Eagles

Scouting Report: McCoy against NFL-worst run D

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Scouting Report: McCoy against NFL-worst run D

After an eight-carry disaster against Minnesota, LeSean McCoy pleaded this week for more handoffs and more responsibility against the Bears.

If he doesn’t get at least 20 carries, it’ll be malpractice by Chip Kelly.

The Bears are a scoring juggernaut, but they’re the NFL’s worst team at stopping the run, and it’s not even close. They’re the league’s only team that allows more than five yards per carry. Not only should McCoy be heavily involved, but this sets up well for Chris Polk and Bryce Brown (if he’s still allowed to touch the ball) to make an impact as well.

The Bears’ problem starts up front with injuries. One of their best interior linemen, tackle Henry Melton, was lost for the year in September with a torn ACL and middle linebacker D.J. Williams (chest) is also done for the year. Weak-side linebacker Lance Briggs, a seven-time Pro Bowler, has missed the past seven games with a fractured shoulder but should make his return against the Eagles.

It’s hard to imagine one guy -- even with Briggs’ talent -- can single-handedly reverse the run-stopping problems that have plagued Chicago all year and also compensate for the other injuries. Second-round pick Jonathan Bostic runs well and makes plays in space, but it remains to be seen if he can be the control center of a defense against an explosive offense in a big game with potential playoff ramifications.

The Bears are also without their best corner, Charles Tillman, who’s one of the NFL’s best playmaking defensive backs and also a good run-stopper in the back end.

Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker runs a scheme that’s comparable to the one Lovie Smith ran in Chicago, and ran very well from 2004-2012. The Bears play a lot of zone, don’t blitz very much and rely on their gap-shooting linemen to pressure quarterbacks. They have the fewest sacks in the NFL with just 26.

Defensive end Julius Peppers isn’t the threat he used to be, but he has 6.5 sacks and can still be disruptive. Shea McClellin has 3.5 sacks, but more was expected when they picked him 19th overall last year. The loss of Melton, coupled with Peppers’ mediocre season, has taken the bite away from a defense that had been very imposing over the past few years.

Corey Wooten, a 275-pound tackle who took Melton’s spot, just isn’t big enough for the position’s demand and shouldn’t cause problems for Todd Herremans. Nose tackle Stephen Paea, a 325-pounder, is an anchor up front and will likely command double teams from center Jason Kelce and left guard Evan Mathis.

If left tackle Jason Peters can handle Peppers and right tackle Lane Johnson can bounce back from an iffy effort against the Vikings to keep McClellin in check, the Eagles shouldn’t have problems running the ball to set up big plays for the passing game.

Nick Foles struggled with his accuracy against the Vikings, who also played more zone than the Eagles usually see, so it’s important that he’s sharper and more decisive when he’s protected. He held onto the ball too long a few times against Minnesota and allowed some defensive linemen to win their matchups on second efforts.

Even with Tillman out, the Eagles have to be conscious of left cornerback Tim Jennings, a Pro Bowler in 2012. He’s undersized (5-8, 185), which could hurt against Riley Cooper and Zach Ertz, but he plays with great physicality and won’t back down. Safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte are big-time disappointments. Wright is OK in the box, but Conte struggles in coverage and tackling.

Foles’ ability to look safeties off and deliver deep should be one of his biggest strengths and Kelly will try to capitalize on the middle of the field, so expect DeSean Jackson to keep lining up all over the place, including in the backfield to get isolated against a linebacker or safety.

This is the poorest Bears defense in several years, so look for the Eagles to have another big game offensively. They had 14 takeaways in their first four games, but just 11 in their past 10, so the Eagles can do plenty of damage if they’re not sloppy with ball security.

To find out how the Eagles' offense matches up with the Bears' defense, click here.

Film Review: Doug Pederson dials up a gutsy screen call vs. 'Boys

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Film Review: Doug Pederson dials up a gutsy screen call vs. 'Boys

The Eagles ended up scoring the final 30 points of Sunday's game in North Texas to crush the Cowboys 37-9. 

They didn't start off so hot though. 

In fact, the Eagles were down 9-7 at halftime, so when they got the ball back to start the second half, it was a pretty important drive. 

On first down, Jay Ajayi ran for 8 yards. On the next play, he went 1 yard. 

That set up a 3rd-and-1 and one of Doug Pederson's best and gutsiest play calls of the game. Out of an unusual look, the Eagles ran a screen play to Brent Celek that picked up 28 yards and helped them continue a scoring drive. 

"It was a great call," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "Great feel and call from coach. We're meeting the night before. He and I always meet on Saturday night, the night before (the game) for an hour, hour and a half, just going through the call sheet, talking about what he's going to call, why he's going to call it. And we're bouncing things back and forth. 

"That was one I knew he was going to call. He was just waiting for the opportunity to call that play. Had a good sense."

Let's take a closer look at the play: 

Here's a look just before the snap. The Eagles are using a "tackle over" formation. You'll notice Lane Johnson is lined up inside Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Celek (circled) is lined up as the right tackle. 

The Eagles didn't motion into this look. They came out in it, with all three tight ends to the right side of the line. Trey Burton is lined up like a fullback. When the Cowboys see this, they load up that side of the defensive line, prepared for a run on 3rd-and-short. 

Carson Wentz takes the snap and begins to roll right for the play fake. Celek (still circled in red) engages and holds his block for a couple seconds. "Celek did a great job of selling it and good execution," Reich said. 

With the play going right, the Cowboys' linebackers are going with it. 

Here's the other angle just after Celek releases his block. The Cowboys' corner on the defensive right is blitzing, but with Wentz rolling right, he won't have enough time to get to him. 

Marcus Johnson, who was the outside receiver on the offensive left is running a go route, which will drive the safety out of the play. That leaves a ton of space open on that side of the field. 

 

It takes a perfect throw from Wentz and it wasn't easy to get off. Because of the blitzing corner, he needs to throw off his back foot and will need to loft the ball over the defensive end, who never gained an inch on Vaitai. 

 

At the point of the catch, Celek would have already had the first down. He has the ball for a short gain but rumbles ahead into open space for a 28-yarder, his longest catch of the last two seasons.  

This was a play the Eagles practiced during the week, but Reich said it looked just OK. According to Reich, those types of plays usually look better live in games than they do in practice. 

It certainly worked. 

"You want to hear defensive players swear," Chris Collinsworth said on the NBC broadcast, "that play probably does it more than any other."

Rob's Rants: Plenty to be thankful for in Philly sports

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Rob's Rants: Plenty to be thankful for in Philly sports

With Thanksgiving upon us and the rest of the holiday season just around the corner, I thought it would be a nice opportunity to reverse course from Rob’s Rants and express what I’m thankful for in Philadelphia sports. Truth be told, with the football team having the best record in the NFL and the basketball team having two dynamic, budding superstars and playoffs in their sights for the first time in a long time, things are pretty good around these parts. So let’s show a little gratitude.

Eagles
Where to start? Before this season, the hope was a playoff appearance. After 10 games, a division title, a bye and home-field advantage in the NFC are all real possibilities. This team is complete, laser-focused, well-coached and talented. Further, they have a second-year quarterback in Carson Wentz whose skill is only matched by his work ethic and football IQ. This city has always loved a tough defense and that’s exactly what they have. They are physical from the deep, defensive line to the surprising cornerbacks. The Saints, Vikings, Rams and Panthers are right there on the Eagles’ tail, so nothing is a given, but I just don’t see this team collapsing. I love that they can beat you in a multitude of ways whether it’s Wentz’s arm, a punishing running attack, a ferocious pass rush, or out-scheming the opposition. We are in for an amazing ride with this group.

Sixers
Ben Simmons has 11 double-doubles in his first 16 games in the NBA. That‘s the most by any player in that span of time in his first season since Shaquille O’Neal in 1993. His ability to finish with both hands is remarkable. If you never watched him shoot a jump shot or a free throw, you would have no idea he is left-handed. His size, power, handle and ambidextrousness mask his inability or willingness to pull the trigger from the outside. And by the looks of his stats and what the eyeball tells you, he’s doing just fine. Mr. Meat Pie is averaging 21.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, 7.6 assists and two steals a night. Then there’s the big fella. Joel Embiid is a once-in-a-generation talent, who by his own admission is not even in basketball shape yet. His Tinseltown two-step where he throttled both L.A. teams out there may have been the highlight of this short season thus far. But Embiid shows on a nightly basis that if he stays healthy, he’s capable of leading this teams to multiple championships. The Wells Fargo Center is back to the A.I. days of being the place to be for a basketball game. It’s electric.

Flyers
The Flyers' season has been very up and down. But there are certainly things to be thankful for when it comes to the orange and black. The first line of Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek, centered by Sean Couturier has accounted for 69 points through 20 games. Whether it was Dave Hakstol or Ron Hextall’s call, the decision to move Giroux to the wing and insert Couturier as the top-line centerman was a stroke of genius. Ivan Provorov deserves a plate full of kudos himself for his machine-like play.

Phillies
The Phillies' youthful core of Rhys Hoskins, Aaron Altherr, Odubel Herrera, J.P. Crawford and soon-to-be Scott Kingery has the makings of a nucleus to be proud of going forward. Aaron Nola showed himself capable as a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. There’s much work to be done here but the club appears headed in the right direction.

College Hoops
Let’s give college hoops a little love as well. Villanova has dominated the headlines of late and rightfully so but there’s a possibility that at least three of the local teams will be dancing come April.
      
So pass the stuffing and enjoy the gravy, things are looking up in Philadelphia sports.