Welcome to the first-ever, special edition of Five Friday For Sures that we like to call “Suck It, NFL.”
Suck it, NFL, for all having worse records than the Philadelphia Eagles. Suck it doubly for not drafting Carson Wentz, if you’re a team who coulda, shoulda, woulda done that. Also suck it, NFL, if you hired a coach in 2016 not named Doug Pederson.
Y’all know me pretty well by now—I’m not usually much of a taunting guy. But, as a junior in college, I can only just remember the 5-straight NFC Championship era in Philadelphia. Sure, I’ve got the spotty playoff berths of up-and-down Andy, as well as that initial glimmer of hope from first-year Chip, but all in all, I haven’t known sustained success as a post-elementary school Eagle fan.
We can’t call the Pederson-Wentz era “sustained success” just yet, but we can comfortably say that looks to be the direction we’re heading. Some sizable question marks loom on the horizon of the offseason: contracts are due to a few key contributors, such as LB Nigel Bradham and DT Timmy Jernigan, while decisions have to be made regarding WR Alshon Jeffery and LB Mychal Kendricks.
Of greater concern? The potential outflow of coaching talent from Philadelphia. Special teams coordinator Dave Fipp and DC Jim Schwartz both have head coach potential—don’t be surprised if OC Frank Reich gets his name in there, either. RB coach Duce Staley wants to start climbing the ladder of offensive minds, while QB coach John DeFilippo simply deserves a whack at coordinating an offense.
As such, I must reel myself in—can’t settle into the comfort of a perennially-competitive Eagles team just yet. That said...ooh! I can smell it. We’re close.
1) A doggone TE throwback touchdown
If you’re just joining us, I’ve been predicting a Brent Celek touchdown incessantly.
When pressed on the matter, I finally tipped my hand:
Firstly, the TE throwback is up there with HB wheel as the greatest, most-undefeated plays in NFL history. Alone, at the pinnacle of all plays, is the OT throwback—similar to the TE throwback, but also different in every way, breathtaking to behold, and full of whimsy.
While the OT throwback requires truly unique personnel (read: an OT), every team should be required by the league to run a TE throwback in the red zone at least once in the season. If you’re unfamiliar with the TE throwback:
It cannot be stopped. You cannot ask a defender to respond to play-action flow to one side, then all of the passing concepts to the other side, then notice the TE leaking out to the original side, and go cover him. That’s too much mental processing.
However, not unlike the final 20 minutes of your favorite superhero movie, you only get one shot at this. Try to run the TE throwback one too many times, and defenders will start to expect it.
Why, then, would Philadelphia run their TE throwback against San Francisco, a team they should handily beat with their regular playbook?
Because I really want to see the TE throwback. Keep the fans happy, Doug.
2) 2017 Nelson Agholor standing over the corpse of 2016 Nelson Agholor
Let’s go. This is some Looper featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis nonsense.
Fun fact: Nelson Agholor has caught a touchdown in his last three games. Funner fact: So has Zach Ertz. Funnest fact: Both have 5 TDs on the season, tied for second-most receiving TDs in the NFL.
It’s certainly possible that Ertz continues to feast on Sunday. Maybe he even scores another TE (on a TE throwback, perchance?)--but I like Agholor in the slot against nickel CB K’Waun Williams, who is playing errghblech football as of late. If K’Waun can’t go (DNP on Thursday: quad) expect Agholor to face off against Leon Hall, who SF has already cut this season, or Jimmie Ward, who is, um, not a cornerback.
2016 boundary Nelly has been slowly, mercilessly strangled by rebranded 2017 slot Nelly—Week 8 marks his final breath. Agholor reels in 2—count ‘em!—2 touchdowns en route to a league-leading 7 TDs on the season. One goes for 50+ yards.
3) Ronald freakin’ Darby
I feel it in my bones. Thunderstorms aren’t the only thing on the horizon for Sunday kickoff. The dawn of Darby is nigh.
Really, I haven’t the faintest regarding Darby’s potential activation, though I can say this: I wouldn’t be surprised if Darby’s active, but at the bottom of the depth chart, and only sees time if San Fran makes this game competitive.
That being said, the Eagles’ staff certainly wants to see him active against Denver next week, when Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders come to town. It’d be nice to get him some live work before then. If he’s healthy enough to go, expect at least some Darby reps.
We should take a moment here to discuss the fact that NFL players’ names often sound absurdly different when you remove the last name.
Look: I am a very small person. I run cross-country, regularly take a box home from the restaurant, and was once beat up by a girl (no shame. Girls are awesome and terrifying). But I can tell you that the name Ronald sends precisely zero quivers of fear to my heart.
I have similar feelings about Rodney, Nelson, and Wendell, by the way. The Eagles’ defensive line sounds like a frat house, for goodness sake: Fletcher, Brandon, Timmy, and Derek. Don’t even get me started on the backups: Destiny and Beau? That’s a teenage girl duo that does a capella covers of pop songs on YouTube.
4) Some freakin’ sacks
Once you attach the last names, the Eagles’ front four is downright frightening. They are the first thing for which opponents prepare every week (though QB Carson Wentz is beginning to challenge that fact).
The lack of sack numbers likely stems, in part, from that very effect: Teams are so fearful of Philadelphia’s rush, they scheme to avoid it at all costs. Whether that entails the QB releasing the ball before he even finds the laces (lookin’ at you, Eli) or keeping extra protection in the backfield, Philadelphia ranks 13th in the NFL with 2.6 sacks/game (18 on the season).
That’s a respectable number, but this pass-rush isn’t the 13th best in the league—it’s better.
How do you increase sack numbers? Facing a rookie QB helps: C.J. Beathard (pronounced beh-thurd, not...beat-hard) makes his second-career start against Philadelphia, having been sacked by Dallas a resounding five times last week.
5, for those of you playing at home, is more than 2.6.
But the bigger storyline to watch is the return of Ronald (didn’t dawn of Darby sound so much cooler?!). Improved CB play—especially near the line of scrimmage—prevents that quick ball from the pocket, which gives Philadelphia more time to generate pressures and sacks.
Let’s Oprah it up: 2 sacks for Fletcher Cox, 1 for Brandon Graham, 1.5 for Timmy Jernigan, .5 for Derek Barnett, and 1 for Vinny Curry.
Philly should jump out early in this one, and keep it that way all game long. It’d be nice to see this game put away by the middle of the 3rd quarter, but Pederson’s Eagles have always tended to let teams back into games. That’s the question for me, coming in: can the Eagles simply trounce an inferior opponent?
The Niners have lost 5 games this season by 3 points or less—they’re just aching for a win, and if you let them hang around the best team in the NFL, they’ll get quite motivated. We don’t need that drama.
So, give Carson 3 tuddies (his fourth game in a row with at least 3, which would be an Eagle record): two to Agholor, and one to (insert TE name here). I also like the D/ST for a TD, something they’ve failed to do since Week 1 against Washington. Give Malcolm Jenkins (who’s playing simply smashing ball) a pick-six, and throw in an INT for Mychal Kendricks and good measure.
LeGarrette Blount was quiet in Week 7—Week 8 he only accumulates 60 yards, as Corey Clement’s confidence increases with another strong performance (60 scrimmage yards). I think SF scores a bit late, once the game is out of reach—the absence of Jordan Hicks will be felt—and finishes the game 34-24.
Big V, you ask? Doesn’t allow a single sack.
*scrambles to pick up mic; BLG hates it when I leave them lying around*
[BLG Note: I do.]