Eagles

'Philly Philly' or 'Philly Special 2.0'? Eagles explain latest trick play

'Philly Philly' or 'Philly Special 2.0'? Eagles explain latest trick play

Anything the Patriots can do, the Eagles can probably do better. It could be winning the Super Bowl, or executing the exact same trick play.

In the Eagles’ first meaningful contest since winning the Super Bowl six months ago, with a statue outside Lincoln Financial Field immortalizing the game’s most famous moment, Doug Pederson shocked the world once again with his gutsy play-calling Thursday. On 3rd-and-5 in the third quarter, his team trailing the Falcons by three, Corey Clement took the handoff, then pitched the football to Nelson Agholor — who quickly threw it to quarterback Nick Foles for a 15-yard gain and a first down.

The stadium went crazy. The internet exploded. Who could believe they would do it again?

“It’s Philly Philly,” Pederson said of the call, the famous words Foles spoke to his head coach before catching a touchdown in the big one.

But if the play looked familiar, it wasn’t just Foles doing his best Alshon Jeffery impression. It wasn’t the same play the Eagles ran in the Super Bowl, either.

It was the same design the Patriots tried — and failed — to execute against the Eagles because Tom Brady dropped the wide-open pass.

“That's where we got it from,” Pederson said. “We just put different people in the game,” noting the Eagles were in 12 personnel at the time, while the Patriots ran it out of 11.

Initially, Pederson stated matter-of-factly that Philly Philly was part of the game plan, and it was the right down, distance and spot on the field to make the call. There was more to it than that, though. At that point in the game, midway through the third quarter, Foles was still struggling to find his rhythm, and the Eagles had scored all of three points.

“Offensively, we were sort of misfiring a little bit early in the game, first half in particular,” Pederson said. “We came out in the second half, and just the same type of thing, and just were looking for a big play, somebody to make a play, and you kind of look for that from time to time.

“Again, just felt like it was the right time to make that call, and the guys executed it well.”

The Eagles needed a spark, and Clement had a feeling before the game Philly Philly might be the play to provide it.

“I think something about this play was definitely going to make an impact,” Clement said. “It got the crowd into it, got us into it. It gave us a little boost, and that’s what we needed.”

Foles’ catch extended the drive, ending in a touchdown to give the Eagles their first lead. They would only reach the end zone one more time in an 18-12 victory, but the offense seemed to loosen up from that point on.

There was never any concern the Falcons would know what was coming, either. The Eagles varied the look enough that the defense would never suspect it.

“We knew what we were getting on this play,” Clement said. “Catch them on their toes and hit one over the top.”

People joked about the possibility Pederson could pull such a stunt again, but who actually saw this coming?

“Coach Pederson has a great gut feeling, and when he feels like something needs to be called, he just lets it go and believes in the players to make it happen,” Clement said.

The guys in that huddle must have some great poker faces. No cracking a smile, no laughing, no running to the line of scrimmage with extra gusto. Nothing before the snap can give the defense the slightest hint of what’s to come.

“You don’t want to give it away,” Agholor said. “You don’t want to get too excited and somebody’s thinking trick play. You just have to make the play.”

Easier said than done for Agholor, who had arguably the toughest job of all on Philly Philly, running to his right and delivering a perfect strike to Foles streaking down the field. Trey Burton made it look easy in the Super Bowl. Of course, Burton — a tight end by trade — played quite a bit of quarterback, even in his college years at the University of Florida.

Agholor was the backup quarterback for his high school team but hadn’t been under center since he was in “little league.” And the last time he attempted a pass in an organized setting did not go so well.

“Spring game in college,” Agholor said. “Interception.”

Despite his lack of experience, Agholor’s pass earned the approval of Burton, who was watching the his former teammates while awaiting his Bears debut Sunday.

Then again, maybe Agholor’s task wasn’t as difficult as it looked. After all, Foles is proving himself to be quite the receiver.

“Nick Foles is an absolute athlete,” Agholor said. “Ultimate frisbee, like All-American. As long as I just give him an opportunity, he’ll go get it.”

First, Foles needs to get the record straight about something. There seems to be a lack of clarity regarding which play was "Philly Philly," and which was the "Philly Special."

“The first version was the ‘Philly Special,’” Foles said. “This is actually ‘Philly Philly.’ I miscalled it, I guess, in the Super Bowl, so it got both. Now, we have a ‘Philly Philly.’”

Foles really is a good receiver, by the way, or at least he works on it. Neither the Patriots nor the Falcons seemed to take notice, but a reporter observed the quarterback running some routes during pre-game workouts Thursday.

It turns out, that wasn’t a signal to opposing defenses or anything at all. That’s just Foles being Foles.

“I actually do that every warm-up,” he said. “It’s a way for me to go out there and be a kid for a little bit. Warm up the body, catch. I’ve done it my entire life and it’s something I still do. Coaches probably think I’m crazy for doing it, but it’s something I enjoy doing.”

One coach who almost certainly does not think Foles is crazy is Pederson. To the contrary, those two are apparently on the exact same wavelength when it comes to this trickery.

When Foles — incorrectly — requested Philly Philly during the Super Bowl, his coach was already considering it. Six months later, different play, different opponent, different building, different personnel, different situation, but Foles and Pederson still on the exact same page.

“Honestly, we were both thinking the same thing at the same time,” Foles said. “I went over there to talk to him to say this might be a good time and he pointed to the call sheet and it was like, ‘That was what I was coming over here for.’”

They say Pederson is a players’ coach, after all. He was just giving his quarterback and the rest of the team what they want.

“I love having plays like that,” Foles said. “Our team loves it. I mean, everyone loves a good trick play.”

And why not when it’s working?

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The Eli Manning Hall of Fame debate has one obvious answer

The Eli Manning Hall of Fame debate has one obvious answer

Eli Manning is one of only 12 quarterbacks in NFL history to win more than one Super Bowl.

Is that enough to get him into the Hall of Fame?

Manning was benched by Giants coach Pat Shurmur Tuesday in favor of rookie Daniel Jones. 

Manning is 38 and in his 16th season. He's faced the Eagles more than any quarterback in NFL history.

Maybe he’ll get another chance to start somewhere, but most likely the body of work that he’s put out in 246 games so far is essentially what he’ll be judged on when the Pro Football Hall of Fame voters start considering his candidacy five years after he retires.

Let’s take a look!

The case for Eli Manning 

Manning is one of only 12 quarterbacks in NFL history to win more than one Super Bowl, and of the eight QBs who are already eligible for the Hall, seven have been enshrined. 

The exception is Jim Plunkett, who beat the Eagles in 1980 and the Redskins 1983.

But it’s tough to make any sort of case for Plunkett, who played 16 seasons, was a full-time starter eight years, had a winning record twice, never made a Pro Bowl, threw 34 more interceptions than touchdowns and has the 8th-lowest passer rating since 1970 among QBs who played at least 100 games.

You can definitely make a case for Manning.

• He didn’t only win two Super Bowls, he was MVP of both and he toppled the greatest dynasty in NFL history, the Bill Belichick Patriots, in both. He's one of only six multiple Super Bowl MVPs in history.

• Manning never missed a game because of an injury, starting 210 straight games — second-longest QB streak ever — before sitting for one week in 2017. 

• Manning ranks seventh in NFL history with 56,537 passing yards and eight with 362 touchdown passes. Every eligible QB who’s reached either 50,000 passing yards or 300 TD passes is in the Hall of Fame.

• From 2005 through 2012 — his first eight seasons as a full-time starting quarterback — the Giants never had a losing season. Manning made his first three Pro Bowls during that eight-year stretch, and only three QBs won more games during that span — Tom Brady, older brother Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. 

The case against Eli Manning 

• I start with this: When I’m judging a player for Hall of Fame consideration, I ask whether he was ever the best in the NFL at his position for any five-year span. Manning never even came close close. His best five-year span was probably 2011 through 2015, and during that span he ranked 19th in the NFL in passer rating, 20th in completion percentage and 15th in wins. He was seventh in TD passes but first in interceptions.

• He was never great over a full season. Manning played 14 full seasons and finished in the top 10 in passer rating once — he was seventh in 2011. He also ranked 20th or worse six times. He never had a passer rating over 93.6. Sure-fire Hall of Famers like Drew Brees, Brady, Peyton, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger have each had a passer rating over 93.6 at least eight times.

• He never led the NFL in completion percentage, touchdowns, passing yards, yards per game, passer rating or any other major category except interceptions. He led the NFL in interceptions three times.

• Manning’s 3.09 interception percentage ranks closer to the bottom since he entered the NFL than the top. It’s 49th-best out of 73 QBs who’ve thrown at least 1,000 passes since 2004.  

• How many of those 246 games was Eli Manning truly great? He has five career games with 300 passing yards, 3 TD passes and 0 interceptions. That’s the same number as Jared Goff, who’s played 206 fewer games.

The verdict 

On Feb. 3, 2008, and Feb. 5, 2012, Eli Manning was the best quarterback in the world. For nearly all of the other 244 football Sundays since his career began he not only wasn’t the best QB in the world he was remarkably average.

He has a .500 career record, and in 12 of the 14 seasons he was a full-time starter the Giants failed to win a playoff game.

Even Manning’s Super Bowl performances weren’t off the charts. 

In the first one — after the 2007 season — he had a modest passer rating of 82.5, which is 13th-worst of any winning quarterback in Super Bowl history, and he put up just 17 points. In the other, he was very good but still only threw one TD pass.

A lot of people will tell you when talking about Manning that he doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame, he should be in the Hall of Very Good. 

Honestly, I’m not so sure he belongs in that one either.

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With two injuries at WR, rookie JJ Arcega-Whiteside ready for expanded role

With two injuries at WR, rookie JJ Arcega-Whiteside ready for expanded role

Rookie receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside spent most of last week on scout team, helping the Eagles’ defense prepare for Julio Jones.

He didn’t expect to have a huge role in the offensive game plan.

That changed in a hurry.

With Alshon Jeffery (calf), DeSean Jackson (groin) and Dallas Goedert (calf) knocked out of the Falcons game early, the Eagles told Arcega-Whiteside pretty early, “you’re going to play the rest of the game.” He ended up playing 75 offensive snaps in the Eagles’ 24-20 loss after basically no practice reps during the week.

This week, with Jeffery and Jackson still nursing their injuries, the Eagles will spend their upcoming practices getting Arceaga-Whiteside prepared for an expanded role Sunday. Mike Groh said he expects the rookie to take more of a “primary role” in practice until they learn more about Jeffery’s status.

“I mean, I’m ready,” the second-round pick said. “That’s what I dream about. That’s why I’m here, to help this team win.”

With little practice time last week, Arcega-Whiteside’s expanded role didn’t go extremely well in Week 1. While he played 75 snaps, more than any receiver other than Nelson Agholor, his production lacked. He had just one catch on four targets and it went for four yards.

Remember, there was a point on Sunday — when Agholor was getting checked for a concussion — that Arcega-Whiteside was the top receiver on the depth chart.

So what happened on the passes his way that weren’t complete?

“Me and Carson haven’t ran those (plays), like, ever, together,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “So that kind of showed a little bit. … That’s just going out to practice and working it. We’re not even worried about it because we know once we get that timing down, it’s over.”

Groh called this play from late in the second quarter a “very good example” of how timing between a QB and receiver can be off without enough practice time together.

Groh said he wasn’t sure how many times Arcega-Whiteside had gotten practice reps in that play, but knows he wouldn’t have been their primary player for that route. This week, Wentz will get a chance to work with Arcega-Whiteside and they can tailor a game plan with the understanding that they’ll be shorthanded.

The production wasn’t great from Arcega-Whiteside, but he said he did feel the game slow down for him as it went on and he thinks those game reps will be valuable. And Jeffery was with him every step of the way. He said his veteran teammate, who he’ll likely replace Sunday, was the first one to greet him after drives and even coached him during the game when Arcega-Whiteside lined on the Eagles’ side of the field.

“Going into this weekend now, it depends on what the game plan is,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “They haven’t given us the game plan yet. Once we know what that is, we can start focusing more on that and individually how we’re going to handle it.”

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