philip rivers

Copycat league: Will teams attack Eagles' D the way Giants did?

Copycat league: Will teams attack Eagles' D the way Giants did?

The Giants made a decision last week. They weren't going to give up sacks. 

Coming into that game with a struggling offensive line going against a vaunted pass rush, the Giants made a concerted effort to have Eli Manning get rid of the ball quickly in an attempt to mitigate the pass rush. That's exactly what he did. 

In that game, Manning averaged 1.84 seconds to throw, according to Pro Football Focus. Of his 47 pass attempts, 42 came out of his hand in less than 2.5 seconds. On those attempts, he was 32 for 42 and had a passer rating of 105.4. Five came out in 2.6 seconds or longer — on those he was 3 for 5 with a rating of 72.9. 

The Eagles charted things a little differently. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said they counted 52 drop backs and 34 passes came out in under two seconds. Three were under one second. 

Either way, that's really fast. And Manning wasn't sacked once, although the Eagles won the game. 

"It's tough, man," defensive tackle Tim Jernigan said. "Eli's a great quarterback. He knew exactly what he wanted to do with the ball before it even got there. All we could do was keep fighting, keep hunting, try to get there. Do what we can to affect the game."

The strength of the Eagles' defense through the first three games of the season has been the front four. That's exactly how Schwartz drew it up. His starters and rotation have done a pretty good job of pressuring opposing quarterbacks. 

So did the Giants leave a blueprint? Is this how teams will try to attack the Eagles in the future? 

"We'll see," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "I think the Giants' offensive line was struggling before they got to us so I think that was an obvious matchup or concern for them was our rush. I'm not sure how teams will see that, if they feel confident they can block them up. The Giants, they were a quick-passing game anyway, where I think the Chargers are a little bit more downfield, a little more vertical of a pass game. But I do think there will be opponents all year that if they can, will try to get rid of the ball a little quicker just to alleviate that rush."

Generally, Jenkins is right about the Chargers. If you think about them, they've historically been a team that likes to throw the ball downfield. But the numbers this year might surprise you. 

While Manning's time to throw this season is the second shortest in the league at 2.34 seconds, Philip Rivers isn't far behind. In fact, Rivers is fifth on that list, getting the ball out in an average of 2.47 seconds. 

This season when throwing the ball in 2.5 seconds or less, Rivers has completed 62.9 percent of his passes with a rating of 94.9. In 2.6 seconds or more, he's just 37.1 percent with a rating of 56.9. 

"He's got a quick release," said Eagles DT Beau Allen, who will likely start this week for the injured Fletcher Cox. "At times, it's a little unorthodox but he can throw the ball wherever he wants to put it, whenever he wants to put it there." 

The interesting thing with Rivers is that he fluctuates. In 2016, he was 18th in the league, getting the ball out in 2.64 seconds. In 2015, he was the second fastest in the NFL, getting it out in an average of 2.4 seconds. 

So it seems like Rivers can do either. Even if the Eagles don't have Cox, why wouldn't he try to get the ball out quickly against them on Sunday?

Now, there's obviously a downside to getting the ball out quickly. If the ball is gone in under two seconds, plays don't have time to develop and teams can't hit big plays. "It limits their explosiveness," Schwartz said. Teams force themselves to kill with a thousand paper cuts. 

Still, it might seem like an enticing option to minimize the impact of the Eagles' pass rush. Plenty of defensive players in the locker room think more teams will try to do what the Giants did last week and get the ball out quickly. 

"It wouldn't surprise me," Jernigan said. "I think that's just going to help us become better players. While we're going through practice and those different things, we'll just have to find ways to get better at it and be ready for Sunday because anything can happen."

Eagles-Chargers 5 matchups to watch

Eagles-Chargers 5 matchups to watch

The Eagles (2-1) are riding high after a big 27-24 win in the final seconds over the Giants. But that celebration has to be short-lived. 

While the Eagles are getting ready to play another winless team in the Chargers (0-3), they can't take this game lightly. It's never easy to travel across the country and face a team with plenty of good players. 

Keep in mind, two of the Chargers' three losses have come to the Chiefs and the Broncos. 

Here are five matchups to watch on Sunday: 

Keenan Allen vs. Jalen Mills 
Mills was targeted by Eli Manning an astounding 21 times on Sunday, according to Pro Football Focus. That's the most a cornerback has been thrown at since 2006, when PFF started tracking it. Insane. 

Mills actually did OK. Sure he gave up two touchdowns to Odell Beckham Jr., but the one was simply an incredible play by one of the best receivers in the league. For the most part, Mills more than held his own. 

"I've said this for a long time about Jalen: I love his competitiveness," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "That took every bit of his competitiveness to be able to survive that game. That was a very difficult game to play the way we were doing it, because we were trying to limit their ability to make big plays. I thought Jalen did a good job of that, and tackled, and it was an important part of our win."

Schwartz said they decide on a game-to-game basis if they'll have a corner travel to stay with one receiver. Right now, with Ronald Darby out, Mills is their best option and Mills on Allen makes some sense. Allen is the Chargers' best receiver and on the other side, they line up 6-4 receiver Tyrell Williams. It probably makes more sense to have the longer Rasul Douglas man up against him. 

Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa vs. Jason Peters and Lane Johnson 
Ingram and Bosa are about as good as it gets as a pair of defensive ends in the NFL. Together, they already have 7½ sacks, just a half-sack less than the entire Eagles' defense. Ingram, with 5½, is second in the NFL and Bosa is coming off a rookie season in which he had 10½. 

"Their two edge pass rushers as a duo may be as good as we face all year," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "They're really good."

The good news for the Eagles is that they just faced a good pair of defensive ends on Sunday. They held Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul in check. Peters and Johnson did their jobs. They'll have another tough test in LA on Sunday.  

Philip Rivers vs. D-line
A week after facing the No. 1 pick from the 2004 draft, the Eagles will face the No. 4 pick. (Remember all that?) Rivers has put together Hall-of-Fame-type numbers during his career and is still playing at a high level. He was a Pro Bowler in 2016. 

"I mean, Philip is an elite — in my mind, he is an elite quarterback in this league," said Reich, who coached Rivers from 2013 to 2015. "He's proven it over a lot of seasons. He can do it all, make all the throws, great leader, mentally and physically as tough as they come. He's just an excellent player in every way."

After watching how quickly Manning got rid of the ball against the Eagles, it wouldn't be surprising to see Rivers do the same thing this week (see story). In fact, Rivers is fifth in the NFL in shortest time to throw. He's been getting rid of the football in an average of 2.47 seconds. 

Nelson Agholor vs. Desmond King 
With their top cornerback, Jason Verrett, out for the season, the Chargers are now using fifth-round rookie King as their slot cornerback. King played just 33 snaps against the Chiefs, which is surprising against an Andy Reid team, but he'll likely be on the field a lot this week. 

Agholor, after a big opener, has gone silent in the last two weeks. He had six catches in the opener and has just three combined against the Chiefs and Giants (see Rob's Rants). This could be a chance for him to get back into the game. 

Chargers' run game. vs. Eagles' run defense
The Chargers' rushing attack stinks so far. They have averaged just 70.7 yards per game, the sixth-worst average in the league. But they still have Melvin Gordon and Anthony Lynn is a coach who seems to like to run the football. 

Meanwhile, the Eagles have been the sixth-best team in the league against the run, giving up 75 yards per game. 

The Eagles might have an advantage here. 

Chargers QB Philip Rivers has been 'painful to watch'

Chargers QB Philip Rivers has been 'painful to watch'

With the Chargers off to an 0-3 start, quarterback Philip Rivers is beginning to fall out of favor in Los Angeles. 

The Chargers have been struggling for years. After hovering around the .500 mark for a half-decade, the Bolts managed to win a grand total of nine games the previous two seasons. The franchise installed Anthony Lynn as head coach and moved from San Diego to LA during the offseason, but the core of the roster remained the same.

That obviously includes Rivers, who may not be the root of the problem, but is experiencing some regression. The 35-year-old's 60.4 completion percentage last season was his lowest since 2007, while his 21 interceptions were the most of his career. Tack on five fumbles lost, and Rivers was committing nearly two turnovers per game.

Rivers was off to a decent start this season, even if the Chargers weren't, but that run of good fortune came to a screeching halt against Kansas City on Sunday. The six-time Pro Bowl selection completed 20 of 40 passes for 237 yards with no touchdowns and 3 interceptions in a 24-10 loss to the Chiefs.

Based on Tom Krasovic's synopsis for The San Diego Union-Tribune, Rivers' performance was not only a huge reason why the Chargers lost -- it was a chore to sit through.

This Rivers was different from the quarterback San Diegans grew to love.

He looked old, not cagey; creaky, not savvy.

He was painful to watch.

“I had a rough day,” he said.

He threw the ball too late, into coverage, repeatedly.

Considering that the blocking was good and the running game forceful, it was the worst half I can recall from Rivers, a starter since 2006.

He made several decisions that were questionable, perhaps worse.

He overestimated his arm strength. On other plays, for reasons unknown to outsiders, he failed to see open receivers or pull the trigger if he did.

Krasovic added Rivers should've been intercepted a fourth time, but the defensive back dropped the likely pick-six.

Okay, so it was a bad game. Even Tom Brady has those once in awhile (I think). Regardless, this is becoming par for the course with Rivers, and based on the reaction of Chargers fans like Aaron Woolley for the SBNation blog Bolts From The Blue, the die-hards -- the few that remain after the team's move to LA -- are growing restless.

I hate to say it, but it may be the time to light a fire under his ass or wave goodbye to him at the end of this season. He is in no way worth the 20+ million they are shelling out for him right now.

Rivers has enjoyed a Hall of Fame-caliber career. He may very well pick apart an Eagles secondary that is reeling from injuries, and somewhat questionable to begin with. But Rivers is also approaching his 36th birthday in December, and his decline is inevitable, probably already ongoing.

The Eagles have to fly across the country this week and play a team that's tough in many areas. At this point, franchise quarterback may or may not be of those.