Mike Groh

Cooking up on-field comfort food with Carson Wentz

Cooking up on-field comfort food with Carson Wentz

Doug Pederson called Monday night’s 23-17 win over the Giants the best game of Carson Wentz’s career but it certainly didn’t start that way. 

After the Eagles’ second drive of the third quarter, Wentz was actually struggling. 

So what changed? 

Well, the Eagles’ offensive coaches cooked up some “comfort food,” as offensive coordinator Mike Groh called it, for Wentz. 

“I wouldn't want to give away any game-plan secrets there,” Groh said. “But I'm sure you can speculate a little bit as to what those things might be. But try to find easy completions where you can get the ball out of your hand in rhythm and once you get one or two of those, a lot of times you just kind of settle in the game. And then the game comes to you.”

Rhythm can be an important thing for quarterbacks and Wentz is no different. Groh said we could speculate and it isn’t hard to figure out how the Eagles were finally able to get Wentz into a rhythm in the second half on Monday. 

On the third drive of the third quarter, the Eagles began to use an up-tempo offense and utilized short throws and screen passes. 

It worked. 

Just take a look at Wentz’s splits before that drive and after it began: 

Before: 12/23, 98 yards, 63.3 passer rating 

After: 21/27, 227 yards, 2 TDs, 126.4 passer rating 

First, the tempo really seemed to work. The Eagles have used the no-huddle plenty during Wentz’s four years in Philly and it’s just up to Pederson’s discretion. They have even opened games with it before. 

“That’s one thing I’ve always loved about coach since I’ve been here is he has a feel for when we need something to change,” Wentz said. “When we’re struggling. Sometimes we do tempo early because that’s what we see when we’re scouting other teams, that’s what we see is going to work. Sometimes we get to it later in games. Some games we don’t even use it. I think coach has a really good feel for it. I think that was the case the other night. I think that definitely helped us get out of the rut we were in.”

Aside from going with tempo, the Eagles made life easier on Wentz with shorter passes. There were plenty of easy reads, screens and throws to the flat. Those aren’t necessarily all easy throws to make, but they’re also not 20 yards downfield. 

On the tempo drive and the one that followed it, the Eagles seemed to get Wentz in a rhythm. None of the first eight passes on those two drives traveled more than 10 air yards.  

Against the Giants, this is what worked. But the specifics sometimes change. 

“The so-called 'comfort food,' it’s all based on what coverages we’re getting, how teams play us,” Wentz said. “But that concept, just finding completions, finding a way to get into a rhythm. Like I said, each week is always different, but there’s always those completions within a game that do kind of get you going and get you going in the right direction.”

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Blame Eagles' coaching staff more than Mack Hollins

Blame Eagles' coaching staff more than Mack Hollins

Mack Hollins was an easy target of ridicule from Eagles fans earlier this season when he was playing a ton of snaps and wasn’t catching any passes. 

He deserved a lot of that criticism. 

But the coaching staff deserves more of the blame. Because for over a month, they played that guy, the guy who went eight games without a catch, over their second-round pick. 

The coaching staff had its reasons — it kept saying JJ Arcega-Whiteside needed more time cross-training, Hollins was grading out well — but none of those reasons were good enough. And after weeks of watching Hollins take dozens of fruitless snaps, they should have pulled the plug much earlier. 

Finally, in the last couple games, the Eagles have started to play Arcega-Whiteside more and Hollins less. And, on Tuesday, they finally waived Hollins. He's now a Miami Dolphin (see story).

At his weekly news conference, offensive coordinator Mike Groh was asked, in retrospect, if all those snaps that went to Hollins this season would have been better spent on Arcega-Whiteside or even Greg Ward. 

“I think that Mack did an outstanding job while he was here and I wish him all the best,” Groh said. “But we have a lot of confidence in Greg and JJ moving forward, and Alshon and Nelly and really all the skill guys that are here. And we’re going to continue trying to go out there and improve each and every day. We’re excited and we’re looking forward to Monday Night Football and playing the New York Giants.”

So Groh didn’t answer the question and I can’t really blame him. 

After all, ultimately, the head coach is in charge of figuring out which offensive players are on the field. And Groh’s options were to either admit a mistake or plead insanity.  

Hollins last caught a pass in the Green Bay game back on Sept. 26. Just take a look at how long it took the Eagles to move on from Hollins in the eight games after he stopped catching passes: 

There wasn’t always a direct correlation between the snap counts for these three, but there was certainly a loose correlation. And Hollins’ snaps definitely took away from Arcega-Whiteside’s opportunity. 

I don’t know if Arcega-Whiteside will end up being any good or not. But I do know the Eagles used a second-round pick on him and they should have been more eager to find out earlier. 

In the final eight games of his time with the Eagles, Hollins played 204 snaps and didn’t register a single catch. Sure, a big reason for his lack of production was game plan. The Eagles have other guys they’d rather get the ball to. But for a receiver to be on the field that much and not catch a ball is truly unbelievable. 

And they played him over a second-round pick for over a month! 

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Which Eagles coaches are on the hot seat down the stretch?

Which Eagles coaches are on the hot seat down the stretch?

That loss in Miami is the kind of loss that gets an owner’s attention. And it’s the kind of loss that can sometimes get head coaches fired.

That’s not going to happen here.

Doug Pederson is less than two years removed from winning a Super Bowl and he’s not going anywhere. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be significant changes to his coaching staff for 2020.

They won’t come now, according to Pederson. On Monday, he said no coaching changes will happen this week with the Eagles sitting at 5-7.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen on Monday said he expects “significant coaching changes” unless the Eagles make a playoff run. That was less of a report and seemingly more speculation. It certainly makes sense. This was a team with high expectations that will likely fall well short of them. Our own Reuben Frank pretty much wrote the same thing after the game.

So, now, the question becomes this: Who goes?

With that in mind, let’s take a look at each of the main assistant coaches on the staff. I stayed away from the assistant position coaches for brevity’s sake and because a major shakeup would include some bigger names. I’ll go through their histories, give a big of analysis on the job they’ve done and rank their seat temperature, as I see it, as either cool, warm or hot:

Offensive coordinator: Mike Groh

History: Groh was a college quarterback, who had a history with coaching QBs and receivers at the college and NFL level before his arrival in Philadelphia. He recently worked for the Rams and Bears. Groh’s first season with the Eagles was in 2017 as their wide receivers coach. He stayed in that position for just one year before a promotion. After Frank Reich left, Groh was promoted to offensive coordinator.

Analysis: First, Groh was a good receivers coach; perhaps the only good one they’ve had in the Pederson Era. But since his promotion, the Eagles are 18th in the league in points scored and in total yards. It’s hard to really evaluate how much of that is Groh’s fault. After all, this is Pederson’s offense and he’s the play caller. Still, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that the offense just hasn’t been as good since the departure of Reich. Not long ago, Pederson said his relationship with Groh has gotten a lot stronger in the last couple years and he has “a lot of trust and faith” in Groh. But it’s fair to wonder if some fresh ideas from outside the building would help.

Seat temp: Hot

Defensive coordinator: Jim Schwartz

History: Before coming to Philly in 2016, Schwartz had already logged 22 coaching years in the NFL and five of those came as a head coach. He hasn’t ranked lower than a defensive coordinator in the NFL since 2000, then the linebackers coach in Tennessee.

Analysis: Schwartz is the Eagles’ top-ranking assistant coach because he has a ton of autonomy over that defense. That’s his unit. The Eagles are coming off a terrible game, so opinions are going to be skewed. But, generally, I think Schwartz is a better coach than most fans seem to think. I think a lot of the frustration about Schwartz is the bend-but-don’t-break mentality. The Eagles have given up the 11th most yards in the NFL since 2016 but just six teams have given up fewer points. That can be frustrating to watch.

If we’re talking about a major shakeup, the Eagles at least owe it to themselves to question whether or not Schwartz is still the right guy for the job and to at least see if there would be an adequate replacement. I tend to think he’ll be back, but it’s worth a look.

Seat temp: Warm

Special teams coordinator: Dave Fipp

History: Fipp has been in charge of the Eagles’ special teams units since 2013, arriving for the start of the Chip Kelly Era. Before that he was an assistant special teams coach for the 49ers and Dolphins.

Analysis: The injuries in the last two years have hurt the offense and the defense, but they’ve really hurt Fipp’s units. The bottom of the roster is constantly getting churned and those are Fipp’s players coming and going. But the Eagles’ special teams units haven’t been as dominant in recent years.

Seat temp: Warm

Assistant head coach/running backs: Duce Staley

History: The former Eagles running back began his coaching career in 2011 as a quality control guy under Andy Reid and then Chip actually promoted him to running backs coach. He was interviewed for the head coaching position in 2016 and the offensive coordinator job in 2018 and didn’t get either. But in 2018, the Eagles tacked on the assistant head coach title to his name.

Analysis: His role hasn’t changed much as an assistant head coach, but Staley seems to be performing well in his role as running backs coach. He was getting a lot out of Jordan Howard before Howard’s injury and we’re watching rookie Miles Sanders overcome early season struggles to become one of the most dynamic weapons on the team.

Seat temp: Cool

Defensive line coach: Phillip Daniels

History: The long-time NFL defensive lineman, who last played in 2010, was hired by the Eagles in 2016 as the assistant DL coach. He took over as the DL coach this season after the Eagles parted ways with Chris Wilson.

Analysis: Daniels has dealt with some key injuries on that defensive line this season. They lost Malik Jackson and Hassan Ridgeway for the year. Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham are playing well, but those guys are veterans. How has Daniels done with the younger linemen? Well, Derek Barnett has been OK and the Eagles are starting to get more out of Josh Sweat, which is a good sign. Probably haven’t really seen enough either way on Daniels.

Seat temp: Warm

Linebackers coach: Ken Flajole

History: He joined the staff in 2016 as the linebackers coach and has a ton of NFL coaching experience. Flajole was the Rams’ DC from 2009-11.

Analysis: Is there a position the Eagles have neglected more in the last four years? Since Flajole took the job, the Eagles have drafted exactly two linebackers: Joe Walker in the seventh round in 2016 and Nate Gerry in the fifth round in 2017. I wonder about the evaluation of L.J. Fort, who left and found success in Baltimore. Instead, the Eagles were playing Zach Brown, whom they cut not long after. Still, I think the Eagles’ linebackers are playing above their talent level.

Seat temp: Cool

Tight ends coach: Justin Peelle

History: Another Chip holdover, Peelle was hired as the assistant tight ends coach in 2013 and got promoted to his current job in 2015.

Analysis: Zach Ertz has blossomed into one of the best tight ends in the NFL under the guidance of Peelle and Dallas Goedert certainly seems to have a ton of potential. But Year 2 for Goedert has probably been a little disappointing.

Seat temp: Warm

Offensive line coach/run game coordinator: Jeff Stoutland

History: Stout has been the OL coach in Philly since 2013 and became the run game coordinator in 2018. He didn’t have NFL coaching experience before getting hired by Chip.

Analysis: Stout might be the best coach on the staff. With Stout in place, Jason Peters, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson have all become Pro Bowlers. Just last week, after Johnson signed an extension, he went out of his way to praise Stoutland and credit him for his success. Even Isaac Seumalo has settled into his role as a decent starter after Stoutland showed faith in him earlier this season. There have been some missteps, like thinking Andre Dillard could play right tackle a couple weeks ago. But the overall body of work is very good.

Seat temp: Cool

Quarterbacks coach: Press Taylor

History: One of the youngest coaches on staff, Taylor came to the Eagles in 2013 as a quality control coach. He became the assistant QB coach when Pederson arrived and became the QB coach when John DeFilippo left after the Super Bowl. Another internal candidate rising through the ranks.

Analysis: Taylor’s job is to coach all the quarterbacks, but our evaluation of him really has to be about Carson Wentz. And, simply put, Wentz is healthy now and hasn’t gotten back to his near-MVP form of a couple years ago. Wentz is the most important player on the team and the Eagles need to make sure they’re getting the most out of him.

Seat temp: Hot

Defensive backs coach: Cory Undlin

History: Undlin arrived in 2015, coming over from the Denver Broncos. He’s been in the NFL in some capacity since 2004.

Analysis: It’s hard to fault Undlin for the shortcomings in the secondary after all the injuries they’ve faced over the last couple years. In fact, I’d argue Undlin has actually kept things afloat despite the injuries. The one question is about the development of young talent. Sure, Undlin helped turn seventh-rounder Jalen Mills into a starter, but Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas were drafted in the second and third rounds in 2017 and neither has become a starter. Is that on the evaluation or coaching?

Seat temp: Warm

Wide receivers coach: Carson Walch

History: Watch was hired in 2018 as the assistant receivers coach and took over the position this season after Gunter Brewer’s departure. He had been in the CFL, but was an assistant with Groh in Chicago. Walch became the fourth different receivers coach in Pederson’s four years.  

Analysis: The receivers, generally speaking, have been awful this season. They got one good game from DeSean Jackson and everyone else has either regressed or hasn’t gotten better. There’s a clear lack of talent at that position, but it’s hard to imagine Walch being back in 2020.

Seat temp: Hot

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