Eagles

Eagles-Seahawks: Roob's 10 observations

Eagles-Seahawks: Roob's 10 observations

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SEATTLE — It's been a while. About 2½ months since the Eagles experienced this.

The Eagles, who've been pushing teams around for the last couple months, faced an elite opponent for the first time since beating the Panthers in Week 6 and got pushed around Sunday night.

The Seahawks built a 17-3 lead in the third quarter and then coasted to a 24-10 win over the Eagles at CenturyLink Field (see breakdown).

Nine-game winning streak? Over. Undefeated record vs. the NFC? Over. Firm grasp of the No. 1 seed? Over … for now.

After the Eagles' first loss since Sept. 17, let's get right to tonight's 10 Observations.

1. I felt like this game was over early. The Seahawks were really the more physical, more dominating team on both sides of the ball in the first half, and just took the game to the Eagles. This is the sort of opponent the Eagles haven't seen lately — a cocky, confident bunch with a lot of guys who won a Super Bowl four years ago. They've got some swagger and attitude, and they don't play around. They really were the aggressor on both sides of the football in building that 17-3 lead, and it felt like the Eagles took a lot of punches to the midsection before they finally kind of made the game a level playing field and started fighting back. By then it was too late. You don't come back from 14 points down to the Seahawks in the fourth quarter at CenturyLink Field. The Eagles have been bullying teams all year. Sunday night, they got bullied. Good lesson. Can't let it happen again.

2. Doug Pederson has been brilliant calling plays this year, finding a rhythm, being aggressive, balancing run and pass. But I just didn’t like the concept of the offense Sunday night. You don’t beat a team like the Seahawks on the road running the ball, and I get that he was trying to protect Carson Wentz from Seattle’s pass rush, but the first-half run-pass ratio was 19 runs and 13 passes, and the Eagles got some yards on the ground but only three points. The Eagles started moving the ball through the air in the second half — Wentz had more passing yards on the first drive than in the entire first half — but then his fumble out of bounds gave the Seahawks the ball. They went down the field and scored, and once it was 17-3 the Eagles pretty much had to pass. I just feel like against a team like Seattle the Eagles needed to be aggressive from the jump, and they weren't.

3. But I'll tell you what. Wentz keeps proving how special he is, and it seems like every week he does it in a different way. Wentz got battered early Sunday night. He took a lot of huge hits. He had a finger on his right (throwing) hand wrapped up on the bench with some sort of apparent injury. He struggled to find time to throw and forced a few balls. He fumbled out of the end zone when he was about to score. He missed open guys. He struggled for much of the game like we haven’t seen him struggle in a long time. You look up, and it’s 17-3 Seahawks in a building where they’re 37-8 over the last six years and the crowd is going nuts and you’re just thinking, “You know what? This just isn’t Carson’s day.” And then he busts out of a sure sack for a 51-yard miracle down the right sideline to Nelson Agholor and then a spectacular 27-yard TD across the field to Agholor and the Eagles are back in the game, and you realize just how special this kid is. With everything conspiring against him, he still threw for 348 yards, completed 64 percent of his passes, threw one TD and one interception - to Eagles castoff Byron Maxwell - and finished with a respectable passer rating of 86.2. Heck, he threw for over 300 yards in the second half alone. The Eagles fell short Sunday, but I like the fight this kid has. He may go down, but he doesn't go down quietly.

4. You can make a case either way, but I didn’t like the punt on 4th-and-2 from just inside midfield with 18 seconds left in the first half. Doug has been aggressive all year, and to beat a good team in their own building you have to be aggressive. The Seahawks are missing half their secondary. You should be able to get two yards and then try to get into Jake Elliott range, which really was only a few yards away. If you don’t get it, the Seahawks still need 22 yards in, what, maybe 13 seconds, to get within range for a 50-yarder — which is the longest field goal Blair Walsh has made the last two years. That punt had a vague sense of playing-not-to-lose, and that's not how the Eagles got to 10-1.

5. It’s really hard to question Jim Schwartz right now, but I didn’t get the zero blitz on the play that turned into Russell Wilson’s 47-yarder to Doug Baldwin down to the 1-yard-line. That play led to the Seahawks' TD that turned a 10-3 lead into a 17-3 lead. The Eagles were getting tremendous pressure the whole game, and Wilson is so good at finding his hot receiver when he’s blitzed. Again, tough to second guess Schwartz, who’s been phenomenal this year. But it was 3rd-and-10 near midfield, your pressure from the front four has been relentless, and that really turned into the pivotal play in the game.

6. We haven't seen the Eagles' secondary torched like this in a long time. Wilson was brilliant Sunday, doing exactly what Schwartz said he's most dangerous at - making plays on the run, especially after rolling backward, deep behind the line of scrimmage, and then reversing field and either running or throwing on the move. Wilson finished 20-for-31 for 227 yards with three TDs and no interceptions, and his 118.6 passer rating is the highest against the Eagles since Matt Stafford's 135.0 in Detroit last year. Good measuring stick game. The Eagles' pass defense has been so effective lately, but Wilson is just a uniquely talented quarterback, and now this secondary knows exactly where it stands. The two QBs who've beaten them -- Alex Smith and Wilson -- are both guys who can run and throw. If the Eagles are going to make a deep playoff run, they're going to have to beat some really good quarterbacks. They're going to have to play better than they did Sunday night.

7. Brandon Graham played out of his mind Sunday night. Playing on the same field as Earl Thomas, who eight years ago the Eagles bypassed in the draft to take Graham, he was an absolute beast. He picked up his career-high eighth sack of the year and got constant pressure on Wilson, forcing several errant passes and rushed passes, including one in the third quarter that should have been a pass interference. I thought Graham was the Eagles' best player Sunday night.

8. One quick note on Halapoulivaati Vaitai: He seems to struggle from time to time early in games, and Sunday night he sure did. He had a very tough first quarter. But he generally seems to bounce back, and he did again this time. Vaitai needs to figure out how to start off more effectively, but it is encouraging that he's able to figure things out and play better as the game goes along.

9. His performance will probably go unnoticed because the Eagles lost, but Agholor had a career game with seven catches for 141 yards. That's the most yards by an Eagles wide receiver since Jordan Matthews had a 159-yard game against Arizona in 2015, and the second-most yards anybody has had against the Seahawks this year -- DeAndre Hopkins had a 224-yard game in October. Last year, Agholor was so bad against the Seahawks he got benched the next week. That's how far this kid has come. Agholor is now sitting with 40 catches and 599 yards, both career highs with four games left. Good for him. He's overcome a lot and really become a weapon.

10. Finally, this: Big point now for the Eagles now. They're spending the week in Los Angeles, they have another very good opponent waiting for them in the Rams, and with the Vikings, Rams and Saints all in hot pursuit, the Eagles can’t afford too many more losses if they're going to snag a first-round bye, in particular the No. 1 seed. Big test. Big moment. There's a ton at stake here. The Eagles have answered all the big tests they've faced this year. They answered their only previous loss with nine straight wins. Let's see how they respond to this one. I have a hunch they'll respond positively.

Turns out, Alshon Jeffery was injured all season

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AP Images

Turns out, Alshon Jeffery was injured all season

We all know about the myriad injuries the Eagles suffered on their way to the Super Bowl.

Nobody knew about this one.

Alshon Jeffery had surgery Wednesday morning to repair a torn rotator cuff that he played through all season, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Per Rapoport, Jeffery suffered the injury in training camp this past summer. We did know Jeffery suffered some sort of shoulder injury during the summer. Even after he returned, Doug Pederson remained very cautious with Jeffery. At the time, that seemed strange. Pederson just kept saying he held him out at his own discretion, even though it seemed like Jeffery and Carson Wentz needed time to build chemistry. All that seems to make more sense now.

Rotator cuff injuries can be especially difficult for wide receivers (over-the-head catches) and any skill player who gets tackled to the ground. In recent years, rotator cuff tears have either ended the season or caused multiweek absences for Eric Decker, Martellus Bennett and Plaxico Burress, among others. 

Jeffery's ability to play the whole season with a shoulder injury makes what he was able to do all the more impressive. He made a quick impact, catching two touchdowns and a two-point conversion in Weeks 1-4, then scored seven TDs from Weeks 8-14 before turning in a strong postseason.

Along the way, Jeffery earned a new contract that pays him $26.75 million guaranteed with a full value of $52 million. 

Safe to say that playing through pain worked out. How crazy is it to consider now that on Wentz's crucial Week 14 touchdown pass to Jeffery in L.A., the QB had a torn ACL and the receiver had a torn rotator cuff.

Jeffery confirmed the surgery via Instagram story on Wednesday afternoon.

Eagles Stay or Go — How about all the tight ends?

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USA Today Images

Eagles Stay or Go — How about all the tight ends?

In the third part of our offseason series examining the future of the world champion Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro try to figure out who will be on the roster in 2018. 

We go alphabetically — Part 1 was Nelson Agholor to Derek Barnett, Part 2 was De'Vante Bausby to Brandon Brooks. Today is Billy Brown to Vinny Curry.

Billy Brown
Roob: Don't be surprised if Brown makes the team next year. He's got good size at 6-4/255, and from what we've seen he has pretty good hands. We saw his catching ability at training camp last year, and he caught eight passes for 51 yards in the preseason. Brown spent the entire 2017 season on the practice squad, but with the future of both Trey Burton and Brent Celek up in the air, Brown may be able to secure a roster spot with a good training camp. I expect Burton to get an offer in the $7 million per year range if he hits the open market, which the Eagles most likely won't be able to match, and Celek could either retire or get released to save cap space. Brown could be the next guy up.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: After spending his entire rookie season on the Eagles' practice squad, Brown is going to have a pretty good shot to make the roster in 2017. Brown, who came from Shepherd University, was a training camp standout last summer. He's a converted wide receiver, so he has a good past as a receiving tight end. He has to prove himself, but the path to making the 53-man roster is there. 

Verdict: STAYS

Trey Burton
Roob:
Burton has gone from an undrafted free agent long shot to make the roster in 2015 to one of the most attractive tight ends set to hit free agency this spring. With his soft hands, versatility and tremendous athleticism, Burton should be in line for a multi-year deal in the ballpark of $7 to $7.5 million per year. Even the Super Bowl touchdown pass speaks volumes about Burton and his ability to stay cool and composed and make a play under extreme pressure and in a situation he'd never been in as a pro. You'd love to be able to keep Burton, but Zach Ertz is the Eagles' tight end and they just don't have the cap space for the luxury of a high-priced backup.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Burton is no longer a secret. The Eagles actually tried to extend Burton during the 2016 season, but the two sides were never really close. Burton wanted to bet on himself and now that seems wise. He played the 2017 season on a relatively cheap deal after being a restricted free agent last offseason. But now he's unrestricted this time around and other teams are going to be interested. Burton had his best season in 2016, when he caught 37 passes for 327 yards, but he did have a career-high five touchdown catches in 2017. He's going to get paid more for his potential, though, and it's going to price out the Eagles. 

Verdict: GOES

Brent Celek
Roob: We continue Tight End Day with the 11-year veteran, one of the most popular Eagles of the past generation. Celek will one day be enshrined in the Eagles Hall of Fame, but now he's just another veteran with a $5 million cap figure that is just too high. Maybe Celek will help the Eagles avoid a major decision by retiring. Celek has plenty of interests outside football and he's 33 years old now and has a ring, and retirement may be attractive to him. Go out on top. Or maybe he'll take a massive pay cut down to the veteran's minimum and stick around another year and get the two yards he needs for 5,000. But I think it's most likely Celek won't be here next year. Whatever happens, he'll always be remembered as a champion.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: This is a tough one just because it's Celek. He embodies the city of Philadelphia better than anyone else on the team. He's also the longest-tenured athlete in the city. It's important to him to be a career Eagle, to never play for another team. But he just can't be back in 2018 on his current salary. It doesn't make good football or business sense. His cap number in 2018 is $5 million, which is just way too high for a reserve blocking tight end. It would be tough for the Eagles to flat out cut him, but if he doesn't want to retire and doesn't want to restructure down to nearly the minimum, that's what's going to have to happen. 

Verdict: GOES

Corey Clement
Roob: 
To go from an undrafted rookie free agent running back with virtually no history as a pass catcher to a 100-yard receiver in the Super Bowl in 10 months is just insane. Clement showed me enough that I believe he can be a lead back on this team. I think the plan will be to take a good long look at Jay Ajayi this coming season, with Ajayi and Clement splitting time, then decide after 2018 whether or not to keep Ajayi, who is due to become a free agent in another year. But under any scenario, Clement will be a major part of this team's running back corps for at least the next few years.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: I was wrong about Clement last summer. I thought he was a good running back but there was nothing special about him. I thought Wendell Smallwood deserved to be ahead of him on the depth chart. Oops. Clement had an incredible rookie season. The most incredible thing was that he became a legitimate receiving threat out of the backfield, something he had never been in college or even in high school. He did everything the Eagles asked him to do in his rookie season and excelled at everything. He hasn't just earned a spot on the roster; he's earned the right to be a part of the running back rotation going forward. 

Verdict: STAYS

Fletcher Cox
Roob:
I think Fletch might be around a while. Cox goes into his seventh season with the Eagles having made three straight Pro Bowls and is one of the most dominating interior linemen in the NFL. And he's under contract for the next five years. He stays. And will stay for the foreseeable future.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Sometimes we all sort of forget how good Cox really is. As an interior defensive lineman, Cox doesn't always make flashy plays. But just ask around the league about the Eagles' defense and everyone comes back with one guy on their mind: big No. 91. There's a reason he's become a perennial Pro Bowler and there's a reason he got a $100 million contract last offseason. He's the engine to the Eagles' defense and we saw him elevate his game even more in the run to the Super Bowl by barely leaving the field. This is stupid easy. 

Verdict: STAYS

Vinny Curry
Roob: Curry didn't really have the stat numbers to back it up, but he did play fairly well this year. He's got some massive cap numbers coming up — $11 million in 2018, $11.25 million in 2019 and $12.25 million in 2020. Those are astronomical figures for a guy who has nine sacks in his last 50 games. The Eagles could clear $5 million in cap space by releasing Curry, and that number goes up to $7.25 million next year and $10.25 million before the 2020 season. I think he stays this year, but those cap savings could be tempting for the cap-starved Eagles.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: After a down season in 2016, Curry became a starter and had the best year of his career in 2017. Some folks will argue against that because his sack numbers weren't shocking, but Curry was just tremendously solid as a rusher and against the run in 2017. He's a big reason why the Eagles' defensive line was their top unit and why their run defense was the best in the NFL. But his cap hit of $11 million is a killer this year and first-rounder Barnett is ready to start. I think if Curry is back, it'll be after reworking that deal. But for now ... 

Verdict: GOES