The700Level

Setting odds on Eagles' 2018 nominees for the Hall of Fame

010417-dawkins-ap-images-web-only-4.jpg

Setting odds on Eagles' 2018 nominees for the Hall of Fame

The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its list of 108 nominees for induction in 2018, and the list has a very Eagles flare.
 
Fifteen players and one coach who spent at least one season with the Eagles are up for enshrinement this year, although some naturally have better odds than others. There are a handful that many feel should be a lock to have their bust immortalized in Canton, Ohio, and there is at least one player who is literally on the list by mistake. Otherwise, it's usually an honor just to be nominated.
 
The process certainly could be exciting for Eagles fans, as two former club members have an excellent shot to get in, and two or three more might be knocking on the door. We handicapped the group and took a closer look at each candidate's specific situation.
 
Brian Dawkins: 3/2
 
If Dawkins doesn't make it this year, he may have to wait awhile. There's about to be a logjam at safety. Ed Reed becomes eligible in 2019, Troy Polamalu in 2020, and for whatever reason, those two guys are higher-profile players. That certainly isn't reflected in the numbers. Dawkins is the only player in NFL history to record at least 25 interceptions (37), forced fumbles (36) and sacks (26), and leads both players in every major statistical category except interceptions, where Reed has the edge (64). What's more, Dawkins did it first. Voters will recognize the situation, which should result in a strong push -- and Dawkins slipping in the door before his peers.
 
Terrell Owens: 5/2
 
As much as Owens probably deserves to be in the Hall, he has only himself to blame for this plight. At first glance, the path doesn't appear to get any clearer in 2018 now that Randy Moss is eligible. Then again, Moss was no saint, either, and Owens has his fellow wide receiver beat in receptions (1,078 to 982), yards (15,934 to 15,292) and is only beaten only narrowly in touchdown catches (156 to 153). Plus, this is not the most loaded class we've seen, with Ray Lewis seemingly the only mortal lock to get in. Production should win out over politics, although Owens continues to hurt his own cause, so it wouldn't be a complete shock if the voters pass once again.
 
Donovan McNabb: 8/1
 
We've officially entered McNabb's very small window for the Hall. There are only five quarterbacks among the nominees, and McNabb's 37,276 yards and 234 touchdowns through the air has the other four beat by a mile. Those numbers are only good for 22nd and 29th all-time, respectively, and will continue falling down the list, but it just seems like a signal caller gets in every year. McNabb has an additional 3,459 yards and 29 touchdowns rushing, not to mention seven trips to the playoffs in a 10-year span. It's now or never, though. If McNabb doesn't get in this year or next, he'll likely wind up forever lost in the mix of more prolific passers.
 
Dick Vermeil: 10/1
 
Vermeil's resume doesn't scream Hall of Fame. He has the one Super Bowl championship with the Rams, and another appearance in the big game with the Eagles. That being said, Vermeil only has a 120-109 record with three division championships and eight trips to the playoffs in his 15-year NFL coaching career. He has the fame part going for him, being at the helm for two of the league's most famous underdog stories -- Vince Papale and Kurt Warner -- and is a renowned nice guy who has always stayed around the game. Vermeil absolutely could sneak in on reputation in a thin class.
 
Brian Mitchell: 12/1
 
If this were any other year in any other period in history, a return specialist might not be in the conversation. Yet, the voters have been making it a point to include some specialists in the Hall, electing punter Ray Guy and kicker Morten Anderson in recent years. The depth of this class is also creating opportunities for some fringe candidates. For what it's worth, many feel Mitchell is deserving on merit. He's second all-time in all-purpose yards with 23,330 -- only 246 back of Jerry Rice, so it's not at all difficult to envision somebody championing Mitchell's cause, especially at this point in time.
 
Randall Cunningham: 20/1
 
If you want to talk about a player who revolutionized a position, paving the way for guys like McNabb, like Michael Vick, like Cam Newton today, Cunningham is the guy. Cunningham was the first weaponized mobile quarterback of the modern era, which that alone qualifies him for the discussion based on fame. His numbers weren't bad either, with 29,979 yards and 207 touchdowns through the air, and 4,928 yards and 35 touchdowns on the ground. But if Cunningham made it this long without ever garnering serious consideration, don't expect a sudden groundswell of support to emerge.
 
Seth Joyner: 25/1
 
Some would say it's criminal that Seth Joyner isn't in already. Joyner was one interception away from becoming the first player ever to record at least 25 picks (24), forced fumbles (26) and sacks (52.0), long before Dawkins accomplished the feat. He also picked up his Super Bowl ring in his final season with Denver, something Dawkins, Owens and McNabb all lack on this list. Yet, Joyner never really racked up the individual accolades, earning an invitation to just three Pro Bowls over 13 seasons. The weak class of '18 gives an otherwise overlooked great a remote chance, but it's just that -- remote.
 
Eric Allen: 40/1
 
Allen is in a similar boat with Joyner. When you see cornerbacks like Aeneas Williams get in a few years back, you wonder why Allen's name never comes up. Nothing against Williams, but Allen had one less interception (54) in the same span of 14 NFL seasons. Regardless, his time appears to have come and gone without any meaningful consideration. It's a shame, but Allen is a serious long shot.
 
Greg Townsend: 50/1
 
Ricky Watters: 50/1
 
Mark Bavaro: 75/1
 
Keith Millard: 75/1
 
Herschel Walker: 75/1
 
Gary Anderson: 250/1
 
Sean Landeta: 250/1
 
Steve Smith: 1,000,000/1

 
Whoops! There were once two NFL wide receivers named Steve Smith. The good one, Steve Smith Sr. of Panthers and Ravens fame, finished his career with 14,731 yards and 81 touchdowns -- but is not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame. The other Steve Smith wound up with 2,641 yards and 12 touchdowns, his career shortened by injury. Yet, that is the Steve Smith who's eligible for the Hall and was mistakenly voted one of the 108 nominees in for enshrinement in 2018. We have to assume the voters will sort this out, and bad Steve Smith will not be inducted by accident. Smith spent one season with the Eagles in 2011, recording 124 yards and a touchdown.

Jerry Jones goes after Roger Goodell over Ezekiel Elliott suspension

jerry-emperor.jpg

Jerry Jones goes after Roger Goodell over Ezekiel Elliott suspension

Jerry Jones, the NFL's most outspoken troll, just wants to watch the world burn.

After weeks of talk and escalation, the Cowboys' owner is ready to go to war with Roger Goodell and the league's other owners over Ezekiel Elliott's suspension.

According to an ESPN report, Jones threatened the commissioner on a conference call after Elliott's suspension was announced, saying, "I'm gonna come after you with everything I have. If you think (Patriots owner) Bob Kraft came after you hard, Bob Kraft is a p---y compared to what I'm going to do."

For weeks now, Jones has tried to disrupt talks of a contract extension for Goodell, promoted objectively bad pizza in the name of football, and landed himself in hot water with the other owners. So much so that there has reportedly been talk about removing Jones as the Cowboys' owner.

It's hard to pick a side here. Jones — the long-lost twin of Emperor Palpatine — and Goodell — a man with rulings more inconsistent than Pete Morelli. You don't really want to root for either of them, but it is fun to think about the extremely unlikely chance that Jones loses the Cowboys. 

Cowboys just another inferior opponent to Eagles

usa-cowboys-mascot.jpg
USA Today Images

Cowboys just another inferior opponent to Eagles

It was only a few weeks ago when it appeared this first meeting between the Eagles and Dallas Cowboys was shaping up to be a battle for NFC East supremacy. Now that we’re here, the Cowboys are just trying to save their season, and the Eagles just want to take care of business against an inferior opponent.

That’s not a stretch. Are the Cowboys a good team? Well, they’re not bad, at least based on their 5-4 record. They certainly would be a lot better were it not for injuries and suspensions. But as the team is currently constructed right now, Dallas is not on the Eagles’ level.

Name one thing the Cowboys do better than the Eagles in 2017? That’s going to be a struggle, because aside from maybe punting, or maybe having a marginally superior pass rush, or maybe running the football before Ezekiel Elliott was sent packing, there’s really nowhere Dallas possesses an edge at this point.

Doesn’t mean the Cowboys won’t pose a threat to the Eagles or even win on Sunday night. It’s simply a difficult scenario to envision when we break down the matchup on paper.

QUARTERBACKS

We’re probably going to be having this debate for many years. One-and-a-half seasons certainly isn’t enough to settle it. That being said, there’s no question who’s playing better right now, as in ‘17. Carson Wentz might be the NFL’s Most Valuable Player through 10 weeks. Wentz has thrown for more yards (2,262 to 1,994), a higher yards per attempt (7.8 to 6.9), and found the end zone with greater frequency (23 to 21) – including rushing touchdowns – compared to Dak Prescott. The Eagles’ signal caller also has just one more turnover (7 to 6) and 26 fewer yards rushing (211 to 237). Ultimately, the stats are all pretty close, but Wentz also has the more important number over Prescott right now: Wins, eight to five.

Slight advantage: Eagles

RUNNING BACKS

It’s safe to say that any combination of Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden and Rod Smith (not to be confused with Broncos great Rod Smith) is a massive drop-off from Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys simply can’t replace the explosive element Elliott brought to their offense, not with this collection of has-beens and one nobody, anyway. Not one of those ball carriers has the pure ability of a Jay Ajayi at this stage of their careers, and the Eagles wouldn’t swap LeGarrette Blount or Corey Clement with Dallas, either. Fun fact about the Cowboys backfield: The unit’s leading receiver is Smith with 38 yards.

Clear advantage: Eagles

WIDE RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDS

Zach Ertz is leads both teams with 43 receptions, 528 yards receiving and six touchdowns, and he even missed the Eagles’ last game. Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor are second and fourth, respectively, with 500 and 428 yards receiving, and tied for second with five touchdowns each. The Cowboys’ top receivers haven’t been as effective at getting down the field or in the red zone, though it’s a deep group. Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Cole Beasley are essentially possession receivers at this point, and even speedy Terrance Newman is averaging a career-worst 11.8 yards per catch. Dallas’ best deep threat has been Brice Butler this season with 10 receptions for 243 yards and two touchdowns. Otherwise, the vertical game has been nonexistent.

Advantage: Eagles

OFFENSIVE LINE

In retrospect, the Cowboys’ issues this season were easy to see coming. The retirement of right tackle Doug Free started a game of musical chairs up front, while the departure of guard Ronald Leary in free agency hurt the unit’s depth. Going from guard to tackle has been an adjustment for La’el Collins, and whether at left guard or left tackle, Chaz Green has been an abject failure. Dallas needs Tyron Smith healthy and covering Prescott’s blind side for this to even have a prayer of working. Meanwhile, the Eagles’ O-line keeps on ticking despite losing Jason Peters, which is a credit to Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s development. Peters or no, this continues to look like the best unit in the league.

Advantage: Eagles

DEFENSIVE LINE AND LINEBACKERS

The Eagles may have the best front four in the NFL, or one of them at least, but don’t discount the Cowboys here. Dallas is tied for fifth with 29 sacks, and Demarcus Lawrence leads the league with 11.5. The defense isn’t great against the run – 4.3 yards per carry allowed is tied for 23rd – but Lawrence, David Irving and Tyrone Crawford can all get after the quarterback. Of course, it’s not as if the Eagles aren’t scary rushing the passer, with just four fewer sacks, plus Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox and company boast the No. 1 run defense as well. Even if the lines are considered even, there’s going to be some separation at linebacker, as the Cowboys are without the heart soul of their defense, Sean Lee (hamstring).

Slight advantage: Eagles

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Despite a solid pass rush, teams have thrown on the Cowboys’ secondary. In terms of opponents’ quarterback rating, Dallas ranks 23rd (96.4). It’s a young backfield, with rookies Jourdan Lewis, Xavier Woods and Chidobe Awuzie – the latter returning from a hamstring injury – in outsized roles. The Eagles are young at corner themselves, with Ronald Darby finally back from an ankle and rejoining Jalen Mills, but have seasoned safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod over the top. The unit will give up some ground, coming in at 26th in terms of yards per game (249.4), yet is ninth in quarterback efficiency (81.2). Teams throw against this group because they have to, not because they want to.

Advantage: Eagles

SPECIAL TEAMS

At one point, Dan Bailey may have been the best kicker in the league, but he’s coming off his worst season as a pro and is now sidelined by a groin injury. That was the Cowboys’ primary strength on special teams. Now unreliable Mike Nugent is handling the kicking duties. Dallas punter Chris Jones has been pretty good at pinning opponents deep, which is nice, because he’s getting a lot more opportunities this year. The Eagles routinely grade among the top units in all phases, and will get the nod over most opponents, even if there is a Pro Bowl kicker.

Advantage: Eagles

COACHING

Jason Garrett is the reigning NFL Coach of the Year. He doesn’t call the plays. He doesn’t run the defense. Heck, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones probably decides when to call a timeout or throw the challenge flag. Yet, Garrett has hardware saying he’s the best. To his credit, there is a good staff in place around him, particularly defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. But as of now, Doug Pederson is well on his way to winning Coach of the Year in ’17, and will do it while actually running a team, nor are there any weak links on his staff. With an unconvincing 62-49 record, including playoffs, we’ll go ahead and chalk up Garrett’s 2016 campaign as an anomaly.

Advantage: Eagles

OVERALL

The Cowboys went 13-3 in the regular season in ‘16 on the strength of a dominant offensive line, punishing ground attack and well-coached defense. While the latter is still in place, even that aspect of the equation benefitted from ball-control offense. But Dallas’ line is an injury away from being in shambles, and the NFL’s reigning rushing champion is suspended. That leaves a young quarterback with aging weapons and adequate protection at best, and a defense that can rush the quarterback but does little else. Meanwhile, the Eagles have the best record in the league right now at 8-1, and they were firing on all cylinders heading into their bye. This is a week-to-week sport, so everything can change in the blink of an eye on Sunday night. Going in, however, there’s no denying which side is superior.

Distinct advantage: Eagles