All-22: Analyzing Foles' poor decisions vs. Dallas

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All-22: Analyzing Foles' poor decisions vs. Dallas

To say Nick Foles made some bad throws against Dallas would be an understatement.

Nobody needs a film study to know that Foles frequently overthrew receivers when he wasn’t throwing behind them, that he missed a wide-open Brent Celek for a big gain on the left side, that his bomb to DeSean Jackson in the end zone lacked great placement and that his easy touchdown to Jason Avant somehow wasn’t so easy.

But the All-22 tape also shows that Foles lacked good field vision against the Cowboys, often forcing passes into coverage when other receivers were open. One of his strengths up until Sunday had been making his progressions and using his entire set of weapons, spreading the ball and finding checkdowns against the pass rush.

For whatever reason, those strengths eluded him Sunday, and the problems started early.

On the Eagles’ first possession, Foles faced 3rd-and-10 at his own 29-yard line. The Eagles came out in a three-wide, one-back formation designed to isolate running back LeSean McCoy on Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter down the left sideline. The Chargers had success with wheel routes against Dallas, so the Eagles were copycatting the idea.

McCoy lines up next to Foles in the shotgun but releases down the left sideline, while slot wideout Avant runs an inside route to draw the coverage:



The play goes according to plan. Avant’s inside route frees up McCoy around the left side without a defender within five yards. A good lead pass by Foles to the outside shoulder could even be a touchdown, if McCoy can shake the deep safety. Foles even looks toward the left side:



For whatever reason, though, Foles decides to throw across the middle to Zach Ertz, and his pass is so high that it bounces off the tight end’s outstretched hand. You can see McCoy is behind every defensive back except the deep safety, who’s about 12 yards away:



In the second quarter, on 3rd-and-7 at the Eagles’ 29, Foles has a chance to capitalize on a Tampa-2 look by the Cowboys designed to ensure that they’re not beaten by Jackson or Riley Cooper for the first down. Avant will run an inside route that takes the nickelback and linebackers toward the middle:



The deep routes by Jackson and Cooper and crossing route by Avant force Dallas’ defense to give up the underneath. With just a four-man rush, Foles steps up in the pocket and surveys the field. He has McCoy and Celek open around the 30. Each has enough space to get the first down if Foles can get the ball out quickly. Avant is double-covered across the middle, a danger zone for the QB:



For whatever reason, Foles ignores his checkdowns and attempts that dangerous pass across the middle. Avant dives, but can’t make the catch:



Later in the second, on 1st-and-10, Foles again misses his checkdowns, this time with pressure coming at him.

The Cowboys again play their safeties deep with man coverage against the Eagles’ three wideouts. Jackson is lined up split right, with Cooper on the left side and Avant in the left slot. All three run deep routes, taking the coverage with them and leaving the underneath for Celek and McCoy:



As he steps up to avoid pressure from the front four, Foles has McCoy a few yards in front and Celek nearing the 40, with space to get more yards. He even has a shot at deep right, with Jackson getting an inside step and both safeties shading toward the opposite side of the field:



But instead of three options, Foles holds onto the ball and gets trampled for a six-yard sack:



On a 3rd-and-4 at his own 22 in the third, Foles again has several options, but tries to force a pass instead of making the smarter decision.

This time, the Eagles have all three wide receivers to the left side and Dallas crowds the box with seven, playing just one safety deep. The defensive look gives Foles room to make a play downfield if he can get the ball out in time. Cooper runs a dig at the 30, while Avant and Jackson each run about five yards and cut in opposite directions:



Cooper beats his man to the inside at the 30 and McCoy releases to the right flat, where he’s open at the 20. Jackson’s runs a quick-in at the 25, in front of two linebackers -- again, a danger zone:



Instead of going to Cooper or McCoy, Foles tries to force the ball into Jackson across the middle, where Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee (50) awaits. Foles’ pass is late and too far ahead of Jackson. Lee converges in time to break up the pass. It easily could have been a pick-six for the former Penn State star:

NBA draft profile: F Dragan Bender

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NBA draft profile: F Dragan Bender

Dragan Bender

Position: Power forward
Height: 7-1
Weight: 225
Team: Maccabi Tel Aviv

Croatia’s latest basketball export is just 18 years old. He won’t turn 19 until November. Like a lot of teenagers, he’s hardly a fully finished product. The kid is raw, but his obvious potential figures to make him a high lottery pick in the upcoming draft.

Through 38 games with Maccabi Tel Aviv this season, Bender averaged just 12.9 minutes. He took 3.7 shots per game. He shot 42.3 percent from the floor, 33.8 percent from deep (on 2.0 attempts per game) and 71.9 percent from the line. He didn’t get to the line very often, by the way. In fact, he hardly got there at all, taking less than one attempt per game from the stripe.

But Bender’s appeal isn’t about what he is right now; it’s rooted in what he could become with time. There’s a reason why all 30 NBA teams sent someone to watch him play this year, according to DraftExpress. Investing in him could yield a significant return. Also, dude’s name is Dragan Bender. He was destined to become a pro athlete or conquer King’s Landing. Either way, good things ahead.

Strengths
Bender has been on the NBA’s projection radar for a while now. He’s worked hard to develop his shooting. Initially thought of as a non-shooter with wonky mechanics, Bender changed his stroke. It’s more compact and efficient now. Despite the small sample size, Bender had a 54.1 true shooting percentage and a 51.4 effective field goal percentage through 38 games this season.

He could pass more, but when he does he’s pretty savvy — particularly with the full-court outlet pass. Defensively, he’s not a rim protector, but he has a long wingspan (7-2) that should help him be a good pick-and-roll defender with time. In the increasingly switch-everything NBA, that’s a plus.

Also, did we mention his name is Dragan Bender? Donald Bender works in Croatian finance. Dave Bender has a nice B&B on Hvar Island. Dragan Bender is a potential NBA star.

Weaknesses
He’s reportedly put on some weight recently and worked hard to develop a better base, but he’s 7-1 and 225 pounds. Someone needs to feed him lots of sandwiches and protein shakes. Adding muscle for the long-slog NBA season will be important.

In addition to having a still-developing body and skill set, he hasn’t faced top-level international competition yet on a regular basis. He needs minutes against the best in the world, and in order to get those minutes he’ll have to refine his game – particularly his ball-handling and driving, which are still works in progress.

Unlike some other recent NBA imports (Nikola Mirotic and Kristaps Porzingis among them), it’s probably going to take a while before Bender can be a consistent contributor in the league. Any team that takes him has to acknowledge the inherent time commitment.

How he’d fit with the Sixers 
If we’re talking about how he’d fit with the Sixers, who had a long-term plan and weren’t in a hurry to rush anything, the Sixers who embarked on an open-ended journey with no fixed timetable or end point, you could make a case for Bender (but not with the first overall pick). Five or seven years from now, Bender could be a polished product – an outside shooting threat with, perhaps, an expanded offensive game that allows him to put the ball on the floor and optimize his passing and scoring. You could imagine him growing defensively and creating mismatch problems. You could envision it – over time.

The question is whether these Sixers, who keep talking about transitioning from the rebuild into whatever comes next, are about to scrap the slow-and-low approach to cooking their roster in favor of adding on-court heat and off-court PR sizzle. If that’s the case, Bender wouldn’t fit well at all. Not to mention that taking Bender means adding another body to an already clogged frontcourt.

NBA comparison
Lots of people have drawn a parallel between Bender and Porzingis. That’s the easy, reflexive comparison. Both are tall, lanky stretch fours from a not dissimilar region of the world. But really that’s unfair to Bender. Porzingis declared for the NBA draft back in 2014, only to withdraw his name and wait until last year. The wait helped elevate him to more of a known commodity. At that point, he had played three seasons for Sevilla of Liga ACB in Spain, one of the best leagues in Europe that features some of the premiere international talent. Bender isn’t there yet in terms of experience, and their games aren’t one-to-one equivelants anyway. Bender might ultimately shake out as something closer to Andrei Kirilenko (if he can improve his handle) or Nikola Mirotic.

Draft projection
Top five. If he lasts any longer, it will be a surprise.

Eagles mailbag: Jordan Matthews; injury concern, leading rusher

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Eagles mailbag: Jordan Matthews; injury concern, leading rusher

Another day, another mailbag. 

I hope you're enjoying your Memorial Day Weekend. If you're reading this on the beach or at a BBQ, well done. 

Yesterday, I answered the first round of your questions about Doug Pederson, Brandon Spikes and the possibility of adding another running back. 

Today, I'll answer some more: 

At times, Jordan Matthews will still be in the slot this season. But he won't be there all the time. 

In Doug Pederson's offense, the receivers will move around quite a bit, which means we'll see Matthews lining up out wide on both sides and in the slot. He has the ability to do both. Either way, he's going to be on the field. He's clearly the Eagles best receiver and they're not going to take him off the field. 

I think there's a good chance we'll see some Josh Huff in the slot this year, which would make a ton of sense to me. Huff is at his best when he gets the ball in his hands and can make something happen. He's shifty enough to play in the middle. 

The idea that slot receivers are just small, shifty guys is outdated. It's all about matchups and Pederson won't be afraid to move his receivers around to find the best ones. 

Good question. I'll give you two names. One on offense and one on defense. 

Now, I didn't just pick the best players, I picked the best players with the biggest drop off to their backups. So on offense, it's Jason Peters and on defense it's Jordan Hicks. 

The scary thing: it wouldn't be shocking if either of these two go down in 2016. 

If Peters goes down, the Eagles will be fine at left tackle, because Lane Johnson will shift over. But that means either Dennis Kelly or Halapoulivaati Vaitai will come in. We all know what's happened in the past when Kelly comes in, and Vaitai is just a rookie. Not a ton of great depth at tackle. 

As for Hicks, we saw what happened to the defense when he went out last season. And this year, the team has virtually no depth at linebacker. If Hicks went down, either veteran special teams player Najee Goode or rookie Joe Walker would need to fill in. Yikes. 

I understand it's kind of a cop-out to just pick the top running back on the depth chart, but that's what I'm doing. I know Ryan Mathews has a lengthy injury history, but I can't see Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood or Kenjon Barner being the team's leading rusher. 

And when healthy, Mathews was the team's best running back in 2015, going for 539 yards on 106 carries, an average of 5.1 yards per attempt. If he manages to play 12 games this year, I think he'll be the team's leading rusher. 

Phillies pitching prospect Mark Appel hits DL with shoulder strain

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Phillies pitching prospect Mark Appel hits DL with shoulder strain

Mark Appel, whose fastball velocity was down considerably in the first inning of his last start, was placed on the disabled list Friday with a shoulder strain.

Appel, 24, is 3-3 with a 4.46 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in eight starts for Triple A Lehigh Valley in his first year in the Phillies' system. He's struggled his last four times out, allowing 18 runs (15 earned) in 16⅓ innings on 20 hits and 11 walks.

The No. 1 overall pick in 2013 out of Stanford, Appel has had a disappointing pro career to this point. In 62 minor-league games (61 starts), he has a 5.04 ERA. The Phillies acquired him from Houston as part of the Ken Giles trade this past winter.

Appel's trip to the DL creates an opportunity for right-hander Ben Lively, who was promoted from Double A Reading to Triple A to take Appel's place in the IronPigs' rotation. Lively, acquired from the Reds for Marlon Byrd prior to the 2015 season, is 7-0 with a 1.87 ERA this season.

Rehab updates
Leftfielder Cody Asche and left-handed reliever Mario Hollands had their rehab assignments transferred to Triple A Lehigh Valley. 

Asche is 5 for 34 (.147) with two home runs and 12 strikeouts during his stints with Clearwater and Reading. 

Hollands has been sharp, posting a 1.04 ERA in 8⅔ innings with 12 strikeouts and one walk.