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Eagles vs. Cardinals: Biggest Winners and Losers for Philadelphia from Week 3

Randy JobstSenior Analyst IAugust 24, 2016

Eagles vs. Cardinals: Biggest Winners and Losers for Philadelphia from Week 3

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    The Philadelphia Eagles have officially fallen back down to earth after a nightmare of a loss to the Arizona Cardinals, falling 27-6. The Eagles were outcoached, outhustled and were easily outplayed physically for four quarters.

    The good news for Philadelphia is that they are still 3-0. The bad news is that this was a really embarrassing loss heading into a big divisional showdown with the New York Giants next Sunday night.

    The game really changed when the Eagles had the ball inside the Cardinals 1-yard line with six seconds left. Instead of settling for a field goal or looking for a quick pass, Vick held the ball too long, was hit from behind and watched as James Sanders recovered the football for a 93-yard scoop and score. Instead of going into the half down 17-3, they went in with a 24-0 deficit.

    Turnovers and a lack of balance on offense killed this team once again. The good news for the Eagles is that you can only lose once in a week. As bad as this game was, the Eagles only fall to 2-1. How they bounce back next week will make or break their season.

Loser: Michael Vick

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    We are starting to see the weaknesses of Michael Vick really taking shape. The issues with Vick have always been his obsession with trying to create the big play on every play, the amount of time he holds onto the ball before releasing it and his inability to read the blitz and make defenses pay because of it.

    The main focus today was his inability to beat the blitz. According to ESPN States and Info, Vick completed just three out of 13 passes when the Cardinals sent at least five pass-rushers including one out of seven when the Cardinals sent a defensive back on the blitz.

    Those are some bad numbers. He practically begs the defense to send the house, but he never seems to figure out how to make defenses pay. Part of that falls on the offensive coaches. You have to game-plan for that. You have to call screens and draws, basically any type of plays that plays against a defense’s overaggression.

    Vick does make some audibles against the blitz, but the majority of the time, he just changes to a simple inside run.

    Until Vick learns how to beat the blitz, he is going to get punished by it on a weekly basis. The end isn’t anywhere in sight, so expect to see Nick Foles get his chance at some point this season.

Winner: Damaris Johnson (The Wide Receiver)

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    Damaris Johnson had a bad day as a punt returner. He lost a fumble and fair-caught a punt inside his own 5-yard line. Those are two no-no’s for punt returners.

    You never want to turn the ball over on any return, and you always let the ball go when it is punted inside the 5-yard line. You might as well let the ball go and take the chance the coverage team can’t down it. Even if they do, you only lose two or three yards. It’s worth the risk.

    Johnson didn’t have a bad day as a wide receiver, filling in for the injured Jeremy Maclin. He led the Eagles with five receptions for 84 yards. Keep in mind that Johnson is always the smallest guy on the field at 5’8", 170 pounds. He also was a undrafted free-agent pickup this spring and didn’t play college ball this past season.

    It’s nice that the Eagles have a wide receiver similar to DeSean Jackson. He doesn’t have quite the deep speed that Jackson has, but he certainly has the quickness and agility that he has.

    He uses it to get open in the middle of the field and near the sidelines. He has to in order to make up for his lack of size in the NFL. The Eagles still need to get more size at wide receiver, especially with Maclin out, but it’s nice to know they have another speed playmaker for Vick to play with.

Loser: Demetress Bell

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    Demetress Bell was in offensive line coach Howa Mudd’s dog house all throughout training camp. He somehow managed to get out of it with some improved play last week but sprinted back to the dog house after really struggling this week.

    It’s hard to tell if Bell is still trying to get used to a completely different blocking scheme or if he is just not a starting-caliber left tackle. Whatever the case may be, the Eagles have to figure out the left-tackle spot and fast.

    Vick makes life tough enough for an offensive line with the insane amount of time he holds onto the football. A weak link on the left side would be a difficult obstacle for this offense to overcome.  

Winners: Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans

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    DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks have been as good as advertised this season—and then some. Ryans was picked up from Houston for a fourth-round draft pick and an exchange of third-round picks. Kendricks was the Eagles' second-round draft pick in last April’s draft.

    Ryans and Kendricks finished Week 3 with nine solo tackles and 12 total tackles against the Cardinals. These two players were the only Eagles, on Sunday, who consistently finished their tackles. They have been all over the field and pretty solid in pass coverage.

    The play of the Eagles linebackers has been a big reason for the improvement of the Eagles defense this season. They have given up just 66 points this season, although 14 of those points were defensive touchdowns.

    This defense would be giving up around 13 points per game if it wasn’t for the turnovers by the offense, and these two linebackers have been a big reason for it.

Losers: The Eagles Receivers

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    It’s hard to get a good feel of how consistently the Eagles' receiving core was getting open on live TV, but for the most part, it seemed like they couldn’t break the Cardinals' coverage. A big reason as to why Vick was holding onto the ball for so long was the receivers’ inability to get open.

    Jeremy Maclin had a lot to do with this. He was out with a hip injury, and the Eagles offense really suffered without him. They just need that other stud outside wide receiver to make this offense work. 

    You have to give the Cardinals’ secondary a lot of credit for shutting down the Eagles receivers. Brent Celek and DeSean Jackson were held to just five catches for 79 yards, which is actually five yards less than undrafted rookie Damaris Johnson.

    This is going to be an issue this season unless Maclin stays healthy from here on out. Either the play-calling needs to improve, or these receivers have to get better at finding the holes in the coverages. Otherwise, Michael Vick is going to continue to take a beating each week.

Winner: Jason Babin

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    Jason Babin had himself a heck of a game against the Cardinals' offensive line. He had 1.5 sacks, numerous pressures and four solo tackles. He also had a key hustle play when he overpursued on a pass rush, but was able to chase Kevin Kolb down and stop him short on a 3rd-and-long scramble.

    His hustle play forced the Cardinals into a punt rather than keeping the defense on the field.

    Babin now has 2.5 sacks on the season but seems to be just warming up. He had his best game of the year in which he got consistent pressure all game long. He has developed into the best pass rush in the Wide-9 scheme. His ability to get off the line quickly off the edge and his use of his strength and flexibility have made him one of the 10 best pass-rushers in the game.

Loser: Nate Allen

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    Nate Allen has become the Eagles' second-best safety. That isn’t meant as an insult to free safety Kurt Coleman but more as a concern by the former second-round pick of the 2010 NFL draft. Allen has looked lost in coverage at times and has been almost non-existent against the run.

    Allen had three solo tackles against Arizona, but I can’t remember any of them. He hasn’t finished his tackles very well this season and puts himself out of position in the open field. The play where I really noticed he was struggling was on the 37-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald that Nnamdi Asomugha got blamed for.

    Asomugha got beat in press coverage, but it appeared as if he expected safety help over the top. He was talking with Coleman on the sidelines after the play, but I felt that the blame should have fallen upon Allen. Allen was helping on a underneath receiver when he should have been over the top on Fitzgerald with Nnamdi.

    It’s plays like those that make me believe that he isn’t on the same page with the rest of the defense. This defense really struggled last season because they weren’t always on the same page. This is the NFL. If your defense isn’t on the same page or doesn’t know its assignments, it will get burned.

Loser: The Return Game

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    The Eagles' return game was supposed to be much better this season. We thought it was an issue with the players fielding these returns. This offseason, the Eagles signed the NCAA’s all-time leader in all-purpose yards from scrimmage, and they drafted the man who finished second all time in the SEC in kickoff return yards.

    Brandon Boykin had just 66 yards on three kickoffs on Sunday, with a long of just 24 yards. Damaris Johnson had two punt returns, one for eight and one for 12 yards. He lost a fumble on his first punt return. The Eagles haven’t been much better in the previous two weeks, with a long kickoff return of 29 yards and a long punt return of just six yards.

    I know it has only been three weeks, but the return game just isn’t creating much excitement? Is it the return men? Is it the blocking? Is it special teams coach Bobby April? Special teams can be the difference in a tight ballgame. You want your return game to be better than this. Hopefully, the Eagles will be able to get a big play from their return game soon.

Winner: Juan Castillo

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    Juan Castillo was a joke to most football fans last season. Andy Reid promoted his offensive line coach to the job of defensive coordinator. It was a major struggle through the first 12 games as the team fell to 4-8 and struggled to stay on the same page. A funny thing happened after that start, he got better.

    The defense gave up just 46 points over the final four games last season and went 4-0 during that stretch. They picked up right where they left off, giving up just 66 points through the first three games this season, though 14 of those points came off of defensive touchdowns.

    Technically, that makes it 52 points given up in eight quarters while the offense has committed a ridiculous 12 turnovers.

    The key for this defense has been simplicity. Castillo is letting his corners press, his safeties play over the top and his defensive linemen attack in the Wide-9 scheme. He isn’t making his press corners play a zone coverage, and he isn’t trying to turn Nnamdi Asomugha into a roaming safety. 

    A great defensive coordinator knows his personnel and how to best use them. That is what Castillo needs to do, and that is what he has done. You can blame a lot of different Eagles players and coaches for the 21-point loss to Arizona, but Castillo shouldn’t be one of them.

Loser: Marty Mornhinweg

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    Marty Mornhinweg is one of the better offensive coordinators in the NFL, but he does things as a offensive play-caller that really make me scratch my head. For one, he has a top-three running back whom he loves to forget about.

    The Eagles needed to be balanced against the Cardinals, but instead, decided to let Vick take shot after shot. McCoy had just four carries in the first half and just 13 total carries for the game. The Eagles called just 17 running plays compared to 46 pass plays (37 passes, four scramble runs and five sacks).

    I have no idea why the Eagles signed LeSean McCoy to a big contract extension and decided to keep four running backs on the roster if they aren’t going to run the ball more than 27 percent of the time.

    This type of play-calling is going to cause a lot of problems for the Eagles. It will get Vick hurt, frustrate McCoy, and most of all, make them a really easy team to defend against.

    I was also baffled by the Eagles' final play of the first half. Vick came out under center, instead of the shotgun formation, which led to a sack, fumble recovery and touchdown.

    Had Vick came out of the shotgun, he could have better seen the pressure and gotten rid of the ball quickly. You would think that is what Mornhinweg would want him to do with six seconds left on a play that needed to take no more than five seconds.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Eagles either run the ball at least 30 times next week or see Andy Reid take over the offensive play-calling duties.

Winner: Chas Henry

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    I believe it’s important to end every piece like this on a positive note. What better way to do that than with a punter.

    Henry finished Week 3 with five punts for an average over 49.2 yards, with a long of 62 yards.  This is pretty remarkable for a punter who nearly lost his job this summer because of a lack of leg strength.

    Henry is averaging 48.3 yards per punt with two punts downed inside the 20. The important thing to realize is he isn’t getting a chance to down many punts inside the 20 because his offense is either turning the ball over or scoring once they get near midfield.

    The yardage is the important thing to consider. At 48.3 yards per punt, Henry ranks 11th in the NFL right now. He isn’t the best punter in the game right now, but he isn’t in the bottom five either. He is only in his second season, and we are already seeing some signs of greatness out of Henry.

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