What Eagles need to do to get offense going

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What Eagles need to do to get offense going

There’s a relatively simple explanation as to why the Eagles’ offense struggled in the last two games of the regular season, and the issue happens to be easily correctable, too. In the words of the immortal Allen Iverson, “We talkin’ ‘bout practice.”

Eagles coach Doug Pederson went with a lighter practice schedule over the final two weeks of the regular season, which is understandable. The team was coming off of three straight road games, including a full week in Los Angeles. A single win or Vikings loss during that span was enough to clinch the top playoff seed in the NFC. They were smack dab in the middle of the holiday season.

Most of all, the players needed the rest. But the result of reducing the intensity at practice – and practicing less overall – was evident during an ugly 19-10 win over the Raiders and an even uglier 6-0 loss to the Cowboys. Fortunately, the Eagles think there’s an obvious solution.

“The biggest thing that we need to do and this team needs offensively especially is we need to practice,” Eagles center Jason Kelce said Sunday postgame. “The last two weeks, we’ve tried to get some rest in and to get guys’ legs back, and I think that’s important, but toning down the reps and taking away from some of the physical things, we have to get back after that.

“This will be a good week to be able to get back out there, put some pads on, really go through things full speed, and that’s what we need right now offensively.”

Could it really be that easy? The Eagles’ struggles over the last two games were largely a product of not practicing as hard or as much? And the fix to all their problems is more and better practices?

“We need to get back to what we’ve been doing the whole season,” Kelce said. “Everybody is very vocal in saying that, including the coaches.

“It’s great to be fresh now. I’m glad that we did it. I’m glad that everybody’s legs are back. Now we need to hit the ground running, improve and get this thing corrected offensively.”

It’s not inconceivable. The Eagles held fewer traditional practices than normal the last two weeks – and abbreviated sessions at that – opting in favor of more walkthroughs, which are shorter and move at roughly half the speed. Less practice means less time to work on the game plan for the upcoming opponent, while a walkthrough makes it virtually impossible to simulate timing at all.

The Eagles weren’t focused on getting sharp for matchups with the Raiders or Cowboys, and it showed. Shifting the emphasis back to winning, as opposed to healing up and resting, can make a world of difference.

“That could help us a lot, and it needs to help us out a lot,” said Eagles tight end Brent Celek. “We haven’t played that well these last two weeks, so we have to get out there, we have to rep this stuff, and we have to get right.”

Practice reps and a chance to work on timing are especially important for somebody like Eagles quarterback Nick Foles.

Only three weeks ago, Foles was the backup. He didn’t have the luxury of working on his rapport with the Eagles’ receivers on a regular basis. He wasn’t getting the reps with the playbook or the game plan all week the way the starter would. Now Foles has been thrust into action, and aside from one game against the Giants, he still hasn’t been preparing in the usual manner an NFL quarterback would.

With the Eagles set to open the divisional round of the playoffs against either the Saints, Panthers or Falcons, Foles and the offense have two full weeks to get back in gear.

“Preparation builds confidence,” Foles said. “In anything you do, you prepare. Hey, you go into a test, what do you do? You study. You prepare. You’re confident going in and you do well. Same thing with football.

“We won’t know who we’re playing, but you can go back and analyze yourself fundamentally and work on that. Then once we know and we get into our normal prep week, you prepare for the game like you always do and we get ready to roll.”

Pederson revealed the Eagles will practice on Wednesday and Thursday during the Eagles’ bye week, when other teams might choose not to practice at all. Then the Eagles will get back to their normal schedule ahead of their playoff game next Saturday.

Just to make sure they’re ready to go for the franchise’s first postseason game since 2013, the Eagles will hold some of their practices in full pads as well. NFL teams will only practice in pads a limited number of times during the season, but Pederson said this decision came at the request of his veteran leaders.

“This is something the players want,” Pederson said Monday. “It’s not a punishment thing, it’s not coming directly from me, it’s what the players want. I listen to my guys, and I think they understand there’s a sense of physicality that we have to get back to.

“There’s a sense over the course of a few weeks when you’ve been in shells – pad level begins to rise, intensity sometimes can be minimized – so you get back into pads, it sort of refocuses the guys a little bit. It’s not like we’re going to tackle, and it’s not a training camp-type practice, but the fact of just having them on, banging around on one another but still protecting one another, I think can be a nice asset for us.”

While the Eagles’ offense has been the bulk of the concern the last two weeks, the defense expects to reap the benefits of the increased practice intensity as well.

“It’s important that we get back to some of the basics,” Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said Sunday. “Not do anything crazy, but I definitely think it’s an opportunity for us to get better as a team and that’s where the focus needs to be.”

The question that lingers is whether they are able to relocate that same intensity from earlier this season. But considering what’s on the line with the calendar rolling over to January – a loss next Saturday would end the Eagles’ season – it shouldn’t be too difficult to get in the right mindset.

“All these guys have to understand this is it,’” Celek said. “This opportunity may not come for anybody again, so let’s step it up, let’s have a great two weeks of practice, and let’s get ready.”

Roob's 10 mid-March Eagles observations

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Roob's 10 mid-March Eagles observations

We're deep into free agency, the draft is rapidly approaching and the 2017 Super Bowl champion Eagles are being reshaped into a new team.

Which means it's a perfect time for a Roob's 10 Observations.

1. As the Eagles move on from LeGarrette Blount and reshape the running back position, it’s intriguing to ponder just how good Corey Clement can be. From what I saw last year? I think the kid can be a stud. His touches were limited until late in the season, but how many rookies have had 300 rushing yards, 200 receiving yards and averaged at least 4.4 yards per carry and 13 yards per catch? Would you believe three in the last 40 years? A guy named Jesse Clark with the Packers in 1983, a guy named Adrian Peterson with the Vikings in 2007 and a guy named Corey Clement. It’s tough to project, but he can run, he can block, he can catch, he’s got a real flair for making big plays and a terrific knack in the red zone. Can’t wait to see him in an expanded role.

2. As for Blount, you can’t understate his value to the Eagles last year, both as a running back and a leader. For a guy with his resume to come into that locker room and not once complain about his workload – even when he had no carries against the Chiefs – was remarkable. His selfless attitude really resonated with the young guys in the locker room. And I know a lot of fans were upset to see him go, but as incredible as his Super Bowl performance was, you can’t forget that in the seven games leading up to the Super Bowl he averaged 2.9 yards per carry. And he’s 31 years old. If the reported numbers are correct, Blount’s $4.5 million 2018 salary makes him the 12th-highest-paid running back in the league. Good for him. I wish him well. He was a huge part of that 2017 team. But it made no sense for the Eagles to bring him back.

3. It’s amazing how much money teams keep throwing at Sam Bradford. He’s got 34 wins in eight seasons, he’s never had a winning record, he’s never made a postseason, and on the rare occasions when he’s been healthy, he’s won only 43 percent of his starts. Oh, and he’s missed 42 games since 2013. “He’s our guy!”

4. Speaks volumes that both Blount and Torrey Smith singled out Duce Staley in their tweets or Instagram posts saying goodbye to Philly after joining new teams. Staley wasn’t even Smith’s position coach, and he still singled him out. Blount wrote: “To my main man Coach Duce Staley – You have impacted my life on and off the field and pushed me to be the best version of me I can be and for that I thank you!” Staley is such a natural leader and such a big part of what the Eagles accomplished in 2017. He’s going to be a head coach one day.

5. The Eagles lost Vinny Curry, but they have Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Michael Bennett and Chris Long. They lost Trey Burton and Brent Celek, but they have Zach Ertz. They lost Smith, but they have Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Mack Hollins. They lost Blount, but they have Jay Ajayi and Clement. They lost Patrick Robinson, but they have Sidney Jones, Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, Ronald Darby and Daryl Worley. They’ve lost a lot, but they’re still stocked at every position where they lost someone. Pretty darn good roster planning.

6. I feel like in the wake of Nick Foles’ brilliant postseason, people are forgetting exactly how good Carson Wentz was before he got hurt. So here’s a list of every quarterback in NFL history with 33 or more touchdown passes and seven or fewer interceptions in a season before his 30th birthday: Carson Wentz.

7. I wonder how much Haloti Ngata has left. He’s 34, he’s coming off a torn biceps, and he’s five years removed from his last Pro Bowl. Beau Allen was quietly a solid backup defensive tackle and played a big role in that D-line rotation the second half of the season after Tim Jernigan hurt his ankle. I don’t mind the signing. Ngata comes cheap and there’s really nothing to lose. But it’s been a while since he’s been a dominant player, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fits in.

8. If you’ve never been to Canton, Ohio, plan your trip now. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is a great place to visit any time. But the weekend of Brian Dawkins’ induction is going to be unforgettable. Dawk’s speech is going to be epic.

9. The Philly Special may be the greatest play in Eagles history, but where does the fourth-quarter fourth-down conversion rank? The Eagles trailed with 5½ minutes left and faced a 4th-and-1 inside midfield when Foles converted a short completion to Ertz. If they don’t convert, they lose. That’s gotta be a top-10 all-time play. Maybe top-five.

10. Tight ends with more catches than Ertz in their first five NFL seasons: Kellen Winslow Sr., Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten and Antonio Gates.

Torrey Smith says Carson Wentz is going to get PAID

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Torrey Smith says Carson Wentz is going to get PAID

We all know just how good Carson Wentz is. Heck, the entire NFL knows just how good Wentz is after the Eagles' QB put together a remarkable season with 3,296 passing yards and 33 TD tosses … in just 13 games.

But we and the entire league also know what that means: Wentz is going to get a lot more zeros added to his paycheck soon.

Wideout Torrey Smith, recently traded by the Eagles to the Panthers, knows full well what Wentz's worth is and isn't shy to talk about it, as he did at his charity basketball event in Maryland Saturday evening.

"When Carson's time comes, they're going to need a Brinks truck the size of this arena," Smith, who caught 33 balls for 692 yards and two TDs from Wentz last season, told ESPN's Jamison Hensley while noting the Eagles are taking full advantage of Wentz's discounted rookie deal right now.

Wentz is in the middle of a four-year, $26.6 million deal signed after he was drafted No. 2 overall in 2016. The deal expires after the 2019 season, but obviously, Howie Roseman and crew know this all is looming. And they also know recent QB contract numbers have continued to skyrocket.

San Francisco recently made Jimmy Garoppolo, he of seven career starts but also of five straight wins to end last season after his trade from New England, the richest QB in league history with a five-year, $137.5 million deal. Detroit gave Matthew Stafford a five-year, $135 million deal prior to last season, a few months after Oakland gave Derek Carr a five-year, $125 million extension. Those three are the top-paid QBs in the league.

Long story short: With the way Wentz has performed with 7,049 passing yards and 49 TDs in 29 career starts, he's going to get paid.

And Roseman's acts of salary cap magic are going to have to continue because Wentz is going to get paid sooner than later, and the whole league knows it.