Eagles

Eagles-49ers: Roob's 10 observations

Eagles-49ers: Roob's 10 observations

BOX SCORE

There are no trap games with this team. No looking past anybody. No letting the conditions or the refs or long road trips affect them.

They just win football games.

The Eagles reached the midway point of the season 7-1 Sunday, and how much fun is this? Seriously! The best team in the NFL plays in South Philly! 

An elite quarterback and a world-class defense have carried the Eagles to six wins in a row, and on a rainy Sunday at the Linc, they did what they had to, demolishing the 49ers 33-10 (see breakdown).

It was a fun Sunday, so let's make this a fun Roob's 10 observations!

1. Really encouraging to see the Eagles win a football game on a day when Carson Wentz wasn't at his best (see report card). Wentz missed people he usually hits, threw an interception, took sacks when he held onto the ball too long and generally just wasn't quite the same Wentz we've seen so far this year, although he did throw two TD passes. But the defense allowed only one short-field TD, the secondary didn't allow any big plays and got in the end zone, special teams got another Jake Elliott 50-yard field goal and a blocked field goal and everybody on the roster kind of made up for Wentz's average-for-him day (see story). That's the sign of a great team.

2. Another sign of a great team is one that answers when it has to. Wentz's interception and the 49ers' third-quarter touchdown made it a 20-7 game, the Eagles were coming off three straight 3-and-outs, and the crowd at the Linc was getting a little antsy. But it took the offense only three plays to get the lead back up to 20 — notably Corey Clement's career-long 22-yard run and Wentz's 53-yard TD pass to Alshon Jeffery. Every team, no matter how talented, no matter how successful, is going to face adversity. This team really seems to know how to bounce back from it in a huge way.

3. Speaking of Clement, I'd really like to see more of both him and Wendell Smallwood. LeGarrette Blount has not been quite as productive the last two games as he was in the previous five games, and I really like what Clement and Smallwood bring to the table as change-of-pace backs. Blount was 14 for 29 against the Redskins and 16 for 48 Sunday against the 49ers, a combined 2.6 yards per carry the last two weeks. Clement finally got involved at the end of the game and ran the ball hard and productively (see rookie report). Let's get back to sharing the load.

4. Loved the deep ball to Alshon Jeffery. I've been disappointed in Jeffery's inability to go up and use his 6-foot-3 frame and his long arms and secure 50-50 balls, but he finally did that in the third quarter, going high up over rookie corner Ahkello Witherspoon and catching a deep ball from Wentz and then fighting Witherspoon off and jogging into the end zone with his longest TD catch in an Eagles uniform. That's why the Eagles signed Jeffery. And that's what he has to keep doing.

5. Speaking of deep balls, Wentz continues to show that it's a strength of his and not a weakness. Wentz has now thrown five TDs of 50 yards or more, which is just one shy of the franchise record for an entire season. In fact, only four quarterbacks in NFL history have had more 50-yard TD passes through eight games. Wentz has the arm strength and the touch, and now he has the receivers to go get those balls. Nelson Agholor, Zach Ertz, Torrey Smith, Mack Hollins and Jeffery all have receptions of 50 yards or more. Those plays just take the life out of defenses. The deep ball has become such a big-time weapon for this team, and it's not going away.

6. Doug Pederson deserves so much credit for getting this team ready to play every single week. The one loss was on the road by seven points to a team that goes into Sunday night 5-2. Ever since that three-game stretch last year with the Seahawks, Bengals and Packers, this team has been competitive and prepared every single game, and that just speaks volumes about Pederson and his handle on his players.

7. Jalen Mills has been so solid this year, and it was great to see him get into the end zone after picking off C.J. Beathard. With the offense sputtering and the Eagles clinging to a 10-3 lead, that was a play the Eagles really needed to open up some breathing room. Mills' spiraling 37-yard TD return increased the lead to 17-3 when not a lot was going well. Mills has quietly had a consistent, productive season this year, and since he's been here longer than all the other cornerbacks, it's easy to forget he's only 23 (see story ). Mills is proof that you don't need world-class speed to be a big-time NFL cornerback. He's tough, smart, physical, confident and fearless. With 21-year-old Rasul Douglas playing well, 21-year-old Sidney Jones waiting in the wings and 23-year-old Ronald Darby also in the mix, this is an extremely promising young group of cornerbacks.

8. Fletcher Cox has been playing at such a high level for so long it's easy to forget just how dominating he is. He just destroys people. I really think he deserves to be mentioned up there with the great defensive linemen in Eagles history — Reggie, Clyde, Jerome, Hugh. He did pick up a sack Sunday, giving him 4½ this year and 33½ in his career. But it's what he does play after play after play. The power and athleticism that he combines to win matchups on the line of scrimmage really make this an elite defensive line. He's so much fun to watch.

9. It's really something to see Mychal Kendricks playing at such a high level. Kendricks, inexplicably in Jim Schwartz's doghouse for most of the last two years, has to play now, with Jordan Hicks out, and he responded with a monster game Sunday —seven tackles, a sack, two quarterback hurries and a pass knockdown. If Kendricks can stay healthy, he really makes Hicks' absence a lot easier to handle.

10. I love how the fans give Brent Celek a huge ovation every time he catches the ball. It doesn't happen very often anymore. Celek, now in his 11th year with the Eagles, had a 14-yard catch Sunday on the Eagles' fourth-quarter touchdown drive and is 4 for 33 this year. But he's had a fantastic career and is still a big part of this team, and it's heartening to see the fans appreciate him. Totally deserving. 

Eagles Stay or Go — The Joneses

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AP/USA Today Images

Eagles Stay or Go — The Joneses

Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro continue our series examining the future of the world champion Eagles.

Donnie Jones
Roob: Jones turns 38 before camp starts and goes into his 15th NFL season out of LSU next year. Jones, who hasn't missed a game since 2004, is as reliable as ever. Including the postseason, he had 26 punts inside the 20-yard line and just six touchbacks. In five years here, he's established himself as the greatest punter in Eagles history. His 45.3 average and 40.6 this past year were very good. They'll drag a guy in to compete, but Jones is still terrific.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Jones is 37 now but he's a punter and he doesn't show any signs of slowing down. Before the 2016 season, Jones said he wasn't interested in retiring any time soon and there doesn't seem to be much of a reason to stop yet. He had another good season in 2017. Of course, the Eagles proved that no one is immune from the business of the NFL when they decided to go with Rick Lovato over Jon Dorenbos in 2017, but Jones is still a really good punter. During Super Bowl week, Jones got a kick out of hearing he was the only Eagles player who was able to have a legal drink when Tom Brady won his first Super Bowl. Jones joked that's probably what he was doing. 

Verdict: STAYS

Sidney Jones
Roob: 
It'll be fun to see what Jones can do with a full healthy offseason and training camp. Along with Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas and Ronald Darby, he's a big part of the most talented young stable of cornerbacks the Eagles have ever had. Where does everybody fit in next year? We'll see. But I expect Jones to be here and playing at a high level for years to come.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: It was probably a pretty good thing for the young corner to get some experience toward the end of his rookie season. Fans should be excited about Jones if he really is back to being the player he was before his injury. Because before he tore his Achilles at the Washington pro day, Jones might have been the very best cornerback in a deep cornerback draft. The Eagles have a little logjam at the cornerback position; what a great problem to have. 

Verdict: STAYS

Eagles Stay or Go —2 big contracts and a fringe player

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USA Today/AP Images

Eagles Stay or Go —2 big contracts and a fringe player

Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro continue our series examining the future of the world champion Eagles.

Tim Jernigan
Roob:
 Jernigan had a very good first half, an OK second half of the season and really didn't do a lot in the postseason, and there's no doubt the Eagles would like to see him maintain his level of consistency throughout the season. But he's certainly not going anywhere, not with $11 million in dead money vs. a $5 million cap hit. Jernigan's talent is undeniable. He just needs to find a way to keep it going through the year.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: I was a little surprised about how little Jernigan played in 2017. He played just 48 percent of the Eagles' snaps and in the playoffs, he played about as much as Beau Allen. Now, I know Jernigan dealt with an ankle injury throughout most of the year, so maybe that played a role. But for a guy who signed a four-year extension worth $48 million during the year, I really didn't see enough. He started off the season really strong, but then seemed to level off some. Maybe the ankle had something to do with that. In any case, he's now signed through 2021. The Eagles need more out of him. 

Verdict: STAYS

Lane Johnson 
Roob:
 We finally saw what Lane Johnson could do with a full season, and it was impressive. Johnson was named first-team All-Pro and made his first Pro Bowl team, and he deserved all of it. Johnson, suspended two of the last three seasons for testing positive for banned substances, was a beast at right tackle. He's not going anywhere for a long time.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: That was the season we've all been waiting for from Johnson. He was a dominant right tackle in 2017 and finally made it to his first Pro Bowl roster. He deserved it. For a long time, there's been a stigma about playing right tackle and that makes sense on its face. Protecting the quarterback's blindside has historically been more important, but defenses have adjusted. That's why guys like Von Miller, DeMarcus Lawrence, Justin Houston and Joey Bosa generally rush against right tackles. Johnson shut down those guys and more last season. It's a big reason why the Eagles didn't move him to left tackle when Jason Peters went down. That was the right call. 

Verdict: STAYS

Marcus Johnson
Roob: Johnson stuck on the active roster all year and got into 10 games, catching five passes for 45 yards. But wide receiver depth is certainly one area the Eagles will try to upgrade this offseason. Johnson will get a long look with the other young receivers in camp, but he faces an uphill battle. He's got good speed, size and athleticism, but can he put it all together and catch the ball consistently enough to stick around another year? We'll see.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The young wide receiver had a great spring and summer a year ago to earn his spot on the roster. He really worked his tail off to get better and the Eagles rewarded him with a roster spot. From there, he carved out a role on offense. He was the Eagles' receiver in their 13 personnel (three tight ends) package for much of the early season. But then in late November, Johnson lost his active spot to Shelton Gibson, who didn't play as big a role on offense but was a better special teamer. That was a shock to Johnson at the time. He'll have a shot to make the roster this year, but losing his job on Sundays in 2017 isn't a good sign. 

Verdict: GOES