It’s Week 15? Jeez that’s depressing.
I know we still have some postseason ball around the corner, but still. the NFL season has never gone slowly enough. I move for a second league—a developmental league—that runs from late winter to mid-summer. Practices start in December, games start in February, championship by July. Never will we be without football, and there will be a place for young players to grow. Boom-shakalaka.
Hey Rog! When that $200M contract expires and you’re ready to move on, you know where to find me.
(I mean really you don’t, cause I’ll be three years removed from college, in a completely different city, and the internet may be totally destroyed by then or something, but whatever. We’ll get in touch.)
Let’s get into these for-sures.
1) The future defensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles
He’s going to be on the field this Sunday. Don’t ask me exactly who it is, but he’ll be there.
I think the smart money is still on Jim Schwartz. If you look at the recent resounding successes on the NFL coaching market, you find offensive-minded men: Doug Pederson, Sean McVay, Doug Marrone, Kyle Shanahan, Anthony Lynn (if we’re ready to call that a success). And certainly, there have been a fair share of failures as well: Hue Jackson, (Adam Gase (maybe?), Mike Mularkey, Bill O’Brien (if they fire BOB I’m gonna be pissed)—but it only serves the point:
NFL teams are hiring offensive minds to become their head coaches.
Across the 32 head coaches of the NFL, 18 have predominately offensive backgrounds and 14 have predominately defensive backgrounds. If you cut sample size to just include coaches hired in the last 5 years, the ratio jumps to 22 offensive minds, 12 defensive minds. In the last 2 seasons, 10 offensive coaches, only 2 defensive coaches.
All this goes to say: I’m not as sold on Jim Schwartz’s departure from Philadelphia for a head coaching gig as others seem. Looking across the league at jobs that may likely open, I see a lot of teams with 3-4 personnel and young, bright QBs. Jim Schwartz isn’t the man for those jobs. Honestly, his best fits may be in Cleveland and New York (Giants)—but both of those teams are predicted to spend top picks on young QBs.
As such, I still believe Jim Schwartz is the defensive coordinator of Philadelphia in 2018—especially when you consider that he may feel Philadelphia has unfinished business, if the Eagles fail to make it as far into the postseason as they would have with Carson at the helm. But let’s say he leaves (Tennessee? I dunno). I think the best candidate for Philadelphia’s job is already in house: Chris Wilson.
Philadelphia’s defensive line coach only has two years of experience at the NFL, both as the DL coach for the Eagles. However, he was the defensive coordinator for three years at Mississippi State before moving on to coach some good defensive lines in Georgia, USC, and Missouri. Philadelphia’s front-four raves about Wilson’s zeal and sound knowledge base. Because Philadelphia’s defense is constructed to rely more heavily on the front four than the back-end, Wilson is a more likely promotion than DB coach Cory Undlin, a great positional coach in his own right.
Don’t sleep, however, on the potential of Steve Spagnuolo, defensive coordinator and interim head coach for the Giants, as a potential DC target for Philly should Schwartz leave town. Spags may fall victim to a house-cleaning under the new regime. He runs an aggressive 4-3, and some of his particular preferences already fit in Philadelphia: DL who can play all across the line; smaller, quicker linebackers who can execute his zone blitzes.
2) Bad OL play
The Giants offensive line is going to play poorly? Permit me a moment to collect my jaw from the floor.
Of course, the running joke that is the Giants’ offensive line is well-worn by this point, but we must capitalize while we can. It’s quite likely that New York’s new front office prioritizes the trenches, after they were so neglected by the previous administration. Gotta get in my jabs where I can.
However, we must recognize that the poor line play will not be exclusive to New York: if LG Stefen Wisniewski (questionable, ankle) can’t go, or is at all limited, Philadelphia is going to struggle as well.
I said in the middle of the season that Philadelphia’s offensive line was playing better than any unit in the NFL. Now, it is the biggest liability on this team.
QB Nick Foles’ blindside is already a big question mark. While QB Carson Wentz excelled at escaping pressure, Foles lacks his athleticism and presence, which will only magnify the previously-masked issues had by LT Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Big V, heralded by a few to be the long-term answer at RT when Lane Johnson shifts over to the left, simply has not looked like NFL starter material. Serviceable backup? Certainly. But he’s not the dude.
Meanwhile, he and Wisniewski have endured their share of struggles, as the lack of practice time and continuity on the left side has led to the misdiagnosis of stunts and twists all too often. Considering the steep drop off in pass-protection at LG, should Chance Warmack or Isaac Seumalo step into Wiz’s shoes, things can’t get much uglier on the left for Philadelphia.
Solutions? Run the ball a whole stinkin’ lot. Both Big V and Warmack are far stronger run blockers than they are pass protectors. When you have to pass, slant protection to the left or rollout to the right. Leaving those two on their lonesome is a recipe for disaster.
The silver lining: OT Will Beatty may dress for the first time as an Eagle against his former team.
(That’s not really a silver lining, I know. It’s just a fact.)
3) Super duper over-analysis on the Jason Kelce rage kickSuper over-
I was legitimately shocked when I got a Bleacher Report push notification to inform me that Jason Kelce had kicked over a garbage can at practice. Admittedly, I have no idea how push notifications, apps, phones, or technology works as a whole, and there’s a very good chance I involuntarily checked the box that says “Send me a doggone homing pigeon whenever Najee Goode sneezes.”
Firstly: I freaking hope Jason Kelce is kickin’ stuff in practice. He is officially the leader of this football team, with Jason Peters and Carson Wentz both injured. He is the incumbent veteran, the coordinator of the offense, and is the longest-tenured Eagle on the offensive not named Brent.
And his offensive line, as we alluded to above, has not been playing good football as of late.
Secondly: have any of y’all been cleated? I grew up running cross country. You wore metal spikes in your race shoes, and if you got caught in traffic the wrong way, you were bleeding profusely for the next 3.1 miles. Getting cleated sucks in all caps.
Meanwhile, Jason Kelce is a 300 lb man and looks like a grizzly bear. I think we’re fortunate that he only kicked a small plastic bin, and not, you know, a hole into the wall.
All things considered, I’m really looking forward to coming back from commercial only to have Thom Brennaman and Chris Spielman dig into the deep implications of Kelce’s receptacle spectacle like it’s a college lit class.
I will, however, always, enjoy Pat McAfee breakdowns.
4) An ode to Carson Wentz
Let me tell you what I do not need.
I do not need a montage of Carson Wentz’s greatest plays, Merrill Reese’s elated cries in the background.
I do not need a breakdown of Carson Wentz’s numbers across 16 games, and how they compare to MVPs of the past.
I do not need pie charts and graphs that detail the precipitous drop of the Eagles’ probability of achieving the NFC’s first seed, or reaching the S**** B*** (bad juju), or even winning the S**** B***.
My body and soul are not prepared to withstand a well-prepared homage to the latest casualty of the 2017 injury bug. I just can’t do it. He was so young—*sniffles*—and so innocent.
Let me tell you exactly what’s gonna happen on Sunday.
I’m gonna bawl my doggone eyes out when the Fox broadcast subjects me to the torment nonetheless.
Yeah, I think (hope? pray? rest my entire self-worth on the thought that?) Philly will win. Despite the loss of Carson Wentz, the sum of this team’s roster and coaching staff had the Eagles humming at a championship level. Carson is gone—but the 2018 Philadelphia Eagles remain, and they are a darn good football team.
Foles will hold things down. He’s a vet; he knows what’s up. He won’t try to do too much in his first start, but rather will execute the offense carefully tweaked by HC Doug Pederson to fit his skill set. The goal against New York isn’t to come out with a high-powered offense, remove every doubt, etc... The goal is to ensure this team doesn’t spiral into a pit of despair and presumed playoff elimination. A bumpy victory is fine—it’s even expected; I can even stomach a loss with bright spots.
Just give us something to build on, that we can have a solid offense on the field come Divisional Weekend.
I expect a strong game from this defense, who simply must step up in Carson’s absence. After S Malcolm Jenkins’ impassioned postgame speech, I expect him to give Eli fits (as he did in the second game against New York in 2016). I like both Jenk and CB Ronald Darby for picks on the day, while DE Brandon Graham (3.5 sacks in his last 4 games, 8.5 on the season) breaks double digits for the first time in his career, with 1.5 on the day.
Foles will manage the game and move the football, but Philly will sputter in the red zone without Carson’s stellar play in that area. I like Foles to get throw one TD to TE Zach Ertz (and one INT). Jay Ajayi, off of his first 15+ touch game as an Eagle, sees 15 again, this time for 90 yards and 1 touchdown. K Jake Elliott hits 3 field goals, including one from 50+, as Pederson grows more conservative on 4th down in Wentz’s absence.
23-10 Philadelphia. With a win against the Giants, Philadelphia locks up a first-round bye for the playoffs.