Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Odds are Stacked the Eagles in 2016

The odds to win the Super Bowl are usually released in early February just days after the previous Super Bowl has been played. From there, you will begin to find odds posted to win both the AFC and the NFC followed by odds to win each individual division along with the projected win totals for all 32 NFL teams. No matter how you stack it all up, the odds are clearly stacked against the Eagles heading into the 2016 regular season.

Starting with the Super Bowl, Philly is well down the list as 66/1 longshots according to BetOnline. Washington's odds are set at 40/1 followed by New York at 22/1 and Dallas at 16/1. The New England Patriots are at the top of that list at 13/2. The best odds to win the Super Bowl from any team in the NFC are 17/2 for the Seattle Seahawks.

Moving on to the odds to win the NFC, the Eagles' odds are cut in half to 33/1 and the only other teams with longer odds are New Orleans (40/1), Tampa Bay (40/1) and San Francisco (50/1). Going back to the NFC East, the Redskins' odds to win the conference are set at 20/1 with the Giants coming in at 12/1 and the Cowboys near the top of the list at 8/1. Seattle is the favorite to win the NFC at 4/1 followed by Green Bay (9/2), Carolina (5/1) and Arizona (6/1).

Things remain pretty bleak for the Birds in the chase for the NFC East Division title at 9/2 odds, which are the longest on the board. Washington's odds to repeat as division champs are set at 3/1 and New York is second on the list at 5/2. The Cowboys only won four games last season, but the oddsmakers must be banking heavily on Tony Romo staying healthy for all 16 games this year as 3/2 favorites to end up first in the division race.

Following suit when it comes to projected win totals, the Eagles are at the bottom of the list in the NFC East at seven wins with the corresponding moneyline odds favoring the the UNDER at -150. The Redskins are projected to be a half game better at 7.5 wins and their moneyline odds slightly favor the OVER at -120. New York's projected win total stands at eight with a -140 moneyline leaning towards the OVER. Dallas is projected to have the most wins in the NFC East at 9.5, but the moneyline for the Cowboys is set at -130 that the actual total will stay UNDER. The one positive takeaway from these win total odds is that Philly is not that far off the pace and if it can find a way to exceed its projected number by two games that might actually be enough to win the division at 9-7.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Eagles Open-Up the Check Book with an Eye to the Future

Nobody can accuse Eagles' team owner Jeff Lurie of being cheap. When the top brass running his team such as executive vice president of operations Howie Roseman needs the chief to open-up his checkbook Lurie appears to be more than happy to start handing out blank checks. This past week Philly paid a king's ransom to secure defensive lineman Fletcher Cox to a long-term six year deal worth a reportedly $103 million.

In actuality, the Eagles have been spending money like a drunken sailor this entire offseason extending the contracts of many of the key players that will shape both the present and the future of this team. This is great news to die-hard Eagles' fans that are starved for a championship as long as the players they are signing can live up to the expectations of these inflated contracts. It is great to have a certain level of continuity with your team's roster, but you do not want to get into the habit of overpaying for marginal talent.

Roseman has been right on a few occasions when it comes to handling the player personnel decisions for the Eagles, but he has been drastically wrong on a number of occasions as well. He was the brains behind drafting Danny Watkins in the first round of the 2011 draft, but that mistake got pinned on Andy Reid. What about the decision to go with Marcus Smith as the Birds' top pick in 2014? I guess we can pin that one on Chip Kelly, but that was before he took complete control of the team so I am sure Roseman had a hand in that blunder as well.

In what could be Roseman's most questionable decision during his tenure in Philly was mortgaging next year's draft and beyond to get quarterback Carson Wentz with the second overall pick of this year's draft. That decision will take a few seasons to play itself out, but it will eventually define Roseman's legacy with this team. I am all for giving the right players the right amount of cash to keep them in midnight green during the prime years of their playing career, but tying up cap space on the wrong players is a mistake that can set a team on a downward spiral that will take a number of years to correct.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Eagles' OTAs Top 5 Takeaways

The Eagles' 2016 offseason workout program is officially over with this past week's three-day minicamp and the next time the team will come together as a complete group will be at summer training camp in late July. While you should resist the temptation to read too much into these OTAs in reference to the Birds' actual win and loss record in the regular season, there are a few key takeaways that could have a major impact on how well they do this year.

- The Eagles could actually have one of the best quarterback situations in the NFL

Now that Sam Bradford has made nice with the rest of his teammates, he appears to be ready to continue his role as the Eagles' starter. If for some reason he does struggle early, the Eagles could actually turn to Chase Daniel first before throwing rookie Carson Wentz into the mix. The report out of Philly is that Daniel looked the best of the three at these workouts and the fact that he is already familiar with the offense could be a huge plus.

- Fletcher Cox needs to get paid

Cox would not comment on his current contract situation when in town, but the simple fact that he was just voted No. 49 on NFL Network's annual Top 100 list is a good example of his value to the team. The two sides are confident that a contract extension will be in place before the start of summer camp, but the bottom line is that Cox is quickly turning into one of the top defensive lineman in the league and a key part of the equation when it comes to turning things around this season.

- New head coach Doug Pederson is already taking this team in a completely new direction

If Chip Kelly was "fast and furious" in his approach to running the offensive scheme, Pederson could be described as "steady as she goes". He actual knows and understands the value of a huddle and a varied snap count. He also knows that time of possession is an important aspect of the game. You can tell from the way that he runs his practices that he was paying close attention to his mentor Andy Reid during his time with Kansas City.

- The new-look defensive secondary could be much better than expected

Everyone knows that the Eagles' defensive secondary is a huge area of concern given last season's performance. While there is still quite a bit of work to be done before opening day against Cleveland, the addition of veteran cornerback Leodis McKelvin and rookie cornerback Jalen Mills have already proven to be a big step in the right direction. Nolan Carroll should be completely healthy by the time camp opens and both Eric Rowe and Denzel Rice add to the overall depth of this group.

- Wendell Smallwood could be the new face of the Eagles' running game

The Eagles used their fifth round pick in this year's draft to select West Virginia running back Wendell Smallwood. Ryan Matthews is still penciled-in as the team's featured back in the running game and veteran Darren Sproles figures to be a big part of the mix for at least one season. Smallwood's role in the running game has yet to be determined but he the potential to be the Eagles most valuable rookie this year. I would not be surprised to see him in the starting role in the second half or the season or whenever Matthews inevitably gets hurt.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Jim Schwartz Revamps Eagles' Defense

The Eagles' defense under former head coach Chip Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis never really had a fighting chance to succeed given just how much time they spent on the field. Kelly could care less about trying to dominate time of possession so even when his offense would score it still was not on the field all that long. Last season, the Birds' defense finished the season ranked 30th in the league in average yards allowed (401.6) and 28th in average points allowed (26.9). This unit was also ranked 28th against the pass and when it came to stopping the run it was dead last on the list allowing an average of 134.6 yards a game.

No matter who new head coach Doug Pederson tapped as his defensive coordinator, it is pretty obvious that there is really only one way to go this season since it would be pretty hard for this defense to get any worse. The man who is now in charge of turning things around is Jim Schwartz. He has been a head coach in this league with Detroit, but his primary area of expertise is on the defensive side of the ball after serving as a coordinator for 10 of his 22 years coaching in the NFL.

One big thing that Schwartz does brings to the table should be a much higher level of discipline that was seriously lacking under Philly's former coordinator. The Eagles were constantly getting beat on the deep ball and they struggled to get off the field in long yardage third-down situations. The level of talent on this team was definitely not reflective of the results on the field. The defensive line is solid with the likes of Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan and players like Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham are versatile enough to play up front or just off the line as outside linebackers. The Eagles' defensive secondary has been a source of angst for the past few seasons, but with some new direction you should see some better results behind cornerback Nolan Carroll and safety Malcolm Jenkins as primary anchors.

The biggest change that Schwartz will try and institute is getting after the quarterback with just his defensive line. He believes in a simple scheme that hinges on getting pressure up front while playing man-to-man in the secondary. Time will tell how the current players on the Eagles' roster adapt to this new scheme, but as I mentioned before there really is only one place to go given last year's results. My question is how far up will this defense actually rise from the bottom of the list?

Friday, May 27, 2016

An Eagles' History Lesson for First-Year Head Coaches

Doug Pederson was officially named the eighth head of the Philadelphia Eagles going back to 1976 when a young Dick Vermeil took over the reins in what turned out to be a very successful seven-year run that featured a trip to the Super Bowl in 1980. In his first season at the helm, Vermeil guided the team to 4-10 record to match the same total of wins of his predecessor Mike McCormack produced in his final year with the team. Things rapidly improved in season three with nine wins when the schedule first expanded to 16 games. The Eagles won 11 games the next season and they went 12-4 in that Super Bowl run.

After a succession of three mediocre seasons under the guidance of the Swamp Fox Marion Campbell as Vermeil's replacement, the Eagles turned to former Chicago Bears' defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan as their new head coach of the team. Coming off a Super Bowl win with the Bears, he proceeded to go 5-10-1 in his first year as head coach and it took him three years to turn things around with a 10-6 record in 1988. Ryan's teams won at least 10 games the next two seasons as well but the kiss of death was three-straight early exits from the playoffs. Few fans would argue against the fact that Ryan put together the most talented Eagles' teams in this franchise's history, which only makes his lack of success in the postseason all the more harder to swallow.

Following Buddy's abrupt dismissal in 1991, the likes of Rich Kotite and Ray Rhodes stalked the sidelines as the head coach for the next eight seasons and while the Eagles did go to the playoffs six times they could never advance past the Divisional Round. New ownership gave the franchise a fresh start with Jeff Lurie and in 1999 he tapped Andy Reid as his new head coach. The former offensive coordinator for Green Bay was coming off a very successful run under the tutelage of Mike Holmgren, who can be traced back to Bill Walsh at San Francisco so the pedigree was strong.

Reid's first season as head coach resulted in a slight improvement from Rhodes' 3-13 disaster in 1998 with a 5-11 mark. Things rapidly improved from there with five-straight seasons of 11 wins or more and four-straight trips to the NFC title game. The Eagles went a disappointing 1-3 in those conference championships and the lost to New England in their lone trip to the Super Bowl. Reid never achieved that level of success in his remaining eight seasons with the team, but he did lead Philly back to the NFC title game in 2008. Reid's teams won 10 or more games eight times during his 14-year tenure, but he went out on a bad note with a combined 12 wins in his final two seasons at the helm.

In a somewhat surprising move, Lurie decided to take a chance on Oregon head coach Chip Kelly as Reid's replacement and the gamble paid off right away with a 10-6 record and NFC East title in 2013. Things went downhill from there and in just three short seasons Kelly had worn-out his welcome in the City of Brotherly Love. Ironically enough, he is now the head coach of the 49ers trying to resurrect the glory years of when Walsh was the head coach there.

The big question is can Pederson successfully follow in the footsteps of his mentor after serving as Reid's offensive coordinator in Kansas City in the same way that Andy broke away from Mike Holmgren to enjoy the best run of any head coach in franchise history?