Eagles

NFL Notes: Browns looking to trade Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden

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NFL Notes: Browns looking to trade Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden

BEREA, Ohio -- Joe Haden's bounce-back season might not happen with the Browns.

The two-time Pro Bowl cornerback, who has been limited by injuries the past two years, is reportedly being shopped and Cleveland coach Hue Jackson did nothing to clarify Haden's future.

Following Tuesday's practice, Jackson did not deny a CBSSports.com report that the Browns are "aggressively trying to trade" Haden.

"This is the time of year where everything starts happening," Jackson said when asked about the report. "Things start getting said. Obviously, I don't know that. But we'll deal with those things as we move forward."

Jackson deferred other questions about Haden to Sashi Brown, the team's executive vice president of football operations.

"I trust Sashi and his group to make the right decisions that I think is best for our football team," Jackson said. "Do I want Joe Haden on our football team? Yes, but whatever our organization thinks is best for our football team, that's what we'll do" (see full story).

Redskins: Nose tackle Taylor out for season
ASHBURN, Va. -- Phil Taylor is out for the season after tearing his left quadriceps tendon, leaving the Washington Redskins with a big void to fill on the defensive line.

Coach Jay Gruden said the veteran nose tackle, who was injured Sunday in the third preseason game , will have surgery on Wednesday. The season-ending injury is a blow to Taylor after he worked to get his career back on track following a series of injuries and was in line to start Week 1.

"I feel terrible for Phil because he did a great job at getting himself ready to play," Gruden said Tuesday. "He's in excellent shape, but it's just an unfortunate injury. The rest of the guys have got to step up."

Those players include Ziggy Hood, Joey Mbu, A.J. Francis and free agent additions Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee on a defensive line that has been prepared to play different positions. Rookie Jonathan Allen and second-year linemen Anthony Lanier and Matt Ioannidis could also fill in.

"We have a lot of guys that can play a lot of spots," Francis said. "All of us can play everywhere on the D-line. The good thing about it is because of that it's hard for offenses because they never truly know what they're going to get" (see full story).

Steelers: Team acquires TE McDonald from 49ers
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin scouted Vance McDonald before the 2013 NFL draft and liked what he saw from the big tight end. Though San Francisco grabbed McDonald in the second round that spring, Tomlin kept tabs on McDonald, monitoring his progress from afar.

Tomlin's view will be considerably better going forward. The Steelers acquired McDonald from the rebuilding 49ers on Tuesday, sending a fourth-round pick in the 2018 draft to San Francisco for the 27-year-old McDonald and a fifth-round selection next spring.

"He's an NFL-capable tight end, another guy to add to that mix and some competition there," Tomlin said. "We'll quickly get him up to speed."

McDonald has struggled with drops during his career but caught 24 passes for San Francisco in 2016, setting career highs with 391 yards receiving and four touchdowns. He'll join a group that includes Jesse James, who was anointed the starter when the Steelers released Ladarius Green in March after one injury-marred season (see full story).

Cowboys: Elliott’s appeal headed for 2nd day
NEW YORK -- Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott's appeal of his six-game suspension over a domestic violence incident is headed for a second day with no timeline for completion of the hearing.

The appeal before arbitrator Harold Henderson is being held at an undisclosed location. The NFL suspended its 2016 rushing leader after concluding that he was physically abusive toward his then-girlfriend in Ohio last summer. Prosecutors declined to pursue the case.

The league's letter detailing the suspension also cited an incident when Elliott was caught on video pulling down a woman's shirt during a St. Patrick's Day parade in Dallas. The NFL said that incident wasn't considered in the six-game ban, but indicated a pattern of poor behavior.

Elliott, who had 1,631 yards rushing as a rookie, made his only appearance of the preseason last week at home against Oakland.

The 22-year-old was excused from practice this week to attend the hearing and wouldn't have played anyway in the exhibition finale against Houston. That game was relocated to the home of the Cowboys because of flooding from Hurricane Harvey in Houston.

Zach Ertz making significant strides after offseason work with Carson Wentz

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Zach Ertz making significant strides after offseason work with Carson Wentz

The same Zach Ertz who's never had more than four touchdowns in a season now leads all NFL tight ends in touchdown catches. With four.

It's all part of the natural evolution between Ertz and Carson Wentz.

Ertz shares the NFL TD catch lead among tight ends with the Buccaneers' Cameron Brate and the Patriots' Rob Gronkowski.

And going back to last year, Ertz has six touchdown catches in his last seven games and eight in his last 13 games.

In his previous 40 games? He had five touchdown catches.

“I think it's just all the offseason work with Carson," Ertz said. "I think the coaches have a lot of confidence in me down there, and I think that stems from all the red-zone emphasis that we had all spring and summer.

"And then I’ve just made plays, the offensive line has held up, I think Carson is putting the ball in amazing spots, and I just go up and get the ball. I have the easy part."

Ertz had TD catches to give the Eagles 14-0 leads against the Giants and Cards and then caught two last Thursday that turned a 10-3 deficit into an 18-10 lead as the Eagles beat the Panthers in Charlotte.

He's the first Eagles tight end with four TD catches through six games since Pete Pihos in 1955.

“The biggest thing is A) He puts in the work and B) He’s a really intelligent football player," Wentz said. "He knows coverages, recognizes things, knows when he’s hot (on a blitz).

"He’s really kind of in my head. He knows when I’m about to change his route, those types of things. With a guy like that, that knows how to create separation and play on time and be on the same page as me, that makes it tough to stop."

The touchdowns are most notable, but Ertz is off to the best start of his career in every category. His 34 catches and 405 yards are both second-most among all NFL tight ends to Travis Kelce's 37 and 423 (in seven games).

The Eagles, 5-1, face the 3-2 Redskins Monday night at the Linc. Ertz already has 54 career receptions against the Redskins — third-most ever by a tight end.

“It’s just Year 2 in this system," he said. "I’m a lot more comfortable in my role this year as opposed to last year. I was hurt, missed two games, and I was slowly integrated back into the gameplan.

"I think this year I’m extremely confident in my role, I think they have the confidence in me to go out there and make plays when my number’s called, and it’s not going to be 10 targets every game. Last week it was two targets, 20 yards. It’s going to vary each and every week but I’m very happy with how they’re using me right now."

Ertz and Nelson Agholor are the first Eagles tandem with four touchdown catches each through six games since Fred Barnett and Calvin Williams each had four back in 1992.

The red zone was a point of emphasis this offseason, and Wentz's numbers in the red zone are off the charts — 62 percent completion percentage, nine touchdowns, no interceptions and a 112.8 passer rating, fourth-highest in the NFL.

Ertz is third in the NFL with five red-zone first-down catches and fourth in the NFL with both six red-zone receptions and 49 yards.

“It’s timing," Wentz said. "It’s a timing thing and being on the same page.

"Red zone’s all about making plays. Playmakers making plays and playing on time down there is so crucial and that’s something we’ve really focused on. I think we’ve gotten better at all our spots on playing on time but he’s a guy that we feel creates mismatches and we take advantage of them."

Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Johnson returning after concussion

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Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Johnson returning after concussion

It turns out it wouldn't have mattered if the Eagles played the Panthers on Sunday instead of Thursday. Lane Johnson would still have missed the game. 

The veteran right tackle didn't clear the NFL's concussion protocol until Monday. But he'll be back in action on Monday night against Washington. 

For Johnson, the Panthers game was the 11th game he's missed since the start of the 2016 season after he missed 10 last year because of his PED suspension. Watching the game on Thursday night was an all-too-familiar feeling. 

"I didn't like it," Johnson said. "I didn't like it at all to be honest with you. As much time as I've been away from this building the last two seasons. I feel fresh, feel rejuvenated and ready to get back out there."

Johnson watched Thursday night's game at his house with his wife, but he didn't watch the whole thing. He watched some, took a break, and then watched the end. He said he knew the Eagles were going to win. 

Halapoulivaati Vaitai started the game in Johnson's place and did OK. After a horrendous start, Big V settled in and played fairly well. Johnson was impressed and thinks Vaitai is "becoming the player he's meant to be." Johnson remembered things didn't click for him until around his ninth NFL game. Thursday's was Big V's seventh career start. 

Vaitai played OK, but the Eagles are clearly much better with Johnson in the lineup and they'll need him this week as he'll see plenty of veteran pass-rusher Ryan Kerrigan. 

The concussion Johnson suffered in the first half against Arizona was the first of his career. The Eagles pointed out a couple of plays where it could have happened but Johnson didn't remember when it happened. He just knew he didn't feel right when he went into the locker room at halftime. Unless the concussion happened on the last play of the half — it didn't look like it — Johnson played concussed for at least some of that game. 

It took about a week for Johnson to feel normal again. 

"I'm fresh," he said. "I think I'll be a different animal. That's all I'll say." 

The great escape
Malcolm Jenkins is a busy man. Between all the work he does to fight against social injustice, running his foundation and owning a clothing store, he has a pretty hectic life. 

But when he gets to the NovaCare Complex all Jenkins has to worry about it football. 

"When I step into this building, this is my escape from everything else," he said this week. "Life is kind of hectic outside of these walls but here, this comes easy. It's one of those things that I put a lot of time in this building, watch a lot of film, work hard out there on the field and the weight room. This has become easy for me. This has become the peaceful part of my week." 

Jenkins is 29 now, but his play hasn't dropped off even a little bit. He's still one of the most important pieces of the Eagles' defense. 

In typical fashion, Jenkins has played all 384 defensive snaps this season. He's the only player on the Eagles' defense to be in for every play.  

"I feel like I'm having a solid season," he said. "Obviously, statistics aren't very alarming but I'm not missing any plays. I'm getting guys lined up. It's just one of those things where I think everybody is concerned about their role in the team. As long as we're winning, I'm happy." 

Let's get physical
During his conference call with Philly reporters this week, Washington head coach Jay Gruden made a somewhat surprising confession. He thinks the Eagles were more physical than his team in Week 1. He also said that's the only time it's happened to his team this season. 

"I think it's just always a physical hardcore matchup that's fun to watch," Gruden said. 

That's a pretty big compliment to the Eagles and their front office. Howie Roseman always talks about the importance of building a team in the trenches and that's been the hallmark of the team this year. They've been good on the line on both sides of the ball. 

Quote of the Week 1: “We’re made different this year. We have a different character makeup in that locker room, and nobody’s going to ever settle for anything less than greatness." — Carson Wentz (see story)

Quote of the Week 2: "I think a lot of people get caught up in these numbers. I think there's too many fantasy football players in the world." — Gruden on Alshon Jeffery's impact with the Eagles  

Quote of the Week 3: "I was there. Joe Jurevicius on a jerk route. Took it 80." — Gruden on the last game at the Vet. He was there. 

Random media guide note: Steven Means' favorite meal is cereal. He enjoys Frosted Flakes and Cinnamon Toast Crunch.