10 observations

Eagles-Chiefs: Roob's 10 Observations

Eagles-Chiefs: Roob's 10 Observations


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It was exciting for a while. You could feel an upset brewing. And then the Chiefs just overwhelmed the Eagles. They solved the Eagles' pressure, finally got their running game on track, forced a huge turnover and got two late fourth-quarter touchdowns.

Bad game for the Eagles' offensive line, which allowed six sacks and generated just 52 rushing yards from the running backs.

Carson Wentz did everything he could humanly do, passing for 333 yards and two touchdowns — one of them with eight seconds left in the game — and running for a team-high 55 more. But his fourth-quarter interception deep in Eagles territory in a tie game was damaging.

So here we go with 10 observations off the Eagles' 27-20 loss to the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium (see breakdown):

1. Kareem Hunt's 53-yard go-ahead touchdown late in the third quarter really illustrates what a dynamic running back can do for a team. That's something the Eagles haven't had since LeSean McCoy, and it's something they really miss. I love Darren Sproles. Don't get me wrong. Seeing him do what he's done since joining the Eagles at his size is inspirational. He's been a tremendous Eagle the last few years. And he's still productive. He ran 10 times for 48 yards Sunday in K.C. But what does it say about the roster you've built when a 34-year-old running back who's already announced that he's likely retiring after this season is your best option as a ball carrier? LeGarrette Blount hasn't shown himself to be anything special this year and actually didn't get a single carry Sunday, fourth-round rookie Donnel Pumphrey is out for the year but wasn't going to play anyway, second-year running back Wendell Smallwood has been a non-factor so far and had three yards on four carries Sunday. Two games in, it just looks like a bad group of running backs.

2. By halftime Sunday, the Eagles were down three defensive backs from the start of opening day — Ronald Darby, who got hurt last week, and then Rodney McLeod and Jaylen Watkins, who got hurt in the second quarter Sunday. So they're out there minus three guys and still acquitted themselves as well as you could hope for, considering that they were getting tons of reps from Rasul Douglas, in his first NFL game, and Corey Graham, who didn't join the team until after training camp began. It really speaks volumes about secondary coach Cory Undlin that this patchwork group was able to perform as well as it did.

3. For the second straight week, the Eagles' biggest offensive play was a broken play. Last week, it was Carson Wentz's scramble bomb to Nelson Agholor, and this week it was Wentz's bomb that Chiefs cornerback Terrance Mitchell deflected into the air that Zach Ertz controlled for a 53-yard gain. Really heads-up play and great focus and concentration by Ertz, who finished with five catches for 97 yards and now has 13 catches for 190 yards in two games. Ertz and Wentz have such an uncanny connection now. It's just going to be fun to see where this goes as they continue to play together.

4. How about rookie Mack Hollins with the first three catches of his career for 32 yards, including two for first downs? Very nice start for Hollins, who didn't play much on offense in Washington. Hollins is just so smooth (see rookie report). He does everything so effortlessly. You never see any wasted motion or movement. He just catches the ball cleanly and runs. It really seemed that once Wentz started throwing to Hollins, the offense found some rhythm. 

5. Vinny Curry has been playing better and has even been a factor against the run this year. But the problem last year showed up again Sunday. He's not finishing when he gets his arms around the quarterback. He had Alex Smith wrapped up on a crucial 3rd-and-4 in the middle of the fourth quarter Sunday but couldn't bring him down and Smith ran for a first down. Two plays later, Smith's TD pass to Travis Kelce gave the Chiefs the lead for good. Curry has six sacks in his last 36 games. He has to be better.

6. Let's talk Wentz. There's a lot to be excited about with him, but his Achilles' heel has been interceptions, in particular, untimely ones. I think it's partly a product of him trying to do too much sometimes, and that's understandable when things are breaking down around him. But Sunday's INT, deep in Eagles territory in the fourth quarter was awfully costly, leading to the Chiefs' winning touchdown. Wentz now has 16 INTs in his first 18 games, second-most in Eagles history by any quarterback in his first 18 games (Mike Boryla had 23 in the 1970s). Wentz played well much of the day Sunday and he did it playing in one of the loudest stadiums in the country and despite poor protection at times and a few drops — two by Torrey Smith, one by Nelson Agholor. He got the Eagles out of trouble with athletic runs and he was very good on third down. But he's got to cut down on the interceptions. He now has 15 INTs in his last 13 games going back to last year, and at least one in eight of his last nine games. I love Wentz and his toughness, his spirit, his flair. I can't think of another young quarterback I'd rather build around. But he's got to reduce those turnovers.

7. The Eagles need to consider a change at left guard (see report card). Isaac Seumalo struggled in Washington, gave up three sacks Sunday and it was his missed block on a Daniel Sorensen blitz that led to Wentz's fourth-quarter interception. Obviously, Chance Warmack hasn't done much to impress the Eagles — he's been inactive the first couple games — but Stefen Wisniewski was solid in six starts in place of injured Allen Barbre last year at left guard. If it were my call, I'd get Wiz in there.

8. Looked like the Eagles' defensive line wore as the game went on. It was a very hot, humid day in Kansas City, and it may have had an effect on some of the big guys. But in the first half, they had four sacks and allowed 2.8 yards per rush, and in the second half, they had one sack and allowed 8.8 yards per carry. The Chiefs netted 130 yards in the first half and 214 yards in the second half and scored touchdowns on their last two real drives. And that's even with Jim Schwartz rotating the second group on and off the field. The Eagles pride themselves on being one of the best-conditioned teams in the league, and they certainly spend a lot of time and resources on conditioning. But at least this week, they weren't the fittest team on the field.

9. How about Blount with zero carries for only the fourth time in his career and first time since 2014 when he was with the Steelers. I understand Pederson wanted to give Sproles a healthy workload, but Blount didn't get a single carry Sunday after being the Eagles' featured back in Washington and getting 14 carries along with a TD catch. I understand that the running back rotation is going to change week by week, but not a single carry for a guy who had 18 touchdowns for a Super Bowl winner last year? I never liked the signing in the first place, but how does he go from the featured back seven days ago to zero carries this week? I just don't get the concept at running back (see video). And I want to see Corey Clement with the football in his hands.

10. Finally this: The Eagles have scored two or fewer offensive touchdowns in 14 of their last 15 games, with the Dallas game on the last day of last season — when the Cowboys played their scrubs most of the second half — the only exception. So the last time the Eagles scored three offensive touchdowns against an opponent's starting defense was Week 3 of last year vs. the Steelers. That's not good.

Eagles-Redskins: Roob's 10 observations

Eagles-Redskins: Roob's 10 observations


LANDOVER, Md. — A crushing performance by the defensive front seven, a shaky performance by the offensive line, more strange Doug Pederson play-calling, some superb special teams and lots of Zach Ertz, Carson Wentz and Nelson Agholor and much more in our season-opening 10 observations of the Eagles' 30-17 win over the Redskins (see breakdown).
Bring on the Chiefs!
1. This was a win for the Eagles' defensive front, which absolutely dominated the Redskins on Sunday. The Skins' running backs ran 13 times for 34 yards (2.6 per carry), and the front seven racked up four sacks and pounded Kirk Cousins into his worst game ever against the Eagles. Then the Eagles finished the 'Skins off with a Brandon Graham sack, a Cousins fumble and fumble return TD for Fletcher Cox in the final minutes. Nice exclamation point. Total domination. Cousins started the day with the fifth-highest passer rating ever against the Eagles, but he and the 'Skins' offense were just overmatched. The Eagles held Washington's offense to 10 points and 264 yards in its own stadium, the fewest yards the 'Skins have had against the Eagles in nine years. And thanks in large part to that front seven, the Eagles ended that ugly five-game losing streak to their division opponents down I-95. All in all, a monster performance for Graham, Cox, Jordan Hicks and Co.
2. There is work to do on the offensive line. This was just a shaky, inconsistent effort up front. I know fans like to pick on Jason Kelce, but the breakdowns were across the board up front. It's a good thing Wentz is so good at making something out of nothing — like he did on the 58-yard TD pass to Agholor and that 23-yarder down the left sideline to Ertz — but the O-line has to be better and more consistent and has to be able to give Wentz time in the pocket. Wentz has the ability to stand in there and make plays when things are breaking down around him, and he did a lot of that Sunday, but over the long haul? This effort from the offensive line was simply unacceptable.
3. Very tough to see Ronald Darby go down with what is believed to be a long-term injury just 18½ minutes into his Eagles career (see story). Rookie third-round pick Rasul Douglas, who was inactive Sunday, will likely move into a significant role, quite possibly as a starting outside corner with Jalen Mills, with Patrick Robinson staying in the slot. Now, if the Eagles felt Douglas was ready to start and play at a high level, they wouldn't have traded Jordan Matthews and a third-round pick to the Bills for Darby. But this is the hand they've been dealt. The Eagles were one of the NFL's healthiest teams last year, and those sorts of things have a tendency to even out over time. Regression to the mean and all that. There are a few other ways the Eagles could go. They could activate Dexter McDougle and play him in the slot and move Robinson outside. Or play Mills in the slot with Robinson and Douglas or McDougle outside. However they line up, this is a huge blow to the Eagles' secondary.
4. Speaking of Mills, he really built on his strong preseason with a terrific game Sunday. The Redskins were targeting him much of the game, with Terrelle Pryor in particular, but Pryor — a 1,000-yard receiver with the Browns a year ago — was really a non-factor with six catches for 66 yards. Cousins kept trying to challenge Mills deep with Pryor but Mills won those battles, and when he didn't, Cousins just missed him. Mills hung in against Jamison Crowder as well when matched up with him. Mills then made a potential game-saving interception in the end zone — the first of his career — in the fourth quarter. Mills isn't a rookie, but he's a 23-year-old making his first career opening-day start, and it was a very good one.
5. I liked the concept of the Eagles' offense early. First quarter, the Eagles had seven running plays and nine passing plays. Nice balance. LeGarrette Blount had a little head of steam going. Then Doug Pederson did what Doug Pederson often does and forgot about the running game. Over the next two quarters, the Eagles ran 33 plays — 27 pass plays, six runs. Not surprisingly, the Eagles struggled to get into a rhythm offensively during that span, and that 13-0 lead gradually disappeared. In the fourth quarter, nursing a two-point lead, the Eagles had to try to run the ball and they had four carries for no yards. When you don't run the ball for a long period of time, it's not easy to dial it up and have success. This has to change.
6. Wentz, I thought, played very well considering the chaos that was happening around him. He rarely had a clean pocket but still managed to complete 67 percent of his passes (26 for 39) for 307 yards with two TDs and the one INT on a tipped ball. He repeatedly turned pocket breakdowns into positive plays and made something out of nothing. He played better than his numbers. And his numbers weren't bad at all (see report card).
7. For all the talk about Agholor, nobody really knew what to expect once the games meant something. But Agholor indeed looked like a different guy Sunday. You could just sense his confidence, and it all started on the broken play just 3½ minutes into the game, when he found open space on a scramble drill and settled under a Wentz throw on one of those he-just-made-it-up plays, caught the football naturally and easily, then ran into the end zone for a career-long 58-yard touchdown. Agholor had surpassed his career high in receiving yards by the middle of the second quarter and finished with six catches for 86 yards. Agholor has looked like a different guy since OTAs and I have to give him a ton of credit for finding his way and reinventing himself after going through some pretty heavy stuff and openly discussing his self-doubt last year. Everybody has their own path, and on Day 1 of Year 3, Agholor showed he can play this game.
8. The two new receivers, Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery, combined for four catches for 68 yards (and a two-point conversion) — not terrible but probably not what the Eagles were hoping for. But it's not all that unexpected. This group played very little football together during the preseason, so it's not surprising that the Eagles' three leading receivers — Ertz (8 for 93), Agholor (6 for 86) and Darren Sproles (5 for 43) — are all guys Wentz was with last year. Smith and Jeffery both came close to making some big plays, and you have to hope that with more time together those plays will be made.
9. Special teams had another terrific day Sunday, with a turnover in the punting game that led to the Eagles' second touchdown and then a punt downed at the 1-yard line by Jaylen Watkins with seven minutes left in the game that gave the Redskins — down by two — an impossibly long field. I know this: Eagles special teams will always be elite as long as Dave Fipp is running the show.
10. It was great to see Ertz begin a season with a big performance. Much has been made about how Ertz always starts slowly and finishes strong, but he was huge Sunday, with big catch after big catch and no drops. Ertz's 93 yards are the most he's ever had in any game the first seven weeks of the season. I'm on the record as saying Ertz will catch 100 passes this year. He's ahead of that pace. I think huge things are in store this year for the fifth-year tight end.

Eagles training camp Day 15 observations: Blount finds no room in live periods

Dave Zangaro | CSNPhilly.com

Eagles training camp Day 15 observations: Blount finds no room in live periods

Two days after the preseason opener in Green Bay, the Eagles were back on the practice field in Philadelphia … without Jordan Matthews. 

Saturday, of course, was the first day since the big trade that sent Matthews and a third-round pick in 2018 to Buffalo and brought cornerback Ronald Darby to Philly. 

Without wasting time, here are 10 observations from Day 15 at training camp: 

1. *Clears throat* injuries: Nick Foles (elbow), Bryce Treggs (leg soreness), Paul Turner (shoulder), Wendell Smallwood (hamstring), Ron Brooks (hamstring), Aaron Grymes (personal reasons), Josh Andrews (hand), Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee), Brandon Brooks (hamstring) and Anthony Denham (calf) did not practice. 

Vaitai injured his knee during Thursday's game. It initially looked like a scary injury but he had just a sleeve on his leg Saturday. Head coach Doug Pederson said they're expecting Big V to just miss a couple days of practice. Ron Brooks injured his hamstring in the game but said after practice Saturday keeping him out is just precautionary. 

Trey Burton and Chance Warmack left practice early with undisclosed injuries. 

2. The Eagles had their third and final live period (tackling to the ground) of training camp. It seemed like a pretty long and tough practice for two days after the first preseason game, but that was the plan all along. 

Pederson wasn't swayed to make it tougher because of sloppy play against the Packers. 

"I just wanted to do it after a ball game just because the starters didn't play a ton in that game," he said. "Wanted to give them a day, then come back with a spirited, live period practice."

3. LeGarrette Blount missed the live periods earlier in training camp, so Saturday offered a chance to see him in real football situations. He didn't do very well. In the game Thursday, Blount had four carries for nine yards. It was more of the same at practice. 

He had several carries but gained just a few yards. Maybe we won't really see what he has left until the season starts. 

4. Shelton Gibson has turned things around. He made another great catch near the sideline over C.J. Smith in 11-on-11s, but he's not completely over his troubles. He had a pretty egregious drop in the game Thursday. And on Saturday, he crossed the middle of the field and made an awkward jump catch when he didn't need to jump. He's going in the right direction but isn't there yet. 

5. With Matthews gone, Nelson Agholor settled into the top slot receiver position as expected. Agholor didn't just work with the first team Saturday, he worked with the twos and even the threes as well. It's clear the Eagles are now working to get him a ton of reps in the slot to prepare him for the season. He's going to need to spend a lot of time there. Others will be worked in the slot as well. Mack Hollins had an active day in the middle of the field. 

6. With Ron Brooks' hamstring injury, the Eagles had Malcolm Jenkins work as the nickel cornerback Saturday. That's exactly what the team did in 2016 when Brooks was lost for the year after rupturing his quad tendon. Jenkins likes playing in the slot, but it really weakened the team on the back end. 

On Saturday, though, it was newcomer Corey Graham who filled in for Jenkins at safety when Jenkins moved up to slot corner. Graham is already ahead of Jaylen Watkins and Terrence Brooks for the third safety slot. The Eagles will probably feel more comfortable moving Jenkins into the slot cornerback spot if needed with Graham as his replacement. 

7. Donnel Pumphrey fumbled a ball during an 11-on-11 rep Saturday. Not a good sign for the young rookie, who struggled in his preseason debut Thursday night. He had trouble securing the ball in that game. Rookies who put the ball on the ground have a hard time getting on the field. 

8. Carson Wentz didn't have a very sharp day. His best pass of the morning went to a streaking Torrey Smith, who snuck behind Jalen Mills in coverage. It'll be fun to see Smith go up against Ronald Darby once the new corner is practicing. Wentz kind of seemed sluggish Saturday; in fact a lot of the team did. Perhaps it was a sort of hangover after losing Matthews in the trade. He was a favorite in the locker room and, while some don't want to believe it, football players are people with emotions. 

9. Defensive end Alex McCalister has started to pick it up over the last week. He still might have an uphill battle to make the team, but he's really been improving. He made a few plays in the game — against the third team, but still — Thursday night. And he kept it going Saturday. He showed an impressive move inside that was obviously set up by the fact that offensive tackles need to respect his speed. He made a quick move inside and the tackle was left flat-footed as he got in on the QB. 

10. Jordan Hicks has the unbelievable ability, especially for a linebacker, to just always be around the ball. On Saturday, he broke up a pass he probably should have caught in the first 11-on-11 drills but redeemed himself later. In a red zone period, he floated back and picked off Matt McGloin in the middle of the end zone. He just has a knack for making big plays. 

Stupid Observation of the Day: Blount seemed so happy to get his No. 29 back, but as he came out of the NovaCare Complex for practice, he had his jersey rolled up so no one could see the number.