Random Eagles Thoughts: 1-2, Time of Possession, and Mike Vick

Random Eagles Thoughts: 1-2, Time of Possession, and Mike Vick

On Being 1-2

Expectations are on a roller coaster. They started low before the season got underway, climbed exponentially after the Eagles throttled Washington in Week 1, now we’re down in the dumps after consecutive losses. All the while, how good this team actually is likely still lies somewhere in between.

That said, their 1-2 record isn’t as bad as it seems. They lost to San Diego on a last-minute field goal, which any number of single plays could have prevented from happening—Alex Henery missed a field goal for the Birds; Mike Vick made a poor throw to James Casey in the end zone that the tight end couldn’t handle; DeSean Jackson had one long touchdown called back on a penalty, couldn’t quite haul in another, while his momentum carried him out of bounds on a third.

Then despite turning the ball over five times against Kansas City, it took the Chiefs until the fourth quarter to put the Philly away. These were both winnable games, which is good from the standpoint that at least the Eagles are competing.

And if you look around the NFC East—which some would dub the worst division in football—the Birds are not in bad shape. Dallas is 2-1, but New York and Washington are both 0-3, and have looked completely pathetic in the process. When you factor in both of Philly’s losses were out of conference, those actually might not matter much if they turn things around in upcoming weeks.

Chip Kelly’s offense is working. The Eagles’ offense is ranked second in the NFL with 461.7 yards per game, and would take over first if the Broncos don’t eclipse that number on Monday night. The defense not surprisingly remains a work in progress, but they’ve held up their end of the bargain in two of three games so far, taking advantage of a rusty RG3 in Week 1, and keeping Kansas City out of the end zone until the fourth quarter last Thursday.

Chances are the Birds are staring at 1-3 with a trip to Denver this weekend—yet another out-of-conference matchup—but given the state of their division, not to mention the fact that they haven’t looked like pushovers by any means, and there’s little reason besides their record to feel any worse about the Eagles than you probably did coming in. Remember, this was supposed to be a rebuilding year anyway.

On Time of Possession

No, losing time of possession was not to blame for either of the Eagles’ back-to-back losses, at least not directly. Philadelphia has been doubled up in TOP for two consecutive weeks, which has led to many reminders that head coach Chip Kelly doesn’t care about this particular statistic, thus he must be wrong.

Well, I’ve got news for you, but most teams probably aren't going to win time of possession after they turn the ball over five times the way the Birds did against Kansas City. It wasn’t an issue of Chip’s offense moving too fast, preventing his own defense from catching a breather. Michael Vick and co. couldn’t go more than a few plays without coughing up the football or punting it away.

Versus San Diego, the defense couldn’t get itself off the field. The Chargers were going on long scoring drives from the opening kickoff. The Eagles couldn’t stop them late, but they couldn’t stop them early either.

I don’t agree with Kelly that time of possession doesn’t matter at all. It certainly can make the difference, and the fact that the clock was not on Philly’s side these last two games certainly didn’t help. However, people are seriously jumping to conclusions about the up-tempo offense hurting the defense. What’s hurt the defense are Philip Rivers and a lack of consistent execution by the offense.

Context is important with any stat. If the defense is wearing down because they’ve been on the field too long, there are reasons other than because Chip wants to go fast.

On Mike Vick

I was a little surprised at how quickly many were to jump off the quarterback’s bandwagon after last Thursday’s performance. Vick was responsible for three of Philadelphia’s five turnovers by himself, including a pick-six that his team was never quite able to recover from, and the 11-year veteran looked indecisive and erratic. There was nothing reassuring about his passing line: 13-of-30 for 208 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT.

This was the sort of game I came to expect from Vick long, long ago, so that certainly wasn’t what caught me off guard. It was that some were already posing the question how many more chances would the four-time Pro Bowler get?

It’s odd because most would agree Vick played well in the first two games, certainly good enough to win either one. He hasn’t been perfect this season, missing some throws here or there—it’s not nitpicking, his underthrown pass to James Casey in the end zone against San Diego might have cost his team that win. But prior to Thursday night, Vick hadn’t tossed a single interception either, and you certainly wouldn’t lay their first loss at his feet.

Then there’s the fact that the Eagles’ offensive line was pretty abysmal against Kansas City. It doesn’t account for all of the poor play under center, for instance the pick-six at the game’s outset. It’s a lot harder to mount a comeback though when the other team is dominating the line of scrimmage.

Could Vick’s job be in jeopardy? If he starts stringing together a bunch of poor outings like this last one, then sure, but it’s a little soon to be calling for Nick Foles’ number. Anybody can have one bad game, and as of now that’s all it is for Vick as far as Chip Kelly is concerned. Let’s see how No. 7 responds to the adversity in the weeks ahead.

Odubel Herrera flips Phillies into winners over Tigers before big trip to Wrigley Field

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Odubel Herrera flips Phillies into winners over Tigers before big trip to Wrigley Field

BOX SCORE

DETROIT — At least Odubel Herrera was honest about it.

“I didn’t expect to hit it that far,” he said with a big grin on his face late Wednesday afternoon.

A couple of hours earlier, Herrera helped key an 8-5 Phillies’ win over the Detroit Tigers with a towering three-run home run into the right-field seats against Anibal Sanchez (see Instant Replay).

Herrera unloaded on the hanging slider and finished with his bat high.

As the bat reached its apex, Herrera didn’t just let it go. He flipped it in the air as if to say, ‘Uh-huh, I crushed that one.’ In the annals of bat flips, it wasn’t quite Jose Bautista quality, but it wasn’t far off. The flip was so dramatic that Herrera admitted after the game that he would not have been surprised if a Tigers pitcher had retaliated and stuck a pitch in his ribs later in the game.

Retribution never came. And Herrera left Detroit with a smile on his face and yet another big day for the Phillies. He is leading the club with a .327 batting average and his .440 on-base percentage is second-best in baseball.

Herrera's big home run helped make a winner out of Aaron Nola and the Phillies on a day when they really needed a win. After all, they had lost four of their previous five and are headed into the den of baseball’s best team, the Chicago Cubs, on Friday.

“For me, it was a must-win,” said manager Pete Mackanin, whose club is 26-21. “We’d lost four of five and I felt like we needed to come out of here with a win.

“The guys battled the whole game. To me it looked like they played like they had to win this game, which was nice to see. It looked like they played knowing we had to win. They were grinding and coming up with hits. Call it what you want, it was just the feeling I got.

“I’m not going to say I’m anxious to see the Cubs; they’re a hell of a team. But I’m hopeful we can take two out of three.”

The Tigers are one of baseball’s best hitting teams.

The Phillies are one of the worst. They entered the day scoring just 3.2 runs per game.

But on this day, the Phillies out-hit the Tigers, 12-10, to salvage one game in the series.

Nola went six innings, allowed four runs, a walk and struck out six. He left with a 7-4 lead. Things got hairy in the seventh, but Hector Neris cleaned up things for David Hernandez, and Jeanmar Gomez registered his majors-leading 17th save.

In between, Peter Bourjos had a couple of big hits, including his first homer of the season. Andres Blanco started at second over Cesar Hernandez and had a couple of big hits, as well. Bourjos and Blanco even hooked up on a double steal with Blanco becoming the first Phillie to swipe home since Chase Utley in 2009. (An off-line throw to second by Tigers catcher James McCann helped.) 

“We have to try things,” Mackanin said. “We can’t bang it out with most teams so we have to try that kind of stuff, take chances.”

The Phillies actually banged it on this day.

Bourjos’ homer in the seventh provided some valuable cushion.

There are no cheap homers in spacious Comerica Park. Bourjos’ homer traveled 401 feet according to ESPN’s play by play.

Though Bourjos claimed he did not see Herrera’s bat flip in fifth inning, he was aware of it. For the record, Bourjos did not flip his bat on his homer. He put his head down and ran.

“I don’t have that kind of swag,” he said with a laugh.

Bat flips make some folks, particularly old-schoolers, uncomfortable. Bautista’s famous bat flip against Texas in the playoffs last season led to simmering tensions all winter and eventually a brawl between the two teams two weeks ago.

Mackanin actually seemed a little uncomfortable talking about Herrera’s flip.

“I did not see it,” Mackanin said. “A lot of players believe that they should be able to celebrate. But I didn’t see it. I wish you never brought it up.”

Herrera explained that he always flips his bat, even when he makes outs. This one had a little extra oomph, he said, because, "I didn’t expect to hit it that far.”

And how far did he hit it?

Well, ESPN’s play by play said it traveled 409 feet. MLB’s Statcast said it went 427.

Either way, that’s a long Uber ride.

Herrera was asked what was more impressive, the flip or the homer?

“Both,” he said with a laugh.

Herrera has become a more demonstrative player in his second year in the league. He’s letting his emotions show. On Monday night, frustration over a poor at-bat got the best of him. He did not run out a ball back to the pitcher and was benched.

On Wednesday, his emotion was more triumphant, hence the bat flip. But sometimes that can make an opponent angry. There were no repercussions Wednesday and probably won’t be because the Tigers and Phillies don’t see each other again this season. But down the road?

“I’m not worried,” Mackanin said.

“It was nothing personal,” Herrera said. “It was natural.”

Maikel Franco says ankle injury is mild, vows to play Friday

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Maikel Franco says ankle injury is mild, vows to play Friday

DETROIT — The Phillies have an off day Thursday.
 
It will come in handy for Maikel Franco.
 
The third baseman suffered what was termed a sprained right ankle while sliding into second base in the top of the seventh inning Wednesday. He hobbled off the field before the start of the bottom of the inning.
 
After the game, both Franco and manager Pete Mackanin stressed that the sprain was mild.
 
Franco received treatment after coming out of the game and he will again on the off day. Mackanin said he would exercise caution in determining Franco’s availability for Friday afternoon, but did not rule out playing Franco.
 
Franco was adamant. He’s playing.
 
“It’s a little bit sore, but it’s fine,” he said. “It already feels better. I’ll be ready for Friday. With the day off, I know I’ll be OK.”
 
If Franco can’t play, Mackanin would insert super-sub Andres Blanco into the lineup. He had two hits, including an RBI double, and scored two runs in Wednesday’s win over the Tigers (see Instant Replay).
 
Franco had a pair of singles and is 7 for 15 in his last four games.

Frank Reich: Sam Bradford won't be handed Eagles' starting job

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Frank Reich: Sam Bradford won't be handed Eagles' starting job

After the Eagles drafted quarterback Carson Wentz, head coach Doug Pederson declared that Sam Bradford was still the No. 1 quarterback.

Pederson reiterated it when a scowling Bradford chose to skip some voluntary workouts and did so again after Bradford returned to the team.

But Pederson's assistants haven't been so clear.

On Tuesday, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz discussed the topic when asked how he brought along QB Matt Stafford — the first overall pick in 2009 — while serving as head coach of the Detroit Lions. 

"Don't judge him on somebody else, and then also don't predetermine the results of the race," Schwartz said. "Just let him go play. Don't put pressure on him."

At the moment, it certainly seems like the results of the race are predetermined. It's Bradford, Chase Daniel and Wentz ... right? 

On Wednesday, offensive coordinator Frank Reich was on 94-WIP and was asked by Angelo Cataldi about the "impression" that Bradford is the No. 1 QB and there isn't an open competition. 

“No, I would actually say that’s probably not the right impression. I'll tell you why,” Reich said. “I’ve been around this business a long time as a player and as a coach, and one of the things I’ve really come to appreciate is it’s not a contradiction to say that you’ve got to have order. Because if you don’t order it’s chaos. 

"So if you’re the head coach you, gotta come in and you’ve gotta establish order. There has to be organization, there has to be order, but the other thing that, as coaches, that you’ve got to establish is a culture of competition. I mean this is one of the most competitive industries in the world — and so, to say that there’s not competition, that’s just the furthest thing from the truth.

“So I don’t see the problem with creating order and competition at the same time, personally. Every one of us as a coach and a player, you’re working harder to get better, but in that process you have to establish order, and things have a way of working themselves out.”

So there has to be a order — hence Pederson's QB depth chart — but there also has to be competition.

In other words, there is a depth chart, but it's written in pencil. And a big eraser is nearby.

Let the saga continue.

Training camp is still two months away.