Eagles

Eagles face big trouble if Nick Foles, offense can't start hitting big plays

Eagles face big trouble if Nick Foles, offense can't start hitting big plays

Do you remember the Eagles’ last big pass play in a regular-season game? Let’s say … a 20-yard completion to a wide receiver?

Me either.

So I looked it up, and just to give you an idea of how long it’s been, the quarterback was Carson Wentz.

Nick Foles hasn’t completed a pass of 20 yards or more to a wide receiver in his five regular-season appearances dating back to last December in L.A.

That’s 134 pass attempts and not a single play down the field to a wideout.

In the season opener against the Falcons, Foles’ longest completion to a receiver was 10 yards, and overall the Eagles averaged just 3.6 yards per play.

For the sake of comparison, the Eagles in 1998 averaged 10 points per game — third-lowest ever in a 16-game season — and even that team averaged 4.1 yards per play.

The Eagles won, but you’re not going to win a lot of games when your receivers are non-factors. 

Way too much pressure to put on the defense.

It’s hard to drive 80 yards down the field in 12 plays. You need those chunks.

Big plays demoralize opponents. They energize the sideline. They put the opposing defense on its heels. They open up the running game and the underneath passing game. 

We’re not necessarily talking 50-yard bombs, although those would be nice. But mid-range pass plays. That 20-to-35 range. 

The crazy thing is that in the playoffs Foles chucked the ball up and down the field. He had eight completions of 20 yards or more to his wideouts in the postseason and four others to the backs and tight ends.

So why is this happening now? 

And how do the Eagles fix it?

Hopefully, as Foles gets more and more reps until Wentz gets back, he finds that comfort zone he was in last postseason. We know he has the arm to zip the ball down the field. We’ve seen it. He’s just looked tentative and skittish, not just last Thursday night but throughout the preseason.

But it’s not just Foles.

With Alshon Jeffery out and Mack Hollins on IR, this is a perilously thin group of receivers. We know what Nelson Agholor can do. We know what Mike Wallace has done in the past. We know what Shelton Gibson and DeAndre Carter did in the preseason.

But there’s a reason the Eagles have been bringing every unemployed receiver in the universe in for workouts, adding them to the practice squad or flip-flopping them on the 53.

You don’t see that sort of attention paid to one position if the team doesn’t recognize there’s a real issue.

There’s also the reality that this is a new offensive coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich is gone. QBs coach John DeFilippo is gone. Mike Groh is in his first stint as an NFL offensive coordinator, and Press Taylor is an NFL position coach for the first time.  

Add it all up and you get 14 targets for 43 yards for the wideouts vs. the Falcons.

The good news is Pederson has a tremendous track record of fixing these types of things. And Foles has this mysterious ability to shrug off awful games and follow them with terrific games. And Howie Roseman is pretty good at finding players who can help.

But it’s clear something has to change. You make life awfully difficult for yourself when you average 3.6 yards per play.

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Eagles receive top Madden 20 team rating despite Carson Wentz snub

Eagles receive top Madden 20 team rating despite Carson Wentz snub

It’s that time of year again. 

Today, the good people of Madden released their full rankings for Madden 20, available on Aug. 2. Here are some notable items from how they see they see the Eagles looking this year.

The Best Team in the Game

That’s right, Madden believes in the Eagles. With an overall rating of 89, the Philadelphia Eagles are the highest rated team in the game. They edged out the Dallas Cowboys (88), New Orleans Saints (87), New England Patriots (87) and Green Bay Packers (87).

The lowest ranked teams in the game are the Miami Dolphins (74), followed by the New York Giants (77).

Carson Wentz Snubbed in Madden 20

Carson Wentz will begin the season as an 82 overall, dipping three points from where he was to start the year last season. The rating places Wentz tied for 13th at his position behind guys like Baker Mayfield (83) and Jared Goff (83) and tied with Deshaun Watson (82). After an incredible season last year, Patrick Mahomes (97) is the top-rated QB, followed by the ageless wonder, Tom Brady (96).

The Top Bird

It should come as no surprise that Fletcher Cox is the highest ranked Eagles player at an overall ranking of 96. His ranking makes him the 15th highest ranked player in the NFL and the top defensive tackle (Madden considers Aaron Donald an end). His combination of speed, acceleration and strength make him an unstoppable force in both the video game and in real life.

These Birds Can Fly

One of the more important aspects in Madden often times is speed and the Eagles have 13 players with a rating of 90 or higher in that category. Five players, Ronald Darby, Shelton Gibson, Josh Hawkins, DeSean Jackson and Avonte Maddox, are tied for the highest speed rating on the team at 93.

According to Madden, the fastest player in the NFL is Tyreek hill, with 99 speed and 99 acceleration, the only player with a 99 in either category.

Top of their Class

There’s a number of Eagles players that are ranked very highly at their position. 

Fletcher Cox: 96, 1st among DT

Jason Kelce: 94, tied for 1st among C

Zach Ertz: 93, 2nd among TE

Malcolm Jenkins: 92, 2nd among SS

Brandon Brooks: 90, 4th among RG

Brandon Graham: 89, 3rd among RE

Lane Johnson: 89, 2nd among RT

Lowest Rated Eagle

Sorry Rick Lovato, for the second straight year you’re the lowest rated Eagles player. Actually, Lovato’s ranking lowered from a 43 in 2019 to a 41 in 2020. Lovato, the long snapper, certainly didn’t do anything wrong from a snapping standpoint last season, but he’s listed as a TE in the game and they probably want to make him as unusable at that position as possible. 

Other notable Eagles that received poor ratings are Clayton Thorson (56), Nate Sudfeld (57) and Jordan Mailata (58). 

Click here to see the Madden ranking for the entire Eagles roster.

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Eagles 2019 training camp battles: How cornerback shakes out

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Eagles 2019 training camp battles: How cornerback shakes out

As we near the start of the Eagles’ 2019 training camp, we’re taking a closer look at some key position battles to watch this summer. 

Up first: Cornerback

Names to know 

Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox, Sidney Jones, Cre’Von LeBlanc, Josh Hawkins 

What to watch 

The Eagles have a pretty deep stable of young and talented cornerbacks and after last year’s disaster at the position, that should let DBs coach Cory Undlin sleep a little easier at night. In 2018, the cornerback position was completely decimated by injuries, but it allowed younger players to gain valuable experience. Now, we’re not sure who the starters are anymore. 

On the injury front, Ronald Darby (ACL) and Jalen Mills (foot) both didn’t participate in OTAs as they recover from injuries that ended their 2018 seasons early. But both were the starters at the beginning of the 2018 season. During the spring, we saw Darby working on side fields, but didn’t see that from Mills. Will these two be ready for the start of training camp? If not, are their positions guaranteed when they return? In Darby’s case, that answer is probably a yes. The Eagles re-signed him to a one-year deal and they didn’t bring him back to sit on the bench. But after that, the other two cornerback spots seem up for grabs. 

In the absence of starters last year, Douglas, Maddox and LeBlanc all got significant playing time and all three performed fairly well. Douglas has gotten chances to start after injuries in his first two NFL seasons and might be ready to simply have a starting role. Maddox was a rookie last season but didn’t play like it; he played three positions and although he looked like a rookie at times in the Saints playoff game, he had a fantastic first season for a fourth-round pick. And LeBlanc might have saved the season after he was claimed on waivers from Detroit. Jones had an up-and-down second NFL season thanks to a lingering hamstring injury, but he’s supremely talented and was about to be a first-round pick just a couple years ago. And Jones started last season as the nickel cornerback and played better than you probably remember. Despite his success last season, it seems like LeBlanc is firmly behind those other five; but having him as a sixth corner shows their depth. 

During OTAs — without Darby and Mills — the starters were Douglas, Maddox and Jones. The key here will be to see who gets first-team reps when the entire group is healthy. I’d expect we see a few combinations during training camp as the Eagles figure out their best combination. That also means moving some players (namely Maddox and Jones) inside and outside to find the right fits. 

Prediction 

Darby is going to start. Like I said earlier, they didn’t sign him to sit him. So that leaves the other two jobs open. I’m not going to give Mills his job back before I even seen him on the field; his foot injury has been a long one, so until he’s really back, I won’t predict him to be a starter (although this is where I should mention how much Jim Schwartz has seemed to like Mills over the last three years). 

So for now, I’ll guess Darby, Douglas and Maddox are the starters barring a trade. I’m still bullish on Jones; I’m just not sure how the Eagles can start him over Douglas or Maddox based on what we’ve seen. But this should be an open competition in training camp, which is where these jobs should be won. 

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