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Welcome to another installment of Crunching
02-20-2019, 05:40 AM,
Post: #1
Welcome to another installment of Crunching
The Numbers , a weekly, stats-based game preview I do for Bleeding Green Nation. For more about the stats I use (and why I use them) to make my “armchair coach” observations, check out an archive of previous posts in this series here.Week 8 In Hindsight (Plus Golden Tate)I’ll only cover my thoughts on the London game briefly since it’s old news. My biggest take was that I felt Doug needed to try and incorporate more big plays into the offensive gameplan. They accomplished this, as the Eagles had at least 5 plays that went for 30 yards or more. The defense also did a good job not allowing Bortles to build confidence and burn them deep, as he stuck to short and intermediate passes all day. Of course, it was not all sunshine and roses. The defense gave up three consecutive scoring drives after the Eagles took a 12-point lead in the second half, and the offense tried hard to lose the game on an almost-fumble (I’m actually surprised that the call was reversed). This team is still struggling to put games away - save the Giants - and that’s something they’ll need to fix coming out of the bye if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive. I will say it was nice to see the defense get a fourth down stop for once, but again they won’t have the luxury of facing a Bortles-led offense every week. Drew Brees and Todd Gurley will convert those 4th-and-2s every day of the week and twice on Sundays.In more relevant news, the Eagles traded for Golden Tate last week at the deadline. At first, I wasn’t crazy about the move, and I originally assumed that the Eagles must have also received a late-round pick when I heard the report - there was no way it was just a third for Tate, straight up. But of course it was just that, which to me seemed way too steep for a 30-year-old wide receiver that might be gone in March. But after hearing more about just how good Golden Tate is (and reading about his remarks at his press conference), I’ve warmed up to the move. Howie has a clear strategy of “win another Super Bowl before I have to give Wentz the farm ,” and Tate is the kind of guy you want on your team to achieve that goal. It’s really hard to win in this league, so aggressive moves like this are necessary to compete in the short term. I think it’s fair to question Howie’s overall approach - especially his new fondness for “kicking the can down the road” a la Jerry Jones - and that probably deserves its own post (spoiler: I’m not the biggest fan). But in the context of this season, trading a third for a player of Golden Tate’s caliber is a slam-dunk move that you make every time it’s offered.But what about the team that Tate torched a few weeks ago, the Dallas Cowboys? Wonder no more, as we’re getting into my game preview! Bold-faced statistics indicate that team has the advantage, while numbers in parenthesis are the league rank.Game Preview: Dallas CowboysThe Eagles are 4-4 and the Cowboys are 3-5, both of which seem like appropriate records considering the statistics above. Neither team is bad, they’re just mediocre. I wouldn’t be surprised if the final score next Sunday is 17-10. But what can the Eagles do to make sure they’re on the winning side of that final?Eagles OffenseThere is only one notable statistic that sticks out for the Cowboys, and that is their impressive SACK% (8.42), good for fifth in the league. The Eagles would be wise to do what they can to neutralize the pass rush, whether that be by screen passes, pounding the rock, quick passing, bootlegs Youth Corey Clement Jersey , or a combination of all four. I think this would be a good game to temporarily reduce Wendell Smallwood’s role in the offense (especially if Sproles is finally able to come back) since he is absolutely atrocious in pass protection. The Cowboys’ defense lives and dies off turnovers, and the Eagles will play right into their hands if they’re not careful. The offense has struggled to protect the ball and Wentz has had a bad case of fumblitis all season. Mitigating the impact of the pass rush will help with this, but they could adopt a two-pronged attack by taking shots deep to keep the defense honest. The Dallas secondary, while not awful, can be exposed, as demonstrated by the milquetoast Marcus Mariota last Monday. The Eagles could also look to create big plays by setting up wide receiver and tight end screens, which would be an easy way to get YAC master Golden Tate involved early, especially since it is unlikely he has a full grasp of the playbook just yet.Eagles DefenseThe Cowboys are 25th in the league in TOP, indicating that in spite of having one of the best running backs in the game they are unable methodically move the ball and control the clock. The Eagles should focus pressuring a banged up Cowboys offensive line. If the Eagles blitz, they should blitz from the edge in order to keep contain. Pressure up the middle isn’t exactly helpful if a struggling Prescott can just flip the ball to Ezekiel Elliott for an easy four or five yards. I’d like to see some safety blitzes in particular considering how well Jenkins and Maddox are playing right now.Additionally, I think the Eagles can afford to stack the box against the Cowboys in order to slow down Elliott. The secondary has been burned all year, yes, but Prescott’s abysmal 6.3 Y/PA (25th in the league) demonstrates a complete incapability to push the ball deep. Similar to the Giants game, any steady production on offense is going to come from the running back position Cheap Dallas Goedert Jersey , so the Eagles should primarily shut down the run game and essentially challenge Prescott to beat them on the big play. The Eagles have done a decent job this season managing receiving corps that lack true star power at the position. In spite of their logo, this holds true for the Cowboys as well, Amari Cooper’s presence notwithstanding. Let them show that they can complete the deep ball before taking the emphasis off the run.Closing ThoughtsWith the Redskins dropping to 5-3 after being embarrassed at home by the Falcons on Sunday, the NFC East is available to be won by the team that decides they kinda sorta wanna make the playoffs (except for the Giants). Doug has done a great job in his three years of getting the team to compete in spite of circumstances, and I expect the back half of 2018 to be no different. It sucks that a first round bye and homefield advantage - once the goal entering the season - are all but off the table, but getting back to the playoffs would go a long way to showing that this team is here to compete year after year. (Remember, the burgeoning New England Patriots missed the playoffs in 2002, the year after their first Super Bowl win.) They have a lot of work to do before they can say they’re ready to hang tough with the other 2018 heavyweights this season, but in a middling NFC East they are primed to right the ship after the bye and make a run to playing meaningful football in January.8 things we learned from the Eagles’ loss to the Vikings The Philadelphia Eagles were defeated by the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, 23-21. Here’s a look at some things we learned from their second loss in a row. 1 - The Eagles can’t stop shooting themselves in the footOne of the most frustrating things about these kind of losses is that there’s no one simple fix. The Eagles just aren’t executing properly, especially in big moments.Some notable examples: Wendell Smallwood drops a wide open third down conversion that would’ve set up 1st-and-goal. Jay Ajayi fumbles in the red zone. The Eagles fail to score after recovering a fumble at Vikings’ 30-yard line. Carson Wentz is strip-sacked on a drive that finally starts to look promising and it lands into the arms of a defender. As much as people don’t like to admit it, there’s a lot of luck involved in football. By that,mean not everything is always in your favorite’s teams control. That’s not to let the Eagles off the hook. But I don’t think it’s like this team needs drastic, sweeping changes. They just need to execute better. That’s boring and simple to say but they really just need to get out of their own way. These self-inflicted wounds are killer. It’s frustrating to see the Eagles continue to beat themselves Cheap Alshon Jeffery Jersey , especially when you can’t help but feel like this group is capable of being better.2 - Doug Pederson continues to make some questionable decisionsNitpicking play-calling is an easy thing to do. No head coach is always going to call the perfect game.With that qualifier in place, Doug Pederson made an egregiously questionable decision on 3rd-and-inches early in the game. For some reason the Eagles ran a misdirection toss play to Josh Adams. The undrafted rookie free agent was predictably stopped for a loss. Why ask your least shifty back to try to make defenders miss in that situation? Why not go for a quarterback sneak when that play has been so money for the Eagles in the past? Maybe the Eagles are trying to protect Wentz in those situations. Another big one that will be discussed coming out of this game is Pederson’s decision to take a five-yard penalty and punt with 9:17 remaining in the fourth quarter instead of trying for a 57-yard field goal. I don’t think it’s fair to assume Jake Elliott would’ve 100% made that kick. But maybe it was worth a try. There didn’t appear to be any find based on the idle flags at the top of the uprights. I did like Pederson’s decision to go for the two-point conversion following Philadelphia’s first touchdown score. Even if the Eagles don’t get it, it’s still a one-possession game. It would’ve looked real smart if the Eagles could’ve scored a touchdown after that Bradham recovery. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be.3 - It’s fair to wonder how much the Eagles miss Frank Reich and John DeFilippoPrior to last year’s meaningless Week 17 game against Dallas, the Eagles were averaging 30.5 points per game. The Eagles scored at least 30 points in nine of their 16 regular season games. This year has been a much different story. The Eagles have only scored 20.6 points per game. That ranks 27th in the league. Philadelphia is JUST above being a bottom-five offense. That’s bad. I don’t think you can point to the absence of Frank Reich and John DeFilippo as the sole reason why the Eagles are struggling. Philadelphia has obviously had to deal with a number of offensive injuries. And the reality is the Eagles were always due to regress a little after being so good last year.But I think it’s fair to say the losses of Reich and Flip do factor into the equation. I also think it’s fair to question if the Eagles did an adequate job of trying to replace them. Were Mike Groh and Press Taylor truly the best candidates out there?Losing both Reich and Flip in the same year was tough.4 - The offensive line is still a big issueThe numbers aren’t pretty.The move to bench Stefen Wisniewski for Isaac Seumalo looked questionable from the jump as the latter immediately allowed a lot of pressure on Wentz. Seumalo seemed to settle in a bit after that but I don’t know that he’s really better than Wis.Lane Johnson really appears to be on his 2009 Cole Hamels bullshit. For those unfamiliar with baseball, Hamels was the Phillies’ World Series MVP in 2008. Then he came back and really struggled in 2009. He admitted he got complacent and didn’t work as hard after winning a championship. You can’t handle but wonder if that same issue is impacting Johnson. Johnson was just SO good in 2017. He only allowed one sack the entire season. Contrast that to how Johnson has allowed two strip sacks in the past two weeks. Those turnovers have led to 10 points for the opposition. To his credit, Johnson held himself accountable after the game. He’s not dodging responsibility. But talk is cheap. Moving forward he needs to be accountable with his actions and stop underperforming. 5 - The defense is not without blameIt’s hard to completely kill Jim Schwartz’s defense when you consider they only allowed 16 points (remember that seven of Minnesota’s point came on a defensive touchdown). That’s not a terrible outing.But the Eagles easily could’ve surrendered 22 points if Dan Bailey didn’t miss two easy field goals. Schwartz’s unit is just making it look too easy for opposing quarterbacks. In the past two games, Marcus Mariota and Kirk Cousins have combined for 60/80 (75% completion), 645 yards (8.1 average), 4 TD, 1 INT, and a 98.8 passer rating. Jalen Mills got beat for another explosive play today. Sidney Jones allowed a completion every time he was targeted and also missed two tackles (per Pro Football Focus). The pass rush did hit Cousins 11 times but they only sacked him once. There’s plenty of blame to go around with this team and the defense shouldn’t be totally absolved. 6 - Carson Wentz isn’t quite ALL the way back, but there continue to be encouraging signsOn one hand, Wentz’s numbers from his last two starts look pretty good: 57/85 (67.1% completion) Youth Brandon Graham Jersey , 659 yards (7.8 average), 4 TD, 0 INT, 105.9 passer rating. He’s managed to do all this despite dealing with a lot of drops and breakdowns in pass protection. On the other hand, there’s still room for Wentz to improve. He’s to blame for some of the hits and sacks he’s taking. It doesn’t seem like he has his full range of mobility due to how he’s been getting caught in the backfield after holding on to the ball too long at times. And given how the entire offense is struggling in general, it’s hard to say he’s completely blameless in everything.With that said, there’s reason to be encouraged about how Wentz has performed. It’s hard to feel super great about the Eagles right now but things would be even worse if they didn’t have a legitimate answer at quarterback. There’s your silver lining. 7 - It’s easy to be frustrated with the refsLet’s be clear: the Eagles didn’t lose this game because of poor officiating. The Eagles only have themselves to blame for this loss.But it’s certainly frustrating to see a bullshit penalty like the one called on Michael Bennett have such a big impact on the game. Bennett didn’t dive into Cousins’ knee. The replay clearly shows Bennett first contacting Cousins’ butt (last I checked, the butt is above the knee) and then GENTLY bringing him down. Penalty!That was killer. Instead of facing 3rd-and-14 at the Eagles’ 39-yard line, the Vikings received a first down at the 11-yard line. Maybe the Viking have to settle for a field goal instead of getting a touchdown. Maybe Dan Bailey misses the kick entirely like he did with two others. Or maybe the Vikings would’ve scored a touchdown anyway. Impossible to say for sure.Anyway, the teaching point here for the Eagles is that they can’t let games be close enough where a bad call can have such a big impact. They need to give themselves more room for error.8 - The Eagles need to quickly put this behind themThe Eagles’ next game is a Thursday Night Football matchup against the New York Giants, who dropped to 1-4 earlier today. The Eagles will begin preparing for this matchup as soon as tomorrow. No rest for the wicked.The Eagles really need to win on Thursday. 3-3 is a lot better than 2-4. It won’t be easy if they continue to be plagued by the issues currently bothering them. I’m still not ready to give up on this team. But the season outlook obviously continues to get worse with each passing loss.

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