Eagles

10 observations from Eagles-Redskins

ap-eagles-fan-bummin.jpg

10 observations from Eagles-Redskins

BOX SCORE

Deep down, you knew they weren’t going to accomplish anything this year. Deep down, you knew this was inevitable.

Tonight’s 10 Observations puts a bow on a completely miserable Eagles season.

For the seventh straight year, there will be no playoff victory for the Eagles. For the ninth straight year, there won’t be a playoff win at home. And for the 55th straight year, there won’t be an NFL championship in Philly. The Eagles lost, 38-24, to the Washington Redskins at Lincoln Financial Field (see Instant Replay).

It’s ugly. It’s miserable. It’s grim. It’s embarrassing. It’s pathetic.

1. Enough of the pretending. Enough of all the talk about the playoffs. Now we can take a long, hard, honest look at what the Philadelphia Eagles really are: A 6-9 team that doesn’t do anything particularly well, has only a handful of elite players, allowed 38 or more points in three of its last four home games, has allowed a franchise-record 34 passing touchdowns and early in the Giants game will become the second team in NFL history to allow 6,000 yards three straight seasons. This is a bad team that’s getting worse under the stewardship of Chip Kelly. The product they’ve consistently put on the field this year is an embarrassment, and the extent of the embarrassment was masked only slightly the last month or so by the poor excuse for a playoff race the Eagles found themselves in. Chip Kelly inexplicably gutted the roster of its talent and gutted the locker room of its swagger, and this is the result. Kelly deserves to be back as head coach next year because of the 10-6 seasons his first two years. But Jeff Lurie cannot allow him to continue with final say over personnel decisions. Lurie must find a respected, veteran general manager to start the long task of rebuilding this roster into a group that legitimately contend for a championship. Kelly has done enough damage.

2. Let’s put some context on Kelly’s first three seasons as head coach of the Eagles: He is the first Eagles head coach since the Swamp Fox — Marion Campbell — who failed to advance a round in the playoffs in his first three years. And Campbell coached in the mid-1980s. Buddy Ryan won the NFC East and got a first-round bye in his third year. Rich Kotite won a wild-card game in his second year. Ray Rhodes won a wild-card game in his first year. And Andy Reid got to the conference semifinals in his second year and an NFC Championship Game in his third year. Kelly has less to show for his first three years than any Eagles head coach in 30 years. That’s pitiful.

3. I still honestly have no clue how to evaluate Sam Bradford. Hard to ask for any more than he gave Saturday night. Threw for 380 yards and a touchdown and got no help. None. There are so many moving parts to this story. Does Chip want him back? And at what price? Does Bradford even want to come back here next year? And who else will pursue him? And at what price? And what are the options? Maybe Chip is intrigued by Robert Griffin III or Colin Kaepernick. Bradford’s numbers were very good Saturday night. But when you take into account all the drops, the lack of help from his offensive line and the absence of a running game, they were very impressive. He didn’t get the Eagles a win, but I’m not sure what else he could have done.

4. I would love to see what Bradford could do with the receivers Kirk Cousins has. They are just such non-factors. Somebody tweeted to me Saturday night asking if Todd Pinkston were available, and the sad truth is Pink would be the Eagles’ second-best receiver right now behind Jordan Matthews. The scary thing is the Eagles have devoted so many resources to restocking the wide receiver position after cutting ties with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. A second-round pick and a third-round pick last year on Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff and a first-round pick this year on Nelson Agholor. Not to mention some guaranteed money on Miles Austin. The Eagles have too many needs to keep drafting wide receivers with premium draft picks, so they just have to hope Agholor can blossom next year and somehow Huff can finally take that next step. Because whoever is playing quarterback for this team next year deserves an NFL-caliber group of wideouts. They didn’t have one this year.

5. Pretty clear now that Kelly has to make a change at defensive coordinator. I don’t think all the problems are Bill Davis’ fault. Certainly it’s tough running a defense when the offense is running tempo, and there’s clearly not a ton of talent here. But the Eagles are so historically bad something has to change. They’ve allowed 34 passing touchdowns, most in franchise history. They’ve allowed 400 yards in six straight games, something only four other NFL teams have ever done. Early in the Giants game, they’ll become only the second team in NFL history to allow 6,000 total yards in three straight seasons. This is just unprecedented stuff. I just don’t see how Chip can bring Davis back next year.

6. The Eagles’ inability to play competitive football at home is one of the more disturbing trends of the year. They lost by 10 to Dallas, by 28 to the Bucs, by 23 to the Cards and by 14 Saturday night. That’s just mind-boggling. If you’re routinely getting blown out in your own stadium, that’s a sign of a team that’s just not prepared to play football. They’re not just losing at home, they’re getting humiliated. This is the first time they lost four home games by 14 or more points since 1976. Just unacceptable. Embarrassing. Pathetic.

7. Some of these stats are just numbing. The Eagles allowed 33 touchdown passes in 2012, the Nnamdi year. They allowed 30 last year, the Bradley Fletcher, Cary Williams year. This year, they allowed more. They’re at 34 now, which is 17th-most in NFL history with a game to play. Two more Sunday gets them to 36, which would be seventh-most in NFL history. How can they be this bad? Part of it is pass rush, which has been largely up and down. Mainly down. But most of it is just guys roaming free and nobody there to cover them. When you see the same problems popping up again and again with the same coach and a different set of players, you know where to place the blame.

8. Seven years without a playoff win. That’s just unthinkable. From 2000 through 2008, the Eagles had only two years without a playoff win. This is the Eagles’ longest drought without a playoff win since 1981 through 1991 and matches their longest drought without reaching the conference semifinals since 1961 through 1978. Chip, what have you done with this football team?

9. We’ve spent a lot of time criticizing Kiko Alonso, but I’ll tell you what, Mychal Kendricks has not played a whole lot better than Alonso. After the way he performed the last two years, he’s been one of this team’s biggest disappointments.

10. Finally, this. I don’t think Lurie fires Kelly. But, man, I wouldn’t be shocked if he does. And honestly, I wouldn’t blame him. Down the stretch, the Eagles lost five of their last seven games, four of them in embarrassing fashion, three of those at home. This is a bad football team with not much hope for the near future. It’s one thing to lose. It’s another to just not be able to compete with teams like the Bucs, Lions and Redskins. This is a wretched football team, and it’s not going to be an easy process turning this around.

Nelson Agholor focused simply on having fun in midst of turnaround season

usa-nelson-agholor.jpg
USA Today Images

Nelson Agholor focused simply on having fun in midst of turnaround season

Don't talk to Nelson Agholor about his stats. Don't even try.

He doesn't want to hear about it.

Here we are in Week 7, and Agholor needs 45 yards Monday night against the Redskins for a career receiving high. For a full season.

His four touchdowns are already more than his combined career total of three from his first two years. His 16.1 yards per catch is 10th-best in the NFL and light years above his career high of 11.0 coming into the season.

Impressed?

“Not really," Agholor said. "I just look at how much fun I’m having and team success, and that’s the best part about this situation.

"If somebody came in and told me all my numbers and statistics, all that type of stuff? The best part of it is we’re winning a lot of football games right now and we’re having a whole lot of fun doing it."

Six games into the season, Agholor has 20 catches for 321 yards.

Compare that with the last seven weeks of last year, when a disappointing career turned into a disaster and he caught just 11 catches for just 108 yards.

Agholor just shrugs.

“That’s a great thing," he said. "I’m having so much more fun this year, so that’s the best part. I’m having more fun than my first two years in the league.

"They go hand in hand. The more fun you have, because winning is fun, making plays is fun, but there’s just a feeling about stepping on the field and enjoying the moment and enjoying the opportunity."

In his first two years, Agholor's best games went for 57, 62 and 64 yards. Already this year, he's had games with 55, 58, 86 and 93 yards.

So in just six weeks, he's produced four of his seven-best games as a pro.

We heard about it all spring, and we heard about it all summer, and Agholor has backed up all the talk about becoming a different guy with production.

He really has become a different guy.

Head coach Doug Pederson noticed it the first day of OTAs.

"Part of my message to him, specifically to Nelson, after the season, was just get away," Pederson said. "Get away, clear your mind, clear everything, and when he came back in the spring for OTAs, he was a changed football player. He was a changed person. His confidence level was higher. 

"I would say it wasn't like through the roof as it is now, but it was beginning to build at that point of the spring, and each day that he got a little more comfortable in his new role of playing in the slot helped that. And I think, too, the addition of Torrey (Smith) and Alshon (Jeffery) on the perimeter also took a little of the pressure off of him and diverted it to all three of them."

The move to the slot gave Agholor ownership of a specific position and created matchup problems for defenses that just don't have the speed to cover Jeffery and Smith outside and Agholor inside.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to just run different routes and give a different look," Agholor said. "I like playing outside, inside, wherever. I just like being a guy that you can get the football to, so I want to know as much as I can in terms of the route tree to help myself be a better football player, and Doug decided this was a great place for me to get those targets, and I’m very appreciative."

This time last year, Wentz wasn't even looking Agholor's way. Now, other than tight end Zach Ertz, he's become his favorite receiver.

"A guy like that, I’m just so happy for him," Carson Wentz said. "He’s one of the hardest-working guys I’ve ever been around. And so to see him kind of take that step? And really the biggest thing I think we’ve all seen is just his confidence is just through the roof, and that’s really been exciting for him, exciting for this team, exciting for this whole city."

One of the biggest differences in Agholor this year is his ability to make plays after the catch.

With his new-found confidence, he actually looks faster. Through six games, Agholor has 143 yards after the catch, or 7.2 yards per reception. He had 113 YACs all last year, just 3.1 yards per catch.

“It’s a want-to thing," he said. "First is securing the catch and then just the want-to after that.

"I’ve just been in position. Been in position to catch the ball and then grass in front of me and making plays. I just hope to be in position or often."

Here we are six games into the season, and Agholor and not Jeffery or Smith leads all Eagles wide receivers in yards so far this year.

And Agholor and Tyreek Hill of the Chiefs are the only NFL receivers with more than one 50-yard touchdown catch. Agholor had a 58-yarder on opening day against the Redskins and a 72-yarder against the Cards.

None of this surprises Agholor.
 
"I expected to keep on trusting the process and keep on getting better each day and then letting opportunity meet preparation," Agholor said. "And for me, I think like I have a lot more to do and I want to keep on getting better as a football player."

5 key matchups Eagles need to win to beat Redskins again

us-graham.jpg
USA Today Images

5 key matchups Eagles need to win to beat Redskins again

The Eagles finally snapped the five-game losing streak to Washington in the season opener on Sept. 10. 

Now they have a chance to start a streak of their own. 

Both teams have found success after that 30-17 Eagles win in the opener. The Eagles are 5-1 with the best record in the NFC, while Washington is 3-2 and second in the NFC East. 

With a win on Monday night at the Linc, the Eagles would be 6-1 and would put another game between them and their closest division opponent. So it could be a big boost (see story)

But remember, these division games aren't normally easy and until this season's opener, Washington had their number. 

Here are five matchups to watch on Monday night: 

Zach Ertz vs. Washington's safeties 
Washington hasn't been able to stop Ertz yet, so this is still a huge matchup problem. In the opener, he caught eight passes for 93 yards. That game kicked off what has already been an incredible season for the tight end. 

In nine career games against the division foe, Ertz has 54 catches for 531 yards. Ertz likes playing against Washington and it's not just his crazy numbers (see story)

And it's not just Ertz. Washington has struggled against tight ends all season. They lead the league in yards surrendered to opposing tight ends with 407 on 29 catches, with two touchdowns. 

Brandon Scherff vs. Fletcher Cox
Washington coach Jay Gruden admitted his team was beaten physically in the first meeting between these two. That started with Cox, who had a huge strip sack on Kirk Cousins in the first quarter. Because Scherff is a Pro Bowl guard, there's a good chance Cox will actually see plenty of 1-on-1 against him on Monday. He'll need to beat Scherff again. 

Scherff has been really good since Washington used the fifth overall pick on him in 2015, but this is his biggest test. And he'll get it twice per season in the next few years. 

"I think the Redskins have a fine offensive line," Eagles DC Jim Schwartz said. "It's going to be one of our biggest challenges." 

Morgan Moses vs. Brandon Graham 
For what it's worth, Moses is ProFootballFocus' 17th ranked offensive guard. That's not great but he's not usually a liability and he's not a bad right tackle. But Graham absolutely spanked him the first time these two teams met. 

In that game, Graham had two sacks, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble. If he has that kind of impact again, it's going to be a long day for Moses. 

LeGarrette Blount vs. Redskins' run D
Blount had just 46 yards on 14 carries in the first meeting but since then, he's really come on and Doug Pederson has shown a devotion to finding balance in his offense. 

Washington has been pretty good against the run, giving up 88 yards per game (eighth in the league). But they'll be without first-round pick Jonathan Allen, one of their top defensive linemen. 

Eagles' WRs vs. Washington's banged up corners
If Blount isn't heavily involved in the game plan on Monday it might be because Pederson sees opportunity in the passing game. Washington's starting cornerback Josh Norman (rib fracture) has been ruled out and Bashaud Breeland (knee) is questionable. 

Even if Breeland plays, he won't be 100 percent and they'll definitely miss Norman. Even though the backups have played pretty well, Carson Wentz will probably test this banged up Washington secondary early and often. 

If Washington is without both of their starting corners — or even if Breeland plays — expect Pederson to attack their backups. It could be a big day for the Eagles' passing game.