Tuesday, August 19, 2014, 2:01pm
A tight end has to have a total skill set in this offense. And the Eagles have three of them and the coaching has taken the best of what each player does to create a promising symmetry that is as central to the scheme as any personnel grouping.
Brent Celek is the veteran force, the ultra-tough guy who someday will go down as one of the best in franchise history. He's worked so hard over the years to make himself a strong blocker to help in the running game and in pass protection, and at the same time continues to find cracks and crevices in defensive coverage to make himself a reliable target for quarterback Nick Foles.
Of the three, Celek is the most "traditional" tight end for a position that has morphed over the years. Today's tight end is more defined as a receiver proportioned to tower over defensive backs and to run past linebackers. Celek is 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds and he is still capable of big gains, but in his eighth season Celek is properly called a "move-the-chains pass catcher."
The Birds also have Zach Ertz and James Casey. Casey was mostly invisible last season and will still be behind Celek and Ertz this year. While Ertz is getting most of the attention in terms of fantasy value, Celek can't be forgotten and it's very possible he continues to be a factor in the offense. This could limit Ertz's potential again this year. But Ertz has six catches for 86 yards so far in preseason games and still looks poised to have a big year. Of the two, Ertz is the guy to target, at least leading into the season
Saturday, August 16, 2014, 11:19am
Foles, coming off his two-interception preseason debut last Friday against the Bears, bounced back from his spotty performance and returned to Folesian form Friday night in New England.
“Yeah, I thought he bounced back,” head coach Chip Kelly said. “Unfortunately the first play of the game, we fumbled and couldn’t get them (the Pats' offense) off the field, so it took a while to get back into rhythm. I thought when he got back out there, I was pleased with how he performed and how he moved those guys down the field a little bit.”
Despite having his two top receivers sidelined, Foles completed 8 of 10 passes for 81 yards and tossed a touchdown in his four total series (see 10 observations). He compiled a passer rating of 133.8.
Foles looked great all week in team drills against New England and in limited time thanks to turnovers, turned in another good performance. We've seen him bounce back before, like last year in a brutal game against the Cowboys, he was fantastic the rest of the season. He continues to be a middle round target for those who wait at QB.
Foles had his best showing of training camp against the Patriots' first-team defense on Tuesday, tossing three touchdowns and not throwing a single interception. The lights-out showing in practice came five days after he threw two interceptions in nine passes against the Chicago Bears.
"I moved on from the (Chicago) game," Foles said after practice. "I had to."
Foles had a number of impressive throws against the Patriots, with the highlight of the day being a 40-plus yard touchdown pass to receiver Jeremy Maclin over cornerback Darrelle Revis. Foles first pump-faked to his left, before coming back and hitting Maclin in stride in the corner of the end zone. It's a good sign he bounced back from the team's first preseason game where he threw two interceptions after having just two all of last season.
Saturday, August 9, 2014, 11:34am
Wide receiver Ifeanyi Momah went from a dazzling combination of size and speed to Training Camp afterthought to unemployed, all in his first stint with the Eagles last summer. Re-signed in the offseason, Momah has looked to be a completely different player this summer than the raw, and sometimes rusty, receiver he was last year.
As a result, the 6-foot-7 receiver got the nod to start with Riley Cooper and Jeff Maehl sidelined Friday night. And, of course, Momah would have his number called on the very first play from scrimmage, hauling in a 12-yard pass from Nick Foles.
“It was awesome,” Momah said. “It was a good experience. Obviously a lot to learn from. I didn’t want to go in with any nerves or make any mistakes and I think I did decent for the first game. But it was exciting. Keep fighting, keep getting better and try to make this team this year.”
Momah caught two passes for 15 yards on the night, but the difference between the two years was apparent. What exactly, though, are the differences between 2013 Momah and the current version who was trusted with a starting gig?
Momah is much more confident this year but is still a work in progress. He's got great size but likely won't be a fantasy option again this season. But the Birds continue to work with him and see potential.
Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill started a make-or-break third season in perfect fashion.
Granted, it was only one 10-snap preseason-opening cameo against a retooled Atlanta Falcons defense Friday night. But the quarterback, who was pummeled for a league-high 58 sacks last season, looked comfortable and in sharp command of new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s up-tempo offense.
Tannehill looked good in his new offense led by Lazor, who came over from Philly where he helped Nick Foles to an impressive year. He's a low-end QB2 ranked 20th on our list but could have some use in certain matchups. According to ADPs he's not getting drafted in a lot of 10-team leagues.
On Friday night, in the team's preseason opener against the Chicago Bears, it took him just four.
Foles was picked off in the Eagles' first series of the preseason, his first of two interceptions on the night in what was not an impressive opening performance from the starter.
Foles isn't going to have another year where he throws just two interceptions, but in his defense it was a pretty sloppy game with a lot of penalty flags. Foles should still be able to put up numbers in this offense but it will certainly be interesting to see if he bounces back a little next week.
Friday, August 8, 2014, 11:43am
And when he came back to the NovaCare Complex this spring and took third-team reps behind Foles and Mark Sanchez, Barkley wasn’t willing to admit that he wasn’t in the picture to be Foles’ backup.
About two weeks into training camp, Barkley is seemingly echoing an alternate sentiment. He’s still confident, he’s still diligent, still steadfast in his belief that he can be a franchise quarterback in the league if given the opportunity.
It’s just probably not going to be here in Philly.
Barkley was thrown to the wolves a couple of times last season and it wasn't always pretty. He never really had a chance to prepare a week for a game because Michael Vick or Nick Foles would always be ready the following week. This summer, Barkley is likely auditioning for a chance to play somewhere else.
"This year, I really want to not take as many sacks, get rid of the ball faster, dump it down to the back earlier," Foles said Monday. "That's something I'll continue to work on the next few weeks."
This bodes well for LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles, who could benefit from an increase in dump offs.
Friday, August 1, 2014, 4:08pm
Eagles QB Nick Foles has attempted more back shoulder throws in practice this week than he did all of last season, even with lengthy wideout Riley Cooper out with a foot injury. HC Chip Kelly likes to talk about “tools in the toolbox,” and the Eagles have the personnel this year -- Cooper, Jeremy Maclin, Jordan Matthews -- to make the back shoulder throw more prominent in their offense.
They’ve become trendy tosses for quarterbacks in a league where wideouts now resemble outside linebackers, and they’re effective because receivers don’t have to create separation with speed to make the play.
All it takes is the proper adjustment to an intentionally underthrown pass.
“It's part of the game,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. “I think they can be very effective if they're thrown with the right timing and at the right spot. So it's just one of the things guys work on. We try to take advantage of every opportunity to get the ball down the field, and that is just another way to do it.”
Tuesday, July 29, 2014, 6:12pm
One common theory regarding Eagles WR Riley Cooper is that much of his success in 2013 was made possible because of the attention DeSean Jackson received on the other side. Some are skeptical whether Cooper will be able to post similar numbers this season now that Jackson resides in D.C.
What can't be denied is that Cooper -- who ended with 47 catches for 835 yards and eight touchdowns last year -- found himself in a whole bunch of one-on-one situations, which certainly helped his cause. According to second-year tight end Zach Ertz, that's unlikely to change this year even without Jackson on the team. That's because the man truly responsible for the single coverage is still on the roster.
"I think the culprit, why a lot of guys see single coverage on this team, is LeSean [McCoy]," said Ertz. "He's the key cog in this offense... Defenses have to stop LeSean first to try and stop this offense."
The players aren't buying into the notion Jackson opened things up for Cooper, going as far as saying that's not now the league works. HC Chip Kelly added that he thought most teams played the Eagles in single high coverage and man across the board on anybody, and no one was getting any help. Either way, there are a lot of questions about Cooper duplicating his success from last season. Perhaps more noteworthy is Cooper's success with Nick Foles at QB compared to Mike Vick. With so many targets on the Eagles, we still only rank Cooper 50th on our WR list.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014, 2:54pm
Bill Lazor, the former Eagles QB coach, seems intent on making a faster pace to the offense happen as the new OC in Miami. Lazor, in his first job as an offensive coordinator, is tasked with taking an offense that was No. 26 in scoring last season (19.8 ppg) and turning it into a weapon.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is his main instrument. Lazor, who made Eagles quarterback Nick Foles one of the league’s most productive passers last seasons, knows what he wants to see from the position.
“At the quarterback spot it’s a couple of things – No. 1, it’s accuracy, No. 2 it’s decision-making, and then I think after that you’ve got to have a certain level of toughness.”
Lazor likely learned a hot from Eagles HC Chip Kelly and will put his own flavor on the Dolphins offense, too. But one thing the Eagles were know for last season was faster play calling and running a lot of plays and that's something Lazor wants to see. Tannehill is ranked 20th among our QBs, which makes him low-end QB2 in just about any format. Tannehill was actually #12 QB through the first 15 weeks last season before he began to struggle. If Lazor can keep Tannehill going, he has the potential to be a borderline QB1.
Monday, July 28, 2014, 8:44am
Since his return to practice back in April, Jeremy Maclin has professed that he is a "stronger" version of his former self. "You can just base it off certain things that you do in the weight room, on the football field," he said. "And also mentally stronger. When I talk about stronger I mean everything that goes into it."
In the four mostly healthy seasons that preceded his lost one, Maclin provided the kind of consistency and dependability Kelly has preached since the day he arrived. Maclin also fills nicely some of the leadership void created by Jason Avant's departure, an ideal veteran for rookies Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff to model their work ethic around.
Still, it is hard to tell if Maclin is physically stronger than he was before that gruesome injury.
It is also hard to believe that he is mentally stronger. This is a man, after all, who was abandoned by his father at 9 and raised by the little league football coach. This is also a man whose undisclosed illness in 2011 forced him to miss a chunk of training camp and led to wide speculation about cancer and his career ending, a man whose ACL tear last August was the second to that knee in his career and, coming at the onset of his final contract season, led to even more speculation about the end of his career.
Maclin is poised to fill a big role on the field too now that DeSean Jackson is out of the picture. Maclin isn't Jackson in terms of speed, but the Birds feel Maclin will still fill in nicely opposite of Riley Cooper. While QB Nick Foles is one of our top-rated at the position, Eagles WRs are further down our list. Maclin comes in at 36th, but his ADP of the 7th round is considerably lower than those ranked around him, so owners are banking on a productive season.
Monday, July 14, 2014, 5:28pm
"You guys are seeing the same things we are," Eagles receivers coach Bob Bicknell told NJ.com. "He's looked very good so far."
Coach Chip Kelly wasted no time after the draft talking up Matthews as a candidate to man the slot alongside Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper. With DeSean Jackson out the door, the rookie is in good position to make an impact for a wideout group that Bicknell called a "little different this year" in terms of on-field skills.
An NFL scout added to the article by saying, "I think Matthews is really going to help them. That was a good pick. He could step right in and contribute for them. Can he start? Possibly, that depends on the other guys." It looks like Matthews could at least be the slot WR between Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin. There are a lot of question marks around the team's WRs and only Maclin cracks our top-35, coming in at 31. But all three could certainly offer some mid-to-late round fantasy value with Nick Foles at QB.
"I will guarantee you this: every pass that he threw last year was studied and watched by 30 personnel guys with the three teams in this division.They studied Nick Foles to every possible nuance: Where is his foot when he is coming out from under center? Does his heel come up a split second before the snap? Does he flick his hand to get into position before the ball is snapped? They will study every nuance of his game on coaches tape, on television to hear his voice inflection, to see where he turns. Is the ball snapped when his head is looking downfield rather than left to right? All these things, they will have broken his game down. Nick has to make that adjustment. Now that teams have adjusted to him, does he adjust to what they do?
"It's the same thing with the system: the familiarity with the system for the Eagles is great but now all the teams are studying that system. What does Chip do? Does he take this offense to the next level?
Jaws believes Kelly only utilized about half of his playbook last year, and can use more now that the players and assistants are better versed in the scheme.
"It was a vertical passing game. It was an explosive offense, big plays down the field...I think what [Kelly's] going to do instead of the vertical passing game, which was so effective last year, I think he tweaks it a little bit. I think it's going to be more of a horizontal game, sideline to sideline. Spread it that 160 feet on sideline to the other. Work in between the linebackers, maybe a safety will roll down, there's space in there. The offense might not be as explosive but it can be more efficient with that style of offense."
Both concerns (opponents studying the system and the loss of D-Jax) are valid, but Kelly seems ahead of the game scheme-wise, and the offense will compensate for the loss of Jackson by leaning on other playmakers. Darren Sproles, Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff are new arrivals, and the emergence of Zach Ertz should not be overlooked. We believe that Foles has top 5 potential in 2014.
Monday, July 7, 2014, 8:25am
The Lions Matthew Stafford had a down year in 2013, in part to drops. But some of those struggles were the result of the quarterback's inconsistent mechanics and occasionally questionable decision-making.
With a coaching staff dedicated to refining Stafford's technique, and an improved arsenal of weapons, it would be stunning if the Lions' franchise quarterback didn't take a step forward with his accuracy this season, while dropping his interception rate.
Stafford's mechanics have often come under fire and we've seen mixed results throughout his career. Still, the weapons around him are tempting enough to take a chance on Stafford as your fantasy QB this season, especially if you're set on not taking one of the Big 3 early in drafts. We rank Stafford 5th on our list, and he is among that second tier of QBs along with Nick Foles and Andrew Luck.
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