Both my teams were eliminated from the NCAA basketball tourney Thursday night—and both after playing well in the first halves of their games. My alma mater Mount St. Mary’s played top seed Villanova even in the first half (I have to admit I was actually thinking upset win possibility at about the 15-minute mark!) and Maryland seemed to have Xavier under control heading into their second half.
What happened then was something we’ve all seen too often as Eagles fans—both my teams failed to adjust to defensive changes in the second half. It would seem the difference between a competitive team and a very good team is having a collective offensive answer when the opponent changes up its man-to-man and and zone coverages. Maybe that’s as much on the coaching as the players. It works the other way, too—your defensive calls have to adjust and change according to what the opponent’s offense is doing differently coming out of the halftime break.
Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz had a few games last season where the defensive strategy worked well in the first half, then seemed to break down in the second half. I thought the reverse situation applied too often to the Eagles offense, which sometimes stalled out in the second half after a productive first half.
Well, if halftime adjustments were easy to make I guess every team would make them with complete strategic confidence. Obviously it’s not that easy to do—and it goes against human nature, which is to say when things seem to be working well in the first half, why change anything?
But that’s what makes great coaches great—even when they have the upper hand in the first half, they seem to anticipate your counter-moves in the second half. I saw an example of this last season in several games where the Patriots had a halftime lead—then in the second half, Coach Belichick and DC Matt Patricia suddenly changed up their defense, in effect randomly dropping pass rushers into coverage. On one level it made no sense—the pass rush had been effective in the first half—but the strategic changes created chaos for the opponent and ultimately game-sealing turnovers for the Pats.
That’s my St. Patrick’s Day soapbox rant— the Eagles are going to be good, but to be great they have to become a lot more cerebral in their second-half adjustments.
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The price of good proven running backs has really gone down—the Vikings signed Latavius Murray from the Raiders to a three-year contract that could be worth up to $15 million, according to Pro Football Talk. However, only $3.4 million is guaranteed at signing.
Apparently the league is ready to copy the winning formula of the Patriots, who won the Super Bowl with a running back committee. They added to that committee by signing Rex Burkhead to a one-year, $3.5 million contract.
No doubt this low-budget development increases the noise going around town about the Eagles’ potentially drafting a running backin the 1st or 2nd Rounds. GM Howie Roseman described the running back depth in this class as “historic,” so in theory impact players can be had on Day 2 of the draft and beyond.
According to NFL Network, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook is in Philadelphia for a pre-draft visit. A home run hitter with breakaway speed, Cook averaged 6.5 yards per carry and 15 rushing touchdowns per season during his time at Florida State. He led the ACC in rush attempts (288), yards (1,765) and yards from scrimmage (2,253) in 2016. Many analysts have Cook as one of the top two backs in a loaded draft class along with LSU’s Leonard Fournette.
“Dalvin Cook’s stock has dropped to the point where he might not even go in the first round now,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said during an appearance on 97.5 the Fanatic in Philadelphia. “He could end up being an early- to mid-second-rounder. It’s a combination of things. [There’s a fumbling] issue; he’s had some off-the-field [issues]; he’s had injuries; he didn’t have a great workout. A lot of things contributed to that.”
Kiper added that Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey is now considered the consensus second-highest-rated back behind Fournette and ahead of Cook.