Eagles' long-snapper circus a costly sideshow in loss to Redskins

Eagles' long-snapper circus a costly sideshow in loss to Redskins

No, the Eagles were not holding open tryouts for a long snapper in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 27-22 loss to Washington (see Instant Replay).

It just looked that way. 

After longtime long snapper Jon Dorenbos suffered a wrist injury and his backup Brent Celek suffered a stinger, the Eagles were driving down the field trailing by two points. Trey Burton, who eventually filled in as the third long snapper, was on the field with the offense. 

That’s when linebacker Mychal Kendricks took it upon himself to grab a football on the sideline and start long snapping to someone on the sideline.

“I don't know what Kendricks was doing, but I know I was the third guy (on the depth chart),” Burton said.

Kendricks said he wasn’t asked by coaches to start snapping, but he practices on his own quite often. He just wanted to be ready.

“I just did it. I just did it,” Kendricks said. “I'm ready for whatever, man. S---. I'm not playing much anyway, ya feel me?”

Where is Kendricks on the long-snapper depth chart?  

“I'm not on it. I'm just ready,” he said. “I was just ready. You know?”

Kendricks said he began to long snap this year and claimed that he’ll sometimes randomly snap a hundred balls at a time, trying to hit targets. “But that's for me, 10 years down the line, if I can be a backup snapper and be a linebacker too,” Kendricks said. “The more you can do, the longer you can stay in the league. And I'm just trying to learn that.”

The Eagles didn’t need his services in that capacity on Sunday.

Instead, Burton came on the field with five minutes left to play in the fourth quarter. On fourth down at the Washington 23-yard line, Burton snapped the ball high to Jones, but the punter and holder was able to get the snap down in time for Caleb Sturgis to boot a 41-yarder. 

At the time, the field goal gave the Eagles a 22-21 lead. 

“I trust [Burton] to play any position on the field,” Sturgis said. “He just about did at Florida. He added long snapper into his repertoire.”

“I did a couple of (warmups),” Burton said. “I was excited. I'm trying to take advantage of every opportunity I get and it went well. Donnie (Jones) made an unbelievable play. The majority of it's on him and he did a really good job.”

Burton said he practiced long snapping during training camp, but hasn’t really practiced since then. Celek said he snaps some balls every week in practice.

Before Celek was knocked out of the game, his attempt to long snap didn’t go so well.

Celek came into the game with three and a half minutes to go in the third quarter. At the time, the field goal would have given the Eagles a 16-14 lead, but Celek’s snap was low and Jones was forced to try to run with it. He was tackled immediately and Washington scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive. 

“I could have done better,” Celek said. “I don't know what else to say. I should have done better.”

He wasn’t willing to deflect any blame just because it was a unique situation. 

“I think when something like that happens, you just have to step up and do it,” he said. “It was my job to step up and be the snapper. Obviously, I did not do a good job on that first one and that was a field goal. I am a professional and I should get it done.” 

There hasn’t been much need for a backup long snapper since Dorenbos got to Philly in 2006. Sunday marked his 162nd consecutive game played, which tied him with Harold Carmichael for the longest streak in franchise history.

“It's rare you get even your third guy that much time even in practice,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “I think it was a credit to Trey stepping up, and Donnie obviously did a great job of getting the ball down and a kick to at least go ahead in the game."

Roob's 10 late-March Eagles observations

USA Today/AP Images

Roob's 10 late-March Eagles observations

Some random late-March thoughts on Michael Bennett, Cris Carter, Mike Wallace, Billy Brown and (of course) Nick Foles in this weekend’s 10 Random Eagles Observations!

1. I have no idea what Michael Bennett did or didn’t do on Super Bowl Sunday at NRG Stadium last February, but I do know this is a precarious situation for the Eagles. Team chemistry was the Eagles’ biggest strength last year, and that’s not easy to duplicate when the roster changes. What Bennett is accused of is truly terrible. But it’s a weird story. How is there no video of an incident that occurred at a Super Bowl? Aren’t there cameras everywhere? And why didn’t the cop who allegedly witnessed the incident arrest Bennett once he was assured the alleged victim was OK? Bennett didn’t go anywhere. The 14-month gap between incident and charges is odd. And how could the Eagles not know about the investigation? The bigger question is exactly what kind of person are the Eagles getting in Bennett, and is he someone they want in the locker room for the next year. Maybe the answer is yes. Doug Pederson, Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas seem to have a pretty good feel for this stuff. But this is definitely a major distraction and just about the last thing the Eagles need to deal with right now.

2. If the Eagles don’t sign a veteran tight end, keep an eye on Billy Brown, who had an impressive training camp last summer and spent the season on the practice squad. He’s 6-foot-4, 260 pounds with great hands. Yeah, he was an undrafted rookie. But remember, that’s how Trey Burton started out.

3. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you Mike Wallace isn’t a significant upgrade over Torrey Smith. Wallace last year had 16 more catches (52 to 36), 318 more yards (748 to 430), twice as many TDs (4 to 2) and a much higher yards-per-catch average (14.4 to 11.9). Over the last two years, the difference is more dramatic (124 for 1,765 to 56 for 697) with inferior QBs. And Wallace is cheaper. With Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Wallace, the Eagles are loaded at wideout.

4. I heard Cris Carter ripping Nick Foles the other day, saying he’s not an NFL-caliber starter and only had a handful of good games last year. He also only played a handful of games. And one of them was the Super Bowl, if I remember correctly? Foles may never get credit outside Philly for what he accomplished last year, but at this point, it doesn't matter. The Lombardi Trophy lives at the NovaCare Complex now.

5. Speaking of Foles, in the 2017 postseason on third down, he was 26 for 32 for 398 yards and four TDs and a 158.1 passer rating.

6. Read that again. Foles threw six incomplete passes on third down during the entire 2017 postseason.

7. The Eagles converted 71 and 62 percent of their third downs in the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl, respectively. They had only converted 62 percent of their third downs in consecutive games twice previously since 1991.

8. The conversations about whether the Eagles are better or worse than last year are silly, considering we're six months from opening day. The Eagles last year added Chris Long, Patrick Robinson, Tim Jernigan, LeGarrette Blount, Corey Graham and Ronald Darby later in the offseason than it is now. And Jay Ajayi during the season. The roster is a long way from being a finished product.

9. I’ve got Derek Barnett with 12 sacks next year. Interesting that from Week 6 on, Barnett had only one fewer sack than Brandon Graham (6 1/2 to 5 1/2). You could just see him getting better and better each week. Can’t wait to see the 2018 version of Derek Barnett.

10. And finally, we need to keep throwing out Carson Wentz stats so nobody forgets just how freaking talented he is: Wentz had 10 games last year with two or more touchdowns and one or fewer interceptions. Only four quarterbacks in NFL history have ever had more through 13 games: Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Tony Romo. Pretty good company. Except for Romo.

Thank Carson Wentz (and 1 other thing) for landing Mike Wallace

Thank Carson Wentz (and 1 other thing) for landing Mike Wallace

During the 2016 season, Mike Wallace thought his Baltimore Ravens were going to steamroll the Eagles, who had a first-year head coach and first-year quarterback. 

He was wrong. 

Sure, the Ravens were able to sneak away with a 27-26 win back on Dec. 18, 2016, but Wallace watched up close as the gutsy Carson Wentz had the Eagles one two-point conversion at the end of the game away from walking out of Baltimore with a win. 

A year and a half later, when Wallace was testing free agency, the veteran receiver thought back to that game and thought to himself, “I want to play with that guy.” 

So how responsible is Wentz for Wallace’s landing in Philly? 

“Ninety-nine percent. Ninety-nine,” Wallace said at his introductory press conference Friday afternoon after signing a one-year contract. “The other percent was the rest of the team. I’m impressed by the way he plays football, the way he moves in the pocket, the way he throws the football and his competitiveness. You can see it.”

Wallace, 31, continued to watch Wentz during the 2017 season, when the second-year quarterback was seemingly on his way to an MVP award before a serious knee injury landed him on injured reserve.  

Having been through changing teams before, Wallace said the most difficult part for him is learning the new quarterback. He hopes this process won’t take exceedingly long, but he and Wentz might be at a disadvantage. Wentz is still recovering from a torn ACL and LCL and might not be ready until the season opener, if that. 

“You can just work on that watching film and things like that, but until he gets out there, there’s no real way to simulate it,” Wallace said. “I think he’s a great young quarterback who’s fired up. Whatever extra reps we need to try to get up to speed, I’m all for it.”

Wentz is, of course, a part of the big reason Wallace decided to join the Eagles. Wallace has played nine seasons in the NFL with four different teams. He’s made money, but he hasn’t been able to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. That’s what he wants. 

On Friday, Wallace said he turned down more money to join the Eagles. 

“I had options but I just wanted the best chance,” Wallace said. “I feel like this is my best opportunity to make a run. This is my 10th year. Can’t play this game forever. You don’t want to come out feeling empty. I want to get a ring.”

Wallace had been a free agent twice before this offseason and he admitted, that when he was younger, free agency was about money. He signed a five-year, $60 million deal in 2013 to join the Dolphins. 

But now, Wallace said, his family is secure. He’s made a lot of money in the NFL to make sure those close to him are well off. Now, he’s allowing himself to make a decision that benefits him. 

“I didn’t try to come into this game to leave empty-handed,” he said. “I had to secure the bag and I did that. Now it’s time to secure a ring.”