Dak Prescott

Michael Bennett's strong message to NFC East QBs

Michael Bennett's strong message to NFC East QBs

It wasn't quite a WWE throwdown message, but Michael Bennett definitely put NFC East quarterbacks on notice during his introductory press conference at the NovaCare Complex on Monday afternoon.

He's coming for them.

And so are the rest of his defensive line teammates.

"I know Eli Manning is probably watching this and thinking, like, yes I'm coming," said Bennett, whom the Eagles acquired in a trade with the Seahawks. "I know Dak (Prescott) is watching this like, 'Yeah, he's coming.' Yeah, I am.

"And Alex Smith, he knows he can't run from me. I told him at the Pro Bowl. So it's definitely going to be a great season and it's going to be fun to chase quarterbacks. I just know third down it's just going to be ... and second down and first down, it's just going to be fun."

When Bennett, 32, named all three of the starting quarterbacks from the NFC East, he was actually answering a question about comparing the defensive schemes from Seattle and Philadelphia. Bennett began by saying that he played with some great players in Seattle, before saying he doesn't think there's a tight end in the NFL that can block him.

From there, he started to name the QBs.

Manning in New York. Prescott in Dallas. And recently-acquired Smith in Washington. They'll all be seeing Bennett twice this season.

Bennett is basically replacing Vinny Curry on the Eagles' defensive line, and Haloti Ngata is basically replacing Beau Allen. While Curry and Allen are younger, many think Bennett and Ngata are improvements in the short-term, which means the strength of the Eagles' defense from 2017 is even stronger in 2018.

While Curry had just three sacks in 2017 and has gone over the four-sack mark just once in his six-year career, Bennett has had at least five sacks in all of those last six seasons. Bennett has 48 sacks since 2012 and has been a Pro Bowler in each of his last three seasons.

While there was a report that surfaced saying Seattle was trying to part ways with socially active players, Bennett said he didn't give it much credence. His relationship with Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll goes beyond football and he knows Seattle was just trying to unload him to get something back in return; it's part of the business.

It seems likely that in Philly, Bennett will get a chance to play both inside and outside. His versatility was used in a similar fashion in Seattle, but he also played a ton of snaps, which he won't have to do in the Eagles' rotation. It should keep him fresh.

And it will probably keep opposing quarterbacks up at night.

Roob's 10 observations from Eagles-Cowboys

Roob's 10 observations from Eagles-Cowboys

BOX SCORE

OK, you thought the Raiders game was unwatchable?

This was worse. 

The Eagles finished the regular season with a ridiculously ugly 6-0 loss to the Cowboys, the first time they've been blanked at home since that Monday night game against the Seahawks in 2005 — the night they retired Reggie White's number (see breakdown).

The offense has been brutal the last two weeks, and the playoffs are up next.

So Doug Pederson, Frank Reich and John DeFilippo have two weeks to get this thing back on the rails. 

Here are today's 10 freezing observations from the Linc:

1. We talked about it all week, and this was the risk of letting Nick Foles play against Dallas to try to give him something positive going into the playoffs. By the time Pederson got him out of there, nothing positive had happened. Yeah, it was cold and windy. Yeah, Torrey Smith didn't do him any favors with that drop on the first drive (see report card). Still … this was a second straight terrible performance from Foles, and there are no more dress rehearsals. The Eagles have to be terrified internally with his inability to move the offense the last two weeks, and we all know if he's not significantly better it's going to be a very short playoff run. All I can say is Foles has a fairly sizeable career body of work, and although nobody expects him to be Carson Wentz, historically he hasn't been this bad. Just have to hope that two weeks of practice — and maybe some better weather the weekend of Jan. 13-14 — helps Foles find himself. Because what we've seen the last two weeks has been frightening.
 
2. Should Doug Pederson consider starting Nate Sudfeld in the playoffs? I know everybody always loves the backup quarterback and Sudfeld did do some good things against Dallas, but come on now. You can't just bench your backup QB — a guy who has won 16 of 21 starts in an Eagles uniform since 2013 — for a guy with three quarters of NFL experience. I know everybody is frustrated with Foles. And Sudfeld acquitted himself fine in his first NFL regular-season game, although he didn't get any points on the scoreboard. But when you're honest with yourself, the Eagles have a better chance of getting Foles back to where he was two weeks ago against the Giants than they do winning a playoff game with a kid who has thrown 23 passes in his career. It has to be Foles.   
 
3. But … if Foles doesn't play any better through the first, say, four series in the playoff opener? If he's this bad again? Get Sudfeld out there! 
 
4. What impressed me most about Sudfeld in his NFL debut was his accuracy. There wasn't anything down the field — I think the conditions have made that really tough the last couple weeks — but he did complete 19 of 23 passes for 128 yards and also showed some athleticism with a 22-yard run. Sudfeld broke the NFL record for most accurate performance by a player in his first career game (with a minimum of 20 passes). The record of 80 percent was set in 1968 by Sam Wyche of the Bengals, who went 20 for 25 against the Oilers. Definitely something to work with.
 
5. Was nice to see Sidney Jones out there running around. He did look rusty, which is understandable, considering he hadn't played in a game in exactly 365 days. But you got at least a small sense of his skill set, his ranginess and his confidence. Heck, he lined up against Dez Bryant on his first NFL defensive snap and didn't back down (see rookie report). Will Rasul Douglas move to safety? Will Jalen Mills move to the slot? Ronald Darby and Jones outside? They can all play. They're all versatile. Going to be interesting to see how this group of young corners grows over the next few years.

6. As wretched as Foles was, I have a lot of faith in this defense. Even the backups played pretty well Sunday against Dallas before they wore down in the fourth quarter. This defense is why the Eagles have a chance every time they play at home. Even with the backups playing most of the game Sunday, they still only allowed six points to a Cowboys team playing all its starters and clearly intent on trying to win the game. This defense always plays well at the Linc. They've only allowed 11 touchdowns at home this year and 23 at home the last two years, fewest in the NFL. The Eagles are going to be in every game they play at home.
 
7. Do we have to be concerned now with Kenjon Barner? He's fumbled a punt two weeks in a row now, and although he recovered both, he certainly looks shaky back there right now. Just another thing to worry about. 
 
8. He had one bad drop early, but I'm high on Mack Hollins. I see him moving right into that Smith role next year. Remember, when he was drafted, he was considered a special teamer and a big-play specialist. But he's got a well-rounded game and seems comfortable with all the routes. He just needs experience. I see him being a big part of this offense next year.
 
9. Speaking of Douglas, he had a rough time on the Cowboys' touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter, but you have to remember he hadn't played defense since the Denver game, and it definitely showed. He looked super rusty. I like Douglas. He's tough, physical and smart. I have no idea how everything will settle with all these young defensive backs moving forward, but I'll be surprised if he's not a significant part of this defense moving forward.
 
10. Finally, I'm just really disappointed the Eagles weren't able to get Brent Celek the 15 yards he needed for 5,000 in his career. Celek wasn't even on the field for the last drive. Celek has done nothing in his 11 years here other than play hard and practice hard without fail, never complain about his role and serve as a tremendous locker room leader and mentor to the younger tight ends, and he deserved to go out with that milestone. Celek has a $4 million base salary in 2018 but would count only $1 million against the cap if the Eagles release him. Maybe he'll retire. Maybe he'll play somewhere else. Maybe he'll take a pay cut and return to Philly. But there's a chance this was his final regular-season game in an Eagles uniform, and if it was, it kills me to know he fell just two yards shy of 5,000 in an Eagles uniform.

5 key Eagles matchups vs. Cowboys

usa-ap-derek-barnett-ezekiel-elliott-nate-sudfeld.jpg
USA Today Images/AP Images

5 key Eagles matchups vs. Cowboys

The Eagles don't have anything to play for this weekend. They're already the top seed in the NFC, which comes with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

But there's still a game Sunday against the Cowboys.

The Eagles will always want to beat the Cowboys. And a win Sunday will give the Birds their first 14-win season in franchise history and just the 30th such season in NFL history.

The real question is about playing time. How much will everyone get? It seems likely the Eagles will play some starters but keep out guys who have injuries. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are expected to play everyone who is healthy.

Here are five matchups to watch:

Nick Foles vs. Cowboys starters
It's a good thing Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett wants to play most of his starters in this game because Foles could certainly use the work.

After a terrible performance that has placed doubt in the minds of a ton of Eagles fans, a few good series against the Cowboys could do wonders for Foles. Not only could it help with the chemistry along the offense, but it could also be good for his confidence going forward.

The Eagles are going to need Foles to play better if they want to win in the playoffs. It's a no-brainer to play him this weekend.

Nate Sudfeld vs. Cowboys defense
Foles should get to start the game and play for a while, but it's also pretty important to get the new backup quarterback into an NFL game for the first time in his career. The Eagles have been high on Sudfeld all season and even protected him when the Colts tried to sign him away from the practice squad. Sudfeld had a good week of practice after getting bumped up to No. 2, but some actual game reps would be nice.

Could the Eagles survive if Foles went down? Probably not, but if Sudfeld plays well against the Cowboys' starting defense, it would give folks a little bit of hope if that scenario ever unfolded.

Ezekiel Elliott vs. Eagles' run defense
The Eagles gave up a season-high 137 yards on the ground in last week's win over the Raiders but still have the NFL's best rushing defense. They've given up 75.9 yards per game through 15 games. The next closest team is the Vikings, who have given up 87.1.

The Eagles missed Elliott in their first meeting down in Dallas when the Pro Bowl running back was serving his six-game suspension. Elliott has played nine games this season and has gained 80-plus yards in eight of them. The Eagles have had just four guys go for 80-plus on them this season: Todd Gurley, Kareem Hunt, Marshawn Lynch and Alfred Morris. They have not allowed a 100-yard rusher all season.

Elliott will try to be the first to put up 100 yards against them this season. No matter who is in there for the Eagles, they'll try to stop him.

Byron Bell vs. Derek Barnett
It seems pretty likely that Tyron Smith (knee) won't play in the regular-season finale, so his backup, Bell, will probably get the start. This would be a good time for Barnett to have a big game heading into the playoffs.

Barnett hasn't had a sack since he picked up half of one in the Seattle game back on Dec. 3. He hasn't had a solo sack since the last Dallas game on Nov. 19. Barnett has five sacks this season, which is seventh in Eagles history for a rookie. If he gets one more, he'd move into a tie for third. If he gets two more, he'd be all alone in third place behind Corey Simon (9½) and Reggie White (13).

Dak Prescott vs. Eagles defense
Prescott had a terrible game the last time these two teams played. He threw for 145 yards with three interceptions and was sacked four times. His 30.4 passer rating was by far the worst of his two-year career.

This game doesn't mean much, but Prescott is going to want to put together a much better performance this time around.