Eagles

Eagles hint at keeping Jake Elliott over Caleb Sturgis

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Eagles hint at keeping Jake Elliott over Caleb Sturgis

With Caleb Sturgis eligible to come off of injured reserve next week, the Eagles have given no indication that Jake Elliott’s job might be in jeopardy.

Elliott has been far from perfect of late, missing at least one field goal or extra point in each of the Eagles’ last three games. And while those kicks haven’t come back to haunt the team yet, it’s fair to wonder whether turning back to Sturgis might be an option.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Monday the club is “comfortable” with Elliott, but “nothing has been decided” with regard to Sturgis. “We'll just have to cross that bridge when we get there.”

We’re just about at the bridge. Time to decide.

As of Tuesday, the Eagles seemed prepared to work through the issues with Elliott.

“I tend to be more of an optimist,” said Eagles special team coach Dave Fipp, adding it’s easy to be critical. “If you’re willing as a coach or a person to accept some responsibility, and try to invest and work on finding a solution, you have a whole better chance.

“I believe the best in a guy, and that’s just the way I choose to look at it, but I believe the guy is going to overcome. He’s going to have success and be a great player."

In his second NFL game, Elliott delivered an Eagles victory over the Giants with a walk-off 61-yard field goal — the longest in franchise history. Up until that moment, however, the rookie kicker had been unreliable, missing one field goal in each of his first two contests.

Although, some initial jitters were probably to be expected. Signed off the Bengals' practice squad in September, Elliott joined the Eagles on a Tuesday and was kicking in a game on Sunday.

“It’s a tough transition to come in on a week’s notice and have a new snapper, a new holder and a kicker, and then do it on game day,” Fipp said. “And you can only practice so much during the week. Usually, these guys kick twice a week, so you have two days to get it in.”

Elliott settled in after the Giants game and was flawless on field goals and extra points over the next three. Even with the recent miscues, he’s made 17 of 20 field goals and 24 of 27 extra points for the season, and he set another Eagles record with four field goals of 50-plus yards in a season.

As far as Elliott’s recent struggles are concerned, those might not be as much of a factor in the Eagles’ decision as one would think. To begin with, another aspect of the battery could be at fault —maybe the hold, or the snap, based on an unconfirmed report the Eagles worked out long snappers this week.

Whatever the case, Fipp preached patience with the 22-year-old.

“The worst thing you can do with any kicker is overreact,” Fipp said. “If you’re always looking to replace that position, then you’re going to always be replacing that position.

“I think there are some coaches out there who are quick to get rid of the guy that they have, and I would say that you just have to make a smart decision. Take a step back, and make sure you’re making the best decision.

“Usually when you bring the guy in, you brought him in because he was the best player. Then if you get rid of him, now you’re saying you’re going to go with the second-best player? That never made a whole lot of sense to me.”

Of course, Fipp’s salient logic on kickers could easily apply to Sturgis as well.

Sturgis came to the Eagles in 2015 in much the same way as Elliott, as a midseason replacement. And like Elliott, Sturgis got off to a shaky start with the Eagles, but finished strong and won the competition for the job in training camp the following summer.

Last season, Sturgis made 35 of 41 field goals and 30 of 31 extra points. He was 3 for 3 on field goals and 1 for 2 with extra points in the 2017 opener, as well.

If Elliott wasn’t cutting it, the Eagles would be more than justified in giving Sturgis another shot.

“There’s certain standards that they have to perform up to, then you have to move on,” Fipp said. “But they all know that.”

Based on statistics alone, the comparison seems close. In reality, Elliott has a lot more working in his favor.

Elliott is six years younger than Sturgis, who as a five-year veteran, also commands a much larger salary. And while Sturgis was once a fifth-round draft pick, the same as Elliott, his NFL career as a whole has not been a model of consistency.

All signs point to the Eagles' sticking with Elliott, and it should be a slam dunk. But with Sturgis likely to wind up a free agent in a matter of days — it shouldn’t be long before he finds a new job — you can bet every and any Elliott slip-up will only draw more attention moving forward.

Eagles Inactives: Alshon Jeffery (ankle) active against Cowboys

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Eagles Inactives: Alshon Jeffery (ankle) active against Cowboys

ARLINGTON, Texas -- As expected, Alshon Jeffery is active and will play against the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. 

Jeffery popped up on the injury report Thursday with an ankle injury that has been bothering him for a little while. He came into the weekend listed as questionable. 

But head coach Doug Pederson said he expected Jeffery to play and even Jeffery said he would "most definitely" play in the game. 

Zach Ertz and Ronald Darby are also returning for this game. Ertz missed the Denver game before the bye with a hamstring injury and Darby hasn't played since Week 1 in Washington. 

The Eagles' inactives are Nate Sudfeld, Shelton Gibson, Steven Means, Elijah Qualls, Wendell Smallwood, Will Beatty and Dannell Ellerbe. 

This is the first healthy scratch of the season for Smallwood. The only reason he was active before the bye week was because of Zach Ertz's hamstring injury that kept him out of the game. Smallwood is the biggest loser after the team brought in Jay Ajayi. 

Beatty and Ellerbe are inactive after being added to the roster last week. During the week, Pederson said he wanted them to get more time with the team before throwing them out there.

Breaking down Eagles' 2018 Pro Bowl chances

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Breaking down Eagles' 2018 Pro Bowl chances

Pro Bowl voting began this past week, and ideally, the Eagles won't have anybody actually playing in the game.
 
The 2018 Pro Bowl is scheduled for Jan. 28 — a week before the Super Bowl — and players from the Super Bowl-bound teams will be headed to Minneapolis that weekend, not Orlando, where the Pro Bowl will be held this year.
 
But with the Eagles sitting at 8-1 heading into Sunday's game against the Cowboys, there's a good chance they'll have a sizable contingent selected for the annual exhibition.

Let's take an early look at the Eagles' locks, hopefuls and longshots for 2018 Pro Bowl honors.
 
And remember, once again, the NFL is picking Pro Bowl teams based on the conference.
 
Locks
Carson Wentz: Wentz is a lock to make his first Pro Bowl, which would make him the fourth Eagles quarterback in the last 10 years to receive the honor, following Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick and Nick Foles. No other team has had more than two. Interesting that the Eagles have had only four players make a Pro Bowl team within their first two years since 1990 - Donovan McNabb in 2000, DeSean Jackson in 2009, Nick Foles in 2013 and Cody Parkey in 2014.
 
Fletcher Cox: The only lock from the defense, which is more of a statement on the brand of team defense the Eagles are playing these days than anything else. This will be Cox's third Pro Bowl, something only five Eagles defensive linemen have ever achieved — Reggie White (seven), Hugh Douglas (three), William Fuller (three), Charlie Johnson (three) and Floyd Peters (three).
 
Zach Ertz: It's always tricky for players to get to that first Pro Bowl, but it's hard to imagine Ertz not getting picked. Despite missing the Broncos game, he's been the best tight end in the NFC. He leads all NFC tight ends in catches and yards and is tied for the lead in TDs with Seattle's Jimmy Graham with six. Barring a huge dropoff, Ertz is a lock.
 
Hopefuls
Lane Johnson: Johnson has played at a consistently high level, but a few things are working against him. His two suspensions shouldn't be a factor, but they won't help his chances. Players are branded a certain way, and Johnson has to overcome a league-wide reputation as a guy who's tested positive twice. But if it's based on level of play, he'll go.
 
Jason Kelce: Kelce probably has a better chance than Johnson, just because he's an already a two-time pick and has that Pro Bowl reputation around the league. He made the team last year despite not having a very good year. Kelce has been exceptional this year and is in the middle of the No. 1 offense in the NFL. Close to a lock.
 
Brandon Graham: Graham once again has everything but the sacks. He's played very good football, consistently pressured the quarterback, been exceptional against the run, but … it's all about the sacks with defensive ends. He has 5.0, which is a good number after nine games and just 1 1/2 shy of his career-high of 6 1/2 from 2015, but nine NFC defensive ends have more. Have they played better than Graham? Probably not. But he needs to get to double digits to really have a good shot at making his first Pro Bowl.
 
Malcolm Jenkins: Jenkins made his first Pro Bowl in 2015 and should have made the team last year, but didn't. He's having a great year but doesn't have any interceptions and he's going to probably need at least two or three to get himself in the picture. What he does have going for him is that he's extremely popular among his fellow players. His activism, his strong voice within the NFLPA and his reputation as a guy who's going to fight for player rights will really help. That stuff shouldn't matter but it does.
 
Longshots
Brandon Brooks: Brooks is in his seventh year and has never made a Pro Bowl. The longer you play without making one, the harder it is to get picked. Especially at a non-skill position. But he's sure deserving. That whole right side of the O-line is with Kelce, Brooks and Johnson.
 
Jalen Mills: This is going to come down to interceptions. Mills needs to overcome the fact that he was never a big-name college guy, wasn't a high draft pick and his personality might bug some opposing wide receivers — the ones who vote for CBs. But he's got three interceptions, and right now Detroit's Darius Slay is the only NFC cornerback with more. If he can get to five? He'll be in the mix.
 
Patrick Robinson: Robinson is in a very similar position as Mills. He doesn't have that league-wide reputation as a top corner, but he's sure played like one. Robinson is now with his fourth team in four years, and he's an eighth-year player who's never been a Pro Bowler, so he needs to overcome that journeyman reputation. But like Mills, he has three interceptions. A couple more gets him in the picture.
 
Nigel Bradham: Bradham has one sack, no interceptions, and no forced fumbles. Without stat numbers, it's tough for outside linebackers to make a Pro Bowl team, no matter how solid they are against the run and in coverage. Bradham is a sixth-year veteran without a Pro Bowl on his resume, and he'll probably need INT and sack numbers to make his first one.
 
Jake Elliott: Elliott doesn't have the accuracy of some kickers, so his only chance is to keep racking up the 50-yarders. Going into Dallas, he shares the NFL lead with five 50-yarders, including, of course, the game-winning 61-yarder against the Giants. But overall, he's at 85 percent, which sounds high but is actually only sixth-highest among regular NFC kickers. And he's missed three PATs. His only chance is another game-winner or two and a bunch more 50-yarders.
 
Rodney McLeod: McLeod has a couple interceptions and has played well all year, but it's hard to imagine him making the Pro Bowl and Jenkins not. And it's hard to imagine both safeties getting picked. Like any DB, McLeod can improve his chances with a couple INTs and maybe a pick-six during the voting period.