Inside the Ravens with Aaron Wilson

Saturday, January 23, 2010

What went right & wrong for Eagles in '09?


5 Things That Went Right

* Rookies Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy made immediate impacts.
* Tight end Brent Celek had a breakout season.
* The signing of FB Leonard Weaver was the team’s best offseason move.
* DeSean Jackson showed he can be a star.
* Special teams coach Ted Daisher restored order to his unit.

5 Things That Went Wrong

* Stewart Bradley’s torn ACL in preseason
* No answer at left defensive end
* Nobody replaced Brian Dawkins
* The Andrews Brothers
* The defense never gelled

5 Questions to Ponder

* Will Donovan McNabb be back?
* What about Michael Vick?
* Is Brian Westbrook finished?
* Will the team make Sheldon Brown happy?
* Will the new GM make a difference?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

It's tough to beat a team three times...


Around town you keep hearing that the odds are in the Eagles’ favor because it is difficult to beat the same team three times in the same season. Are you buying that?

It’s bunk!

Look, if you are better than another team, what difference does it make if you beat them twice before within the past three months? The outcomes are mutually exclusive and for those of you who want to point towards history as an indicator, keep this in mind – playing the same team three times in the same NFL season doesn’t happen all that often and THAT’s why a three game sweep is relatively rare.

According to 24x7's research, teams that have had a chance to beat a team in the playoffs that they swept during the regular season are 10-6 since 1970, the last being the Pittsburgh Steelers who beat Baltimore three times during the 2008 season en route to a Super Bowl XVIII victory.

Reaching back into the league’s origins and bringing it into the present there have been 24 instances where a team had a chance to sweep another team in 3 games during the same season. Fifteen times those teams were successful, a winning percentage of .625.

So, if the Eagles want to beat the Cowboys and advance to the Divisional Playoffs, they’ll need more than some wigged out statistical theory to make it happen.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Beating Dallas, a simple game


It really all comes down to the simplest form of football ideology. If the Eagles are going to reverse their fortunes against the Dallas Cowboys and turn two regular-season losses into a playoff win Saturday night in the Big D they must do two things better than they did last week and in the midseason loss to the Cowboys.

They must get pressure on Dallas quarterback Tony Romo and keep the Dallas pressure off quarterback Donovan McNabb.

There, that’s easy enough, right?

Well, it goes beyond that.

Dallas’ offensive line has been able to handle the Eagles front four, and front seven, for that matter in both of the regular-season wins. Last Sunday, Romo had all kinds of time to pick apart an Eagles secondary that didn’t have its best game either.

But get some pressure up front and the secondary will be the least of the Eagles problems.

Get some pressure up front and Romo’s touchdown passes could become interceptions.
Get some pressure up front and sacks and fumbles and all kinds of things can happen that haven’t happened during the past two losses.

“It is an issue,’’ safety Quintin Mikell said yesterday as the Eagles returned to practice in preparation for Saturday night’s game.

“We didn’t particularly blitz a whole lot last game and obviously we know that they work on those things. I think what we have to do is when we do blitz we have to execute better. And we have to cover better in the back half.

“We knew going in that (they weren’t going to blitz often). We wanted to let our guys cover and let that happen. Romo had a great game. He was putting the ball in tight spots. He was accurate and he was on point. When you look at it, we covered pretty well; he was just on fire.’’

In order to put out that fire, the Eagles have to get after Romo. If the front four can’t generate a pass rush by itself and it’s obvious it cannot, at least not against the Cowboys, then defensive coordinator Sean McDermott needs to go to the blitz and don’t stop.

On one of the few blitzes early, Sunday, the Eagles got caught and it led to a long Dallas run. That can happen. It doesn’t mean you stop.

The Eagles best defensive efforts through the Andy Reid Era have come through blitzes. The late Jim Johnson used to trust his corners, first Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor, then Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard, enough that he would blitz anyone from anywhere.

There were times when he didn’t blitz, but the quarterback thought it was coming. Consequently he rushed his throw or didn’t see things because he thought he saw other things.

A well-orchestrated blitz package can make up for a lot of other deficiencies, and in this case could keep Romo from lighting up the Eagles defense the way he has in the first two games. Some run blitzes could also slow down the Cowboys running game, which also had its way with the Eagles defense last week.

“They killed us in the running game,’’ Mikell said. “That pretty much opened things up for them. Because, in this game, when you can run especially late in the season, when you can run it opens up everything else. It helps the passing game, the gadget game, the reverse and all that stuff. It helps the screen. By them running the ball so well it basically killed us.’’

So to get pressure it puts pressure on McDermott to come up with a way to stop both the Cowboys running game and Romo.

Last week in the battle of wits between the William and Mary grad and his Dallas counterpart, Princeton’s Jason Garrett, the battle went to the Ivy Leaguer.

“I think they have a very good scheme and they used our scheme against us and the things we do,’’ Mikell said. “I think at the end of the day we need to get a lot more guys around the ball. We have to tackle better and we have to get off blocks better. It just comes down to playing better football.’’

Again, it all sounds so simple.

Deja Blues!


Just about the only thing I can think to say right now is “unacceptable!”

How is it not clear? RUN THE BALL!

Thirty-six passes and 10 carries.

Unacceptable!

I wish I could say I was speechless but I was too busy screaming at the total lack of everything on both sides of the ball. Let's take a look at our losses shall we?

New Orleans: 52 passing attempts and 22 rushing attempts.

Oakland: wait a minute we lost to Oakland?

Yes we did because our fearless leader was too concerned with his South Beach Diet (that by the way is not working). That carefully orchestrated masterpiece was blown with 46 passing attempts and 14 rushing attempts.

Dallas number one: Yes that’s right people we've officially been swept by Dallas. 30 passes and 22 rushes and that’s not counting the times Donovan took off because the pocket collapsed and he was forced to run for his life.

San Diego: 56 passes and 13 rushes.

Last and most certainly least Dallas again as I said 36 passes and 10 carries.

Can anyone guess who gets the Ed Lover "C'mon SON!" of the week?

DING DING DING!

Andy Reid, waddle your fat self on down!

You’re the next contestant on “You Blew It AGAIN!”

Andy you blow more games for Philly fans than Charlie Manuel! Well maybe not but Charlie has a 162 game season. What's your excuse?

C'mon SON!

All I know is if you think for a second that you’re going to have an unbalanced attack and win this Saturday you should just not even show up. Honestly that would be less embarrassing.

Get it together Andy and RUN THE BALL!

The sooner you realize that the better. The whole city of Philadelphia does. Why can't you?

Oh and when that quarterback of yours does throw the ball and it’s not in the vicinity of an Eagle who is an eligible receiver, sit him on the bench!

Three plays went to waste that would have been touchdowns because he can't hit a wide open man! Your only 4 losses have a combined 164/68 pass to run ratio.

Think about that you half wit jackass!

The Blame Game, Eagles v. Cowboys Part III


When the Eagles go back down to Dallas, Saturday night, it might be even more than a playoff game. It might be about the future of both franchises.

This one is about Tony Romo and Donovan McNabb and Wade Phillips, and it might have been about Andy Reid, too if the Eagles hadn’t handed him an extension a few weeks ago after he clinched a playoff spot for the eighth time in 11 years.

For Romo, the Cowboys quarterback, and Phillips, the Cowboys head coach, the playoffs have been their Waterloo, their Little Big Horn, an albatross that won’t stop choking them, as they continue to wheeze.

All this week both the Cowboys leader on the field, and their leader on the sideline, is going to read and hear over and over again how they have never won a playoff game and how the Cowboys, as a franchise, are 0-for-the-postseason this past decade.

Phillips is 0-4 with three different teams in the playoffs. As the head coach of the Denver Broncos in 1993, he lost to the Oakland Raiders. As the head coach of the Buffalo Bills, he lost to Miami in 1998 and Tennessee in 1999 in what became known as “The Music City Miracle.’’

In Dallas, he’s been to the playoffs just once and lost at home to the Giants in the conference semifinals in 2007.

Romo is just 0-2 in the playoffs since becoming the Cowboys starting quarterback in 2006. He lost to Seattle that first year when he failed to get a snap down on what could have been a game-winning field goal. And in his only playoff game, with Phillips, he was a part of the loss to the Giants in 2007.

This year they say is different.

Romo exorcized his first demon when his “December Demise’’ turned into a 3-1 month with wins over New Orleans and the Eagles along the way.

Now, he needs to do it again in the playoffs.

A win over the Eagles, a team he has beaten twice already this season, Saturday night and even if the team were to lose the following week in Minnesota (doubtful), Romo will have some peace and there’s a good chance he and probably Phillips, too, are back in the Big D next season.

A loss to the Eagles, especially if it comes gift-wrapped with interceptions and fumbles the way that season finale at Lincoln Financial Field was a year ago and who knows what Jerry Jones will do.

Phillips almost certainly will not be the head coach, and Romo’s future with the team just might be in doubt, as well.

Remember Jones is going to be reading and hearing the same things all week, and also remember he’s the same owner who fired Jimmy Johnson in the middle of the team’s dynasty run in the ‘90s.

With the Eagles the bloodletting could be coming in the same manner.

It’s no secret the Eagles have been reluctant to give McNabb a contract extension. They did give him a raise, which was nice, but while his pay increased the length of his contract remained the same. And it expires at the end of next season. As does his backup Kevin Kolb’s.

McNabb might not make it that far.

If the Eagles are bounced in the first round of the playoffs, something that an Andy Reid team has never experienced, and if it comes in any fashion like the 24-0 drubbing the Cowboys put on them Sunday, the team with the best roster in the league according to its President is going to need a scapegoat.

And it’s not going to be Reid.

Like Bruce Springsteen sang in his vastly underrated “Meeting Across the River’’, “…And if we blow this one they ain’t gonna be looking for just me this time.’’

McNabb will be the one.

His critics have already started after Sunday’s loss. Despite the fact he’s had his best season since the Super Bowl run of 2004, and has led a bunch of young, unpolished receivers and running backs to an 11-5 season and a playoff berth they are ready to go after him.

A playoff-ending loss to Dallas, Saturday night, and it’s not going to be pretty.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

BATTLE PLANS: Eagles @ Cowboys


Offense

1) Max Protect: The key to having offensive success against the Cowboys starts with protecting the quarterback. Dallas is one of the top pass rushing teams in the league. Led by edge rusher DeMarcus Ware, there are few teams that boast such a fearsome five-man rush.

Protection against the Cowboys starts from the outside. In order to slow down Ware and Anthony Spencer, the Eagles will have to chip and double team. Although Philadelphia would lose some firepower by keeping the backs and tight ends in to block, they’ll have a better chance to keep Donovan McNabb upright.

2) Quick-hitting runs: To slow down the Dallas front, the Eagles will have to run the ball in obvious passing situations. Specifically, when Ware and Spencer rush up field to get after McNabb, the Eagles have to find a way to force them to defend the run.

The Dallas front will be looking to play the run on the way to the quarterback, so the Eagles have to make them pay when they are overaggressive.

3) Stick to the run: The Cowboys want to get teams in third-and-long conversion situations. Once they do, they are able to unleash their pass rush to potentially create turnovers or negative plays.

Although the Eagles are a pass first team, if they get too pass happy on early downs, they may fall into the Cowboys’ third down trap. Therefore, Philadelphia has to stay balanced and run the ball to gain positive yardage on first and second down. If they miss on too many passes on early downs, they’ll have a tough time moving the chains on third down.

Defense

1) Zone scheme: Although Dallas quarterback Tony Romo has improved as a pure pocket passer, he is still at his best against the blitz. Romo is athletic enough to side-step the rush, and he is comfortable throwing the ball against single coverage.

The Eagles will play a lot of man coverage and use their safeties to blitz. However, they’ll also need to show some zone coverage looks to force Romo to read the field. In turn, Romo may have a tough time staying patient to cut up the zone defense.

2) Prevent the big play: With Pro Bowlers Miles Austin and Jason Witten, the Dallas offense has two big play cogs in their arsenal. For Philadelphia, controlling this duo will be a must if they are to succeed on defense.

Both players have to be turned into underneath options.

In the case of Austin, he is at his best when he can get behind the cornerback. Therefore, the corners need to mix some bump and cushion coverages, in addition to playing outside technique to push Austin to the inside.

As for Witten, the linebackers have to take deep coverage drops, and the safeties should be in position to battle the tight end once he gets downfield.

3) Stay discipline in the red zone: Dallas has turned into an efficient scoring offense. In particular, they do a good job of using a balanced attack to keep defenses guessing.

The staple play for Dallas is the fake draw. Romo sets up in a shotgun set with tailback Marion Barber to his side. Either Barber will receive the handoff from a spread set, or Romo fakes the handoff to create voids in the secondary.

The key for the Philadelphia back end will be to anticipate the play-fake when Dallas shows this formation. The linebackers have to wait until Barber gets the ball to stuff him inside.

One-on-One Matchup to Watch: Nick Cole versus Jay Ratliff: With the loss of Jamaal Jackson to a season-ending injury, Cole is making the transition from guard to center. He’ll have a difficult first assignment against Ratliff. The unique nose guard has great quickness, and he uses his hands well to disengage blocks to get into the backfield. Cole will have to find a way to keep Ratliff in front of him.

Controlled Chaos


At this point last year everyone was probably thinking "can you write a better story than this?"

Well how about this: both Dallas and Philadelphia are in the playoffs and battling for the division championship in week 17.

The biggest factor in this one though is that if the Eagles win they not only win the NFC East but also a first round bye which in my opinion is much needed for them.
Does that sound like a better story?

Looking at this playoff picture the Eagles would have to play either Dallas or Minnesota both away with a loss Sunday. A win however gives them a much better chance at getting at least to the NFC Championship for a 6th time this decade. Not to mention a week to rest up all the injuries that the majority of the team is playing with.

Factors for Sunday’s game or I should say factor is get to Romo!

Get in his face and put him on his back all day. He's having his best December yet with a richly pathetic 2-2 record and Trent Cole better be leading the hit parade that runs right over his face and squash this new found momentum and confidence.

Aside from Romo the only two things the defense MUST do is take the ball out of the hands of Miles Austin and Jason Witten. I do not want to see either of these clowns near the ball all day. Miles Austin has DeSean Jackson-itis where defenses just love leaving him open. Cover both of them and keep them out of the end zone and this game should not be a problem.

I say it all the time it's a simple game! It's a simple game! It's a simple game!

Kill Romo, cover Witten and Austin and do not give up any turnovers. In their first meeting McNabb was 16/30 with 226 yards, a touchdown and the big one, 2 interceptions. That can't happen especially if we're running the ball. Pound them all day long. The three headed monster is back, for heaven’s sake use it. Eventually you'll catch the secondary slipping and you can drop the big one to DeSean.

In between win the possession battle and hit your outlets. On third down, strike out to Celek, Maclin and Avant and keep Dallas' defense on the field. No turnovers, run the ball, get to Romo and cover Austin and Witten and we'll pick these boys apart again just like last year.

Game time prediction: Eagles: 34 Dallas: 10