Eagles

10 observations from Eagles-Redskins

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10 observations from Eagles-Redskins

BOX SCORE

LANDOVER, Md. – The Eagles keep inventing new ways to lose.

It had been at least 20 years since the Eagles lost a football game by allowing a fourth-quarter game-winning drive of 90 or more yards.

That’s exactly what the Redskins did Sunday in their 23-20 win over the Eagles (see Instant Replay).

These 10 observations are more fun to read when the Eagles are winning, aren’t they?

They’re more fun to write, too.

Here we go:

1. I give a lot of credit to the Eagles’ defense for holding up under the weight of the insane number of snaps they had to face Sunday. They were out-manned, depleted, and on the field for 41:08. Still, to let Kirk Cousins drive 90 yards in 15 plays and beat you with 26 seconds left? Kirk Cousins? That just can’t happen. The Eagles were one stop away from evening their record at 2-2, and they just couldn’t get off the field.

2. Sam Bradford showed me a lot with his second-half performance. I wouldn’t have blamed Chip Kelly if he benched him for Mark Sanchez at halftime. The Eagles hadn’t scored, and Bradford was once again grossly ineffective in the first half, going just 5 for 10 for 75 yards. But he showed some resilience, battling through his early ineffectiveness, a ton of early hits and sacks and even an ankle injury in the third quarter. He threw three touchdowns after halftime and for the first time all year got the ball down the field, something the Eagles should have been doing right from the start of the game against this awful Redskins secondary. But here’s the bottom line. Bradford has still yet to play a full game, and you’re just not going to win very many games with a quarterback who produces one good half every other week. Bradford was good in the second half, but he has yet to be good for 60 minutes, and he’s still the biggest reason the Eagles are 1-3

3. Chip Kelly has only himself to blame for the current state of the offensive line. For the first time in franchise history, the Eagles have gone two straight years without drafting an offensive lineman, and despite losing Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans this offseason, they didn’t even sign any free agents, other than John Moffitt, who had been retired. The conclusion that they could get by with Allen Barbre and Andrew Gardner as starters and Dennis Kelly and Matt Tobin as backups seems preposterous now. If you want to make some kind of point by cutting ties with two very solid guards in Mathis and Herremans, fine. Get rid of them. Make your point. But how do you get rid of them both and not replace them?

4. The Eagles did better running the football, but when they needed to dial it up in the fourth quarter to run out the clock? They couldn’t do it. The running game is still a liability for this football team.

5. It’s unbelievable how hard it is to find a kicker. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Eagles release Caleb Sturgis on Monday, ending his Eagles career after one game, one 33-yard field goal and one missed extra point. But if he was the best of the six guys they brought in for workouts Monday, then how bad were the other guys? Just makes you appreciate David Akers even more. Akers kicked at such a high level for the Eagles from 1999 through 2010. He missed a few, but you always felt that with the game on the line, he just wasn’t going to miss. Heck, Dave always kept himself in great shape. He’s only 40. I’ve heard worse ideas.

6. OK, three games into his NFL career, Jordan Hicks has two fumble recoveries, a forced fumble, a sack and an interception. I don’t know how long Mychal Kendricks will be out and I don’t know how long Kiko Alonso will be out, but I do know that Hicks has been phenomenal the last three weeks, and Bill Davis is going to have to find a way to get him on the field once the Eagles (if the Eagles) are back at full-strength at inside linebacker.

7. I think Nelson Agholor is going to be a stud, but he’s got to be stronger to the football and hang onto the thing. But he really does have a knack for getting open and making circus catches. His one-handed 45-yarder Sunday was magnificent. He’s just got to be more consistent. But you can say that about most rookie wide receivers.

8. He got off to a slow start Sunday, but in the second half, with the defense dragging, Donnie Jones hit some great punts to keep giving the Redskins a long field and give the defense a fighting chance. Jones is never going to be among the NFL’s statistical leaders because he plays in an outdoor stadium in the Northeast. But he’s solid. And he generally seems to come up big when you need a big punt at a big moment. It’s nice to have one guy they don’t have to worry about.

9. Was good to see a few guys who have been invisible making plays. Mainly Riley Cooper, whose 62-yard TD was the second-longest of Bradford’s career, and Miles Austin, whose 39-yard touchdown was his longest in four years. If the Eagles are going to salvage anything out of this lost season, they’re going to need more than just Jordan Matthews catching the football. So there’s that.

10. Finally, how much of this mess is on Chip? Really, most of it is on Chip. This is the team he wanted, this is the team he went out and got, this is the team he designed, this is the team he built. They’ve lost three of four games and are playing as inconsistently as any Eagles team we’ve seen since 1998. They’re now 1-3 and 0-2 in the division. Let’s be honest. They’re not going anywhere. It’s been seven years since the Eagles won a playoff game, and it’s hard to imagine it won’t be eight in a few months. Chip’s future? He’ll be here another year. But that’s all he gets. He’s got the rest of this year and next year to figure out a way to build a team that can put together a deep playoff run. If he doesn’t do it, time to bring in the next guy.

Unselfishness at core of Eagles' balanced, lethal offense

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Unselfishness at core of Eagles' balanced, lethal offense

You look at the stats, and nothing jumps off the page. No running back on pace for 1,000 yards, no wide receiver on pace for 1,000 yards. Heck, even the all-world quarterback hasn't thrown for more than 211 yards in his last three games.

No 100-yard games by a wide out or tight end. Only one 100-yard game by a running back, and that was two months ago.

Four different guys have led the team in rushing, three different guys have led the team in receiving, 11 different guys have scored touchdowns.

Heck, in the win over Dallas Sunday night, the Eagles' longest catch wasn't by one of the speedy free agent wide receivers, and it wasn't by Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins or Zach Ertz. It was by rarely used 11th-year tight end Brent Celek, who turns 33 in January.

You want Pro Bowlers? This is not the offense for you. You want guys to score you a ton of fantasy points? This is definitely not the offense for you. 

You want a Super Bowl contender? Welcome to Philly, where head coach Doug Pederson has found a way to get a bunch of players used to being the guy to suppress their egos and do whatever's necessary to help the team.

LeGarrette Blount led the NFL in rushing touchdowns last year. Jay Ajayi was a Pro Bowler last year. Alshon Jeffery has been a Pro Bowler and was fifth in the NFC in receiving yards per game over the last four years. 

They're used to being stars. They like being stars. They get paid to be stars. And they've all put their egos aside to be part of something special.

Pederson's greatest accomplishment this year has been to get everybody on the roster to buy into the notion of setting aside personal goals to help the team win football games.

These are guys with big-money incentives and tremendous pride in their numbers. They want to be considered the best at what they do. And they want to put up numbers that land them that next big contract.

But Pederson has them all locked into something bigger, something greater. That game in Minnesota in 2 ½ months.

"The bottom line is winning the game," Pederson said. "Bottom line. I don't go into a game saying, ‘Jay, you've got to get 100 yards rushing. LeGarrette or Alshon, you've got to have 100 yards receiving.’ 

"It doesn't work that way. We don't design the offensive plays to work that way. If it happens, great. Alshon a couple weeks ago had an opportunity to be our first 100-yard receiver this year.

"It's just the guys just want to win, and it doesn't matter who's hot in the game. Our quarterback is so prepared and well-prepared, knowing exactly where to go with the ball in the passing situations. We ask him to do so much in the run game. And it's all part of the process, and these guys have bought in 100 percent, and they prepare that way. 

"You see it on game day. They're just all making plays and they're all contributing right now."

The Eagles are an NFL-best 9-1, and a win at home Sunday against the lowly Bears gives them nine straight wins, which would tie a franchise record set in 1960 and matched in 2003.

Their last four wins have all been by double digits, they're averaging 32 points per game, and they're on pace to score the 15th-most points in NFL history.

And they're doing it without anybody on pace for a 1,000-yard season and with just one 100-yard game by a receiver or running back.

Every coach talks about unselfishness, but Pederson genuinely has these guys living it and breathing it.

Why does it work?

"Because we all want to win," Blount said.

And it works because the quarterback is the most unselfish guy of all and legitimately doesn't care about anything other than getting a win.

"Winning is contagious, and the guys feed off of that," Pederson said. "And so it really doesn't matter who makes the play. It's just at the end of the day, just find a way to win the game."

Eagles DE Derek Barnett wreaking havoc as sacks starting to pile up

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USA Today Images

Eagles DE Derek Barnett wreaking havoc as sacks starting to pile up

With each passing game, it's starting to become clearer and clearer why the Eagles used their first-round pick on Derek Barnett. 

The rookie defensive end is beginning to wreak havoc on opposing offenses. 

"This guy is very disruptive, explosive," head coach Doug Pederson said. "He's another one of those unselfish guys. He just wants to win and do whatever he can to help the team win."

Barnett, the 14th overall pick in April's draft, had two sacks and a forced fumble in the Eagles' 37-9 win Sunday night over the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. 

In addition to Barnett's two sacks (he forced a fumble on one), he also applied pressure and hit quarterback Dak Prescott on two of his three interceptions. 

It seemed like Sunday was probably Barnett's best NFL game so far. The 21-year-old humbly didn't go along with that assessment. 

"I think I did some good things, but I need to do a better job in the run game," Barnett said. "I didn't do that well in the run game. At the end of the day, we won. That's all that matters. We got a victory and let's all go back to Philly." 

After failing to record a sack in his first five NFL games, Barnett now has 4.5 in his last five games. He is second among all NFL rookies in sacks this season. 

He's already eighth on the Eagles' rookie sack list and could move up that list quickly. Two more sacks would put him third behind just Reggie White (13) and Corey Simon (9.5). 

Sacks sometimes come in bunches. 

"I just think they're coming now," Pederson said. "I think he's getting comfortable in the role. He's developing. He's understanding the game. He studies tackles, he studies his opponent. He's developed a couple of different moves. It's just his willingness. It just clicks for any player. They start to come. I love where he's at right now too." 

Even before the sacks started coming, Barnett was quietly getting pressure. Now, he's getting pressure and finishing the plays. 

Barnett played 51 percent of the Eagles' defensive snaps Sunday and is closing on the 50 percent mark on the season. While he hasn't been widely talked about as a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate, he could make a case quickly if these numbers keep piling up. 

More importantly, he could offer the Eagles a dangerous pass-rusher as they make their way down the stretch and into the playoffs.

And he's doing it with the same traits that made him attractive to the Eagles in the first place. 

Remember just after he was drafted, when vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas raved about Barnett's "excellent" ankle flexion? 

Well, check out Barnett's bend on his fourth-quarter strip sack: 


 

He bent around the left tackle and came at Prescott horizontally. 

He did it earlier in the game on the Rodney McLeod interception: 

 

And remember how much everyone praised his high motor and compete level? 

Check out his first-half sack. He willed his way to a sack and wouldn't let Prescott escape. 

Sunday was Barnett's second career two-sack game; they came less than a month apart. And it looks like there are plenty more sacks in his future. 

"They're starting to come in slowly but surely," Barnett said. "Everybody says to pass rush, you have to keep on rushing. You can't get down. You're going to be in your little slumps and stuff. You have to keep on grinding through it. It's eventually going to break."