Mack Hollins

Sidney Jones looks comfortable in debut

Sidney Jones looks comfortable in debut

The rookie report makes its triumphant return this week with the Eagles' meaningless, ugly 6-0 loss Sunday afternoon to the Cowboys at the Linc (see breakdown). Let's take a look at this week's highlights.

1st quarter, 11:43, 1st-and-10 at DAL 39 - Eagles 0, Cowboys 0
This is the kind of play we've seen from Rasul Douglas all season. Douglas is lined up in off coverage against wide receiver Dez Bryant. Quarterback Dak Prescott throws a screen his way. Left tackle Byron Bell is leading the way, getting out to block Douglas. Douglas plays it perfectly and engages and sheds Bell like a linebacker, then makes a nice tackle on Bryant. Douglas also engages in a little trash talk with Bryant after the play. 

A couple plays later, Prescott delivers a terrible throw and misses an open Bryant. Douglas then gives Bryant a nice shot at the end of the play. You have to love Douglas' enjoyment — not just willingness — of physicality as a corner. Again, he talks a little trash to Bryant. You also have to love the swagger.

1st quarter, 6:39, 1st-and-10 at PHI 18 - Eagles 0, Cowboys 0
As the season has gone on, Corey Clement has surprisingly taken on the role as the team's third-down back. On this play, he shows why. Quarterback Nick Foles is lined up under center with Clement as the deep back. Clement steps up, identifies the blitzer in linebacker Damien Wilson, meets him under control, keeps a solid base and stands Wilson up at the line of scrimmage. It allows Foles to make a great throw to Zach Ertz for nine yards on an otherwise rough day for the Eagles' QB. This was arguably the best play in pass protection an Eagles back has made all season.

1st quarter, 3:12, 3rd-and-5 at PHI 47 - Eagles 0, Cowboys 0
On this play, the Cowboys are trying to get the ball to wideout Terrence Williams quickly so he can make a play after the catch, trying to take advantage of Douglas' off coverage. Instead, Douglas reads the play, crashes in on Williams and makes another sure tackle.

Sidney Jones, making his NFL debut, also had a nice jam on Bryant, but it must be noted Bryant looked extremely uninterested on the play since it wasn't going his way.

2nd quarter, 12:51, 1st-and-10 at PHI 19 - Eagles 0, Cowboys 0
WR Mack Hollins gets in on the action during the start of the Nate Sudfled era (I kid). Hollins is lined up out right and runs a slant. Demarcus Lawrence realizes it's a three-step drop and instead of rushing the passer, gets in the passing window. Sudfeld makes a really nice play, getting Lawrence off the ground and then throwing around him. Hollins does a nice job staying alive and not giving up on the play. Hollins secures the catch, makes a nice move and gets nine yards.

2nd quarter, 4:48, 2nd-and-9 at DAL 5 - Eagles 0, Cowboys 0
Jones is in off coverage on this play on the outside receiver. Prescott throws yet another WR screen, this time to Ryan Switzer who is lined up in the middle of the trips formation. Jones engages the receiver attempting to block him, sheds him and makes a solid tackle on Switzer. Pretty impressive play for a guy that hasn't played a football game in a year.

3rd quarter, 10:30, 2nd-and-6 at DAL 41 - Eagles 0, Cowboys 0
The Cowboys give the ball to Ezekiel Elliott on a zone run to the right. Converted safety now LB Nathan Gerry is lined up to the left to the side of the run. La'el Collins comes out to block Gerry. Gerry does an outstanding job taking on Collins with his right shoulder to keep his left arm free. Not only does Gerry do this, he actually knocks Collins to the ground and is in on the tackle with Chris Long. This is a great play for any linebacker let alone a guy just learning the position after converting from safety in college.

4th quarter, 12:19, 3rd-and-7 at PHI 20 - Eagles 0, Cowboys 0
This was a nightmare drive for Douglas (see Roob's observations). He got beat by Brice Butler for 30 yards on a 2nd-and-22 from the Dallas 7. He was then called for an illegal contact penalty — as ticky-tack as it may have been — on a deep ball to Bryant. The rough drive ended with Douglas allowing the only points of the game. Playing off coverage as usual and looking like he had outside leverage on a zero blitz, Butler runs a slant. Prescott gets the ball out quickly to Butler and Douglas doesn't have the speed to recover and the play goes for a TD.

4th quarter, 10:34, 1st-and-10 at DAL 28 - Cowboys 6, Eagles 0
On this play, Prescott rolls out to his right. Jason Witten is running a crossing route. Gerry has outstanding coverage, but Prescott attempts to force the ball in anyway. Gerry breaks up the play and nearly makes an outstanding, backhanded interception.

Analysis
Douglas made some plays early but really struggled late, especially on the aforementioned touchdown drive. Jim Schwartz constantly plays him in off coverage because he fears Douglas doesn't have the speed to recover if beaten deep. Maybe Douglas can instill some confidence in his coach — which likely won't be Schwartz — to give him more reps in press coverage next season.

Considering Jones hasn't played football in a year and came out of the game with just some cramping, you'd have to consider it a successful debut. He bit the cheese on a double move by Williams but overall looked smooth and comfortable out there. He was an elite talent at Washington. I had him ranked as the best corner coming out, ahead of the Saints' Marshon Lattimore. You have to be excited at the thought of this guy being in the starting lineup next season. 

There's been a lot of clamoring for Hollins to get snaps over veteran Torrey Smith (see report card). It's a little late in the season to make a move like that, but I get what the fans are saying. Hollins will get plenty of chances to be a bigger part of this offense going forward. He's another prospect to be excited about going forward.

Have to say, I wasn't expecting to write a ton about Gerry in this space, but the kid impressed me. He put on weight and had to learn a brand new position so he didn't see much action all season. His experience as a safety will certainly help him in coverage. He hauled in 13 interceptions during his time at Nebraska. The Eagles might have found something here.

What's happened to Mack Hollins' playing time?

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USA Today Images

What's happened to Mack Hollins' playing time?

There was a time this season when it looked like rookie Mack Hollins might overtake Torrey Smith in playing time. 

That time has passed. 

Against Denver and Chicago in November, Hollins had nearly the same amount of snaps as Smith, but that was a long time ago. On Monday night against Oakland, he played just nine offensive downs, his lowest total since Oct. 23, while Smith played 55. 

And Hollins, the fourth-round rookie, hasn't had a catch in either of the last three games after having a catch in seven consecutive games. 

Is it difficult for him to stay focused when the ball isn't coming his way? 

"It's easy," Hollins said. "My job is not to catch the ball. My job is to win games. And we're winning, so it's not hard for me at all." 

Some rookies talk about hitting a symbolic wall at some point during their first NFL season, but Hollins said that isn't the case with him. He said he felt better last week than he has all season. 

He insisted nothing for him has changed, even with his dip in production and playing time. 

Drop the MIKE
It seems like 32-year-old Dannell Ellerbe is the Eagles' new middle linebacker in their base package after DC Jim Schwartz said they're leaning that way going forward. 

Ellerbe played a season-high 27 snaps and seems to have overtaken Joe Walker (who was inactive and placed on injured reserve Friday) for that spot. 

"I knew it was going to come," Ellerbe said about getting his opportunity. "I just had to stay ready. I just had to learn the defense. It's kind of hard to learn the whole defense in a week or so."

Ellerbe signed with the Eagles on Nov. 13 but played just one defensive snap until Monday night's game. He didn't really show up on the stat sheet aside from a big tackle for loss in the third quarter. 

"I feel like I played alright," he said. 

Ellerbe isn't sure how much he'll play Sunday, but he could probably use the work and he wants to play. After signing midseason with the Eagles, Ellerbe said Thursday he has no plans to retire anytime soon. He's just hoping to get more on film. 

As the Eagles' MIKE in their base package, he'll be on the field primarily on first downs. 

"I can help wherever I'm needed," he said. "I've been in some defenses where all I do is cover. This defense, it seems like I'm gonna be in for base, so that's playing more run. I feel like I can do it all. I'm not just a run-stopper or a coverage guy. I can do it all." 

Lessons from Dallas 
There's a little role reversal in the regular-season finale this season. The Eagles have the No. 1 seed wrapped up, while Dallas is completely out of playoff contention. The opposite happened last year. 

In Week 17 of 2016, Dallas was also 13-2. Head coach Jason Garrett elected to rest several of his key players heading into the bye week. 

Then, in their first playoff game against the Packers a few weeks later, they got down 21-3 early in the second quarter. They came back to tie the game but eventually lost. 

Does Garrett think there was a correlation between the extra rest and the slow start? 

"You never really know the answer to that question," Garrett said on a conference call with Philly reporters this week. "I do think we were fresh. I do think, if you just look at the specifics of the things that caused us to get behind, I don't know if it was anything that was directly related to that. Eventually, we started executing and doing the things necessary and we gave ourselves a great chance to win the ballgame at the end. 

"Those are some of the age-old questions teams in these situations have been asking for a long time. You never really truly know what the answer is. Ultimately, I think you just do what you think is right for your team and you make that decision and go for it." 

Quote of the Week I: "There are times in games like that where guys start turning on each other. And if you look at the sidelines — and I was there — there was never one moment where we doubted we would win that game." -- Nick Foles  

Quote of the Week II: "It always cracks me up, I watch Olympic sports and you see those ski jumpers, and you think, ‘Man, that's awesome. They fly through the air and who can go the farthest is the winner.’ But it's not just who can go the farthest. There's somebody who judges whether their skis were straight or something like that. Man, just go the farthest, and that's what we're trying to do." -- Jim Schwartz when asked about the significance of his defense finishing first against the run

Quote of the Week III: "So right now I'm just trying to prove I'm still good. I'm still as fast as I've ever been. Still as quick as anybody in the league. I'm definitely not slowing down." -- Patrick Robinson

Random media guide note: If Nelson Agholor could play another sport, he'd be a point guard for the Knicks. 

How Eagles receivers really feel about QB switch

How Eagles receivers really feel about QB switch

When we last saw Nick Foles, his wide receivers were Jeremy Maclin, Jordan Matthews, Riley Cooper and Josh Huff.

Oops. We can't forget Jeff Maehl.

The Eagles have turned over their entire wide receiver corps since trading Foles after the 2014 season. Nelson Agholor arrived in 2015, and Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and Mack Hollins this year.

So when Foles goes out there Sunday afternoon to face the Giants at M&T Stadium, he'll be playing alongside wide receivers he's barely played with.

"I've watched them run their routes all year, I've been able to practice with them at different times to throw them routes, so you just sort of build that database," Foles said. 

"I'm not going to always be able to get the reps Carson gets, but I'm always standing behind the play, I'm always watching film, I'm always watching his drops, I'm always doing drops in the background, so you just go out there … and play."

Since he got here in March, Foles has worked with the scout team at practice, facing the starting defense and working mainly with receivers like Marcus Johnson, Hollins and Shelton Gibson.

But starting Sunday, he'll be out there with Jeffery, Agholor and Smith — a group he's completed six passes to in his career.

That's why this practice week was so important. These guys don't have a huge history together.

"Moving forward, these guys can really spend time together, Alshon and Nick, Torrey and Nick, (Zach) Ertz and Nick and everybody on offense, can spend time this week kind of getting to know each other a little bit better and understanding it's going to be different," head coach Doug Pederson said. 

"The ball is going to come out a little differently. It's going to be in a different spot. It's just the nature of the game. So it behooves them to spend as much time at practice this week to get on that same page."

Foles has played with all three tight ends — Ertz, Brent Celek and Trey Burton. In fact, he and Celek were together for three years. And Foles and Ertz hooked up on 49 catches for 643 yards and six touchdowns in the 20 games they played together in 2013 and 2014.

But for Foles and the outside receivers, this is all new.

"It's just us getting repetitions with him at practice, that's all it is," Jeffery said. "My comfort level is pretty high with Nick. I'm extremely confident in Nick, we all are. 

"Nick's been in there throwing every once in a while, they switch it up, so I have a pretty good feel for him.

"On Sunday, we'll see. We'll just keep practicing and go out there and let Nick have fun and we're going to do a great job rallying around him."

Smith, coming off his first 100-yard game as an Eagle, said people are making too much of Foles' lack of experience with the Eagles' wideouts.

"I think it's overrated, especially when it's a guy who's been here the whole offseason," Smith said. "He knows the system. It's not like we haven't been in practice with him. 

"We know how he throws the ball. It's not going to be as tough a transition, in my opinion. I've gotten plenty of reps with him in there. They rotate him in there in 7-on-7. The 7-on-7 periods, we're all in there, so the quarterbacks get reps with all the receivers. 

"I'm very comfortable with Foles and for him, it's really just him getting the reps and getting back into it. He's ready. He looks pretty good."

If anybody is concerned, they're not letting on.

"It's basically just talking to them, what they like, how they feel, what they see this week," Foles said. "And it'll come really fast."