Fitting End For The Youngsters

First off,  happy holidays to everyone.  Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I hope everyone was able to enjoy a few days off with friends and family.

Unfortunately, the news for several Eagles rookies over the weekend was not good.  Foles broke his hand and Cox/Kendricks were both concussed against the Redskins.  I don’t expect any of them to play in the final game (Foles is definitely out, still waiting for info on Cox/Kendricks, but why play them?).

Therefore, I thought a quick note reflecting on each of their performances this year was in order:

Nick Foles – Foles is garnering a lot of attention, and for good reason.  Here are Foles’ final numbers for this year:

60.8% Completion percentage

1,699 yards passing, 6 TD/5 INTs

79.1 QB Rating.

Rushed 11 times, picking up 5 first downs.

Overall, I think there is plenty of reason to be excited about Foles and do not understand the detractors.  I believe a large part of the negative analysis is the performances being made by the Luck/Griffin/Wilson combo, to which Foles does not compare.  However, in general, Foles performed very well for a rookie, especially given the circumstances surrounding the team.  (See the post from last week showing the rookie performances of some other current NFL QBs.)

His accuracy, pocket awareness, work ethic (anecdotally), and poise all appear to be strong.  His only big weakness thus far has been the deep ball accuracy and perhaps a reluctance to throw into tight windows (tough to grade him down on that.)

Though there is still one game to review (full Rewind will be posted tomorrow or Friday), I’ve seen more than enough to feel comfortable with Foles heading into next year.  There is no QB in the draft worth the #3-#4 pick, and there is little sense in bringing in a mediocre veteran, so the best use off assets for the Eagles is to commit to Foles for next year, rebuild the rest of the team, and see where that gets them.

Behind a strong OL (a possibility for next year) and with McCoy/Brown (if the team doesn’t ignore him), Foles has a chance to be a very productive QB.

Cox As most readers can probably tell, I am very excited about Cox.  It’s rare to find a DT with the pass-rushing skills this kid has, and he plays with energy every play.  He’s got some work to do against the run, but the talent is there and he has the potential to be a real force for the Eagles for a long time.  A lot will depend on the next coaching regime, but if he’s allowed to attack and put with the right players (perhaps a gap-filling NT….Lotulelei?), he’s gonna wreak havoc on opposing QBs.

Kendricks  Kendricks will probably end up as one of the bigger disappointments of the season.  He started the year with a few strong performances, and it looked like Eagles had found a playmaker at LB. However, his play tailed off as the season progressed.  He did rebound in the past two weeks when he was switched back to the WILL spot, but overall a very inconsistent year.  Still looks like he has the potential to be a good LB, but there are definitely some holes in his game that will need to be addressed (both tackling and reading.)

In total though, this Eagles rookie class looks stronger than any they’ve had in while.  I’ll add some more color once I review the Redskins game, but fans should be encouraged by the overall play of the rookies (we’ll do a full rookie breakdown after the season), especially in comparison to other recent draft classes.

 

Pre-game notes: Eagles vs. Bengals

As we get ready for a Thursday night game, a few notes followed by what to watch for:

– Regarding Nick Foles, this game is flashing a pretty strong “REGRESSION” sign.  Each defense Foles has faced is ranked in the bottom third of the league for opposing QB Rating allowed.  Cincinnati isn’t great (ranking 15th and allowing an average rating of 84.7) but is significantly better than Tampa Bay (allowing an average rating of 92.4).  Don’t be surprised if Foles’ stat line looks much worse than last week.

– Barring a miraculous performance by the O-Line, Foles is going to face significant pressure and will take some hits tonight.  The Bengals lead the league in both sacks per game (3.2) and sack percentage (8.27%).  Tampa Bay averaged just 1.5 per game heading into last week and came away with 6.

– The Eagles DBs will face a stiff test with A.J. Green in town.  In my opinion, he and Calvin Johnson are the best WRs in the game right now.  It will be interesting to see how the Eagles cover him (expect A LOT of double-teams).  Look for the Eagles to do everything possible to prevent him from getting single coverage with a safety, as trusting Allen or Anderson 1-on-1 would likely be a disaster.  Theoretically, this should open things up for other Bengals underneath, as zone coverage will be a gamble (at least on Green’s side).  The Bengals should be able to use Green to pull coverage, opening up the space he vacates.

What to Watch For:

Can Foles avoid a turnover?  To date, he’s been pretty good at protecting the ball and not making high risk throws.  However, in the face of the toughest defense he has seen (and with a short week to prepare) he’s going to be under more pressure than he’s accustomed to.  If it’s tough to move the ball (as it should be), we’ll see if he starts pressing.  Last week he did not.

As a reminder, forget Foles’ stat line.  Watch for his ability to make progressions (watch his head when he drops back) and avoid high-risk throws.  Also, still looking for an accurate deep ball…

Short slants and RB-flats from the offense.  I’m a little surprised they haven’t tried to hit Brown through the air a few more times (though perhaps he can’t catch), but they’ll need a variety of check-downs and hot routes to take advantage against the pass rush.

Mychal Kendricks.  Last game he was shifted to WLB and played perhaps his best game of the year (certainly his best since the first month of the season).  On the weak-side, he can use his speed more effectively.  Specifically, watch him in coverage (mostly RBs out of the backfield and TEs coming across the formation) , as that’ll be a major responsibility of his if they keep him on that side.

Brandon Graham/Fletcher Cox.  Cincinnati has problems protecting Andy Dalton and ranks in the bottom third of the league in both sacks allowed per game and sack percentage allowed.  This should be an opportunity for both Graham and Cox to make an impact.  Ideally we’d see Trent Cole with a big game, but his play has slipped dramatically since last year.  Hard to tell what’s wrong; he just isn’t winning one-on-one battles like he used to (might be an undisclosed injury or just a decline in ability).

Play Action.  As I mentioned in the breakdown from the Bucs game, Tampa Bay didn’t run nearly as much PA as I expected them to given the Eagles problems  defending it.  The shift away from the Wide-9 should help fix that, but there wasn’t enough of it run last game to test that assumption.

Colt Anderson/Jamar Chaney. Chaney re-entered the starting line-up last game when Kendricks shifted to WLB.  Both Anderson and Chaney were terrible early this year when given playing time.  Neither was tested very much by the Bucs.  For Chaney, see how involved he is.  He has a bad habit of getting sucked up by the first blocker he encounters.  He isn’t quick enough to go around them, and hasn’t yet shown the strength or athleticism to get off them.

Colt Anderson has had serious issues in coverage.  Against the Bucs, his positive plays came exclusively against the run (and on blitzes rather than read-and-reacts).  I’m not expecting very much from either player, but if one of them can be at least serviceable (i.e. close to average) then it eliminates a big hole for the Eagles heading into next year.