If It's Gaither You Want, It's Gaither You Got & Other Notes From Game 3

If It's Gaither You Want, It's Gaither You Got & Other Notes From Game 3

The experiment appears
to be over, and the Eagles have inserted Omar Gaither back into the
starting middle linebacker job this week.  Nobody campaigned louder for
Joe Mays' opportunity than us, but with the season quickly approaching
and roughly zero positive standout moments for the second year player,
it's time to make the switch.

Hugh Douglas' description last
Thursday that Mays has played "timid" was perfect.  It's not that Mays
has been awful; he hasn't really been beaten for any huge plays. 
Actually, the problem is he's in on very few plays at all, a major departure from last
preseason where he racked up one tackle after another.  At the time, he was
playing without hesitation, simply running to where the ball is and
making the stop.  While trying to run the Eagles' true scheme though,
he's been lost even where he was thought to excel, in run support.

For what it's worth, Moise
Fokou wasn't any better.  He's had an excellent preseason, but his
trial with the first team went as expected.  Fokou was nailed for a
pair of penalties, including one that gave the Jags a first down on 3rd
and 19, and he seemed even more likely to be out of position than Mays. 
You still have to like what you see from the seventh round pick, it's
still just too raw for such a huge role.

As for Gaither, we know what the defense will get,
which is a solid contribution from a player who knows the system.  He's
not as aggressive as the coaches prefer, but he's a competent defender and
good in coverage.  I still think Mays has a ton of talent, he just
didn't make the most of his shot, and it's time to move on for the time being.

Defense

- Trent Cole is an absolute beast.  The front four is completely different with him in the game.

- Asante Samuel obviously had a great game, but Ellis Hobbs rebounded after last week's stinker as well.

-
Quintin Demps bouncing off of TE Mercedes Lewis in the open field was
way too reminiscent of last year's NFC Championship.  Dawkins brings
the big fella down.

Offense

- Kevin Kolb
looked terrible, there's no other way to slice it.  10 for 18 for 102
yards and a TD doesn't sound too bad, but it was ugly.  Twice with pressure
in his face, he backpedaled deep behind the line of scrimmage and threw the ball away, once intentionally
grounding for a safety.  On successive plays, he overthrew then
underthrew his receiver, and several times targeted covered receivers,
including the touchdown throw that just barely threaded the needle. 
Maybe we should get more of Vick the QB next week and less Vick the
gimmick.

- Eldra Buckley is always the first man down the field
in kick coverage and is a pretty good tackler for a running back.  Next
week is probably the end of Lorenzo Booker.

- Props to the wide
receivers, particularly Jackson and Avant who combined for 9 catches
and 139 yards.  Maclin added another 4 for 53, indicating he's coming
along nicely.  Through three games, you have to wonder if Kevin Curtis
has much of a role in this offense by the end of the year.

- On McCoy's TD run, Celek sealed the edge nicely, allowing the runner to bounce the play outside for an easy six.

-
Once the Eagles quit all that trick stuff, the whole offense seemed to
get into a rhythm, including the O-line.  There are still question
marks though.  Peters seems to get fooled every time the defenders
stunt, and almost got McNabb killed again on a play the DE attacked inside.  Peters inexplicably followed him into no man's land, leaving McCoy on the edge to block two blitzers. 
Cole continues to look sloppy, especially bad news with the announcement Herremans
will be out for awhile longer than expected.  And while
Justice has improved greatly, he's still not much of a run blocker at all and
makes his share of mistakes.

At least Shawn Andrews finally returned to
practice
, and could play as soon as Thursday.

- Overall, the Eagles are going to
be fine, in large part due to their defense.  Patt and Bunk continue to
hold up the line of scrimmage, which is a big key to their success. 
They have playmakers in Cole, Samuel, and Mikell, and solid contributors
Brown, Gocong, and Gaither.

The offense might start off
inconsistent as the line continues to gel, but suddenly their Week 4
bye looks like a blessing as it will give them more time to prepare
for the brutal stretch of NFC East opponents.  You would like to see them manhandle a team
like the Jags a bit more, but under the circumstances (Vick) and
accounting for a few fluke plays, this wasn't bad for a preseason game.

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

As Eagles enter bye, Doug Pederson aims to thwart complacency

The Eagles are 3-0. They’re alone atop the NFC East and have been the biggest surprise of the young NFL season.

Doug Pederson’s message to his team: You haven’t done anything yet.

Although the Eagles are riding high, Pederson doesn’t want his team to change its outlook or hard work. That’s what teams have to worry about once they’ve found some success.

“The biggest thing is complacency,” Pederson said Monday. “You think you've arrived. You think you are all that. When that creeps in, that's when you get beat. It's my job not to let that creep in. I've got to keep the guys focused and grounded. I told them this week they're going to travel and go home and people are going to pat them on the back and say how great they are.

“But next Monday, I'm going to tell them, ‘Hey, we're back to work. We're 0-0. This is Game 1 and let's go.’ That's just the way it has to be. You are building for one ultimate goal and that's a few weeks down the road. That's what you are trying to get to. But you can't get there unless you take care of the next opponent. It's my job to keep them focused that way.”

Being 3-0 (they’re one of five 3-0 teams) gives the Eagles a head start, but it certainly doesn’t guarantee them a playoff spot. This is the ninth 3-0 start in franchise history. They’ve made the playoffs just five times in the previous eight. And they recently missed the playoffs after starting 3-0 in 2014 under Chip Kelly.

In NFL history (before this season), there have been 276 teams to start with 3-0 records. Of them, 200 (72.3 percent) have made the playoffs.

“We just have to approach it the same, one day at a time,” Pederson said. “That's the way this business goes. You are on top of the world one minute, and you can be at the bottom of the heap the next. Just got to keep things even-keeled and can't get too high, can't get too low. Approach it the same. Like I mentioned earlier, you can't substitute for hard work. That pays off on Sundays. We just have to stay the course. Again, a lot of football left.”

While the Week 4 bye comes pretty early, the Eagles have a couple key players who will use the time to get healthy. And Connor Barwin pointed out that the bye is coming about closer to the halfway point between when the team started its tough training camp and the end of the season.

Pederson told his players to use the week to get away from football and free their minds. Meanwhile, Pederson and his coaches will use the extra time to self-scout and prepare for the final 13 games of the regular season.

With a first-year head coach and a rookie quarterback who was thrust into action a week before the opener, expectations outside (and perhaps inside) the building were tempered.

The Eagles aren’t an underdog anymore.

“We kind of enjoyed flying under the radar, but obviously a win like this against a team like the Steelers will open some eyes around the league,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “For us, nothing different. We’ll keep our preparation the same. We’ll stick our heads down and focus on the work day to day and understand what’s gotten us to 3-0.”

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Ivan Provorov displays durability, versatility in Flyers' preseason loss

Ivan Provorov displays durability, versatility in Flyers' preseason loss

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, N.J. — How much of a horse is Flyers defensive prospect Ivan Provorov?

Well, consider this:

The 19-year-old logged a game-high 28:48 of ice time Monday night during the Flyers' 2-0 split-squad loss to the Devils in which he also quarterbacked the first-unit power play (8:03) and had the most penalty kill time (3:58) (see story).

“I thought I played well,” Provorov said. “It took me a few shifts to get into the game. I competed as hard as I could.”

He said he was used to playing more than 25 minutes in Brandon (WHL), anyway.

“Of course, this is a better league, high pace and it will take a few games to adjust,” Provorov said.

Because the Flyers have yet to work on power play, the results aren’t there. They were 0 for 7 in the game.

“We haven’t done anything on the ice, but have done some video on the PK on the board but nothing on the power play,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “There’s other priorities now with so many players (64) in camp.”

Provorov worked both points on the power play and had just one official shot in the game.

“We didn’t get to do much power play [in camp],” he said. “It will get better as the preseason goes on.”

Rookie forward Travis Konecny worked the low slot on the top power play. He logged 18:34 of ice time, including 6:01 PP time. Konecny had two shots in the game.

He was on Andy Miele’s line with Scott Laughton. Konency had the only shots on his line.

Hakstol said Konecny and Provorov each “settled in” as the game went on. Hakstol isn’t sure if one or both will play Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center against the Islanders.

Konecny’s body language in camp exudes confidence unlike a year ago when he was skittish in his first-ever Flyers training camp. Now he sits back, takes it all in and has that look on his face of been there, done that.

In fact, he was trying to calm down some of his buddies, Anthony Salinitri and Connor Bunnaman, who were seeing the lights before the game.

“Me and [Ivan] Provorov were just talking,” he said. “We feel a lot more comfortable this year.

“I’ve been in this position here. I have my guys Salinitri and Bunnaman, we all hang out together and it’s their first year.

“They’re excited for their first preseason game just like I was last year, but I’m not thinking, ‘Wow, it’s an NHL arena.’ I’m thinking about the game and getting ready to play.”

Konecny was impressive last fall as an 18-year-old and Hakstol said he takes everything into account with more emphasis on the now than the past.

“Your body of work includes your season last year,” Hakstol  said. “Includes everything. The most important information is what you do right now. No question in my mind. I take everything into account.”

Take this into account: Alex Lyon is going to be a contender with Anthony Stolarz for the starting job in goal with the Phantoms this season. He was outstanding with 28 saves on 29 shots.

“They spent some time in our zone and had their big guns out there,” Lyon said of being under siege for two-thirds of the game. “They had a few shots but we did a good job keeping them to the outside. No super grade A opportunities.”

Lyon stopped two breakaways by Beau Bennett, one within three minutes of play.

“I felt like a newborn deer and could barely stand up,” quipped the former Yale goalie. “I was so nervous. It felt good to stop the first one.”