Eagles

Best of NFL: Jason Witten sets Cowboys record as Dallas beats Giants on SNF

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Best of NFL: Jason Witten sets Cowboys record as Dallas beats Giants on SNF

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Jason Witten scored the only touchdown while breaking the franchise record for yards receiving and the Dallas defense shackled a New York offense missing Odell Beckham Jr. in the Cowboys' 19-3 season-opening victory over the Giants on Sunday night.

Ezekiel Elliott had a rugged 104 yards rushing and another 36 receiving two days after a judge halted his six-game suspension over a domestic violence case, although last year's NFL rushing leader had already been cleared to play the opener.

Dak Prescott was turnover-free while throwing for 268 yards as the Cowboys dominated the NFC East rival that swept them during a 13-3 season that topped the NFC and was fueled by the sensational rookie years for the quarterback-running back duo. Dan Bailey kicked four field goals.

Eli Manning didn't have Beckham in his 200th straight start after his dynamic top target sprained his ankle in a preseason game. The Giants were outgained in the first half 265-49 while falling behind 16-0.

Manning was 28 of 37 for 211 yards with an interception and didn't connect with new receiver Brandon Marshall, who dropped his best chance for a catch with open field in front (see full recap).

Packers beat Seahawks in NFC heavyweight match
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Green Bay defensive lineman Mike Daniels' strip sack of Russell Wilson deep in Seattle territory in the third quarter set up Ty Montgomery's 6-yard touchdown run on the next play to spark the Packers' 17-9 win on Sunday.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was 28 of 42 for 311 yards and added a 32-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson to make it an eight-point game late in the third quarter.

Rodgers' regular-season streak of passes without an interception ended at a career-high 251. The Seahawks defense reinforced by the return of safety Earl Thomas bottled up receivers from making many big plays and put plenty of pressure on Rodgers.

But the Packers started denting Seattle with runs or quick passes to Nelson, Randall Cobb and Montgomery in the second half, chewing up clock in the process. A 12-play, 53-yard drive that took up more than 5 minutes ended with Mason Crosby's 40-yard field goal with 8:01 left to make it a two-score game.

Green Bay's defense had an even better debut, especially considering how maligned the Packers were against the pass last season.

Seattle managed just three field goals. Wilson was held to 14 of 27 for 158 yards. The Packers held decisive edges in total yardage (370-225) and first downs (26-12). Green Bay held the ball for 39 minutes (see full recap).

Stafford helps Lions past Cardinals, who lose RB Johnson
DETROIT -- Matthew Stafford threw two of his four touchdown passes to rookie Kenny Golladay in the fourth quarter Sunday, helping the Detroit Lions rally to beat the Arizona Cardinals 35-23.

The Lions picked off three of Carson Palmer's passes, returning one for a score. They also knocked David Johnson out of the game after forcing him to fumble in the third quarter Sunday.

Detroit set an NFL record last year by rallying to win eight games after trailing in the final quarter and opened this season with another comeback.

The Cardinals scored the first 10 points of the game and led 17-9 late in the third quarter before giving up 26 straight points.

Stafford's first pass was returned 82 yards for a touchdown by Justin Bethel , but the player with the richest contract in the NFL bounced back. He was 29 for 41 yards for 292 yards and threw 45- and 10-yard TD passes to Golladay , along with short passes to Theo Riddick and Marvin Jones for scores.

A snap after Golladay ran past Bethel and fully extended to catch a long TD pass, Miles Killebrew intercepted Palmer's pass and returned it for a score with 4:13 remaining (see full recap).

Fournette, Jaguars spoil Texans' return to Houston
HOUSTON -- Leonard Fournette ran for 100 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut, and Jacksonville had 10 sacks and forced four turnovers to help the Jaguars to a 29-7 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday.

Blake Bortles threw for 125 yards and a touchdown, Calais Campbell had four sacks and Dante Fowler returned a fumble 53 yards for a score as the Jaguars snapped a six-game skid against Houston.

The Texans hoped to provide a boost to the area ravaged by Hurricane Harvey with a win. Instead, Tom Savage struggled behind a porous line and was benched in favor of rookie Deshaun Watson at halftime with Houston down 19-0.

J.J. Watt returned after missing 13 games last season after back surgery, but injured his finger in the first half and finished with just one tackle.

A 42-yard field goal by Jason Myers made it 3-0 in the first quarter and he added one from 25 yards early in the second.

The Texans punted on their first four possessions, and the fifth one ended when Savage fumbled on a sack by Yannick Ngakoue and the Jaguars recovered the ball (see full recap).

Carson Wentz was great in 2017, but there's one thing he'd like to improve

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Carson Wentz was great in 2017, but there's one thing he'd like to improve

He was among the NFL’s best in virtually every category. Fourth in passer rating. First in touchdown percentage. Eighth in interception percentage. Second in TD-to-INT ratio. He was even third in wins despite missing the last three regular-season games.

So what’s Carson Wentz’s approach going into 2018?

“I think we can improve everywhere,” he said. “Overall, I think we can keep making strides and keep our foot on the gas.”

And that starts with completion percentage.

Wentz completed just 60.2 percent of his passes last year, which ranked 23rd of 30 quarterbacks who threw at least 400 passes. 

Ahead of only Blake Bortles, Andy Dalton, Mitch Trubisky, Cam Newton, Trevor Siemian, Jacoby Brissett and DeShone Kizer.

Not the kind of company he wants to keep.

Wentz was so good in every other area he still fashioned a passer rating over 100. In fact, his 101.9 rating was the highest in NFL history by a quarterback completing 60.2 percent of his passes (minimum 400 attempts).

The league average last year was 62 percent. And for the sake of comparison, Nick Foles completed 64.7 percent of his passes if you combine the regular season and postseason.

Wentz dropped from 62.4 percent as a rookie to 60.2 percent last year.

Among 36 active NFL quarterbacks who’ve thrown at least 1,000 passes, Wentz’s 61.5 completion percentage ranks 21st.

 “I know I’d like to see my completions go higher,” Wentz said last week. “I think I was right around 60 percent and I expect more out of myself in that area.”

After 2016, Wentz identified red zone and third down as two areas he hoped to improve on. 

And he wound up leading the NFL in both red zone efficiency (NFL-best 116.3 passer rating) and third-down efficiency (NFL-best 123.7 rating).

“Third down, red zone, we were really good,” he said. “That’s something we really focused on from Year 1 to Year 2, but we (still) all feel we can definitely improve in those areas.”

Wentz also committed nine fumbles in 13 games, and only Jameis Winston and Russell Wilson had more.

“I think we had too many fumbles,” he said. “Balls on the ground too many times.”

Wentz, now nearly five months out from his knee injury, said he’s used a lot of his extra time at the NovaCare Complex this offseason focusing on what he can improve on in 2018, and one of those things is his upper-body strength.

“With all the extra rehab and not being able to run and do a lot of things early on you’ve really just got to focus on some different things and I got to do a lot of seated throwing and trying to build my arm strength and really take care of my upper body more than I have in the past,” he said.

“It’s been an interesting process not being able to get that true conditioning and that rehab in, but it’s exciting to start easing into the running and conditioning stuff. … 

“I feel good. I definitely feel working with the strength guys, we had some friendly competition stuff with the other (injured) guys in there rehabbing and I definitely feel like I’m making some strides in there.”

Forget empty Day 2 of draft, Eagles hoping to find gold in Day 3

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Forget empty Day 2 of draft, Eagles hoping to find gold in Day 3

The Eagles are scheduled to have a pretty boring Day 2 of the draft this year. Because after they pick at No. 32, they don’t have another selection until the 31st pick of the fourth round. 

That means 98 players will be taken between the Eagles’ first and second picks. And they’ll have to watch other teams pick that entire Friday (Rounds 2-3) without them … unless they make a move. 

“We’re not looking at it like we’re sitting out on Friday,” Eagles de facto GM Howie Roseman said. “We’re going through our draft process looking at every scenario. When we get to Friday, we get to Friday.” 

Even if the Eagles don’t make a move, they’ll be plenty busy Saturday, the final day of the draft. They have two fourth-round picks and one pick in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds. 

Eagles personnel head Joe Douglas showed up to his media availability with a stat ready to go to illustrate the importance of Day 3. 

“We’re excited that we have five picks on Saturday,” Douglas said. “When you look at the Super Bowl, there’s 22 starters that were third-round picks or lower. Of those 22, 18 of them were fourth-round picks or lower. So 18 starters in the Super Bowl this year were fourth-round picks or lower, including six of them that were undrafted free agents. We choose to keep the glass half full.” 

Douglas is right on all those stats — 22 of 44 starters in the Super Bowl were drafted in the third or lower and 18 of them would be considered Day 3 picks. Not bad. 

Here’s how the Super Bowl starters broke down by round: 1-10, 2-12, 3-4, 4-4, 5-3, 6-3, 7-2, UDFA-6. 

The Eagles accounted for seven of the 18 players who were drafted in the fourth round or later, so the Patriots were the ones who found even more value late in drafts. And of those seven, just three were original Eagles — Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Jason Kelce and Jalen Mills. 

Of the six undrafted players who started in the Super Bowl, two were from the Eagles — LeGarrette Blount and Rodney McLeod. Neither was an original Eagle, but the Birds also relied heavily on running back Corey Clement, who was an undrafted rookie last season. 

With a dearth of high draft picks, it would make sense if the Eagles attack the undrafted market following the draft, but Douglas thinks it won’t be as easy as many might think. 

“You would think because we’re coming off a Super Bowl, we don’t have a second or third round pick that it would be a lot easier after the draft,” Douglas said. “But my experience coming off a Super Bowl, it’s sometimes harder to get guys to commit to your roster because agents and players have a perceived notion that it’s going to be that much tougher to make the team. I think that’s going to be a challenge. I think that’s going to be a challenge for us and we know it and we’re going to attack it.”

The Eagles in recent years have shown a willingness to pony up significant money to entice undrafted players to sign with them, and if Douglas is right, they might need to do it again to land some this year. 

Either way, the Eagles know how important Day 3 and beyond can be. So when they’re bored on Day 2, they don’t plan on losing focus.