Eagles

Carson Wentz's big plays and historic numbers for Eagles' D

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Carson Wentz's big plays and historic numbers for Eagles' D

In this week's edition of Roob Stats, we look at first-quarter defense, touchdown streaks, 50-yard touchdowns and 50-yard field goals and much more!
 
First-quarter defense 
• The Eagles have now gone 10 straight games without allowing a first-quarter touchdown. That's their longest such streak since a 13-gamer in 1971.
 
• In 12 home games under Jim Schwartz, the Eagles have allowed just one first-quarter touchdown … an Aaron Rodgers touchdown pass last November.
 
Fletcher Cox vs. Brandon Graham
• Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham continued to battle for the Eagles' career sack lead among active players, with each recording sacks against the 49ers.
 
• Graham now leads Cox 33-32 in a crowded field. There are 11 Eagles with between 29½ and 34 sacks. Graham is tied for 10th in Eagles history with William Thomas, and Cox is now tied for 13th with Corey Simon.
 
• Two more sacks will move Graham past William Fuller (35½) and Dennis Harrison (34). Next for Cox is Kenny Clarke (32½).
 
Ertz piling up the touchdowns
• Zach Ertz became the first Eagles tight end with a touchdown catch in four straight games since three-time Pro Bowler Charle Young did it over the 1974 and 1975 seasons. Young was actually at the game Sunday, his first trip back to Philadephia in 40 years.
 
• Only two Eagles tight ends have had more touchdowns in an entire season than the six Zach Ertz already has: Pete Retzlaff had eight in 1964 and 1965 and Brent Celek had eight in 2009.
 
Big plays from Wentz
• Carson Wentz’s 53-yard TD pass to Alshon Jeffery gave him five TD passes of 50 yards or more this year, which halfway through the season is already fourth-most in Eagles history and tied for fifth-most in NFL history after eight games.

• Nelson Agholor, Torrey Smith, Mack Hollins and Jeffery all have at least one 50-yard TD catch. The last time the Eagles had four guys with a 50-yard TD in the same season was 2006 (Correll Buckhalter, Brian Westbrook, Donte' Stallworth, Reggie Brown and Hank Baskett).
 
• Wentz has now had a passer rating of 83 or higher in nine straight games, the second-longest streak in Eagles history behind Michael Vick's 11-game streak in 2010.
 
• Wentz now has 19 touchdown passes and five interceptions halfway through the season. Only one other quarterback in his second year has had 19 or more TDs and five or fewer INTs in a season and that's his backup, Nick Foles (27-2 in 2013).
 
• Wentz is one of only six QBs in NFL history 24 or younger with 19 touchdowns in the first half of a season. Dan Marino had 24 in 1984, Bobby Layne 20 in 1951 and Derek Carr (2015), Matt Stafford (2011) and Deshaun Watson Wentz did it this year.
 
Weekly Jake Elliott stats
• Jake Elliott's 51-yard field goal Sunday gave him five 50-yard field goals in his first seven career games. That broke the Eagles record of four 50-yarders in a season set last year by Caleb Sturgis.
 
• It's also already the third-most 50-yarders in NFL history by a rookie behind Blair Walsh, who made 10 in 2012, and Greg Zuerlein, who made seven, also in 2012.
 
• Elliott already has the sixth-most 50-yarders in Eagles history, behind only David Akers (15), Sturgis and Tom Dempsey (7) and Paul McFadden and Tony Franklin (6).
 
Miscellaneous facts and figures
• The Eagles have scored 26 or more points in six straight games, matching third third-longest streak in franchise history. They scored 26 in seven straight games both over the 2003 and 2004 seasons and in 2010.

• Corey Clement’s 5.4 yards per carry average on 10 for 54 is the highest by an undrafted Eagles rookie with at least 10 carries since Vaughn Hebron had a 6.6 average vs. the Cardinals in 1993.

• The Eagles' streak of six straight games rushing for 100 or more yards and allowing fewer than 100 yards is the 12th-longest such streak in NFL history.  

• The Eagles on Sunday scored two touchdowns in the final three minutes of a first half for the first time since 2009, when they did it against the Giants on a 54-yard Donovan McNabb TD pass to DeSean Jackson and — after a Quinton Demps interception — McNabb's 23-yard TD pass to Jeremy Maclin.

• The Eagles have scored 28 or more points in three straight games despite not scoring a first-quarter touchdown in any of them. It's the first time in franchise history that's happened.

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

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Why Eagles' play in trenches is 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."