I would like to kick off our Week 12 column with an important reminder—one that we’ll likely include in every FFFS for the foreseeable future:
Stop saying the S.B. Word.
If you missed it from last week’s post, there is definitely terrible, horrible, no good, very bad juju-mugumbo that comes from saying the S. B. Word. Especially when you cheer for a franchise so often ridiculed for its lack of S. B. Words. Especially when you play in a very tough conference and haven’t even sealed up the division yet (though that’ll probably happen soon #DallasSucks).
We’ll have more conversations about how deep into the playoffs that this young QB/HC duo can take Philadelphia when the time comes. For now, don’t risk angering the powers that be. Avoid bad juju. Do the right thing. Taboo the S. B. Word.
1) Big Money Nigel
Another echo of FFFS past: Nigel is even less intimidating of a name than Ronald. Imagine hearing the call: “Trubisky drops back into the pocket...he’s flushed out, scrambling to his right...looking downfield...OH! What a shot by Nigel! Trubisky is sacked at the 43 yard line—that’s an 8-yard loss.”
“Yeah Joe, Nigel just buried him on that play. You know, Nigel’s a very instinctive player, and...”
Please tell me that sounds as absurd to you as it does to me.
Name games aside, Mr. Bradham has played excellent football since the moment he donned the midnight green, and in Jordan Hicks’ extended absence, Bradham’s value has really shined.
Over the five weeks (4 games) since Hicks lost the remainder of the season, Bradham leads all qualifying linebackers in coverage snaps/target, coverage snaps/reception, and yards allowed/coverage snap (per PFF). Over the entire season, Bradham actually has the most coverage snaps of all qualifying LBs...and still leads the league in all three categories.
That’s straight bonkers, team. Offenses aren’t throwing it to Bradham, aren’t completing it on Bradham, and even when they do, it’s for minimal gains (over the Hicks-less span, Bradham hasn’t missed a tackle. In pass coverage or run support.)
After making the Hicks-iest of plays by cashing in on a key turnover against Dallas, Bradham has cemented himself as a key cog on this defense. There’s no way Philadelphia lets him walk in the offseason—and, after Bleeding Green Nation reported that Eagles insider Dave Spadaro expects another extension signed in the coming weeks, I think the writing on the wall became ever clearer: Bradham’s getting inked, soon.
Bradham won’t be bank-breaking, because he doesn’t have crazy production stats against the run. Philadelphia signed Mychal Kendricks to a 4-year extension at 7.25M/year in 2015, with 11M guaranteed. That’s a good starting number for Bradham’s negotiations.
2) Nicky Franchise goes franchise hunting
Philadelphia will be strapped for cap in 2018, even if my above prognostication falls through. As of right now, they’re projected to rank last in available cap next season at -2.7M. Now, they’ll be able to open up a good deal of space and clear the ceiling with some obvious moves: cutting Torrey Smith, Mychal Kendricks, and Brent Celek (that one will hurt) puts Philly 11M in the black.
But another oft-proposed cut is Nicholas “The God” Foles, Philadelphia cult hero and co-record holder with some dude named Peyton Manning. The backup will carry a 7.6M cap hit in 2018 (Carson Wentz costs 7.25M), good enough for 9th-highest on Philly’s roster.
The backup QB position is of eternally-underestimated importance. It’s one thing to lose your starting QB for the season and try to salvage the year with your backup. That’s nigh on impossible, and Mike Zimmer in Minnesota deserves bundles of credit for doing so (though his “starting” QB was never a starting-caliber player). But having a QB who can step in for 2-3 games and keep your team competitive when your starter gets nicked up? That’s so incredibly valuable.
I believe that’s what Philadelphia currently has in Nick Foles: one of the most talented backups in the NFL. In the current QB climate, you could call him a fringe starter. Philadelphia may wish to hold on to Foles as necessary insurance for a physical running QB in Carson Wentz (how has Carson not gotten injured yet in his career KNOCKONWOOD)—but given their cap situation and Roseman’s penchant for trades, dealing Foles may be an advantageous move.
As such, Foles can potential boost his trade value by playing some decent football in his limited reps. I expect this game to be over all but over by the beginning of the fourth (KNOCKONWOOD) and I’d love to see Doug and Howie let Foles run the full offense and throw the football, with the stipulation that he’s fresh and ready to do so.
If not now, Foles may get the last game or two of the season to make his audition. Good Foles film could reap significant trade benefits for a Philadelphia team lacking a 2nd and 3rd round pick in the 2018 Draft.
3) Derek Barnett cools off
Over the past four games, Derek Barnett has averaged 1 sack and 3 tackles/game. Over the first six games, that’s 0 sacks and .8 tackles. Best part? His pass-rushing snaps haven’t drastically increased over that period of time: 22/game in the first period, 24.5/game in the second.
So you could say he’s hot.
Here’s the rub, however: his production still feels a little fluky. His four sacks have come from two games, two apiece: Week 7 vs. Washington and Week 11 at Dallas. If we were to qualify each one:
#1 (v. Washington): Beat TE Jordan Reed cleanly
#2 (v. Washington): Beat OT T.J. Clemmings decently
#3 (v. Dallas): read naked bootleg and tackled Dak in space
#4 (v. Dallas): beat OT Byron Bell cleanly and strips football
He hasn’t yet beaten a starting offensive tackle for a sack. And, if we go to the film, we see that he’s still experiencing a similar issue that he found in college: failing to take the corner tightly and often ending up behind the quarterback, even on his sacks.
I’ve noticed Philadelphia fans start to throw some shade at analysts and other fans who weren’t Barnett’s biggest fans, and would have liked to see a different pick at #14. As one of those analysts and fans, I’m very happy to see Derek Barnett producing, but that doesn’t surprise me too much: he produced a lot in college, and he’s a good football player.
However, Barnett is showing much more in his rookie season than he did in college—which is perfectly fine, he’s only one year removed. He’s done well to generate consistent pressure, he plays the run nicely, and I love his motor. However, my original prediction remains: that he would be a solid complementary pass rusher who would never generate a significant amount of high-quality sacks, and that such a player was over-drafted at #14.
I know Philadelphia is in full “strike back” mode at all of the #haterz right now: Carson Wentz doubters, Doug Pederson doubters, and now Derek Barnett doubters. It feels good to be on top, most assuredly. I’d be cautious of what goes around, however—it usually comes back.
4) Dallas sucks
What a time to be alive.
Dallas’ point differential over the past 3 games has been -70. They have scored below double-digits for three straight games--that had never before happened in franchise history. At one point, the offense had gone 25 consecutive drives without a touchdown (shout-out excellent Cowboy claback-er Dave Mangels).
Things are very bad in Dallas.
Let’s start with Dak: cut the kid a break. The entire offensive game plan and ideology has changed due to injuries/suspension, and his defense is absolutely no help. It’s absurd to believe that these are good circumstances under which to evaluate quarterback play, and if you didn’t enjoy folks ripping on Wentz when he was likewise deprived of help, don’t rip on Dak now.
That being said, for what Dak has been asked to do with the pieces he has around him, he has really struggled. It’s clear he’s trying to bear the entire offense on his shoulders, and he isn’t built for that. As such, his play has sharply declined.
Looking forward, analysts may say that Dallas will right the ship once Tyron Smith, Ezekiel Elliott and Sean Lee return. I’m here to tell you this: no. Dallas sucks.
Things look very bleak for the Cowboys. That offensive line was not playing great football before the Smith injury—and to be frank, I’m not sure if we’ll ever see Smith at 100% again. Having a stud LB only works when he can stay on the field—Eagle fans know a little about that. Dez struggles to separate, Cole Beasley has vanished, Terrence Williams is bad, and Witten is old. Besides DeMarcus Lawrence (pending FA), you can’t find a consistently good player on that defense.
But the problems are even worse for Dallas: they don’t have neither the coach nor the GM to fix it. Jason “The Clapper” Garrett will likely end this season with only 2 winning campaigns over 7 years as a head coach. Dallas currently ranks 28th in the NFL in 3rd quarter points and 32nd in the league in 3rd quarter points allowed per game—Garrett’s getting out-coached in-game on the regular.
Meanwhile, his front office hasn’t helped him at all. They killed the 2014 draft early—Zack Martin and DeMarcus Lawrence is good work—but since then it’s been oft-injured, inconsistent, suspended players across the board.
2015: Byron Jones, Randy Gregory, Chaz Green, Damien Wilson
2016: Ezekiel Elliott, Jaylon Smith, Maliek Collins, Charles Tapper
2017: Taco Charlton, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Ryan Switzer
They get credit for late-round gems (Dak Prescott, Anthony Brown, Xavier Woods), but we all know they never intended on drafting Dak, Brown is regressing, and they won’t play Woods! These past classes have been downright bad, folks.
Dallas is currently at a low. Getting healthy players back will help, certainly. But there are deep-seated issues with this Dallas organization that aren’t going away any time soon.
5) Da Bears
It would be great if the offense could come out hot, after they’ve sputtered to begin two of the past three games. Chicago is a scrappy team that’s looking for momentum after a frustrating loss to Detroit last week—there’s no reason to give them anything to believe in early.
Carson, who’s seen his numbers drop the past couple of contests, faces a good defense in Chicago: not great, but solid. If Carson has really taken the next step, he should be able to run the offense smoothly; if he’s regressing back after an explosive middle of the season, we’ll see him struggle.
On the other side of the ball, I can’t wait to watch how Jim Schwartz addresses a rookie QB in Mitchell Trubisky. As he’s settled into a starting role midseason, Trubisky has improved his play with every passing week, and Chicago fans should be excited about his future. But Trubisky will panic in the face of the rush, and I think Schwartz is going to bring the heat early and often in an attempt to build the lead.
Give me Philadelphia with 38, Chicago with 17. I know some may anticipate a trap game, but I trust Coach Pederson to motivate his team to a strong win to kickoff their arduous road trip on the horizon. Jay Ajayi ought to rip off another big run (50+) en route to his first 100 yard game as an Eagle. I like Big Money Nigel to get a pick when handling Tarik Cohen in space, Fletcher Cox to pick up another sack, and Zach Ertz ends fantasy owners’ pain with a big day: 11 catches, 120 yards, 1 TD.
Alshon’s homecoming stats? 5 catches, 59 yards.
On to Seattle.