Walrus Droppings: The First Three Weeks

September 27, 2011

While we applaud Andy Reid’s new-found dedication to the running game – is it because Shady is the best Eagles Halfback since Wilbert Montgomery (a deadly combination of Duce Staley’s toughness/center-of-gravity with Brian Westbrook’s agility and explosiveness), or because Vick’s going to take more hits this year than Doug Benson? – let’s review the bad, the worse and the ugly from the first three weeks of the Eagles’ 2011 campaign.

Week one versus the Rams
Do you remember the scene in Major League, in the first game of the season, where Indians’ announcer Harry Doyle (Bob Uecker) says: “A lotta people say you can tell how a season’s gonna go by the first hitter of the year,” and Willie “Mays” Hayes (Wesley Snipes) hits a soft little dribbler? That scene always comes to mind on the first play of any season… Well, the first play of scrimmage for the Eagles Defense this year resulted in a 47-yard, almost untouched, Steven Jackson touchdown. Just saying…(*)

(*)Though, it should be noted that Hayes beat out the throw to first in the movie and the Eagles turned that game around. So, who knows?

Week two versus the Falcons
Man, this was such a winnable game. It was a horribly frustrating game to watch – super sloppy, lots of injuries – but it was hard to get too upset about the loss though, because: A) we expected the Birds to start 1-1; B) Vick’s injury was such a freak thing, turning into a brick wall Todd Herremans’ concrete thigh; and C) Kafka looked good.

But the bad was still BAD: If Vick doesn’t get taken out of the game by Herremans’ leg, they win that game. Plain and simple. There was no way Vick was letting them lose that game… although it would have been nice if could have Bednarik’d(**) and helped the Defense stop Tony Gonzalez and/or Michael Turner.

(**)Yup, that happened.

Speaking of Tony G… How old is he? 53 at this point? And he shredded the Eagles’ D like he was a Patriots’ Tight End. Ugh. It’s going to be a long season. Here are the Running Back/Tight End combos the Eagles still face:

San Fran: Frank Gore/Vernon Davis
Buffalo: Fred Jackson/Scott Chandler
Washington: Tim Hightower/Fred Davis
Dallas: Felix Jones/Jason Witten
Chicago: Matt Forte/Kellen Davis
Arizona: Beanie Wells/Todd Heap
NYG: Ahmad Bradshaw/Jake Ballard
New England: Woodhead and Green-Ellis/Hernandez and Gronkowski
Seattle: Marshawn Lynch/Zach Miller
Miami: Daniel Thomas/Anthony Fasano
NYJ: Green and Tomlinson/Dustin Keller

Of those eleven opponents, only Chicago, Seattle and maybe Arizona and Miami don’t pose a HUGE threat to the interior of the Defense – though Wells/Heap or Thomas/Fasano could make some noise. But the rest are daunting when you look at the blueprint Atlanta laid out for the rest of the league.

That New England game is terrifying. Not only do they have two beasts of Tight Ends who can eat up the middle of the field, but Wes Welker, who may be one of the greatest Slot Receivers of all time. That team is going to put up major numbers against the Eagles’ Defense (at least as it stands today).

And watch out for Washington. They might just be a legitimate playoff team. Save for the ending of last night’s loss to the Cowboys, their Defense is stellar and Rex Grossman – yes, THAT Rex Grossman – is playing well (68 percent completion rate, around 850 yards, five touchdowns)(***).

(***)Do you realize Rex Grossman has never taken a snap against the Eagles?! This blew our mind. We could have sworn he was playing QB the game the Bears won at the Linc in 2007 (with the bullshit fumbled snap/false start call), but according to profootballreference.com, it was the immortal Brian Griese.

Another bad terrible thing from that Falcons game: Reid not challenging Kelvin Hayden’s interception in the third quarter. The ball CLEARLY touched the ground and would have been overturned. The Walrus isn’t afraid to make some of the worst challenges in the NFL, but for some strange reason decided to keep the red hankie in his pocket on this blatant call?! Needless to say, the Falcons only needed two plays to get into the endzone, and put the Eagles in an eleven point hole.

If Reid throws the flag, the whole complexion of that game might change. The Eagles would have retained position at their own 40 yard-line, with only four points to make up. And considering the Offense was able to score touchdowns on three of their next four possessions, it’s safe to say that it’s a different game if they keep the ball there. HUGE mistake, assuming the flag didn’t get caught in The Walrus’ flippers.

Week three versus the Giants
There was one aspect of this game that we didn’t mention yesterday that is a major thorn in our side.

Everyone who knows Andy Reid knows that he’s a sensitive guy. He seems to have a thing for poetic justice and serendipitous circumstances, and that often shows on the field. So, of course, what happens when Andy trots out Steve Smith in the red zone against his former team (which ended in a messy way)? Everyone in the stadium, including Tom Coughlin and the Giants’ Secondary, knew the ball was going to Smith in the end zone… and it did, on not one, but TWO red zone trips – the first of which ended in spectacular fashion, with the ball careening off Smith’s hands and into the arms of Giants’ CB Aaron Ross.

It’s bad enough this “high-power Offense” struggles mightily to score in the red zone. But it’s even worse when Reid calls a play that might as well be broadcasted on the two HD video screens(****). Smith wasn’t even the number one option on those two plays… he was the ONLY option. Watch them again. Vick doesn’t go through progressions, he just stares down number 11. And we knew that was the call the instant Smith entered the field.

(****)And we’re not even talking about the awful telegraphed goal line sequence that occurred in the third quarter.

Way to keep them guessing, Andy!

As it stands now…
Yesterday, we discussed how the make-up of this Eagles team – built to get the lead and protect the lead, and not play any other way – and how that translates to success. Again, a team built around passing the ball and stopping the pass can win games and make the playoffs, but how far can that style take a team? Is it sustainable for a playoff run?

The football purist in us says no – though any team can get hot/lucky at the right time and win three or four games in a row in the playoffs, regardless of style (see: 2007 Giants, 2009 Saints). But realistically, games change in January. Teams get tougher. Running the ball and stopping the run matter more. And this is where good teams separate themselves from streaky teams.

As it stands right now, the Eagles would not fare well against teams like the Packers, Falcons or Saints. Detroit could be thrown into that group. Even teams like the Buccaneers and Panthers – though not necessarily playoff contenders – have the infrastructure to beat the Eagles.

The division is another story, though. The Cowboys are built much like the Eagles, and even though the Giants smacked the Birds at home (and have the recipe to beat them), they still seem like a team on a downward slope. The Redskins, surprisingly, appear to pose the biggest threat. Not a good year for the NFC BEast.

A Call to Arms Flippers
Hey Fire The Walrus Nation… Are you passionate about the Eagles and think Andy Reid needs to be fired? (Of course you are, you’re reading this, aren’t you?) Are you a writer, or capable of piecing together words into coherent thoughts and sentences(*****)? Do you have something to say about the current state of the team?

(*****)Not that we can 100 percent of the time, but still…

Well we need you! In order to give you more content and more regular postings here at Fire The Walrus, we are looking for contributors. Whether you have an idea for a running column or a one-off post, let us know! Send your ideas or queries to firethewalrus@gmail.com. (Please note, there is no payment involved, as Fire The Walrus is a not-for-profit endeavor).

Together, we can Fire The Walrus!

Walrus Droppings: Dog Days of Lehigh

August 10, 2011

Talk of the Town
The Billionaire’s Yearly Ego-Stroke
Jeffrey Lurie graced the world with his presence at Training Camp last week to give his yearly boldface lie state of the team address to the media. Good news: His words didn’t spark a million message board posts/sports talk-caller rants! Bad news: We tend to agree with most of what he says.

Vick’s Donovan Impression
Michael Vick sat down with Mike Missanelli and 9.75 The Fanatic to discuss, among other things, his contract status and Rob Ryan’s comments(*). Is it just us, or has Michael Vick perfected Donovan McNabb’s “appear congenial and humorous while actually toeing the company line and saying nothing” interview response?

(*)Quick note on Rob Ryan: Who cares what he said… He’s a Ryan. He’s got a big mouth. That’s what they do (and that’s why we love them).

Speaking of Number Five…

Donny Drama Does What Donny Drama Does Best:
Be Dramatic

Dear Donovan McNabb:

At one point in your career, we empathized with you. We were sympathetic when you were attacked by Rush Limbaugh, and (mostly) stood by your side during the whole T.O. debacle. We even blamed your receivers when Ricky Manning, Jr. raped you during the 2003 NFC Championship Game. But now that you’re gone, and the midnight green-colored glasses no longer apply, we realize, you’re the common drama denominator.

You are now twice-removed from the Eagles and yet, you can’t seem to take them out of your mouth. This is what you said last week to CBSSports.com’s Clark Judge (via profootballtalk.com):

“I was there for 11 years, and the biggest thing we brought in was T.O. Now they’re getting the so-called ‘Dream Team.’ It’s amazing, but I look back on my career and what they’re doing now . . . that’s great; that’s excellent. But you’re seeing another side. You’re seeing Andy [Reid] taking that chance. It’s not just taking that chance on one guy. They’re taking a chance on a bunch of guys. And they’re spending money. That’s amazing.”

Sure, who can blame you for being irked that the Eagles never fully went “all in” during your tenure here – even though the 2002 and 2004 teams were more than good enough to win it all(**) – but you’re a Minnesota Viking now and should only be concerned with the Minnesota Vikings.

(**)But, let’s not forget… both of those playoff runs ended with a McNabb interception.

For all of your efforts to be “the company guy” and the consummate professional who always says the right things, you sure are the king of making not-so-subtle, yet veiled comments about your former team. And ever since you left for Washington, you’ve done nothing but show your true colors: jealous, envious and melodramatic.

It wasn’t that we never loved you Donovan, you just needed something to cry about. If you feel the need to carry around that big ugly chip on shoulder from draft day – more than 12 years ago now! – and think that the Eagles did you wrong for all those years, well, so be it. You give off the aura of a lover scorned… but you sound more like an ungrateful, spiteful spinster.

Have fun in Minnesota, Donny Drama! We can’t wait until Chris Ponder rightfully takes your job.

With loathing,
Eagles Fans

The Desean Debate
Grantland’s Bill Barnwell – whose football analysis we’ve really come to enjoy – breaks down Desean Jackson’s efficiency catching the ball (spoiler alert: it’s subpar). Barnwell makes a pretty good statistical case for why the Eagles shouldn’t invest huge dollars in Jackson – primarily focusing on his catch rate and his percentage of dropped balls – but Desean’s importance to the Eagles offense goes far beyond numbers.

Without Jackson on the field, the Bird’s offense isn’t nearly as dynamic. Desean’s ability to stretch the field – even with the occasional drop – is what makes the Eagles offense go. Even as a decoy, if Desean is on the field, the defense must account for him and a receiving corps of (a hopefully healthy) Maclin, Avant and Cooper doesn’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of Defensive Coordinators.

In all of our years of watching football, very few Wide Receivers have stood out for getting behind defenders the way that Desean Jackson does. His speed and double move are second-to-none and his game is more Iverson than Rice. He might not be technically sound and he might be undersized, but he is a warrior and will do whatever it takes to get into the end zone.

And THAT’S why he deserves to be paid.

Rookies Galore!
It appears that the Birds are VERY high on some of their youngest talent. Reuben Frank had glowing words for first-round pick, Danny Watkins (“All-rookie team in 2011. Pro Bowl by 2013.”), and third-round Cornerback, Cutis Marsh (“Kind of like a young Bobby Taylor. Tall, rangy, athletic and very smart.”). Frank goes on to praise Jaiquwan Jarrett, who could be a big hitter, but is hurt by the lack of mini-camp/training camp time. Center Jason Kelce is another rook to keep an eye on, as he is pushing Jamaal Jackson for the starting spot.

Frank on new Eagles Kicker, Alex Henery: “Huge leg. Can kick the thing a mile. They don’t always seem to go straight. Keep a close eye on the rookie kicker Thursday night. Andy Reid would love to give him a nice challenging 47-yarder. See where he’s at. The kid scares me a bit.”

And finally, Casey Matthews appears to possess that legendary “Matthews-family Football Gene” and, as of now, is not Fredo Matthews! Currently locked-in as the starting Middle Linebacker – at least for now – Matthews could finally be that missing piece in the middle the Eagles have sorely lacked since Jeremiah Trotter left (the first time).

Ray Diddy Whets the Lombardi Appetite
As if you’re not already jacked up enough for the season to start(***), Ray Diddy gets the juices flowing by comparing the 2011 Eagles with the 1994 San Francisco 49ers.

(***)And if you’re not, why the hell are you reading this?

It’s super early to start putting this team up there with past Super Bowl winners… but boy, are the similarities striking – right down to signing a game-changing Cornerback in free agency and the rookie kicker. Bizarre, and hope-inspiring, stuff.

Oh and one more thing before we get out of here… THERE’S AN EAGLES FOOTBALL GAME TOMORROW!!! Sure it’s preseason, but its football!

Rejoice Fire The Walrus Nation!