What Would Buddy Do?
Eagles - Giants (Extended) Game Preview: Birds Salvation?
Posted on December 7th, 2008 at 10:06 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Well, it was kind of a disaster the last time I went to Giants stadium, both on the field and off.  The Eagles got clobbered, and my night may have included some unnecessary heroics.  Both the Eagles and I survived the evening, but only barely.  Thankfully, my then-fiancee was there to witness it, and she still married me.

(Winston Justice, never doubt the potential for forgiveness and redemption!  There’s hope for you yet!)

I wasn’t kidding when I dropped the Terminator jokes about the Giants this week.  That they played so well in the middle of all the nonsense last weekend was actually pretty unnerving.  Shouldn’t they have been at least a little bit distracted?  And to go on the road against a tough divisional team on Sean Taylor day, I mean, yikes.  THEY CANNOT BE REASONED WITH.  THEY DON’T FEEL PAIN.

(Speaking of Terminator, I hope everyone caught the new teaser trailer.  And that you’re enjoying The Sarah Connor Chronicles as much as I am, which is a lot.  If I have any complaint with the Terminator TV show, it’s that they’ve trivialized the act of killing a Terminator.  It used to take two full hours of feature film to kill a Terminator and entire city blocks were routinely destroyed in the process; now they kill one every other week on TV.  Anyhoo, no more killer-robot talk for now.)

If they actually show up and play well again this week, well then I think we can consider Tom Coughlin for Hank Paulson’s job.  It’s just very difficult to argue that Tom Coughlin isn’t doing the best coaching job in the NFL right now.  It’s impressive and commendable as a management exercise, and it’s not like I’m eager to say nice things about the Giants.  These guys are good.

Some talking points ahead of this afternoon’s game:

The 36 Chambers of B-West’s relative assessment of his health.  So early in the week Brian Westbrook was telling folks that this was the “best [he’d] felt” since the beginning of the year, but then he didn’t practice Thursday or Friday and was listed as questionable in the final injury report.  These two seem like contradictory conditions, unless you consider that “best [he’d] felt” means that Westbrook has been feeling “terrible” for most of the season and that the extra rest over Thanksgiving has given him the opportunity to feel “marginally better than he will for the next month of his life.”

The rest of the RBs.  No Buck, so the Birds will be one gimpy #36 ankle tweak away from Lorenzo Booker and Kyle Eckel gamely attempting to pick up Steve Spagnuolo’s blitzes.  I’m sure it’ll be fine.

Obligatory Plax impact.  Yup, Igglesblog had it right, it’s silly to pretend that the Giants won’t miss Plax.  Against some other teams, it’ll matter.  Against the Eagles, it shouldn’t, unless the Giants’ offensive line doesn’t play well.  That is, it makes sense that the Birds sell out against the run and hope their secondary can hang and Eli doesn’t have a big day in the cold and wind.  But I actually think that the Giants will still run well against a stacked Birds line.

That which I envy most about the Giants.  Having a dominant offensive line really does make a difference, doesn’t it.  Things that the Giants aren’t afraid to do include, but are not limited to, “running on third-and-1.”

That which I envy second most about the Giants.  It’s not that the Eagles are afraid to spend expensive draft picks on defensive linemen.  They just didn’t manage to pick Justin Tuck.  He’ll only be killing the Birds for the next five to six seasons.  While similarly branded, Victor Abiamiri and Trevor Laws aren’t quite the same thing (though both went higher in their respective drafts).

As dominant as the Giants’ defense is.  Huh, the Eagles actually have three more sacks than the Giants this year (the teams are 3 and 4 in the NFL rankings, respectively).  We’d all be very surprised if the Birds weren’t at least minorly successful against the Giants’ passing game.  I’m having happy flashbacks to the 2006 game at the Meadowlands that ended with Trent Cole returning a pick for a TD.  If nothing else, I expect we’ll be able to say nice things about the 2008 Eagles defense.

Do they show these ads everywhere?  The Eli Manning “Unstoppable” ones?  Please tell me I see these just because I live in New York.

Yup, I’m calling it the Meadowlands.  Doesn’t it seem like everyone’s a little slower on the Meadowlands’ turf?  Or do I just imagine too many late-season games when I think of the Meadowlands and everyone looks slower in the cold?

Guys I hope seem fast.  Wouldn’t it be lovely if young Master DeSean or Quintin Demps made a big play on special teams?  (I’m actually assuming that DeSean will be the Birds’ leading receiver tomorrow.  It’s his first time in New York — I think he appreciates the big stage.)

No one can say the Eagles aren’t getting their shot.  The season could end today at the Meadowlands.  Given that there are 3 games remaining, that would be, um, disappointing (though not entirely surprising).  Yet the Eagles probably won’t be the last team to have their season end on the road against the Giants.  Even if the Eagles explore the edges of quantum possibility and sneak into the playoffs, any significant success will involve a trip to the Meadowlands (yup, going to keep calling it that).  So today is as good a day as any to see if the Eagles are really anything more than last year’s 8-8 team (but with a better punt returner).

What I’m wearing.  20-30 mph winds at the stadium and temperatures in the 30s?  We’re going to need to layer.  Also, we’re going to hope that the Eagles don’t try to throw it 55 times.

End of the turnpike/ road.  We have to acknowledge that this is likely the last game that Donovan McNabb, Brian Dawkins, Jon Runyan, and Tra Thomas will play as Eagles at the Meadowlands.  It might be the last game that some of them play as an Eagle.  I’m happy to absorb some abuse in the stadium to see it live.

My predicted final score.  So I definitely like the Eagles to cover 7 points (if you’re interested in such things).  They got a couple extra days off, and this week’s events have to have some impact on the Giants, right?  But can the Eagles actually win?  I’m not convinced.  And I really really really wanted to be convinced.  There’s a best-case scenario where the Eagles bring everyone to the line of scrimmage and dare Eli to throw the ball against them in the wind and it somehow works.  The flip side of that scenario is that I don’t know how the Eagles are going to score in windy conditions either.  I just can’t believe that anything but the totally predictable will happen today.  That is, I can’t believe that the Eagles will stop the Giants from running and somehow manage to score a bunch of points on the Giants’ defense.  Final score: Giants 27, Eagles 21.

Off to Jersey and the ancestral homeland.  Go Birds.

Eagles - Niners Preview: what horrors await?
Posted on October 12th, 2008 at 12:07 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

So that makes two weeks in a row of abject horror and frustration for Eagles’ fans.  The last two games, both tough losses, haven’t exactly been delightful samples of NFL entertainment.  We’ve watched our favorite team make crucial mistakes and get pushed around by decent-but-not-great opponents.  We rationalized the loss in week 2 to the Cowboys because we talked ourselves into the Cowboys being sooooo good.  We’re now out of excuses on that front.  The Birds are now in a position where they have to convince us that they are slightly better than mediocre.  And even that is unlikely to be settled this week.

Whatever anxiety you might feel as an Eagles’ fan today, don’t for a second think there’s a scenario where you feel significantly better at 8 pm this evening.  That is, even if the Eagles do emphatically win on the road, what do we know?  That the Eagles can triumph against another middle-of-the-road team?  Super.  Then we have two weeks to think about being 3-3 in the toughest division in the NFL.  And if they lose, well, time to dust off the Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid eulogies.

This is all a long way of saying that very little will be awesome this afternoon or for the next two weeks, and there’s the possibility that things could be really really awful for Eagles fans.  It’s the Kobiyashi Maru.

Everyone got that?  Sound sweet?  Negadelphia eanough for you?  Okay, on to things that’ll make me shout at the TV this afternoon:

What I imagine the Niners will be up to.  On offense?  How about Frank Gore off tackle left.  Followed by Frank Gore off tackle right.  Followed by Frank Gore off tackle left.  Lather rinse repeat.  The Eagles got downright pushed around last week, especially to the outside in the running game.  I imagine that the Niners will try to challenge the Eagles in a similar way.  And man do I hope that the Birds are up to stopping them.

What I hope the Eagles will be up to.  Throw it to number 10.  Run it with number 10.  Get him deep.  Run wide-receiver screens.  I’m shocked that a rookie is far and away the Birds’ most threatening player at this point, but he is.  And he’s got a bit of a homecoming thing happening here (played college ball across the bay) — let him show the locals that he’s a baller.  Sure, he might do something stupid, but that’s the rookie tax, and given the dearth of actual playmakers who made the trip, I think we’re all willing to pay it.

25?  Have a seat next to 37.  Fingers crossed that the Klecko-to-fullback move actually means Hunt-to-tailback which actually means Booker-to-bench.  Booker isn’t a lost cause quite yet, but it’s too early to expect much from him.  We’ll all feel better (especially 5) if he doesn’t see too many snaps.

Will Curtis play?  I would assume Curtis’ participation will be similar to Reggie Brown’s first week back — he’ll be out there, might see a ball or two, but we can’t expect fireworks.  Now’s definitely the moment to snag him in your imaginary football leagues though.

Does LJ read PFT?  So the Birds are interested in Tony Gonzalez?  How you feeling about that contract extension, LJ?

The defense is officially on the hook this week.  Shame on us all for focusing on the offense this week.  The Birds need their defense to play well if they’re going to win against the Niners.  We should assume a mediocre showing from the offense — they’re missing a bunch of starters.  The defense?  Nope.  They look pretty healthy.  This team needs help, and the defense was humiliated by the Redskins last week.   Sooo, Trent Cole, Asante Samuel, and other defensive players whose jerseys get sold?  Time to participate in the culture of accountability!

Obligatory David Akers non-excuse.  Dude, we do NOT want to hear about how windy it is out in San Francisco.  Seriously.  I’m mentioning this in advance.

A humble request.  Can the kickoff return team make a play?  Being in the stadium last week I finally got to see what the return team was up to, and it wasn’t very impressive.  Blocking was beat, and Demps seemed content to barrel into the back of the pile.  It’d be nice to start a drive beyond the 25-yard line.

And the score?  I’m a sucker.  A total sucker.  I actually believe that the Eagles can tough this out.  I think they’ll need some sort of Donovan McNabb scramble on a big play in the fourth quarter to seal it, but I think they get it done (ever so barely): Eagles 26, 49ers 22.

Go Birds.

So it’s pretty much last year’s team, but with a better punt returner
Posted on October 5th, 2008 at 10:06 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Eagles - Redskins at the Linc, 2008

Oooooooooooooh man, this one sucked.  Sucked.  SUCKED.  (And now, the coup de grace, caps AND bold): SUCKED.

I guess I had gotten suckered into thinking that the 2008 Eagles were not blood relations of the 2007 Eagles, and that somehow all those “mistake-ridden” and “unlucky” losses from last year were all just accidents and aberrations.  Not this year, I thought.  This year they’re going to be a bit better organized and focused, and we’ll actually win some close games.  The Pittsburgh game definitely sold me a bit.

But after two weeks in a row that looked a lot like the team from last year — I mean, I guess we’ll need to make our peace with that.  So they’ll be in most games, but don’t expect too many dominant performances, and they’re likely to clumsily bungle a few along the way.

Anyway, one might imagine that this wasn’t the most exciting game to attend. The beginning was excellent, and then it was about two-and-a-half hours of “frustrating dull.”

What I saw:

DeSean Jackson should get the ball more.  After seeing him run in the context of the whole field, I’m actually thinking that Jackson might be a little underhyped?  Is that possible?  He’s a legitimate offensive threat out there.  The I’m-still-in-college-and-faster-than-everyone thing on the punt return was spectacular; the guys in pursuit completely misjudged their ability to catch up to him.  I dunno.  This guy has a chance to to make a lot of plays for the Eagles.  No reason he shouldn’t touch it more.

Why the Eagles lost.  I mean, whatever else might be said, the Eagles sure looked like they got pushed aroundat the line of scrimmage.  Their offensive line definitely exerted their will on our guys, and while their defensive line wasn’t really dominant, they still prevented the Eagles from running at all.  It was a little humiliating to watch: kind of slow and steady and maddening to the point where you begin to doubt your own sanity.  Like listening to someone defend Sarah Palin and telling you that no, YOU’RE the one who’s out of touch!  (”BountyBowl: Now With Sarah Palin Jokes!”)

To whom the assembled peoples assigned blame.  Pretty straightforward here — lots of “I hate you you [insert profanity-laden description of obesity] [object of derision]” for Andy Reid.  I guess it can’t always be McNabb’s fault, and it’s tough to get specifically angry at the defensive line.  The peoples were definitely restless about Reid.

The Redskins played really well.  Didn’t turn it over, played very simple football and beat the Eagles up at the line of scrimmage.  Yeah, you can win with that in the NFL.  All credit to them — they aren’t flashily talented, but they looked very well-coached and they kept their heads on, even when they went down early.  Campbell was very solid.  And Portis was a beast.  I dunno.   If there’s a slouch in the NFC East, it’s definitely the Birds.

And some randoms. oh, the indignity of James Thrash drawing a penalty on Asante Samuel!  David Akers has got to be bummed about missing three kicks over the past two weeks.  Reggie Brown had a decent game, but also contributed to the drops, and the drops were not so impressive.  The Red Zone offense doesn’t look “fixed.”  Juqua Parker was solid again.

Let’s Go Phillies.  Definitely plenty of gear at the stadium (the default tasteful demonstration of extended loyalties seemed to be the Eagles jersey with Phils hat), sure, but I was amazed by an actual “Let’s Go Phillies” cheer early in the game.  Definitely a lot of love at the Linc for the Phils.  They didn’t go overboard with the score updates, but each one was enthusiastically welcomed.

So yeah, kind of a crap day, save for the part where the Phillies made the NLCS, and also the part where I got to eat this totally sweet sandwich.  (But mostly it was beat.)

Eagles-Redskins at the Linc 025

And here I thought we might make it to October without a craptastic loss
Posted on September 29th, 2008 at 12:17 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

about to break off the pattern

On a weekend that the Phils clinched their second straight NL East championship, we didn’t really think that we’d be twice blessed with an Eagles victory on the road, did we? Without Brian Westbrook?

Despite the text messges I received upon landing in the Pacific Northwest last night (”Don’t even bother watching the game”), I plowed through the tape of the game, and the Birds weren’t terrible. The defense, in fact, was excellent in the second half. McNabb was fine — not great, but certainly on his game. But you pile up a couple injuries and stumble on a couple important plays and voila! You lose to the Bears!

(I hate to admit it, but I was a little Nancy Negative ahead of this game, and it looks like my anxieties weren’t completely unfounded.  SIGH.)

The thing is, most NFL games are close, and you have to expect to lose a couple close games each year. Last year’s team probably lost about 1.5 more close games than the league average (Packers, Bears, Seahawks and second Giants game come to mind); previous years’ teams lost fewer of the close ones. We’d like to believe that the Eagles are so formidable that they won’t even be in very many close games, but that’s just not true. They blew a close one last night; let’s hope that the next couple break their way.

My observations upon viewing last night/ this morning on my PC screen via Slingbox:

The Birds need some sort of Team-minus-36 plan.  This will be the most obvious and pedestrian thing I write all week, but man, it sure does look different without the 36 Chambers of Brian Westbrook out there.  Andy Reid needs to start working on the binder of plays for when they don’t have the best back in football on the field.  Cause it doesn’t seem like he tends to have very many good ideas.  Also, they miss Westbrook in a ton of ways – not just running the ball and scaring people with his placement in the formation, but the blitz pickups and blocking as well.  Buck whiffed a bit last night on those.  We won’t talk about Booker, other than to say….

…Booker isn’t there yet.  Seems like a decent situational/ once-in-a-while substitute, but this guy is not serviceable as a first-down back in the NFL.  And suddenly we’re a bit thin at that position.  The portions of the second half when Buck was out were horrfying.  Horrifying. 

We’ve found the weakest link.  Another solid game from the young linebackers.  Gocong even got into it a bit more this week (good for him on the sack), though I think Gocong might be sticking out on film as the “one you can beat if you want to” — that first touchdown was on him, and looked pretty similar to the Marion Barber TD catch from two weeks ago. 

Question I’d like someone to answer.  I’m wagering against the Eagles in prime time games until further notice.  I’m desperate to be disproven on this, but they’ve just been awful in night games for too long now.  Is there some sort of Kerry Collins-on-the-sauce-with-the-Giants thing at play here?  (My theory on Kerry Collins on Sunday night games with the Giants was that since it was a night game he’d clear himself to have a few extra drinks on Saturday — since the game wasn’t until later and he wouldn’t have to get up early — and this would inevitably snowball and leave him in terrible shape for the whole day Sunday.  Yeah, you’ll see me in hell for that one.)

And suddenly DeSean Jackson is our best offensive player?  I mean, that was it, right?  No B-West and suddenly Jackson is the number-one option?  Is that really the deal at this point?  Nice to see Reggie Brown catch some balls last night, though.  He looks like he’s getting back up to speed, and he’s had some great games against the Skins in the past – they’ll need that Sunday.

Marvels on the defensive line.  Someone who actually knows something about football needs to explain to me how a little dude (all characterizations relative, of course) like Dan Klecko keeps getting to the quarterback (and why Broderick Bunkley can’t).  I could not have been more wrong about Dan Klecko all summer.  And he keeps making plays.  Remarkable.  Also, at what point can we admit that Juqua Parker is playing really well and isn’t some sort of undersized liability? 

I agree with Les.  Should have used Dunavin down on the goal line.  He’s the most gifted guy on the field.  Let him win it for you.

Don’t discount the other injuries.  The running game missed Westbrook, obviously, but it also missed The Big Kid and L.J. Smith (editor’s note: we’re about 3 mm away from affixing “much maligned” to the front of L.J.’s name in the Word Press templates).  Probably wouldn’t have hated having those guys out there for the goal-line offense.  Ultimately, the offense probably looked crappy because it was missing four ostensible starters — and that was before Buck got dinged up.

Yeah, this one sooked.  The B-West injury watch vigil will continue all week ahead of a tough division game against a confident Redskins team.  Yikes!  On the upside, I bought myself some tickets to that one and will get to see it firsthand.  


Creepy Symmetries
Posted on September 28th, 2008 at 12:42 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

For the avoidance of doubt, the Eagles played on Sunday night in Week Four last year against a good defensive team on the road without the services of Brian Westbrook and one of their best offensive linemen (Tra Thomas).  Yeah.  That one sooked, and not just because (a) I had to watch it in person and (b) it was the effing Giants (on which my feelings are well documented).

I want to believe that tonight’s going to be different, and it should be: Donovan McNabb is acres healthier and more confident than he was at this point last year, and the Birds’ defense is playing with a ton of swagger.  But the Bears are no joke, at least on defense.  A vengeful Brian Griese may have lit up the Bears’ secondary (oh, the irony!), but the Bucs were completely useless running the ball (I know this mostly because I started Earnest Graham in one of my imaginary football leagues).  From the volume of third-person self references coming out of Tommie Harris, we should expect a similar performance this week.

I have visions of a lot of stalled dink-and-dunk offense from the Birds, nervous stops from the defense, and a game that isn’t decided until late in the fourth quarter.  I think the Birds win because the Eagles’ defense is feeling strong and because Donovan McNabb doesn’t like to lose in his home town, but I think it’ll be a hassle all the way.  Let’s call it 23-17 Birds.

(Also, really nice Fog Bowl segment on the ESPN pre-game show this morning.  No buddy interview, though.  SIGH.)

Sean Considine finds new role; status of oven mitts unclear
Posted on September 26th, 2008 at 10:51 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

look at dem mitts

A week after a cringe-worthy performance in Texas Stadium (one that earned the scorn of low-traffic Eagles blogs everywhere!), it seems that Jim Johnson got the memo on Sean Considine and kept him on the bench for most of the game against the Steelers.   Might this have been the end for Considine in the Illadelph?  Not quite so fast; in fact, he’s one of at least three people on the Eagles who’s contributed to helping Asante Samuel stand in the right place on defense:

Now he’s finding his way in the Eagles’ secondary - a process that will continue Sunday night against the Chicago Bears - with assistance from teammates Brian Dawkins, Quintin Mikell and Sean Considine, all safeties.

“Those guys,” Samuel said, “have been a great help to me - actually communicating with me, helping me understand the defense and giving me the calls so I can be playing the right plays. Without them, I don’t know where I’d be. I’d probably be a little lost.”

See!  We do need Sean Considine on the team — just think what might happen if he weren’t around and Dawk and Mikell forgot to tell Asante where to stand!  What then!?!?!?!?

No word on whether the oven mitt (pictured above) has been instructional for Samuel as well.   

Birds outshove Steelers, make Ed Rendell smile
Posted on September 21st, 2008 at 9:14 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

In the game that was the inverse of last Monday’s shootout against Dallas, the Eagles roughed up the Steelers in a tough-ass defensive struggle, 15-6. 

Quick-hit reactions to a very satisfying TV show:    

Jim Johnson and the defensive front, take a bow.  Six days after giving up 34 points (I won’t blame them for the special teams TD), the Birds’ defense channeled the 1991 Eagles and just humiliated the Steelers.  The ball was snapped, and the line immediately moved two yards backward on pretty much every down.  It seemed like the Steelers gave up running the ball pretty early, and stubbornly instructed Roethlisberger to try to throw the ball.  Nope.  It wasn’t just a couple plays worth of pressure, it was pressure on every single down.  Darren Howard, Juqua Parker and Trent Cole were monsters.  The body language from the Steelers’ receivers was the most telling part — you could tell they were sick of running routes and not even having the ball come out.  Jim Johnson and the defense have officially made it up to us for the Dallas game.

Speaking of making it up to us after the Dallas game.  I guess the Dawkins retirement can wait another week.  His pterodactyl Makhtar (Editor’s note: Makhtar is a slang term used to describe the act of violently smacking an object out of another’s hand; derived from Makhtar N’Diaye and his proclivity for clumsy fouls) on Big Ben was the best Eagles’ play of the season so far. 

$57 million seemed like a lot, but, well, we like interceptions.  Asante Samuel is definitely earning it after three weeks.  I’ll argue that he’s actually been a little lost in the media shuffle so far, and that he’d definitely be a big story in most other towns, but given the unique, ahem, landscape of storylines amongst the local blathertariat, he’s gotten off pretty easy.  I can’t say I’m anything but impressed by this guy. 

I don’t think I’ve ever been that excited about the punter.  Get ready for a week of “This is the week it clicked for Sav Rocca” though he’s been pretty good so far this season.  He absolutely made a difference today. 

And suddenly it’s the third quarter of a preseason game.  When Kolb checked in with Buckhalter and Booker in the backfield and Baskett and Avant split wide, well, it got pretty chill in my apartment.  It got a little warmer when McNabb checked back in, but even that was an Eagles team without its starting backfield, Pro Bowl guard and presumptive top wideout.  Yikes.

Booker is a liability in pass defense.  Booker whiffed horribly on the McNabb pick, kind of fell down in the act of not even getting a finger on the blitzer.  Not so impressive.  Westbrook and Buckhalter don’t miss like that.    

Think happy thoughts. Let’s pretend the 36 Chambers of Brian Westbrook isn’t actually hurt and will be back at practice on Wednesday.  Somewhere GCobb is working on a blog post about how Westbrook can’t stay healthy. 

Also, The NFC East still hasn’t lost a game to anyone but an NFC East team.  Though I hope the Cowboys lose in a barrage of injuries to fix that.  Obviously.

Great game.  Go Birds. 

Eagles - Steelers Preview: Ed Rendell looking to rebound
Posted on September 21st, 2008 at 12:22 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

vote for hil

Ed Rendell backed the wrong horse in the Democratic primary; let’s hope he has slightly better luck this afternoon.  What I’ll be shouting at the television about:

Ralph Wiggum lost his shin guard! Hack the bone!  Far be it from me to suggest anything untoward, but it’d be nice if the Eagles could get some pressure on Big Ben early in the game and maybe even hit him a little bit.  Let’s see how that shoulder’s doing.  The Steelers gave up a ton of sacks last year (only two fewer than the Birds) and it’d be nice if the defensive front could rebound from a pretty dull performance on Monday.  A sack from the defensive tackles would have me extra giddy here.

My least favorite NFL Player?  There’s just something in the physical manner of that Hines Ward gentleman that really ruffles my feathers.  There’s always an extra bit of taunting from Ward, though for some reason the blathermonkeys freakin love the guy (mostly this means John Madden).  Expect some exceptionally creative and loud swearing from me if Ward gets in the end zone.       

Another test for the linebackers.  I’m going to be anxious all afternoon about how the Eagles’ linebackers will handle runs to the outside and the short passing game.  I’m feeling bullish on the Birds’ ability to stop the interior running game, but I’m more worried about the fast parts of Fast Willie Parker on the outside.

Absolute terror in re: the offensive line.  Not only is Shawn Andrews out this week, but Jamaal Jackson dealt with some horrific family stuff and the entire left side of the line headed to Miami to support Jackson at the end of the week.  This either leads to an “inspirational performance” or “high levels of disorganization against a clever defensive scheme.”  Hmmm.

More vertical passing.  I cannot get enough of the way that the Eagles are throwing the ball right now.  No dink-and-dunk crap — they’re running 15-20-yard patterns and the ball is flying down the field.  This is definitely the big-boy passing game, available only to those teams with Howitzer-armed quarterbacks.  And I think that the return of Reggie Brown only makes that passing game more dangerous.  Certainly the success throwing the ball has silenced the Run-The-Ball-Andy meme in Philly. 

Quintin Demps watch.  Whether it be as a replacement for Sean Considine or in the kickoff return game, few things would get me more fired up than more big plays from the rookies.  Same deal for Trevor Laws.

I know this sounds crazy, but.  Doesn’t it seem like the 36 Chambers of Brian Westbrook hasn’t really blown up on someone yet?  We haven’t seen enough magic tricks from Westbrook quite yet (though he’s obviously been quite excellent).     

Checking in on B-Dawk.  Remember the awkward play against Santonio Holmes in the preseason game that started the “Dawkins is done” whisper campaign?  Right.  It’s week 3, and the volume of chitchat is only increasing.  It’d be nice to see Dawkins make a play or two this afternoon. 

I’m planning to head to the Town Tavern for the game this afternoon — looking forward to a great day of football. 

Go Birds.

Birds fall to Cowboys in a close one, deny me decent night of sleep
Posted on September 16th, 2008 at 8:46 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie


I wish I could pretend that I didn’t watch this one pretty much live. I really do. This was going to be a real turning point for me, maturity wise. I would be able to wait and watch it at a normal hour like a regular human being.

Yeah, not so much.

In retrospect, I think the problem was that I wasn’t completely asleep at kickoff. I needed to be unconscious when it started, otherwise I was going to get sucked into it and end up watching the whole freakin thing, compromising the better part of a night of sleep in the process. Of course, it didn’t help my cause that the game was ridiculously exciting. Sigh. I’ll just be paying for it all day. Should be a hoot!

My takeaways:

McNabb dusted off his mask and cape. For a guy who claimed his days of 14-second scrambles were behind him, it sure did look like Donovan McNabb wasn’t above the occasional superhero stunt last night. It wasn’t just the brave scrambling within the pocket, it was his willingness to absorb some pretty vicious shots (especially that scramble inside the Cowboys’ 10 near the end of the first half) that was most impressive. Sure seemed like this was a veteran guy making it clear that he was playing for keeps last night. Also, aren’t we Philly fans supposed to respond to that gritty “leave it all on the field” stuff? Or will we nitpick because it’s Dunavin?

Speaking of masks and capes. I know we already knew this, but that DeMarcus Ware – yikes! I wish the Eagles had one of those. That he still had the motor to bring McNabb down on that third-down play at the end of the game was keenly impressive. That’s the kind of dude/ play that wins games.

The Big Kid was already looking forward to that turkey burger. Obviously it has to hurt the team to lose a player like Shawn Andrews, especially against a defensive front like the Cowboys have. But the unaided eye certainly must have noticed a couple whiffs from Andrews early in the game. I don’t think the tape is going to be very kind on that front.

Tell the whipping boy that his flogging post is ready. On a night where the secondary seemed to underperform across the board, Sean Considine looked especially useless – not just in coverage but on the second long kick return as well. I guess it doesn’t help that the Eagles weren’t getting much of a pass rush put together, but I thought the Eagles had three starting cornerbacks? I thought one of them might be able to cover that fellow, what’s his name, rather spirited young man, what is it again? Also, was Romo even looking for the other Dallas wideouts?

The broader point in re: the above. The defense looked pretty vulnerable last night. They didn’t get to Romo at all, to the point of frustration, because every time they did bring a little pressure, Romo seemed to falter a bit. Sitting back in coverage was not the answer in the passing game. File that away for December.

It was the facemask we didn’t see. Apart from the Cowboys’ efforts to twist Brian Westbrook’s head clean off (some of which were called, some of which weren’t), did ESPN ever show a replay of the apparent facemask on Asante Samuel on his runback after the pick? Or was there no time for that amidst all the blathering from the booth?

Speaking of blathering. I’m a longtime PTI fanboy, but Kornheiser was especially awful in the booth last night. As the game went on, he went from extraneous to intrusive to downright irritating. It’s nice having Jaws in there, but even that was tempered by a limit to my passion for discussions of quarterback mechanics…in the National Football League.

And one last thing. The hook and ladder and ladder? Seriously? The Birds don’t have any 20-yard plays? What happened to that 4th-and-26 fighting spirit?

I’m shocked that I’m not more bummed out this morning. I was bummed last night, but beyond my dream of an undefeated season, the long-term damage from last night feels minimal. Mostly I’m more convinced than I was the week before that the Birds can be pretty legit this year.

And that’s not so bad.

I guess nobody wants to wear 78 (must be a fat-guy number)
Posted on September 3rd, 2008 at 12:20 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

we miss ya big guy

So for the second time in two years, a young Eagles defensive lineman has eschewed the number 78 in favor of more fashionable digits in the nineties. Last year it was Broderick Bunkley upgrading from 78 to 97, this year it’s Victor Abiamiri ditching 78 and pouncing on Jerome McDougle’s recently vacated 95 (while its corpse was still warm!).

Why no love for 78? Are the numbers in the seventies seen as a little too offensive line? Do young defensive linemen want to awaken the ghosts of the ‘91 Eagles (save for Mike Pitts, of course) and go for the numbers in the nineties?

Or is it just that nobody wore number 78 quite like Hollis Thomas, and it’s just pointless to attempt to outdo him in the 78 shirt?  And by “outdo him,” I mean, “Dwarf the actual digits on the jersey via a voluminous midsection that can only lead one to believe that an Eagles head coaching job might loom in your future.”

(Note that we’ll always remember Hollis fondly as an Eagle — especially the stop inside the five-yard line in the NFC Championship on Michael Vick.  Pretty cool that the big fella didn’t let Vick scoot past him into the end zone; that was a big play.)

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