Thursday, September 30, 2010

Where is Castillo's Blame?

Today before practice, Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg talked about his suffering offensive line. Mornhinweg said he had faith that the line would improve and they can be great.

To say an offensive line that features Mike McGlynn and Reggie Wells could be great is a stretch to say the least. But is it a stretch to say that Offensive Line coach Juan Castillo might not be the man to take them there?

People within the organization, and most in the media, pump up Castillo. He is often referred to as one of the best offensive line coaches in the league. But the performance of the offensive line this season has been unacceptable, and it's his job to improve it. The simple truth is, he hasn't, and the O line has been a problem for a while.

Once the Eagles jettisoned Donovan McNabb to Washington, we heard that him holding the ball for a long time was the problem. We were told that quick-release Kevin Kolb would be the answer. But Kolb was sacked 3 times in his only half of action. This offensive line has even managed to get Michael Vick sacked 11 times in his 2.5 games of action- against Detriot and Jacksonville. If this keeps up, Vick will get sacked a whooping 70 times this season. Sound too high? Castillo’s line in 2007 gave up almost 50 sacks. That year he had Jon Runyan, Tra Thomas, and Shawn Andrews in a Pro Bowl year. Needless to say, this offensive line does not have that kind of talent.

Many fans can not break down the intricate ins and outs of how the offensive line is supposed to block on certain plays, but this line has made glaring mistakes that anyone with eyes can recognize. This line has to many penalties. Penalties that have stalled drives.

Castillo has been blessed in the past to have very talented players at the two biggest positions- Left and right tackles. But since John Runyan and Tra Thomas left, this team has not found adequate replacement. While none of us really know how much input Castillo has on who the team drafts or signs to be on the line, I do know he looks at players before they are brought it. He is there to work out draft picks. So he had a say in bringing in players like Stacy Andrews. The current offensive line has no depth, and it's starting 5 is suspect at best. Where is his share of the criticism for this?

In addition, the Pro Bowl offensive lineman who have been brought in here have regressed. The fact that Jason Peters cannot grasp the concept of how to avoid a false start penalty is a direct result of coaching. Before Peters came in here, he was praised as one of the best tackles in the league. People in Philadelphia will tell you his Pro-Bowl selection last season was based on reputation alone. A first round pick and millions later, Peters is now just another member of the offensive line that drives the fans crazy.

People blame Sean McDermott for the step down in defense last season. Mornhinweg and Andy Reid are constantly criticized for their play calling. Speical teams coach Ted Dashier got ran out of town last season. Even the strength and conditioning coach was let go last season.

Castillo is not solely to blame for this mess upfront. But to not hear his name at all when the problem is talked about makes no sense.

Where is Castillo's blame?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Eagles- Packers: What We Know, Don't Know

What We Know:

Andy Reid loves the wildcat, McNabb didn’t- Vick in on the first play from scrimmage? Eagles running the wildcat 4 plays out of first 14? That would never have happened with McNabb on this team. While Reid ran the wildcat with McNabb, it was clear that McNabb was not as ok with it as Kolb is. It was like tag team QB’ing out there. When the Eagles went into the locker room at half time, Vick had more carries then McCoy. The wildcat is an effective play, like when Vick scrambled for the first down on 3rd and 1 play in the second quarter. But to pull Kolb out of the game (roughly) every 4 plays is not the way to get him going. This was not Kolb’s first start, but there’s no question that the pressure was on him today to prove he belonged. Reid killed any chance he had by constantly putting Vick in.

Same Old Andy Reid: To have no time outs, and be unable to stop the clock after the two minute warning is simply put, unacceptable. His horrible clock management over the years has been discussed, and this game was just another example of it costing his team a shot to win a game. The quarterback has changed, but the same infuriating Eagles are still here.

Eagles Defense is Fast, Can Get Pressure- Looking for a positive in this game? Look no further then the front 7 of this Eagles defense. The front 7 got after Rodgers early and often, sacking Rodgers 3 times and forcing him out of the pocket. Juqua Parker, benched in the preseason in favor of rookie Brandon Graham, finished the game with 2 sacks. Stewart Bradley got in Rodgers face consistently. They made Ryan Grant a non factor. They held TE Jeramichal Finley to only 4 catches. Only after Bradley left the game did they start to get run over. But with Bradley in the game, this defense looked like some of the Eagles defense of old. If it wasn’t for the defense, this game would have been over early. They kept the team in the game.

Eagles’s Are Better Then They Look- It couldn’t have gone worse for the Eagles. Their Quarterback, center, middle line backer and fullback all go down- in the first half. Those positions right there are the heart and soul of your team. If you told Eagle fans that in the first half, the Eagles would have 0 yards passing and they would loose Kolb, Bradley, Jackson, and Weaver, but only be down 10, they would have taken it.

But this team didn’t give up or get blown out. This game could have gotten ugly. But they fought back. The Packers are, if you listen to the experts, one of the best teams in the league. Many people think they will come out of the NFC, and Rodgers will be MVP. The Eagles played with this team. And for a young team, that is saying something.

This Offensive Line is a Mess- Remember when the Eagles thought they had one of the biggest, best lines in the league? That the Andrews brothers and Jason Peters would anchor the line for years to come? Those days are long gone. Kevin Kolb was running for his life from the start. Packers ran into the Eagles back field early and often. The Eagles were able to get nothing on the ground. Only once Micheal Vick came in the game, and was able to run away from the pressure, did they offense get anything going. Even then, Vick was running for his life. They couldn’t have even get enough push to get the most mobile quaterback in the league 1 yard when the game was on the line. There’s no question Kolb was not sharp (to say the least). But the O line did not help him one bit.

Bobby April Has His Work Cut Out- Special teams is something that will come with time. Only a week ago did April find out who his special teams players would be, when the final cuts were made. But it was not a good showing for his unit. When the Eagles were mounting a comeback, the Eagles gave up returns of 51 and 40 yards when team was mounting come back. Eldra Buckley had a brain fart of epic proportions when he nailed the returner in the 4th quarter.

Those Kelly Green Jerseys are Amazing- The fans waited for it, sat through the hideous blue/yellow debacle, and they finally got it. The jerseys were worth the wait.

What We Don’t Know:

Whos fault was this? Is Kevin Kolb really this bad? It’s clearly too early to tell. But the difference between this team was night and day once Vick entered the game. Kolb was lucky to only have the one interception and threw multiple balls into tight coverage. For as much as he talked about being a distributer this off season, he sure wasn’t able to get any of the Eagles weapons into the game. DeSean Jackson, this teams best player, was invisible when Kolb was behind center. Only once Vick came in did Jackson have a catch. It could be the offensive line or the play calling, but the numbers don’t lie- the Eagles outscored the Packers 17-14 in the second half. Was it all Kolb’s fault? Was this the coaching staffs fault? We don’t know yet. But we’ll find out next week and the upcoming games if Kolb’s performance this week was his fault or Reid’s.

What were they doing during training camp? On each unit’s first series on the field, they had a penalty for illegal formation. To practice those first plays of the game for the whole week, and to be coming off of training camp where the defense is taught, and then have those penalties is unacceptable. As much as it falls on the players, it’s the coaches who are supposed to “put their players in position to win the game”. And they didn’t do that.

Who’s going to play fullback? Has anyone ever felt worse for a player then they did watching Leonard Weaver be carried off the field. You have to respect him getting to the sideline and not taking the cart to the locker room. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports Weaver will be out for the season wit a torn ACL. While he could be wrong, no body watched that injury and thought he would be back this season. Coming off of a Pro Bowl season, you have to wonder if it’s not Weaver who gets that ball on 4th and 1 to end the game. Luckily, this team has practice playing with no fullback. While Weaver did not play a big role in the offense, I saw what he ment to the team at training camp and in practice. Weaver was one of the offensive leaders, and a calming voice to Kolb. He won’t be there anymore, and it’s going to hurt this team. But Joe Banner and the coaches have their work cut out for them in replacing a player of Weavers status.

How Long till DeSean Jackson Blows? It’s no secret Jackson is not happy about his contract situation. His mood in the locker room when the media is around it not a positive one. When fans yelled at him during training camp about his contract, he played along and let it be known he wants to be paid. So how long till he starts to yell back? DeSean Jackson thrived last year with McNabb’s strong arm, but if this is how it’s going to look with Kolb under center, Jackson may never get paid. The fact is, the NFL is a league that values the future, not the past. Joe Banner will not care Jackson paid the Pro-Bowl last season if he doesn’t make it this year. Jackson knows how he plays this year, and his numbers, will decide his future. If Kolb doesn’t get him the ball, and Jackson’s numbers start to fall, how long till he calls for Vick? Or start to complain publicly about his contract? We don’t know yet, but I can imagine his mood is even worse today then it was before kick off.

How will this team bounce back? It’s been written about how this is a young team. These are not your Eagles of old who had veteran leadership ozzing from the locker room. How will the team bounce back from a loss where their leader (Kolb) was beaten and battered? How will the locker room respond to Vick playing so well? Will they support Kolb? This loss clearly makes the next two games, against Detroit and Jacksonville, must wins. Good teams in the NFL beat the teams they are supposed to. At the end of the day, the Eagles were not supposed to beat the Packers. But they should beat the Lions. We don’t know yet how they will bounce back, but we will learn a lot about this team during this week and next Sunday.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

AFC Preview

AFC East

1.Patriots- The Patriots were sneaky good last season. While all the attention was on the Jets and Colts in the AFC, the Patriots quietly finished 6th in offensive ppg, and allowed only 17 ppg, good for 5th in the league. Going into the playoffs they were winners of 3 of their last 4. Tom Brady, in his first year after major knee surgery, still managed to throw 28 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions. Players coming off of that kind of surgery generally take a big step forward in their second year- and that’s bad news for the rest of the league.

The Patriots will have Wes Welker back in time for the start of the regular season, and with the emergence of Julian Edelman last season in Welker’s absence, will have a solid group of wide outs for Brady to throw to. The main question on this will be age- Brady, Welker, and Moss all have more then likely seen their best days. But the Patriots have won 10 games or more 8 of the last 9 years, and are one of the most consistent teams in the league. No body is talking about them this year, but they will be when they win the division over the Jets.

2. Jets- The Jets are walking a thin line this season. It goes without saying they have talked the talked. A team that didn’t qualify for the playoffs until the last game of the season was saved by a run through the playoffs that surprised many. That run has expectations through the ceiling for this team. It’s how they made that run that has people excited - a defense that is tops in the league, and a running game that took the pressure off Mark Sanchez. Those things should stay the same this year, and the additions of Antonio Cromartie and Ladanian Tomlinson will only improve those. Say what you want about Tomlinson, but he is the best “backup” running back in the league, and is another weapon on this offense.

But will the Jets catch all the breaks again this season? Can they win with Sanchez throwing 20 interceptions and only 12 touchdowns? Is Shonn Greene ready to be the number one back on a team that relays on the run? The Jets like to talk, but numbers don’t lie- the Jets ranked 2nd to last in passing yards per game. This team has the talent and swagger to make it all the way to the Super Bowl. But it will not be the cake walk that the experts, and the Jets, seem to think it will be, and it may take the regular season to figure it out.

3. Dolphins- When the Dolphins acquired Brandon Marshall this off-season, it was a signal that they were ready to move on from being a one trick pony with the Wild Car offense. With Marshall, they have one of the best wide receivers in the league, and one that will excel in catching the ball over the middle. They can also go to Marshall a lot- Marshall has caught over 100 balls a season since he became a starter. With Marshall being a reliable option for Chad Henne, and a solid running game with Ronnie Brown & Ricky Williams behind him, Henne will not be forced to make a lot of plays. That’s a good thing if you’re a Dolphins fan- Henne was 7-6 as a starter, throwing more interceptions then touchdowns.

4. Bills- The Trent Edwards era continues this season in Buffalo, much to the disappointment of their fans. It might not matter who is behind center for the Bills though, as their offensive line allowed their Qb to be sacked 44 times last season. The line also struggled to get holes for their running backs, and the team finished 21rst in the league in rushing yards. The Bills have had a winning record only once since the year 2000, and that should not change this season.

AFC North

1. Ravens- The Baltimore Ravens are a lot like the Jets without all the talk. The Ravens defense continued to be one of the best in the NFL over the last decade, finishing 3rd in points allowed per game. But it is the offense that has people excited. With the additions of Anquan Boldin and Tj Housmanzadeh, the Ravens have the best set of wide outs they have ever had to team with the Defense.

The Ravens also have something the Jets do not- a reliable quarterback. Joe Flacco threw only 12 interceptions last season, while throwing for over 20 touchdowns. With Ray Rice at running back, the Ravens have everything you need to win in this league- tough D, solid RB, reliable QB, and weapons at the skill positions.

2. Bengals- The most impressive statistic last season might have been 6-0. That was the Bengals record against their division rivals last season. While they won’t be expected to duplicate that, the Bengals teams last season was not a fluke. The team was carried by its defense, which allowed only 18 points per game. With 17 interceptions and 15 fumble recoveries last season, the defense also managed to have a take away in 14 of the 17 games. They had more then one take away in 9 of those games. That’s how you win games in the NFL.

3. Steelers- The Steelers were a streaky team last season- they had 2 winning streaks of 3 or more, and a losing streak of 5 games. The Steelers also had an uncharacteristically bad season running the ball, finishing in the bottom half of the league in yards per game. The defense missed Saftey Troy Polamalu last season, giving up over 20 points per game.

The main problem facing the Steelers tho, is the skill positions. With Ben Roethlisberger out for the first 4 games, the Steelers will start the season with Dennis Dixon, Mike Wallace, Hines Ward, and Rashard Mendenhall as their main offensive threats. Even when Big Ben returns, that pedestrian group isn’t scaring any defense this season.

4. Browns- Poor Cleveland. When Jake Delhomme is your savior at quarterback, your officially in trouble. There was not much to like from the Browns last season. 3rd worst offense in the league, and a defense that gave up almost 24 points per game. Even there future looks bleek- Colt McCoy has been less then impressive in his limited preseason action.

AFC South

1. Colts- For the Colts, the regular season has come to mean very little. They showed us how much it ment to them when they pulled their started against the Jets, deciding to not go for a perfect 16-0 record. They have won at least 12 games the last seven seasons. There offense has been in the top 10 in 6 of seasons. Peyton Manning is still Peyton Manning.

The Colts will be there during the regular season. The real season begins for them in the playoffs, where they will be there once again, the top overall seed. As usual.

2. Titans- The Titans are on top of everyone’s list of sleeper teams, so much so that they barely qualify as a sleeper anymore. The Titans got to the top of that list by going 8-2 in there last 10 game. But look at that number closer and it starts to fall apart. During that streak, the Titans beat 7 teams that did not make the playoffs. The only playoff team they did beat during that streak was the Cardinals, and they only won after a miracle play at the end.

Chris Jonson is the best running back in the league- hands down. Will he get 2500 yards? No. Not when he is the only offensive weapon on the whole team. Vince Young is improving, and showed signs last season, but 10 touchdowns and 7 interceptions is not going to scare any teams from stacking the box. And the defense? Finished 28th in the league in points per game last season.

3. Texans- Is this the year the Texans can finally get over the hump? Last season, 6 of the 7 games they lost was by 8 points or less. It seems every year is going to be the year for them, but they have not made they playoffs since they arrived in Houston. They have the weapons, with Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Steve Slaton combining to make one of the best trios in the league. For this team, it isn’t about talent- that is there. They lack the ability to win games, plain and simple, especially the big ones. 7 of their 9 wins were against non-playoff teams. And that won’t change this year.

4. Jaguars- David Garrad, once thought to be the answer at quarterback, regressed last season. After throwing only 3 interceptions 3 years ago, while going 9-3 as a starter, he has thrown double digit interceptions the last two seasons- and his touchdown’s thrown has decreased as well. Maurice Jones-Drew will try to make his fantasy football owners happy, but that will be the only reason anyone will watch the Jags this season.

AFC West

1. Chargers- The Chargers picked wrong when they decided to make Darren Sproles there feature back last season. With only 343 yards rushing, and a little under 500 yards receiving, the Chargers decided to draft Ryan Matthews with their number one selection in this years draft. With Vincent Jackson in limbo, the team all of the sudden has a lack of weapons for Phillip Rivers to get the ball to. Antonio Gates continues to be a top tight end in the league, but how long will it be until he takes a step back?

They’ll win the division, but no one will be impressed with them doing it.

2. Raiders- The Raiders will surprise a lot of people this season. This team was better then its record indicated last season. They played the teams in their division close, being within 8 points of each game, and beating the Denver Broncos late in the season. The Raiders have a nice set of Rb’s- Michael Bush, Darren McFadden, Justin Fargas- and an emerging tight end in Zach Miller.

But the big reason the Raiders will be better this year? Jason Campbell. To say the Raiders got nothing out of the quarterback position last season would be an understatement. Campbell is better then people think, and he’ll show people this year. Watch out for the Raiders.

3. Broncos- The Broncos were the opposite of the Titans last season- started off great, but lost it down the stretch, losing 8 of their final 10 games. The loss of Elvis Dumervil is huge for this team- his 17 sacks last season will be hard to replace.

4. Chiefs- If you need any reason as to why the Chiefs will finish last, you havnt been watching the NFL the last few seasons. The Chiefs have not won more then 4 games in the last 3 seasons, or finished better then 25th in overall offense or defense. Matt Cassell also appears to be more a product of the Patriots system then a player- 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions last season. Bright spot on Chiefs? Rookie RB Dexter McCluster.


1. Colts

2. Patriots

3. Ravens

4. Chargers

5. Jets

6. Titans

Wildcard: Ravens over Titans; Jets over Chargers

Round 2: Ravens over Patriots; Jets over Colts

Conference Championship: Ravens over Jets

AFC Champion: Ravens