What Would Buddy Do?
Iggles Blog vs BountyBowl Bye Week Blogganza (#4)
Posted on October 17th, 2008 at 4:32 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

In which I defend Darren Howard’s honor (sort of) and make a bunch of random predictions of my own.

The story of the film so far: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

*****

Oh my heavens!  I think we might need an intervention here.  I’d like all the Iggles Blog readers to note that Derek just said that he’s only been to two Eagles games!  (I mean, there are legitimate reasons for this, but still.)  I bet more than a few of the fans of Iggles Blog have season tickets.  This is your hint to send Derek an e-mail and invite him to a game.  Think of all the joy (and charts, and graphs, and lengthy defenses of Donovan McNabb) he’s brought you over the years — don’t you think you owe it to him to bring him to a game?

At the very least, the Birds organization should comp you as some sort of blogger outreach program.  (NOTE WELL anyone from Birds HQ who might be reading this: I would also like to come to more games!  Right here!  The Bounty!)

Cheers to the SAWX for their big comeback last night.  Though I can’t help but note that there really isn’t a good answer in re: which city the Phils face in the World Series — it’s essentially the two cities respsonsible for the Worst Eagles Experiences of the last decade (being, of course, the 2002 NFC Championship/ Final Game at the Vet and Super Bowl XXXIX).  Depending on your inclination with these things, it’s either a win-win or a lose-lose.  I’d like to suggest some sort of Flyers-esque “Vengeance Now” value prop for the local marketing efforts, but I think the Phils are a little too PG for that.

On to the football, first with some comments on your replies to my questions.

WHOA.  Damn skippy you need to be careful what you’re saying in re: Darren Howard!  It certainly isn’t outside the realm of possibility, but man, that’s quite a bit to suggest.  I mean, I obviously love an elaborate conspiracy theory as much as the next fellow, but the Occam’s Razor answer seems a bit more plausible; can’t we just assume he signed a big contract, loafed around and then finally got in shape when he was worried about his job?  I mean, that’s what I would have done….

But while we’re on the topic, were there ever rumblings when Dunavin showed up for work a couple years as Bulky Donovan?  Or was he just lifting too much?  I mean, McNabb is obviously a guy who’s going to need to be careful about the waistline once he’s done playing; maybe he’s just big-boned?  Also — and you’ll love this one — I’m sure you read the section in Pro Football Prospectus about how remarkably healthy the Cowboys have been over recent years…don’t tell me it didn’t lead you to wonder if there was a little something-something added to the salad bar at Valley Ranch.

Thus concludes the Unfounded Accusations portion of today’s post.

Also, you should really be more careful about what you say about David Akers.  You know he’s sitting on his couch right now sporting his fashionably rimless spectacles, catching up on Mad Men, and hitting F5 on Iggles Blog.  At the rate you’re going, you’ll never get another interview out of those Reebok people.

And now for your questions of me.

1.  Favorite / least favorite Eagles and why?  No cheating by picking old-timers, I’m talking current roster.

This is actually a pretty easy question.  It’s Sheldon Brown by about two touchdowns.  My reasons: (a) I’ve always had a fondness for big-hitting DBs, and he’s been the biggest-hitting DB for the past three seasons (with apologies to Dawk; the days of the Dawkplex are past); (b) he actually speaks honestly and intelligently to the press, and doesn’t appear to be completely full of sh*t — it’s like he skipped media training; (c) he plays every week.  That counts for a lot.  So yeah, I’m a big fan.  I’m actually staring at a framed copy of the SI cover photo of him drilling Reggie Bush (”Cardboard Box“) right now.

2.  Fill in the blanks: “The Phillies winning the World Series would feel like __________.  The Eagles winning the Super Bowl would feel like __________.”

You know, this is a really hard question to answer without sounding like a complete pervert, so apologies in advance for my answer (which draws upon the amount of time I spend on airplanes): “The Phillies winning the World Series would feel like getting a surprise upgrade to first class for a seventeen-hour flight to Australia. The Eagles winning the Super Bowl would feel like getting a surprise upgrade to my own private jet for a seventeen-hour flight to Australia, only we’re not going to Australia, we’re going to a special island in the South Pacific where cheesesteaks grow on trees, clothing has been outlawed, and I am about to be named emperor.”  (Too much?)

3.  You’re really not going to ask about Tony Hunt?

Okay, so tell me about Tony Hunt.  I just assume he’ll end up in Minnesota, right?  You can just ask him, right?  I assume he’s spending his time off chilling at your place?  He’s playing XBox right now?

4.  Over the past 10 months, the Eagles have been linked by rumor to approximately two dozen players not currently on their roster.  Of the guys who actually changed teams — yes, we all wanted Larry Fitzgerald — who are you most annoyed about not getting?  (NOTA is an acceptable answer if you show your work.)

Let me get the obvious and popular answers out the way first: the answer isn’t going to be a wideout, so we can cross off Randy Moss and Roy Williams.  My answer might have been different six months ago, but that was before young Master DeSean was dropped at our doorstep.  The Moss thing was especially tempting, more so than Roy Williams.  I’m just not as completely obsessed by this position as your average Birds fan.  I mean, I guess I could say Jared Allen because, well, he’s Jared Allen and it remains relatively difficult to find dominant defensive ends.  But I don’t know if that was actually ever in play.    (The Skins can have Jason Taylor, though.)

I actually would have been pretty psyched if the Birds could have nabbed Jeremy Shockey.  There.  I said it.  He’s better than L.J., and would have played like a complete psychopath against the Giants.  But my actual answer — and admittedly, this is very fresh — is Tony Gonzalez.  DOOOOOOOOOOOD.  That’s pretty much exactly what the Birds need.  A red-zone beast who’d be reinvigorated on a new team?  Plus he’s a veteran guy who’s a non-idiot and seems like he has the personality and temperament to handle the Illadelph?  Also, he comes with a lovely commitment partner.

Also it’s worth noting that I really like the guy they did get: Asante Samuel.  This is just the beginning of the Asante Samuel era in Philly.  This guy definitely counts as a playmaker, and he’s not going anywhere.  Seriously.  He’ll be a “real Eagle” soon enough.

5.  I cheated on your bonus question, but now I’m kind of interested in hearing your answer to it.  I’m rubber, you’re glue …

First off, I know I thought that the Eagles would lose to the Nerdbirds before the season began, but I herby update my opinion on this topic.  Seattle has to be the most disappointing team in the NFL right now.  The Eagles had better win that game.  Of course, none of us care about that because, well, no one cares about the Left Coast teams (nor should they — West Coast teams are, as well know, soft).    Let me throw a couple random ones out there:

a.  Shawn Andrews doesn’t play another game for the Eagles this year, and spends the off-season musing about retirement.

b.  Dallas misses the playoffs.  Wade Phillips is fired shortly thereafter.  Jason Garrett is named the head coach.  Wow.  That was awesome to type.

c.  Washington makes the playoffs.  I can’t believe I’m typing that, but playing solid defense and running the ball can get you pretty far in the NFL.  And for the life of me I’m not going to say nice things about the Giants.

d.  Brian Westbrook never really gets healthy and rushes for fewer than 900 yards on the season (he’s at 194 after six games, so I’m saying he doesn’t break 70 yards/ game over the remaining ten).

e.  Finally, at long last: Donovan McNabb starts 16 games, and, GASP, is welcomed back as the Eagles presumptive starter for 2009!

What say we to that?

Iggles Blog vs. BountyBowl Bye Week Blogganza (#2)
Posted on October 16th, 2008 at 3:07 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

So we’re rolling with another call-and-response dialectic with Derek at Iggles Blog.  He led off, and now I’ll attempt to provide some mildly witty/ interesting responses.  Game on! 

*****

Derek, Derek, Derek.  If our recent series of presidential debates have taught us anything, it’s that the form requires, no, demands that one ignore the first question and instead take 90 seconds to graciously welcome and thank everyone in attendance.  So screw whatever it is that nerd from PBS wanted to know about “economic policy,” I need to thank the janitorial staff here at Hofstra for doing such a nice job with the wastebasket in the green room.  The Philly sports blog equivalent is the following:

“Before we say another word about the Birds, CONGRATS TO THE PHIGHTINS!  The Phils are going to the World Series!  Our oft-jilted city is four wins away from a moment of great rejoicing!  Let us send each other celebratory text messages!”

(Seriously.  We couldn’t be more fired up about the Phils.  I’m not going to say that they’ll actually take over as the city’s number-one team, but, um, with the bye week looming, well, I assume we’re all going to enjoy an affair with the Phils.  Now I need to make my peace with the amount of money I’m going to throw at tickets.)

Aight.  Time for football.

First things first — the CamelCased one, young Master DeSean.  Two weeks ago, after seeing him in person, I decided to go all-in on DeSean.  I had tried to play it cool, act all cautiously optimistic about him, poo-poo his achievements by insisting that he was just a rookie, etc etc.  Nope.  I’m there.  I agree with you that he’s the most exciting thing to happen to the team since early 2005 (?); what I think you mean here is really “most exciting thing since #81 started doing sit-ups in the driveway”?

Certainly my newfound fondness for DeSean is not without its risks.  That is, said fondness hasn’t changed the fact that DeSean is still 168 pounds.  Seeing him get clotheslined in the second half against the Niners was particularly sobering; that’s the sort of hit that reminds us that small guys happen to get injured more frequently than more stout fellows.

All that said, WOW.  The speed is what the eye notices first, but I agree with you that he seems to get how to get open against zones.  And his hands have been fairly reliable (with some exceptions), especially for a rookie.  I’m actually at the point where I consider any play that involves DeSean to be “an excellent coaching decision” that demonstrates Andy Reid’s subtle and uniue genius.  As in, it is never a bad idea to give DeSean the ball.  For the past couple years, the only other person whose qualified for that sort of praise is Westbrook.  (The opposite of this would be any play involving Lorenzo Booker.)  So there we are.  Six games in, I’ve got him in the same category as the Best Running Back In the NFL in 2007.

DeSean also puts to rest one of the most boring Eagles memes of the past 8 years: The Eagles Need A Number-One Wideout ™.  Seriously.  It’s done.  And I don’t want to hear that he’s too small to be a Number-One guy.  Steve Smith is 5′9″ (though a fair amount heavier than Jackson).  It’s done.  DeSean Jackson is this team’s playmaker for the next 5-6 years (pending catastrophic injuries, of course).

This is part of the reason why I wasn’t particularly bothered by the Roy Williams (sub two) trade to the Cowboys.  We actually didn’t really need that as desperately as we all had thought in March, and we certainly didn’t need it at the price the Cowboys paid.  Cheers to Jerry Jones for making a potentially franchise-crippling trade for an admittedly mercurial guy.  Couldn’t happen to a better group of folks!

Now to your other points.  I’m not sure I totally understand your presumptive blame of the coaching staff for mistakes they might make in the future, but I’m definitely on board for “the rest of the league has film on Andy Reid and they pretty much know what’s coming.”  You know how I know that?  Because we all know what’s coming.  An incompletion on first down?  What do you think we’re doing on 2nd-and-ten?  I imagine we’ll hear Big Red describing how they’ve been self-scouting over the bye, looking for tendencies, blah blah blah.  I’m sure they will.  But will it be enough?  Or is the playbook just stale?

Things I do blame the coaches for: that horrific play at the goal line against the Skins.  There was confusion on the field?  Right.  That’s all on coaching (not just poor, predictable LJ Smith).  And of course the Dallas game.

Now it’s my turn.  The bye week is a good time to revisit old predictions and invent some new ones.  So what’s going to shock us over the second half of the season?  What’s shocked you in the first half?  If you’d prefer a bit more direction, a couple nominees:

1.  This Darren Howard fellow.  Do my eyes mistake me, or is Howard actually playing well right now?  Was this the guy we were supposed to see two years ago?

2. Your buddy David Akers.  I feel badly talking about it since he might actually read one of these things, but, um, things aren’t looking so good there.  Do you think that he’ll be the kicker at the end of the season?  Give me the scenarios that might put his job in jeopardy?

3.  Finally one of your favorites: do the Eagles have one of the best young linebacking corps in the NFL or are they still a player short at best?

4. Is the NFC East still the best division in football?

5. BONUS: give me something I don’t see coming but should, both for the Eagles and the rest of the division.

Bring it.

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. 

Birds cruise in unimaginably mellow season debut
Posted on September 7th, 2008 at 10:31 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

these guys are still open

Um, so that was pretty chill.

In a season debut that contained about eleven-and-a-half minutes of actual tension, the Eagles crushed the Rams to the tune of 38-3. Thirty-eight to three! This was a lovely afternoon — big win for the Birds, and minimal anxiety for the fan base. We have all week to debate whether this result was due to the Eagles’ sweetness or the Rams’ crapulence (I suspect the answer will contain “a little bit of both”), but for now, I’m just happy to have a spring in my step tomorrow morning.

A few random observations (note: contains very few complaints):

I guess we can’t complain about Dunavin not throwing the deep ball. Wow. I was just hoping for one or two shots down the field. McNabb was more than comfortable launching 25-yard patterns all afternoon — and it didn’t hurt that (a) the Rams got barely any pressure on him and (b) dudes seemed to be insanely open. Greg Lewis, Hank Baskett and Jason Avant remain Greg Lewis, Hank Baskett and Jason Avant, but I guess even second-tier pro wideouts can get it done if no one covers them.

The papers are gushing about DeSean Jackson; I’m cautiously opimistic. He certainly looks solid for a rookie, and 5 seems to like him a ton (sure saw a ton of balls on the opening drive, and wasn’t even open on the big gainer on said drive). I definitely think he counts as a weapon, and I’m psyched, but I’m not panting. That is, it wasn’t like Week One in 2004 when T.O. caught three TDs against the Giants; a certain degree of moistness remains absent. (All that said, keep it up kid!)

Cardboard box. I wasn’t sure if the Sheldon Brown hit had made youtube yet. Silly me!

Speaking of the defense, if I was nitpicking I’d complain that they didn’t score on their own. Could have been at least three picks out there, and the one Samuel dropped was a pick-six waiting to happen. I worried that the Eagles might struggle a little with Jackson around the edge. Not so much. Also, and maybe it was the reception on the television or something, but did Darren Howard have a big game? The Rams are going to struggle this year, aren’t they.

Shovel pass! How can defenders be surprised when they see the split-back set from the Eagles at the goal line? In this day and age! They have video recording equipment to capture game film, correct? They knew that it was coming, no? It’s just that they couldn’t stop it?

B-West with the fumbles? At least he had the good taste to fumble out of bounds the second time, but didn’t Westbrook fumble on two consecutive plays? Bizarre. And really, that might be the only legitimate complaint I can offer.

Pretty solid, all told. Pretty solid.

Go Birds.

We missed these two (but we really only want to see one of them back next year)
Posted on November 12th, 2007 at 12:27 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

those are some sweet tattoos
Big days today for two guys who’ve had pretty tough seasons to date, complete with adjectival monikers: (injury prone) L.J. Smith and (overpaid) Darren Howard.  

A stretch of a theory on L.J. Smith: because he’s been banged up and worries about his health might persist, (1) the Eagles will be able to re-sign him at a reasonable wage (as they will be in a better position to judge his actual health than any other club), and (2) this is a good thing because Smith is actually a good fit for the Birds and obviously made a difference for the offense today.

(Read the rest of this story.)