Rash of star injuries will help Eagles down stretch

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Rash of star injuries will help Eagles down stretch

Any observer who follows the NFL on a weekly basis can tell you it is incredibly unpredictable. There was a strong contingent of folks who prior to the season believed the New York Jets would not win a game. They already have four victories through nine games. 

The L.A. Rams, who won all of four games last season, are off to a 6-2 start. 

Jacksonville has a better record than the NFC champion Falcons. 

Even Cleveland ... oh wait, never mind. But you get the point. There's a reason why Vegas has all of those big, fancy buildings and why your friendly neighborhood buddy who you call every Sunday, Monday, and Thursday continues to keep taking those calls. They're making money off of you and the betting public because this is a tough league to predict. 

It's difficult to win on a weekly basis in the NFL. Which makes the Eagles' 8-1 start and streak of seven straight wins that much more impressive. Simply put, they have played better football than any other team through nine games. This has been no fluke. It should be pointed out, however, that in those first nine games, only two of those teams currently have a winning record, the Chiefs and Panthers. Certainly not the Eagles' fault — they've contributed to the fact that the Redskins are 4-4, handing them two of those losses. But the schedule gets tougher down the stretch as they face 5-3 Dallas twice, the 6-3 Seahawks and the aforementioned 6-2 Rams. Three of those games come on the road.

And while the Eagles themselves have suffered some major losses with season-ending injuries to Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks and Darren Sproles, the teams they have coming up over their final seven games will be without some big-time firepower as well. Let's take a look.

Cowboys — Week 11 and 17
Stop me if you've heard this before but Ezekiel Elliott is suspended. At least for right now. The Birds would miss him a week from Sunday at Dallas. He would be eligible to return for the season finale in Philadelphia. Who knows if that game will hold any meaning to the Eagles. Elliott rushed for an NFL-high 1,631 yards, 5.1 yards per carry and 15 touchdowns as a rookie and was the second-leading rusher this season prior to the suspension. 

The Cowboys are a vastly different team without Elliott and there will be a great deal more pressure on Dak Prescott if their run game does not flourish with Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden. Not to mention a defense that could be exposed if the Cowboys can't control the ball or put up a lot of points.

Seahawks — Week 13
The Seahawks were dealt a major blow when they lost cornerback Richard Sherman for the season to a torn Achilles Thursday night. Sherman is a shutdown corner who has accumulated 32 interceptions in seven seasons. And at 6-foot-3, he is a physical, willing tackler. Sherman's absence will really change the dynamic of a Seahawks defense that, while still very good, is not quite what it once was a few years back. 

With Sherman in the game Thursday, Cardinals QB Drew Stanton rarely threw to his side. Once Sherman left, the Cardinals threw to that side with regularity.

Giants — Week 15
New York is a hide-the-children-and-pets kind of bad this season. Ben McAdoo and his coif shouldn't be buying any green bananas but this was a team that won 11 games and made the playoffs last year. So what happened? Injuries for one. The Giants will be without arguably the league's best receiver in Odell Beckham Jr. in Week 15 vs. the Eagles, not to mention Brandon Marshall. 

Injuries aren't the only reason this team is 1-7. They've had players go AWOL, their O-line stinks, Eli Manning may be nearing the end of the road, and McAdoo appears to be lost. But no Beckham in a game that late in the season that may have major playoff implications for the Eagles. It could be huge. Especially coming off what appears a very tough back-to-back on the road at Seattle and at Los Angeles against the Rams.

I, for one, don't subscribe to the "give me the other teams' best" school of thinking. If the Eagles can miss Elliott for a game, or Sherman, or OBJ, great. When you've never won a Super Bowl, I'll take the path of least resistance. I'm pretty sure Cowboys or Rams fans aren't shedding any tears over Jason Peters being out in those games. Take it any way you can get it. And enjoy the ride.

Brian Dawkins chooses longtime teammate for Hall of Fame intro

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Brian Dawkins chooses longtime teammate for Hall of Fame intro

Brian Dawkins has chosen longtime teammate and close friend Troy Vincent to introduce him this summer at Dawk's Hall of Fame induction.
Dawkins was selected in February for enshrinement in the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame induction class.
"The presenter that will actually be on the stage will be Troy Vincent," Dawkins said in a video posted on the Pro Football Hall of Fame's website.
"My teammate in Philadelphia. We came there the same year. Almost from Day 1 he kind of ... not kind of, he took me under his wing on becoming a professional. Not just a football player but a professional. The details. The details that he went through, the particulars of how he played the position of cornerback was the same way he lived his life (and ran) his businesses that he had off the field.
"He's a guy I can call anytime. Any time of night. And tell him 100 percent all what's going on with me, and I know he's not going to judge me, and it's not going to leave his lips (for) anybody else.
"And the most important thing for me, being a man of faith, is that I know he's going to pray with me. So all those things combined are the reasons why Troy was the perfect guy to introduce me to the Hall of Fame."
Vincent, a native of Trenton and graduate of Pennsbury High in Fairless Hills, Bucks County, spent his first four seasons with the Dolphins before signing an offer sheet with the Eagles before the 1996 season that the Dolphins didn't match.
The Eagles drafted Dawkins in the second round a month after signing Vincent, and the two spent eight years together in the secondary, reaching the playoffs five times and the NFC Championship Game three times.
During those eight seasons, Vincent reached Pro Bowls and Dawkins made the first three of his nine Pro Bowls.
Vincent retired after the 2006 season and Dawkins after the 2011 season.
Dawkins, Vincent and Eric Allen are the only Eagles defensive backs picked to five or more Pro Bowls.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame 2018 enshrinement ceremony is scheduled for Aug. 4 in Canton, Ohio.
Dawkins' former Eagles teammate, Terrell Owens, will also be inducted. He hasn't yet announced who will present him.
Dawkins will be the 21st former Eagle inducted into the Hall of Fame but only the ninth who spent the majority of his career with the Eagles.

Was Carson Wentz sending Nick Foles a message with Instagram video?

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Was Carson Wentz sending Nick Foles a message with Instagram video?

Offseason quarterback controversies are a rite of passage in the NFL. A time-honored tradition, really. 

We’ve certainly had our share in Philadelphia over the years. There were calls for Ron Jaworski to sit in favor of a young Randall Cunningham. Then cries for Jim McMahon to take Randall’s place. When Andy Reid drafted Kevin Kolb in 2007, that began a groundswell that he was the better choice than Donovan McNabb. Of course, most recently we had the Michael Vick/Nick Foles back and forth. To look back now, it seems silly these were even debates.

Most of the time, when you have these “controversies,” it generally means you have no quarterback on your roster. Not always. The 49ers in the late-80’s and early-90’s had Joe Montana and Steve Young, both Hall of Famers and all-time great quarterbacks. Both also won Super Bowls for San Francisco. But that is the exception. So is the 2018 Philadelphia Eagles’ situation.

I use the word “situation” and not “controversy.” Because there is no controversy. If Wentz is cleared by the Eagles’ medical staff, he starts Week 1. Period. What Foles did was incredible and will go down as one of the great — if not the greatest — stretch we have seen in Philadelphia sports history. He came up as big as you can. But Wentz he is not. That’s no disrespect to Foles. There are a handful of people on the planet who are in Wentz’s class.

Just a refresher course on what Wentz did in 13 games last season (his second in the NFL, by the way). He threw for 33 touchdowns, seven interceptions, 3,296 passing yards and had a 101.9 passer rating. The 33 TDs were the second-most in the NFL despite his missing the final three games. He also led his team to an 11-2 record before succumbing to that knee injury late into that Rams game that clinched the NFC East. He would have been the league MVP had he not gotten hurt.

There is a great luxury having Foles on this team. Wentz does not have to come back before he is able. If he’s not ready, you have the best backup in the league to start the season. But that’s the only scenario in which Foles plays Week 1. Simply put: Wentz is the better quarterback. And he has earned the right to start the opener if cleared. 

Some people read into Wentz's Instagram video of himself throwing earlier in the week as him somehow sending a message to Foles. I don’t buy it. I think Wentz’s message was to the fans and himself that I’ll be back, better than ever.

Wentz and Foles are both good teammates who put the team above themselves. Sure, Foles is a competitor and would likely prefer to start. But there won’t be any behind-the-scenes maneuvering to undercut Wentz. And Wentz is secure enough to be able to handle a Super Bowl MVP backing him up and all that goes along with that. Not to mention a coaching staff and organization that won’t allow outside noise to become a distraction.

Wentz over Foles. There’s no quarterback controversy.