Eagles

Carson Wentz and Golden Tate already learning how to fly together

Carson Wentz and Golden Tate already learning how to fly together

Carson Wentz was back in his home state of North Dakota hunting ducks during the bye week when Howie Roseman actually pulled the trigger. 

Wentz got the call that the Eagles had traded for wide receiver Golden Tate, so he quickly sent his new weapon a text message to welcome him to the flock. 

On Wednesday, Wentz said that text message was so he and Tate could immediately begin to build chemistry. Same with the invitation for Tate to join him at church on Sunday — an invitation Tate declined to study his new playbook, but his wife took up. They’ll still have to learn to play with each other on the fly, but any bit of information the two can gain about each other will help.

“Everyone’s different,” Wentz said. “Obviously, the more reps, the better. At the same time, you turn on the film of what he’s done in Detroit and just try to see his body language on routes and what he’s good at and those types of things. It’ll be big to finally get out there today and finally start to get used to him and build that chemistry right away.”

Doug Pederson said it’ll be on Wentz and Tate to build their rapport by spending extra time throwing to each other and getting a feel for one another. They won’t get it down immediately; Pederson said it’ll take some time. 

“Getting used to Carson is something he’s going to have to do,” Pederson said. “But we gotta do it fast. Like now. It’s going to take some time.”

Sure, it’ll be a gradual process. No matter how much the two are on the same page by week’s end, they’ll even be further along come this time next week, and so on. There’s no mighty recipe to quickly create chemistry. But the quicker the better. 

It’s good that Wentz isn’t going in blind too. While there’s nothing that can make up for practice reps, there’s plenty he can learn about Tate from watching film. Specifically, offensive coordinator Mike Groh said Tate is a QB-friendly receiver because of his body language. 

Quarterbacks coach Press Taylor was able to elaborate on what exactly that body language looks like: 

It’s kind of just sinking his hips, being able to shed a defender at the right time, understanding when to cross over a defender, maybe when not to, when to get in and out of a break. There’s a lot of times we have depths on certain routes and it may be one revolution short, one revolution extra, based how the coverage is dictated. With stuff like that, you need to be able to trust what you see with your receiver. So when he sinks his hip, when he changes his leverage of a guy, that’s when the ball needs to be out. That’s something that’s developed with Carson and these guys he’s been throwing to. That’s something we need to get Golden up to speed on.

Taylor said that Groh is especially good at making sure Wentz is always communicating with his receivers. If they’re in a meeting and Wentz mentions he’d like a receiver to run a route a different way, Groh will ask if he’s talked to that receiver about it. Because Wentz is the guy pulling the trigger, they want him to be vocal with what he wants. They want him to do that with Tate right away. 

For years, Tate worked with Matthew Stafford and became Stafford’s security blanket on third downs. He can similarly help the Eagles in those situations, but Wentz will need to learn to trust him first. That started with a text message in the North Dakota wilderness as ducks hit the ground for the purpose of jerky.  

So how quickly can these two get on the same page? 

“Hopefully by Sunday,” Taylor said. 

That would be quacktastic. 

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Doug Pederson's reasons why Eagles are falling short

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Doug Pederson's reasons why Eagles are falling short

What’s wrong with the Eagles? Doug Pederson on Wednesday boiled it down to two things he believes are holding the Eagles back the most:

1)  A lack of takeaways, and

2)  Poor offense in the red zone.

The difference between the 13-win Super Bowl champs and a third-place team sputtering along at 4-5 is not that great, Pederson believes:

Listen, we’re very close. We’re so close in a lot of areas. You look at our output and our production offensively, we’re very similar to what we were last year. We’re plus 30 passes down the field. Explosive passes, I think we’re second in the National Football League, we’re sixth at 20-plus explosive plays. Third downs, we’re within a percentage point or two of being where we were a season ago. The difference is creating turnovers on defense and then scoring in the red zone. That’s kind of what’s staring at us right in the face. And time of possession’s good, all those things we look at. Red-zone defense has been good throughout the season. We’ve got to finish better and we have to score more points.

Let’s take a look at those two key areas.

Takeaways

As Dave Zangaro wrote this week, takeaways are down dramatically.

The Eagles have generated just seven takeaways, fewest in franchise history after nine games and third-fewest in the NFL (ahead of only the 49ers with five and the Buccaneers with six).

The Eagles have gone three straight games without an interception and they have just one in their last five games. They’ve had a franchise-record seven straight games with one or fewer takeaway and they have just four since Week 3.

The Eagles last year finished fourth in the NFL with 31 takeaways, just three fewer than the NFL-leading Ravens.

Red-zone offense

Last year, the Eagles led the NFL with touchdowns on 71 percent of their red-zone drives, and they averaged 5.6 points per red-zone drive.

This year, those numbers have dropped to touchdowns on 54 percent of their red-zone drives (22nd) with an average of 4.8 points per red-zone drive.

Let’s examine some of Pederson’s other figures:

Third down

Although he is correct that the Eagles are close to last year on third down — 41.7 percent last year, 41.2 percent this year — the league average has increased dramatically, from 38.7 percent last year to 40.3 percent this year.

So after being 3 percent over the average last year, they’re less than 1 percent over the average this year.

Time of possession

Eagles led the NFL at 32:41 last year and are second at 32:22 this year. Virtually the same.

Big plays

Doug’s numbers are a little off regarding big plays. The Eagles were 11th last year in offensive plays of 20 yards or more (62) and 12th in plays of 30 yards or more (24).

This year, they’re 21st in plays of 20 yards (34) and eighth with 16 plays of 30 or more yards (16).

Other areas

Sacks are up from one every 15.7 pass attempts last year to one every 12.6 passes this year. Rushing average has dropped from 4.5 to 4.1. And first downs per game are actually up – from 21.1 to 22.6.

The conclusion?

The Eagles actually have done a lot of things well. Some things even better than last year.

But in those critical moments when games are won or lost, they are coming up small.

They have the talent to pile up stats all over the place and keep every game close, but they've have put together only one complete game.

And if things don’t change soon? The 2018 Eagles are destined to be forever known as a frustratingly, agonizingly, consistently underachieving football team.

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Don't be surprised if Eagles vs. Saints is close

Don't be surprised if Eagles vs. Saints is close

The Eagles are nine-point underdogs this Sunday in New Orleans. The Eagles are coming off an embarrassing loss on national television. The Saints look unstoppable seemingly rolling out of bed and putting up at least 30 points. Why does all of that point to the Eagles staying within the number and maybe even winning outright?

Every football fan can be prone to being a prisoner to the moment. This gets especially magnified when you get dominated on Sunday or Monday Night Football. That type of loss in front of a national audience can skew one's opinion on the team too far one way or the other. This season, there have been 10 occasions when a team has gotten embarrassed on Sunday or Monday night (embarrassed defined as losing by at least two scores). Yes, the Eagles only lost by one score, but I think the whole region can agree that it was an embarrassment this past Sunday night. Here's how the previous ten teams fared:

Week 1:
Jets 48, Lions 17. Next game: Lions 27, 49ers 30 (Lions cover +6, lose outright)
Rams 33, Raiders 13. Next game: Raiders 19, Broncos 20 (Raiders cover +5.5, lose outright)

Week 3:
Patriots 10, Lions 26. Next game: Dolphins 7, Patriots 38 (Patriots cover -6.5)

Week 4:
Ravens 26, Steelers 14. Next game: Falcons 17, Steelers 41 (Steelers cover -3.5)

Week 5: 
Redskins 19, Saints 43. Next game: Panthers 17, Redskins 23 (Redskins cover +1, win outright)

Week 7:
Bengals 10, Chiefs 45. Next game: Buccaneers 34, Bengals 37 (Bengals fail to cover -3.5 despite leading 34-16 at the start of the 4th quarter)

Week 8:
Saints 30, Vikings 20. Next game: Lions 9, Vikings 24 (Vikings cover -5)
Patriots 25, Bills 6. Next game: Bears 41, Bills 9 (Bills fail to cover +10)

Week 9:
Packers 17, Patriots 31. Next game: Dolphins 12, Packers 31 (Packers cover -12)
Titans 28, Cowboys 14. Next game: Cowboys 27, Eagles 20 (Cowboys cover +7.5, win outright)

Week 10:
Cowboys 27, Eagles 20. Next game: ???

Teams that got blown out on Sunday or Monday night are 8-2 against the spread their next game (including two outright wins by underdogs). Aside from a blown cover from the Bengals, the only team that failed to cover were the Nathan Peterman-led Buffalo Bills.

Teams are never as bad as their worst game (Eagles losing to the Cowboys) or as great as their best game (Saints winning 51-14 in Cincinnati). The elephant in the room of course is New Orleans has a different kind of home field advantage. However, it is so uncommon for an elite quarterback like Carson Wentz to get that many points. Russell Wilson covered +10 and Aaron Rodgers covered +7.5 at the Rams. 

Don't be surprised if the Eagles keep it close on Sunday.

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