Eagles Film Review: Vaitai sure looked like a backup in Seattle

Eagles Film Review: Vaitai sure looked like a backup in Seattle

COSTA MESA, Calif. — Since Jason Peters went out a few weeks ago, Halapoulivaati Vaitai has been a very pleasant surprise for the Eagles

He obviously hasn't been playing at the level of the future Hall of Famer he replaced, but he's been an adequate backup at left tackle. 

That wasn't the case on Sunday. 

Instead of seeing the Big V that has been solid all year, the Big V from 2016 showed up. Vaitai had trouble all night against Seahawks pass-rusher Frank Clark. 

According to ProFootballFocus, Vaitai gave up two sacks, a quarterback hit and seven quarterback hurries in Sunday night's 24-10 loss to the Seahawks. 

We'll take a look at those two sacks and the hit (both came from Clark): 

This is the Eagles' fourth offensive play of the game. They had just picked up a first down on a scramble and then got a 15-yard unnecessary roughness call to push them even farther forward. It was 1st-and-10 from their own 38-yard line, down 3-0. 

On this play, Carson Wentz motions the running back into the slot, so Vaitai is all alone against Clark on the top side of the line. 

Clark times the snap and uses a speed move to simply beat Vaitai around the edge. Wentz feels this coming so he gets rid of the ball early for an incompletion.

You can see that Big V gets his hands on Clark, but Clark is too wide for Vaitai to do any significant damage. He gets around him and turns the corner. 

Vaitai is able to get a little shove to push Clark wide. That's not great, but at least it buys Wentz enough time to get rid of the football before the sack. 

Here's the full play: 


This next play comes on the next possession in the first. It's 3rd-and-6. This time, the running back stays in and chips Vaitai's side. There's a problem, though. The Seahawks use a tackle-end stunt to pick up a sack. 

After the snap, Sheldon Richardson pushes outside on Stefen Wisniewski, which completely opens the A-gap and Clark is about to shoot through it. Vaitai is still in his backpedal and doesn't realize what's going on early enough to stop it. You'll notice Clement is there ready to chip, but Clark is about to head back inside, away from the help. 

Clark cuts inside, shoots the gap, and Vaitai is left chasing him. Wentz tries to escape, but Clark has a clear shot at him and Richardson beats Wisniewski on the play, trapping him in the pocket. 

A full look: 


This last play we'll look at comes in the fourth quarter. The Eagles are in desperation mode with 3:30 left in the game. They're down two touchdowns, so they can't afford any mistakes. 

The defense just forced a punt, so Wentz and the offense start at their own 21-yard line. It's 1st-and-10. 

Vaitai was beaten earlier by Clark on an outside move, so he's prepared for that. Once again, Clement is on that side of the field to help Vaitai chip outside, but Clark sets Vaitai up outside and cuts back in. 

With a quick move inside, Vaitai is left trying to grab Clark with his right arm, but that isn't good enough. Clark has a straight shot at Wentz and drops him for a seven-yard loss. Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich called this a "wicked pass rush move." 

The full play: 


Without Peters for the rest of the year, the Eagles are going to need to rely on Vaitai. Even after his poor performance against the Seahawks, he's the Eagles' only real option. The next guys in would be Isaac Seumalo, who isn't even a natural tackle, and Will Beatty, who doesn't know the offense and who has played just six games in the last two years. 

The big thing for Vaitai is getting his confidence back. The one thing we've learned about Big V is he's a player who thrives on confidence. It had likely been building until Sunday. There are bound to be games like this for a second-year, fifth-round pick. Now, Vaitai needs to forget it and work on re-building his confidence for the stretch run. 

Eagles bring back special teams maven Bryan Braman

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Eagles bring back special teams maven Bryan Braman

The Eagles have brought back a former special teams ace for the stretch run. 

Special teamer Bryan Braman on Tuesday signed with the Eagles to rejoin Dave Fipp's special teams group.

Braman, 30, had been with the Eagles from 2014-16, when he was a major contributor for Fipp's top-end special teams unit. He can help fill the void left by the season-ending injury to Chris Maragos earlier in the season. 

During his three seasons with the Eagles, Braman led all Eagles with 1,214 special teams snaps. He played more special teams snaps than any other Eagle in each of the last two seasons. He played in all 48 games over those three seasons, but was mainly a special teams player. 

After officially placing quarterback Carson Wentz (ACL) on Injured Reserve Tuesday, the Eagles had one available roster spot. It looks like it will be filled by Braman. 

Braman was not resigned by the Eagles this past offseason. He spent some time in New Orleans but was placed on their IR and was then released. He hasn't been with a team since early September. 

Eagles' offense 'full steam ahead' with Nick Foles at QB

Eagles' offense 'full steam ahead' with Nick Foles at QB

Carson Wentz is out, Nick Foles is in. 

And the Eagles claim their offense isn't going to change. 

On it's face, that seems somewhat absurd. After all, Wentz is more than an average quarterback. He's the face of the Eagles' franchise and was an MVP candidate through 13 weeks. Foles was once a Pro Bowler, but there's a reason he wasn't a starter entering this season. 

So how will the offense look different? 

"I don't expect it will look different at all," Foles said adamantly.  

Why is that? 

"Because it's our offense," Foles answered. "This is the Eagles' offense. This is the one that is the DNA of this team. And we're going to do what we do. We have so many tremendous players on offense that can do a lot of different things. We just have to go out there and execute and have a great week of work and just keep moving." 

Offensive coordinator Frank Reich finally admitted that there will be "very minor tweaks" to the Eagles' weekly game plans with Foles in at quarterback. But he made the same point as Foles, that the system is built around the QB, but also around the other talent on offense. 

There is, however, one pretty significant difference between Wentz and Foles. 

"Now, Carson has some unique physical traits that he does exceptionally well, but it's nothing that Nick can't handle," Reich said. "We're full steam ahead."

The Eagles run plenty of run-pass option plays, but head coach Doug Pederson pointed out on Monday that the Eagles very rarely use their quarterback to run the ball in those situations. And as far as RPOs go, Foles has used them plenty before. 

Another part of the offense that has been tailored to Wentz is the autonomy the quarterback has at the line of scrimmage. Wentz has been able to make calls and checks pre-snap based on what the defense shows. It seems like Foles will have that same ability, which is something he's excited about. 

"Understand this, he's a veteran player who has played and won a lot of games, not only here, but other places that he's been," Pederson said. "Nick's a highly intelligent football player."

Pederson said he and Foles will talk weekly to make sure his quarterback is comfortable with the plays that go into the game plan. So, theoretically, things could be different. But based on what the offensive leaders of the team have said, don't expect wholesale changes. 

Now, what might change about the offense isn't necessarily by design. Because of Wentz's unique physical gifts and escapability, he's able to make incredible plays. The escape in Washington, the throw to Corey Clement in the end zone, the deep flick down the sideline in Seattle, those are plays only a handful of guys in the world can make. It would be unfair to expect Foles to make them. 

But as far as game-planning goes, the Eagles are going to do what they've done. 

"I feel comfortable in this offense," Foles said. "I love this offense. We're going to run this offense. Nothing's going to change."

Foles dealt with elbow soreness during the summer, but says his elbow now feels "amazing" and is not an issue. That's good news for the Eagles, because at least Foles has plenty of starting experience. His backup, Nate Sudfeld, has never even been active for an NFL game. 

The Eagles' hopes in 2017 rest on the shoulders of Foles. 

"I've always been a gunslinger, just let it rip," Foles said. "That's what I'm going to do. I'm going to play loose, count on the guys, lead this team. There's no other place I'd rather be. That's why I came back here. ... I'm ready to step up and help this team win."