Mays and Barnwell try to figure out who can beat Seattle at home and how the top of the 2014 draft will shake out in Wednesday's NFL podcast.
Mays and Barnwell try to figure out who can beat Seattle at home and how the top of the 2014 draft will shake out in Wednesday's NFL podcast.
For every football player, the helmet does a little something different. It turns some, like LaDainian Tomlinson, into superheroes. It felt like LT was from the future in part because he looked like he was. For others, it seems almost obligatory. I’m not sure how we’d even notice if Tom Brady played without one.
There’s a select few, though, for whom the helmet seems to make all the difference, and Nick Foles is one of those. Without it, the NaFoleseon Dynamite jokes are inevitable and apt, but with it, Foles looks like a 6-foot-6, strong-armed quarterback who belongs in an NFL huddle. It doesn’t hurt that every time he puts it on, he plays like one, too.
We're halfway through another NFL season, and this week the trade deadline came and went without any big news, because this is pro football. The only trade that happened involved some guy named Isaac Sopoaga. NFL teams never shake things up at the trade deadline. Bill Barnwell already covered the trades that should've happened, but now it's time to think bigger. Let's talk about the guys who deserve a new life, for their sake, our sake, and the game's sake. The great players on bad teams who deserve better.
Thank You for Not Coaching is celebrating a lot of very reasonable decisions by coaches this week! Sure, there's still the occasional questionable call that we'll get to at the very end, but the bad coaching choices this week were mostly good processes with bad outcomes. That's preferable to the alternative.
As always, let's start with the best. Let's thank these coaches for actually coaching with my picks for the three best decisions of Week 7.
3. Cleveland's David strategies against the Packers. I was fond of Jacksonville's high-variance strategies against Denver one week ago, and Rob Chudzinski came into Green Bay with Brandon Weeden knowing he needed to create a few extra opportunities to come away with a victory. I like to think that's why he went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Green Bay 37-yard line and went for a fake punt on fourth-and-1 from his own 43-yard line before the end of the first quarter. The former failed, as Weeden was intercepted by Davon House on a desperate throw. The fake punt narrowly worked, as a Chris Ogbonnaya run moved the chains despite a challenge from Mike McCarthy suggesting that Ogbonnaya came up short.
Of course, the Browns did later punt on fourth-and-1 from the Green Bay 49-yard line in the third quarter before trying to convert on fourth-and-15 from the 31-yard line early in the fourth. Sometimes David gets beat up and just resorts to throwing jabs at Goliath before launching a wild haymaker, but I think Chudzinski had a good plan early on.
On any given Sunday (or Monday, or Thursday), your NFL Run & Shootaround crew will be gathered around multiple televisions, making inappropriate jokes and generally regressing to the mean. Catch up on all the NFL action right here.
Philly's 1-3 after Sunday, and everything after that outrageous first half in D.C. has felt like one, long reality check. Especially this week, when the Broncos spent most of the afternoon reminding us that even the Eagles' biggest strength isn't half as good as the best offense in the league. Now the backlash starts, and you know the Philly media's only going to get exponentially more miserable with each passing loss.
It's all a little bit unfair. Nobody expected the Eagles to actually be good until that first half in D.C. That's when everyone threw logic out the window. Now Chip's being judged against that curve, and every loss is proof that he's a fraud or something. With that in mind, hopefully everyone can just wait and see what happens here. There's a decent chance it never clicks in Philly, in which case Chip Kelly goes back to college to rain hellfire on the Pac-12 or ACC or Big 12. That would be cool. But there's also a chance this Eagles team was always going to be kind of shitty, and given a season to learn and tweak things — and an offseason to rebuild that defense — things could look a lot better a year from now. In the meantime, the Eagles are still more fun to watch and argue about than any other 1-3 team in the NFL. That was always the best part of the Chip Kelly deal for the rest of us. Between the grumpy Philly media and the crazy offense and Michael Vick and LeSean and DeSean ... The team may not be good this year or next year or ever, but whatever happens, the insanity will keep everyone entertained.
The Thank You for Not Coaching docket was pretty much all booked up by the time the 1 p.m. games were over on Sunday. Bouncers weren't letting any silly timeouts or fourth-down blunders into the column unless they had showed up for the early session. Plays that would normally be locks couldn't find a table unless they slipped somebody a 20. Pete Carroll calling for a spot challenge against the Jaguars? Nope. Mike McCoy's pair of fourth-and-1 punts inside Titans territory? Not this week. Rex Ryan's pair of spot challenges on consecutive plays? Believe it or not, we're all full up. It's a full #TYFNC slate for Week 3.
Let's start, though, with some of the better decisions from last week's action before working our way down to the three worst calls.
3. The Packers go for it on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter.
How can a play that quite possibly cost Green Bay the game be a good choice? Well, because you have to evaluate the decision based upon the process that went into the call without evaluating it based upon its one outcome. And, in this case, the Packers were right to attempt a fourth-and-1 conversion: They were up 30-27 with 4:01 left and had the ball on Cincinnati's 30-yard line. They had been very effective running the ball in the second half with Johnathan Franklin, in for an injured James Starks, and had a chance to possibly seal the game by not handing the football back over to the Bengals.
The other options weren't particularly appealing.
Week 2 awards, Week 3 waiver-wire advice, and a flying pig to boot.
Michael Vick had an incredibly productive game on Sunday, and his stats don’t begin to tell the story. While a line that includes 428 yards, a 63.9 completion percentage, two passing touchdowns, and one rushing touchdown is certainly nothing to scoff at, it’s veritable chump change compared to what Vick left on the table.
@ChrisWesseling That's even conservative. Counted a potential 69-yarder (just out of bounds), 79-yarder (drop) and 37-yarder (penalty).
— Sheil Kapadia (@SheilKapadia) September 16, 2013
The three plays listed above — a would-be 68-yard touchdown that DeSean Jackson caught with his right foot slightly out of bounds; a 37-yard touchdown to Jackson that was nullified because of a penalty on tackle Lane Johnson; and a would-be 79-yard touchdown that Jackson juuuuust missed — all could have easily gone the Eagles’ way, turning a defeat into victory and Vick’s 33-point fantasy performance into a 40- or even 50-point day.
Regardless, it’s more clear than ever that Chip Kelly’s coaching can bolster his offensive personnel's fantasy value, largely because of the sheer amount of plays Kelly tends to run per game. More plays mean more chances to gain yards and score points, and not surprisingly, the Eagles are third in the NFL in points scored and second in total yards through two weeks.
Of course, more plays also mean more chances to get injured, and the most salient takeaway from the Eagles-Chargers game was that Vick got "shaken up" by Chargers defensive end Jarius Wynn late in the fourth quarter, triggering a Nick Foles appearance. Granted, Foles’s one play (an incompletion) was mandated by league rules, but it was surely a sobering sight for Vick owners, who would have to be a remarkably naïve bunch not to believe they’ll be seeing a lot more of Foles as the season progresses.
Another week in the NFL has brought us another bevy of coaching decisions to analyze in this Tuesday's edition of Thank You for Not Coaching. One of the goals in moving TYFNC to Tuesday was to make sure that some of the better decisions made by coaches during each weekend's action got their proper due; while coaches make a healthy number of missteps each week, there are a fair amount of decisions that do go right and a number of processes that make sense. Each week from here on out, I'm going to start this column with the moves that stood out to me as the smartest ones of the week, work my way down through some of the more curious decisions made by teams, and then finish with the three worst calls. So, now, let's get started with the smart stuff!
Philadelphia Eagles offensive line
The numbers sit squarely in the shadow of Adrian Peterson now, but two years ago, LeSean McCoy had the best season of any running back in the league. He finished 2011 ranked first in Football Outsiders’ DYAR metric, running for more than 1,300 yards, scoring 17 touchdowns, and regularly doing stuff like this. Last season, those numbers plummeted. McCoy finished 35th in DYAR — wedged between superstar running backs Isaac Redman and Alex Green — and had just two touchdowns all year while also missing four games with a concussion.
McCoy’s own performance may have fallen off a bit from the previous year, but the precipitous drop hardly fell at his feet. The Eagles’ issues along the offensive line began before last season even began, and they never really stopped. All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters missed the entire season after tearing his Achilles, a knee injury cost center Jason Kelce 14 games, right tackle Todd Herremans played only half the season, and former first-round pick Danny Watkins was alternately hurt or awful. In all, the Eagles started nine different offensive linemen, and the result was predictably terrible.
Separating a running back’s performance from that of his offensive line is sometimes difficult, but there are a few elements that are relatively independent for each. If a back is hit for a loss or no gain, generally, that would fall on the offensive line. Last season, only eight running backs were tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage more times than McCoy, according to ESPN Stats & Info. What’s more telling — and more damning for Philadelphia’s offensive line — is the ratio of negative rushes to positive ones. McCoy’s 55 runs of zero or negative yardage came on just 200 carries, meaning those plays made up 27.5 percent of his total rushes. Of the other backs to finish among the top 10 in carries that failed to net positive yardage, only the Colts’ Vick Ballard came even close to that number — 27 percent of 211 rushes. Everyone else was less than 25 percent and carried the ball at least 222 times. For the sake of comparison, Bryce Brown, who had 115 carries for the Eagles offense, was also at 27 percent.
Robert Mays and Bill Barnwell break down four games from Week 1, answer reader questions, and recap the winners of their weekly bets.
Mays is then joined by former Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman to discuss his thoughts on Week 1 in the NFL and the origins of his "Lights Out" nickname and sack celebration. Video of that conversation can be seen below.
Chip Kelly did it. On the league's biggest weekly stage, against the archnemesis division champions, on the road, Chip Kelly's Eagles whipped Washington. That 33-27 final score masks a dominant performance in which Philadelphia had a win probability of 87 percent or higher from the moment it made it 19-7 onward. Washington came back because the Philadelphia defense played conservative zone coverage for most of the second half and the offense dumbed things down. It seems pretty likely that the Eagles didn't want to put anything else on film that they could unveil in future weeks while they were up multiple touchdowns.
That's not to say the offense Kelly ran or the performance the Eagles put together was perfect. In fact, Philadelphia might be even more menacing after fixing a number of notable flaws. Michael Vick played well enough, but he made a number of mistakes that highlighted his limitations as a quarterback and his inexperience in Kelly's system. Those flaws were masked by the constant focus on how fast the Eagles were going, which wasn't really the most notable, exciting thing about the Philly offense on Monday night. If you want to talk about what was truly breathtaking and game-changing on Monday, you shouldn't start with how fast the Eagles snapped the ball. In fact, Kelly said after the game that he genuinely thought the offense went relatively slow. Instead, you should start with how fast the Eagles were after they snapped the football.
Welcome to your new Thank You for Not Coaching Day. After finishing off the Monday-morning columns each week with TYFNC, it became popular enough that I'm moving it to Tuesdays and giving it some space to stretch out. Hopefully, that will mean more opportunities for insight and some examination of coaching strategies that actually worked. Thank You for Coaching, even. Thanks to those of you who sent in TYFNC scenarios this week, which you can do by tweeting at me with the hashtag #TYFNC.
So, last night was pretty cool, huh? I'll have a lot more to say about the Chip Kelly experience tomorrow, but let's start with that Eagles game and one of the many ways that Kelly put his offense in a position to succeed.
All day Monday, people were trying to prepare me for reality.
“You know they’re going to lose right?”
“You know they’re playing the Washington NFL team, not Washington State, right?”
“The Eagles might score 50, but the Redskins will score 52.”
"RG3 is back."
“Riley Cooper is going to run across the middle and four Redskins players are going to hit him in the spleen at once and he’s going to explode.”
“P.S. One of those Redskins players will be Cary Williams wearing a Washington uniform over his Philly uniform and then he will tear off the Washington uniform and scream, ‘Are you not entertained!?’”
“There’s no way this Chip Kelly offense is going to look like the football version of the light cycle race from Tron. Stop thinking in terms of Tron. This isn’t the 2010 Oregon Ducks and they aren’t being led by 2004 Michael Vick. You need to be realistic.”
I am an Eagles fan in 2013. I have no use for reality. Now lets go light cycle racing.
Bill Barnwell and Robert Mays continue their NFL Preview Podcast Series with the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins.
What's that? You were wondering exactly how many days until the start of the NFL season? Well, you're in luck! We here at the Triangle are set to spend the next few weeks providing a daily reason to get excited about pro football's return.
Two weeks! Two weeks. Somehow we've made it this far, and after swimming through an ocean of despair all summer long, professional football starts in just two weeks. The shore is officially in sight. Mays is busy today, so I'm taking over the Warning series for the afternoon. We need to talk about the Eagles.
It's hard to get all that excited about anything during the preseason. The games mean nothing. The players don't want to talk. The coaches speak in a special kind of clichéd gibberish that makes everyone dumber. And then most of the media updates from training camp look something like this: