Vinny Curry

Rob's Rants: Eagles' start; Seumalo's struggles; Marshawn's dancing

Rob's Rants: Eagles' start; Seumalo's struggles; Marshawn's dancing

Here's the latest edition of Rob's Rants in which CSNPhilly's Rob Ellis does just that about the hottest topics in Philly sports.

If I told you before the season the Eagles would be 1-1 after starting with two road games — one against a division opponent, the other in one of the tougher venues in sports — an objective person would have been satisfied. That doesn’t mean losing a very winnable game in Kansas City wasn’t a tough pill to swallow, but when you consider that the Birds' neighbors in the NFC East have not exactly looked like world beaters, there is room for much optimism if they can clean some things up. Despite his costly turnovers and tendency to hold the ball too long, I’m convinced Carson Wentz will be a star. The Eagles' defensive line has looked fierce. And certainly in part because of the line, the Birds' defensive backs — despite major injuries — have held up pretty well. There are absolute positives with this club. 

But here are some of the things with the Eagles and beyond that have me in rant mode. 

Get your tokens ready
Saying Isaac Seumalo has been bad is like saying Donald Trump is polarizing. Seumalo's been a turnstile. His play has been alarming through two games and Doug Pederson may need to make a decision fast to avoid getting Wentz killed. But the Seumalo issue runs much deeper than the surface. He was a third-round pick last year, 79th overall. The club’s next selection after Wentz. Third-round picks need to be able to play. 

Now, you could very well chalk his struggles up to growing pains. By Week 10 we may see a completely different player. But perhaps even more disturbing was the Eagles' judgment that Seumalo was ready to start. Howie Roseman dealt veteran Allen Barbre early in camp to Denver for a 2019 seventh-round pick. The Eagles did save minimal cap space as well. And while Barbre won’t be confused with Zack Martin any time soon, he was a competent player. Surely an upgrade from what we’ve seen from Seumalo thus far. The objective is to keep your franchise quarterback upright and available. So far, not so good. 

Escape plan
Since signing that monstrous contract prior to last season, Vinny Curry has made no big plays. That streak continued Sunday against the Chiefs. Go back to the fourth quarter, game tied at 13, K.C. driving with a 3rd-and-4 on the Eagles' 25-yard line. Curry had Alex Smith all but wrapped up for the sack, which at the very least would have forced Kansas City into a long field goal attempt. Smith escaped the 6-3, 279-pound defensive end and two plays later the Chiefs scored on a shovel pass to Travis Kelce to take a 20-13 lead. That play, along with the Eagles' two turnovers, were game-changing plays. Once again, Curry came up small.

Catch the Damn Ball Part II     
Last week this rant was directed at Alshon Jeffery. This week it applies to the Eagles' other big money offseason wide receiver signing. There were two plays Sunday that again weren’t easy but need to be caught by a good receiver. The pass catcher in question is Torrey Smith. The first drop on the Eagles' opening drive could and should have been a touchdown. Later in the game, Wentz made a nice back-shoulder throw that was covered well but the ball was where it needed to be and Smith could not bring it down. These plays are the difference between three points and seven points or keeping a drive alive or winning and losing. 

Cue Lee Ann Womack
I don’t think “I Hope You Dance” was what Marshawn Lynch was Beast Mode-ing  to on the sideline during the Raiders' 45-20 smackdown of the woeful Jets. In fact, it was “I’m Really From Oakland Tho” by Vell and DJ Mustard. Love it when those two crazy kids collaborate. New York in fact was not loving Lynch’s sideline moves. Some Jets players were upset that the Oakland native was dancing with time still left on the clock. There’s a simple solution to that issue: Stop him. If the score was flipped, Lynch would not have been shaking his groove-thing. It’s OK for a player to have fun and celebrate. It’s all about time and place. And by the way, the Jets should get accustomed to opposing players celebrating. In fact, when your front office’s objective is to tank the season, it could look like a conga line on the opposite sideline all season.

Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Alshon Jeffery doesn't give a bleep about stats

Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Alshon Jeffery doesn't give a bleep about stats

KANSAS CITY, Mo — Alshon Jeffery had a strong performance Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium and looked like the guy the Eagles expected to get when they paid him this offseason. 

He just didn't give a bleep. The Eagles lost. 

"They won the game," Jeffery said in the locker room. "None of that s--- matters." 

The bleep that didn't matter to Jeffery was his stat line, which read seven catches for 92 yards and a touchdown, his first as an Eagle. When he scored his 16-yard touchdown, it gave the Eagles a 10-6 lead in the third quarter. It was their only lead of the afternoon. 

Initially, Jeffery was ruled down at the 1-yard line on his touchdown, but the replay clearly showed he went down on his own and wasn't touched before he reached across the goal line with the football. 

Even before the refs announced that the call was overturned, Jeffery watched the replay on the big screen at Arrowhead and began to jump in celebration. He knew it. 

"It was a touchdown," he said. 

On Sunday, Jeffery looked more like what Eagles fans probably expect from him this season. His strong performance against the Chiefs comes a week after a disappointing debut in which he caught just three passes for 38 yards. 

"Honestly, I've always felt really good chemistry with [Jeffery]," quarterback Carson Wentz said. "Obviously today, I think he was almost 100 yards or something like that. Felt good with him, felt good with the other receivers. And we're just going to keep working on that."

Much of the conversation during the summer and the preseason was about Wentz and Jeffery needing to get on the same page. They looked like they were Sunday. 

But the Eagles still lost 27-20, so Jeffery didn't care about that bleep. 

"Like I said, we didn't win the game," Jeffery mumbled. "None of that s--- matters to me." 

Kickin' it
Just before the end of the first half, the Eagles had a golden opportunity to tie the game at 6-6 and then get the ball back for the start of the second half. 

Zach Ertz caught a 53-yard pass down the sideline after Chiefs defensive back Terrance Mitchell should have had an easy interception but popped the ball into the air and into the hands of Ertz at the perfect time. Ertz was tackled at the Kansas City 11-yard line with just two seconds left when the Eagles called their third and final timeout. 

Then Andy Reid iced the kicker. And it worked. 

Jake Elliott missed a 30-yard field goal. A 30-yarder!

"I don't think so," Elliott said when asked if the timeout took him off his rhythm. "It just made me sit out there a little longer. It shouldn't affect anything. It's just not a good kick."

While Elliott missed that chip shot, he did make a 34-yarder before it and a 40-yarder after. 

Elliott was signed last week after Caleb Sturgis was placed on IR with a hip injury. Before signing Elliott off the Bengals' practice squad, the Eagles worked out a trio of kickers. If Elliott misses another 30-yarder, the Eagles might want to bring one of them in. 

Odds and ends 
• Vinny Curry missed a huge opportunity in the fourth quarter. He had Alex Smith in his paws but somehow let the QB slip away and scramble for a five-yard gain on 3rd-and-4. Had Curry sacked him, the Chiefs would have been at the very edge of their field goal range. 

"I had him," Curry said. "He just broke loose. If we play again, he won't break loose." 

• Before the start of this season, Ertz had just one 90-plus-yard game before December in his career. He has two already in 2017. He has a total of 190 receiving yards through the first two weeks of this season. It's the first time an Eagle has done that since DeSean Jackson in 2013 and just the 17th time in team history. Ertz is third in the NFL in receiving yards, behind only Antonio Brown and Adam Thielen.

• Wendell Smallwood is having a slow start to his second year in the NFL. Through two games, he has nine total touches for just 10 yards. 

• You've probably already heard this one, but Wentz leads the Eagles in rushing through two games with 61 yards. That's obviously not very good for the Eagles. But Wentz is just the fourth Eagles QB to have 60 rushing yards through the first two games of a season. The other three are Mike Vick, Donovan McNabb and Randall Cunningham. 

• Speaking of Wentz, here's what Chiefs pass rusher Dee Ford said about him: "He's a great quarterback. We call him a smaller Big Ben. He is going to make his mark as a quarterback." 

• Trey Burton made a great play on the onside kick to recover and give the Eagles a little bit of hope at the end. But with just five seconds left, they elected to heave up a Hail Mary.   

Reid said with five seconds left, his defense was covering the deep ball but also covered the sidelines. He didn't want the Eagles to throw a quick strike to get closer. 

In the end zone, Jeffery was in the area of where the ball went before it landed on the ground. He thought he had a shot at it. 

"Yeah, I believe so," he said. "But unfortunately, plays like that … I don't know the percentage of it, but it's very rare."

Jim Schwartz aims to keep Eagles' DE rotation more balanced in 2017

usa-jim-schwartz-eagles.jpg
USA Today Images

Jim Schwartz aims to keep Eagles' DE rotation more balanced in 2017

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is a big baseball fan. It's why he often uses baseball analogies — pass-rushers as fastballs, players working on pitches, etc. — when trying to make a point. 

On Tuesday, as the Eagles prepare for the 2017 opener, Schwartz was taken a little out of his comfort zone. The press conference went from the baseball diamond to the ice rink when he was asked if he viewed his top four defensive ends as two lines. 

"Oh, now we're going to hockey?" Schwartz said. "I don't have as much hockey. You had the Skipjacks, EHL. We used to go just to just drink beer and watch the fights. I think that's all anybody goes to the EHL for." 

The Skipjacks (now the Springfield Thunderbirds) were the Baltimore Skipjacks from 1982-1993, so it makes sense that a Maryland native like Schwartz spent some time watching them play. But the Skipjacks actually played in the ACHL and then the AHL, never the EHL. Forgive Schwartz, though, he's not much of a hockey guy and there was apparently beer involved. 

Anyway, he at least saw a lesson to apply from hockey to his current defensive end situation. 

"I think there is some shift change in there," Schwartz said. "Hockey is that sport. Nobody can play ... Wayne Gretzky couldn't be out there every single time. It's just impossible to play that way. So they do have to shift. And you do need to rely on other guys."

The Eagles used a rotation at defensive end last season, but it was a little lopsided. Starters Brandon Graham and Connor Barwin played 75 and 70 percent of the Eagles' defensive snaps, respectively, while Vinny Curry played just 42.6 percent. And Marcus Smith, the fourth DE, played just 21.4 percent. 

With Chris Long and Derek Barnett backing up the two starters (Graham and Curry) this season, though, it's possible the rotation will be more balanced in 2017. At least that's what Schwartz says he wants. 

"I would hope so," Schwartz said. "Over the course of my career, whether it was in Tennessee or Detroit, we've always been a rotational group. And I think we've always been at our best when we've been close to 50-50. Keep guys fresh and I know you guys get tired of it but keep throwing fastballs out of the bullpen. But that being said, over the course of the season, you also have to reward production. 

"Here's the way I sort of approach it: Particularly early in the season, rotation can help you get to later in the season. And hopefully, where we are late in the season is meaningful games in December and January and maybe even February. And there's a lot of different layers to rotation. One of those is that it can keep guys durable and keep guys available for a long period of time."

The way Schwartz looks at it is by position. So when looking at the left defensive end position, he's found throughout his career that two players rotating and staying fresh — as long as there's not a major drop-off — will have more production than one. 

Keeping Barnett fresh during his rookie season is a goal too, Schwartz said. But the Eagles aren't going to limit him just because he's a rookie. They're not worried about him, especially after Barnett faced off against Jason Peters and Lane Johnson consistently throughout training camp. 

"I don't worry about his confidence," Schwartz said. "I mean, he's a first-round draft pick. When you get up on that stage and hold a No. 1 jersey, if you're lacking for confidence, you're probably the wrong guy."

While there's been some clamoring from the fanbase for Barnett to start, Graham and Curry are still the first-team ends. And on Tuesday, Schwartz praised Curry, who had a down season in 2016 after signing a $46 million extension. Schwartz said Curry had an "outstanding" training camp and wasn't on the ground nearly as much, which was a problem for him last season. 

With Curry, Graham, Barnett and Long, the Eagles might have four starting caliber defensive ends. But Schwartz made sure he didn't omit the fifth guy. 

"You mentioned four defensive ends," he said. "I'll take that further with five. I think Steven Means is a quality player, whether he's active or not on a weekly basis. I know this much, he'll be ready for when his opportunity comes. Maybe it'll be because of an injury, maybe it'll be because somebody isn't producing as much as they should, but I think Steven Means is also a quality guy. I like a five-man up there."

Where Schwartz's rotation differs from hockey line changes is that it won't always be kept uniform. So it's not like when Graham and Curry come out of the game, Barnett and Long will always replace them together. That might happen sometimes in the middle of a series, but it's too hard to keep it that way. 

So the Eagles will play with a lot of different combinations and the rotation will likely evolve throughout the season. 

Because the fresher the Eagles stay, the more fastballs — or slapshots — will keep coming.