Eagles

Eagles receivers' drops kept Carson Wentz from another standout statistical game

Eagles receivers' drops kept Carson Wentz from another standout statistical game

CHICAGO — It might have been Carson Wentz’s finest pass yet, a breathtaking spiral from 35 yards out that led Jordan Matthews perfectly into the near left corner end zone.

The ball appeared to float magically right into Matthews’ waiting arms, and then it sailed through them, falling to the ground and bouncing away.

One of those plays where the more you watch the replay, the more you just don’t believe he didn’t catch it.

“Great pass by Carson,” Matthews said at his locker. “It’s one that we work on and it’s a play I have to go make. But the thing for me is that I’d much rather learn from a mistake with a win rather than a loss.”

Drops were a problem for Matthews last year, and he’s already got three in two games this year, although the one Monday night in Chicago was the first one that was really damaging.

The Eagles trailed 7-6 with 19 seconds left in the first half and had a 2nd-and-10 on the Bears’ 35-yard line when Matthews was unable to make the play.

The Eagles settled for a field goal, and although they eventually won 29-14 to get to 2-0, it was the kind of play that against a better team could come back to haunt them.

Nelson Agholor also had a drop on a deep ball down the right sideline early in the third quarter. And although his wasn’t as egregious — it was an underthrown ball and Bears corner Jacoby Glenn probably interfered with him — it’s a ball a great receiver catches.

“Dropping the football is going to happen,” Agholor said. “The quarterback is going to give you opportunities. You've got to learn from it.

“The cause of drops could be mental. It could be a strength thing. You've got to squeeze it. At the end of the day, you learn from it and hopefully you don't repeat those mistakes."

Wentz still finished 21 for 34 for 190 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. But if the Eagles connect on the two drops, his numbers would have been close to last week’s stats against the Browns.

“I didn’t really see the highlight of it or anything, but if there were plays like that out here, I've got all the confidence in the world in those guys,” Wentz said.

“They’re hard on themselves, too. They’re just like me. We’re all hard on ourselves. It’s really all about just being positive and going forward with the next play.”

Matthews is off to a fine start statistically. He’s 12th in the NFL with 185 receiving yards and seventh with 13 catches.

But he knows that to be considered more than just another wide receiver, he has to make that play.

“I guess for me, it’s like, I can go out there and make all the plays and be a good receiver now,” he said. “But making those plays, that’s what pushes you into an elite category, that’s where people understand, this guy is a great receiver.

“I’m harder on myself than anybody else is so I want to make those plays. But at the same time, much rather learn it from a win than it costs us a game and we lose.”

Agholor, last year’s first-round pick, has made a few more plays so far this year than last year. He’s got eight catches for 99 yards in two games after registering just 105 yards in his first five games last year.

Small steps.

“It’s just always positive,” Wentz said. “You know, you’re never going to say anything negative because you know we’re all our own worst critics. We all want to be great so there’s really not a big emphasis you need to put on it. It’s all about going forward and they know that I have confidence in them, and I do.

“It’s going to come right back to them so they have to be ready for the next play.”

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NFL Notes: Ezekiel Elliott reportedly getting an emergency hearing

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NFL Notes: Ezekiel Elliott reportedly getting an emergency hearing

A person with direct knowledge of the situation says attorneys for Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott are set for an emergency hearing in federal court in New York as they try again to stop the running back's six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations.

Elliott's legal team filed a request for a temporary restraining order Monday and will get a hearing Tuesday in the Southern District of New York, the person told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the filing hadn't been made public.

Last year's NFL rushing leader is suspended for Sunday's game at San Francisco after a federal appeals court overturned an injunction that had allowed him to play this season.

The case is shifting to New York because the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ordered the dismissal of Elliott's lawsuit in Texas. Elliott's attorneys have indicated they are still pursuing the case with the New Orleans court.

The person told the AP that U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty would hear arguments Tuesday in New York because the presiding judge, Katherine Polk Fialla, is out of town (see full story).

Packers: Rodgers to have surgery on collarbone
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy says quarterback Aaron Rodgers will have surgery on his broken right collarbone, and that his season could be over.

McCarthy said Monday that the two-time NFL MVP would have surgery in the near future. He says that there is no timeline for his potential return.

"The key is to get Aaron healthy, it's not to develop a timeline," McCarthy said.

Rodgers got hurt in the first quarter of the 23-10 loss on Sunday at Minnesota.

Brett Hundley is now the starting quarterback. The Packers also promoted third-stringer Joe Callahan from the practice squad to become the backup quarterback.

Cornerback Quinten Rollins was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury to make room for Callahan (see full story).

Steelers: Bryant downplays reported trade demand
PITTSBURGH -- Yes, Martavis Bryant wants a trade.

To the Golden State Warriors.

Otherwise, the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver insists he's just fine even after multiple reports that he asked the team to ship him elsewhere.

Asked Monday if he'd like a change of scenery, Bryant reiterated he's happy in Pittsburgh.

"I'm doing fine, everything is good," he said.

Even if -- at least statistically -- in his return from a year-plus suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy has been underwhelming.

Bryant caught two passes for 27 yards in Sunday's 19-13 victory over Kansas City and has just 17 receptions and one touchdown through six games for the first-place Steelers (4-2). His 13.6 yards per catch is more than 4 yards below his career average while splitting playing time with rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster (see full story).

Raiders: Linebacker Bowman signs 1-year deal
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- NaVorro Bowman will make a short move following his release last week from the San Francisco 49ers, signing a $3 million, one-year contract with the Oakland Raiders on Monday.

"It's a refresher for me," Bowman said after taking part in a walkthrough with his new team. "It's a new picture, new scenery. The guys are a special group of guys. You can just see the talent they have on the offensive side of the ball. I'm excited to go out there and play for an offense that is eager to score points. I look forward to it."

Bowman visited the Raiders on Monday and then signed the deal shortly after that, cancelling a planned visit to the Dallas Cowboys. He went right into meetings with the assistant coaches and could be ready to play when the Raiders (2-4) host the first-place Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night.

Bowman said he will do extra work this week to learn the defense and said he plans to play this week if he's prepared enough. The Raiders will be happy to get him on the field to add some experience to a young group of inside linebackers (see full story).

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."