Eagles

Eagles-Redskins: Roob's 10 observations

Eagles-Redskins: Roob's 10 observations

BOX SCORE

Another win, another masterpiece from Carson Wentz, another glowing 10 instant observations.

The best team on Earth put a stranglehold on the NFC East with a 34-24 win over the Redskins Monday night at the Linc. The only one-loss team in the NFL improved to 6-1 and continued its drive to the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

In tonight's 10 instant observations, we marvel at Wentz, lament the loss of Jason Peters, look at some remarkable run defense and much, much more.

This is fun, isn't it?

1. Best thing about this game was that it showed how the Eagles can fight through adversity. And they sure faced plenty of it early with a turnover, penalties on their first four plays, bad field position, three Redskin sacks and a 10-3 deficit midway through the second quarter. When the Redskins took a 10-3 lead, they had outgained the Eagles 178-32. And we all saw how they responded. The offensive line, struggling badly early, regrouped and gave Wentz the time to throw a 64-yard touchdown pass to rookie Mack Hollins and — after a three-and-out — a 46-yard strike to Zach Ertz 1½ minutes later and then a TD pass to Ertz. Just like that the Eagles had turned a TD deficit into a TD advantage and eventually a double-digit win. That ability to stare adversity in the face and power through it is a really special trait.

2. Was very rough to see Peters go down in the third quarter. That man is so revered and respected in the Eagles' locker room, and in his 14th season he's been playing at a very high level. Seeing a guy we all look at as Superman lying on the Lincoln Financial Field turf near tears and grabbing his knee was very tough to watch. Peters has never played in a postseason win, and this team really wanted to end that streak. But this team will honor Peters by playing the kind of tough, aggressive, physical type of football that Peters has been playing since he got here in 2009. I can't think of any better way to honor Peters than continuing to play the kind of football they've been playing.

3. I'm running out of ways to marvel at Wentz. He's now doing things in his second year that Donovan McNabb — a Hall of Fame candidate at the very least and the greatest quarterback in Eagles history — never did. Three touchdowns in three straight games is something no Eagles quarterback had done since Bobby Thomason back in 1953. With 6:20 left in the first half, Wentz was 2 for 5 for 24 yards, had been sacked three times, had fumbled, had thrown an interception, and his team trailed 10-3. And by the middle of the third quarter, he had thrown three touchdowns and the Eagles led 24-10. Wentz finished 17 for 25 for 268 yards with four TDs and one interception. He already has 17 touchdown passes — more than all of last year and the most ever by an Eagles QB after seven games. He is simply magical right now (see studs and duds). Squeezing out of a near sack to throw a touchdown pass to Corey Clement. Diving for 21 yards instead of sliding after getting the first down. Bombing away to a rookie fourth-round pick with five career receptions. We are seeing the birth of a superstar in front of our eyes.

4. The Eagles continue to dazzle against the run, and once again they forced an opponent to essentially give up the running game because it just wasn't working. The Redskins' backs ran just 13 times for 39 yards and ran just four times in the second half. Part of it was because the Eagles extended their lead later in the half, but the 'Skins also just couldn't do anything on the ground, and that's a top-10 rushing offense. Kareem Hunt remains the only running back this year to rush for more than 35 yards against the Eagles, and that's insane. The Eagles have held five straight opponents to 80 or fewer rushing yards, the first time that's happened since 1992. Really impressive stuff for Fletcher Cox and Co.

5. I've been a Hollins fan since I first saw him in OTAs. He's just so smooth and makes everything look so effortless. He's fast and has good size and great hands. I’m not an NFL scout but I have no clue how this kid was a fourth-round pick. Back in the spring, Hollins was basically the eighth receiver on the roster behind guys like Bryce Treggs, Dorial Green-Beckham and Shelton Gibson. But he never worried about any of that and just continued to shine and work his way up the depth chart. Now he's emerging as a real weapon. His 64-yard TD Monday night was the longest by an Eagles rookie since Hank Baskett's 89-yarder from A.J. Feeley against the Falcons in 2006. He's got six targets, six catches, five first downs, one TD and 134 receiving yards. I don't know what the future holds for Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, but I do know that Hollins is going to be a productive, dynamic receiver for this team for a long time.

6. One thing that impresses me tremendously about the Eagles is their ability to win in a lot of different ways. The last month, they've run the ball real well, averaging 158 rushing yards during their four-game winning streak coming into the Redskins game. But that wasn't happening Monday night. The Redskins stuffed the run virtually the entire night — LeGarrette Blount, who's been so good, ran 10 times for two yards before a late 21-yard run just before the two-minute warning. Even with that carry, the backs ran 25 times for 64 yards (2.6). So Wentz made plays through the air and made plays on the ground, and the Eagles won a game without much help from the running game. This team's ability to find different ways to win football games makes them very tough to beat.

7. Another huge game for Zach Ertz, with five catches for 89 yards and his career-high fifth touchdown. Through seven games, Ertz now has 39 catches for 494 yards. He and Wentz have such a remarkable connection. I feel like he can connect with the fifth-year tight end any time he wants.

8. I thought this was a really outstanding day for Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. The Redskins gashed the Eagles early, netting 178 yards, eight first downs and 10 points on their first four drives. They had plays of 17, 20, 31, 32 and 32 yards on those drives. That was the first 21 minutes of the game. Most of that just disappeared during the span the Eagles outscored the Redskins 31-7 over the next 33 minutes. On the 'Skins' six drives after that hot start, they netted 100 yards (17 per drive), six first downs and seven points with no plays of 17 yards or more. Coaching is adjusting, and Schwartz was very, very good at it Monday night — even without Jordan Hicks.

9. You know what, Malcolm Jenkins has been in the news a lot lately for his community work, his political views and his efforts to communicate with Commissioner Roger Goodell on behalf of the NFL players. So much so that you can forget what an exceptional safety he is. Jenkins was terrific again Monday night, with nine tackles, a sack, a quarterback hit and a hurry. Whatever you think of his activism, you can't question his ability, his effort and his value to this defense and this football team.

10. Was great to see rookie Derek Barnett break out with two sacks. That made him the Eagles' first rookie with a two-sack game since Trent Cole in 2005 and only the sixth to ever do it. Barnett now has 2½ sacks, and you just see him growing more and more comfortable. He's in a great situation, surrounded by so many talented defensive linemen. The Eagles are getting contributions from a lot of rookies right now, and I think you'll see Barnett just continue to improve.

Derrick Gunn's NFL Week 11 picks: 2 games that will impact Eagles

Derrick Gunn's NFL Week 11 picks: 2 games that will impact Eagles

Derrick Gunn makes his picks for Week 11 of the NFL season.

Eagles at Cowboys (Sunday 8:30 p.m. on NBC)
Now that their bye week is over, the Eagles are focused on wrapping up the NFC East. Dallas is licking its wounds after getting manhandled down in Atlanta. Ezekiel Elliott is serving his suspension. LB Sean Lee is out with a hamstring injury, and Pro Bowl LT Tyron Smith is ailing with a groin injury. It all sounds too easy for the Birds, but with Dak Prescott on the other side, they’re not about to overlook this one. And they still remember what happened in Dallas last season.

Without Elliott and Smith, trying to establish a ground game against the Eagles’ top-ranked run defense will be near impossible. Dallas is 0-2 in games Lee hasn't played in this season. Carson Wentz will spread the wealth through the air, and now that Jay Ajayi has had extended time to get familiar with the offense, the Birds' running attack should be even more diversified. If the Eagles' defense can make the Cowboys' offense one-dimensional, it's game over.

Pick: Eagles 27, Cowboys 17

Detroit at Chicago (Sunday 1 p.m. on FOX)
The Bears’ defense is actually decent, ranked ninth overall, but the offense is abysmal. In their last two outings, the Bears hung tough, losing by eight to New Orleans and by seven to Green Bay. Chicago just doesn't have enough offensive firepower to hang with Matthew Stafford and the Lions.

Pick: Lions

Jacksonville at Cleveland (Sunday 1 p.m. on CBS)
This is a matchup of feast or famine, and the Jags' defense (first in sacks with 35) should be doing a lot of feasting. The Jags are tied for first in the AFC South and should win their fourth in a row.

Pick: Jaguars

Baltimore at Green Bay (Sunday 1 p.m. on CBS)
Aaron Rodgers’ replacement Brett Hundley has improved each week, but this time he's facing a Ravens defense that leads the league in interceptions with 13. It is likely the Packers will be without their top two rushers. Joe Flacco has been a disappointment this year (eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions) but he will pile up yards against a generous Packers' pass defense. Ravens win a close one.

Pick: Ravens

Tampa Bay at Miami (Sunday 1 p.m. on FOX)
The 3-6 Bucs vs. 4-5 Fins. No one expected both of these teams to have losing records at this stage of the season. Tampa’s list of offensive weapons on paper is impressive but has not lived up to expectations. The Dolphins are a mess, losing the last three and giving up 40 or more points in two of their last three. Somebody has to win this battle of Florida. Bucs get a slight nod.

Pick: Bucs

Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota (Sunday 1 p.m. on FOX)
This clash of division leaders is worth watching as both are 7-2 and behind the Eagles in the NFC. The Rams are the best scoring offense (32.9 points per game) and are facing the Vikings’ No. 5 scoring defense (18.3 ppg). Jared Goff has come into his own and Case Keenum has been solid. It comes down to which defense can get the most stops. The Vikings’ D is really good and playing at home. Advantage Minnesota.

Pick: Vikings

Washington at New Orleans (Sunday 1 p.m. on FOX)
The 'Skins keep losing frontline bodies while the Saints, at 7-2, just keep winning. Drew Brees has completed a minimum of 71 percent of his passes the last four games and the Saints' D isn’t bad, ranked eighth overall. The Redskins will not win in the Bayou.

Pick: Saints

Kansas City at New York Giants (Sunday 1 p.m. on CBS)
Andy Reid's crew is lucky the rest of the AFC West is struggling. The Chiefs have had a bye week to fix the problems they had against Dallas. Meanwhile, the Giants have become a laughingstock. Players are getting suspended, and others are grumbling. The Giants will do a lot of sulking after Kansas City is through with them.

Pick: Chiefs

Arizona at Houston (Sunday 1 p.m. on FOX)
Both teams are without their starting QBs. The Cardinals still don't know who will start this one, Blaine Gabbert or Drew Stanton. Tom Savage has been ineffective for Houston the last two games (46 completion percentage, two touchdowns and two interceptions). All of the Cardinals’ losses have been against teams with winning records. This will be ‘Zona’s first loss to a team under .500.

Pick: Texans

Buffalo at Los Angeles Chargers (Sunday 4:05 p.m. on FOX)
What has happened to the Bills? The defense can't stop anybody. The Bills are losers of two straight and now QB Tyrod Taylor is benched. Philip Rivers is in the concussion protocol. If it’s a battle of backup QBs, I’ll take the Chargers’ Kellen Clemens over the Bills’ rookie Nathan Peterman.

Pick: Chargers

Cincinnati at Denver (Sunday 4:25 p.m. on CBS)
The only thing these two 3-6 teams have left to play for is pride. The Broncos have lost five straight and the last three to the Chiefs, Eagles and Patriots. The Bengals are minus-9 in turnover differential but Andy Dalton, who hasn't thrown a pick in his last three games, will lead Cincy to victory.

Pick: Bengals

New England at Oakland (Sunday 4:25 p.m. on CBS)
Like them or not, the Patriots just keep finding ways to win. Their defense is ranked dead last, yet once again, they control the AFC East. Old Man Brady still has many tricks up his sleeve and will dissect the Raiders’ defense.

Pick: Patriots

Atlanta at Seattle (8:30 p.m. Monday on ESPN)
The Falcons were impressive against Dallas, but that was in their dome. This one will be outdoors in the cold with possible rain, and the 'Hawks' 12th man will be out in full force. Seattle can't run the ball but Russell Wilson can carry this team on his back. The Seahawks desperately need a win to stay close to the Rams. They’ll get the W.

Pick: Seahawks

Eagles-Cowboys rivalry nothing new for Jay Ajayi

ap-jay-ajayi.jpg
AP Images

Eagles-Cowboys rivalry nothing new for Jay Ajayi

Things are kind of coming full circle for Jay Ajayi. 

After spending the Eagles' bye week trying to figure out where to live in Philly and bringing up his stuff from Florida, Ajayi gets to head back home to North Texas this week for his first Eagles-Cowboys game. 

He doesn't need anyone to explain the rivalry to him. 

"In Texas, it was like a split household," said Ajayi, who was born in London before moving to Maryland and eventually to Frisco, Texas, for high school. "My dad, he was on the Cowboys' side. My mom, she loved Donovan McNabb. That was like her favorite player, so she was always rooting for the Eagles. Obviously, when I went to the Dolphins, we all became Dolphins fans. Now it's an Eagles household all the way. It's exciting to be on my mom's team. She's excited and all that."

Ajayi said he already has about 20 tickets for his friends and family members but will have even more people in attendance for the game at AT&T Stadium. His coaches from Liberty High School have been texting him this week, telling him how excited they are for him to be back in Texas. 

Sunday won't be Ajayi's first game in AT&T Stadium. He actually played there as a senior in 2010, when his high school team lost to Bastrop, 38-24, in a Class 4A Division II playoff game. 

This Sunday, Ajayi will play just his second game with the Eagles after getting traded on Halloween. In the first game, he carried the ball eight times for 77 yards and a touchdown. His role will continue to increase as he gets more and more familiar with the offense.

"I feel like I have a really good grasp of our playbook," Ajayi said on Thursday.  

Ajayi was happy to play against Denver before the bye because if he hadn't, he would have really been "itching" to play by this point. Luckily, Ajayi was able to learn enough to at least have a limited role against the Broncos. 

And the bye week came at an optimal time. In between moving his stuff from Florida, Ajayi was able to hit the playbook hard.  

"Well, it's definitely, from the classroom standpoint, slowed down, a little more teaching," head coach Doug Pederson said. "And he can go back and even watch the Denver game and take personally himself, to have some takeaways from that game. Again, this is a veteran player who has played and understands football.

"We'll just continue to grow his package and grow the amount of plays and everything that he's doing with our offense and continue to keep him coming. But that's definitely a nice way to get him kind of caught up."

Ajayi has been a pretty fast learner since joining the Eagles, which hasn't been much of a surprise. 

Frank Reich told a story earlier this week: On Ajayi's first day with the Eagles, he had a meeting with running backs coach Duce Staley. The meeting, that Reich called a "crash course," lasted several hours. And after it was over, Staley walked out of the room and told the rest of the coaching staff, "We're good. We're good. This guy's going to be fine mentally." 

Reich said when he looks at the game plan for the Dallas game, there isn't a play the Eagles run that he wouldn't feel comfortable giving to Ajayi to learn. 

"He picked up on it really quick," Carson Wentz said earlier this week. "I've seen it a little bit just talking to him in meetings and we'll see as we get going out there in practice and everything. But, like I said, right away you could tell he was a sharp kid. He came in and started picking up on things, so he'll be a big part of our offense going forward."

During the bye week, Staley remembered his meeting with Ajayi at the 2015 combine. At the time, Ajayi was a prospect from Boise State who would eventually go in the fifth round to Miami. 

That day in Indianapolis, as recalled by Ajayi, Staley wanted to know about his favorite run play and his favorite pass play from the Boise State playbook. Staley wanted Ajayi to tell him everything about the plays, not just the running back's responsibilities. 

During the first week Ajayi was with the Eagles, he said he spent some long nights with Staley, as the two went over the Eagles' offense. 

"I pride myself on knowing the playbook," Ajayi said. "Being able to show him that [at the combine] left a mark on him and it's crazy how things come full circle again. Being here and having to learn all that stuff in that quick time, showing him I can grasp it and the plays." 

So there was Ajayi, the kid who was raised in Texas, by a mother who was an Eagles fan, learning the Eagles' playbook from her favorite player's teammate. That same teammate became the guy who was impressed by her son at the combine and who now gets to coach him two years later. As they head back to Texas. 

Everything really is coming full circle.