Each week Dave and Patrick discuss
the week that was (let's skip that this week) and the week that will be. It's Two Guys Internetting Football!
Patrick: I've got a hot take brewing, Dave. You want to hear it? Of course you do. Everyone loves a piping hot take. Ready? Here we go:
The Eagles are bad.
Boom! Hope you had a fire extinguisher nearby 'cause that puppy is highly combustible.
In all seriousness, though, this team is rough. For all the (legitimate) things we laugh at Tampa Bay for, they enter this game with the same record as the preseason Super Bowl darlings. It's honestly become impossible to predict how the Eagles will play in any given game - or any given quarter, for that matter.
So instead of breaking down the minutiae of two 4-5 teams, I want to ask you this: at what point should Chip Kelly start giving guys like Eric Rowe, Marcus Smith and Taylor Hart a significant bump in playing time?
Dave: You know I love hot takes. I'm a sommelier of hot takes.
That take was bad though. Because it's true. The Eagles are bad. When I die and go to hell, Hotel California will be on loop, and the cab driver from The Big Lebowski will be there yelling at me.
Also the Eagles football team is bad. And that's why I agree with you, play the young guys. What is there to lose? A game? You lost to the awful Dolphins. You needed OT to beat the Cowboys. A shot at the playoffs? Even if they made it, what does going one and done in the playoffs accomplish this year?
Get the future kind of sort of started now. Move Lane Johnson to left tackle full time. Start Taylor Hart in place of Cedric Thornton (who I really like, no offense Swamp), because Thornton is going to be a free agent and they may not be able to keep him for cap reasons, so see if Hart can handle a starting workload. See if Marcus Smith can do anything. Play Eric Rowe at safety in nickel instead of Chris Maragos. Bench Miles Austin and give Josh Huff his playing time. Some of these guys haven't done much of anything, but they also haven't been given much playing time. There's a point where playing time must be earned, and a point where playing time must be given for players to progress. We're at the progression point.
There's no downside here. The Eagles aren't going anywhere in 2015, and many improvements for 2016 have to come from within. Huff has had a few moments, but hasn't put together any kind of consistency. But he also hasn't had consistent playing time. He played less than half of the offensive snaps last week, but more than 2/3rds of them the week before. Let's see what consistent, starting playing time will get him. I'm not holding out a lot of hope that he'll suddenly be good, but we know that Cooper and Austin aren't good. Start Huff and Nelson Agholor on the outside full time, and give them a chance to grow.
The same thing for Rowe. He's had some bad moments and some good ones.... but he's got potential. Chris Maragos has done a really nice job considering his role, but he is what he is. Get Rowe playing time.
The Eagles are 4-5. They've got a bunch of injuries. This is the time to drop the kids in the deep end and see who can swim.
Patrick: I agree with just about all of that. My only issue would be that, while I want guys to be tested, I also don't want anyone to drown.
Is Rowe not playing because he's genuinely being outperformed by Maragos? Or is it because he's not where the coaches thought he'd be? I'm inclined to say it's the latter. Which is fine, but I'm not sure I want to shake a guy's confidence by having him get toasted by Russell Shepard. But really, Rowe is the only one I feel this way about. Marcus Smith? Throw him in. Huff? Ditto.
And I think Huff really has the most of anyone to gain from this strategy. He's been inconsistent in his first two years, but maybe some confidence is all he needs. He's clearly shown flashes of explosion, but that's not enough to warrant a full-time starting gig. Next year Riley Cooper is likely out of here, which means the Eagles will likely be looking at Huff and Nelson Agholor on the outside, with Jordan Matthews in the slot. I'd like to see what Mark Sanchez can do with that trio. If Huff blossoms, awesome. If you still have questions, you can at least look elsewhere for help in the offseason with some confidence.
Dave: Sad to say but I think Cooper is back next year. Get your preemptive rage out now while you can.
I'm also inclined to say it's the latter with Rowe, but that's why I'd play him only situationally. Rookie DBs often struggle, but we're talking about 20 snaps a game in a limited role for him. They don't ask Maragos to do much when he's in. It sounds like he's going to get playing time on Sunday from what we've heard in practice this week, so that's good.
Huff is so frustrating. He has these flashes where you say "if only...." and then he either doesn't do much or just doesn't get to play. The Dolphins game was a good example, he picked up extra yardage on that kick return with some tough running. Then he caps that drive off with a touchdown with a nice leaping grab... and then he only got thrown to once on the next three drives. It's hard to be consistent when you're not used consistently.
Chip Kelly's not a big fan of rebuilding, but at least do some remodeling.
Patrick: Well, Chip's clearly a fan of remodeling. I don't think he likes sconces though.
But I'd be remiss if I didn't ask you at least one game-related question. So here goes: would you agree with me that the stars are aligning for a Jordan Matthews breakout party? His mysterious dropsies injury seems to be behind him, and he's getting a quarterback in Mark Sanchez who is always looking for him, regardless of who else may be wide open on fourth down. Even if the rest of the season is a wash (which still certainly isn't a guarantee), I'm hopeful that we'll see Matthews take another step.
Dave: I agree that Matthews is primed for a little breakout. Sanchez loves him and for good reason, he's the best WR on the team. And Tampa's pass defense is really bad. So yeah, things have aligned for him to have a good game. But I'm not sure that would count as progression--we've already seen him play well with Sanchez at QB. However the way this season has gone, not regressing is a positive. And now you've made me mad on line.
I also like Ertz this week, Tampa has had some struggles stopping tight ends, and their inability to stop anything in the middle of the field bodes well for him and Matthews. Getting those guys going, even in a loss, would be encouraging.