10 observations

Roob's 10 mid-March Eagles observations

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Roob's 10 mid-March Eagles observations

We're deep into free agency, the draft is rapidly approaching and the 2017 Super Bowl champion Eagles are being reshaped into a new team.

Which means it's a perfect time for a Roob's 10 Observations.

1. As the Eagles move on from LeGarrette Blount and reshape the running back position, it’s intriguing to ponder just how good Corey Clement can be. From what I saw last year? I think the kid can be a stud. His touches were limited until late in the season, but how many rookies have had 300 rushing yards, 200 receiving yards and averaged at least 4.4 yards per carry and 13 yards per catch? Would you believe three in the last 40 years? A guy named Jesse Clark with the Packers in 1983, a guy named Adrian Peterson with the Vikings in 2007 and a guy named Corey Clement. It’s tough to project, but he can run, he can block, he can catch, he’s got a real flair for making big plays and a terrific knack in the red zone. Can’t wait to see him in an expanded role.

2. As for Blount, you can’t overstate his value to the Eagles last year, both as a running back and a leader. For a guy with his resume to come into that locker room and not once complain about his workload — even when he had no carries against the Chiefs — was remarkable. His selfless attitude really resonated with the young guys in the locker room. And I know a lot of fans were upset to see him go, but as incredible as his Super Bowl performance was, you can’t forget that in the seven games leading up to the Super Bowl he averaged 2.9 yards per carry. And he’s 31 years old. If the reported numbers are correct, Blount’s $4.5 million 2018 salary makes him the 12th-highest-paid running back in the league. Good for him. I wish him well. He was a huge part of that 2017 team. But it made no sense for the Eagles to bring him back.

3. It’s amazing how much money teams keep throwing at Sam Bradford. He’s got 34 wins in eight seasons, he’s never had a winning record, he’s never made a postseason, and on the rare occasions when he’s been healthy, he’s won only 43 percent of his starts. Oh, and he’s missed 42 games since 2013. “He’s our guy!”

4. Speaks volumes that both Blount and Torrey Smith singled out Duce Staley in their tweets or Instagram posts saying goodbye to Philly after joining new teams. Staley wasn’t even Smith’s position coach, and he still singled him out. Blount wrote: “To my main man Coach Duce Staley — You have impacted my life on and off the field and pushed me to be the best version of me I can be and for that I thank you!” Staley is such a natural leader and such a big part of what the Eagles accomplished in 2017. He’s going to be a head coach one day.

5. The Eagles lost Vinny Curry, but they have Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Michael Bennett and Chris Long. They lost Trey Burton and Brent Celek, but they have Zach Ertz. They lost Smith, but they have Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Mack Hollins. They lost Blount, but they have Jay Ajayi and Clement. They lost Patrick Robinson, but they have Sidney Jones, Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, Ronald Darby and Daryl Worley. They’ve lost a lot, but they’re still stocked at every position where they lost someone. Pretty darn good roster planning.

6. I feel like in the wake of Nick Foles’ brilliant postseason, people are forgetting exactly how good Carson Wentz was before he got hurt. So here’s a list of every quarterback in NFL history with 33 or more touchdown passes and seven or fewer interceptions in a season before his 30th birthday: Carson Wentz.

7. I wonder how much Haloti Ngata has left. He’s 34, he’s coming off a torn biceps, and he’s five years removed from his last Pro Bowl. Beau Allen was quietly a solid backup defensive tackle and played a big role in that D-line rotation the second half of the season after Tim Jernigan hurt his ankle. I don’t mind the signing. Ngata comes cheap and there’s really nothing to lose. But it’s been a while since he’s been a dominant player, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fits in.

8. If you’ve never been to Canton, Ohio, plan your trip now. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is a great place to visit any time. But the weekend of Brian Dawkins’ induction is going to be unforgettable. Dawk’s speech is going to be epic.

9. The Philly Special may be the greatest play in Eagles history, but where does the fourth-quarter, fourth-down conversion rank? The Eagles trailed with 5½ minutes left and faced a 4th-and-1 inside midfield when Foles converted a short completion to Ertz. If they don’t convert, they lose. That’s gotta be a top-10 all-time play. Maybe top-five.

10. Tight ends with more catches than Ertz in their first five NFL seasons: Kellen Winslow Sr., Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten and Antonio Gates.

Roob's 10 observations a month after the Super Bowl

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Roob's 10 observations a month after the Super Bowl

It’s been a month now, and I’m guessing most Eagles fans still wake up some mornings, sit up, look around and then the reality hits them.

“Holy crap … The Eagles actually won the Super Bowl.”

This is called winning. And it's fun.

All of our lives changed in one way or another that frigid February evening in Minneapolis. So let’s take a look back with 10 Eagles Observations One Month after They Won the Super Bowl.

1. One thing I didn’t expect going into the Super Bowl was a big game from LeGarrette Blount. Blount’s productivity had clearly dropped the second half of the season. Through the Bears game in November, he was averaging 4.8 yards per carry — fourth-highest in the NFL. The next seven weeks, Blount averaged 2.9 yards per carry — second-worst in the NFL during that span. The other thing is, the Super Bowl is a young man’s game. Going into Super Bowl LII, only two running backs Blount’s age had rushed for 50 yards in a Super Bowl while averaging 4.0 yards per carry — none since O.J. Anderson in 1991. No running back 31 or older had ever averaged 6.0 yards per carry in a Super Bowl. Or even 5.0. So history was against him. And on the Eagles’ first drive, Blount had two carries for minus-1 yard. But Doug Pederson stuck with Blount, and on Blount's next carry, he plowed through traffic for a 36-yard gain, and on his following carry, he ran 21 yards for a touchdown. Blount finished with 14 carries for 90 yards, unprecedented numbers for a back his age. It was a remarkable performance, even more remarkable considering his age and the way he finished the season.

2. Putting Tom Brady’s performance in context, he became only the seventh quarterback in NFL history — regular season or postseason — with 500 passing yards and no interceptions in a game. That’s what the Eagles overcame.

3. And this: Going into the Super Bowl, 39 teams in NFL history had gained 600 yards in a game and none had lost. The Eagles allowed 613 and won.

4. Keep this in mind when watching the combine: The Eagles’ Super Bowl roster had more players who were undrafted or drafted in the fifth through seventh rounds (28) than drafted in the first three rounds (23). The combine has its purpose, but ultimately how many reps you do or how fast you do the three-cone drill doesn’t make you a champion.

5. For those who still buy into the nonsense that Nick Foles’ postseason was a fluke, consider this: Only six quarterbacks in NFL history have had more postseason games with a passer rating of 100 before their 30th birthday: Troy Aikman, Brett Favre, Joe Flacco, Russell Wilson, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. If Foles was a fluke, then those guys were flukes, too.

6. Let’s put the Eagles’ offensive performance in Super Bowl LII into context: The Eagles netted 374 passing yards and 164 rushing yards. That made them the first Super Bowl team and only the fourth team in NFL postseason history with 350 passing yards and 150 rushing yards. The Eagles recorded the fifth-most passing yards in a Super Bowl and the sixth-highest rushing average. How do you stop that combination? It speaks volumes about Pederson’s play calling that the Eagles were able to do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted and that he was able to mix up the play calls to the point where whatever he dialed up worked. Doug called a perfect game. The man is a genius.

7. Regarding the Philly Special, I don’t know what’s more incredible to watch: The exchange between Doug and Nick on the sideline or the play itself. I still can’t believe either one actually happened.

8. All year Pederson spoke about how he wanted his guys to just have fun, do what they do best, relax and enjoy every moment. That was just Corey Clement, Trey Burton and Nick Foles being themselves and having fun on that play. You can’t execute that play under that spotlight, on 4th down in a Super Bowl, with 100 million people watching, if you aren’t loose and free and having fun.  

9. I was talking to Clement postgame in the locker room when an emotional Jeff Lurie came over and embraced him. I snapped this with my phone. Love this picture:  

10. The most amazing stat ever is that Foles has 14 incomplete passes combined in the second half of his four career postseason starts. Fourteen. He’s 48 for 62 for 544 yards with five touchdowns, no interceptions and a 130.4 passer rating. That’s not even possible.

Roob's 10 week-after Super Bowl observations

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Roob's 10 week-after Super Bowl observations

You thought the offseason meant the end of 10 Observations? No way! We'll keep it going as long as there are random observations to be made! 

In this edition, we check in on LeGarrette Blount, Joe Douglas, Zach Ertz, the Eagles' coaching staff and much more! 

1. LeGarrette Blount’s performance Sunday has kind of gone under the radar, but he had a brilliant Super Bowl, with 90 rushing yards on 14 carries, including a 36-yard run and a 21-yard touchdown. Blount averaged 6.4 yards per carry, highest in Super Bowl history by a back in his 30s (breaking the mark of 5.7 by the Bills’ Kenneth Davis in 1992). Blount is only the eighth back in history with two 20-yard runs in a Super Bowl and the third in the last 30 years. His 21-yard TD is seventh-longest in Super Bowl history and third-longest in the last 27 years. Blount had a rushing touchdown in all three postseason games and now has 11 career postseason rushing TDs, sixth-most in NFL history (behind five Hall of Famers). He’s the first player in Eagles history with a rushing TD in three straight playoff games. Blount’s 6.4 yards per carry average was also sixth-highest in Eagles history in any playoff game. I don’t know what Blount’s future is, but he was a beast this year. 

2. And I probably also haven’t written enough about how dominating the Eagles’ offensive line was in the Super Bowl and, really, the entire postseason. They just demolished people. Did Nick Foles even get touched last Sunday? Everything the Eagles wanted to do offensively, they were able to do. Run the ball. Throw deep. Move the chains. Convert on 3rd and 4th down. Foles dropped back 43 times and wasn’t sacked. That’s the third-most pass attempts in Super Bowl history without a sack. He dropped back 108 times in the postseason and was sacked twice — that’s the fourth-most pass attempts in postseason history without being sacked more than twice. The Eagles averaged 442 yards of offense in the playoffs, sixth-highest in NFL history. They’re the first team ever to average 300 passing yards and 120 rushing yards in a postseason. What the Eagles did on offense this postseason is nothing short of historic, and Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Stefen Wisniewski, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson as a group were one of the biggest reasons why.

3. There were 28 running backs drafted this year, but none of them was Corey Clement. There were 17 running backs drafted in 2010, but none of them was LeGarrette Blount. There were 12 running backs drafted in the first 148 picks in 2015, but none of them was Jay Ajayi. Those two undrafted running backs and a fifth-round pick combined for 255 yards of offense in the Super Bowl. Keep that in mind next time somebody tells you a kid won’t be a good NFL player because he had a bad combine or some nonsense.

4. I know he misses too many PATs but, man, those were a couple clutch field goals Jake Elliott made Sunday, especially the 46-yarder to make it an eight-point game with 1:05 left. Did you know Elliott — a rookie who began the year on the Bengals’ practice squad — became the first kicker in Super Bowl history to make two 40-yarders in a fourth quarter? And that he’s now responsible for two of the four-longest 40-yarders ever made in the fourth quarter of a Super Bowl? In fact, Elliott is only the third kicker to make two 40-yarders in any Super Bowl (along with Jim Breech of the Bengals in 1988 and Garrett Hartley of the Saints in 2009). He may not be the most accurate kicker ever, but his mental toughness is off the charts. 

5. This time last year, the Eagles’ running backs were Wendell Smallwood, Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles and Kenjon Barner, and their receivers were Jordan Matthews, Dorial Green-Beckham, Paul Turner, Bryce Treggs and Nelson Agholor.

6. It happened much later in his coaching career than Year 2, but a big part of Andy Reid’s downfall here was his inability to replace good assistant coaches as they left. That’s the challenge facing Doug Pederson right now. With John DeFilippo now running the Vikings’ offense and Frank Reich hired as the head coach of the Colts, I hope Duce Staley finally gets his chance at offensive coordinator — he’s been an assistant under Andy, Chip and Doug — and I would look for wide receivers coach Mike Groh to move over to quarterbacks, with Press Taylor moving up to wide receivers coach. Pederson has always been big on promoting from within, since it really helps develop a healthy culture. He may go outside on this one, but promoting Duce, Groh and Taylor makes sense.

7. People laughed at me when I said before the season that Zach Ertz was a top-five tight end in the NFL. Now I think he might be No. 2 behind Gronk, although it’s very close between Ertz and Travis Kelce. Including the postseason, Ertz had 92 catches, 1,016 yards and nine TDs this year. When the Eagles needed him most, on a game-winning drive in the Super Bowl, he was unstoppable. 

8. I wanted to try to put that Foles-to-Ertz fourth-down conversion on the game-winning drive into perspective, so I turned to the Pro Football Reference Super Bowl play finder and learned that there have been 54 fourth-down conversion attempts in Super Bowl history, but only 13 have been successful. Of those 13, six came with the game long decided. Of the remaining seven, only one was converted by a team that was trailing inside the 50. That was Brandon Jacobs’ two-yard run on a 4th-and-1 with 1:34 left and the Giants on their own 37-yard-line in Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Ariz. Seven plays later, Eli Manning threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress, and the Giants beat the Patriots 17-14. The "Philly Special" may be the greatest play in Super Bowl history, but this one — coming with the Eagles losing, inside midfield, with less than six minutes left — was the biggest play of the season. And Foles and Ertz were flat-out money.  

9. A quick Joe Douglas story: During last year's five-game losing streak, I ran into Joe on the field before a game and said something profound like, “Hey, Joe, wassup?” His answer: "The bleepity-bleep losing. I'm sick of the bleepity-bleep losing. I hate bleeping losing. BLEEP losing. I PROMISE we're going to get this turned around." I believed him.

10. I really hope the Eagles play in the Hall of Fame Game this summer, and with Dawk and T.O. both going in, I assume they will. It will make an already short offseason a week shorter, but Eagles fans deserve a Canton, Ohio, takeover weekend. It would also mean only … 174 days until the preseason opener!