Eagles

Cowboys 29, Eagles 23 — NFC East hopes on life support after damaging OT loss

Cowboys 29, Eagles 23 — NFC East hopes on life support after damaging OT loss

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ARLINGTON, Texas — They’re just not good enough. No other way to put it. They’re good enough to keep it close, good enough to make it interesting.

They’re just not good enough to beat good teams.  

You can play around with tiebreakers and playoff scenarios all you want (see story). The 2018 Eagles are just not good enough.

Period.

Here are our 10 instant observations from the Eagles’ 29-23 overtime loss Sunday to the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.

1. Same old story. Terrible start. Fight like hell to get back into it. Then come up short at the end. That’s the story of the 2018 Eagles season. Why can’t they play a complete game on both sides of the ball for 60 minutes? There are a thousand reasons. Bad coaching. Poor preparation. Not enough elite players. But the bottom line is you can’t win consistently in the NFL if you can’t come out strong and finish strong. The Eagles are just incapable of playing a complete game against a decent opponent.

2. Carson Wentz’s early struggles are really becoming an epidemic, and it’s clear that neither Wentz nor his coaches have any idea how to get him going early in games. This was one of the biggest games of Wentz’s career, and he once again came out flat. He didn’t see open receivers, he misfired trying to hit open guys, he held onto the ball too long, and his pocket recognition was way off. The same pattern just keeps repeating itself. He was brilliant in the second half. But the Eagles have to figure out why he can’t put together a complete game because you can’t win this way, no matter how talented you are (see story).

3. I also don’t think Wentz got any help from Doug Pederson. Pederson's play-calling again was frustrating. Whether it was not using Josh Adams the rest of the first half after his 24-yard run on the Eagles’ fourth play of the game or that ill-advised 3rd-and-1 Wentz run right at Demarcus Lawrence or not getting Golden Tate involved, Pederson once again was unable to get the offense into any kind of rhythm for most of the game. This team just doesn’t score points the way it should.

4. The defense played bend-but-don’t-break for much of the game and held the Cowboys without a touchdown going into the fourth quarter, but the duct-tape secondary finally caught up to it and it just fell to pieces, giving up 23 points and 271 yards in the fourth quarter and overtime. Not an excuse, but I just don’t know what more it could do without Jordan Hicks, Jalen Mills, Derek Barnett, Tim Jernigan, Avonte Maddox, Ronald Darby and Rodney McLeod. The defense forced three turnovers, recorded three sacks and got decent pressure at times, but ultimately it just doesn't have the manpower to stop an offense with the weapons the Cowboys have — Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper. It's just not good enough with its current personnel (see story).

5. Pederson was back to his old ways ignoring the running game. Adams got three carries on the Eagles’ first four plays and had an eight-yard run, a minus-two and then a 24-yard gain 3:34 into the game. Then he didn’t have another carry until the third quarter and finished with just seven attempts for the game. Overall, the Eagles ran 36 pass plays and 16 running plays. I’m not saying give him 25 carries every week, but one carry in the span of six possessions for a guy who has been one of the league’s better runners the last month makes no sense. You want rhythm on offense? A nice way to get it is to mix in the running game. The Cowboys held onto the ball for 45½ minutes to 22½ minutes for the Eagles. Dallas had 36 rushing attempts!

6. The Eagles are going to have to figure some things out this offseason because the Cowboys aren’t going away. Dak Prescott threw for 455 yards and three TDs, Elliott had 113 rushing yards and 79 receiving and Cooper 217 receiving yards and three TDs (see story). Getting all the injured guys back will help, but the Eagles still have some significant work to do through the draft and free agency to build a defense that can match up with this group.

7. How big has Darren Sproles been these last two weeks? Here’s a guy who barely played any football since the 2016 season, and he had a huge touchdown in the win over the Redskins and that huge 25-yard catch and run on 4th-and-3 on the last play of the third quarter and then the game-tying TD with 1:39 left Sunday. For selfish reasons, I really hope he doesn’t retire. He’s just so much fun to watch.

8. I don’t say this enough, but Fletcher Cox is a flat-out beast. Honestly, he’s one of the Eagles’ best defensive players ever.

9. So impressed with Dallas Goedert. After catching just one pass for nine yards on the Eagles’ first nine drives, he had a huge 26-yard catch and run inside the 10 and then the game-tying touchdown with three minutes left. He finished 4 for 44 with the TD and had a 75-yard TD wiped away because of a ridiculous call. He is so talented.

10a. Nelson Agholor rarely gets the ball anymore, but the dude is just so clutch. He had one catch against the Giants and it was that huge fourth-down conversion. Then after catching just one short pass the whole game, he makes that miracle 49-yarder down the left sideline to set up the Sproles TD. I wish he was more involved, but he’s just such a gamer.

10b. Finally, I never blame the refs for anything. There are always bad calls, and you live with them. But that ruling to open the game, that there was no clear recovery by the Eagles on the Jourdan Lewis fumble, and the ensuing confirmation by the replay officials, was just absurd (see story). And the offensive pass interference on Goedert that wiped out the 75-yard game-tying TD was worse. Just inexcusable stuff.

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Eagles' coaches to continue working at home despite NFL policy change

Eagles' coaches to continue working at home despite NFL policy change

In a bit of a surprising move, the Eagles have decided to keep their coaching staff sequestered at home, despite an NFL policy that would allow them to return to work at the NovaCare Complex on Friday.

The NFL is allowing coaches — but not players — to work at team facilities starting Friday, as long as local and state guidelines allow it.

But Doug Pederson is apparently so happy with the way virtual sessions between the coaches and players have gone over the past several weeks that he doesn't see a reason to bring his coaches into the building yet.

"The virtual collaboration over the past three months has proven that the contributions and value of our employees is not dependent upon their physical presence at the facility," the team said in a statement.

Many Eagles assistants don't live in Philadelphia year-round and the new coaches on Pederson's staff haven't had the chance to look for homes yet.

Because players aren't allowed into the complex — other than injured or rehabbing players — it wouldn't really change the way the Eagles are holding virtual OTA sessions.

The current set of offseason workouts is scheduled to end on June 25, and training camp is scheduled to begin about a month later.

The Eagles will be opening the NovaCare Complex and the Linc to a limited number of employees next week.  

"Over the last 12 weeks, our organization has remained connected, united and focused on our preparations for the upcoming season," the Eagles said in an unattributed statement. 

"We have been planning for and will begin a phased approach of gradually returning a limited number of employees to the NovaCare Complex and Lincoln Financial Field beginning Monday in compliance with the state and local guidelines, NFL policies and in consultation with medical experts."

The Eagles closed the NovaCare Complex on March 13 and players and coaches have been meeting virtually since. 

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Drew Brees fumble highlights how much Carson Wentz nailed it

Drew Brees fumble highlights how much Carson Wentz nailed it

As we watch Drew Brees backpedal, apologize and now try to smooth things over with his teammates and his city, one thing is becoming clear. 

Carson Wentz nailed it. The first time. 

Wentz last Friday became one of the first high-profile white athletes in America to speak out about the killing of George Floyd. He stopped short of specifically calling out police brutality but he condemned “institutional racism” and his approach was one of understanding and empathy. It was honest, it was refreshing and it was unifying. 

Then there’s what Brees said. 

Brees in an interview on Wednesday reiterated his response from 2016 about the peaceful protests against police brutality and racial injustice once held by NFL players during the national anthem. Brees said he will “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America.” 

For Brees’s black teammates who have been fighting for racial equality, and for those affected by racial injustice, those words hurt. Not just because Brees completely missed the point of those protests but because of his complete lack of awareness. It hurt more because it came from someone they thought was an ally. 

Malcolm Jenkins on Thursday said he had spoken to Brees but he still posted his emotional responses to those comments. A strained Jenkins choked back tears as he talked about how much the words from Brees pained him. 

One of the big problems for Jenkins was the loss of trust. In an emotionally charged week, during which Jenkins has been trying to effect real change, someone he considered to be an ally, a friend, a brother, completely discounted the cause. 

To Brees’s credit, he did apologize on Thursday morning. While many will argue that his apology fell short in many areas, it’s at least a start to his rebuilding trust in the locker room and in New Orleans, where crowds of protesters on Wednesday chanted “F— Drew Brees!” Some will accept his apology, some will want to see more and some never will. 

For his sake and for the sake of his teammates, I hope the apology wasn’t hollow. I hope Brees learns why his words hurt so many. 

It’s hard to imagine Brees watching those videos of Jenkins and not wanting to rectify the situation. Imagine causing so much pain to someone you’re supposed to care about. 

While plenty of Saints players have spoken out against their quarterback’s words this week, many Eagles players have gained even more respect for their quarterback. DeSean Jackson earlier this week said his white teammates like Wentz, Zach Ertz and Jason Kelce stepped up. In that moment, Wentz wasn’t just a leader of a football team; he was a leader of the community. 

This isn’t about football right now. But eventually, there will be NFL games and it’s fair to wonder how these parallel situations will play out short-term and long-term in their respective cities. One team seems to be weaker because of this and one team seems to be stronger. 

While Brees caused what might be irreparable damage to the brotherhood of his football team and to his legacy in New Orleans, Wentz took a huge step forward as a leader of his locker room and the community. 

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