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.

Carson Wentz was great in 2017, but there's one thing he'd like to improve

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Carson Wentz was great in 2017, but there's one thing he'd like to improve

He was among the NFL’s best in virtually every category. Fourth in passer rating. First in touchdown percentage. Eighth in interception percentage. Second in TD-to-INT ratio. He was even third in wins despite missing the last three regular-season games.

So what’s Carson Wentz’s approach going into 2018?

“I think we can improve everywhere,” he said. “Overall, I think we can keep making strides and keep our foot on the gas.”

And that starts with completion percentage.

Wentz completed just 60.2 percent of his passes last year, which ranked 23rd of 30 quarterbacks who threw at least 400 passes. 

Ahead of only Blake Bortles, Andy Dalton, Mitch Trubisky, Cam Newton, Trevor Siemian, Jacoby Brissett and DeShone Kizer.

Not the kind of company he wants to keep.

Wentz was so good in every other area he still fashioned a passer rating over 100. In fact, his 101.9 rating was the highest in NFL history by a quarterback completing 60.2 percent of his passes (minimum 400 attempts).

The league average last year was 62 percent. And for the sake of comparison, Nick Foles completed 64.7 percent of his passes if you combine the regular season and postseason.

Wentz dropped from 62.4 percent as a rookie to 60.2 percent last year.

Among 36 active NFL quarterbacks who’ve thrown at least 1,000 passes, Wentz’s 61.5 completion percentage ranks 21st.

 “I know I’d like to see my completions go higher,” Wentz said last week. “I think I was right around 60 percent and I expect more out of myself in that area.”

After 2016, Wentz identified red zone and third down as two areas he hoped to improve on. 

And he wound up leading the NFL in both red zone efficiency (NFL-best 116.3 passer rating) and third-down efficiency (NFL-best 123.7 rating).

“Third down, red zone, we were really good,” he said. “That’s something we really focused on from Year 1 to Year 2, but we (still) all feel we can definitely improve in those areas.”

Wentz also committed nine fumbles in 13 games, and only Jameis Winston and Russell Wilson had more.

“I think we had too many fumbles,” he said. “Balls on the ground too many times.”

Wentz, now nearly five months out from his knee injury, said he’s used a lot of his extra time at the NovaCare Complex this offseason focusing on what he can improve on in 2018, and one of those things is his upper-body strength.

“With all the extra rehab and not being able to run and do a lot of things early on you’ve really just got to focus on some different things and I got to do a lot of seated throwing and trying to build my arm strength and really take care of my upper body more than I have in the past,” he said.

“It’s been an interesting process not being able to get that true conditioning and that rehab in, but it’s exciting to start easing into the running and conditioning stuff. … 

“I feel good. I definitely feel working with the strength guys, we had some friendly competition stuff with the other (injured) guys in there rehabbing and I definitely feel like I’m making some strides in there.”

Forget empty Day 2 of draft, Eagles hoping to find gold in Day 3

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Forget empty Day 2 of draft, Eagles hoping to find gold in Day 3

The Eagles are scheduled to have a pretty boring Day 2 of the draft this year. Because after they pick at No. 32, they don’t have another selection until the 31st pick of the fourth round. 

That means 98 players will be taken between the Eagles’ first and second picks. And they’ll have to watch other teams pick that entire Friday (Rounds 2-3) without them … unless they make a move. 

“We’re not looking at it like we’re sitting out on Friday,” Eagles de facto GM Howie Roseman said. “We’re going through our draft process looking at every scenario. When we get to Friday, we get to Friday.” 

Even if the Eagles don’t make a move, they’ll be plenty busy Saturday, the final day of the draft. They have two fourth-round picks and one pick in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds. 

Eagles personnel head Joe Douglas showed up to his media availability with a stat ready to go to illustrate the importance of Day 3. 

“We’re excited that we have five picks on Saturday,” Douglas said. “When you look at the Super Bowl, there’s 22 starters that were third-round picks or lower. Of those 22, 18 of them were fourth-round picks or lower. So 18 starters in the Super Bowl this year were fourth-round picks or lower, including six of them that were undrafted free agents. We choose to keep the glass half full.” 

Douglas is right on all those stats — 22 of 44 starters in the Super Bowl were drafted in the third or lower and 18 of them would be considered Day 3 picks. Not bad. 

Here’s how the Super Bowl starters broke down by round: 1-10, 2-12, 3-4, 4-4, 5-3, 6-3, 7-2, UDFA-6. 

The Eagles accounted for seven of the 18 players who were drafted in the fourth round or later, so the Patriots were the ones who found even more value late in drafts. And of those seven, just three were original Eagles — Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Jason Kelce and Jalen Mills. 

Of the six undrafted players who started in the Super Bowl, two were from the Eagles — LeGarrette Blount and Rodney McLeod. Neither was an original Eagle, but the Birds also relied heavily on running back Corey Clement, who was an undrafted rookie last season. 

With a dearth of high draft picks, it would make sense if the Eagles attack the undrafted market following the draft, but Douglas thinks it won’t be as easy as many might think. 

“You would think because we’re coming off a Super Bowl, we don’t have a second or third round pick that it would be a lot easier after the draft,” Douglas said. “But my experience coming off a Super Bowl, it’s sometimes harder to get guys to commit to your roster because agents and players have a perceived notion that it’s going to be that much tougher to make the team. I think that’s going to be a challenge. I think that’s going to be a challenge for us and we know it and we’re going to attack it.”

The Eagles in recent years have shown a willingness to pony up significant money to entice undrafted players to sign with them, and if Douglas is right, they might need to do it again to land some this year. 

Either way, the Eagles know how important Day 3 and beyond can be. So when they’re bored on Day 2, they don’t plan on losing focus.