Concern about Michael Bennett, remembering Wes Hopkins, more in Roob's 10 Random Eagles observations

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Concern about Michael Bennett, remembering Wes Hopkins, more in Roob's 10 Random Eagles observations

The Lane Johnson effect, concern about Michael Bennett, pondering Jordan Matthews and remembering Wes Hopkins.

It's all here and much more in this week's Roob's 10 Random Eagles Observations!

1. Fascinating to me that the Eagles have eight sacks this year and five have been in the fourth quarter. Look at this chart that shows how many dropbacks there’ve been against the Eagles by quarter and how many sacks:

1st quarter – 30 dropbacks, 1 sack  

2nd quarter – 27 dropbacks, 2 sacks

3rd quarter – 27 dropbacks, 0 sacks  

4th quarter - 41 dropbacks, 5 sacks  

That's a sack every 28 dropbacks the first three quarters and one every eight dropbacks in the fourth quarter.

The Eagles rank 18th in first-quarter sacks, 14th in the second quarter, tied for 29th in the third quarter sacks and … first in the fourth quarter. The Giants (with two) are the only NFL team with fewer sacks through the first 45 minutes. But nobody has more in the fourth quarter.

My takeaway? The Eagles’ pass rushers are certainly very fit and tenacious. They don’t back down. They play 60 minutes. They don’t let a poor start get them down. Five fourth-quarter sacks speaks volumes. But three sacks going into the fourth quarter isn’t enough. Quarterbacks have been able to stand in the pocket and make throws for much of the game so far — 5 TDs, 1 INT and a 95.6 passer rating going into the fourth quarter but 0 TDs, 1 INT and a 78.4 rating in the fourth quarter.

What we see in the last 15 minutes the Eagles need more of in the first 45 minutes.

2. Zach Ertz needs only 31 catches to move into the top-five in Eagles history. That’s nuts, considering he’s only in his sixth season.

3. Without Darren Sproles, without much of a return game at all, and without many turnovers, the Eagles have been hamstrung so far by terrible field position. Some 25 of their 34 drives have started at their own 25 or worse, 11 of them inside the 20. Only one has started across midfield and that was at Tampa’s 47-yard-line and went nowhere. Their average drive start is their own 24-yard-line, which is third-worst in the league. Meanwhile, their opponents have started at their own 33, which is the best in the league. That’s a very tough way to win football games.

4. It’s kind of intriguing to think what Jordan Matthews might be able to contribute without the pressure of being a high-paid, high-round draft pick. He may not be a No. 1, but I’ll bet he could be a heck of a No. 3.

5. The work Chris Long is doing in the community is so huge. Long’s latest initiative through his Chris Long Foundation in conjunction with the United Way is the First Quarter for Literacy drive, which aims to provide books to area kids who don’t have them, encourage Eagles fans to help out by donating books and educate parents and caregivers on the importance of raising youngsters who love to read. The focus of Long’s drive is fourth-graders, because of the connection between reading ability at that age and long-term academic success. Long is donating $625,000 — a quarter of his 2018 base salary of $2.5 million — to start the drive. For more info, check out FirstQuarterForLiteracy.org or chrislongfoundation.com.

6. My favorite Carson Wentz number from Sunday was 67.6 percent accuracy. That’s his ninth-highest in 30 career games. Wentz said he was disappointed with his 60 percent completion percentage last year, so it's really encouraging to see him close to 68 percent in his first game in 9 ½ months.

7. Pat Mahomes might extend Andy Reid’s career by 10 years. Heck, he might get Big Red into the Hall of Fame, Super Bowl title or not. Andy is already 10th all-time with 186 wins as a head coach but just 40 wins out of the top five. He’s 10th all-time with 11 playoff wins and five out of the top 5. Andy’s 60. If he coaches five more years and averages, say, 9 1/2 wins, his career average, and adds a few playoff wins? He’s in.

8. The Eagles are 22-4 under Doug Pederson when Lane Johnson plays.

9. It’s still early, but Michael Bennett has five tackles, four hurries and no sacks in 104 snaps. Bennett was a Pro Bowler each of the last three years. He’s 32 now. He hasn’t looked like a Pro Bowler yet. Need to see more from him.

10. I started covering the Eagles in 1987, and guys like Reggie White, Jerome Brown, Andre Waters and Wes Hopkins were like superheroes to me. Just larger-than-life figures. They were immense talents with personalities to match their ability. Those Eagles teams of the late 1980s and early 1990s put football back on the map in Philadelphia, and those defenses are still revered. Even now, 30 years later, mention Reggie, Wes, Jerome and Andre to a random stranger walking down Walnut Street and they’ll know exactly who you mean. I feel so lucky that as a young sports writer just starting out at the Burlington County Times I got to know those guys and got to watch them play football every Sunday and see their antics in the locker room and talk to them after their triumphs and disappointments. I can’t believe they’re all gone. It’s so hard to keep saying good-bye. They've all left us way too young.

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Greg Ward is the receiver Malcolm Jenkins wanted all along

Greg Ward is the receiver Malcolm Jenkins wanted all along

While the Eagles were busy trying to cobble together a wide receiver corps with Mack Hollins and Jordan Matthews, Malcolm Jenkins was campaigning for somebody else to get a shot.

Greg Ward.

“I’ve been calling for him to get called up to the active roster since training camp,” Jenkins said Thursday.

Nobody listened.

Instead, Ward spent nine of the first 10 weeks of the season on the practice squad. The one week he was on the active roster, against the Lions, he only got two snaps on offense. 

Then it was back to the practice squad.

Once Ward finally landed on the 53-man roster for good and actually got a chance to play and the Eagles saw what he could do, the Eagles released both Hollins and Matthews in the span of nine days.

Hollins played 473 snaps and had 10 catches in 11 games. That's a catch every 47.3 snaps.

Matthews played 137 snaps and had four catches in two games. That's a catch every 34.3 snaps.

Ward has played 145 snaps in three games and already has 11 receptions. That's a catch every 13.2 snaps.

Ward's eight-yard catch in overtime Monday night got the Eagles down to the two-yard-line, setting up Carson Wentz's game-winning TD pass to Zach Ertz.

How did the Eagles not realize for 2 1/2 months that Ward was a better option than Hollins or Matthews?

It’s not like he’s new here. Ward was on the practice squad all year in 2017 and in training camp in 2018 as well before leading the ill-fated AAF in receiving.

Boston Scott, Josh Perkins and Ward, who were all on the practice squad for a good chunk of this season, had 15 catches for 140 yards (and 59 rushing yards and a TD) in the Eagles’ win over the Giants.

Hollins? Hasn't caught a pass since September. 

Matthews? He's back with the 49ers, who've already cut him twice this year (without a catch).

Scott, like Ward, was buried on the depth chart while the Eagles went out and got Jay Ajayi, who is averaging 3.0 yards on 10 carries. Not until Miles Sanders had to leave the game briefly Monday night did the Eagles finally let Scott play. And that was the last we saw of Ajayi.

On the one hand, it’s good that these practice squad guys are contributing because it shows that the Eagles at least liked them enough to sign them and keep them around.

But why they stuck with guys like Ajayi, Hollins and Matthews for so long before finally letting Scott, Perkins and Ward play remains a mystery.

How could they not tell they could play?

“Not necessarily surprised because we see it every day,” Jenkins said. “These are guys who make us better and challenge us. I’m just excited to see them, No. 1, have the opportunity but to take full advantage of it and really help us get a win. I don’t think we get the win without them. To see them get the opportunity, I’m definitely proud.

“It does create some energy when you see them make plays. When guys you expect to make plays make plays, it’s one thing. But all of a sudden you have Perkins and Boston and G. Ward making plays, it adds a little juice to the team.” 

You just have to wonder why it took so long for them to even get the opportunity to add a little juice to the team.

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Kamu Grugier-Hill admits to lying about concussion to stay in game

Kamu Grugier-Hill admits to lying about concussion to stay in game

Eagles linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill on Thursday admitted that when he suffered his concussion in Miami two weeks ago, he lied to medical personnel to stay in the game.

He told them he hurt his shoulder.

“I just basically lied to them,” Grugier-Hill said. “I thought it would just go away. Just didn’t really say anything about it. It got to the point where I really couldn’t lie to them anymore.”

The concussion happened on the first play from scrimmage in the game against the Dolphins, when the starting linebacker collided with receiver DeVante Parker. That means he played a total of 54 combined defensive and special teams snaps with a concussion that game.

Eventually, when the headaches didn’t subside, Grugier-Hill reported the concussion symptoms to trainers on Thursday, four days after the head shot. He was put in the NFL’s concussion protocol and missed the Giants game. He has since been cleared and will return to action in Washington this weekend.

Grugier-Hill, 25, said he had never had a concussion before and didn’t know exactly what it felt like. Last week, head coach Doug Pederson said the Eagles encourage all their players to report concussion symptoms and self police.

Does Grugier-Hil regret his decision?

“No,” he said. “I mean, I wish we would have at least got a win.”

There’s no questioning Grugier-Hill’s loyalty but lying to medical staff about a brain injury is nothing to be praised; it’s dangerous. But at least Grugier-Hill was honest about his decision — plenty of players aren’t.

And this certainly wasn’t the first time — nor will it be the last — that a player decides to stay in a game even though they know they might be concussed.

Back in 2015, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins admitted he played through more than an entire half against the Cowboys with a concussion. After eventually getting through the protocol, Jenkins said he felt “foggy” for the entire second half.

That’s the hole in the NFL’s concussion policy. The league has concussion spotters in the press box at every game and has made strides to prevent and detect these head injuries earlier, but players are still willing to put their long-term health on the line to stay in games. And Eagles medical personnel can’t treat a concussion they don’t know exists. It’s a hard problem to fix.

As far as the league has come, concussions are still far too normalized in the sport.

“I think it’s just part of the game,” Grugier-Hill said. “You get rocked a little bit every once in a while.”

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