Eagles

Roob's Random Points, Part 2: Seth Joyner, Eagles Hall of Fame and Paul Simon

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Roob's Random Points, Part 2: Seth Joyner, Eagles Hall of Fame and Paul Simon

In Part 2 of this week's Roob's Random Points (see Part 1), we babble on about Seth Joyner's preposterous absence from the Eagles Hall of Fame, Simon and Garfunkel, the Eagles' first-quarter dominance, a band called RFA, Nelson Agholor and much, much more!

Dive in!

1. David Akers goes into the Eagles Hall of Fame Monday night, and he absolutely deserves it. Greatest kicker in Eagles history. All-time franchise leader in games played and points. But we have to once again ask why the Eagles Hall of Fame continues to ignore Joyner, one of the greatest outside linebackers of the modern era! Joyner is the only player in NFL history with 25 interceptions and 50 sacks. In fact, of the 136 players in NFL history with 50 sacks, only three other players in NFL history have half as many interceptions as Joyner (Mo Lewis 14, Clay Matthews 16, Junior Seau 18). And of the 155 players with 25 or more interceptions (since sacks became an official stat in 1982), only five others have half as many sacks (Brian Dawkins 26, Ronde Barber 28, Rodney Harrison 30½, William Thomas 37, Ray Lewis 41). Joyner also returned three fumbles for TDs — fifth-most in NFL history by a linebacker. He was a beast against the run, a hawk in coverage, deadly as a blitzer. And he did all of this as an eighth-round pick who was the 208th player taken in the 1986 draft (and promptly released, only to be re-signed). Joyner, who has also become a brilliant football analyst for NBC Sports Philadelphia, should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. For him to not even be in his own team's Hall of Fame is a disgrace.

2. Gotta say I don't get why Joel Embiid is starting the season on such a dramatic minutes restriction. Brett Brown said, "Somewhere in the teens." The teens? The teens??? It's been eight months since his surgery, and it's not like he's shown any signs of it in his preseason stints. He looks phenomenal, to use Larry Brown's favorite word. Let the kid play!

3. Think about this for a minute: The Eagles are 5-1 despite missing Darren Sproles, Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson, Ronald Darby, Wendell Smallwood, Rodney McLeod, Corey Graham, Caleb Sturgis and Jaylen Watkins for a combined 25 games. Amazing.

4. It's crazy how dramatically field goal kicking has improved just in the last few years. Through 2012, only five kickers in NFL history had made 85 percent of their career field goal attempts (Mike Vanderjagt, Nate Kaeding, Rob Bironas, Robbie Gould, Shayne Graham). In the five years since the entire league combined has made 85 percent of its field goal attempts!

5. And 15 of the 19 most-accurate kickers in NFL history are currently active. So, for example, Ryan Succop is one of the 20 most-accurate kickers in NFL history but ranks only 15th out of 30 active kickers in accuracy! (I love kicking stats.)

6. Only nine quarterbacks in NFL history have started all 32 games their first two seasons in the league. Of those nine, only four had a winning record (Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton). If Carson Wentz stays healthy and the Eagles just win four games the rest of the year, Wentz joins that group.

7. I'm convinced they make phones out of the world's slipperiest material so it's almost impossible not to drop them and break them and have to buy new phones.

8. The Eagles have scored 44 first-quarter points. They scored 56 in the first quarter all last year. In fact, they've outscored their opponents, 44-6, in the first quarter. They're only the 13th team in NFL history to score 40 or more first-quarter points and allow six or fewer through six games. And this is the first time since 1979 they haven't allowed a first-quarter touchdown in their first six games. Last year, they constantly got into first-quarter holes. This year, they've really been able to take command of games early and then just dictate on both sides of the ball the rest of the way. Impressive stuff.

9. I don't think the Eagles are going to lose a game at the Linc this year.

10. "Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you," is one of the all-time greatest lines in popular music. And it's so brilliant that Paul Simon could get away with following it up with something as seemingly inane as, "Woo woo woo." But the "woo woo woo" actually serves an important function in that verse in the Simon & Garfunkel classic, "Mrs. Robinson." The Joe DiMaggio couplet is so compelling that the "woo woo woo" serves as a chance for the listener to let the previous line truly sink in and regroup. It's like a momentary respite from the genius. Which is in itself genius.

11. Hard to believe the Eagles have never had a 4,000-yard passer. Wentz is on pace for 4,224, but as of now, the Eagles are one of only two teams that have never had a 4,000-yard passer. The Bears' club record is 3,838, set in 1995 by Erik Kramer. The Eagles' franchise record is 3,918 by Donovan McNabb in 2008. Maybe if he hadn't gotten benched for the second half against the Ravens that year he would have gotten it.

12. There are like 10,000 great bands in Philly, and my new favorite one is called RFA, and I have no idea what it stands for or even if it stands for anything, but I saw them play at the Manayunk Harvest Festival Saturday at Pretzel Park and honestly it reminded me of seeing a then-unknown band called The Strokes at the TLA opening for Guided by Voices in February 2001 — eight months before "Is This It" was even released. Great songs, boundless energy, killer musicianship. Everything I need in a band.

12½. How cool is it that when Nelson Agholor makes a big catch we're not even surprised anymore!

Eagles' run defense faces toughest test yet vs. Bears' attack

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Eagles' run defense faces toughest test yet vs. Bears' attack

The Eagles may boast the No. 1 run defense in the NFL these days, but that ranking will be put to the test Sunday by the Chicago Bears (see matchups to watch).

“If we can’t stop the run, it’s going to be a long day,” Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said this week. “Let’s not get that mistaken.”

Few teams are as committed to the ground attack as the Bears, and even fewer are more productive. Since rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky became the starter in Week 5, Chicago ranks seventh in the league in rushing attempts. For the entire 2017 season, the offense is fifth with 131.8 rushing yards per game.

The Eagles are limiting opponents to nearly half that total at 71.0 yards per game. They’ve also faced only a smattering of backfields as talented as Chicago’s, if any. Plus, many offenses have abandoned the run — a strategy the Bears aren’t likely to attempt regardless of the score.

“We know they’re going to run the football,” Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham said. “They even run the football a lot of times on third-and-long. It’s something they’re going to do.

“There’s a reason why they’re fifth in the league in rushing.”

Given the nature of their passing attack, the Bears’ best shot at pulling off an upset at Lincoln Financial Field is to keep the Eagles' offense on the sideline.

“Even if it’s not getting you a whole lot," Jenkins said, "if you can slowly move the chains and control the game, I think that’s something that they’ll continue to do.”

Trubisky, selected with the second-overall pick in the draft, has begun making strides in recent weeks. He completed 60.0 percent of his passes and avoided throwing an interception in each of the last two games, both one-possession losses. In fact, the Bears haven’t lost any of Trubisky’s six starts by more than eight points, and are 2-4 since he’s taken over.

Trubisky wasn’t asked to throw the ball much in those two victories, either — a combined total of 23 pass attempts. Instead, Chicago was able to lean on running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen.

“It’s kind of like a thunder and lightning situation," Bradham said, "kind of what we had here at the beginning of the season with (LeGarrette Blount) and (Darren Sproles).”

Howard is the workhorse back and is often overlooked as one of the NFL’s bright, young stars due to the quality of his team. The 23-year-old was the runner-up to the rushing champion as a rookie in 2016 with 1,313 yards. Ten games into his second season, he’s up to 841 yards with a 4.4 average and five touchdowns.

A fourth-round pick from FCS school North Carolina AT&T in 2017, Cohen has immediately emerged as one of the league’s scariest change-of-pace/receiving backs. The 5-foot-6, 181-pound ball carrier has 537 total yards from scrimmage and leads the team with 33 receptions.

The duo is featured prominently in just about everything the Bears do on offense.

“They put both backs on the field at the same time a little bit, too,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “Sometimes it's two-back sets, sometimes it's one.

“Traditionally there's a fullback back there in two-back sets, but not so much with the Bears. They can put two guys back there. It spreads you a little bit thin. You have to be very assignment-sound. It'll test us in the run game.”

Cohen, in particular, has caused defenses some problems because, much like Sproles for the Eagles, he can line up all over the formation. Some teams have even opted to roll coverages to his area of the field, though that might be as much about Chicago’s dearth of receivers as it is respect for the 22-year-old.

Whatever the case, Jenkins doesn’t expect the Eagles to roll coverages, adding that’s not something they’ve done all season. Regardless, with three run or pass plays of 35 yards or more this season, Cohen is a home run threat — although the Eagles aren't giving up many home runs (see story).

“He’s definitely a matchup issue, and they put him all over the place,” Jenkins said. “He’s at receiver, he’s in the backfield, he’s in the slot. Everybody is going to have to hold up. Whether he’s on a linebacker or a safety or a corner, we’ve seen him make plays at every position.

“He’s running post routes on corners and making the play. Then they’re able to line up and run the ball at pretty much anybody, so we’ll have our hands full with that.”

Howard is a threat to rip off long gains on the ground as well, with three runs of 50 and over. Then Trubisky is capable of taking off, too, with 163 yards rushing.

“His ability to make plays with his legs has been a positive,” Jenkins said. “He’s a mobile guy. When all else fails, he can escape the pocket and extend the play.

“Whether it’s scrambling for a first down, or scrambling to get somebody open, that’s always tough on the defense.”

Up until last week, it was beginning to look like there may not have been a running game in the league that the Eagles needed to fear. Then the Dallas Cowboys posted 112 yards last Sunday — tied for the most the Eagles have allowed all season and the most since Week 2. And Dallas was without All-Pro running back Ezekiel Elliott, who is suspended.

Then again, if the Bears are only able to muster 112 yards rushing this week, the Eagles might consider that a victory in itself.

To put those numbers in perspective, exactly half of the league is allowing more than 112.0 yards rushing per game this season. In other words, the Bears are probably going to have to fare a lot better than that to knock off the Eagles.

“I think we set that bar awful high,” Schwartz said. “Some people might get a pat on the back for that.

“It's a tribute to the players in the locker room that that's a poor performance for them, and they consider it a poor performance.”

Eagles' Dannell Ellerbe, Will Beatty playing catch-up with new team

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Eagles' Dannell Ellerbe, Will Beatty playing catch-up with new team

After signing with the Eagles about a week and a half ago, Will Beatty has been working hard to catch up. 

He's learning a new offense, new terminology, new teammates. 

And a new building. 

"I'm still trying to figure out where everything is here," Beatty said. "A lot of the doors here are not labeled, so it's like 'where does this door lead?'"

Eventually, the 32-year-old offensive tackle finds where he's going. For the most part, he just tries to follow his teammates. When he's the only player around, he begins to worry and checks the schedule to make sure he's not missing something. 

Beatty isn't alone. He was brought in last week a day after the Eagles signed veteran linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. Both players are veterans over 30. Both players have won a Super Bowl. And both are playing catch-up. 

How has it been going? 

"Really good," head coach Doug Pederson said. "In both cases, picking up the offense with Will and the defense with Dannell. Dannell has probably gotten a couple of reps with our defense in the past couple of weeks. Both of them are doing really, really well."

While Ellerbe has gotten some practice reps, don't expect him to have a role with the defense just yet. Pederson on Friday morning said Ellerbe's role is still to get comfortable with the defense. 

While Jim Schwartz said Ellerbe was going to learn all three linebacker positions, Ellerbe has been focusing more on MIKE and SAM. The former Saint said he likes to learn the entire concept of the defense. The biggest hurdle is learning the new terminology. 

"I've been sitting out since OTAs, so it's been a while," Ellerbe said. "It's like riding a bike. Just repetition."

Both players were inactive against the Cowboys, less than a week after their arrivals. It is yet to be seen if either will have roles down the stretch. 

When Beatty eventually finds his way to the practice field, he has been working with the Eagles' second-team offense, which means he's going against the Eagles' first-team defense every day. That's a good way to shake off some rust. 

For now, second-year player Joe Walker has been playing the MIKE position in the Eagles' base defense. If Ellerbe were to ever get on the field, it would likely be in that spot. But Walker has been playing OK since Jordan Hicks went down. 

During meetings, Beatty pretty much stays quiet when he has questions. He writes down what he doesn't understand and then brings it to offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland afterward so he doesn't slow down the entire group. It's basically like seeing a teacher after class for extra help. 

One of the tough parts about joining a team in the middle of the season is everyone is already settled into a routine. Beatty and Ellerbe are working just to catch up. 

"It's a little different, but would much rather be doing this than anything else," Beatty said. "This is a great organization. Everyone welcomed me with open arms."