Eagles

Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Pop quiz for newbie; Carson Wentz's escapability

Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Pop quiz for newbie; Carson Wentz's escapability

As if new Eagles safety Trae Elston's head wasn't already spinning, some jerk reporter gave him a pop quiz Thursday. 

When the Eagles claimed Elston off waivers this week, they became his fifth team in the NFL since going undrafted just a year ago. 

Could he name all of them in order? 

"I think," he said. "All right, go ahead."

All right, first you were where? 

"Saints … yeah." 

Then where'd you go? 

"I went to Tampa." 

Then …?

"Then Cleveland." 

Then you were claimed …

"By Buffalo … now I'm here." 

OK, you got it. Good job. 

Elston starting smiling. "It's crazy though." 

It really is. Coming out of Ole Miss, Elston signed with the Saints in May 2016 and lasted until final cuts. He joined the Bucs' practice squad in October but lasted just until November. In December 2016, he was signed to the Browns active roster for two weeks before he made it to their practice squad. He was with Cleveland until this past April. From there, the Bills claimed him. He made their team out of training camp but lasted just a couple weeks into the season. He was cut by the Bills on Tuesday, claimed by the Eagles on Wednesday and joined his new team at practice for the first time Thursday. 

He's right. It is crazy. 

"Sometimes you can say it's a bad thing, but it's a good thing also because I'm learning a lot," he said Thursday at an unmarked locker in the middle of the wrong position group. "All that knowledge I'm getting from a lot of old heads that's on all these teams and learning how they play things, learn how they do things. I try to take it all in. I take a lot of notes and I keep all the notebooks. And I think it's going to help me in the long-term."

The Eagles didn't show any interest in him before last year's draft, but he doesn't care much about that anymore. Elston is just trying to make the most of his next opportunity. This one with the Eagles arose because of a few injuries to their secondary. 

The day before his arrival, the Birds had just two healthy safeties on their practice field. 

How quickly can he pick up this new system? 

"I think I'll be very quick to pick it up," Elston said. "I'm a pretty smart guy."

And it's not like he hasn't done it before. 

Giant compliment
Through two games, Carson Wentz has been hit more than any quarterback in football. But what has really stood out about him is how he's able to get away from other hits. 

He's pulled off some Houdini moves in the first two weeks of the season and it sounds like the rest of the league is taking notice. 

"Looks like he has eyes in the back of his head out there," Giants head coach Ben McAdoo said on a conference call with Philadelphia reporters this week. "He's really playing with good instincts in the pocket. He's escaping the pocket well, moving well in the pocket. Strong with two hands on the ball. He can get out of the pocket and get in position to make a deadly throw down the field in a heartbeat."

During the summer, the Eagles kind of tried to downplay the idea that Wentz and Alshon Jeffery needed more time to jell. Jeffery missed some time with an injury and then more time when Doug Pederson decided to give him extra rest. Still, the pair worked together whenever they could. That rapport finally showed against the Chiefs, when Jeffery caught seven passes for 92 yards and a touchdown. 

As a veteran offensive coach, McAdoo knows these things take time. 

"I think the more they play together, the more the chemistry will come," McAdoo said. "It's hard to manufacture the chemistry, it just takes time. Development takes time and chemistry takes time. Trying to work with a quarterback and a receiver, especially when you factor in the defenses they're going to see. They're going to see the same defense every day in OTAs and in training camp. It's different when you get into the season and you face different types of coverages and leverages. I think it takes a little time to get that chemistry down."

Literally running the offense
Wentz is the Eagles' leading rusher through two games. That's not ideal and says more about the Eagles' rushing attack than it does Wentz. But it also shows that Wentz isn't a statue in the pocket. He's able to buy time and when there's nothing downfield, he'll take off. He has 61 yards rushing already. 

Wentz joined Randall Cunningham, Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick as the only Eagles quarterbacks to rush for 60 yards through the first two games of the season. That sounds great, but those other three were actually trying to run some of the time. 

"I think my scrambling is very situational," Wentz said this week. "Even on those runs, my eyes are downfield when I was scrambling and then I just took off. That's something the Chiefs presented where they were dropping eight. Things weren't opening up and I was able to buy some extra time, O-line was able to hold up, just kind of keep plays alive that way.

"I've said it from Day 1: I always want to be a thrower first, even when I start scrambling, I'm always trying to keep my eyes downfield and make a play throwing the ball first. But when the time comes where I have no fear of taking off and running and, again, knowing how to get down and protect myself."

But what about designed runs for Wentz? The Eagles haven't called a play like that yet this season, but offensive coordinator Frank Reich said with a player like Wentz, those calls are "always in your back pocket." 

Reich said every team the Eagles play has to think about Wentz's legs, which is true. But do they actually have to worry about designed runs? Probably not. At least not until the Eagles run one. The Eagles obviously don't want to put Wentz in a situation where he could get injured but Reich said those types of QB runs are always available. 

"Designed runs, in the National Football League, designed quarterback runs are very limited," Wentz said. "It's a week-by-week thing. Coaches know the right time for that. I'm always more than willing. But it's a situational thing."

Redskins dealing with numerous injuries heading into Week 7 vs. Eagles

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Redskins dealing with numerous injuries heading into Week 7 vs. Eagles

ASHBURN, Va. — Quinton Dunbar takes pride in the way Washington Redskins defensive backs coach Torrian Gray makes every member of the secondary prepare as though he's starting.

"When you get in, you are expected to play like a starter," Dunbar said.

That approach has come in handy this season. Already 2015 All-Pro Josh Norman, fellow cornerback Bashaud Breeland and safety Stefan McClure have gone down with injuries, and second-year safety Su'a Cravens left the team to contemplate retirement.

It's possible Breeland, who sprained his left knee Sunday against San Francisco, and Norman, who has been out with a broken rib, play Monday night.

If they can't go, Washington will lean heavily on Dunbar, Kendall Fuller and rookies Montae Nicholson, Fabian Moreau and Joshua Holsey against quarterback Carson Wentz and the NFC East-leading Eagles.

"It'll be a great challenge because he's playing extremely well," Gruden said.

"Our guys will have to step up. That's just the way it is. There's a lot of teams around the National Football League this time of year that are dealing with key injuries at certain positions and we just had a couple of them at the corner spot. Fabian, Dunbar, they'll have to step up and play well (along with) Holsey, Fuller."

Breeland began the 49ers game as the top cornerback with Norman out and took a block at the knee from offensive lineman Joe Staley. Gruden said Breeland escaped serious MCL damage and is a quick healer, so he could be ready to face the 5-1 Eagles.

Norman will ramp up his running and exercise this week, and Gruden said "there's a chance" he plays Monday.

The news isn't so good for rookie defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, who could miss three weeks or more with a Lisfranc sprain in his left foot, and kicker Dustin Hopkins, whose right hip rotator muscle strain will force the Redskins to work out free agent kickers this week.

Even with all the injuries in the secondary, Washington hasn't yet had to look for external help because it has four 2016 or 2017 draft picks on the roster and able to take on extended roles.

"We are as strong as our weakest link and we always talk about not having the drop-offs," said Fuller, a 2016 third-round pick. "Anybody who is in there, we trust to make plays."

The Redskins have had no choice but to trust their young players, including Dunbar, a 25-year-old converted receiver. Injuries to D.J. Swearinger and Nicholson on Sunday almost forced Fuller to move from cornerback to safety where he saw no snaps at practice, and Moreau had to take over on the outside when Breeland was hurt in the second half.

Moreau, a third-round pick who missed the start of training camp with a torn pectoral muscle, said players follow Swearinger's lead to be ready for any situation.

"We got dogs," Moreau said. "We all trust each other. We all feed off of him, and we know that."

Of all the young defensive backs, no one has made a bigger leap than Dunbar, who was a receiver at Florida. Gruden joked that Dunbar isn't "really smart enough to know the magnitude of the situation he's in" and just goes out and plays.

Dunbar said after what he went through growing up that football's a pleasure for him and he doesn't blink. But he has made incredible strides since shifting to cornerback.

"Mentally I'm a thousand times better," Dunbar said. "I always had the physical attributes, man. It was more mental for me -- just breaking down the offenses, learning what's coming and stuff like that."

That'll come in handy against Wentz as the 3-2 Redskins try to close the gap and keep this a competitive division race.

From the coverage to the pass rush, Washington's defense must be better against Wentz than it was in a 30-17 loss in Week 1.

"We've got to figure out a way to contain Wentz," Gruden said. "He killed us with the off-schedule plays, and he's been doing that consistently throughout the year. That's why they're 5-1. It's a big game for us. We know that."

Roob's Random Points, part 1: Eagles' power ranking, playoffs, I-95 traffic tips

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USA Today Images

Roob's Random Points, part 1: Eagles' power ranking, playoffs, I-95 traffic tips

Are the Eagles the best team in football? Parking in Northern Liberties? Carson craziness? And Modern Baseball's final shows?

You can find it all in Part 1 of this week's 25 Random Points! Look for Part 2 at some Random time in the near future!
 
1. Watching football all day Sunday, it was impossible to ignore the reality that the Eagles are as good as anybody out there. One after another, the teams you wondered where the Eagles stacked up against lost. The Packers lost Aaron Rodgers and then lost meekly to the Vikings. The Falcons, once unbeatable in Atlanta, lost at home to the Dolphins. The undefeated Chiefs lost at home to the Steelers. The Broncos, who come to the Linc in a couple weeks, lost at home to the winless Giants. The Redskins barely hung on at home against the winless 49ers. And meanwhile, the Eagles just keep on winning. If I had to rank the 32 teams right now, the Eagles would be at No. 1. I'm sure the Chiefs would have something to say about that based on a head-to-head win and an identical 5-1 record. But as far as where everybody is today? You can make a compelling case that the Eagles are the best team in football. Yep.
 
2. A big theme on Twitter since Thursday night has been fans saying, "Calm down, don't get carried away, settle down, it's only six weeks." You know what? This team hasn't done anything since 2008 and they're now 5-1 with four straight wins, a hot quarterback and the best run defense in the NFL. There's nothing wrong with getting excited!
 
3. Of all the areas he's improved, Carson Wentz's interception ratio is the most dramatic and most important. He's seeing the field better but more than anything he's just not forcing throws like he did last year. With three INTs in 207 attempts, he's got the sixth-best INT ratio in the NFL out of 33 qualifying quarterbacks (1.45 per 100 attempts). This after ranking 17th out of 36 last year (2.31). Based on all 281 QBs in NFL history who've thrown 750 passes, Wentz now has the eighth-best career INT ratio at 2.09.
 
4. I'm crushed that they shut down the giant free parking lot behind the Acme across the street from the Piazza where Germantown Avenue hits 2nd Street. There is now officially nowhere to park in Northern Liberties.
 
5. Once the Phillies were eliminated from playoff contention, Philly's streak of consecutive seasons without a team advancing in a postseason series increased to 21. That goes back to a 76ers team led by Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams and Jrue Holiday eliminating the Bulls in an Eastern Conference first-round series on May 10, 2012. That streak includes six Phillies seasons and five 76ers, Flyers and Eagles seasons. Not only is that streak about to be smashed to smithereens, I also wouldn't be surprised at all if all four teams advance in a postseason series over the next year.
 
6. Speaking of the Smithereens, they are without a doubt one of the most underrated American rock bands of the last quarter century. Here's my Smithereens Top 10: 1. Strangers when we Meet, 2. Behind the Wall of Sleep, 3. A Girl Like You, 4. Only a Memory, 5. Blue Period, 6. Yesterday Girl, 7. Top of the Pops, 8. Time Won't Let Me, 9. Drown in my own Tears, 10. House we used to Live In.
 
7. The Eagles are only the 10th team since 1970 with 750 or more rushing yards gained and fewer than 400 rushing yards allowed after six weeks.
 
8. Wentz's current streak of eight straight games with one or more touchdown passes and one or fewer interceptions is the longest by an Eagles quarterback since Randall Cunningham had a 12-game streak in 1990.
 
9. If he throws three touchdowns Monday night, Wentz will become the first Eagles QB to throw three TD passes in three straight games in 64 years — since Bobby Thomason in 1953 (three at Pittsburgh, four vs. the Giants, three vs. the Colts). Only one QB has thrown more than one TD pass against the Redskins this year. Wentz. Of course.
 
10. Attending one of Modern Baseball's final three shows over the weekend was a genuinely moving experience. Modern Baseball — or MoBo, as they're affectionately known because MoBa looks stupid — is a beloved Philadelphia pop-punk band whose lyrics by co-songwriters Brendan Lukens and Jake Ewald are deeply personal and resonate in a powerful way with the 17-to-22-year-olds who make up most of their massive world-wide audience. MoBo over the past seven years made a completely unexpected and meteoric rise from playing basements at Drexel to 20,000-seat arenas opening for Brand New. But the band is going on hiatus — perhaps temporary, perhaps permanent — because, as Ewald wrote on the band's Facebook page, "The project we started as a source of joy and positive expression had become something that was slowly eating away at our mental health and our friendships." But I'll tell you what … seeing 1,500 fist-pumping, body-surfing kids at Union Transfer joyously singing along to literally every word to every song Friday night really makes you realize just how much this band meant to so many people. A powerful, profound experience.
 
11. I once sat on a flight next to the manager of a Hard Rock Café. He had a great quote: "We're not a restaurant. We're a T-shirt store that also sells hamburgers."
 
12. LeGarrette Blount played in his 100th career regular-season game on the final day of last year with the Patriots. Thanks to the wonders of the Pro-Football Reference, we can compare his rushing average in all his games since No. 100 with every other running back since 1950. The result? Blount's rushing average of 5.6 after his 100th career game is the highest by any NFL running back in Game 101-on since Doak Walker averaged 6.2 yards from 1953 through 1955.
 
12½. Pro Tip: When there's an accident on 95 South near Center City, take the 2nd Street ramp off 95 and then turn left on Market and get back on 95 South. Even if you haven't passed the accident, the ramp is so long — 9-10ths of a mile — it will get you past a ton of blocked traffic before dropping you back on 95 South.