Eagles

5 reasons why Eagles are different than last time vs. Saints

5 reasons why Eagles are different than last time vs. Saints

It was just eight weeks ago when the Eagles went into New Orleans and got their butts whooped by the Saints at the Superdome, 48-7. 

That loss put the Eagles at 4-6 with two straight losses after the bye week, but they’ve rebounded, going 6-1 since that point to first make it into the playoffs and then take down the Bears on wild-card weekend. 

So, you’ve heard it already: These Eagles aren’t the same team that got smoked in New Orleans on Nov. 18 (see story).

Here are the five biggest reasons why: 

1. Nick Foles

I still think the Eagles will and should stick with their long-term plan with Carson Wentz, but it’s also impossible to not be impressed by what Foles has done since re-entering the Eagles lineup in the Rams game. Foles took over after that overtime loss in Dallas and since then, he’s helped guide the Eagles to a four-game winning streak that has them two wins away from another Super Bowl appearance. 

During this four-game win streak, Foles has eight touchdowns to five interceptions, so aside from his record-breaking performance against the Texans, it’s not like he’s putting up huge numbers every week. But there’s just something about Foles, especially in high-pressure situations. Undeniable. Even though he threw two picks Sunday, he drove the Eagles down the field in the fourth quarter and left the field with the lead. 

Sometimes, I think the Foles Magic factor is a little overplayed though. The team has improved since Foles took over, but it’s hard to quantify how much of that is a direct result of Foles’ being in there. It’s impossible to know, but he does have a calming effect on his teammates and he’s been a difference maker recently. 

In the first meeting between these two teams, Wentz had a tough game playing catch-up. He threw for 156 yards and three picks. 

2. Shored up secondary 

Drew Brees threw for 363 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions against the Eagles in November. It was one of the greatest performances any QB has ever had against the Eagles. But that was a different secondary. In that game, Brees kept picking on an injured Sidney Jones and De’Vante Bausby and Chandon Sullivan, who have both since been cut. And you’ll also remember, Avonte Maddox got hurt in that game. 

Since then, the Eagles have figured out a secondary that seems to work. A much-improved Rasul Douglas and a healthy Avonte Maddox are the starters outside. Cre’Von LeBlanc, who has been a revelation and who might have saved the Eagles’ season according to Jim Schwartz, is the nickel corner. And at safety, Malcolm Jenkins is the mainstay, but Corey Graham and even Tre Sullivan have been playing better. 

Some of the improvements in the secondary are health-related, some of them are probably experience-related and maybe some of them are ski-mask related. Through the 10 games, including the Saints game, the Eagles had just seven takeaways. In the seven games since, they have 10. They have their black ski mask, a silly thing that has pumped some life into this defense. 

3. OL is balling 

The Eagles’ offensive line, which was supposed to be a strength of the 2018 team, is finally living up to that potential. They’re healthy and dominant right now. The entire OL and starting quarterback played all 68 snaps Sunday in Chicago and controlled that dominant defensive line. 

Jason Peters is finally fully back from the ACL tear last season and is managing everything else. Isaac Seumalo, Lane Johnson and Jason Kelce have also gotten healthy. Johnson has been a monster ever since he got snubbed from the Pro Bowl, when he showed up at the building at 2:30 a.m. to stew.

During this winning streak, the Eagles have faced some of the best pass rushers in the NFL — Aaron Donald, J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Ryan Kerrigan, Khalil Mack — and they have pretty much shut them down. 

4. DL is getting pressure 

The Eagles’ offensive line is supposed to be their strength on that side of the ball and their D-line is supposed to be their strength on defense. Guess what? Both lines have been playing their best football when the games matter most. If you’re wondering about that shored-up secondary I mentioned earlier, it probably has a ton to do with the defensive line getting much more pressure. 

Fletcher Cox and Michael Bennett have been absolute monsters. Brandon Graham is starting to heat up. Chris Long too. They got Tim Jernigan back and he’s been able to stay healthy. Even Haloti Ngata has been much better recently. For as well as some other players have been at linebacker (Nigel Bradham) and in the secondary (Jenkins, Douglas), the defensive line is still the key. 

5. Darren Sproles is back 

It’s hard to believe that a 35-year-old running back who missed most of the season with a hamstring injury has changed things, but Sproles absolutely has. He played 56 percent of the Eagles’ offensive snaps against the Bears and has made big play after big play since getting back in the lineup. In a few weeks, he’s gone from fans wanting him to retire to them wanting him to prolong his career for one more season. 

The Eagles are still going to pick their spots with Sproles, but he just gives their offense one more dynamic, but also dependable, option. He still has some magic left in him as he heads back to New Orleans, where he had his best pro seasons.

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Donovan McNabb still blames Terrell Owens for Eagles' collapse after 2005 Super Bowl

Donovan McNabb still blames Terrell Owens for Eagles' collapse after 2005 Super Bowl

It's been 15 years since the Eagles lost to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX, but Donovan McNabb isn't done talking about that game and its legendarily bizarre aftermath.

In a new conversation with Bleacher Report, McNabb went back in time and unpacked what went wrong during the Super Bowl - "I was trying to be perfect," he explains, "and so some of the balls I threw obviously ended up being intercepted" - before placing most of the blame elsewhere.

And by elsewhere, we mean directly on the shoulders of one Terrell Owens, including a great story about watching Owens' offseason one-man show with Brian Dawkins during training camp:

The lead into the following year, I'm thinking [Owens] will be back healthy, we have [Jevon Kearse], we have guys elevating their game, gaining experience, and I'm thinking, 'We're going to be back.' 

Then the offseason goes on and all of a sudden there's turmoil here and there, different conversations going back and forth, and we had to answer those questions instead of focusing on what we need to do in order to get back to where we were. I thought that was the major distraction for us. 

He's doing sit-ups, he's doing push-ups, he's playing basketball, he's ordering pizza for the people out there, and we're sitting there in training camp just like, 'You've got to be kidding me.' We're in our dorm rooms, and I'm just sitting there watching on TV. Brian Dawkins and Jeremiah Trotter were my roommates, and Dawk would come in like, 'What'd he do now?' I'm like, 'Take a look.' This is like "Days Of Our Lives". It was unbelievable. But that was something that kind of broke us up. That was the most frustrating for me, because I knew what we could do, and, if we decided to just come together, what we could accomplish.

It's hard to argue with McNabb's main point here. The Eagles, with Owens in tow, clearly should've been good enough to at least return to the playoffs, and probably make noise once again. Instead, Owens opted for a wildly dramatic offseason, featuring a contract dispute and the insane driveway workouts, which certainly didn't help team chemistry.

On the other hand, Owens was one of the best receivers in the league, and if the Eagles really felt they could contend for years to come with him on the team, they probably should've shelled out the extra cash to keep him, and by extension McNabb, happy.

Watching Andy Reid continue to succeed in the NFL in 2020, with a wildly talented core of offensive players, makes you wonder what the Eagles could've accomplished if they had kept the McNabb-Owens tandem intact beyond 2004-05.

Instead, McNabb and Owens have maintained an icy relationship since things fell apart that offseason, and McNabb told Bleacher Report that the two still keep their distance.

"I give him a nice peace sign and keep it moving," McNabb said.

Yikes.

You can watch the whole conversation here:

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Eagles Stay or Go 2020: Big decision looming at LB

Eagles Stay or Go 2020: Big decision looming at LB

Reuben Frank, Dave Zangaro and Andrew Kulp bring back Stay or Go with the 2020 version, trying to figure out the future of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Today, we’ll look at linebackers:

Nigel Bradham 

Roob: Bradham isn’t a star, but he’s been generally consistent in his four years here. The problem is that $8 base salary for 2020. There’s no way the Eagles are paying Bradham $8 million so either he agrees to a restructure or he’s outta here. My guess is that the two sides are able to work out a deal that makes sense for both sides. 

Verdict: Stays

Dave: I can’t imagine the Eagles will pick up Bradham’s option year for 2020 with a base salary of $8 million, so if Bradham comes back it’ll be for less money. I talked to the 30-year-old about that possibility and he seemed open to the thought of a restructure. He has spent the last four years in Philly and five of his eight NFL seasons under Jim Schwartz. No one knows this defense better and, kind of like Jalen Mills, I can’t imagine another team would value Bradham as much as the Eagles. I think they figure out a way to bring him back. 

Verdict: Stays

Kulp: Midway through 2018, Bradham's release looked inevitable. Then he had a monster second half, and the Eagles let Jordan Hicks walk instead. That appears to have been a pretty big mistake. At 27, Hicks finished third in the NFL with 150 tackles, plus 1.5 sacks, 3 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles in 16 games for the Cardinals. Bradham turned 30 and meandered through 12 games with 61 tackles, no sacks, 1 interception and no forced fumbles. Sure, he was hurt from the get go, but he just had no impact, and on balance, his last seasons have been a disappointment overall. It won't bring Hicks back, but moving Bradham will save close to $5 million while giving a chance to a younger player. 

Verdict: Goes

Kamu Grugier-Hill 

Roob: Grugier-Hill is a free agent, and he hasn’t been terrible as a starter, but I feel like he’s reached his ceiling, and may be best suited as a special teamer and role player on defense. If he’s willing to stay here at a modest salary, may as well keep him. But I think the Eagles want to upgrade at linebacker, and I think Kamu wants to get paid, so I'm thinking it's more likely he goes than stays.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: This was supposed to be a breakout season for Grugier-Hill but then he hurt his knee in training camp and missed the beginning of the season. Late in the year, there seemed to be a disconnect between him and the franchise when he eventually landed on IR. He was a good player for the Eagles over the last four seasons but I think his time here is probably over as he heads for free agency. 

Verdict: Goes

Kulp: The nature in which Grugier-Hill's season ended -- quietly scuttled to IR one week after hiding a concussion -- is enough to make one wonder if the club soured on him. This was supposed to be a breakout year for a fourth-year player, and while he can't control the fact that he got hurt earlier too, the performance he gave in 10 games wasn't exactly irreplaceable, either. KGH is a free agent, so unless he finds a soft market for his services and is willing to return on a cheap one-year deal, the Eagles could be ready to give someone else a shot. 

Verdict: Goes

Nathan Gerry 

Roob: Gerry averaged close to 50 snaps per game from Week 6 on, and with Kamu and Bradham both dealing with injuries that was the most of all Eagles linebackers during that stretch. I’m OK with Gerry. I’m not sure he’ll ever be a star, but he’s a smart, tough guy and seems to be around the ball a lot. He’s on a cheap contract, plays a ton of special teams and whether or not he's a full-time starter moving forward, I can't imagine he’s going anywhere.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: Give Gerry credit. He came into the league making a transition from safety and in his third NFL season, looked like a linebacker. He had a pretty good 2019 season: 72 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 INTs, 1 TD, 1 FR, 5 PBUs. He’s definitely not an old-school ‘backer but that’s not what the Eagles want anyway. He’ll be back in 2020 and should be in the mix for playing time. 

Verdict: Stays

Kulp: It might sound funny, but there's really no denying Gerry was the best linebacker on the team in 2019. Seriously. The third-year player racked up 78 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 interceptions and a touchdown. And while missed tackles were an issue, it became a bit more forgivable at the end of the year when it was revealed he played the entire season with a core muscle injury. Gerry may never be a tackling machine, but he's athletic, gives full effort and makes impactful plays. There's a very real possibility he goes into next season as the Eagles' No. 1 linebacker. 

Verdict: Stays

T.J. Edwards 

Roob: With Zach Brown out of the picture, Edwards got a little bit of run later in the year as an undrafted rookie and held his own. He’s a heck of a special teamer – his 334 snaps was second on the team to Gerry – and is worth a long look in camp, especially if Bradham is gone.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: The thing I really like about Edwards is he doesn’t try to do too much. A lot of young players try to make spectacular plays and end up getting burnt. Edwards just makes the plays that come to him and he was solid and instinctive all season. Every time the Eagles asked him to handle more responsibly, he did it. 

Verdict: Stays

Kulp: If Gerry is going into the season as the Eagles' No. 1 linebacker, there's a chance it will be this kid by the end. Hell, maybe even Week 1. Edwards only played 11.1% of the defensive snaps, yet he managed to record 30 tackles - one fewer than Zach Brown in 26.6% and seven more than Grugier-Hill in 29.4%. Not bad for an undrafted rookie. Edwards deserves a shot for a bigger role in this defense, though the club will surely look to add more competition for starting jobs. 

Verdict: Stays

Duke Riley 

Roob: Core special teamer is under contract for another year and I would expect the Eagles to keep him around. He barely plays on defense – just 29 snaps all year – but he’s a capable special teamer and isn’t costing you much so no reason not to keep him  unless you bring in a bunch of younger linebackers. Which is possible.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: The fact that the Eagles named Riley a special teams captain late in the season kind of tells you what they think of him. The Eagles certainly won that trade with the Falcons, who got Johnathan Cyprien in return back in late September. 

Verdict: Stays

Kulp: If nothing else, the Eagles nabbed themselves an excellent special teams player from the Falcons. Riley only came over in a trade at the very end of September, yet was elevated to captain status by season's end. And while he saw almost no action on defense, this is a former third-round pick with 16 career starts in the NFL, which suggests he'll make for a capable reserve at the very least. He'll be 26 and under contract for cheap. 

Verdict: Stays

Alex Singleton 

Roob: Like Riley and Edwards, Singleton is essentially a special teamer who’s a linebacker by trade. The former CFL’er spent the first month and a half of the season on the practice squad before an October call up. He never got on the field on defense. Seems to be a decent special teamer. But you can’t keep all these guys, so I’m going with Singleton as the odd man out.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: Kudos to Singleton, who decided to stay on a practice squad instead of going back to the CFL where he was already a star. The decision paid off when he was called up from the practice squad in October. I’m on the fence about Singleton. Teams always need special teams linebackers but I think there’s a chance the Eagles draft one late or get another priority free agent who could bump him off the roster. 

Verdict: Goes

Kulp: Singleton didn't get any looks with the defense, but he played a ton on special teams following his promotion from the practice squad. Not sure he'll ever be more than that, but he's got a great outlook and personality -- the type of player you want in your locker room -- and with all the turnover likely to occur at the top of the depth chart, the Eagles probably would prefer not to back-fill the roster simultaneously. Plus, given what he accomplished in his second season in the NFL, it probably wouldn't be wise to bet against him just yet. 

Verdict: Stays

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