How Eagles must protect Nick Foles from Raiders' force of nature

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How Eagles must protect Nick Foles from Raiders' force of nature

The Eagles faithful had a reason to relax a little bit with the way QB Nick Foles played last week. He is a very capable leader in this offense and showed the ability to transition the game plan to suit his style of play. There was not much difference in the play-calling and head coach Doug Pederson was comfortable opening up the offense and pushing the ball down the field. The reason for the offensive success was the O-line protected him and allowed the passing plays to progress to the second and third reads. 

An upright Foles is a talented player when he is afforded the time in the pocket. We all know he is not as fleet of foot as a Carson Wentz or Big Ben, but Foles has a very strong arm. He throws catchable balls to his receivers, whereas playing with a QB like Wentz or Ben changes your mentality and the dynamics of the launch point of where the ball is being thrown. They can be anywhere evading and escaping the pass rush, looking downfield for the big play.

Blocking for Nick Foles is a bit different. He will be where he is expected to be: in the pocket. The O-line knows that Foles will be three, five or seven steps back inside the pocket, which at times makes it easier to block for him. The only thing is that the defense also knows this. He will be standing back in the pocket like a sitting duck. 

The Eagles' O-line changed up the blocking schemes a little bit. They were able to protect the left side of the line with blocking and aggressive pass sets. You can do that against the Giants, who are at this point ranked 32nd — last in the NFL — in total defense.

This week's defense, the Oakland Raiders, are not much better, ranked 21st in total defense. But they do have last year's Defensive Player of the Year, Khalil Mack. Mack has recorded a sack in each of the last five games, with two against Dallas last week. He will mix things up for the Eagles because he plays on both sides of the defensive line. Mack beat All-Pro Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith for a sack with an inside pass rush last week, then beat former All-Pro tight end Jason Witten for a sack on the right side.

The Eagles must run protections that slide to the left, protecting the left tackle's side from Mack's pass rush on the inside move. The perfect protection to help both sides is called 2 Jet, Fox 2 or Hound 2 protections. This would mean sliding the protection to the left side if Mack lines up over the left tackle, but it also sends a running back to the right tackle as a chip blocker, helping the All-Pro right side.

I loved this protection because it's a six-man protection, meaning the five O-linemen and an RB frontside to chip. Slide protection should be a major staple in this week's play-calling — protect Foles' front side with a chipper and his backside with the O-line sliding to help the left tackle.

Major props and congratulations to the right side of the Eagles' line. Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks both made their first Pro Bowl and it is well-deserved.

Doug Pederson's preseason comparison doesn't look so ridiculous now

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Doug Pederson's preseason comparison doesn't look so ridiculous now

When Doug Pederson said back in July that the 2017 Eagles "probably have more talent" than the Super Bowl Packers teams of the 1990s that Pederson played on, more than a few eyebrows were raised.

Millions of eyebrows maybe.
The Eagles? Who hadn't won a playoff game since 2008 and were coming off a 7-9 record in Pederson's first season?
More talented than a team that went to the playoffs virtually every year from the early 1990s through the mid-2000s behind Hall of Famers Brett Favre and Reggie White and reached back-to-back Super Bowls in 1996 and 1997, winning one?
"I look back on my time in Green Bay as a player when we were making those playoff runs, those Super Bowl runs there," Pederson said on July 17.
"And do we have as much talent on this team than we did then? We probably have more talent, right?"
Seriously, Doug?
Six months later, Pederson's comments — which seemed so ridiculous at the time — don't seem so ridiculous, do they?
Because here are those 2017 Eagles, sitting 13-3 with a playoff win over the Falcons in the books and a berth Sunday in the NFC Championship Game against the Vikings despite a rash of injuries to some of their best players.
The Eagles haven't lost a game with postseason implications since Carson Wentz was lost for the season, and they're one home win from reaching their third Super Bowl.
Pederson, who had two stints backing up Brett Favre with the Packers — from 1996 through 1998 and 2001 through 2004 — was reminded of his comments Friday before practice.
"I don't have a crystal ball, obviously, and it's hard to predict," he said. "You'd love to sit here and go, 'Yeah, in the summer, (I thought we were) going to be 13-3 and win the NFC East.' You'd love to be in that situation, or 16-0, or whatever it might be.
"I did have a feeling back then when I made that statement that we could be, we had the potential to be a good football team because of the way we've practiced and the talent that we brought to the roster and the progression of Carson in his second year.
"And then defensively, the front, the way they performed, and the back end, I saw a lot of the same similarities. So you just have that gut feeling when I made that statement."
Back in July, when Pederson made those comments comparing the Eagles to the Packers, he tempered them by saying talent isn't always enough. It takes much more for a team to have success.
"I (said) it takes great coaching, teaching, mentoring to also have our guys prepared each week to be in this position," Pederson said. "So all of that has kind of culminated. I think you look back on it and you go, 'Wow, maybe it was a true type of thing.'
"But we just keep doing our jobs, keep doing what we've been coached to do. Players play what they can do and what's in their control, and we're here today."

Only 1 Eagle questionable for Sunday

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Only 1 Eagle questionable for Sunday

Veteran linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring) is the only Eagles player listed as questionable for this week's game. Everyone else on the 53-man roster is expected to be available. 

Ellerbe, 32, missed practice on Wednesday and was limited on Thursday and Friday. 

The Eagles' starting MIKE linebacker was also listed as questionable last week and was able to play, so expect him to be good to go. After all, this is the NFC Championship Game. There's no resting for anything else. 

In Minnesota, wide receiver Adam Thielen (lower back) and safety Andrew Sendejo (concussion) are both listed as questionable. 

Thielen, the Vikings' top receiver, missed Wednesday's practice and was limited on Thursday and Friday. Just like Ellerbe, there's no saving him for next week. 

Sendejo was limited on Wednesday and Thursday, was a full participant on Friday, but is still technically in the NFL's concussion protocol. He'll need to clear that before he's able to play, but Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said he's optimistic Sendejo will be able to play. 

Meanwhile, third defensive tackle, Shamar Stephen (knee/ankle), missed practice all week and has been ruled out. While Stephen isn't a starter, he played just under 40 percent of the Vikings' snaps this season, so missing him is still a loss.

After practicing indoors on Wednesday and Thursday, the Eagles loaded up on buses and spent their Friday practice outside at Lincoln Financial Field. Head coach Doug Pederson likes to get his guys outside for at least one day per week. 

The Eagles will have a walkthrough on Saturday before they'll be back at the Linc for Sunday's 6:40 p.m. kickoff in the NFC Championship Game.