Eagles

Eagles rookie report: Barnett's best game; Hollins' 1st score

Eagles rookie report: Barnett's best game; Hollins' 1st score

The rookies contributed in a big way to the Eagles' 34-24 win over the Redskins at the Linc on Monday night (see breakdown).

First-round pick Derek Barnett played his best game, WR Mack Hollins scored his first TD and RB Corey Clement showed off his improving skill set for the 6-1 Eagles.

Let's take a look at some of the highlights in this week's rookie report.

1st quarter, 5:05, 1st-and-10 at WAS 7 - Redskins 3, Eagles 0
Corner Rasul Douglas was the first rook to make a play in this one. Playing off coverage as he has for most of the season, he lined up against WR Ryan Grant, the lone receiver on the left. Grant ran a short hitch. Douglas made another aggressive play on the ball, reading the route and the quarterback and tackling Grant immediately for a three-yard gain.

1st quarter, 4:26, 2nd-and-7 at WAS 10 - Redskins 3, Eagles 0
Barnett made a rookie mistake on this play. QB Kirk Cousins faked the handoff to RB Rob Kelley to the right and then rolled back to his left. With all of Barnett's momentum going right, a slight chip block from TE Jordan Reed knocked Barnett off balance. As Barnett is on the ground, Cousins was allowed to roll left and find TE Niles Paul for a 32-yard completion.

1st quarter, 3:05, 3rd-and-2 at 50 - Redskins 3, Eagles 0
It didn't take long for Barnett to get redemption. The Redskins unwisely tried to block Barnett with a tight end. This might work on defensive ends who don't have a high pursuit level, but as we've seen, that's not the case with Barnett. Every play that I've seen him 1-on-1 against a tight end, he won the matchup with ease. He got right around Reed and brought down Cousins for his first solo NFL sack (he recorded a 1/2 sack last week in Carolina). 

2nd quarter, 3:19, 2nd-and-16 at PHI 36 - Redskins 10, Eagles 3
This was really the turning point of the game. The Eagles couldn't get much going and Carson Wentz just took a sack to make it 2nd-and-long. Hollins lined up on the line to the right with Alshon Jeffery bunched behind him. Hollins ran down the field and gave a great head fake on a corner route to safety D.J. Swearinger before he turned on the jets and left Swearinger in the dust. Wentz threw a dime and Hollins snagged his first NFL touchdown. The route tree at North Carolina isn't exactly sophisticated. It's something Hollins has worked on and it really showed on this play.

3rd quarter, 9:43, 3rd-and-goal at WSH 9 - Eagles 17, Redskins 10
If the Hollins' touchdown was the turning point, this might have been the nail in the coffin. Coming out of the locker room, the Eagles drove right down the field and were in danger of having to settle for a field goal. Wentz lined up in the shotgun with Clement lined up next to him on the right. Washington sent a heavy blitz. Clement ran a wheel route on LB Zach Brown. Wentz defied physics to get off a tremendous throw under pressure. Brown had tight coverage but the ball is in a perfect spot where only Clement can get. And boy did Clement get it. He made an unbelievable catch and did an even better job keeping his feet in bounds.

3rd quarter, 4:12, 2nd-and-6 at PHI 48 - Eagles 24, Redskins 10
This was a tremendous play by Barnett. He set a hard edge on a bull rush against perennial All-Pro tackle Trent Williams and drove the veteran tackle backwards. He then came from behind to tackle Kelley for a one-yard loss. This play was even more impressive than the sack given it was against arguably the best left tackle in football.

4th quarter, 12:59, 3rd-and-6 at PHI 48 - Eagles 24, Redskins 17
This was an interesting play call. Doug Pederson either saw something the Redskins were doing on third down or really trusts his defense. Clement took the ball off tackle left. Backup tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai did a great job driving his defender backward while Clement patiently waited behind him. Clement was able to get the first down and keep what eventually turned into a touchdown drive going.

Analysis
Barnett was tremendous. He looked like a completely different player than he did in Week 1 against Williams (granted Williams has been hobbled by an injury). He's starting to get more comfortable in his secondary pass rush moves, including breaking out a nice spin move on one play. His confidence is growing week by week (see Roob's observations). With his two sacks tonight, he's now recorded 2.5 sacks the last two weeks. Not too shabby.

When Hollins was drafted by the Eagles, they acknowledged his prowess on special teams, but Howie Roseman was quick to point out that Hollins was more than that. He certainly showed that tonight. As previously mentioned, route running wasn't considered Hollins' strength coming out. But you could see on his college tape that he had the quick feet and suddenness to turn into a decent route runner. Hollins had just one catch, but he made it count.

Clement had a fumble in the fourth quarter that he recovered but maximized the rest of his touches. The work he's put in on becoming a better pass catcher has clearly paid off. And yet again he shows off his patience and vision when running the ball. Not bad for a guy who seemed like a long shot to make the team when the preseason started.

Jake Elliott apparently is human. After making his 12th straight kick β€” a 50-yarder β€” earlier in the game, he missed a 45-yard field goal with 21 seconds left.

Trey Burton denies report questioning his Eagles future

ap-trey-burton-eagles.jpg
AP Images

Trey Burton denies report questioning his Eagles future

Several hours after an NJ.com report surfaced that the Eagles were unlikely to re-sign Trey Burton, the tight end denied it on Twitter.

Replying to a tweet about the report from former Eagles teammate Emmanuel Acho, Burton said he hasn't spoken to anyone.

NJ.com's Matt Lombardo reported Friday that the Eagles made Burton an offer that the soon-to-be-free-agent "didn't consider serious."

"We are fully expecting Trey to sign elsewhere," the source said.

It wouldn't be surprising whatsoever if Burton leaves in free agency. A team will likely pay him starter's money and offer him a chance to start, which he doesn't have here with Zach Ertz firmly entrenched.

The Eagles are over the projected salary cap, and while they could create space in numerous ways, they also have to worry about re-signing key linebacker Nigel Bradham.

6 ways for Eagles to create cap space

6 ways for Eagles to create cap space

The Eagles are coming off a thrilling season but there's a lot of work to be done. 

The NFL's new league year begins on March 14 and the Eagles must be under the salary cap by then. The problem is that based on projections, the Eagles are set to be more than $9 million over the cap, according to OverTheCap. So it's time for some maneuvering. 

The good news is that Howie Roseman's specialty has always been finding unique ways to get the Eagles out of cap trouble. There are ways for him to do it again.

Cut Torrey Smith 
Probably the easiest one. Smith was a great teammate and a solid addition to the Eagles' locker room, and he really stepped up his game in the playoffs, but it's probably not enough to bring him back. He just wasn't good enough last season, and cutting him would save the Eagles $5 million in cap room with no dead money. The Birds still have Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor, while Mack Hollins is entering Year 2. 

Cut Brent Celek
This one will hurt, but Celek can take away the sting if he decides to walk away as a champion. He's set to have a cap number of $5 million. That's just way too much for what Celek provides these days. By cutting him, the Eagles would save $4 million in cap space. So just between Smith and Celek, the Eagles will almost get back to zero ... but there's other work to do. They'll still need money to sign free agents and draft picks. 

Extend Brandon Graham 
Graham is entering the final year of his contract with a cap number of $8 million. He wants a new contract and deserves one. Good news: An extension would work for both sides. Graham would get more money long term and the Eagles could get his cap number down this season. 

Rework/cut Vinny Curry
Curry is coming off of probably his best season in the NFL but will have an $11 million cap number. That's tough to swallow, especially with Derek Barnett waiting for his chance to start. It seems likely the Eagles will ask Curry to take a pay cut or rework his deal. If not, cutting him would leave $6 million in dead money but would also save $5 million in cap room. 

Trade Mychal Kendricks
If you remember, Kendricks actually wanted a trade last offseason. Good thing that didn't happen. Kendricks ended up being a big part of the Eagles' success in 2017. Depending on what happens with Nigel Bradham in free agency and with Jordan Hicks' Achilles recovery, trading Kendricks might again be an option. A trade would save $4.4 million in cap space. 

Trade Nick Foles 
This is such a tough one β€” we explore it more here. But basically, Foles is a pretty amazing insurance policy until we know when Carson Wentz is going to be ready. If the Eagles do trade Foles, it would save them $5.2 million that they could certainly use. The problem is that by the time they know Wentz's status, free agency will be long gone and that cap space won't help this year. But it could help in 2019.