Monthly Archives: August 2012
For this annual preseason matchup between the Eagles and Jets, this game will be almost nothing but filler in terms of regular season significance. For the most part, position battles have been decided and it comes down to working out the last few spots on the roster or practice squad.
However, what is exciting about tonight is that most of these players are looking to catch on with another team and will be playing hard in hopes of generating some quality game tape. So, in that aspect, tonight will be fun to watch.
And with that, my five things to watch for tonight:
1. Jaiquawn Jarrett will see plenty of playing time tonight and it obviously under a ton of pressure from fans and the media. The main concern for him tonight is not allowing any big plays over the top so if it’s a quiet night for him, it’s a quality night.
The Philadelphia Union have officially announced that they have parted ways with forward Jorge Perlaza, the player the Union received in exchange for Danny Mwanga. While the move was questionable to begin with, it’s now time to admit failure.
When former head coach Pitor Nowak sent Danny Mwanga to the Portland Timbers on June 6th, the move was seen as a bit of a surprise. Mwanga, the former first overall pick of the hilariously named MLS SuperDraft, was the first face of the Union Franchise and only 21 years old when he was traded for Jorge Perlaza.
Perlaza is a 26 year old striker who was expected to provide some speed on the attacking end. Instead, played two games for the Union and is now no longer with the team.
As the regular season approaches and teams cut down nearly half of the players from training camp, consider this time as a football version of march madness as we pick and choose the winners of key (and not so key) position battles. Here’s my bracket for the field of 53, with additional practice squad picks and predictions.
QB – Vick Foles Kafka
RB – McCoy Lewis Brown
FB – Havili
TE – Celek Harbor
WR – Jackson Maclin Avant Cooper Johnson McNutt
OT – Herremans Dunlap Bell Kelly
G – Watkins Mathis Reynolds
C – Kelce Vallos
Coming off of a pivotal three game sweep against the Washington Nationals, who hold the best record in the league, the Phillies have made themselves (mildly) relevant again. With 34 games left to play, the Phillies are nine games out of the newly added second wildcard spot and have now won seven of their last 9 games.
Admittedly, the comeback seems unlikely, but The Wooder Cooler is going glass half full on this one. The schedule ahead is tough. The Phillies still have two series against both Washington and Atlanta and currently trail Atlanta, Saint Louis, LA, Pittsburgh, and Arizona in the hunt for October.
However, it’s not a though this team is devoid of talent. Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard likely have one more run left in them after this year and with the three aces on the mound, they have the chance to make some noise heading into the home stretch. If they can go on a hot streak and dominate their division, the Braves might be having reservations. Pun intended.
I remember a certain team from Saint Louis getting hot going in to the playoffs last year and it turned out rather well for them, wouldn’t you say? They won the World Series. I also remember that the Mets seemed all but certain for a playoff berth for two consecutive years were it not for the voodoo rituals I had secretly conducted in my basement. So you’re all welcome.
The picture will be much clearer in the next week or so as the Phillies play the Mets and the Braves in back to back series, so expect an update on the state of the Phillies in the next few days. Prepare yourselves for a splintery seat on the bandwagon.
Well, it’s that time of year.
In the next two weeks, 1,184 NFL players will be cut from their respective squads. Among them will be some players, let’s call them “cult heroes,” that fans in every city fall in love with for their preseason prowess, and who are inevitably cut by a cruel and unforgiving God (front office).
None of the unfortunate ten cut by Reid, Roseman, and Co. fit that description. Chances are, you’ve only heard of one or two of them before. They were: WR Elvis Akpla, WR McKay Jacobson, WR Tiger Jones, WR Brian Hernandez, S Wade Bonner, S Tom Nelson, DE Xavier Brown, OL Alfred McCullough, OL Thomas Welch, and CB Kevin Thomas (who was acquired in a trade for OLB Moise Fokou).
Akpla and Nelson made some plays in the first two preseason games, but the other guys didn’t get on the field much. Thanks for spending camp with us guys, better luck next year.
Update: The Birds did make one more cut today. CB Cliff Harris has the distinction of being the first training camp cult hero cut by the Eagles this season. Here’s hoping you catch on somewhere else, Cliff. The diehards will miss ya.
With the Browns as the Eagles week 1 opponent, this game has the potential to be particularly vanilla. The starters will get a drive or two at the most to begin the game, however, even then Michael Vick will not be on he field. The Eagles plan to protect him until the regular season starts, given the injury scares he suffered in each of the first two preseason matches. Nevertheless, here are 5 things to look for tonight against Cleveland.
1. Third down: the Eagles defense struggled mightily on Monday, allowing the Steelers to convert several third and long situations. Whether or not that’s a play-calling or execution issue is yet to be seen, but the Eagles need to maintain their success through three straight downs.
2. King Dunlap: With Demetress Bell struggling to maintain the edge, King Dunlap now has the opportunity to take his career to the next level and solidify himself as a reliable option in the NFL. Can Dunlap continue to build on Monday’s performance?
3: Back-up center: As I am now stating to death. This position is very important for the Eagles security this year. In addition to the main competitors of Julian Vandervelde and Dallas Reynolds, journeyman Steve Vallos has received some attention snapping the ball. I’m hoping anyone but Dallas Reynolds wins the position, solely because the concept of rooting for something named Dallas makes me cringe.
4. Nick Foles: Foles is a hot commodity at the moment, seemingly going from “what’s his name?” to Super Bowl MVP overnight. While Reid remains coy on the Foles chances of being the second string quarterback, it’s hard to deny his ability. Foles has demonstrated a control in the pocket that seems beyond his years. Of course all it takes is one preseason stinker for everyone to count the minutes until Kafka returns.
5. Phillip Hunt: Hunt has been on fire the past week and a half. Literally. I’m beginning to believe that he might be Ghost Rider. Hunt has been a force off the edge, unleashing havoc for quarterbacks seemingly every time he steps onto the field. Another good showing tonight and it will be nearly impossible to not keep him on the 53 man roster.
For the second preseason week in a row, the Eagles failed to get off the field on third down time and time again. This week, the starters played deep into the third quarter, ample time to evaluate their play, even against backups. And given that tonight’s game against the Browns will feature the most vanilla game plan you’re likely to ever see from an Andy Reid squad, a look back at last week’s game should be more instructive than anything you’ll see tonight.
So let’s go to the tape to see what happened…
Notes and analysis after the click…
A few thoughts from what I saw from tonight’s preseason game.
1. Vick injured his ribs again early in the game, expect questions about his durability to cover ESPN until your grandchildren have grandchildren.
2. King Dunlap had a solid outing tonight, containing Chandler Jones throughout the game and making an impact on the second level. The starting left tackle job now appears as though it’s his to lose. Demetress Bell has an awful outing against the second and third sting players from New England as he struggled maintaining his blocks and was an obvious weak link throughout the second half. He was also called for a few holding penalties. Very concerning for him overall.
3. If I had to pick a single bright spot, it was undeniably Nick Foles. Foles continued showing good pocket presence, confidence, and precision as he led the Eagles through most of the game going 18 of 28 for 217 yards 2 TD’s and a pick. It was quite the showing from the rookie. After the first preseason game, when talk had started of Foles taking the #2 QB position from Mike Kafka, I felt the praise was a bit premature. However, Foles was impressive again tonight and I’m having second thoughts. His poise and decision making was beyond impressive for a preseason rookie QB…I bet Mike Kafka isn’t nearly as confident as he was two weeks ago either.
4. Mychal Kendricks looks like everything he’s ben hyped up to be. While he didn’t have the chance to cover Rob Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez, Kendricks was making plays all over the field. He disrupted screens, pressured the QB while lining up as a defensive end, and always seemed to be near the play. Jon Gruden described him as being similar to Lance Briggs which, while premature, may not be far off. Kendricks has been physical and made tackles in the open field, which is important for the success of this defensive unit going forward. The sky seems to be the limit for this kid.
5. Speaking of the defense, I hope they come up with a way to stop the screen pass. Opponents know that the Eagles are going to bring the heat with a deep rotation on the front four and are more than content to just throw dump screens over them and force the back seven to make a play. Derek Landri showed a good effort of reading and reacting to screens, but they were still burnt a countless number of times throughout the night. Tackling was much improved tonight, but plenty of Pro Bowl caliber starters didn’t play for New England so it;s hard to take too much from that.
6A and B. Two other players who performed particularly well tonight offensively outside of Foles, Clay Harbor and Bryce Brown. Harbor had a great night, catching six passes for 30 yards and 2 TD’s while seeing plenty of time with the first team offense. Expect a piece about him in the next few days here at The Wooder Cooler. Very interesting player for the Birds this year.
Bryce Brown again showed a solid rushing performance going 9 times for 51 yards as well as two catches for 16 yards. Make no mistake about it, Brown is going to be the third back on this team. He’s a strong runner who has demonstrated good vision and a stiff arm that makes me gush like a 12 year old girl at an Elvis concert. As long as he can improve his pass blocking, which is a new aspect of his game, then he has the potential to be a very solid back in this league.
7. Chris Polk had a good day as well, converting several short-yardage runs. The Eagles definitely like him, however, with McCoy, Lewis, and Brown there’s really no place for Polk in the crowded backfield. They’ve discussed placing Polk at fullback, a la Tony Hunt, but he seems to be destined for the practice squad if he clears waivers.
8. Mat McBriar looks like the leading candidate to be the Eagles punter. He was the holder for the first half of the game on field goals, a point that I discussed in my 5 things to watch, and it appears as though he’s the leader for the job. Just consider these numbers, Mat McBriar had a long of 56 yards, Chaz Henry–41 yards. Ouch.
9. The replacement referee’s made another botched call today when a dropped pass by Brent Celek was initially called a fumble and returned for a TD by New England. When watching the play, the fact that it was initially called a fumble was laughable and exactly for that reason, terrifying. NFL, please give some of your disgusting amount of revenue to the refs soon. There’s no reason to play games of going tit-for-tat through the media. The refs deserve what they want and the league will benefit by it in the long run.
10. Demaris Johnson went from Cinderella to the pumpkin in one week. He botched an early punt return, fumbling the initial catch, and gained only 5 yards after picking it up. He also struggled with a few tough grabs during the game. This is in no way a condemnation for Johnson, but rather a reminder that preseason success is not a sign of guaranteed greatness, especially for undrafted rookies.
11. Steve Vallos, a 6th year journeyman, got some time a center tonight. Definitely worth a close look when the Eagles play the Brown’s on Friday.
Biggest non-story from the night: Andy Reid yelling at Cullen Jenkins. It’s happens and they were fine by the time the game ended. Great job by Andy handling that during his press conference and quashing it quickly.
Tonight, the focus is mainly on the defensive side of the ball, given the deep offensive firepower Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have. But, as with all things, you need to start with the King. Without further ado, my 5 things to watch for tonight:
1. Left Tackle: Offensively, this is the only position with any sort of true competition for the starting job. Demetress Bell was demoted to the second team in favor of King Dunlap after a very rough outing in his Eagles debut. Dunlap, who is entering his 5th season with the Eagles, is now getting his chance to prove his worth in what will undoubtedly be the Eagles’ most important pre-season game.
2. Mychal Kendricks vs Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez: The biggest problem defensively tonight for the Birds will be how they cover this fantastic duo of athletic tight ends. Consider it a trio if you want to count Visanthe Shiancoe, who I think could be involved in a somewhat regular three, yes, three tight end set during the upcoming season. For Kendricks, this is about as tough of a match-up as you can ask for, so it will be a good opportunity to see where he’s at. The same can be said for…
3. Brandon Boykin vs Wes Welker: This tough match-up will be critical to the 53-man roster. Boykin has already shown flashes of big-play ability on special teams, but if he has a good night tonight against one of the toughest slot players to defend in the league then the Eagles will feel much more confident about moving on from Joselio Hanson.
4. Second team center: During Jason Kelce’s rookie campaign, Michael Vick had to make adjustments at the line while the rookie learned on the job. With Kelce now confident in directing the line, Vick will have less responsibility before the snap. However, were Kelce to go down, his replacement will either be practice squad player Dallas Reynolds or second-year man Julian Vandervelde. Can either of those two make the calls or will the responsibility fall back on Vick?
5. Tackling: It was a major problem for the defense last year and it was an issue in the first pre-season game against Pittsburgh. That’s a big red flag considering, you know, you have to tackle every play.
And for the extra point:
Field goal holder: Yeah. I said it. In fact, this might be one of the most important factors into the season given that these duties are placed squarely on the shoulders of the punter. Therefore, whoever is holding on field goals likely has a leg up (yes, awful pun intended) in the competition. Can Mat McBriar overtake Chaz Henry or will Henry prove to be a Koy Detmer-esque legendary kick-holding champion of the world/above average punter? We’ll have to see.
Tra William Tra Thomas gave a press conference to announce his retirement. He spent 11 years with the Eagles as well as having short stints with Jacksonville and San Diego.
When I think on his career, I’ll always remember Tra as a pivotal player in the Andy Reid era. He was a strong, durable, and ever-reliable force on the left side of the line that helped the Eagles maintain such a high caliber level of play through most of the 2000’s. While it’s not a glorious position, it’s one that unquestionably can shape seasons.
If you don’t believe me, look at what happened to the Rams when Orlando Pace was injured in 2006 and the entirety of 2007. It wasn’t pretty….seriously.
So nothing but respect from us here at the Wooder Cooler, Tra. To be honest, you were the man. Thanks for everything. Good luck.