NFL lack of O heading into Monday night/Ed Kracz

NFL lack of O heading into Monday night
Ed Kracz-Official NFL Contributor for the Balance
@kracze

Maybe Monday night’s primetime NFC East matchup between rivals Philadelphia and Washington will be easier on the eyes than what took place around the National Football League on Sunday.
Don’t look for any offensive short-outs between the Eagles, who are the only team in the league with only one loss at the moment, and the Redskins, who are trying to prevent being swept by the Birds this season after losing the season-opener on their home field back in early September.
At least hope for some offense. That was very much a missing ingredient in Sunday’s full slate of games.
There were six teams who failed to score an offensive touchdown. That’s just simply offensive.
There were another five teams who scored only one touchdown. That’s just mystifying in a day and age where the rules are tailored to encourage points.
The Titans and Browns slogged through 60 minutes of football where neither team was capable of finding the end zone. Tennessee won an all-field-goal game, 12-9. And it took overtime to decide. Fans should demand their money back for having to watch that slop. Of course, Cleveland fans are used to watching such anemic offensive play after failing to draft an NFL-caliber quarterback in forever.
Sunday was no different, with head coach Hue Jackson deciding to start DeShone Kizer again after benching him last week, only to change course during the game, yanking out Kizer for Cody Kessler. The Browns are now 1-22 since trading away the No. 2 pick of the draft last year to the Eagles, who selected quarterback Carson Wentz. There aren’t enough thank-you notes in the world for Philly fans to send Cleveland for that deal.
The Chicago Bears won their second straight game to get to 3-4 and did so with their starting quarterback, rookie Mitchell Trubisky, completing just four passes in seven attempts. The Bears held the ball for just 21 minutes, 25 seconds, gained a paltry total of 153 yards and yet still found a way to beat the Carolina Panthers 17-3.
Three teams had big fat zeroes next to their name – the Colts, Broncos, and Cardinals.
The last time three teams laid goose-eggs on the same day was back in December 2012.
OK, Arizona lost it starting quarterback, Carson Palmer, to a broken arm, and he will miss the next eight weeks at minimum, so maybe they get a pass – no pun intended.
The Broncos need to think about making a quarterback change, before it’s too late. The Broncs are swimming in a sea of mediocrity at 3-3 and Trevor Siemian is at the helm of an offense going nowhere. They have scored 108 points in six games. Only three teams have scored fewer, and, yes, the Browns are one. Denver’s defense is too good to let this season slip through its fingers.
Then there are the Colts, whose offensive line allowed 10 sacks to Jacksonville – or should we say, Sacksonville.
It’s a wonder that Indy QB Jacoby Brissett managed to escape injury. And isn’t that why Brissett is playing quarterback in the first place, because Andrew Luck could not stay healthy behind an offensive line that has more leaks than Donald Trump’s White House?
So cross your fingers and hope the Monday nighter at least delivers some touchdowns, and some drama.

This Week in the NFL! Ed Kracz/NFL Contributor

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By Ed Kracz ED

Official NFL Contributor to The Balance

The Dallas Cowboys have the weekend off thanks to their bye, but the drama that has surrounded star running back Ezekiel Elliott did not take a break.
Elliott’s on-again, off-again six-game suspension was reinstated earlier in the week. Elliott, the Cowboys and the NFL Players Association refuse to go quietly into the night, however.
The NFLPA has asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for an immediate recall so they can pursue a full-panel hearing with the court. If the recall goes through, Elliott may very well be able to play in Dallas’ next game on Oct. 22 against the winless 49ers. If it does not, he will sit out games against San Francisco, the Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angles Chargers. He would not be eligible to return until Nov. 30 against Washington.
By then, the Cowboys’ defense of the NFC East title they won last year, when they went 13-3, may be out the window, because the Eagles appear to be in good shape to unseat them.
The Eagles are sitting at 5-1, compared to Dallas’ 2-3, and Philly quarterback Carson Wentz has taken a huge leap forward from his rookie season. Wentz has thrown seven touchdowns in his last two games and has been over 300-yards passing in half the team’s games this year.
More importantly, the Eagles are playing team football and free of the drama that surrounds the Cowboys and also another NFC East team, the New York Giants, who are sitting at 0-5, have injuries galore at receiver and had to suspend cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie earlier in the week when he complained about being taken out of a recent game.
Elliott and the Cowboys seem to be affected by the suspension issue.
The offensive line, which is one of the league’s best, isn’t playing at the same level as it did last year when Elliott led the NFL in rushing with 1,631 yards.
Also, in his first five games last year, Elliott had 546 yards and five touchdowns. In his first five this season, he has 393 with one touchdown and was held to eight yards on the ground by the Denver Broncos in Week Two.
Should Elliott be lost for the next six games, the running game would be handled by Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden. Not bad, but not Elliott, either.
That means quarterback Dak Prescott, who was last year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year, will likely have to shoulder a heavier load.
Prescott has the targets to be effective in future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten and receivers Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, and Cole Beasley, but the quarterback also has an 11-game streak where he has failed to throw for more than 300 yards.
That would have to end if Elliott’s suspension remains in place.

ED KRACZ: Could Derek Barnett be the next Reggie White?

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The following article is contributed by Ed Kracz NFL contributor for the Balance, Beat writer for the The Philadelphia Eagles and Calkins Media
ED KRACZ: Could Derek Barnett be the next Reggie White?

PHILADELPHIA — Had there been a roof, it would have blown off. This was the first outdoor draft in National Football League history so the ear-splitting noise that a crowd of about 80,000 gathered on the Ben Franklin Parkway simply rose to the heavens when it was announced the Eagles were on the clock.

After nearly 10 minutes passed, league commissioner Roger Goodell strode across the stage at the base of the Philadelphia Museum of Art with the Rocky theme song blasting.

Then came the pick: pass rusher Derek Barnett from the University of Tennessee.

Maybe someone up in the heavens heard the roars. Maybe even Reggie White himself heard them, because the late, great defensive end, who gave the Eagles so many great years and memories, must know Barnett.

It was Barnett who broke his sack record at Tennessee. The Nashville, Tennessee, native was the first freshman to start on the d-line for Tennessee in 2014, and he responded by having three straight double-digit sack seasons. If he can do that in the NFL, he could be this team’s next White.

It’s a tall order, though, especially because there are some knocks on him. Speed and burst are two.

But 32 sacks are 32 sacks.

“What Derek is proficient at is at the top of his rush, when Derek gets there, he has the bend and can finish,” vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas said. “He can really close. He has a variety of moves, speed, he can use power and he can finish when he gets to the top of the rush. I think there is a high ceiling for Derek. He’s going to get better, improve his hand technique. He said after he was drafted, he’s only scratching the surface of his potential and I fully expect him to reach it.”

There is no questioning that Barnett is a person of a high-character, and in this draft, where red flags popped up on players like a South Jersey beach when rip tides are present, that is saying something.

Running back Dalvin Cook was still on the board when the Eagles made their pick but several off-field incidents may have steered them away. Same with linebacker Reuben Foster. The Eagles could’ve had him but maybe the diluted urine sample during the NFL Scouting Combine scared them away.

“We’re real excited to get Derek,” executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said. “He was the highest-rated player on our board. We’re always built along the lines but, at same time, take highest-rated guy. He fits our scheme, he fits our culture and I think we got a tremendous player and a tremendous person. Everyone in this city will see the kind of person he is. He has unbelievable character, a hard worker and is really productive.”

Pass rushers are hard to find, and the Eagles believe they found one.

He may not have tested well at the Scouting Combine but Douglas said that was the case with Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs. That didn’t stop Douglas’ employer at the time — the Ravens and Ozzie Newsome — from taking Suggs, who became the league’s defensive player of the year shortly after being drafted.

“Both players didn’t test outrageously well but both are highly productive players, high toughness, great people,” Douglas said. “Again, his production is unmatched.”

Roseman defended Barnett’s testing by saying that Barnett had the flu at the Combine and at his pro day he had a hamstring issue.

As expected, this draft was about as unpredictable as any in recent memory.

So many mock drafts had defensive players coming off the board early and often. It was the other way around. Seven of the first 10 picks were offensive picks.

For the Eagles, who are looking to complete the puzzle around quarterback Carson Wentz, that was not a good thing.

Three of the top 10 players were receivers who had all been heavily linked to the Birds: Corey Davis, Mike Williams and John Ross. Another offensive player the Eagles no doubt coveted was Christian McCaffrey. The Stanford running back went to the Carolina Panthers, which was where most experts thought he would go.

The good news was, there were three trades before the Eagles’ turn came at No. 14. All three of those teams trading up took quarterbacks, which pushed talent down the board.

“We spent a lot of time going through scenarios and we did not have any scenarios with what happened here,” Roseman said. “It was real interesting how it went.”

When all that shuffling was complete, the Eagles had plenty of talent from which to choose, especially on defense. There was one offensive weapon they could’ve had and that was Alabama tight end O.J. Howard. Imagine a two-tight end set of him and Zach Ertz. That would’ve been scary.

In the end, though, defense was the direction they found too difficult to ignore.

They could have taken Alabama defensive tackle Johnathan Allen, who was the 2016 Chuck Bednarik and Bronco Nagurski Award on the nation’s top defense and had 10.5 sacks. Maybe if Allen was an end, he would have been the pick, because there was a clear need on the edge after the release of Connor Barwin.

So it’s one down and seven more picks to go.

The next two come Friday night, where the Birds own the 43rd and 99th overall picks.

Maybe the puzzle piece around Wentz will come then. Maybe a cornerback or two.

“There are a lot of different turns and twists as we go forward,” Roseman said, “but this is a good start for the Philadelphia Eagles.”

Ed Kracz: 215-949-3070; ekracz@calkins.com; @kracze

EAGLES COLUMN: Rookies look like contributors/ Guest writer Ed Kracz

Below is a column written by Eagles Beat Writer for the Philadelphia Eagles
http://www.theintell.com/sports/eagles/eagles-column-rookies-look-like-contributors/article_5ba2afb8-59a7-5c69-b2e0-5a3f99eb877c.html

Carl Kosola/Staff Photographer
Carl Kosola/Staff Photographer

PHILADELPHIA — Usually they need time to marinate, slowly simmering in the weight room and meeting room.
That’s what rookies, for the most part, have done in the first two drafts with Eagles coach Chip Kelly in charge. There are some exceptions. Right tackle Lane Johnson comes to mind, but he was the fourth overall pick in 2013. Jordan Matthews was on the receiving end of nearly 900 yards last year after entering the league in the second round.
This year could be completely different.
There were rookies making plays all over the field during the Eagles’ 36-10 win over the Indianapolis Colts at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.
The team’s first three picks — receiver Nelson Agholor, cornerback Eric Rowe,and linebacker Jordan Hicks — flashed, their sixth-round pick, cornerback Randall Evans, recovered a fumble, and their seventh-round selection, 6-foot-9 defensive end Brian Mihalik, recorded the Eagles’ first sack. And don’t forget another sixth-round selection, JaCorey Shepherd, who was on track to be the starting slot cornerback until an ACL tear ended his season last week.
“The one thing you don’t know about a lot of those guys is what are they going to be like when you get them into a game,” said Kelly. “That’s the encouraging thing … Without seeing film, I felt a lot of guys stepped up and made plays. Eric Rowe with a fumble caused, did a great job stripping him. Nelson made big catch on our bench and on their bench turned it into a touchdown, then another catch, so we’re excited about those guys. It’s just one step for us, but we feel like we have a lot of good film to teach off of.”
Agholor turned a high, short throw from Mark Sanchez into a 34-yard touchdown that put the Eagles ahead to stay 7-3 with 3:27 left in the opening quarter. The first-round pick finished with three catches for 57 yards. Asked about the touchdown, all Agholor wanted to talk about was the two catches he didn’t make, including one that zipped right through his hands.
“First time I touched the ball was a dropped incompletion,” he said. “I had two hands on the ball, guy comes in and rakes it out, so at end of day, that’s on my mind more than the (touchdown).”
The team’s second-round pick, Rowe forced a fumble from Phillip Dorsett, the Colts’ first-round draft pick this year. Of course, there was some bad there, too. Rowe was beaten on deep over route by Dorsett.
“All I could do was run and catch up,” said Rowe. “When I saw him catch it — at practice we preach strip and get the ball out. I saw he was carrying the ball loose, I punched at it, but wrapped up and tried to get the tackle, too. Once I saw it come out, I was pretty pumped.”
As for Hicks, he made mistakes, too.
That’s what being a rookie is about.
Hicks missed a tackle on the Colts’ only TD of the day, a 9-yard run from Josh Robinson that made the score 26-10 with 7:08 to play in the third quarter. But there was the key block he made on what became a 92-yard punt return by Kenjon Barner with just four seconds left in the first half that sent the Birds into the locker room with a 23-3 lead.
With a crowded field of inside linebackers, it will be special teams where Hicks will learn to grow his game.
“We take a lot of pride coming in here,” said Hicks of the rookies. “This organization, coach Kelly’s done a great job getting guys here who care, who want to get better, who want to compete, who take practice seriously, who take getting better seriously. It’s the culture of this team. You come in here, you’re around his team for five minutes, you understand you’re around a group of guys who want to get better, who want to compete, who want to play for each other.”
Then there were the guys who weren’t even drafted this May but scooped up shortly afterward as free agents. Guys like tight end Eric Tomlinson and receiver Rasheed Bailey.
Tomlinson led the team in receiving, catching five passes for 61 yards and Bailey caught both passes thrown his way, one of which was a one-handed spear from Tim Tebow that went for 18 yards and bailed the team out of bad field position. Bailey’s two receptions covered 23 yards.
“The ultimate goal here is to win and win every week,” said veteran tight end Brent Celek, who added that he has been energized by this influx of youth. “When you have young guys that can contribute like that, it’s big. We still have a long way to go, but I love the attitude of not only these young kids but the whole team. It’s just a different attitude around here. I really hope it translates. At end of day we have to win games and I think we have the guys to do that. I’m excited. I know I’m getting older now, I’ve never been happier to be on a team than I am now.”
The thing that makes contributing as a rookie so difficult, at least in the opinion of nose tackle Beau Allen, who was one himself last year, is that there is very little break form the time the college season ends until the NFL season ramps up. Allen was one of only two drafted rookies from last year who made an impact on the field, with Matthews being the other.
“It’s a whirlwind for those guys because a lot of them have bowl games then all star games, the (scouting) combine, the pre-draft process, then OTAs and they get a couple weeks off before they’re in camp,” said Allen. “It’s just wild. They don’t get a lot of time off and that’s hard on the body.”
This year’s rookie crop seems to get it, and, right now, looks like several can come out sizzling from the start rather than slowly marinating.
Ed Kracz: 215-345-3069; email: ekracz@calkins.com; Twitter: @kracze

This week on The Balance

The Balance
Airdate: January 5th, 2013
Host: Tom Marquis

The Balance and Indy Pro Sports
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9:05-9:30: Kenny Barr and the Radio Speed Talk guys
9:30-10:00: College Saturday with the “Interns”
10:00-10:02: Elizabeth the Greek
10:00-11:00 NFL Talk,with Special Guest Phil Wilson from the Indy Star,2 Dollar Bill Josh and more

 

You don’t want to miss this week’s show. You can catch it LIVE on Blog Talk Radio on Saturday 9a-11a EST here – http://www.blogtalkradio.com/the-balance/2013/01/05/the-balance. Also, feel free to call in to discuss racing, college football, college basketball, Elizabeth the Greek, NFL, NBA, and/or Fantasy Football with host Tom Marquis at (917) 889-8516.

DONT MISS THE BALANCE ON 8/18/2012

 

 

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On This weeks show

Airdate: August 18, 2012

Host: Tom Marquis

 

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Country Club Industrial Park

Indianapolis, IN 46234

Phone (317) 903-8063

Email tom@indyprosports.com

 

9:05-9:30: Pete – Radio Speed Talk

9:30-9:45: Leslie Harley – Families for HoPE

9:45-10:00: Ed Kratz – Eagles

10:00-10:15: Jeff Curts – BearsClaws

10:15-10:30: Jay Graves – Jay Graves Report

10:30-10:55: BAMF Fantasy Football Huddle

10:55-11:00: Wrap Up