Scouting Report: McCoy against NFL-worst run D

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Scouting Report: McCoy against NFL-worst run D

After an eight-carry disaster against Minnesota, LeSean McCoy pleaded this week for more handoffs and more responsibility against the Bears.

If he doesn’t get at least 20 carries, it’ll be malpractice by Chip Kelly.

The Bears are a scoring juggernaut, but they’re the NFL’s worst team at stopping the run, and it’s not even close. They’re the league’s only team that allows more than five yards per carry. Not only should McCoy be heavily involved, but this sets up well for Chris Polk and Bryce Brown (if he’s still allowed to touch the ball) to make an impact as well.

The Bears’ problem starts up front with injuries. One of their best interior linemen, tackle Henry Melton, was lost for the year in September with a torn ACL and middle linebacker D.J. Williams (chest) is also done for the year. Weak-side linebacker Lance Briggs, a seven-time Pro Bowler, has missed the past seven games with a fractured shoulder but should make his return against the Eagles.

It’s hard to imagine one guy -- even with Briggs’ talent -- can single-handedly reverse the run-stopping problems that have plagued Chicago all year and also compensate for the other injuries. Second-round pick Jonathan Bostic runs well and makes plays in space, but it remains to be seen if he can be the control center of a defense against an explosive offense in a big game with potential playoff ramifications.

The Bears are also without their best corner, Charles Tillman, who’s one of the NFL’s best playmaking defensive backs and also a good run-stopper in the back end.

Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker runs a scheme that’s comparable to the one Lovie Smith ran in Chicago, and ran very well from 2004-2012. The Bears play a lot of zone, don’t blitz very much and rely on their gap-shooting linemen to pressure quarterbacks. They have the fewest sacks in the NFL with just 26.

Defensive end Julius Peppers isn’t the threat he used to be, but he has 6.5 sacks and can still be disruptive. Shea McClellin has 3.5 sacks, but more was expected when they picked him 19th overall last year. The loss of Melton, coupled with Peppers’ mediocre season, has taken the bite away from a defense that had been very imposing over the past few years.

Corey Wooten, a 275-pound tackle who took Melton’s spot, just isn’t big enough for the position’s demand and shouldn’t cause problems for Todd Herremans. Nose tackle Stephen Paea, a 325-pounder, is an anchor up front and will likely command double teams from center Jason Kelce and left guard Evan Mathis.

If left tackle Jason Peters can handle Peppers and right tackle Lane Johnson can bounce back from an iffy effort against the Vikings to keep McClellin in check, the Eagles shouldn’t have problems running the ball to set up big plays for the passing game.

Nick Foles struggled with his accuracy against the Vikings, who also played more zone than the Eagles usually see, so it’s important that he’s sharper and more decisive when he’s protected. He held onto the ball too long a few times against Minnesota and allowed some defensive linemen to win their matchups on second efforts.

Even with Tillman out, the Eagles have to be conscious of left cornerback Tim Jennings, a Pro Bowler in 2012. He’s undersized (5-8, 185), which could hurt against Riley Cooper and Zach Ertz, but he plays with great physicality and won’t back down. Safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte are big-time disappointments. Wright is OK in the box, but Conte struggles in coverage and tackling.

Foles’ ability to look safeties off and deliver deep should be one of his biggest strengths and Kelly will try to capitalize on the middle of the field, so expect DeSean Jackson to keep lining up all over the place, including in the backfield to get isolated against a linebacker or safety.

This is the poorest Bears defense in several years, so look for the Eagles to have another big game offensively. They had 14 takeaways in their first four games, but just 11 in their past 10, so the Eagles can do plenty of damage if they’re not sloppy with ball security.

To find out how the Eagles' offense matches up with the Bears' defense, click here.

Undrafted CB C.J. Smith still has 'a lot of room for improvement'

Undrafted CB C.J. Smith still has 'a lot of room for improvement'

Covering Colts receivers T.Y. Hilton or Donte Moncrief is a daunting task for just about every cornerback in the NFL, let alone an undrafted rookie. That's precisely what the Eagles were asking of C.J. Smith on Saturday when they plugged the North Dakota State product into the game with the first-string defense.

And the results weren't bad. Hilton and Moncrief made some catches, but each time, Smith was right there to challenge them, wrap them up and get them to the ground. No busted coverages. No missed tackles. No backing down.

"I think I did all right, but I think I have a lot of things to improve on," Smith said of his performance Saturday. "The game was a little faster than when I played in the preseason before, so I definitely think I have a lot of room for improvement."

All right would be a fair assessment. Smith wound up finishing with a team-high seven tackles, which is not a great stat for a corner because it usually means passes were being completed. Although once again, consider his background and the opponent. This 23-year-old hasn't even been practicing with the first-team defense, then one day all of a sudden Andrew Luck is throwing in his direction.

"Coaches gave me a little heads up," Smith said. "They didn't give me too many reps in practice with the ones, but I think they just wanted to see if I could handle being out there, thrown in the fire in my situation."

Nobody could've blamed him if he was nervous, if he would've made a mistake or got beat.

"A little nerve-racking at first, but things started to settle in," Smith said of facing a dangerous Colts passing attack. "My teammates had my back, so that was the biggest thing. And then the coaches said everything translates from practice to the game, you just have to trust it."

Seeing Smith out there with the first-team defense was something of a surprise. There's already a logjam at cornerback, where Nolan Carroll, Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, Eric Rowe and Jalen Mills are jockeying for position. Smith getting a shot might mean the Eagles are considering keeping six corners, or that one of the others could be on the move.

The 5-foot-11, 189-pound defensive back impressed throughout training camp as well as in the Eagles' preseason opener, where he recorded three pass breakups and an interception. Smith also notes he played a lot of man coverage in college, a skillset he believes is attractive to this coaching staff.

Perhaps Smith getting a shot with the ones shouldn't have been a surprise based on the summer he's had. He's starting to build the case he shouldn't have gone overlooked in the draft either.

"I was hurt going into my senior year with a pretty bad knee injury, so I had to overcome that," Smith said of going undrafted. "And then I still think playing at the FCS level, it's tough to overcome that too."

Smith will have at least one more opportunity to show the Eagles what he can bring to the table Thursday when the preseason schedule wraps up against the Jets. Now that he's gone up against Pro Bowl-caliber talent, he should really shine in a game typically reserved for backups and fringe NFL talents.

Maybe that's expecting too much, but Smith probably won't mind.

"You try to expect a lot of yourself," Smith said. "I'm just taking things day by day, trying to get better every day, trying to control the things I can control."

Jake Metz enjoying 'amazing' ride, ready for dream audition with Eagles

Jake Metz enjoying 'amazing' ride, ready for dream audition with Eagles

As Monday turned into Tuesday, Jake Metz laid awake in his bed. The 25-year-old Souderton Area High School graduate knew he needed a good night’s sleep before starting his new job in the morning, but he just couldn’t shut down. 

After a crazy few days, all he could do was stare at the ceiling. 

“I’m in shock,” Metz said Tuesday afternoon. “I’m just trying to do the best I can.”

On Friday night, Metz was in Glendale, Arizona, playing a key role in the Soul’s ArenaBowl XXIX championship (see story). On Monday afternoon, he and a teammate (wideout Darius Reynolds) worked out at the NovaCare Complex. Several hours later, at 9 p.m., the phone call came. 

He showed up to his new job the next morning, and was given a new uniform: a No. 74 Eagles jersey. 

It’s not hard to figure out why the 6-foot-6, 265-pound defensive end couldn’t sleep. It really has been a crazy few days. 

“It’s amazing,” said Metz, who played his college ball at Shippensburg and played for the Soul the last two seasons. “I grew up here in Philadelphia, so to win a ring with the Soul and to be able to play with the team of my dreams the next couple days is amazing. I’m on cloud nine right now. It’s awesome.”

There’s not too much time to sit in awe, though. Metz practiced Tuesday for the first time as an Eagle and expects to play “a good amount” in the team’s fourth and final preseason game on Thursday night. 

That leaves just two days to prepare for what could be the biggest and most important audition of his life. How much can he learn in a couple days? 

“We’re going to find out,” Metz said. “I’m going to do everything I can. I’m going to be first guy here, last one to leave, do everything I can to take in as much as I can to make this team.”

Making the team doesn’t seem likely. The Eagles will only get to keep 53 players on their final roster and there’s a logjam of sorts at defensive end. It’s possible Marcus Smith or Steven Means could be left off the roster, so don’t expect Metz to jump both of them in a week’s time. 

But the Eagles saw enough in the AFL’s Defensive Linemen of the Year to sign Metz and at least allow him to play in one game. 

“I tell you what: I love his length and size,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “He's got good athleticism. He's coming right off of a championship season, so he's in shape and ready to go. With Alex McCalister going down, we needed some depth there and he gives us that rotation that we're looking for up front. And it gives him an opportunity to get himself on film.”

The young defensive end said the Eagles coaches and players have been very helpful upon his arrival. A few players in particular — he named Brandon Graham, Connor Barwin and Bryan Braman — have been helping him even as plays were going on in practice. With such a short time to get ready for game action, coaches and players have told him to worry less about scheme and more about just playing to his athleticism. 

Getting some NFL film from Thursday’s game could be huge for Metz. While a roster spot isn’t going to open up along the Eagles’ defensive line anytime soon, 31 other teams will get a chance to see Metz showcase his skills in an NFL game. 

Plenty of other folks are going to be watching him too: his family and friends in the area. 

“Oh, you have no idea,” Metz said. “I have so many friends and family that have already said they’re getting tickets to the game. They’re gonna be there. You’ll see them for sure.”

Jeremiah Trotter, Merrill Reese to enter Eagles Hall of Fame

Jeremiah Trotter, Merrill Reese to enter Eagles Hall of Fame

Legendary announcer Merrill Reese and All-Pro middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter will enter the Eagles’ Hall of Fame, the team announced Tuesday evening.

Reese and Trotter will be enshrined on Nov. 28, during halftime of the Eagles’ Monday night game against the Packers at the Linc.

Trotter, a third-round pick in 1998, spent eight years with the Eagles during three separate stints — 1998 through 2001, 2004 through 2006 and again in 2009. He was a four-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro.

The Axe Man is one of four linebackers in Eagle history to make four Pro Bowl teams. The others are Chuck Bednarik, Maxie Baughan and Bill Bergey. 
 
“Jeremiah Trotter embodies everything we strive for as an organization,” owner Jeff Lurie said in a statement. “He was an emotional and inspirational player who captured the hearts of our fans. As an anchor of our defense, he led with an immeasurable amount of toughness and a fiery attitude.”
 
Trotter left the Eagles after the 2001 season but returned after two years with the Redskins. After beginning the 2004 season as a backup behind Mark Simoneau, Trotter entered the lineup halfway through the season and wound up as one of the keys to the defense that helped the Eagles reach their only Super Bowl in the last 35 years.  

He wasn’t just a force in the Eagles’ defensive interior, Trotter was an inspirational leader with his passion, his work ethic and his fiery locker room personality. 

Reese this fall begins his 40th year behind the microphone with the Eagles and is the longest-tenured play-by-play announcer in the NFL.

With his signature deep booming voice and unrivaled passion for the Eagles, Reese has become one of the most popular broadcasters in Philadelphia history alongside legends like Harry Kalas, Gene Hart and Richie Ashburn.

He has never missed a game since taking over as the Eagles’ voice on opening day of 1977 and has as much energy and enthusiasm now as ever. He’s also remarkably thorough in his preparation, whether he is announcing a meaningless preseason game or a Super Bowl.

“When you think about some of the greatest moments in Eagles history, you can hear Merrill’s voice, living and dying with every play, just like we all do,” Lurie said. 

“What makes him so special, and so engrained in the fabric of our franchise, is how dedicated he is to the team, the fans and his job. Merrill is a legend, and he is the absolute best at what he does.”

Reese, a member of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, is a lifelong Philadelphia-area resident. He graduated from Overbrook High School and Temple and currently lives in Blue Bell.

Reese was an age-group tournament tennis player before knee problems led him to golf, which is his current obsession.

The Eagles Hall of Fame was founded in 1987 as the Eagles Honor Roll. It was largely inactive from 1997 through 2003, with only one induction class during that span — trainer Otho Davis and the 1948 and 1949 NFL championship teams.

From 1997 through 2008, only two individual players were enshrined — Bob Brown in 2004 and Reggie White in 2005. 

The Honor Roll was revived on a full-time basis in 2009 with the induction of Al Wistert and Randall Cunningham and renamed the Eagles Hall of Fame in 2011.

Reese and Trotter are the 42nd and 43rd members of the Eagles Hall of Fame. The full list can be found here.