Eagles-Jets: Roob's 10 observations

Eagles-Jets: Roob's 10 observations


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — There legitimately couldn't have been more than 3,500 fans at MetLife Stadium Thursday night, and you have to wonder what the few thousand who were there were thinking.

This was awful football even by typical fourth preseason game standards.

The Eagles' scrubs finished the preseason with a grotesque 16-10 loss to the Jets' scrubs (see breakdown), and all that's left before the Eagles open the season against the Redskins a week from Sunday at FedExField is a roster cut this weekend from 90 to 53.

How much did Thursday night's game impact the final roster? Probably not a whole lot. But there were a few notable tidbits, so let's get right to 10 instant observations.

1. I don't care how many times Doug Pederson says Nick Foles is day to day, I'm concerned. Foles did not play Thursday night, so he didn't play a single snap in the preseason. Beyond the obvious reason that's disappointing — we got to see Matt McGloin throw 109 passes in four preseason games — is that this mysterious elbow injury that won't go away wiped out Foles' entire preseason (see story). I wouldn't be as concerned if the injury didn't date back to last year and if Foles hadn't said back on Aug. 15 that he was back to 100 percent after a two-week layoff from training camp. Foles was throwing before the game, so the injury has to be improving to some extent. But if he was healthy enough to play, he should have played. And if he wasn't healthy enough to play, then that's definitely cause for concern.

2. Going to be very interesting to see what happens with Corey Clement this weekend. Clement has been consistently productive throughout the preseason and over the last three preseason games is 21 for 92, good for a 4.4-yard rushing average. I don't have Clement on my projected 53-man roster, only because I just don't see the Eagles keeping five running backs and I can't see releasing rookie fourth-round pick Donnel Pumphrey, only because this was always going to be a redshirt year for Pumphrey and a sluggish preseason shouldn't change their long-term plans for him. Sluggish isn't the word. Awful. Is it fair? Clement has been by far the more productive of the two rookie backs. He's got juice and so far Pumphrey hasn't shown anything. He ran the ball 26 times this preseason and his longest run was five yards. Heck, Byron Marshall has shown more than Pumphrey. But the Eagles have that fourth-round pick invested in Pumphrey, and Clement was undrafted (see story). It's been 20 years since the Eagles cut a fourth-round pick before his rookie year (Damien Robinson in 1997), and I just don't see it happening this weekend. If the Eagles give up on Pumphrey this fast, it's another draft-day disaster for Howie Roseman. (Then there's the possibility that Pumphrey will wind up on injured reserve with the possible concussion he suffered in the fourth quarter Thursday night. You never want to see anybody get hurt, but if the Eagles could get Pumphrey on IR, they could avoid a difficult decision.)

3. If it were me, and I had assurances that Foles were indeed healthy, I would say goodbye to McGloin so fast. He did finish the preseason with a high completion percentage — but he also committed four turnovers (three interceptions, one fumble) in the equivalent of about 2½ games. I'd rather keep Dane Evans on the practice squad and save a roster spot than have Foles and McGloin both on the 53. McGloin is never going to win games in the NFL. Period. So why even bother? I'd rather keep a promising young defensive lineman, cornerback or wide receiver than have McGloin gumming up a roster spot all year.

4. Here's a guy we haven't talked about a whole lot but I have on my 53-man roster: Elijah Qualls. The rookie sixth-round pick, a 320-pound defensive tackle from Washington, has been active and physical and will add good depth to a loaded position group. That's Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan starting, and Beau Allen, Destiny Vaeao and Qualls adding depth. Not many teams can match that.

5. Another defensive lineman who's been very impressive is Alex McCalister, a 6-6, 240-pounder from Florida that looks like a tight end but is quite an effective pass rusher. McCalister's sack Thursday night gave him 3½ this preseason. McCalister, a seventh-round pick last year, deserves a roster spot, but where do you put him? The Eagles are so loaded at defensive end, with Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry, Chris Long and Steven Means. In a perfect world, you could cut ties with Curry, who has not only had an unproductive preseason but has just six sacks in his last 34 regular-season games. But Curry is un-cuttable. It would cost $6 million more to release him ($15 million in dead money) than keep him ($9 million cap figure). And that's not happening. The Eagles have to hope they can stash McCalister on the practice squad. The kid sure seems to have some explosiveness and power.

6. It never occurred to me before the Eagles traded Jon Dorenbos, but could Donnie Jones also be in trouble? Jones is 37, the same age as Dorenbos, and Roseman made it clear he wants to get younger across the board. Younger also equalling cheaper against the cap. Jones has been very good and consistent in his four years with the Eagles. He's actually the best punter in franchise history. But Cameron Johnston, like Rick Lovato, has been very good this summer. He got all six punts Thursday night and averaged 46.0 yards with three inside the 20 and a net of 42.2. In the entire preseason, Jones averaged 43.3 with a net of 31.7, and Johnston, an Australian out of Ohio State, averaged 45.1 with a net of 42.7. Jones' strength has always been his ability to drop the ball inside the 20, but Johnston landed three of his six Thursday night inside the 20. If you just look at the stats, Johnston wins this battle.

7. I would be shocked if Marcus Johnson doesn't make the 53. Johnson has just made plays every chance he's gotten. He had only one catch Thursday night — a 41-yard TD from Evans — and finished the preseason 5 for 99 with two TDs. But he was just very consistent in practice, caught the ball well and after spending much of last year on the practice squad, just looked comfortable playing NFL wide receiver.

8. I liked Todd Bowles when he was on Andy Reid's staff in 2012. When he replaced Juan Castillo as defensive coordinator midway through the season, it was an impossible situation, but he handled it as well as anybody could have. I had high hopes when the former Temple Owl became the Jets' head coach in 2015. But what a wreck that franchise is. I don't know what's worse — that the Jets used their opening day starting quarterback in the fourth preseason game or that their opening day starting quarterback is 38-year-old Josh McCown, proud owner of a 2-20 win-loss record over the last three seasons. By the way, try to convince me McCown is a better quarterback than Colin Kaepernick. You can't do it.

9. Beautiful national anthem Thursday night by the Freeport (New York) High School Select Chorale. I’ve heard thousands of anthems before but never heard one where the end of each phrase was sung staccato, similar to much classical music, where musical phrases frequently end with a staccato — or a brief, shortened burst as opposed to a lengthy, sustained note. So, for instance, when they sang, “Dawn’s early light,” the “t” sound at the end of light was extremely brief. I thought they did a fantastic job. The arrangement was unique and the performance was respectful and perfectly sung. So far, my Anthem of the Year.

10. Finally this: If there was ever an argument that the preseason is too long, it's the three hours of garbage we watched Thursday night at MetLife Stadium. The NFL insults all of us forcing these meaningless games played with primarily guys who are going to get cut on us. The owners are making too much money to eliminate two or even one of the four preseason games, but really, nobody is benefiting from these games. They are just awful.

Eagles' season opener will be a juicy rematch

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Eagles' season opener will be a juicy rematch

These poor Minnesotans can't seem to get rid of Philly.

First, the Eagles spanked their Vikings in the NFC Championship Game, then the Eagles won a Super Bowl two weeks later in their stadium. And now the Vikings have to open up the 2018 NFL season back at the Linc.

The Eagles are going to host the Vikings on Thursday, Sept. 6 at Lincoln Financial Field to open the NFL calendar, according to Howard Eskin.

Of course, the last time the Vikings came to the Linc they scored the first touchdown of the game before the Eagles scored the next 38 points to crush the No. 2 seed in the NFC, 38-7.

After Kyle Rudolph caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Case Keenum early in the first quarter, the Eagles' defense clamped down and the offense, led by Nick Foles, exploded. The biggest play of the game (one of the biggest of the season) was Patrick Robinson's 50-yard pick-6 later in the first quarter. The Eagles took a 24-7 lead into the locker room and halftime and much of the second half became a party on the sideline and in the stands, where a "Foles-Skol" chant broke out several times.

Of course, the Vikings are going to look different this time. Case Keenum has moved on to Denver, and the Vikings brought in Kirk Cousins from Washington. In his career against the Eagles, Cousins is 4-3 with a passer rating of 99.7.

The full NFL schedule probably won't be released until mid-April. We also know the Eagles will face the Jaguars in London on either Oct. 21 or 28.

Here are the teams the Eagles will face in 2018:



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 overstate 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.