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.

Today's lineup: Franco batting cleanup as Phillies try to snap skid

Today's lineup: Franco batting cleanup as Phillies try to snap skid

Well, this hasn't gone well. 

Coming into Thursday afternoon's game against the Rockies, the Phillies have lost five straight. They've lost nine of their last 10. They've lost 20 of their last 24. 

At 15-29, they're not just the worst team in the NL East. They're not just the worst team in the National League. 

Through 44 games, the Phillies are the worst team in baseball. 

Just to make it to a .500 record this season, they would need to go 66-52 (.559) the rest of the way. 

Their four-game series against the Rockies will mercifully come to a close on Thursday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. In the first three games of the series -- all losses -- the Phils have been outscored 23-5. 

Maikel Franco returns to the four-hole as the Phillies try to snap out of their funk. 

Here's the full lineup: 

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Aaron Altherr, LF
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Tommy Joseph, 1B
6. Michael Saunders, RF
7. Cameron Rupp, C
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Vince Velasquez, P

With new mindset, Nelson Agholor embraces competition to prove himself to Eagles

With new mindset, Nelson Agholor embraces competition to prove himself to Eagles

Nelson Agholor’s rookie season was a disappointment, but his second year in the NFL was a disaster, the pressure of which was clearly getting to him. Now Agholor finds himself on the roster bubble as his third year with the Eagles commences, and it’s fair to wonder what the wide receiver’s mindset is like in 2017.

“Confident and comfortable,” Agholor said Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex, where phase three of OTAs had just begun.

Earlier in the day, Agholor had been involved at practice — cycling in with the first-team offense and getting plenty of looks, too. Later, he would be the last player to leave the field, continuing to run sprints alone after practice ended. Finally, back in the locker room, Agholor explained the epiphany he arrived at during the offseason, and how he knows he’s ready to put 2016 behind him.

“I just had a realization that the only thing that matters is the current situation,” Agholor said. “I’m here, I have an opportunity to get better and make myself a better football player.”

None of this means everything is about to click for Agholor, and he’s suddenly going to perform up to his status as a first-round pick. The Eagles clearly weren’t counting on that, either, when they signed Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency, then selected two more receivers in the draft.

If Agholor intends to turn his career around, a fresh outlook isn’t a bad place to start.

Failing to meet expectations and under relentless scrutiny, Agholor’s demeanor changed over the course of last season. Frustrations finally boiled over during a postgame rant after an Eagles loss to the Cowboys. Four weeks later, he was a healthy scratch against the Packers. Though Agholor suited up for the final five games, there was no discernable change from a production standpoint.

“That’s in the past,” Agholor said. “I practiced today. I got after it today. Anything that happened back then, it happened for a reason.”

Agholor — who turned 24 Wednesday — attributed the bulk of his struggles to youth and inexperience while denying mental or confidence issues were to blame for his performance. With only 59 receptions for 648 yards and three touchdowns to show after two years, the Eagles couldn’t wait for him to grow up any longer, which led to Jeffery and Smith being brought aboard.

“I took it for what it was,” Agholor said. “I said, ‘This was what happened, this is the new opportunity, so every day, just focus on getting better at some aspect of it.’

“It’s all about getting better consistently each day, even if it’s just a little. At the end of the day, the whole world will be like, ‘Man, this is the product?’ Some of the best players in this league, they didn’t just become really great the first day there. It took a process and continuous progression every day.”

But how exactly does Agholor go about making that jump? Because work ethic has never been a complaint, nor was talent a problem at USC, where he finished with 179 receptions for 2,571 yards and 20 touchdowns in 40 games.

There’s no telling whether Agholor will ever put it all together in the NFL. He has refined his approach, however.

“I focused on the simple grind, whether it’s conditioning, whether it was living weights,” Agholor said of offseason workouts. “I wasn’t trying to have just a miracle happen. I just started focusing on the simplest things.

“I got on the track and worked on my speed and worked on my conditioning. I was in the weight room, worked on my strength and my durability, making sure my muscles were working the right way. That’s all it was, little things like that.”

Coaches and teammates are seeing a difference in Agholor as well. Most of all, they believe competing against veterans like Jeffery and Smith will bring the best out of a young receiver still trying to find his way.

“Nelson's attitude has been great. He's worked extremely hard this offseason,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “As I've said all along, competition sharpens you, and that's what I've seen from Nelson.”

“I feel like competition is what’s going to help breed production,” Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews said. “If you’ve got more guys coming in and working, you don’t have time to worry about this, this and this. You have to worry about going in and keeping your job, you have to worry about going in and making plays every single day, and that goes for everybody, not just Nelson.”

Agholor does not disagree.

“I thought it was a great opportunity for me to compete vs. some really good players,” Agholor said of Jeffery and Smith. “These guys have proven themselves in the league, so if I show that I’m capable of performing the same way they are, then I’m in the conversation.”

That might seem like wishful thinking, but for this brief period in OTAs, Agholor has the upper hand — he knows the offense. And even if the Eagles wanted to move on from Agholor this year, his contract is such that a release would cost more against the salary cap than if he was to remain on the roster.

Financial ramifications aside, Agholor’s spot on the final 53-man roster legitimately appears to be in jeopardy. His hope in the meantime is to make himself indispensable.

“I feel like I want to be one of the best players on this team, and that takes care of it right there,” Agholor said. “I want to be a guy when you watch him on tape, you’re like, ‘Yeah, I need him.’

“The best players play, and I want to be one of the best players.”

For all of the doubts about his confidence, Agholor has seldom had any trouble expressing a general belief that he belongs in the NFL. Any doubts he did have, he obviously did not entertain for very long, based on his goals in 2017.

“I love this game, and I want to play this game for a long time, so I’m not going to allow anybody besides myself determine how long I do this,” Agholor said. “This is only Year 3, and I want to play 10-plus. The only way I do that is making myself available and making myself a good football player.”

Coming off of a season that nearly caused him to lose his swagger and cool, Agholor is doing and saying all the right things again, even as the Eagles bring in potential replacements. Perhaps the notion that it feels like a step in the right direction speaks to how poorly those first two seasons went.