Eagles

Eagles rookie report: Jake Elliott's heroics; Rasul Douglas' 1st INT; Corey Clement's 1st TD

Eagles rookie report: Jake Elliott's heroics; Rasul Douglas' 1st INT; Corey Clement's 1st TD

Well, it's not very often that we'll lead our rookie report with a kicker.

But ... wow.

Rookie kicker Jake Elliott buried a 61-yard field goal as time expired to give the Eagles a 27-24 win over the Giants in the home opener at the Linc (see breakdown).

Elliott hit a pair of clutch kicks and overshadowed corner Rasul Douglas snagging his first interception and running back Corey Clement getting his first score (see observations).

Let's take a look at a few of the highlights in our Week 3 rookie report.

1st quarter, 15:00 - Eagles 0, Giants 0
For the second time in three weeks, Clement made an impact on the opening kickoff. In Week 1, he made a nice special-teams tackle to pin the Redskins inside their own 20. Against the Giants, he took the opening kickoff from the goal line and took it 35 yards to set the Eagles up with nice field position.

2nd quarter, 7:59, 1st-and-10 at PHI 42 - Eagles 7, Giants 0
On this play, Eli Manning tried to go tempo, something he did often to attempt to mitigate the Eagles' pass rush. The defense does look a little out of sorts with Malcolm Jenkins scrambling to get into position. Douglas has 1-on-1 coverage on veteran Brandon Marshall. The rookie corner plays it perfectly. He runs stride for stride with Marshall and Manning throws it up for grabs. Douglas times it perfectly and snags it for his first NFL interception. 

Admittedly, this was a god-awful decision by Manning, but still good on the rookie to not get flustered, know his assignment and make a play. On the replay, you can see Douglas doesn't even get his mouthpiece in. Again, great poise for a guy in his second NFL game.

2nd quarter, 1:37, 1st-and-10 at PHI 37 - Eagles 7, Giants 0
A very similar situation arises on the next series. The Giants are in the two-minute drill around the same part of the field and Douglas is once again matched up 1-on-1 against Marshall. This time, Marshall runs a five-yard hitch. Douglas reads it perfectly and is ready to make a play on the football. Unfortunately, Patrick Robinson tips the ball in the slot and it falls incomplete. You can see Douglas telling Robinson after the play that he had a pick six lined up. The rookie's swagger is starting to show.

2nd quarter:29, 3rd-and-goal at PHI 1 - Eagles 7, Giants 0
Better to be lucky than good? Douglas is lined up over the much quicker Sterling Shepard. Shepard beats Douglas off the line and Manning makes a perfect throw. Shepard catches it but then he doesn't. As he falls to the ground, he doesn't complete the process of the catch. Sure looked like a TD to me, but that's the rule. Whatever, fourth down. This is a tough matchup for Douglas against a shifty player like Shepard. 

4th quarter, 14:15, 1st-and-10 at PHI 44 - Eagles 14, Giants 0
Manning throws the ball immediately to Marshall with Douglas playing soft coverage. Douglas again makes an aggressive play and drives on the football, getting Marshall down for a two-yard gain. On the next play, the Giants took advantage of the soft coverage and Manning hits Marshall on a 14-yard hitch for a first down.

4th quarter, 13:07, 1st-and-10 at PHI 28 - Eagles 14, Giants 0
Same as the previous first down play with an immediate throw to Marshall. Douglas reads it again and almost blows the play up. Instead, Douglas whiffs on the tackle and Marshall takes it for 18 yards. But this isn't a bad play by Douglas at all. Sure, he needs to make the tackle, but again, this type of aggressive play is what the Eagles saw at West Virginia and why they picked him in the third round. By this time next year, as Douglas gets more comfortable, that play might turn into a pick.

4th quarter, 10:47, 1st-and-10 at PHI 17 - Eagles 14, Giants 14
Up to this point, Clement had just three carries for three yards. But on this carry, you see what the Eagles like about him. It's a three-wide set with Zach Ertz lined up in a wing position to the left. Ertz and left guard (on this possession) Stefen Wisniewski pull to the right. Clement waits for both blockers to clear and then hits the hole with a decent burst for a seven-yard gain, his longest rush of the game, until ...

4th quarter, 5:40, 1st-and-10 at NYG 15 - Giants 21, Eagles 14
Again, another example of Clement's patience and vision. Both Wisniewski and center Jason Kelce pull to the left. Clement takes the carry off tackle to the left. Just like the previous play, he waits for his blockers and takes the ball to the edge. Once he gets to the second level, he runs through the arm tackle of safety Darian Thompson and plunges into the end zone. I was slightly surprised to see Clement get so many opportunities in the fourth quarter, but he took advantage of them. 

(There was a sloppy exchange between Clement and quarterback Carson Wentz on a second-down run but the ball was held on to.)

4th quarter:56, 4th-and-7 at NYG 28 - Giants 24, Eagles 21
I won't pretend to be an expert on the kicking game, but I know Elliot making a 46-yarder to tie the game with under a minute left in the fourth quarter of his team's home opener is clutch. And for a rookie to knock this kick through? Wow. 

4th quarter:01, 1st-and-10 at NYG 43 - Eagles 24, Giants 24
And you thought the last kick was clutch. You can't even quantify how special of a kick this was. Elliott's career-long at Memphis was 56 yards. He nails a 61-yarder just inside the right goal post, the longest in Eagles' history, with no time left to win it. Onions!

Analysis
Elliott may have just Wally Pipp'd Caleb Sturgis. Elliott missed a 52-yarder wide left in the third quarter, but boy, did he make up for it. Elliott was an excellent — and clutch — kicker at Memphis. Good enough to warrant a fifth-round pick. The Eagles might have accidentally found a very good, young kicker (see report card)

It appeared for most of the game that Douglas shadowed Marshall, which makes sense. Douglas' length, physicality and aggressiveness are the perfect mix to slow down a player like Marshall. Douglas has shown glimpses of being a starting-caliber corner, but he'll be tested plenty as the season goes on.

Clement finished the day with six carries for 22 yards, but the Glassboro, New Jersey, native was able to record his first NFL touchdown roughly a half hour away from where he grew up. What a special moment.

First-round pick Derek Barnett didn't have much of an impact because of the Giants' game plan to get the ball out of Manning's hands as fast as possible.

Ronald Darby gets cheers from fellow DBs in 1st practice since injury

Ronald Darby gets cheers from fellow DBs in 1st practice since injury

There was a little more buzz around the Eagles' defensive backs at practice on Thursday. 

All eyes were on No. 41. 

For the first time since he left the season opener in Washington following a gruesome right ankle dislocation, cornerback Ronald Darby practiced on Thursday. He was limited and it seems rather unlikely he'll be able to play on Monday night, but it was still a boost for his teammates to see him back out on the field. 

"We were all just joking and letting him know the spotlight was on him," safety Rodney McLeod said. 

Doug Pederson said the "stars have to align" for Darby to play on Monday night against Washington (see story). So it seems unlikely. Still, it was a good sign to get him back to practice.

Darby was with the team from the start of Thursday's practice and went through the entire warmup and stretching period. He wore high black socks and didn't appear to have any sort of brace on his injured right ankle. 

When the Eagles broke into the individual portion of practice, Darby went through all of the backpedal drills; he was the last to go through each. 

So how did he look? 

"He looked good," corner Jalen Mills said. "The guy had some clean breaks. We did a couple deep-ball drills, you know, he jumped up and high-pointed the ball. A lot of DBs, we got excited when we saw him, cheering him on. He looked good."

Mills was maybe a little overly excited about how good Darby looked on Thursday. It was, after all, just his first day back. 

Defensive back Jaylen Watkins said Darby looked "better" but acknowledged it's "going to take time." Watkins pointed out Darby's recovery is largely about being able to trust his ankle and getting back into a groove. 

"He didn't do much but I think this is his first time being back with us in that capacity," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "I think he looked decent. I don't really know what to compare it to. Hopefully he feels good. I'm just concerned with him not having any kind of setbacks. I think he looked fine." 

What all of his defensive back teammates agreed on was that it was pretty crazy to see Darby practicing just seven weeks after he was carted off the field in Washington. At the time of the gruesome injury, it looked to be pretty obvious that Darby's season was over. 

When the play happened, Mills was on the other side of the field so he didn't see how bad the injury looked until after the game. He credited the training staff and Darby's dedication for getting him back on the field so soon. 

"In that moment, what you feel, for him to even be back out there at all, to have a possibility to get him back, is great," Jenkins said. "Because I think at first glance, everybody probably thought he was done for the season. Obviously, whenever he is 100 percent, he's going to instantly make our defense better." 

Jay Gruden 'very upset' Eagles were able to land Carson Wentz

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Jay Gruden 'very upset' Eagles were able to land Carson Wentz

Washington head coach Jay Gruden has faced Carson Wentz just three times so far.

That's all he needed to think Wentz is special.  

"I think he's progressed at a rate as fast as anybody I've seen really," Gruden said on a conference call with Philly reporters on Thursday. "His ability to make plays in the pocket, his ability to stay in the pocket in the face of a rush and still deliver balls accurately, his command of the offense. 

"I think he's already proven this short in his career that he's one of the top quarterbacks in the league, quite frankly, and he's going to be for a long time. And I don't know how he got to Philadelphia. And I'm very upset about that." 

Wentz is 1-2 against Washington in his first three games, but that first win came in this season's opener on the road. In that game, Wentz completed 66 percent of his passes for 307 yards, two touchdowns and one pick, for a passer rating of 96.8. 

And Wentz has gotten even better since then. He's now the favorite in Vegas to win the NFL MVP. 

When asked how daunting it might become to face Wentz twice per season for the foreseeable future, Gruden pointed out that it's similar to the Cowboys and Dak Prescott. Then he pointed out they still have to face Eli Manning twice per season. 

"Every week it seems like we're playing against an excellent quarterback and knowing that Wentz is going to be there for a long period of time just puts a few more gray hairs on my head," Gruden said. "But love the competition and it's our job to get after him and make him uncomfortable." 

While Wentz is clearly the Eagles' quarterback of the future, things are a little cloudier in Washington, where Kirk Cousins is in his second year of playing on a franchise tag. 

Gruden said the "intent" is to have Cousins for the long-term, but it's already been a long saga and there's still no deal in place. 

Cousins has had a crazy career path. He began as Robert Griffin III's backup after being taken three rounds later in the same draft in 2012. But he won the starting job and he's started every game for Washington the last three seasons. 

Thursday, on a conference call with Philly reporters, Cousins said he thought there was a good chance the Eagles were going to draft him in 2012. He felt that way after meeting with Howie Roseman and Andy Reid before the draft. But instead, the Eagles took Nick Foles 14 spots ahead of him. 

After watching the Eagles rotate quarterback since then, Cousins doesn't have any hard feelings. 

"I think the Eagles have ended up with the guy that they want," Cousins said. "I think they're really excited about Carson Wentz and for good reason. They're one of the best teams in the league on third down, and some of the plays he's making off-schedule are very special. I think they're very content and I'd like to think the Redskins are as well. Hopefully, it can make for a great rivalry that a lot of fans can get behind and get excited about, hopefully, for many years ahead."