Eagles

Eagles left with plenty of options in slot because of 'design of the offense'

Eagles left with plenty of options in slot because of 'design of the offense'

After sending Jordan Matthews to the Bills in a trade, the Eagles could take a committee approach at slot receiver in 2017.

It's been widely assumed Nelson Agholor would step into that vacated slot role — he took first-team reps there at practice Saturday. The third-year wideout also had a strong offseason and filled in during spring sessions while Matthews was out with knee tendinitis.

"That’s coach’s decision as far as who’s going to step up, but Nelson’s done some great things," Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz said. "Obviously, he can fly. He can roll in the slot and put some pressure on defenses."

While Agholor will no doubt continue to see plenty of work in the slot, the job isn't necessarily going to be his exclusively moving forward.

"We move so many guys around in that position," coach Doug Pederson said. "It's just kind of by design of the offense."

Matthews served as the Eagles' primary slot receiver since he was selected in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft, but lined up there less last season than in years past. That was in large part because Pederson was much more imaginative than his predecessor, Chip Kelly, mixing up personnel and formations with far greater frequency.

Under Pederson, the Eagles have been more likely to deploy running backs and tight ends from the slot. Darren Sproles, Donnel Pumphrey, Zach Ertz and Trey Burton will all take a fair number of snaps in there.

Agholor may be facing some competition in the receiver room as well. After a breakout performance in the preseason opener, Mack Hollins was also getting a look in the slot Saturday.

"We'll continue to develop him and work him in multiple spots," Pederson said. "One thing about Mack is he's a smart guy. He picks up the offense well and he understands coverage and leverage and things like that."

Hollins seems like a receiver more in the mold of Matthews. Listed at 6-foot-4, 221 pounds, he's far bigger and stronger than most of the nickel cornerbacks who would be trying to cover him on the inside.

For now, Hollins is continuing to work primarily on the outside, but his size is something the Eagles could try to take advantage of.

"This game is a bunch of matchups," Hollins said. "So if my best matchup is inside against a smaller nickel, then that’s where I’ll be, and if it’s outside vs. a smaller corner, that’s where I’ll be."

The Eagles also like the fact Agholor brings a different skill set to the position than Matthews did. Matthews' size was an asset in the middle of the field, but he lacked explosion. Agholor has the potential to become the consistent deep threat down the seam that the offense has been lacking.

“Without a doubt, they’re different skill sets," Wentz said. "He’s more of a burner, whereas J-Matt was more of that savvy possession guy underneath.

"Obviously, Jordan made plenty of plays down the field as well, they just bring a different element down the field as well."

A first-round draft pick in 2015, Agholor has been a massive disappointment through two seasons in the league, with 59 receptions for 648 yards and 3 touchdowns in 28 games. 

For what it's worth, Agholor has appeared to make strides in his development while working from the slot this year. The 24-year-old looks comfortable, and it may very well be the role he is best suited to play in the NFL.

Agholor played slot his junior season at USC when he racked up 104 receptions for 1,313 yards and 12 touchdowns.

"Staying inside, you have to have a little bit more spatial awareness because there are bodies in there, a lot going on," Agholor said. "Your awareness and your understanding of zones has to be at a higher level. Outside, you kind of have a one-on-one even in some zones."

Even last season, Matthews was still the primary slot but shared the responsibility. After running 532 routes in the slot in 2015, he was down to 329 with Pederson at the helm, according to Pro Football Focus. Injuries also limited Matthews to 14 games, but that doesn't account for a difference of over 200 plays.

No matter how the plan shakes out, Agholor is fine with divvying up the snaps.

"We want to put defenses in a bind," Agholor said. "We want to find mismatches and move players around so that we keep them guessing."

David Akers on years with Eagles: 'The fans changed my life'

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David Akers on years with Eagles: 'The fans changed my life'

Editor's note: This story originally ran Aug. 31.

When you talk about David Akers, you pretty much have to talk about opening day 2000.
 
It wasn’t just the hottest game in NFL history and one of the Eagles' greatest wins over the Cowboys, it was the start of an 11-year run in which the Eagles went to the playoffs nine times, reached five NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl and averaged 10½ wins per year.
 
And when Akers talks about memories of his 12 years with the Eagles, he has to start on that blazing hot afternoon, Sept. 3, 2000, at Texas Stadium.
 
"It was my first game, first year as a full-time kicker, my first kickoff as a full-time kicker," Akers recalled. "And Andy Reid comes in before the game and says if we lose the coin toss, we're opening the game with an onside kick.
 
"I was like, 'You're kidding, right?' I was really worried about not doing well and now we're starting the game with an onside kick? I had already been cut by three teams, and I was like, 'Man, if I screw this up, I might as well just pack up and leave.' "
 
As we all know, Akers' onside kick was perfect, Dameane Douglas recovered, and just a few minutes later Donovan McNabb's TD pass to Stanley Pritchett had the Eagles on their way to a historic 41-14 win over the Cowboys in what came to be known as the Pickle Juice Game.
 
Before he was finished with the Eagles, Akers scored a franchise-record 1,323 points and played a franchise-record 188 games. Along with Jon Runyan, Tra Thomas and Brian Dawkins, he became one of four players in franchise history to play in 10 postseason wins.
 
On Wednesday evening, Akers learned that this fall he'll become the 50th inductee in the Eagles Hall of Fame.
 
Akers is scheduled to be inducted Oct. 23 at halftime of the Eagles-Redskins game at the Linc.
 
“I loved my time in Philly," said Akers, who kicked here from 1999 through 2010. "The fans changed my life. People talk about the billboard we left (when he left Philly), but honestly, it was a true bottom-of-the-heart thank you from my family.
 
"I hope when the fans look at everything, they know I tried the best I could. I always did it for the team, the organization, the fans, and the reality is that none of us are perfect and obviously I would like to have some field goals back in my career, but if I rewrote how things went down, I probably wouldn’t change very much. And I wouldn’t change where I played my 12 years."
 
After getting cut by the Panthers, Redskins and Falcons as an undrafted kicker out of Louisville, Akers found a home in Philadelphia. And even though he finished his career with brief stops in San Francisco and Detroit — it was with the 49ers that he tied the then-NFL record with a 63-yard field goal — it was in Philly that he put up historic numbers and made five of his six Pro Bowls.
 
In NFL history, only three kickers have played in more postseason wins with the same team than Akers — Stephen Gostkowski of the Patriots has played in 15, Adam Vinatieri played in 13 for the Patriots and Roy Gerela of the 1970s Steelers played in 11.
 
"The one thing about Philly fans, they’re so passionate, and it was an honor to play for them as long as I did," Akers said. "They go to the games when we're not doing well. They let you hear it but they're always going to be there. And when you're doing well? This is the greatest city to be around when you're playing well, and guys who don’t get a chance to experience that, it’s a shame."
 
Akers ranks 12th in NFL history with 1,721 points and 11th in history with 386 total field goals. He's the No. 2 scorer in NFL postseason history with 175 points, 59 fewer than Vinatieri.
 
He's also 12th in NFL history with 27 field goals over 50 yards.
 
And now he joins five former teammates — Dawkins, McNabb, Jeremiah Trotter, Brian Westbrook and Troy Vincent — along with Jim Johnson as the seventh representative of the Andy Reid Eagles in the team's Hall of Fame.
 
“When Mr. Lurie (owner Jeffrey Lurie) called me, I have to say that I was shocked but humbled just because I have so much gratitude for what the Eagles did for me," Akers said.
 
"They gave me the opportunity when the Redskins and Panthers and Falcons had not been successful for me. My first kickoff in the NFL went 90 yards for a touchdown the opposite way, and I missed a 49-yarder, then got cut two days later.
 
"It's unbelievable how quickly those 12 years went with the Eagles. Such great runs with so many wonderful players and great coaches, a lot of who were very successful after moving on from the Eagles."
 
Akers learned he had been selected to the Hall of Fame Wednesday night during the Taking Flight for Autism fundraiser at the Linc.
 
"Obviously the one thing that sticks with me is the last time I played in an Eagles uniform is not a day I'd like to remember (2010 playoff loss to the Packers)," he said.
 
"So it was a little surreal being back on the stage at the Linc where a lot of other positive memories happened. Looking back on my career, just overwhelmed with gratitude, to be honest with you."

Best of NFL: Ezekiel Elliott's 3 TDs, 219 yards lead Cowboys past 49ers

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Best of NFL: Ezekiel Elliott's 3 TDs, 219 yards lead Cowboys past 49ers

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Ezekiel Elliott gained 219 yards from scrimmage and tied a career high with three touchdowns just days after a legal reprieve put his suspension on hold and the Dallas Cowboys beat the winless San Francisco 49ers 40-10 on Sunday.

Elliott was granted his second temporary restraining order on Tuesday, putting his six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations on hold and then gave the Cowboys (3-3) a big boost on the field.

Elliott matched his season total of rushing touchdowns with two in the first quarter and then took a short pass from Dak Prescott 72 yards for another touchdown on Dallas' first possession of the second half to put the 49ers (0-7) away. Elliott ran for 147 yards on 26 carries to go with the big catch, setting a career high in scrimmage yards in a game.

That performance spoiled the starting debut of rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard, who was sacked five times, lost two fumbles and failed to lead the 49ers into the end zone until he scored on a run with the game out of hand in the fourth quarter (see full recap). 

Goff leads Rams to shutout as Cardinals' Palmer breaks arm
Already one of the more dynamic offenses in the NFL, the Los Angeles Rams found a new gear against the Arizona Cardinals.

Jared Goffran for a touchdown and threw for another and Greg Zuerlein made four field goals as the Rams won for the first time in three appearances in Britain, beating the Cardinals 33-0 at Twickenham Stadium on Sunday.

Goff completed 22 of 37 passes for 235 yards with an interception and Todd Gurley ran for 106 yards and a touchdown for the NFC West-leading Rams (5-2), who finished with 425 yards of offense - their most in a game in more than three years.

Los Angeles has also won five of its first seven games for the first time since 2003, which was the last time the Rams finished with a winning record.

"We haven't been in this position, but we're definitely grateful," Gurley said. "We've just got to take it game by game."

Arizona (3-4), meanwhile, heads home with significant questions after quarterback Carson Palmer broke his left arm in the second quarter (see full recap).

Saints recover late to topple Packers 
GREEN BAY, Wis. — The way that the New Orleans Saints won on the road on Sunday might serve as a valuable lesson in their quest to return to the playoffs.

The defense gave up a long touchdown run on the first series to the Green Bay Packers. Drew Brees had two interceptions — and the Saints weren't even out of the first quarter yet at Lambeau Field.

But Brees bounced back to throw for a touchdown and run for another, Mark Ingram rushed for a score and the Saints recovered for a 26-17 win.

Green Bay lost its first game with Brett Hundley starting at quarterback for the injured Aaron Rodgers (see full recap).

Wilson throws 2 second-half TDs, Seahawks D dominates Giants
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Russell Wilson threw three second-half touchdown passes and the Seattle Seahawk limited the New York Giants' receiver depleted offense to 177 yards in a 24-7 win on Sunday.

Wilson hit Doug Baldwin with a go-ahead 22-yard touchdown pass midway through the third quarter. He put the game away with a 38-yard TD throw to Paul Richardson on a play that had to be reviewed because of simultaneous possession and he closed out the scoring with a 1-yard toss to Jimmy Graham with 2:14 to go.

The Seahawks (4-2) limited the Giants (1-6) to 46 yards rushing, 14 first downs and just 24:34 in time of possession. The defense only forced one turnover, but the fumble by Eli Manning led to the Richardson touchdown.

The Giants, who stunned Denver on Sunday night for their first win, were only in this game because their defense made plays and limited the Seattle to a field goal in the first half despite being on the field for more than 20 minutes (see full recap).