Eagles

Nelson Agholor and Howie Roseman, please accept our apologies

Nelson Agholor and Howie Roseman, please accept our apologies

Wednesday on Quick Slants, we felt the need to own up to our mistakes. We had previously written off two men who have helped the Eagles to their NFL-best 6-1 record, so a couple apology letters were in order.

• • •

Dear Howie,
Like many ... there was a time when I felt that you had to go. Some of your personnel decisions left me beating my head against the wall, wondering who thought it was a good idea to put you in charge. Your drafts and free-agent signings were more misses than hits.

For every Zach Ertz and Fletcher Cox you drafted, there were way too many Danny Watkinses, Marcus Smiths, Jaiquawn Jarretts and Daniel Te'o-Nesheims.

Many of your free-agent signings were free falls. Yeah, I'll give you credit for getting it right with Connor Barwin and Malcolm Jenkins. But you bamboozled us with Nnamdi Asomugha, Bradley Fletcher, Vince Young and Byron Maxwell.

But you were man enough to step to the podium time and time again to dodge every verbal stone hurled your way to explain your perplexing moves and vowed to get it right.

After the Chip Kelly fiasco, surely Jeffrey Lurie would look outside the organization to bring a fresh thought process to lead this team in a new direction, but oh nooooo, he put you back in charge, and I thought to myself: Another seven-year drought is upon us.

But lo and behold, since you've returned from exile after wandering the deserts pondering football life, you've become the Theo Epstein of the NFL. You cleaned up and cleared out Kelly's mistakes. You brought in a true football mind in Joe Douglas, and you revamped your scouting department.

What you did in 2016 to maneuver up the first-round ladder in the draft to select your new franchise quarterback was nothing short of brilliant. The free agents you signed in 2017 have been excellent.

This year, I don't go to practices wondering how many of these guys are getting cut after the season. Instead, I wonder how many of them you will be able to keep. 

Like you, I stand here today a changed man. I no longer call for your head on a silver platter. Instead, I applaud you for being aggressive and daring. I'm man enough to admit I was wrong about you. You have finally earned my respect.

Sincerely,
D-Gunn

• • •

Dear Nelson,
Let me first apologize for not being sympathetic to your cause. 

I never had the weight of living up to being the first-round draft pick of the Eagles. I was drafted in the second round.

I saw what Mike Mamula went through mentally to live up to those expectations. I also admit that I played O-line, so I never had to catch a football thrown 50 yards over your shoulder while a 220-pound safety running a 4.4 40 comes hurling at you trying to knock your head off.

Although I never signed the petition to get you cut — because I don't believe in stopping a player from getting their money — I did wager a dollar, or two, or three, or even 4,000 that you wouldn't last the offseason in Philly.

So I now give you mad props and respect for proving myself and the 3.5 million people in Philadelphia wrong for selling you short and thinking you wouldn't last as an NFL player.

Congrats and carry on — you are now the best wide receiver on the roster. So, my apologies, Nelson Agholor.

I know what it is to feel the high expectation of playing in the City of Brotherly Love, which gave you no love. At least they let you stay and work out your difficulties. Me? They cut and kicked me the hell out of town!

Sincerely,
Barrett Brooks

Why Eagles' play in trenches are behind 8-game win streak

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Why Eagles' play in trenches are behind 8-game win streak

The strength of the Eagles is built on fundamental, sound pay on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Yes, the play of Carson Wentz is the biggest reason the Birds are 9-1, but the play of the defensive line and offensive line are also major factors.

There was no question coming into the season that the DL would pull its weight. I doubt if knowledgeable football minds could argue against the D-line being ranked the No. 1 unit in the NFL.

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz centered his defense around the play of his D-line's ability to generate constant pressure on opposing offenses, whether that's in the run game — the Eagles are the NFL's best run defense — or creating havoc on quarterbacks in the pocket. The defensive line has allowed the young secondary to catch up and perform well above expectations, and then Ronald Darby returned Sunday in Dallas (see story).

On the other side of the ball, the Eagles' offensive line has also become a top-five unit in the NFL, and that's without future Hall of Famer Jason Peters. I know Carson Wentz wouldn't argue that.

In Sunday's 37-9 win over the Cowboys, the Eagles' O-line, against a pass rush with featuring a stout defensive front that includes NFL sack leader DeMarcus Lawerence (11 1/2), didn't allow a sack. A lot of credit goes to Lane Johnson for his work on Lawrence.

With no real individual leader to hold this Eagles' offense's hat on, it's a total team effort in which the Eagles go about their about their business. This is just a shining example of why this O-line is so good and underrated. At 9-1, there has not been a wide receiver over 100 yards in a game. If my memory serves me right, the Birds have had a 100-yard rusher twice, both by LeGarrette Blount. So, even with the absence of the all-world Peters, I am secure in rating the Eagles' OL as the No. 1 unit in the NFL.

Fundamentally speaking, football is won in the trenches. I was privileged to be a part of a Super Bowl team with the same formula the Eagles are using to win eight straight games: A young franchise QB (Ben Roethlisberger), a really good defense and a very good O-line.

The Eagles are just scratching the surface with their potential. Like these young players — guys like Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Derek Barnett — develop in the trenches, the sky's the limit for the core of this team.

Doug Pederson uncertain on Eagles' kickers heading into game vs. Bears

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Doug Pederson uncertain on Eagles' kickers heading into game vs. Bears

One kicker is getting better. One kicker just got hurt. One kicker isn’t even a kicker at all. Who’s going to kick Sunday? Maybe Caleb Sturgis, maybe Jake Elliott, maybe someone else. Definitely not Kamu Grungier-Hill. 
 
Does that clear everything up?
 
Head coach Doug Pederson revealed Monday that Elliott, the rocket-legged rookie, will be the Eagles’ placekicker long-term moving forward, but he also said he doesn’t know whether Elliott — who suffered a concussion Sunday night during the win in Dallas — will be available for this Sunday’s game at home against the Bears.
 
"We haven't made any decisions yet," Pederson said. "We still have a couple days before we have to make a decision."
 
Elliott replaced Sturgis, who suffered a quad strain in the opener against the Redskins and has been on injured reserve since. 
 
Ideally, the Eagles want Elliott to be cleared through the NFL’s concussion protocol and be able to kick Sunday so they can keep Sturgis on IR. 

If Elliott isn’t ready, they could activate Sturgis, who Pederson said is "close," but that would mean they would have to clear a spot on the 53-man roster for a guy who they don’t plan on keeping long-term. 
 
"He's continuing to rehab, he's begun a kicking regimen," Pederson said. "He's getting himself back to where he was prior to the injury. He's close. He's close."
 
If neither Elliott nor Sturgis is able to go, the Eagles could add a third kicker for a week or two, although that would also require keeping two kickers on the 53 (and another on IR).
 
"Again, you're talking about roster spots and making moves and things of that nature," he said. "We're not there yet. We'll continue these discussions the next couple days."
 
Most importantly, Pederson said despite Sturgis’ excellent track record since joining the Eagles, Elliott will be the team’s kicker once everybody is healthy. 
 
"I think so," Pederson said. "If he's healthy and he can play. You hate to disrupt that right now. I'd have to say yes to that one."
 
Sturgis is scheduled to be a free agent after the season. Elliott is under contract through 2018, and the Eagles control his rights through 2019.
 
Elliott, whom the Eagles signed off the Bengals’ practice squad in September, is 17 for 21 this year. He missed from 34 yards against the Cowboys Sunday night, although that miss came after he apparently suffered the concussion. 

Pederson said the concussion symptoms weren't discovered until after Elliott had attempted the field goal.
 
Elliott has made five of six attempts from 50 yards and out, including the franchise-record, game-winning 61-yarder against the Giants.
 
Sturgis is 7 for 11 as an Eagle from 50 yards and out. Including his years with the Dolphins, he's an 81.0 percent kicker, although with the Eagles he's made 84.8 percent of his field goal attempts — third-best in franchise history behind Cody Parkey (87.5 percent) and Alex Henery (86.0 percent).
 
"I think moving forward, as we continue to evaluate this week, we'll find out more in the next couple days with Jake, and I don't want to put myself in a box, but we'll keep all the options open," Pederson said.
 
"It kind of goes back to the same old thing. We still have a couple days here today and tomorrow to evaluate Jake and see where everybody's at. There's still a little while before we play Sunday."
 
There's one other option.

No, not letting Grugier-Hill kick. Going for two all the time.
 
Pederson — who's 9 for 12 as Eagles head coach on two-point conversion attempts — admitted he's thought about it.
 
"Yeah, I have," he said. "You always go into a game with a few (plays) in your pocket. You never expect that situation again like we had last night. But, yeah, you look at the numbers. If you're around 94, 95 percent on the extra point from the 15-yard line, your conversion rate should be in that 47, 48, 49 percent on a two-point conversion. So we look at all of that.
 
"We keep a couple extra plus-five red zone plays in our pocket for that situation. It just worked out, I think 3 for 4 last night. It's something we'll look at going forward."