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Grading the Eagles' 43-35 win over the Rams in Week 14

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Grading the Eagles' 43-35 win over the Rams in Week 14

Grading the Eagles' 43-35 win Sunday afternoon over the Los Angeles Rams at the L.A. Coliseum (see breakdown):

QUARTERBACK
Carson Wentz: 23/41, 291 YDS, 4 TD, 1 INT

Wentz was having a phenomenal game until disaster struck. A knee injury sent the starting signal caller to the locker room, and he was unable to return for the fourth quarter (see story). No word as of this writing as to Wentz's condition. Nick Foles came on in relief and was something north of abysmal — when he wasn't throwing to his left tackle in desperation. Foles completed 6 of 10 passes for 40 yards, which was just enough to lead the Eagles on a pair of field-goal drives, including the go-ahead score. The backup did his job.

Grade: A

RUNNING BACKS
Jay Ajayi: 12 ATT, 72 YDS

Ajayi and Corey Clement were by far the Eagles' most effective backs, yet LeGarrette Blount saw the bulk of the work in the first half. Blount looked slow to the hole, rushing seven times for just 12 yards. There weren't necessarily huge lanes, but the rest of the ball carriers seemed to make due. Clement added a 28-yard reception. The game plan was pass-heavy, depriving the entire backfield of a true opportunity to shine.

Grade: B

WIDE RECEIVERS
Torrey Smith: 6 REC, 100 YDS

Arguably the most oft-criticized player on the Eagles' roster, Smith authored his best game with the club (see Roob's observations). Alshon Jeffery didn't exactly dominate his battle with Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson, but did manage five receptions for 52 yards and a touchdown. Nelson Agholor is the guy dragging the class down this week. Though Agholor finished with eight for 64, a drop on the opening possession led directly to Wentz's interception, also giving the opponent a short field. Bad luck, maybe, but that can't happen.

Grade: B-

TIGHT ENDS
Trey Burton: 5 REC, 71 YDS, 2 TD

No Zach Ertz, no problem. The Eagles' leading receiver missed the game with a concussion, but Burton stepped up. An impending free agent, Burton probably made himself a little extra coin with his big game, making tough catches in traffic on touchdowns of 20 and 11 yards. Brent Celek chipped in with a five-yard score as well.

Grade: A+

OFFENSIVE LINE
Stefen Wisniewski: Exited game in 2nd quarter (ankle)

Chance Warmack initially took over for Wisniewski at left guard, but that did not go well. Warmack was getting destroyed on virtually every snap until he too was replaced by Isaac Seumalo after halftime. Seumalo was better, though not by much. That being said, the Eagles' injuries weren't solely along the interior. Lane Johnson penalties nullified two Wentz touchdown runs, including the play on which the quarterback was injured. Despite the penalties and issues at guard, the offense did average 4.3 yards per rush attempt and limited the Rams to two sacks.

Grade: B

DEFENSIVE LINE
Fletcher Cox: 4 TKL, 2 QBH

Quiet day up front for one of the most disruptive front fours in the NFL — until Chris Long showed up. Long's strip-sack set up the Eagles' game-winning score, and was one of the few times they got the quarterback on the ground all day. But the larger issue up front was the No. 1 run defense's inability to slow down Todd Gurley. Gurley carried 13 times for 96 yards with two touchdowns, and that starts up front. Not the D-line's best game.

Grade: C+

LINEBACKERS
Nigel Bradham: 6 TKL, 1 TFL, 2 PD, 1 FF

Bradham had some opportunities to dramatically change the course of the game, yet failed to hang on to a pair of would-be interceptions. Tough to fault a linebacker for not making extraordinary catches, but the Eagles sure could've used those turnovers. Also, Mychal Kendricks was practically nonexistent, finishing with one tackle.

Grade: C+

DEFENSIVE BACKS
Patrick Robinson: 3 TKL, 1.0 SK, 1 PD

To their credit, the Eagles' secondary tightened up in the second half, but missed tackles were a serious issue and the coverage was suspect for large stretches. Rams quarterback Jared Goff completed 61.5 percent of his passes for 7.7 yards per attempt and two touchdowns, while wide receiver Cooper Kupp went for 118 yards receiving. It wasn't any one individual, either. It was the entire group. At least Rodney McLeod was able to scoop up the football on Long's forced fumble, so there's that. 

Grade: C+

SPECIAL TEAMS
Jake Elliott: 3/3 FG, 4/4 XP

Elliott was automatic, including a 54-yard field goal that was negated by a penalty. However, the performance of the special teams units was marred by a blocked punt the Rams took to the house for an easy touchdown in the third quarter. The Eagles nearly had another blocked earlier, begging the question why an adjustment wasn't made earlier.

Grade: C-

COACHING
Eagles' record: 11-2

Make no mistake, this was a difficult game from a coaching vantage point. The Rams are a strong team on both sides of the football, and the Eagles won. They spent the week in Los Angeles leading up this contest but remained focused. They lost the franchise quarterback in the second half and trailed in the fourth quarter, yet never gave up and pulled off a gritty victory. You can nitpick aspects of the game plan by Doug Pederson or Jim Schwartz, but the team won, on the road, against a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Give the staff a lot of credit.

Grade: A

Mask-wearing pioneer Rip Hamilton has advice for Joel Embiid

Mask-wearing pioneer Rip Hamilton has advice for Joel Embiid

Detroit Pistons star Richard Hamilton wasn't the first player to wear a mask in the NBA but sometimes it feels like he was.

Newsweek caught up with Rip this week to talk about his mask-wearing days and to see if he had any words of wisdom for Joel Embiid. Hamilton first wore a mask for breaking his nose, but he continued to wear it for the remainder of his career.

Embiid made his first playoff appearance of his career last night in Miami while rocking a new mask complete with a custom visor to protect his eyes. It was clearly bothering him but he didn't let it dictate his play.

“It was difficult,” Embiid said of the mask. “But to me it wasn’t really about getting used to it because at the end of the day, no matter how much it bothers me, I’ve still got to be a basketball player."

Hamilton has famously said that he embraced the mask to the point of it becoming his "Batman cape" which allowed him to be more aggresive.

"Over a period of time I started to get used to it. As basketball players, a lot of times you go to the basket and it’s a lot of elbows being thrown, guys are getting poked in the eye," he told Newsweek this week. "You tend to clench up because you don’t want to get hit in the face. Once I started wearing that mask I wasn’t clenching up no more. I was willing to take contact more. I was able to get to the free throw line more because now I’m not scared of getting hit in the face. It kind of made me into a more aggressive and better basketball player."

Hamilton's message to Embiid prior to the series?

"Embrace it. Make it cool. Make it fun. Make it like a prop. Don’t get caught up in saying like, 'I got a piece of plastic on my face. I’m worrying about how I look, I’m worrying about my perception when I shoot.' When you’re out there in, like, shooting drills, don’t be so caught up in putting the mask on and trying to worry about how you shoot with it on. Put it on in the game and just wear it because our game is a non-thinking sport. React. You gotta read and react as quick as possible. The less thinking you do, the better you’ll be."

Rip also took notice of Embiid's frustration with the mask following the game. He encouraged Jo that it only gets easier.

I’ve thrown my mask off numerous times lil bro @joelembiid ...It will get more comfortable game by game ..Trust The Process. #MaskOnMaskOff#YouGotTheJuiceNow #Holdat #Yessir#Mask #TnT #nba #nbaplayoffs #sixers#sixersvsheat #LoveThisGame

Eagles players with the most to gain at OTAs — S Tre Sullivan

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Eagles players with the most to gain at OTAs — S Tre Sullivan

The Eagles don’t hit the practice field as a team for another five weeks, yet each year coaches point to players who distinguish themselves during the months of April and May. These are the players with the most to gain in phases one and two of OTAs.

There isn’t an unheralded prospect in better position to climb the Eagles’ depth chart this spring than Tre Sullivan.

Never mind the fact that vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas just got done lauding Sullivan’s performance in a pre-draft interview on Thursday. The 24-year-old also happens to be one of only four safeties on the Eagles roster for the time being, creating a huge opportunity for an undrafted free agent from Shepherd College.

Competition will come soon enough, as safety is an obvious target for the Eagles in the upcoming draft. Even then, Sullivan could find himself in the mix for a big role with a good spring.

Last season, Corey Graham was the Eagles’ third safety behind Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. Graham, a free agent departure, wound up playing nearly 40 percent of the team’s snaps.

This isn’t merely a backup job. There’s serious playing time at stake – and Sullivan can get a jump on the competition.

Sullivan made a name for himself in last year’s preseason opener against the Packers with a vicious hit on wide receiver Malachi Dupre. It was a scary moment, as Dupre was knocked out by the collision, but also a clean play and an example of the defensive back’s physicality.

Sullivan forced a fumble on the hit and finished with four tackles. He would go on to acquit himself well in three other preseason games, eventually landing on the Eagles’ practice squad.

Listed at 6-foot-0, 200 pounds, Sullivan is a relatively average size for a safety, but plays downhill and hits like a truck.

The Eagles liked the instincts and aggressiveness they saw on the field. Now, Sullivan has a chance to work out and learn from coaches in an environment where there really aren’t any other young players right now and he can be the focus of a lot of attention. Phases one and two of OTAs and the two weeks before the draft in particular could be a pivotal period.

If Sullivan impresses during these early stages, it could go a long way toward solidifying his place with the team.

Even if Sullivan is bested for the third safety spot, he could still wind up on the 53-man roster. The Eagles may opt to carry five since Chris Maragos primarily plays on special teams.

Sullivan will likely enter training camp as a player who’s considered to be on the bubble, and what he does when the pads go on will be most important. However, if he showed up and really nailed these workouts, that could go a long way toward how the team views him heading into this summer.