Eagles

5 matchups to watch as Eagles host Texans

5 matchups to watch as Eagles host Texans

The Eagles (7-7) gave themselves new life last week by beating the Rams in L.A. and now they’ll face another tough test when the Texans (10-4) pay a visit Sunday to Lincoln Financial Field. 

If the Eagles want to sneak into the playoffs, they need to keep winning and hope some other things fall their way. But if they don’t win, it doesn’t matter. 

Here are five matchups to watch Sunday: 

DeAndre Hopkins vs. Rasul Douglas/Avonte Maddox

If Nuk Hopkins isn’t the best receiver in the NFL, he’s damn close. In 14 games, he has 94 catches for 1,321 yards and 11 touchdowns. It’s his second straight 90-catch, 1,300-yard, 10-touchdown season. That’s pretty impressive. The most incredible thing about him is his ability to make spectacular catches. It’s not a 50-50 ball with him. He’s much more likely to come down with the ball with some of the best hands in the NFL. 

The good news for the Eagles is that their secondary situation seems somewhat settled with Douglas and Maddox outside and Cre’Von LeBlanc in the nickel spot. It’ll be up to Douglas and Maddox to handle Hopkins. It’s interesting because Douglas is a particularly long corner, while Maddox is just 5-9. Hopkins will be a tough test for both.

Texans’ OL vs. Eagles’ defensive line 

Fletcher Cox had one sack last week and it was the only sack of the game. But sacks don’t tell the full story and the Eagles’ defensive line routinely got to Jared Goff and really changed that game. They’ll have a chance to do it again this weekend. 

The weak spot of this Texans team is its offensive line. They have given up a league-high 52 sacks this season. For perspective, the Eagles have given up just 36 and are around the middle in the NFL. This might be a chance for Cox, Michael Bennett and Brandon Graham to really get after it. 

Deshaun Watson vs. Eagles’ linebackers 

The Texans’ quarterback is coming off an ACL tear last season, but he hasn’t been afraid to get back to running with the football this year and the Eagles have been burned by quarterbacks running the ball this season. Watson has 78 rushing attempts for 436 yards (5.6 per attempt) and two touchdowns this season. The Eagles have to be aware of where he is at all times and know he could take off. 

Remember what other QBs have been able to do against the Eagles on the ground this season: 

Cam Newton: 7 carries, 49 yards 
Marcus Mariota: 10 carries, 46 yards, touchdown
Blake Bortles: 8 carries, 43 yards
Andrew Luck: 1 carry, 33 yards 

Eagles’ OL vs. J.J. Watt/Jadeveon Clowney

One of the big reasons the Eagles are back in the playoff hunt is because the offensive line that has been struggling with injuries all season is finally healthy and playing to its potential. The Eagles will need another big game against the Texans’ dominant pass rush. These are strengths for both teams. 

Watt has 14 1/2 sacks and Clowney has 8 this season. They can flat-out get after the quarterback. And then the Texans also have Whitney Mercilus, who is a skilled pass rusher in his own right when he’s in the right position. The toughest part about Watt and Clowney is they move these guys all over the formation. Watt will be completely wide or over center at times. 

Nick Foles vs. Tyrann Mathieu 

Foles had a pretty good game last week against the Rams, but he needs to be careful throwing the ball in this secondary with Mathieu and fellow safety Justin Reid. Mathieu has just two picks this year, but he’s such a dangerous player back there and has really given that Texans secondary a boost. 

Foles isn’t afraid to throw up the ball and let his receivers make plays, but that can be a dangerous risk against a guy like Mathieu.

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Rodney McLeod says city can rise stronger from ‘pivotal moment’

Rodney McLeod says city can rise stronger from ‘pivotal moment’

Eagles safety Rodney McLeod on Monday morning released a statement through his social media accounts promoting peaceful protest and his belief that “we as a city can rise out of this pivotal moment stronger.” 

McLeod, 29, has been a vocal equal rights activist during his time with the Eagles. 

This statement from McLeod comes in the wake of the senseless killing of George Floyd, a black man, in police custody in Minnesota. McLeod previously released a shorter statement saying an “officer should protect and serve the community, not brutalize, and kill innocent lives.” 

McLeod’s statement on Monday comes as a response to the protests that in some cases, and for various reasons, have turned violent and destructive in Philadelphia and around the country the last couple of days. 

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As a black man, it’s been a painful and disturbing time throughout our nation and city; the ugly reminders of injustice and systemic racism will continue to haunt us as a country until we enact change. Peaceful protest, lifting our voices in solidarity, and civil-engagement are all a part of the change process. Defacing our communities only offers a shortcut to the progress we all want to see. I believe we as a city can rise out of this pivotal moment stronger, we have an opportunity to course-correct for our future’s sake, and together, each of us can reflect the attitude necessary to be better and do better. I am encouraging us all to speak our peace. #georgefloyd #justiceforgeorgefloyd

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Here’s the full text of McLeod’s statement: 

As a black man, it’s been a painful and disturbing time throughout our nation and city; the ugly reminders of injustice and systemic racism will continue to haunt us as a country until we enact change. Peaceful protest, lifting our voices in solidarity, and civil-engagement are all a part of the change process. Defacing our communities only offers a shortcut to the progress we all want to see. I believe we as a city can rise out of this pivotal moment stronger, we have an opportunity to course-correct for our future’s sake, and together, each of us can reflect the attitude necessary to be better and do better. I am encouraging us all to speak our peace. #georgefloyd #justiceforgeorgefloyd

Floyd, 46, was killed in Minneapolis last week when a police officer pushed his knee into Floyd’s neck for an extended period of time while he was handcuffed. The officer, Derek Chauvin, was fired and eventually arrested and charged with third-degree murder. 

McLeod previously joined Malcolm Jenkins during the 2016 and 2017 season by protesting during the national anthem as a demonstration against police brutality and racial injustice. 

Jenkins, now a member of the New Orleans Saints, joined marching protesters in Philadelphia this weekend: 

Like McLeod, several other Eagles and former Eagles have reacted to the death of Floyd. Perhaps most notably, quarterback Carson Wentz spoke out against “institutional racism” in a statement last week.

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Is there hope for Sidney Jones?

Is there hope for Sidney Jones?

Who’s CB2?
 
Whenever we toss around all the scenarios, there’s one that’s so unlikely we generally just dismiss it outright.
 
What if Sidney Jones can play?
 
The Eagles currently seem to have Avonte Maddox penciled in at outside corner opposite Darius Slay, the three-time Pro Bowler they acquired in March from the Lions. That would leave Cre’Von LeBlanc and Nickell Roby-Coleman competing for the slot.
 
It’s hard not to like what Maddox brings to the defense. He’s tough, physical, smart, instinctive and active. 
 
He’s also probably best suited to the slot and only projected as an outside corner because Jones has been injured and ineffective, Rasul Douglas has been inconsistent and prone to allowing big plays, Jalen Mills is now penciled in at safety and LeBlanc is also probably best as an inside corner as well.
 
It’s not ideal. 
 
But what if Jones figures it all out in Year 4? What if it all comes together mentally and physically for the former second-round pick out of Washington.
 
It’s hard to imagine because Jones’ first three NFL seasons have been so disappointing.
 
The first year he rehabbed the Achilles, blown out before the draft at his pro day. The second year he started the first six games of the season in the slot before hamstring injuries ruined the rest of his season. And last year he was again in and out of the lineup with more hamstring injuries and eventually as a healthy scratch.
 
It’s not much of a resume.
 
But here’s the thing about Sidney.
 
We’ve seen some flashes. Enough that we can at least pose the question: Can Sidney Jones be a viable starting cornerback for the Eagles in 2020?
 
Let’s look at those first six games of 2018, before he got hurt. The Eagles only allowed eight TDs in those six games — sixth-best in the league at that point — and were fourth in the NFL allowing just 18.3 points per game. That was with Jones playing about 40 snaps per game.
 
And there were moments last year where he showed up.
 
He picked off Matt Ryan with the Eagles down 10-3 in Atlanta to set up a field goal. He batted down Dak Prescott’s 4th-down pass to Michael Gallup in the final moments of a huge over the Cowboys. He had that INT off Daniel Jones at the Eagles’ 6-yard-line at the Meadowlands on the final day a week later to seal a win and get the Eagles into the playoffs.
 
It’s not a lot to go on. And certainly the disappointing moments have outnumbered the encouraging ones by a long shot.
 
Getting benched against the Vikings. Hamstring injury after hamstring injury. Dropping below Craig James and even Orlando Scandrick at one point on the depth chart. A healthy scratch in last year’s playoff loss to the Seahawks. 
 
But here’s the thing. Jones just turned 24 last week. He’s younger than Andre Dillard, who’s only in his second season. At one point before his 2017 pro day he was seen as a mid-first-round talent.
 
We’ve seen him make a few plays that make you think, “Maybe?”
 
If he can ever get his hamstrings healthy enough to run, can he be a viable starter?
 
Heck, as CB2 he wouldn’t even have to match up with the best receivers the Eagles face. Slay would handle that, and Jones would only have to contend with the other team’s WR2.
 
This is Jones’ last chance with the Eagles. He’s going into the final year of his four-year rookie deal, and if he doesn’t figure this thing out this summer, his next opportunity will be somewhere else.
 
Sometimes last chances have a way of getting a player’s attention. Maybe something will click, he’ll find a way to get physically stronger and more durable and get his speed back to the 4.47 he ran at the combine.
 
Is any of this likely? Honestly? No. 
 
The odds are against Jones. He’s a longshot at this point. 
 
But when you’ve seen a guy make plays here and there, it’s hard not to wonder whether he can make them consistently.
 
In this strangest of NFL offseasons, maybe we all have one more giant surprise in store for us.

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