Monday, November 19, 2007

Feeley? You kidding me, Feeley? I just hope we can complete a pass!

For the first time all season, the Eagles have won two games in a row and sitting at .500. Of course, they figure to be below .500 after next week, but I’ll get to that later.

They only won by 10 points, but they outplayed the Dolphins by more than that. The defense was great. Although they didn’t sack John Beck or even force a turnover, they won the game today. With the exception of a few nice runs, Chatman was bottled up and a non-factor. Despite being kept clean most of the game, Beck looked uncomfortable in the pocket, but Rich Gannon might’ve been the most flustered QB in Philadelphia today.

Although it was late in the game, the incredible goal line stand by the defense was the backbreaker. The Dolphins had made some big plays on that drive, and it looked like the momentum was swinging back in their favor. After a Trent Cole tackle for loss, a lucky deflection by Takeo Spikes and another nice play by Spikes to stop Chatman short of the goal line, Cam Cameron made an explicitly poor play call, in which Juqua Thomas tackled Chatman 13 yards behind the line of scrimmage on a toss play. It was a dumb play to call with the game on the line, and the play design is so bad it should be tossed out of the playbook.

Brian Westbrook had one of his best games, and he was completely taken out of the passing game. He had career highs in carries and rushing yards, which we should’ve expected going into a game against one of the league’s worst run defenses. However, one might wonder if that would’ve happened if McNabb didn’t get hurt.

On a play before halftime, a DB hit McNabb hard on a blitz, and he limped off the field. After a collective groan from Eagles fans, the prevailing feeling of “here we go again,” and some x-rays, McNabb only has an ankle sprain, and he should be good to go pretty soon.

The fans calling for McNabb’s head and demanding Feeley or Kolb to play got their wish. However, A.J. only showed that McNabb is still the best option for this team. Don’t get me wrong; Feeley did enough to win, but this wasn’t a full game. I don’t trust him for a big chunk of games. He’s okay if he has to fill in, but the Eagles are looking to win games, and over the course of a month or two, he’d prove to be detrimental.

Almost immediately after he came into the game, Feeley did nothing to stop the Eagles’ turnover problems. He became part of the problem when he badly underthrew a receiver on top of making a bad decision to throw that way in the first place. It was another Dolphin red zone pick, taking more points off the scoreboard for the Eagles. He doesn’t have the arm strength to make difficult throws, and he has pretty spotty accuracy, but I have to give credit where credit is due. He made some nice plays, including a great touch pass in the seam to LJ Smith and a tough TD pass to Jason Avant, who was missing in action since the Green Bay game.

I’m not defending McNabb’s play today though. He played poorly in the poor weather conditions. His throws were off and he was taking some hard hits. The picks were bad passes and it just wasn’t one of his games. However, I’m not sure what McNabb was doing throwing so many times in the heavy wind and precipitation, which actually cleared up by the end of the game. They should’ve come out pounding the ball from the start. We shouldn’t need to wait for McNabb to get beat up and taken out of the game before we start using Westbrook. Notice how we finally used Buckhalter and Westbrook in the same formation and it worked?

That leads me into next week. The Patriots just destroyed another opponent, and the Eagles are in the crosshairs next. If the Eagles are going to do the impossible, and let me go on the record right now as saying it won’t happen, things have to be perfect, from the coaching staff all the way down to Reno Mahe.

They need to run the ball. They need to use Westbrook, Buckhalter, Stanley Pritchett, whoever. They need to throw the kitchen sink at the Patriots’ front seven. Don’t get me wrong; they can stop the run, but their best chance at beating the Patriots involves keeping their offense off the field. I’m not sure if this O-Line can hold up in pass protection long enough to give McNabb a chance to win this game himself.

Trent Cole is going to have to play the game of his life. This was his third straight game without a sack, so it’s time for him to break out again. The Eagles need to be able to generate pressure with their front four. If they have to bring the blitz, it’s going to leave too many holes in coverage, which the Patriots weapons will easily be able to exploit.

One final thing to ponder: If the Eagles were able to beat the Patriots, would this avenge the Super Bowl loss? I guess some could say that ending the perfect season is revenge for being beat in the big game, but I disagree. I never bought into the revenge game hype. I don’t think a championship loser feels any better about their loss if they emerge victorious in the regular season the next year.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Philadelphia Quick Hits

I’ll get back into the blogging game with this relatively cheap entry. If I like how it goes, maybe I’ll turn this into a regular feature- as regular as I can get, anyway.


They’ll take on the winless Dolphins on Sunday. However, they could be without Brian Westbrook, who hurt his knee lifting weights on Wednesday. Against the Dolphins, he could afford a week off, but it’s still something to keep an eye on. It’s going to be interesting to see if he does suit up but the Eagles aren’t confident in his health. Will they activate both Buckhalter and Hunt? I wouldn’t count on it.

Jim Johnson basically said this week that Juqua Thomas is the new starter at LDE, and Kearse is losing his snaps to Thomas and second rounder Victor Abiamiri. It’s about time. Kearse has lost his explosiveness, and he plays like he knows it. He doesn’t use his athleticism to rush the passer anymore, and he tries to use a bull rush to generate pressure. It’s not a very effective move for someone who lost a lot of weight.

The Eagles are struggling, but they could still have a number of Pro Bowlers. Donovan McNabb and Kevin Curtis are surprisingly close; Brian Westbrook is a lock if he remains healthy; Andrews or Runyan could get a spot; both of the starting Defensive Tackles, Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson, are playing great and have been the key to improving the defense.


They’re clearly committed to blocking shots, which is very admirable. However, at some point, they need to start playing more soundly in their own zone. They aren’t very aggressive on the back check and they make sloppy passes resulting in turnovers. Martin Biron has been playing great so far, but I’m not sure how long he can keep up with his team constantly being out shot.

Simon Gagne continues to be out of the lineup. Getting Scottie Upshall back was a nice boost because he’s an athletic skater who can score goals. If this team can manage to stay the least bit healthy for a little bit, it will be a first.

I wasn’t so sure that Steve Downie would join the Flyers when his suspension ended, but now I think it’s possible. Ben Eager isn’t showing any offensive ability at all, and the failed 3 on 1 breakaway attempt last night was a huge turning point. Riley Cote hasn’t added much himself. You want a tough guy on the team, but shouldn’t they contribute something else?


They just completed a great comeback against Portland, and not many people were in South Philadelphia to see it. After being outplayed for the entire first half and leaving Sixers fans groaning, they dominated the fourth quarter to pull out the win. They’ve struggled early this season, but like past years, I don’t think we’ll see them tank or stop playing hard.

Believe it or not, young players helped fuel the comeback against the Trailblazers. Thaddeus Young saw significant action for really the first time all season. Jason Smith continued to play a key role in a rotation down low, and Lou Williams provided a scoring spark. It’s time for these guys to start playing a lot of minutes. Their athleticism improves the entire team on the floor.

I don’t know what’s wrong with Andre Miller, but he’s not playing as well as we saw last year. He’s been a very good PG during his career, but this year, Miller has played a different game. He’s taking more shots and not being the distributor he has been his entire career. He’s hurting any trade value he had prior to the season.


Reports say that they have about 10-15 million dollars left in the budget to spend. At some point in the coming days, I’m going to take another look at the numbers and confirm the total.

Pat Gillick says the rest of the resources available will be spent on pitching, but as we’ve seen in his tenure, he doesn’t do what he says, and in fact, he often does the opposite. He names Brett Myers the closer, and trades for Brad Lidge the next day. Fans think the rotation is set when he signs Adam Eaton, and they trade for Freddy Garcia. Don’t take his word too seriously.

I like Shawn Green as a platoon player with Jayson Werth. He’s a very good option against righties, so a straight platoon would help both players. Green can no longer hit lefties, so that could create some matchup problems late, but they need another guy in RF.

City Six

I learned that “City Six” is the proper way to talk about Philly college hoops, and not “Big Five Plus One.” We’ll start with the one in the major conference in Villanova. They lost Curtis Sumpter, which means their front court is weaker than it usually is. Scottie Reynolds is a great player, but other guys are going to have to step up. Verdict: about the same as last year. They should get into the tournament and lose early again.

Drexel was the underdog story of the year in the city, but they lost a lot. Mejias, Mason and Crawford were some key losses, but they do get their best player back in Frank Elegar. Bruiser Flint is a great coach, and if he can get his guys to keep working hard, they could make some noise in the CAA again. Verdict: probably worse than last year. They’re inexperienced.

La Salle struggled last season after losing Stephen Smith, and I expect the same from them this year. I really don’t know that much about them, so I’m not going to pretend that I do.

St Joe’s played well in front of the nation earlier this week against Syracuse. They’re pretty young, but they could develop into one of the better teams in the A10. Pat Calathes has been around through the rebuilding since the Elite Eight run, and he could lead this otherwise inexperienced team. Verdict: they should improve on last year.

Temple is another young team looking to get better in the A10, but they’ve struggled early on this year. They’ve blown a couple of big leads and didn’t wrap up games when they should have. However, when push comes to shove, Fran Dunphy is a good coach and will get these guys ready to play more often than not. Dionte Christmas is just one player looking to continue to revive Temple basketball. Verdict: they should improve on last year.

Penn is another team I don’t know much about. I do know they lost their two best players from last year, and their dynasty of sorts in the Ivy League could be in danger.