Philadelphia Eagles News

Coach's Clipboard

The Eagles are 9-0 after the bye under head coach Andy Reid and this Sunday is a perfect time to extend that record to 10-0. The Falcons are led by a first-year head coach and rookie quarterback and have surprised many in the league with their 4-2 start. Let's break down the X's and O's courtesy of the coordinators in our Coach's Clipboard feature ...

JOHNSON: BETTER THAN PEYTON?

In his days as the linebackers coach in Seattle, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson schemed for quite a few a rookie quarterbacks, including one by the name of Peyton Manning.

Unfortunately for the Eagles, Johnson sees a lot of Manning in Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.

"You could tell Peyton was going to be a good quarterback," Johnson said. "I don't think he had the year this guy is having right now. This guy is winning football games. Peyton was good, but this guy here is as advanced as I've seen, as far as a rookie, that I have been associated with."

Ryan has started all six games thus far for the Falcons. In his last two games before the bye, both of which were wins, Ryan went a combined 38-of-56 for 495 yards with three touchdowns.

Ryan has only thrown one interception over that span and he hasn't been sacked in three weeks.

"I think this guy, just like they did with Peyton, they threw him in the fire right away," Johnson said. "They did it with Matt right away. I'm sure Peyton got better as the year went by, too, because of the experience. You never know how fast a guy is going to come along. This guy is coming along at a good pace. Also, I think the running game has really helped him."

In all, only the New York Giants have a better running attack than Atlanta. The Falcons have accomplished that feat mostly behind the strong running of Michael Turner, whose 597 yards is good enough for third in the league. Backup running back Jerious Norwood is no slouch either.

"The thing about these running backs, both of them, if you look at the stats in the league, they break tackles," Johnson said. "Their yards after being hit is some of the top in the league. I think Turner is something like second in the league after getting hit, as far as breaking tackles. You hardly see that much in the league having two backs breaking tackles like these guys."

All of which makes Ryan's game that much more effective.

"You can tell, when you look at the preseason film and you go all the way through the season, every game he has improved," Johnson said. "He probably had his best game (two weeks ago) against the Bears, as far as throwing the football. I think everyone knew he was coming out. He was a very intelligent guy. He has nice size. He has a good arm, and they have done a good job with him.

"You see improvement. He's not taking sacks. He's throwing the ball away. He's doing a good job with that. He hits big plays when he has to. Every week, he has really improved."

MORNHINWEG: NEW/OLD PIECES IN PLACE

With multiple players coming off of injuries – and one serious injury confirmed – the Eagles' offense might have a few extra wrinkles against Atlanta on Sunday.

Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said the gameplanning for his offense this week has centered on the fact that the Eagles might have a few extra weapons at their disposal.

"The fellows in our offensive room, we don't care who gets the credit or how we win," Mornhinweg said. "Whatever it takes to win the next game, and I think our guys are pretty good at that."

Wide receiver Kevin Curtis, making his first appearance of the season since suffering a sports hernia in the preseason, should start alongside DeSean Jackson. Tailback Brian Westbrook is coming off of two weeks' rest for his fractured ribs. The team also made an addition in the backfield, signing versatile fullback Kyle Eckel, who might see some action.

On the flipside, though, wideout Reggie Brown remains "day-to-day," Mornhinweg said. And Pro Bowl guard Shawn Andrews underwent back surgery earlier this week on a herniated disc, and will miss at least six weeks.

That means Max Jean-Gilles will once again be starting at right guard – and he's got a certain timeframe for how long he'll need to prepare.

"I've said this before, I think we'll win a lot of games with Max. He's very aggressive. He's a big, strong guy. (He) plays with passion, finishes very well," Mornhinweg said.

"He's getting better every day both run and pass. He already is a good, solid football player and I would expect him to get better every day and may turn out to be really a good player for us."

For Mornhinweg, the key for the Eagles heading into the second half of the season is maintaining the explosiveness the offense has hinted at, but still shown far too little of. Perhaps some stability with the lineups will contribute to that.

"We have been a little bit inconsistent at times," Mornhinweg said. "The hard work and preparation kicks in there, and we just keep working and keep preparing and get better every day, and normally, you get better at (being consistent)."

- JOE DOLAN

SEGREST: SERIOUS ABOUT JERIOUS

One of the ways the Eagles improved during the bye week was by acquiring free agent linebacker Tracy White to help with the coverage units on special teams. White is already infamous in Philadelphia for recovering a muffed punt for a touchdown as a member of the Green Bay Packers to open the 2007 season, but now he is here to help coordinator Rory Segrest's kickoff return group that ranks 14th in the league and kickoff coverage unit that is 21st.

"Tracy has been very productive and has made a ton of tackles there," Segrest said. "He understands the game, has great speed and finishes on the ball in coverage phases and he's also solid on the return phases."

The Eagles kickoff return team has been bolstered by rookie Quintin Demps, who is averaging just over 24 yards per return this season which includes a 63-yard return against the San Francisco 49ers that helped set up an eventual touchdown. The key for Demps' improvement is having the confidence to go north-south and trust that his blockers will deliver.

"I think the main thing was just him hitting it up in there, being aggressive on the return and just trusting that the blocks would occur," Segrest said.

The kickoff coverage team will face a tough challenge with backup running back Jerious Norwood as the returner. In the last game against the Bears, Norwood averaged 44.5 yards per return on four opportunities. One of those was a season-long 85-yard runback in the fourth quarter right after the Bears extended their lead to six. For the season, Norwood averages 29 yards per return this season.

"He's a great returner. He got an 85-yard return against Chicago last week. They do a really nice job as far as making blocks, sustaining blocks and it's going to be a challenge for us this week. We're going to have to do a great job of making sure we're staying in our lanes and reading the blocks. We're going to have to get hats on the ball. Jerious is a guy who can break some tackles. He's got great speed and changes some angles, so again, it's going to be a big challenge for us this week."

- CHRIS McPHERSON

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