though he’s done-so more quietly than Nnamdi, Trent Cole has also seen a huge decline in performance this year.  He recorded at least 8 sacks in every year after is first (when he had 5) and had 11 sacks last year.  This season?  Just 3.  With a new regime coming in, Cole might be one of the roster surprises next year, either because he’s no longer on the team, or because he moves to the bench.

Though I don’t expect to see anything useful/interesting, I will be completing a full Rewind of this game by the end of this week.

We’ll also take a data-driven look at Andy Reid’s tenure and start looking at possible replacements.

Eagles vs Redskins: Post-game notes

Fun game to watch, though the ending was obviously a bit of a letdown.  However, the #3 pick in the draft is looking pretty good right now.  Here’s a few initial thoughts on the game:

– Foles bounced back as expected.  He made one terrible throw (the missed TD to Maclin) and had an awful fumble, but the rest of the game was strong.  He was accurate and made a few great plays with his feet, buying time and keeping his eyes downfield.  I’m not really bothered by the fumble; he’s been really strong with the ball thus far.  The Maclin miss, however, is problematic.  Watching the replay, the ball just dies as it gets closer to Maclin, with a tight spiral devolving into an ugly mess.  Mechanics issue is the likely culprit, so hopefully it’s something he can address (that may solve some of his deep-throw accuracy issues as well.)

– I was very disappointed by the play-calling and player-usage.  I know Andy Reid really wanted a win in his (likely) final home game, but he put his own success above the team’s long-term best interests today.  Just 18 rushing attempts (non-QB) with Bryce Brown getting just 4 carries.  At this stage in the season, there is no real benefit to playing Shady.  We know how good he is.  Conversely, with Brown’s lack of experience (in the NFL or college), now would seem like a perfect time to feed him the ball.  The O-Line was having trouble, but still need to see Brown touch it more than 4 times on offense.

– Brandon Graham alert.  Though it’s unlikely he will ever make anyone feel good about passing on Earl Thomas (everyone mentions JPP but the consensus pick at the time was Thomas, who is now arguably the best safety in the league), B-Graham is fast becoming one of my favorite players.  Excellent effort on nearly every play.  He led the team in tackles and was very disruptive.  With every additional strong performance, the odds of his improvement being a fluke grow smaller.

– The Invisible Man was indeed invisible again.  Did anyone even notice Jamar Chaney was in the game?  Can’t blame you if you didn’t, he registered just 1 tackle and, on the first view, it seems that was the only time he contacted a ball carrier.  I’m anxious to see how many snaps he got, but in any case 1 tackle from the starting SAM is unacceptable.  The problems at safety have drawn a lot of attention (deserved) and are the biggest hole on the team, but the third LB spot is next on my list and isn’t getting anywhere near the publicity it deserves as a roster weak spot.

Fletcher Cox concussion is a shame.  He was playing a strong game prior to the injury.  Can’t imagine he plays next week, but he and Graham are easily the biggest positives to come out of this year.