What Would Buddy Do?
Eagles - Giants Game Preview: It’s cold outside, and we wouldn’t have it any other way
Posted on January 11th, 2009 at 9:48 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Of course the Birds would have to play the Giants.  Of course.  As if it wasn’t offensive enough that the Giants won the Super Bowl last year, now they have a chance (a four-point chance at home with a bye week in the mix) to end the Eagles’ season.  It’s been a glorious and serendipitous couple weeks for the Eagles and their fans, but now we’ve to deal with the defending champs.  And I’ve signed up to watch it in person.

Certainly I can feel emboldened by our previous trip to the Meadowlands.  Sure, the intensity on the field and in the stands was different that day, and the Giants’ fans in our section were very polite (even before it was obvious that the Birds were beating them down), but that was definitely my best-ever Eagles experience in that stadium.

I do not expect a repeat of that experience today, either from the Eagles or the locals.    This is going to be as tough as it gets on the field and in the stands (I swear I’m not going to lose my temper if I absorb a snowball in the head — I will bend like the reed in the wind!).

But here’s the thing — can we ask for much more than this?  Even if the Eagles win, any matchup the following week will be a letdown.  The defending champs in rough conditions in their own soon-to-be-retired stadium?  With two of the best defensive teams in the league?  If the NFC East has its own set of Gods, surely they must be pleased by this offering.  As a fan, even if it doesn’t go our way, I consider myself lucky to have a seat for this one.

(At least that’s how I’m rationalizing it.  I’ll be a complete lunatic by kickoff I’m sure.  At least I can say I made a commercially reasonable effort to be an adult.)

What I’ll be shouting about:

I’m looking for someone to convince me that the Eagles will succeed on offense.  The weather is going to make it difficult to throw the ball effectively.  The offensive line didn’t get much of a push last week against the Vikings (though admittedly the Vikings are pretty tough against the run), the starting fullback (Buckhalter) weighs as much as I do (yikes!), and the starting running back continues to limp.  Can McNabb and the wideouts be strong enough — again — to move the chains?  That might be asking a lot.  I dunno.  It’s a bit disheartening.

Speaking of, Jon Runyan doesn’t look good.  And I don’t just mean because of his hirsute appearance or cretinous manner of discourse.  He didn’t move well against the Vikings last week, and I can’t imagine he’ll move any better in 28-degree weather.  But hey, he’s only facing Justin Tuck, that shouldn’t be a problem.  We can only assume that Runyan will have an ungodly cocktail of painkillers pumped into his bloodstream before the game and that he’ll hobble through it again.  Don’t worry, Jon.  Walking in your forties is completely overrated.

And then, the apocalypse scenario.  Runyan or one of the guards gets hurt.  Mike McGlynn is on IR.  Thus would Winston Justice enter the game.  That will be the point where my wife has permission to roofie me for the remainder of the game.

First tackle.  First foul.  First shot.  First goal (1).  So last week it was Brian Dawkins who established the appropriate level of violence with his brutal shot on Adrian Peterson.  Who’s going to step up with a big hit early this week?  Feels like it’s Sheldon Brown’s turn.

First tackle.  First foul.  First shot.  First goal (2).  Given my general level of concern about the offense’s ability to succeed against the Giants, it’s extremely important that the Eagles survive the inevitable rush of enthusiasm from New York in the first few minutes of the game.  Going down by more than 10 points in the first half could be deadly.

I wish I could be more excited about the special teams.  After the Minnesota game, I assumed that special teams would be an advantage for the Birds.  Then I remembered how David Akers is completely spooked by the Meadowlands and how multiple field goals were blocked.  Still, this will be the rookies’ place to shine today.  We’ve come to expect it from DeSean Jackson; wouldn’t it be lovely if we got something special from Demps?  The Giants struggle in their kickoff coverage — it could happen.

Things that do not worry me.  The Giants’ passing offense.  I imagine that the Eagles’ secondary thinks they can handle the Giants’ wideouts, and I imagine that they’d be correct.  And I’d also say I’m especially emboldened in this prediction after pulling my little stats in defense of Tavaris Jackson the other day.

Things that might worry us.  As well as the Eagles have defended the run over the past two months (really since the first Giants game), I still think they’ll have a tough time of it versus the G-Men today.  The Birds didn’t get a week off, and it’s cold outside — you can imagine them wearing down a bit.

Do we have bandwidth for one more superhero performance from 36?  It is unlikely that the Eagles will be able to win without a superhuman effort from the gimpy 36 Chambers of Brian Westbrook.  Westbrook had enough for the Eagles to win last week, but he didn’t look consistently strong throughout the game.  I can’t imagine that the Eagles win without Westbrook making at least one big play.  The nice thing about Westbrook is that he completely terrifies Giants fans.  In the parking lot a month ago, more than one person was still haunted by his punt return in 2003 — and then he goes and scores twice that afternoon.  Seriously, he has them spooked.  Also, if the wideouts don’t catch the ball, the Birds are cooked.

Hopefully they’ll score before they get to the 20.  Things haven’t looked so good in the red zone of late.  Huh.  Guess they’ll have to score from 21+ yards out!

Actual prediction.  Rational brain, you go away now, and stop reminding me how healthy the Giants are and how the Eagles have a pretty limited ceiling on offense, and how the conditions favor the rested, ball-control offense.  Instead, suggest that the Eagles’ defense really might be that good, and that Andy Reid and Jim Johnson are up to the challenge today.  I can’t imagine either team making it much past 20 points; let’s hope the Eagles are on the friendly side of that number.  Luckily, we can all rest assured that churches throughout the Delaware valley are filled with young men and boys ignoring a series of horrific wars around the globe and are silently praying for an Eagles victory.  And really, who are we to argue with the power of prayer?  Eagles 17, Giants 16.

GO BIRDS.

Make that extra gravy on mine: Eagles beat Vikings, advance to Divisional Playoffs
Posted on January 4th, 2009 at 9:45 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

Suh-weet.

Absent a complete meltdown next week against the Giants (something along the lines of what happened to Dallas last week), the 2008 Eagles season has brought me considerable happiness and I shall remember it fondly.  Sure, they snuck into the playoffs, but they won a post-season game.  Remember how hard it was to do that 20 years ago?  Now we’ve done it 7 of the last 9 years.  Can’t complain too much about that.  If making the playoffs was all gravy, then we all just got a second helping.  Yum.

In the short term, I’m just psyched to get another week of thick Eagles media coverage.  Lay it on thick, national media — there’s no end to the amount of Eagles content I can consume.

My quickie post-game thoughts (minimally ordered):

What a difference a year makes — Birds’ special teams play well.  Take a bow, Rory Segrest, because the Eagles were great on special teams.  David Akers was very sharp, the kickoff coverage was solid, and DeSean Jackson had a big day returning punts.  If I had any complaint about the special teams, it was a that a hyped-up Quintin Demps abandoned his typical just-go-straight return style on the opening kickoff and tried to run around the corner of the coverage.  Come on Quintin, only the other guy gets to do that.

Speaking of young Master DeSean.  Really nice game from the rookie in his playoff debut — he even blocked on the Westbrook TD.  Still, I wonder if he gets a special talking-to from Andy Reid about yapping in Brad Childress’ face after his second long punt return?  Maybe he was telling Childress to quit hassling Big Red about his figure?  Or to go easy on the vodka tonight?

The Vikings DEs came to play.  We’ll avoid the angle that notes that the Eagles’ aging tackles had a long day out there and instead focus on the excellent play of the Vikings’ two defensive ends, who consistently got pressure on McNabb and played the run well.  Those guys were impressive.

The jokes about Brad Childress being as clumsy with the clock management as Andy Reid.  Yeah, I guess that stuff is all true.  Huh.  Very comforting to see someone else screw up.

Our favorite camera angle.  Due to some tough field position for the Birds, we were treated to the back-of-the-end-zone punter cam for a couple Donovan McNabb throws.  Very very cool.  Also, unlike the Washington game, McNabb was great inside his ten.

Speaking of Donovan.  He was sharp today.  The turnovers were tough, especially the misguided/ I-think-I’m-tricky-like-Peyton-Manning pick, but he made some extremely tough throws on third down.

A new candidate for the single-best play of the season (which looks a lot like the single-best play of the 2007 season).  That screen pass was glorious.  Ten guys blocking, Westbrook making a huge play (after a pretty tough day to date), random offensive linemen being heroes (how about that Nick Cole with two big blocks AND a little hop over a defender), and even the wideouts helping him home.  Looked a lot like that play against Washington last year.

All Chris Clemons does is make internet video highlights.  Clemons was very good again this week, and managed to make the Youtube highlight reel by body-slamming Tavaris Jackson.  Already been posted.

Things that went as well as we could have hoped and with which we cannot argue.  Dawk dropping a signature welcome-to-the-playoffs hit on Peterson; Asante Samuel pulling the quick six; and the Eagles holding the Vikings under 17 points; the Eagles advancing to a game at the Meadowlands (which means I get to go).

Things that worry us.  The red-zone offense.  The inability to solve the Vikings defense in the first half.  The continued struggles running the ball (but at least they tried!).

Man, that was cool.

(Early line is Giants favored by 4.)

Birds’ Rookies Repruhzent in Training Match versus Ultimate Villains
Posted on August 23rd, 2008 at 2:38 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

see ya john lynch

Maybe I need to book more flights for Sundays in the fall. 

Whilst I’ve only seen the highlights on ESPN and the Birds’ site, and can’t entirely comment on what transpired last night, I certainly have seen enough to SHAVE MY HEAD, CALL MYSELF SPUDS AND AFFIX MY RUMP TO THE QUINTIN DEMPS AND DESEAN JACKSON BANDWAGON.

Care to join me? 

We hate overreacting to preseason games, but I’m going to argue that the two returns are actually legitimate cause for enthusiasm.  We can’t say that we’ve drafted the next Devin Hester, but we can say that we now seem to have two (2) dudes capable of NFL return touchdowns.  Preseason or not, long returns in the NFL are long returns in the NFL, and the only dude on the Birds who’s had that super power over the past couple years (and really, close to the last decade) is the guy whose protective bubble-wrap coccoon (and the better judgment of the coaching staff) disqualified him from the role.

The thing I liked about both returns was how simple they were; half a cut from both guys, and then zoom — up the field we go.  And they were both fast: rather than getting run down at the end of their runs, both dudes were pulling away Usain Bolt-style.  The Demps one even had the intergenerational angle of young safety Demps blazing away from old safety John Lynch (how did that poor bastard end up on the kickoff team?) — pictured above, thank you Eagles site.

(I wanted to use this photo, but BGN wisely beat me to the punch.)

Let us also note that both youngsters were appropriately cocky afterwars, with Jackson claiming that he was miffed that Demps returned one before he did (thus providing him with extra motivation…) and Demps noting that Stephen Gostkowski — whose tackle attempt Demps disregarded en route to the end zone — might need to hit the weight room (note that Gostkowski is actually listed at 6′1″ 210, so he’s not a Gramatica). 

Solid. 

Also, it wouldn’t be BountyBowl if we didn’t comment on Prince Jeffrey’s wardrobe — looking much better this time around with the open collar versus the Fake-Steve-Jobs mock turtle.  Nice work, Mr. Lurie.

looking good

   

Eagles - Panthers Slopfest Summary
Posted on August 15th, 2008 at 11:16 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

it almost looks like jackson might be blocking

While I was certainly thrilled to see some actual live Eagles football, I guess my biggest takeaway from last night’s game was “I am totally psyched that I didn’t pay full price to attend this.”  As if the part where it wasn’t an actual game wasn’t awkward enough, the rain delay added insult to injury.  Enjoy your soaking, we’re going to keep you crowded into the concourse for the next 45 minutes, concession stands will remain open, and you’ll be able to return to your soggy seat shortly.  Don’t worry, you should be home by one. 

Anyhoo, my takeaways (big and little) from last night:  

These guys are small.  Dude!  I knew Lorenzo Booker and DeSean Jackson weren’t the largest of fellows, but they looked freakin’ tiny out there.  Get these boys on the Michael Phelps diet STAT!  Seriously, at that size we can’t pretend that they’re going to make it through the full season upright, can we?  And it isn’t the height thing, it’s the mass issue.  Dude.    

In which we all towel off in re: the capabilities of Max-Jean Gilles.  While we remain hopeful about the progression of Gilles, he played like a very inexperienced guy last night.  The huge whiff on that screen pass block was kind of comical.  It almost happened in slow motion: “Come on, big fella, you’ve got him….OOHHHHHHH!”  Also, the penalties were pretty lame.  I guess better now than later.   

Sure they played well, but the Panthers’ offense looked bad.  The defense certainly looked competent, though the Panthers did the Birds the favor of running into the middle of the line (and avoiding the edge runs which had apparently vexed the defense against the Stillers) and not including Steve Smith in the festivities.  So it’s tough to get too too excited about what we saw on defense.  Also, though I’ve always had a soft spot for Jake Delhomme, I would not feel awesome about the QB situation in Carolina if I was a Panthers fan.  Lito’s pick was especially terrible — total floater.   Maybe it was the conditions, but he did not look sharp.     

Speaking of the defense, get ready for Stew Bradley in coverage.  Tip of the cap to the Panthers for a clever play call on the almost-touchdown to Mush.  They bunched the receivers in the slot and got Bradley on Mush.  Were it not for a vicious, completely out-of-line helmet-on-helmet collision between two veteran guys, we’d be talking a lot about Bradly chasing people in the middle of the field.    

That’s gotta be a fine, right?  After the hideous highlight against the Steelers, I’m glad Dawk got his groove back a little bit.  Still, that shot in the end zone has got to earn him a charitable donation from league HQ.  Too much, Dawk, too much.  We want you to last the whole season.     

An early 2006 vibe with the catching.  We hadn’t seen drops like that in a while.  Sure, it was wet, but a lot of those balls were there.  We can forgive a couple drops from Jackson (though we’d prefer less jumping and fluttering of the feet and more focus on “catching the ball”), but Curtis?  Baskett?  The ball from Kolb that hit Baskett in the f*cking face over the middle was not sweet.  Dunavin certainly wasn’t perfect last night, but a number of those balls should have been caught. 

Who really wanted to make the team last night.  Top of the list is Tony Hunt, who ran well, made a great catch on a poorly thrown screen pass from Kolb, and actually made some plays on special teams.  Adios, Ryan Moats!  Also, I had no idea who Fake Jeremiah Trotter was, but he definitely has to have played himself into practice squad consideration.   McDougle looks like he’s definitely making the team.  This was also the first I’d seen of Joe Mays.  More please. 

Who should feel very cold and lonely this morning.  Sean Considine running with the threes!  Yikes!  Also, as noted, Ryan Moats can probably go month-to-month on his lease at this point.   

And finally, the absolute low point of the game.  So we’d heard a lot about the investment in special teams in the offseason.  The Birds acknowledged the problem and tried to address it.  And, um, well, it doesn’t seem to be working.  Booker struggled to field kickoffs (nightmares of Green Bay running through our head), the fake field goal was completely hideous, and I have officially joined the “David Akers must go before he costs the Birds a divisional game” team.  The Birds are telling us that the coverage was good?  I guess so.  But it sure didn’t seem very organized out there.  I have to imagine that this is a Defcon Four situation at the NovaCare complex this morning. 

Still, it was cool to have football back.  Onwards!

Birds were ‘horrendous’ on special teams the past two years
Posted on July 29th, 2008 at 8:57 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

In the context of Igglesblog’s very excellent breakdown of the Birds’ special teams, it’s worth noting a  rare moment of candor for Andy Reid on Howard Eskin’s show yesterday.  While Big Red can occasionally be goaded into a firm evaluation of his team, it’s rare for him to use descriptors more elaborate than “not very good.”

But he let the guard down a bit in reference to the Eagles’ special teams over the past two seasons, describing them as ‘horrendous.’

Yikes!  Horrendous?  He never even called Freddie Mitchell horrendous.

Still, it’s evidence that these guys read Pro Football Prospectus too — and are at least aware that they need to address certain areas of deficiency on the roster.  (I’m filing this under “Reasons why Andy Reid isn’t as arrogant as everyone seems to think he is”).

Also, given that Joe Banner went and picked up a couple players to help on this front, I wouldn’t feel super-awesome about my job security if I was Rory Segrest.  The pieces are there; if the team continues to struggle, it’s gotta be on the coach.

Facci Sognare!
Posted on December 16th, 2007 at 1:49 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

dallas fans eat catsI really wish I was a little more excited about the game this afternoon. The Birds’ season is pretty much through, and I’m mostly concerned that the team has already quit — meaning that I’m going to watch them capitulate to the Cowboys this afternoon with little to no resistance.

That would not be sweet.

All I can think of as kickoff approaches is the opening lines from the very fabulous A Season With Verona by Tim Parks:

FACCI SOGNARE says the banner. Make us dream! Please!”

And really, that’s what I’m asking for this afternoon. I know there are no playoffs (much less a Super Bowl) in the Birds’ immediate future. I’m rational. That’s all done.

I just want something to get excited about. Something to convince me that these guys are worth rooting for and that next year might be better than this one. (Read the rest of this story.)

Semi-innovative and/ or hare-brained scheme for defeating (or at least covering against) Patriots
Posted on November 20th, 2007 at 9:22 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

perhaps we just make rocca inactive this weekSo I was browsing the comments on this week’s DVOA update on Football Outsiders when I saw a very intriguing proposal for how to play the Patriots:

To beat the Pats (or at least keep it competitive), why not go for the offensive version of the NHL trap? Assume NE is going to score a TD or at least a FG every drive. Play keep away as much as possible. No punting - play for all 4 downs. Keep the ball on the ground as much as possible. Run the clock down every snap. All you need is 2.5 yards a play to keep the drives alive. And if the run is working, some short passing routes will open up.

Whilst we’re sure this would never happen, given that the Birds are (GULP) 23-and-a-half-point underdogs on Sunday and it’s not clear that Dunavin is going to play anyway, I say we tip our caps to TMQ and just get after it.

The master plan: no punting.

Here’s why it’s not completely (that is, only partially) crazy:
(Read the rest of this story.)

Seeking special teams redemption, Andy Reid turns to Mormon Mafia
Posted on September 12th, 2007 at 2:49 am by Cheesesteak Hoagie

it beats working at chickie and petesAnd so it came to pass that EmbattledEaglesCoach Andy Reid, whose sons have recently fallen victim to wickedness and whose football team has recently fallen victim to being terrible at catching punts, has turned to the LDS Church for help in this time of need.

The Birds announced Tuesday that they had signed former Eagle Reno Mahe to handle the kick and punt return duties in the wake of Sunday’s game-changing muffs at Green Bay. They cut J.R. Reed to make space for Mahe, which is kind of a bummer since (1) I always had a soft spot for Reed and (2) there are now only 3 safeties on the roster. Greg Lewis survives. Comma. For now.

Mahe is pretty unremarkable as a return guy, but at least he catches the ball. And if there’s one thing that we know Andy Reid likes to turn to in times of need, it’s Mormons who can catch the ball (see also Curtis, Kevin and Lewis, Chad).

(Read the rest of this story.)

Gods exact minor revenge for 4th-and-26 with craptastic Eagles special teams performance
Posted on September 10th, 2007 at 5:52 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

and we will not be allowing this to happen againI’m actually pretty impressed by how easily I took yesterday’s COMPLETELY CRAPTASTIC AND SLOPPY LOSS to the Packers. I was really looking forward to Week 1, and it couldn’t have been more disappointing: my favorite team didn’t play well, and the game wasn’t really any fun to watch. And that isn’t because both defenses outplayed both offenses — good defense can be fun to watch when it’s hard-earned. But this was just sloppy up and down.

Still, I feel like the Eagles have been pretty blessed over the years w/r/t the Packers, and that eventually even luck reverts to the mean. Imagine the scenario if you’re a Packers fan: (Read the rest of this story.)

Be honest, you’re pulling for the goofy Aussie punter
Posted on August 7th, 2007 at 9:42 pm by Cheesesteak Hoagie

I see youMost years it’s pretty tough to get too fired up about training camp competition for the starting punter position. Not exactly a glamour spot on the roster.

This year’s a little different.

By bringing in ex-Aussie rules footballer Sav Rocca, the Birds haven’t just frightened Dirk Johnson — they’ve given us all an interesting option at punter. As a fan, I can’t say I pay a ton of attention to the punter, but I do like the idea of having an Aussie rules guy out there. “Australian punter” has become a pretty attractive football brand; it’s just a little tougher than your average punter, AND it comes with a funny accent.

Go get ‘em Sav. We’re all pulling for you to do something extremely crude and violent in your first preseason game — prove to us you want to get the uniform dirty. Also, it gives the local blathermonkeys a chance to trot out all their Australia material. And who doesn’t enjoy Australia jokes?

(All that said, I don’t think he makes the team. Sure he might kick it far, but if there’s even an incremental five percent chance that he gets one blocked — say, in a division game — then I want nothing to do with it.)

Link:
Rocca Already Off And Kickin [Delco Times]