Eagles

Eagles survive 'worst' start to a game Lane Johnson's ever seen

usa-carson-wentz-eagles-redskins.jpg
USA Today Images

Eagles survive 'worst' start to a game Lane Johnson's ever seen

The Eagles wound up beating the Redskins in convincing fashion on Monday night, but for the first 27 minutes, the mood at Lincoln Financial Field was tense.

"We started off horrible," Eagles tight end Zach Ertz said postgame. "Everything hit the fan at the beginning of the game, that first drive."

The opening possession felt like a bad omen. Already trailing Washington 3-0, the offense managed to draw four penalties before it could even run four plays. The Eagles had backed themselves into 2nd-and-31 from their own 4-yard line when quarterback Carson Wentz capped off the series with an interception.

The offense proceeded to look sluggish on its first four drives. Wentz completed 2 of 7 passes for 24 yards with two sacks and the pick, and the Eagles were down 10-3.

Then Wentz hit rookie wide receiver Mack Hollins with a 64-yard bomb, and suddenly, the Eagles were in business.

"Mack Hollins, the guy comes in off the bench, has a 60-yard touchdown pass," Ertz said. "The guy's going to be a really good football player."

The touchdown to Hollins with 3:19 remaining in the first half set off a chain reaction. The Eagles' defense forced a quick three-and-out, and Wentz was able to lead the offense back down the field on a six-play, 70-yard scoring drive.

Ertz reeled in the four-yard touchdown, and in a matter of three minutes, the entire complexion of the game was permanently changed.

"We had some momentum going, and they completed the big one down our right sideline there," said Redskins coach Jay Gruden. "That was a big play.

"You feel like you're going to go into halftime in good shape, but then they had the two scores and they're up by seven going into the half, so that was a big turnaround for them."

But the big turnaround actually started before the touchdown to Hollins — and it began on the other side of the ball.

At one point in the second quarter, it felt as though Washington was on the verge of taking a commanding lead. Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins made a pivotal stop on a 3rd-and-1 pass to Jordan Reed, tackling the tight end short of the sticks and getting the ball back to his offense.

Earlier in the game, rookie defensive end Derek Barnett shut down another Redskins drive around midfield with a sack on 3rd-and-8. Washington ended the first half with 195 yards of total offense but only 10 points.

The ability of the Eagles' defense to limit the damage afforded Wentz the opportunity to snap out of his funk.

"They started out pretty hot," Jenkins said of Washington's offense. "They came out swinging, but the game was 3-0.

"Our offense got going, started making some big plays and took care of the football. Defensively, we got some stops, the momentum kind of swayed to us, and we never gave it back. We answered every shot that they gave us."

The decision by Eagles coach Doug Pederson to go uptempo on the Hollins scoring drive proved to be a shrewd move as well. Up to that point, the entire offense had managed 35 total yards.

"It was just a way of finding that rhythm, which is something we've done the first couple months of the season," Pederson said.

"I think it's good to get the big guys rolling a little bit. Some of the quick throws, Carson — the ball is out of his hand, and we can run the hurry-up. We kind of were misfiring a little bit up to that point, and that got us on track."

The Eagles never looked back. They would find the end zone again to open the third quarter and go ahead 24-10, and the outcome was never in serious jeopardy after.

"It definitely gave us momentum," Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham said of the scoring outburst. "Momentum coming into halftime, and momentum coming out of halftime to go back out there and score again.

"We knew that the Redskins' offense had pretty much given us their best shot that first half. They were pulling out all kind of different plays that we haven't seen, scheme-wise. We just came back in at halftime and got ready. We knew they were going to try to run some of the same, similar stuff and we were ready for it."

It was just the latest example of the character of this Eagles squad. Nobody panicked. Nobody was worried. Players and coaches stepped up and worked together to snap out of the slumber.

That's the kind of resiliency the Eagles have shown all season, which is why even during those tense opening series, it never truly felt like the game was in danger of getting away from them.

"It was early in the game, so we were just going to stick to our guns and stick to the game plan and be patient with the run game, and we felt like things would click," Pederson said. "It's just again the trust and the guys knowing everything was going to be fine.

"They did it again tonight. Offensively, they'd come off the field and (say), 'We're okay, we got it. We'll just make a couple adjustments and go back out.'"

Given the way the game started — with four penalties in three plays — at the very least, the Eagles showed they don't believe in omens.

"It's probably the worst way to start a game that I've ever seen," Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson said. "It just seemed like flags were everywhere.

"We weathered the storm. It wasn't pretty, but that's what good teams do."

5 Minutes with Roob: Josh Andrews still waiting on his chance 4 years later

5 Minutes with Roob: Josh Andrews still waiting on his chance 4 years later

In today's "Five Minutes with Roob," Reuben Frank chats with Eagles guard/center Josh Andrews:

Roob: Let's clear the air first. You're definitely not related to Shawn Andrews?

Josh Andrews: No, I'm not. No relation to Shawn Andrews at all.

Roob: So that's one positive. Do you get that a lot?

Andrews: I've got it a few times now, but no relation.

Roob: Alright well that's good to know. Now, you've got a really interesting story. You've been here four years now. Talk about when you came here in '14, were there a lot of teams trying to sign you out of Oregon State? How did that whole thing go?

Andrews: Went undrafted, about three teams tried to grab me, but felt like the best fit was for the Eagles and I've been here ever since.

Roob: It's really crazy because obviously, they like you. Obviously, Chip (Kelly) liked you. Obviously, Doug (Pederson) likes you. But you haven't had a chance to play. How do you balance being here, preparing like you're gonna play every week and not having gotten that chance yet?

Andrews: Just gotta have that mindset to get ready every week. That's how I've been since I've been here. My time is coming, I just gotta wait and do what's best for this team right now and keep us winning.

Roob: Now there was a really interesting thing on Tuesday, Jim Schwartz, without prompting, I don't know if you heard about this, he mentioned you as far as talking about how guys on the offense help the defense prepare. And he mentioned that you'll go to him and say, 'Hey we're figuring this out in running scout team.' Because you run scout team center or guard, I guess mainly center I would think. That's kind of unusual for a defensive coordinator to mention a scout team offensive lineman. What do you bring to him? What do you see from the first defense that can maybe help?

Andrews: Just blocking schemes you know, the way that they're ran. Say if (Fletcher Cox) needs help with something I'll be like 'I think this is the best way to go.' And it's been working. They've been getting home a lot this season and it's really been paying off for our defense.

Roob: How hard is it to not play?

Andrews: Man, it's tough. It's really tough. But just gotta keep going. I love playing this sport and I will continue as long as I can. 

Roob: I remember there was one game, I think it was 2015, where somebody got hurt and you ran on the field and then they didn't leave the game. 

Andrews: Oh yeah, that was against the Cowboys in 2015. Lane (Johnson) got hurt, pretty sure it was Lane. And I was about to go in and then he came back on the field. I was like, 'Ah man, that was my shot.' But, I gotta keep positive. Gotta keep that positive mindset. That's how I've been ever since I've been here.

Roob: Now you've actually been here longer than most of the team. (Jason) Kelce's a guy who's been here your whole time. What have you learned from being around him, watching him play, watching him practice?

Andrews: He's such a smart guy man. On the field, the way he just commands attention, the way he commands the offensive line is just impressive to see. I try to mimic that every time I step on the field. I've learned so much from him over these past four years and he's just a great player to learn from and be under. 

Roob: Now preseason games I guess are like your Super Bowl now, right? Cause that's your chance to play. What do those games mean to you? You're not playing a lot. A few of them you're playing a lot. But what does it mean to get out there and have a chance to play?

Andrews: It's gold man. That's everything for me right now. When I get a chance to get on that field, I give it all I got. I've done that ever since I've been here. That's just, like you said, my Super Bowl. Every time I go on that field I give it all I got. 

Roob: What's (offensive line) coach (Jeff) Stoutland meant to you? You've been around him a while now. 

Andrews: Great mentor. Great teacher. He's just been wonderful. He's really hard on us and it's for a good reason, to get us better and get us playing at a high level. That's the way he commands the player and I like that. 

Roob: What's special about this team now? You've been on some good teams and some bad teams since you've been here but you guys are rolling, 8-1, seven-game winning streak going into Dallas Sunday night. What do you like about the kind of vibe in this locker room?

Andrews: The vibe is awesome. Everyone's on the same page. Everyone's with each other. It's been really different from the past three teams I've been on. I feel like we're gonna go far with the team we got right now. 

Roob: Alright last question. Chip Kelly, do you think he's going to take the Florida job?

Andrews: Sheesh, I don't know. We'll see. That's a good question.

Carson Wentz's durability is his biggest strength

ap-carson-wentz.jpg
USA Today Images

Carson Wentz's durability is his biggest strength

Forget for a moment all the record-setting touchdown passes, all the dazzling third-down conversions and the highlight-reel red-zone heroics.

One of Carson Wentz's greatest accomplishments these last two years has just been playing football every Sunday. Being out there for his team without fail every week.

That alone puts him in an elite group.

Look around the league. Tyrod Taylor just got benched in Buffalo with the Bills in the playoff hunt. Trevor Siemian was benched just before the Broncos came to Philly. The 49ers benched Brian Hoyer a few weeks before facing the Eagles

Last we checked, the Browns have already benched DeShone Kizer, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan this fall.

Heck, even one-time Super Bowl winner Joe Flacco was benched by Ravens head coach John Harbaugh during a loss to the Jaguars.

We've been through all of that. That quarterback carousel. It never leads anywhere.

Wentz on Sunday night will start his 26th consecutive game. Every game the Eagles have played since opening day last year. He's one of only 12 quarterbacks who's started all his team's games over the last two years.

Elite quarterback play is huge for any football team, but quarterback stability is just as important. And Wentz is finally giving this franchise something it's lacked for much of the last quarter century.

Think about it.

From 1991 through 2015, a 25-year span, the only years an Eagles quarterback started 16 games were Donovan McNabb in 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2008. And McNabb got benched in 2008.

From 2010 through 2015, the six years between McNabb and Wentz, the Eagles used seven different quarterbacks. Not only did the Eagles not win anything during that span, there didn't seem to be much of a future either. 

The Eagles were stuck trying to build a championship team without an elite quarterback. Which is almost impossible to do.

All of which led Howie Roseman to make the franchise-altering decision that the Eagles had to do anything possible, no matter how drastic, no matter how extreme, to get that guy and turn the franchise over to him.

That realization, that organizational decision and the series of trades that landed Wentz in Philadelphia guaranteed that the Eagles would have quarterback stability and a chance for sustained success for the foreseeable future.

Just by starting 25 games in a row, Wentz has done something no Eagles QB had done since McNabb started 31 straight from opening day 2003 through Week 15 of 2004. With the No. 1 seed locked up, he didn't play the last week of the season.

McNabb started 51 straight games from midway through 1999, when he replaced Doug Pederson, through Week 10 of 2002, when he broke his ankle against the Cards (but threw four touchdowns anyway).

And along with those two McNabb streaks and streaks by Ron Jaworski and Randall Cunningham, Wentz's run of 25 starts is already the Eagles' fifth-longest since Norm Van Brocklin started 36 straight from 1958 through 1960.

You've probably already picked up on the fact that the Eagles' greatest periods of success in the NFL's modern era — the 1960 championship and the 1980 and 2004 Super Bowl appearances — just happen to coincide with periods of tremendous quarterback stability.

And maybe very soon we can add another era to that list.

Just by being out there every Sunday, Wentz has separated himself from most quarterbacks in the NFL.

Of the 12 QBs who've started every game since opening day last year, only six have a career winning record. And of those six, only Wentz and Dak Prescott — both 24 — are under 28.

They'll meet for the third time Sunday night in Dallas, and whatever happens, both franchises are in good hands for the foreseeable future.

For the Eagles, these are heady days. Wentz is having an MVP season and Roseman and Joe Douglas have surrounded him with a deep and talented roster.

An entire generation of quarterbacks — Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Carson Palmer — will be retiring in the next few years. And most of the young QBs lining up to replace them are unproven. Even guys like Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton and Russell Wilson will be in their mid-30s in five years.

How many NFL teams know who their quarterback will be in, let's say, 2023? The Texans with Deshaun Watson, the Rams with Jared Goff, Marcus Mariota in Tennessee and probably Jameis Winston in Tampa. And the Eagles and Cowboys. Anybody else?

Most NFL teams are in a constant search for that elite quarterback. Not around here. Not anymore.

The most important question facing almost every NFL team is one the Eagles won't have to even think about for a decade.