Eagles

NFL Notes: Texans LB Brian Cushing suspended 10 games for PEDs

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NFL Notes: Texans LB Brian Cushing suspended 10 games for PEDs

Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing has been suspended for 10 games by the NFL for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances.

It's the second time Cushing has been suspended; he missed four games in 2010 under the same policy, testing positive for a fertility drug. Cushing had won 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year, an honor which was jeopardized by the suspension. He kept the award after a revote by The Associated Press' awards panel.

Currently in the NFL's concussion protocol after being injured in Houston's opening loss to Jacksonville, Cushing will be eligible to return on Nov. 28.

Cushing has had a checkered career since his sensational rookie season. Injuries curtailed the 2012 and `13 seasons, when he got into a total of 12 games. He's never come close to matching his first-year production of 86 tackles, 47 assists, four sacks, four interceptions, two forced fumbles and 10 passes defensed.

The 2009 defensive rookie revote came after Cushing tested positive for HCG, a fertility drug that is on the NFL's banned substance list. He had one positive test from a urine sample taken in September 2009, then subsequently tested negative several times (see full story).

Cowboys: NFL trying to speed appeal over blocked Elliott ban
FRISCO, Texas -- The NFL is trying to accelerate the timeline in its appeal of a federal judge's injunction that blocked Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott's six-game suspension over a domestic violence case.

The NFL quickly answered a filing from Elliott's attorneys Wednesday, telling U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant that the league would immediately go to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans if he didn't rule on its request for a stay of his injunction by Thursday.

The legal maneuverings are unlikely to keep last year's NFL rushing leader from playing Sunday at Denver. He had already been cleared to play in a season-opening win over the New York Giants before Mazzant granted his request for an injunction.

The NFL had until Friday to respond to arguments from Elliott's camp against Mazzant rescinding his own order blocking the suspension. In that scenario, Mazzant wouldn't have ruled until next week (see full story).

Dolphins: Stills calls for athletes to support Kaepernick
OXNARD, Calif. -- Kenny Stills wants to know why more athletes aren't standing with Colin Kaepernick.

The Miami Dolphins receiver has restated his questions from a series of tweets Tuesday questioning the support across sports for Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback currently out of football after his protests during the national anthem last season.

"I just feel like the league, it's majority African-American, and you would think more people would come to have one of our guys' back," Stills said Wednesday.

"We talk about the NFL being a brotherhood," Stills added. "They give us this presentation every year about the NFL being a brotherhood, and (if) something wrong is going on to one of your brothers, I feel like we should be there to have his back and speak up for him."

Stills spoke after practice in Oxnard, where the Dolphins are spending the week ahead of Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Chargers. They traveled to the West Coast early due to Hurricane Irma's devastation of South Florida.

Kaepernick spoke up against police abuses and racial injustices last season, sparking many players to join him in activism. Those players included Stills, who knelt during the national anthem along with three teammates.

Stills had previously said he won't take a knee this year, but said Wednesday that he might re-evaluate his plans.

Giants: Manning not worried about offense
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Fourteen seasons in the NFL have taught Eli Manning not to make too much of one game.

Sure, the New York Giants' offense was pathetic in a season-opening 19-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

The statistics screamed bad game: three points, 233 total yards, 35 on the ground, 53 total plays, just under 26 minutes of possession, three sacks. It was awful, and even missing leading receiver Odell Beckham Jr. with a sprained ankle was no excuse for such a performance.

There was blame to go around a couple of times, from the offensive line to the wideouts who could not get open.

Manning was quick to answer when asked if he was worried about the offense, which also struggled last season despite an 11-5 record.

"First game," the two-time Super Bowl MVP said. "Guys were playing fast, got some good guys out there, some new bodies. So, we'll bounce back. We'll be fine. We just have to slow down, everybody take a breath and just run the plays the way we've been running them all spring and all summer."

Chiefs: Smith shrugs off win, turns focus to Eagles
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A year ago, all four of Kansas City's regular-season losses came after big wins. Big wins like the Chiefs' rout of New England last week to open their season.

Two of those losses came at Arrowhead Stadium, which will be the site of Sunday's game against Philadelphia. The Eagles opened their season with a 30-17 win over Washington.

For quarterback Alex Smith, word that he was the AFC's offensive player of the week after the upset of the Patriots brought only a brief smile.

"I just think that if you play long enough you realize how quick things can change," Smith said Wednesday. "One week everybody's raving about you and how quickly it can flip if you drink the Kool-Aid."

Smith finished the opener 28-of-35 passing for 368 yards and four touchdowns, but that's old news to him and the rest of the Chiefs.

"Certainly it's nice but at this point I feel like preparations are already begun on the Eagles," he said. "I've certainly seen teams where they play really good and they're feel so good about themselves and walk into the next week and get smacked in the mouth."

Vikings: Captain Bradford now comfortable as leader 
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Sam Bradford has been named one of the Minnesota Vikings' captains, an obviously natural selection as the quarterback.

This is the first time for Bradford serving in that role on the field since 2013 with St. Louis, though, thanks to an injury and two trades. Finally settled after that whirlwind season in 2016 for the Vikings, Bradford has the comfort in his surroundings to help foster the high level of leadership that his position demands.

"It means a lot, and I take a lot of pride in it," Bradford said. "I think there's a lot of responsibility that comes with that and I'm going to do everything I can to make sure to live up to that."

The 29-year-old's performance in the opener Monday against New Orleans sure looked like that of the franchise player.

"I said this offseason that this would be a big year for Sam," said tight end Kyle Rudolph, who caught one of the three touchdown passes. "I wasn't surprised."

The first pick in the 2010 draft by St. Louis, Bradford never truly found his footing there with some weak supporting casts and major injuries that squelched his progress. He didn't play in his final season with the Rams because of a torn ACL in his right knee for a second straight year. Then he was dealt to Philadelphia in 2015 and to Minnesota in 2016. Setting the NFL record for completion percentage last season was quite the accomplishment considering he arrived eight days before the opener.

Redskins: Cousins aims to rebound vs. mentor
ASHBURN, Va. -- When Sean McVay left the Washington Redskins to coach the Los Angeles Rams, Kirk Cousins signed a jersey for him with a poignant message.

"I owe you my career."

During McVay's three seasons as offensive coordinator and two as play-caller, Cousins became a full-time NFL starting quarterback and set and broke the franchise record for passing yards. Now Cousins is trying to rebound from a rough season opener against one of the coaches who knows him the best.

"There is a familiarity there and that does present a challenge, as you'd imagine, with knowing what makes the offense go, not only the scheme but the personnel, and so we've got to be aware of that and plan accordingly," Cousins said Wednesday. "If we can run our plays very detailed and be disciplined in the way we execute, usually that can overcome familiarity. But certainly if we don't execute well, it certainly gives them the opportunity to capitalize."

Last week in an opening home loss to the Eagles, Cousins was 20 of 43 for 240 yards with a touchdown, an interception and two fumbles. The interception at the goal line was a turning point in the game, and his sack-fumble that was returned for a touchdown essentially ended it.

Cousins said if McVay were still around he'd have the same advice as coach Jay Gruden, offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh and quarterbacks coach Kevin O'Connell. But McVay also was always the coach who told Cousins in good times and bad: "I believe in you."

Eagles use dominant second half to blow out Cowboys

Eagles use dominant second half to blow out Cowboys

ARLINGTON, Texas — There was no fiery halftime speech. There were no lineup changes. There weren’t even any major adjustments. The Eagles went into the locker room Sunday night at halftime flat and rusty. They came out unstoppable.
 
“It shows we're resilient,” Carson Wentz said. “We knew coming into the locker room at halftime that we left a lot out there. We knew that we're much better than that and we had to go execute. It shows that we have a lot of believe in each other and we can get the job done.”
 
The Eagles couldn't do much right in the first half and couldn't do much wrong in the second half.
 
"We were positive," guard Stefen Wisniewski said after the Eagles had finished off a 37-9 destruction of the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium (see Roob's observations). "No one is going to get our heads down.
 
"We know we’ve got a lot of talent on this offense. It’s one of the best offenses in the league. Even if someone slows us down for a little while, we’re not going to panic. We’re just going to keep believing in what we do, keep swinging, just keep believing it’s going to work and it did.” 
 
First half: They scored seven points.
Second half: They scored 30 points.
 
First half: They gained 115 yards.
Second half: They gained 268 yards.
 
First half: Their running backs gained 25 yards
Second half: Their running backs gained 202 yards.
 
A different team.
 
“We just decided to run the ball,” Lane Johnson said.
 
“The first series (of the game), we ran the ball and got a touchdown. Then we got away from it a little bit. We came out the second half and ran the ball right at ‘em, and they didn’t have an answer.”
 
The Eagles outscored the Cowboys, 30-0, in the second half, turning a two-point deficit into their eighth consecutive win. At 9-1, the Eagles have not only the best record in the NFL but a four-game lead in the NFC East with six games to go.
 
This was the first time in franchise history the Eagles have scored 30 second-half points after going into halftime trailing. It’s only the fifth time they’ve scored seven or fewer first-half points and 30 or more second-half points (see breakdown).
 
“We were kind of a little bit asleep in the first half,” Jay Ajayi said. “We woke up in the second half, got to our run game and just dominated after that.”
 
The Eagles finished the first half with five straight drives that netted five yards or less. They opened the second half with touchdown drives of 75, 90 and 85 yards.
 
In the first half, the Eagles didn’t have a running play longer than seven yards. In the second half? Ajayi had a 71-yarder, LeGarrette Blount had a 30-yarder and Corey Clement had an 11-yarder for a TD.
 
The Eagles’ backs averaged 3.1 yards per carry before halftime and 8.4 after halftime.
 
“We just had to stay relaxed," Clement said. "We knew the game plan that was worked up by coach (Doug) Pederson was going eventually pan out."
 
Wentz didn’t have a huge day, but he didn’t need one (see report card). In the second half, he was 7 for 9 for 88 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions and a couple two-point conversion passes.
 
“We were just off a little bit in the passing game (in the first half),” head coach Doug Pederson said. “You could see a little bit of the frustration with (Wentz). I just keep talking to him and saying, 'Hey we just have to keep with the game plan. Trust the game plan. Trust the guys. We'll get this thing fixed,' and (he) just did that.
 
“Just kept shooting. Kept dialing up throws. Wanted to get him on the edge a little bit, so we moved the pocket some. That also can help the quarterback get in a little bit of a rhythm but just stayed the course.”
 
How rare is it for the Cowboys to lead a game at halftime and then allow 30 or more second-half points? It's now happened four times in franchise history.
 
The last time the Cowboys were shut out for a second half while allowing 30 or more points? It was 1962.
 
“The biggest thing was just staying with the game plan,” Wentz said. “They made plays and we didn't later in that first half. We just had to stay with what we knew what we could do. Execute better and stay out of some of those 3rd-and-long situations."
 
Maybe it had something to do with the bye week. The Eagles sure opened the game like a team that hadn't played in two weeks.
 
"I hate using the term rusty, but we weren't playing up to our ability in the first half," Johnson said. "Came back in the second half and just dominated."

Kamu Grugier-Hill proves everyone wrong as … Eagles' kicker

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Kamu Grugier-Hill proves everyone wrong as … Eagles' kicker

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Kamu Grugier-Hill's career as an NFL kicker got off to a rather inauspicious start. 

After Jake Elliott left the game with a concussion, the linebacker began to warm up his right leg on the Eagles' sideline in the first half of the 37-9 win over the Cowboys (see breakdown)

His first kick sailed wide right, missing the net and soaring into the stands. 

"Oh yeah," fellow linebacker Najee Goode said with a smile. "He definitely hit somebody. He hit a fan and the fan stood up."

Before that practice kick, punter Donnie Jones offered to move the net closer to Grugier-Hill, but the emergency kicker declined. 

That was a mistake. 

"I was like, 'Oh this is going to be a little rough,'" Grugier-Hill said about that miss. "After that, I kind of got a hold of it."

After that first bad attempt, Grugier-Hill settled down and actually had a decent showing as a kicker (see Roob's observations). He practiced some in the dark during a Jerry Jones ceremony at halftime. 

He didn't attempt any field goals or extra points, but he did kick off after four touchdowns and even got a touchback on one of them. 

Grugier-Hill, 23, practiced kicking just one time this season. Chris Maragos had been the Eagles' emergency kicker until he went down for the season with a knee injury. Fipp made Grugier-Hill practice it once. 

Despite practice time, Grugier-Hill was confident in his kicking abilities. He played soccer through sophomore year in high school and said he was an All-Conference and second-team All-State punter in high school in Hawaii. 

"I knew he could kick," cornerback Jalen Mills said. "We call him the Flying Hawaiian. He can do it all."

The Eagles were able to joke about Grugier-Hill's kicking prowess in the winning locker room, but for a while, they were in a precarious situation. 

Coming out after halftime, they were trailing 9-7 and had to play the rest of what looked like a close game without a kicker. 

Goode said it was obviously a blow, but noted the Eagles' offense was able to help out because they can put up points (see report card)

It did change the game because the Eagles didn't try any field goals after Elliott left the game and they went for two on all four of their second-half touchdowns. They converted on three of four. 

"I don't even know if everybody on offense knew right away," Carson Wentz said. "I was in the know, but I don't even think everyone knew. It is what it is. We executed I thought pretty well on those two-point plays. That's why you have a lot of those plays dialed up. You don't think too much about it." 

While the Eagles didn't announce when Elliott suffered his concussion, it's likely it happened on the opening kickoff. Return man Ryan Switzer took the kickoff 61 yards, but Elliott was there to greet him on the sideline to help prevent a touchdown. It looked like Elliott took a shot to the head. 

He continued to play, but after missing a 34-yard attempt was taken inside to get checked out. 

After Elliott went inside, Grugier-Hill began to practice kicking. It was an unusual situation for him, but he claimed he wasn't nervous. 

"Everyone expected me to do bad anyways," he said, "so I [didn't] have anything to lose."