NFL Week 7: NFC East – Interesting Times In The Division

Pierre-Paul brings down Alex Smith for one of New York’s 6 sacks last week.

Well there is one old adage that still serves: If you want to become a champion you have to beat the champion. The San Francisco 49ers had spent the better part of two weeks dispatching AFC East also-rans, in the Bills and Jets, to the tune of 79-3. Everyone anointed them the best in pro football yet forgot their next game was against the defending champion New York Giants. Now that the Niners have beaten Seattle and held 3 of their last 4 opponents to 10 points or less, you begin to understand how strong the Giants 26-3 win in Candlestick was.

Not only did Eli Manning come through in another big win on the road, Ahmad Bradshaw ran with more thunder than usual (116 yards/1TD). The Giants defense was as forceful as it was opportunistic with 6 sacks and 3 interceptions. The pendulum has swung on expert ideas on who the best team in the NFL is.

Now at 4-2 the Giants have to start taking care of business in their own division. With losses to Dallas and Philadelphia, here comes the NFL’s newest ultimate weapon in Robert Griffin III coming into The Meadowlands. Just as the Giants are coming off a confident and very focused win out west?? Should be interesting… Lets take a look at the NFC East standings

East Division













New York Giants Giants 4 2 0 .667 178 114 2-1 2-1 0-2 3-2 W2 4-1
Philadelphia Eagles Eagles 3 3 0 .500 103 125 2-1 1-2 1-0 1-2 L2 2-3
Washington Redskins Redskins 3 3 0 .500 178 173 1-2 2-1 0-0 3-2 W1 2-3
Dallas Cowboys Cowboys 2 3 0 .400 94 119 1-1 1-2 1-0 2-2 L2 2-3

RG III eludes Viking defenders for 138 yards and 2 touchdowns in last week’s 38-26 win.

How can you not be impressed by the Redskins RGIII?? Most young quarterbacks rely on their running or scrambling ability as they get their understanding of the pro passing game down. Now most of these runs are of the 7-10 yard variety that are a nuisance to defensive co-ordinators, but what do you do when a QB can break a 76 yard TD gamebreaker?? Especially in the fourth quarter on a defense that has tired from chasing him all day. It happened to the Minnesota Vikings last week.

When asked before the season who would be better between RG III and Andrew Luck, it was this facet of his game that our CEO thought gave him the edge. Do you realize that in 6 games he has 379 yard rushing and 6 TDs. That projects to his becoming the second quarterback in history to rush for 1,000 yards (1,010) yards, and would break Cam Newton’s rushing touchdown record of 14 touchdowns with 16. All of this before we remind you he’s completing 70.2% of his passes for 1,343 yards and 5 TDs.

What makes RGIII’s season more remarkable is everyone thought the Redskins defense would be stout enough to allow him to make mistakes and ease into his role. No one expected a 27th ranked defense giving up 417 yards per game. We know the loss of Brian Orakpo was big, but Washington’s offense has to perform at a high level to bail out their defense.

This week they travel to New York to battle the Giants. The Redskins are a personal foul call away from being 3-0 on the road however this will be different than trips to New Orleans, St Louis, or Tampa. This front four can tee off with the most athletic defensive line in the NFL. Where everyone thinks the key is to stop RGIII first, is the wrong approach. Osi Yumeniora, Jason Pierre-Paul and that front need to stop RB Alfred Morris (538 yards / 5 TDs) first. Once they are one dimensional or forced into passing situations, look for delayed blitzes and combination coverages keeping the safeties in tight. They’ll need to be there when Griffin III can’t find his receivers and looks to run. Couple that with the crowd noise and you’ll understand why we take the Giants in this one.

Michael Vick’s 8TDs and 8ints. coincide with the Eagles record of 11-11 with him as a starter. Can he turn it around??

As for the tight-rope walking Philadelphia Eagles… can you believe the Eagles are thinking of benching Michael Vick?? They also fired their defensive co-ordinator and promoted Todd Bowles. Listen, when you see teams making moves like this, it’s a sign of desperation. The Eagles have lost 3 of 4 and two of those came against losing teams in the Steelers and Lions. So they are a bad 3-3. We hate to say it but you’re looking at the end of the Andy Reid era in Philadelphia. After the public comment by owner Jeffery Lurie ”That a year without making the playoffs is unacceptable” pressure is mounting by the week.

One thing they can do is get the ball into LeSean McCoy’s hands more. With 111 carries for 459 yards and 1 touchdowns, he’s getting 18 carries per game but they need to push the limit of what he can take. Sure they risk burning him out but if it comes down to he and a more stationary quarterback, defenses will focus totally on him and limit his effectiveness completely. The Eagles are caught in an ugly vice and it’s all on Vick to save his and Andy Reid’s jobs. Horrible time for a bye week…& the clock is ticking.

Speaking of coaches who’s job is on the line…keep your radar locked in on Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. Dallas is 1-2 on the road after giving away a game to the Ravens last week, but now they play 4 of their next 5 on the road. Uh oh!! Considering that they were 2-6 on the road last year with the same cast of characters, tells us this losing will continue. Garrett is in deep, deep, trouble.

As for more on the Cowboys and week 7 :

Time is running out on this era of inconsistent Cowboys football. We here at Taylor Blitz Times are always saying “At some point, you have to believe what you are seeing.” This is an average ball club with average personnel and very average results. In their last 200 games, the Cowboys are 100-100. They are a mistake prone bunch that will give games away like they did last Sunday. Constant mistakes at the point where they’re concentration should be at their best says something about the damaged psyche of this football team. Can they straighten themselves out before this season is over as Jerry Jones would have you think?? The Chancellor just left our meeting shaking his head.

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NFL Week 3 NFC East: Diminishing Returns


Week 3 in the NFC East had teams facing early season gut checks that a couple teams came through with flying colors and one team totally scratching it’s head. Alright, whenever our CEO sees a team that makes a high signing of free agents he always asks the same question: “Are they going to be the 1994 San Francisco 49ers or the 1995 Miami Dolphins?” The two teams contrasted by one becoming a powerful world champion and the other being a talented team with no chemistry, who exited the playoffs in an inglorious fashion. Well with the acquisition of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Namedi Asoumgha, and several others, this Philadelphia Eagles team was to be the team to beat in the NFC.

Right now they are a 1-2 football team that is struggling to score in the red zone and Michael Vick has taken a pounding. Vick, stay away from comments about the refs in press conferences please. Just not manly. To reach the promised land they have to show up better than with the 24th ranked defense in the NFL and they should be embarrassed by their inability to tackle. Did you see the 4 missed tackles on Victor Cruz’s (who) 70 yard touchdown reception against the Giants? In fact Cruz went for 3 rec. 110 yards and his second touchdown he out jumped two Eagle defenders for it. Cruz and the Giants played last weeks game like they wanted it. Teams seem to be ready to defend Michael Vick this year by blitzing and putting hits on him. It’s like they watched the old how to defense John Elway tapes where use of the delayed blitz is getting there just as he’s making the decision to scramble for more time to pass, or decide to run. Reid had better put Vick on some rollouts and fire deep passes to Jackson to back off defenses or he won’t last the season. Now with a hurt non throwing hand could possibly be out 4 weeks?? Vick can’t miss more than 1 more game or they’ll be relegated to winning a wildcard at best. They get a San Francisco team this week that is playing spirited football. A 1-3 record looms if they look past them. Careful Philadelphia.

Speaking of the Giants….sigh Just when you count against Eli Manning he comes through with a 4TD passing day. Before we go onto the enigmatic Giants lets take a look at the standings.

Dallas 2 1 0 .667 1-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 1-0-0 0-1-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0
Washington 2 1 0 .667 1-1-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 1-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0
NY Giants 2 1 0 .667 1-1-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 1-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0
Philadelphia 1 2 0 .333 0-1-0 0-0-0 0-1-0 1-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0 0-0-0

The Giants seem to find their formula whenever they need it, in fact this was the best they looked this season. They were after Michael Vick from the word go and on offense they ran steady and kept the Eagle defense honest. So honest they slipped heavyweight Brandon Jacobs out for a surprising 40 yard touchdown pass. Taylor Blitz Times was unsure Jacobs could even run that far, but the big man snatched the pass and scooted into the endzone. Eagle Defensive Co-ordinator Juan Castillo is still steaming over that play. However the Giants secondary was active and picked off Eagle quarterbacks 3 times. Should bode well this week when they take on Kevin Kolb and the Arizona Cardinals out in the desert.

Felix Jones and the Cowboys rushing attack had over 120 yards for the game.

How ’bout them Cowboys?? After Dallas fans have roasted Tony Romo over the last couple of weeks they were silenced by a possibly career defining game. With a punctured lung and broken rib protected by a flak jacket he was hit several times by a Redskin pass rush that was averaging 3.5 sacks per game coming in. For the first time this season the Cowboys showed signs of life rushing the football with Felix Jones 1st 100 yard game of the season. Yet this game marked the first time Romo didn’t let his teammates ineptitude derail the Cowboys train. Due to injuries to Miles Austin and Dez Bryant for a period, he had to direct traffic just to get them to line up properly and know what they were doing. He had to get on receivers for running the wrong routes and even had to jump on his center’s ass for a 4th bad snap late in the 4th quarter. Instead of throwing an ill conceived pass, on 3rd and 21, he bought time and ad libbed a rollout, and threw to Dez Bryant for the first down. That wasn’t the Cowboy playbook, that was a quarterback NOT letting his team lose even though they tried for much of the night. This is the growth that we felt Romo needed to do and his locker room and huddle will be better for it. He’s earned league wide respect during these last two weeks and look who is in 1st place all of a sudden. Diminishing returns with Romo at the healm?? Not hardly, a leader is developing.

As for the Redskins, they just came up short in a defensive struggle. Hightower ran well and Rex Grossman performed admirably. Grossman was just a victim of a Cowboy pass rush that fed off the crowd and that last drive was swamped.They lost a tough, tough divisional game 18-16 and they sure we saw some Grossman throws that reminded us of his Chicago days but for the night he was 22 of 37 for a modest 233 yards. He kept his mistakes to a modest 1 interception and didn’t have that nervous Rex look until the final drive. Yet he was draped by a DeMarcus Ware coat for much of it. So modest diminishing returns for the Redskins this week.  However if you told a Redskin fan three weeks ago that they would be a solid 2-1 after 3 weeks, trust me they would have said we’ll take it. So this week they get the St. Louis Rams and if they make it to 3-1, this could prove to be a season of vindication for Coach Shanahan.

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Week 2 NFL Picks

Welcome to the Taylor Blitz Times NFL selections for week 2. We had a catastrophic crash that took down several articles and we apologize for not getting these out sooner. Yet this is about who will win in this second week in the season. Now our picks took a catastrophic turn for the worse also and we need to get back on track. So without further adieu lets jump into the games.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Detroit Lions: We have the Lions in this one. Matthew Stafford stayed healthy and the team is brimming with confidence after they’re fifth straight regular season win. Of course that’s dating back to last season. The Chiefs are still trying to figure out what happened to them last week at home against Buffalo.

Seattle Seahawks @ Pittsburgh Steelers: The bad news, the Steelers looked old on defense and a step slow against Baltimore last week. The good news?? They get the referree who officiated the lopsided calls in Super Bowl XL against the Seattle Seahawks. The Steelers should pound out a win with Mendenhall breaking the 100 yard mark in the Steelers home opener. Steelers should win big.

Chicago Bears @ New Orleans Saints: This is an upset alert special. Brian Urlacher will take the field with a heavy heart with the death of his mother and his teammates will rally around him. He’s the heart and soul of the Bear’s organization and his team will elevate it’s play in this one. The Saints have had an extra four days off after their high scoring week 1 affair against the Green Bay Packers and they still haven’t learned to tackle. Just as they acquiesced in a defensive slugfest to Tampa at the end of last year, they won’t have the stones to stay in this one. Da Bears in a tough game

Jacksonville Jaguars @ New York Jets: The Jets in this one. Jacksonville comes in with both Maurice Jones Drew and Greg Jones on the injured report this week, and now journeyman Luke McCown is going to throw at Cromartie and Revis?? Ball game over right there. Although they are a slow starting team, Rex Ryan and the boys can seriously add one of those championship mental blocks by taking it to a lesser team and beating them soundly. This is where the Jets need to show another level of growth. Two years ago it was winning against the good teams. Last year it was finding ways to win close games and this year it’s to dominate lessor opponents and rest your starters late in meaningless action.

Cleveland Browns @ Indianapolis Colts: In an announcement to the NFL, it will be hammered home that the Colts have completely fallen from the league’s elite. The Browns were burned on a fluke / mishap last week when they were caught in substitution when the Bengals went ahead in the game. they had led the whole way…in this one. Peyton Hillis will run at the undersized Colts defense who may be missing MLB Gary Brackett also. If the Browns can get ahead and play ball control with Hillis and keep greybeard Kerry Collins from gaining any rhythm, they should pull away. Browns get first win of the year.

Arizona Cardinals @ Washington Redskins: Rex Grossman?? Yes, Rex Grossman. Off of the NFL trash heap to make folks forget all about the Donovan McNabb fiasco and give the Shanahan regime a legitimate quarterback. Skins were spirited in their conquest of the Giants where as last week the Cardinals were busy chasing Panthers all over the field while giving up 422 yards to Cam Newton. So the question that settles this is: If Cam Newton can carve up the CB deficient Cardinals (shouldn’t have given up Rodgers-Cromartie) to the tune of an NFL record at home…what will happen on the road to a resurgent Redskin passing attack?? Redskins in this one

Green Bay Packers @ Carolina Panthers: Intriguing matchup and lets put you in the drivers seat for a second. Lets say you were the defensive co-ordinator for the defending world champions..right?? Now you get to go back to where you had been fired and you were the first coach in that team’s history. Do you think you’d be prepared for that game?? Yes that is the plight of Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers today. What better way to make the Panthers remember who they gave up than to silence the NFL’s new golden child?? Think Cam Newton will be confused?? LOL Capers is drawing up Packer blitzes as we speak. Packers roll in this one.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Minnesota Vikings: We have no idea why the Vikings are favored here aside from the fact that odds are given to make betting money even on both sides. The Bucs are more physical than the Vikings and this is where they have to build on the aforementioned late season road win in New Orleans last year. They have the physical running style in LaGarrett Blount to run at the Vikings and the defensive heft to stop Peterson. Right now Donovan McNabb is really struggling and Aquib Talib and Ronde Barber are licking their chops. For a bit of history, remember when the Bucs went to the Super Bowl in 2002, it was Barber who sealed the deal with a 95 yard interception for a TD to finish off McNabb in the NFC Championship…yes an abstract. The Bucs win this one…close game though.

Baltimore Ravens @ Tennessee Titans: Just don’t see how the Ravens could lose to a team with such little momentum, they lost to the backpedalling Jaguars in week 1. After bludgeoning the defending AFC Champion Steelers last week and coming to town with the AFC’s defensive player of the week in Terrell Suggs?? Adelphi Coliseum will be empty going into the 4th quarter. Ravens pull away in this one.

Oakland Raiders @ Buffalo Bills: Rich Stadium should be brimming with excitement not seen since the 2001 signing of Drew Bledsoe. Is Ryan Fitzpatrick the real deal? Was the blocking performance by the Bills offensive line as stout as appeared, allowing one sack and producing a 100 yard rusher?? Yet before we get ahead of ourselves Bills fans, understand that Kansas City still gained almost a whopping 6 yards a carry to the Chiefs. They controlled the running attack by scoring and taking the running game away from the Chiefs. Can they do the same to the Raiders??

Darren McFadden is showing that last year was no fluke. The Raiders ran the ball down the Broncos throats last week. After a 22 carry for 150 yard performance the Bills better not let the Raiders get a lead because it could be a long one. Yet the noise should allow the Bills to get an early lead and control the game.  The Bills should be 2-0 at the end of the day.

Dallas Cowboys @ San Francisco 49ers: Both teams played well last week yet the 49ers blew out a substitute NFL team in the Seahawks. The Cowboys dominated the team (Jets) Taylor Blitz Times picked to win this year’s Super Bowl. Only a late game collapse with the injuries doomed the Cowboys in that Sunday night game.  A closer look at all those missing players had alot to do with who was missing on the special teams that allowed the punt to be blocked to seal their fate. This week Romo and the offense needs to keep the petal to the metal and score over 30. We think they will….Cowboys

San Diego Chargers @ New England Patriots: Here come the Jeckyll and Hyde Chargers playing up or down to their competition. Last week they played down to Leslie Frazier’s Vikings. Tom Brady nearly assaulted the NFL record  book last week coming within 40 yards of the all time record. Tedi Bruschi lit a fire under Chad Ochocinco in what we feel was a cheapshot, but it lit a fire. So in this one we’re going to take the Patriots in a win by a touchdown.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Denver Broncos: Listen, no team can ever be settled when there is a quarterback controversy. Even the 1971 Champion Dallas Cowboys were mired with a .500 record while they waffled over their quarterbacks. So why should the undermanned Broncos be any different with Kyle Orton or Tim Tebow. Coach Fox needs to put his face on the franchise and if I were he I’d ride Tim Tebow like Seattle Slew. First off, the fans want him and he’ll keep asses in seats all season. Second he allows the Bronco offense to play 11 against 11 down on the goal line and at any time they decide to exploit his 245lb body running the ball. Will he let it happen this week?? He pulls the trigger next week after another loss…..Bengals will find a way to win late

Houston Texans @ Miami Dolphins: The NFL’s best receiver is going to play back where he starred in his collegiate years with the Miami Hurricanes. He will be a tad fired up having watched his alma mater (The U) beat down nemesis Ohio St. the day before. His Texans had a seismic win last week pummeling the Indianapolis Colts. Now he gets to go against a secondary that gave up 517 yards to Tom Brady and the Patriots last week?? Yikes!! He might go for 200 himself in this one. Houston’s time to shine. It’s their year in the AFC South. Texans big.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Atlanta Falcons: Now Deion Sanders has always proclaimed the Georgia Dome to be the house that he built. Maybe, but it did house the Michael Vick Experience for many years until the dog fighting ring derailed a young promising career. How he is received will dictate how he plays and how he plays, so goes the Eagles. If they cheer their prodigal son upon his return, look for Michael Vick to have a terrific game.  He’ll want to showcase all his skills and it’s up to Andy Reid to help temper his game and keep his emotions from getting the best of him. The Falcons will be able to move the football on one of football’s worst run defenses. Its paramount that the Falcons keep #7 off the field and not abandon the running game as they did last week in Chicago. Have this suspicion that Michael Vick is going to do something special. Will it be enough for the Eagles to win in Dixie? We think so as well Eagles!!

There ya have it…week 2 is ready to kickoff…. Here are our selections, tell us yours

2011 NFC East Previews & Predictions

Flying Eagle Desean Jackson

Well the NFL has turned on it’s axis. Gone is the smashmouth reputation of the NFC East as 3 of the 4 teams will take to the air like never before.  Only the earthbound Washington Redskins are going to root it out the hard way. Dynamic playmakers in space will be the norm as the Eagles with the receiving trio of Desean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Jason Avant will open up playbooks all over the division to keep pace.

One of the real reasons for this paradigm shift can be attributed to Michael Vick becoming the Eagles starter, and the Cowboys drafting of talented WR Dez Bryant to team with Pro Bowlers Jason Witten and Miles Austin. The Cowboys have a fleet of 3rd down back types in Tashard Choice, draft pick DeMarco Murray, and Felix Jones. That tells you Coach Garrett and Tony Romo will have the artificial sky at Jerry World filled with footballs. 

To keep pace in this space race, the Giants last year drafted super talented wideout Hakeem Nicks to team with and Mario Manningham,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       to have their own fleet of playmakers. Ironically it was the Giants who forsaw the change in the division playing style first. Last year they made the move to increase their ability to cover 3 receivers by bringing in former cornerback and current free safety Antrel Rolle (The U) formerly of the Cardinals. This allows the Giants to mix up their nickel coverages with 3rd CB Aaron Ross. They had growing pains last year yet figure to be more solid in the secondary this year. The Eagles copied this formula by winning the arms race for CB Namedi Asoumgha and acquiring CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to team with All Pro CB Asante Samuel. To win in the NFL in 2011 you must be proficient against 3 receiver sets. The Packers won it last year with their 3 good corners and this is trending across the National Football Conference. If you can’t defend 3 receivers in the NFC East, you’re going to be dead in the water. So where is this leading??


Philadelphia Eagles 12-4*

New York Giants 10-6

Dallas Cowboys 7-9

Washington Redskins 2-14

So why didn’t we address the Washington Redskins yet?? In a division where every team is going to assault their own record books in passing, the Redskins come in with last year’s 31st ranked defense against the pass. You remember that memorable Monday Night last year when the Redskins secondary took a ride on the Michael Vick Experience, losing 59-28, right?? Well to further enhance our reputation that Mike Shanahan is in over his head he only drafted one DB!! That wasn’t until the 5th round. After fumbling with the Donvan McNabb situation, releasing Clinton Portis (The U) who was slowing down, the keys to the offense are handed over to QB John Beck. Who?? Exactly! He’ll be handing off to ….zzz… sorry we want to keep you awake for the rest of this article.  This should be the swan song for Coach Shanahan as this team needs to get younger. During that type of transition a younger more dynamic coach is needed. One like John or Jim Harbaugh those players can relate to. The Redskins have been one of the most mismanaged organizations of the last decade and it’s embarrassing to watch. This once proud franchise whose games back in RFK that are so romantically revered, have to suffer through Daniel Snyder’s regime. We’re embarrassed for Redskins fans. Mike Shanahan?? One of history’s most overrated coaches whom the game has passed by.

Now on our facebook page it’s been fun to listen to Dallas Cowboy fans decry that the Super team from Philadelphia hasn’t looked like it in the preseason. All of the NFL will struggle this year with rhythm and timing early. The offenses will struggle until they gain they’re sea legs around the 4th week and after that we will be in for a season of high scores as defenses, who haven’t totally conditioned this offseason, start to tire.

As for Cowboy fans, there will be plenty of offense as Romo has to pass to keep the Cowboys in games and coming from behind with such a suspect defense. Romo is going to flirt with 5,000 yards this year. He’ll be forced to. Already he owns the all time Cowboys yardage mark for a season with 4,629 and the two highest touchdown totals with 36 & 29 respectively. Quit with the Troy Aikman comparisons already. He threw for over 20 TDs in a season just once. Romo needs to trust his new freak of a weapon in Dez Bryant. If he is one on one with a corner, chuck that ball deep and don’t settle for the 4 yard pass on 3rd and 17. What Romo needs is some daring. The Cowboys will come undone with the same formula as in 2010: inadequate pass rush, trouble stopping the run and a secondary that suffers from the lack of a rush. You can score so much but invariably you have to stop your opponent.

Justin Tuck

As for the New York “Football” Giants, they are the team with the total package right now. They can beat you running the football with Ahmad Bradshaw and a rejuvenated Brandon Jacobs or they can send a fleet of receivers into your secondary. They seemed to have smoothed things over getting Osi Umenyiora back to camp and should field a fierce rush. The question is can the secondary play as well as advertised?? The other question mark is the enigmatic Eli Manning who threw 25 interceptions last year. What is puzzling about his play is you can watch him quarterback on drives where he looks off the safety, then complete his footwork and deliver a 20 yard strike downfield. Then follow up with an interception where you’re shaking your head at home “Didn’t he see that linebacker sitting there?” He has to become more efficient with the football and not leave his defense out to dry so much. Yet it’s this “on again-off again” part of his character that will cost the Giants, and they will miss the playoffs again because of it.

Let the comparisons begin for the Philadelphia Eagles. Are they going to be the ’94 49ers who signed a slew of free agents then went on to win Super Bowl XXIX?? Or the 1995 Miami Dolphins who picked up 8 free agents in an attempt to get Dan Marino his ring, only to fall short once the team didn’t gel and stumbled to a 9-7 finish?? We’ll say closer to the 49ers situation.  It’s only a matter of time for this team to get open and scoring on offense. They brought in RB Ronnie Brown to aid LeSean McCoy in running between the tackles. They have WRs Sinorice Moss formerly of the Redskins and Steve Smith of the Giants to add further explosion if Macklin or Jackson get hurt. On defense, they pulled a coup when they signed Asoumgha. The fact they had Rodgers-Cromartie already in the fold from the Kevin Kolb trade was enough of a boost to the secondary. Now they can be special.

On defense, the Eagles linebackers were abysmal last year. Go ahead start both Casey Matthews from Oregon and Greg Lloyd out of UConn. Both are high motor guys and come with great pedigrees. Remember Pittsburgh Steeler great Greg Lloyd from the 90’s?? Yup thats his son and you remember Matthews who came up with a huge forced fumble in the 4th quarter for Oregon during the National Championship Game?? Yup, thats him! The younger brother of Green Bay’s Clay Matthews and son of Cleveland Brown great Clay Matthews. Put these guys on the field and let them run to what they see. The signing of free agents Anthony Hargrove (Saints), Cullen Jenkins (Packers), and Darryl Tapp (Seahawks) should provide some additional pass rush. They lost safety Quentin Mikell to free agency but I bet he regrets not entertaining a one year tender to play on this team. Can the City of Brotherly Love have a Super Bowl quality team?? This team is loaded for bear and once they jell they can be monstrous. Funny thing is we didn’t even begin to talk about Michael Vick yet. NFC East champ?? Easily. NFC or Super Bowl Champ? We shall see…

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Next Up: NFC Predictions                                                                                             

2011 Philadelphia Eagles Preview

That Andy Reid can come out smelling like a rose can’t he? First he exiled the franchise’s best ever quarterback for the heir apparent in Kevin Kolb.  Kolb proved ineffective during the preseason and was replaced after injury by a rejuvenated Michael Vick who played some of the most electrifying football seen in years.  Fast forward one year later and Vick wins the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year in a landslide and Kevin Kolb is being dangled as trade bait after the 2010 season.  The Eagles fell to the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers in the playoffs yet seemed poised to terrorize the NFC East with maybe the division’s most explosive offense ever.  With the Redskins and Cowboys foundering on rocky waters, all that remains is the enigmatic Giants to keep them from reclaiming their division crown.  The question for the Giants is: ” Have they sought help for the nightmares from DeSean Jackson’s punt return that flipped their season on it’s ear?”  So a little over a year removed from rumors that Reid may step down, followed by a press conference and possible wife induced decision to stay on, he comes into the 2011 season retooled and loaded for bear.

Quarterback: The “Michael Vick Experience” hit the City of Brotherly Love like a storm last year.  It was the perfect elixir for an underachieving Kevin Kolb who was outplayed by both Vick and rookie Mike Kafka from Northwestern in the preseason.  With the release of Donovan McNabb, the keys to the kingdom were turned over to Kolb.  So once conventional wisdom had Kolb start the season, with new contract in tow,  his play was marginal and then he went down with an injury.  Enter Michael Vick, who went on to have the best season of his career.  He ranked 4th with a passer rating (100.2), while throwing for 3,018 yards, and the best touchdown to interception ratio of his career 21 to 6.

His ability to supplement the running game with 676 yards and 9 touchdowns, made the Eagle offense the scourge of the league at the midseason point.  His feet have improved as a quarterback, he’s constantly on balance and ready to throw.  He showed a penchant to keep his head up and find receivers when he was evading the rush, and not always running it. Yet its this threat to do so that causes defenses to approach with a caution that is borderline fear.  As showcased when he danced through the New York Giants while leading the miraculous 4th quarter comeback that doomed the Giants season in game 14.  That 38-31 win kept Vick in the hunt for the NFL MVP Award, however it was his transcendent performance against Washington in a 58-29 blowout that started it.  That night was one of the greatest offensive performances ever and was exactly what Vick followers expected him to mature into.

Kevin Kolb came back and played well once Vick came off the field due to injury, yet his fate was sealed. He threw for 1,197  yards, 7 TDs, and 7 ints. which was not the best but he did respond once his job was threatened.  Andy Reid has a quarterback to trade and should get a number one and a second round for him.  He figured it would be Vick until the season began and now they have a quarterback in Kolb who could start for at least 10 other teams.  At quarterback the Eagles are Super Bowl quality at the moment…they have to keep Vick healthy.  Could use a draft pick here to prepare for the imminent departure of Kolb who should be traded by the regular season.

Offensive Backfield: Now statistics show you the Eagles have a strong rushing attack.  They ran 428 times for 2, 324 yards and 18 TDs which ranked 5th in the league for rushing totals. These numbers are skewed because of the Michael Vick factor.  Although he didn’t run as frequent as in year’s past he accounted for half of the teams rushing touchdowns with 9 and his 6.8 yards per attempt on 100 carries swelled the Eagles stat as a team to 5.4 per rush. In fact Vick was second on the team in rushing for 38 first downs to McCoy’s 48.  Yet they can run the ball effectively with LeSean McCoy who accounted for 1080 yds and 7 touchdowns.  Without Vick to contain teams honestly, bootlegs away from the flow of the play, McCoy doesn’t gain that type of  yardage.  Its like the Brian Westbrook saga all over again.  He can catch and run but can only do so in space without resorting to gimmicky plays like shovel passes, draws, and sprint draw plays out of 3 and 4 receiver sets.  Yet he was the Eagle’s leading receiver with 78 receptions for another 592 yards.  Many of which were plays where Vick began to scramble and found him on scat routes once the defense squared up to attack the QB.

This teams goal line offense is bootleg pass options with Vick. The Eagles would do themselves a service if they drafted another half back to provide some power between the tackles at times.  It would prove fruitful in the long run for both the Eagles ability to convert on short yardage and goal line, but also minimize the wear and tear on McCoy over a long season. At running back average at best yet superior totals adding Vick’s ad-libs.

Receiver: These guys are growing by leaps and bounds and should be better with a full pre-season to get accustomed to Vick as the starter.  This will be the Greatest Show on Turf East, with so many explosive weapons on the flank. DeSean Jackson, going into his 4th season, has emerged as one of the best deep threats in the league.  Once out in the open forget catching this lightning bolt from behind.  His 47 catches for 1,056 yards and 6 touchdowns were enough to make the Pro Bowl despite missing a game and a half due to a concussion.  In fact he became the first player in NFL history to earn his way onto a Pro Bowl roster at two different positions in the same year.  He made it as a receiver,and punt returner, while causing 80,000 in the New Meadowlands anguish with a punt return touchdown with no time on the clock.  Over his 3 years in Philadelphia,  Jackson has averaged over 47 yards on 26 career touchdowns including 14 from over 50 yards.  If he gets on top of your safety forget it.  The Redskins found this out on a Monday Night when he scored on a 91 TD on the Eagles first offensive play.  Going to be a deep threat for many years to come.

On the other side is Jeremy Maclin, who provides a similar skill set yet has the bigger body (6’0 and 198 yards) to go over the middle for the intermediate catches. He had 70 receptions for 964 yards and led the Eagles with 10 TDs.  Brent Celek is an emerging tight end who chimed in with 47 receptions.  By the time we put in Jason Avant from Michigan and his 51 receptions, this gives the Eagles 5 receivers with 40 or more receptions.  Who do you game plan for in stopping this passing game?  We feel this is the year that teams over play Jackson’s deep ball and Maclin has his breakout season with a 1,200 yard season and his first Pro Bowl berth.  Receiver is pro bowl caliber in Philadelphia and they should terrorize the NFC East this year as well.  All are in their prime and getting better…just dangerous.

Offensive Line: Hmmm, kind of mixed reviews here and hard to gauge this line in terms of their affectiveness.  Although this team is running a west coast offense where the staple is to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands quickly, Eagle quarterbacks were hammered all year.  You do remember they got Kevin Kolb knocked out of game 1 which got Vick on the field in the first place, right? Even with Vick’s elusiveness, only 3 teams gave up more sacks than the 49 this Eagle line gave up last year….yikes! Couple that with a twin ranking of 29th in Philly QBs being hit 95 times and you see why Vick missed time last year as well as Kevin Kolb.  No wonder this team called a lot of half rolls off play action fakes.  They needed to slow down the opposing defense.

The numbers are better for this unit in the running game but again this comes with an asterisk.  The final stats show the Eagles ranked fifth with 2,324 yards rushing and 18 TDs which is ranked 4th.  Terrific, until you dissect this a little further.  Take away the 676 yards and 9TDs that came from Vick scrambles and the output plummets to  1,648 yards and only 9 TDs which would have ranked 20th and 24th respectively.  The lone offensive lineman that performed with distinction in 2010 was LT Jason Peters who made the Pro Bowl.  It wouldn’t be surprising if the Eagles put a few draft picks here to light fires under several of their lineman.  Another season like this and they could get their quarterback hurt and derail their 2011 season.  With that…this team is below average and needs to have better push on running plays.  They play too upright and need to get their knuckles in the dirt and fire off the ball.  This comes back to the coaches spending 80% of their practice time in passive pass blocking stances.  It shows on 3rd and 2 when you can’t power off tackle with regularity and the Eagles just don’t pass the eyeball test when it comes to running the football traditionally.

Defensive Line: One of the most enigmatic groups among the elite teams in all of football.  You here every NFL coach start off every press conference with stopping the run.  This group can be pushed off the ball and ranked 15th against the run giving up 1,766 yards and over 4.2 yards per carry.  Yet this front finished with 23 of the team’s overall 31 sacks which included 19 from the defensive end position.  Trent Cole accounted for 81 tackles and 10 sacks from the weakside, but can be run on and is smallish at 6’3 , 270lbs by today’s NFL standards.  Lets be honest, these DTs, Mike Patterson, Antonio Dixon, and Broderick Bunkley have to play more stout and quit getting shoved in the face of their linebackers.  They need to come off those blocks better as well…

This team relies on the offense getting a lead and allowing this defensive line to tee off on the opposing quarterback.  If they have to “sit in” and play honest against both the run and the pass this team can be overpowered.  They rely on exotic blitzes to force turnovers and missed blocks to mask their line deficiencies.  The Eagles should grab a DT or two in the draft and free agency since they are below average in holding their ground.  Teams will run at them to keep them off the field.

Linebackers: The Eagles starters are Ernie Sims, Stewart Bradley, and Moise Fokou who are marginal at best. They accounted for 4 sacks and only 1 interception.  Sims is an athletic defender who sometimes lacks instinct and gets gobbled up by blockers once he’s diagnosed the play.  An original 1st round draft pick by the Detroit Lions finished with 68 tackles and 5 passes defensed.  His play has slipped since his 1st two seasons with Detroit where he had 82 and 96 tackles.   Stewart Bradley was second on the team with 88 tackles yet made too many 5 yards down field. The linebackers suffer from the D-Line not holding up.  However this linebacking group is functional and not really instinctive. The Eagles would serve themselves well with a free agent pickup and or a few draft picks here.  The fact that they were running blitzes similar to those of the late Jim Johnson, this crew should have made more splash plays.

Secondary: This is one of the better secondaries in football.  These guys take chances yet have to stay solid with the defense sending blitzes in many situations.  The signing of Asante Samuel at corner has paid off handsomely.   The all time playoff interception TD return leader in NFL history has made several plays since his arrival from New England.  In 2010, he went to his 4th straight Pro Bowl after leading the NFC with 7 interceptions with 8 passes defensed.  Some have been critical of his not being a solid tackler in the running game and he only had 28 tackles….eh there could be something to that.  Yet this guy is a ballhawk and leads the league in interceptions since 2006 with 36 interceptions, which is what the Eagles really signed him for.

The other star in this secondary is S Quentin Mikell from Boise St.  Yes Melinda and Ray that same Boise St.  One of the Eagles that should have made the Pro Bowl after the 2010 season.  In fact he made the Pro Bowl in 2009, and last year still garnered 2nd team All Pro distinction with his play for a 3rd straight year.  Last year he led the Eagles with 111 tackles, defensed 14 passes while intercepting 3 passes.  This is the force member of the secondary on running plays along with the other cornerback in Dimitri Patterson who recorded 55 tackles and 4 interceptions.  Yet this is a solid tackling group.  Secondary is excellent however if we ran an opposing offense:  run sweeps and bubble screens on Samuel and force him to tackle more.  Try to get behind him with double moves afterward for he will gamble on intermediate (10-15 yard) routes where he jumps passes and gets most of his interceptions. The key is to get hits on his legs and make it easy to pass on him later.

Overall: In facing this team the first thing to remember is this team can definitely be run on and they will give up points.  Astoundingly this Eagle team isn’t as strong as defenses in recent years during the Andy Reid era.  Last year they gave up 377 points which ranked 21st in the league which was 3rd from the bottom of all playoff teams.  Although the Colts were missing Bob Sanders and linebacker Gary Brackett, their best players, and the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks who shouldn’t have been there.  This team  almost wins inspite of their statistics whether we look at the offensive line, defensive line, linebackers or defense as a whole which ranked 12th in yardage given up.  Stay to the ground as the Vikings did in defeating them in game 15; 24-14, feeding them Adrian Peterson for over 100 yards.

The key to playing them is to not become impatient and fast-break with them.  Run on this defense and keep Vick and that offense sitting on their hands and take them out of rhythm.  Even in the Giants game where they came from behind to win in the Meadowlands, they were cold for much of the game.  The Giants became deer in the headlights once Vick got going.  If the Eagles get into a rhythm on offense you could be dead in the water.  Keep your rushing attempts high and force a low scoring game and avoid the “Michael Vick Experience”.  How did he not get a single vote for league MVP?  Sigh…another subject for another day.  This team should repeat as NFC East division champion.

Next Up: Indiannapolis Colts