Tag Archives: Bill Davis

Eagles Shortcomings Bite Them in Critical Stretch of the Season

27 Dec

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Jeremy Maclin has been the big home run hitter among the Eagles receivers. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Jeremy Maclin has been the big home run hitter among the Eagles receivers. He has82 catches and 10 touchdown passes. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—When you’re in the playoffs or making a run for the postseason during the latter stages of the regular season, the loss that ultimately ends your season often exposes the weakness or weaknesses that’s bothered you all season.

That was definitely the case with the Eagles who will be spending January watching the playoffs on TV with the rest of us thanks to last Saturday’s loss to Washington and the Dallas Cowboys win over the Indianapolis Colts.

Dallas wins the NFC East while the Eagles, who will close out the 2014 season on the road against the New York Giants, will be spending the offseason trying to figure out what went wrong.

The Eagles season came down to losses in their last three games and was reflective of the shortcomings that all knew were there, but were hoping they can somehow overcome. In the end, they couldn’t get out of the way themselves enough when it counted.

Even before Nick Foles season-ending injury, the Eagles struggled for consistency at the quarterback position. After Foles tossed 27 touchdown passes against two interceptions last season, he was inconsistent in the eight games he started. He had 13 touchdown passes and 13 turnovers 10 interceptions and three fumbles.

At times, Foles has held the ball too long and made pump fakes that gave opposing defensive that extra split second to make a play on the ball.

Sanchez, too, was a turnover machine in the seven games he started this season with 13. Eagles’ quarterbacks have committed a combined 26 turnovers including 20 interceptions. The Birds lead the league in turnovers with 35 and are 25th in the NFL in takeaway-giveaway ratio at minus-eight.

When your quarterbacks are committing nearly 75 percent of your team’s turnovers, you are not going to be a playoff team or if you do get to the playoffs, you’re not going to be there very long.
In the three-game losing streak that ultimately bounced them out of the playoffs, the Eagles committed eight turnovers.

In defense of Eagles quarterbacks, especially Foles, the offensive line had its share of injuries early in the season and had problems protecting the quarterback. Center Jason Kelce and guard Evan Mathis have missed time due to injury. Veteran guard Todd Heremanns is currently on the injured reserve list.

All that said, some Eagles fans are beginning to doubt their faith in Foles as the starting quarterback and are hoping the team can move up in the NFL dream so they can draft Oregon star Marcus Mariota or Florida State’s Jameis Winston.

While Mariota and Winston would fit Chip Kelly’s offense quite well, I don’t think it’s going to happen because I don’t think the Eagles are interested in giving up the kitchen sink or the entire front office’s first born to get either one of those guys.

For now, they are invested in Foles and the Eagles certainly have justification for doing so. Foles has done quite well in Kelly’s tenure as head coach.

“Yeah I think we know what we have in Nick,” said offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. “And we’ve seen a guy that I think, by last count, he’s 14-4 as a starter. So that’s really how you judge a quarterback.”

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the back end of the Eagles defense. Some of those guys can and should be replaced.

Since the departures of Brian Dawkins, Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor, the Eagles secondary haven’t quite put the fear of God into the hearts and minds of opposing receivers.

At the cornerback position, the Birds are very average at best and just plain awful or worse at times. Cornerback Bradley Fletcher, a decent player, has been the weak link in the secondary for the last two weeks. He has been burned for three touchdowns and has given up at least four plays of 25 yards or more.

In Fletcher’s defense, he was going one-on-one against Dez Bryant and the speedy former Eagles wideout DeSean Jackson. Some safety help would have been nice. At the same time, the secondary has been a weakness masked by the solid play of the Eagles front seven. The Birds are second in the NFL in sacks with 49.

Defensive coordinator Bill Davis said the Eagles defense has improved since he took over last year, but the deep ball has been an Achilles Heel.

“In a lot of categories, yes and in a very important one, the deep pass, the vertical ball, the plus 20-yard passes, we’re not,” Davis said. “I’ve got to get that fixed.”

Ya think.

The Eagles aren’t a bad football team now, but in order for the team to go forward and really be a contender they’re going to make some personnel changes on the defensive side of the ball.

In the wake of the Eagles not making the playoffs, fans and a few local media people are questioning the release of former Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson, whose ability to stretch the defense made the Birds offense one of the most dangerous in the NFL last season.

Some observers are saying if Jackson was with the Eagles along with Jeremy Maclin, rookie Jordan Matthews, and Riley Cooper—the Birds offense would be even more dangerous. Running back LeSean McCoy, who is fourth in the league in rushing, would have even more yards on the ground.

While you might have a legitimate argument on one level, it may not have mattered if Jackson was there given the struggles of the quarterbacks with turnovers and the injuries to the offensive line.

If you’re still mad about the Jackson trade, consider the following:

Coming into Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Giants, Maclin has 82 receptions for 1,269 yards and 10 touchdowns. McCoy has 1,220 yards rushing—not as good as last year, but he’s still in the league’s top five.

Darren Sproles had more touchdown passes than Jackson with eight and gave defenses more than something to think about. If not for New York Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham, Matthews might be in the NFL Rookie-of-the-Year conversation-he caught 59 passes for 767 yards and seven touchdowns.

What really bothers fans about the Jackson release was that the Eagles got nothing of equal value or better on either side of the ball. That was the real tragedy of letting go of your best receiver.

During this offseason, the Eagles have to get better if they want to be in the postseason in 2015.

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Eagles Season on the Brink After Beating Themselves in Loss to Washington

21 Dec

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Mark Sanchez passed for 370 yards and two touchdowns, but tossed an interception that set up the game-winning field goal for Washington.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

Mark Sanchez passed for 370 yards and two touchdowns, but tossed an interception that set up the game-winning field goal for Washington. Photo by Webster Riddick.

LANDOVER, Md.—It’s official. The Philadelphia Eagles season is officially on life support thanks to what only can be described as a bad loss to a Washington team that is going nowhere fast.

Kai Forbath’s 26-yard field goal with five seconds left put the Birds postseason hopes in dire straits and they’re going to need a lot of help and lots of luck.

If the Dallas Cowboys beat the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, the Eagles will be officially eliminated from the playoffs. They were officially eliminated from wild card consideration and can only win the NFC East to get to the postseason.

Dallas would have to lose their last two games and the Eagles would have to beat the New York Giants next week.

Three weeks ago, the Eagles were in the playoff driver’s seat and now they’ve lost three straight.

Given how the Birds 27-24 loss to Washington turned out, you could say that the Eagles don’t deserve to be in the playoffs. Teams that make the postseason don’t make the kinds of mistakes the Birds made Saturday night—Two turnovers, two missed field goals and 13 penalties.

“You’re not going to win football game that way,” said Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. “We left them on the field too many on third down when we got penalties to extend drives. You felt like you had a stop. Thirteen penalties and two turnovers isn’t going to win you games in this league.”

There was a lot in the wreckage of this latest Eagles loss.

Let’s start with the quarterback position. With all due respect to Mark Sanchez, he is not the guy to lead your playoff push. He has 13 turnovers in seven games. Against Washington, the Birds back-up quarterback committed two turnovers—a fumble and possibly a season-killing interception late in the fourth quarter.

The miscues took away from what was a pretty good performance by Sanchez, who completed 37-of-50 passes for 374 yards and two touchdown passes to Riley Cooper. The Eagles rolled up 495 yards of offense. Tight end Zach Ertz had a team-record 15 receptions for 115 yards.

But with the game and the season on the line, Sanchez tossed a “Hail No,” instead of a Hail Mary to set up the game-winning field goal for Washington.

“It’s tough to swallow,” Sanchez said. “You want to get a win, especially with some of the outstanding performances we had. It’s really too bad when that happens and we lose.”

Now to say it was all Sanchez’s fault would be factually incorrect.

Somehow Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis didn’t remember the lesson of last Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys when wide receiver Dez Bryant torched cornerback Bradley Fletcher for three touchdowns: Give your cornerback safety help or at least have someone with him in double coverage.

The Birds “old friend” and former teammate DeSean Jackson had a field day and made Fletcher the “Toast” of D.C. He caught four passes for 126 yards including a pair of 50-yard plus passes that led to Washington touchdowns.

Fletcher was actually taken out of the game and replaced by Nolan Carroll at one point.

“(Fletcher) has had two bad weeks in a row. He was hoping to get out of that slump,” Davis said. “He didn’t. They went at him deep and they made the plays on him. I made the switch. … I think Fletch is a good corner, he’s lacking some confidence right now. They’ve been making some plays right on him, he’s in a slump.”

Oddly enough, the Eagles defensive coaches finally figured it out midway through the fourth  when Robert Griffin III went to the D-Jax well one more time on the deep bomb but safety Nate Allen backed up Fletcher and came away with the interception. By then it was too little, too late.

Another sure way to snatch defeat from what should have been the jaws of victory is to commit too many penalties. The Eagles committed 13 penalties for 102 yards.

Some of those penalties prolonged Washington drives on the defensive side of the ball including a roughing the passer penalty on defensive end Vinny Curry that moved Washington deep into the Eagles territory to set up the game-winning field goal.

“We just gotta play with more discipline. That’s what penalties are. That many, we just got to play with more discipline,” Davis said. “We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot. You can’t beat yourself in the NFL.”

While there were a couple of questionable roughing the passer calls, there were some penalties had no business committing. Early in the first quarter, cornerback Cary Williams got flagged for shoving Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon. It was a stupid penalty that should have been a third down stop.

Then the unthinkable thing happened. The always reliable Cody Parkey missed a pair of easy field goals inside of 40 yards. It was that kind of day for the Eagles.

“That’s the part that sucks because we know how much work we put in,” said Eagles linebacker Brandon Graham. “For us to beat ourselves that’s the worst way to go out.”

Suffice it to say, the City of Brotherly Love will be Colts fans on Sunday.

Eagles Defense Hopes to Take it to the Next Level in 2014

30 Jul

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles hope Trent Cole and the defense will be even stronger in 2014

Eagles hope Trent Cole and the defense will be even stronger in 2014. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—The big noise at the opening of the Eagles 2014 training camp is how fast will Chip Kelly’s offense be in its second year?

How good will the offense be with the addition of running back Darren Sproles? Will Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper stretch opposing defenses in the way that DeSean Jackson did last season? Can Nick Foles duplicate his success from last season now that he is firmly established as the Birds starting quarterback?

For all the potential of the Birds high-powered offense, the improvement of the Eagles 3-4 defense is going to be the key to the team’s success in 2014. Considering how the New Orleans Saints rolled up over 400 yards of offense against the Eagles in their NFC Wildcard Playoff game last season, there is definitely room for improvement.

While the Eagles defense played well toward the end of the regular season, they finished the season 29th overall and 32nd against the pass. They were 10th against the run and finished tied for third in takeaways-giveaways margin. The Birds also had 37 sacks as a unit and ranked 20th in the league in that category.

In 10 out of their last 12 games, the Eagles held teams to under 100 yards rushing including the regular-season finale against the Dallas Cowboys, who gained just 56 yards on the ground.

“I “I think the biggest thing you saw a year ago, you saw more assignment football,” said Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis. “Guys were studying hard to know their assignment, what was asked of them, and they were trying real hard to get to their assignment and maybe not understanding their whole picture of how they exactly fit with their teammates and how it all came together.”

The one thing that the Eagles, both players and coaches, have been saying throughout organized team activities, minicamps and in the early days of training camp is that they all have a better grasp of the defense in their second year.

“It’s the second year around. …The first year we did a great job,” said inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks. “In the second year, it’s chemistry, camaraderie, checks, plays. It’s all down and so we’re able to focus on the little things. This second year, we should be a whole lot better.”

It helped that the Birds added some players in the secondary. Former Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll, who had three interceptions playing for the Miami Dolphins, and former New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins will help to shore up an area the Eagles coaches felt was a weakness last season.

The only real position battle on the defense is at the other safety spot between veteran Nate Allen and second-year player Earl Wolfe.

Meanwhile, Davis said the Eagles 2014 No. 1 draft choice linebacker Marcus Smith is still a work in progress in terms of learning the defense. He said Smith, who 14.5 sacks as a senior at Louisville, does have some familiarity with the Eagles scheme because it was similar to what he played in at the collegiate level.

“Marcus is a very hard worker and a very intelligent guy and very athletic,” Davis said. “He’s picked it up fairly quickly and one of the biggest things that attracted us to him was that Louisville and Charlie Strong’s defense was a lot like ours and the way they used him is lot like the way we use our ‘Jack’ position.”

In football lingo, the “Jack” position in a 3-4 defense refers to the outside linebacker serving as the primary pass rusher that can line up on either side of the ball.

For all the flash and dash of the offense, the Birds defense, at this point of the season, doesn’t have an identity in the way that Eagles defenses have had in the past whether you’re talking about the days of Reggie White or the hard-blitzing squads that played for the late Jim Johnson.

“The personality of this group will show itself when we play in the preseason and as we play games on Sunday,” Davis said. “Our goal defensively is to break the rhythm of the offense and to get them off the field as often as possible with turnovers and third downs.”

And so when it comes to the Eagles defense in 2014, fans want to know one thing. …who are these guys?

“Our team is going to come after you and create turnovers,” said defensive end Fletcher Cox. “We’re going to be a hard-nosed defense.”