Eagles

Roob's observations after Eagles squander strong start and drop the ball late vs. Patriots

Roob's observations after Eagles squander strong start and drop the ball late vs. Patriots

BOX SCORE 

This one was especially painful, because the Eagles put themselves in terrific position Sunday over the hated Patriots, building an early 10-0 lead before just collapsing.

The Patriots came into the Linc and handed the Eagles an excruciatingly ugly 17-10 loss, dropping the Eagles back to 5-5.

The Eagles were terrific on defense, holding the Patriots to one touchdown and fewer than 300 yards. But when the offense is this hapless? Doesn’t matter.

And the Seahawks are up next.

Let’s get going with our 10 instant observations.

1. As much as we all said that the Eagles could afford to lose to the Patriots and Seahawks and still win the NFC East as long as they take care of business the rest of the year … it’s hard to think about that after the way the Eagles played the last 42 minutes of this one, getting outscored 17-0. When you have a 10-0 lead at home, I don’t care how many Super Bowls the team on the other sideline has won, you find a way to finish. That’s on Doug Pederson. I know the offense is undermanned, they’re banged up, they’re missing a lot of guys. But the Eagles failed to score on their last 10 drives. And they really only moved the ball on one of them. Pederson had to come up with answers, and he just couldn’t.

2. What happened? Obviously, the Eagles missed Lane Johnson, who left the game in the second quarter with a concussion. Carson Wentz missed some guys. The running game really slowed down. There were drops, penalties and a turnover. But really it comes down to one thing. Howie Roseman left this roster with no firepower. Yeah, injuries, blah, blah, blah. Who cares. Everybody has injuries. How do you go play football with no wide receivers? There’s plenty of blame to go around, but Roseman put this roster together. He took the bows when the Eagles won the Super Bowl. This team has no functional wide receivers, and that’s on the GM.

3. That first half was the worst pocket presence we’ve seen from Wentz. He took four sacks — the first time in his career he’s been sacked four times in a first half — and fumbled on one of them deep in Eagles territory, leading to a Patriots field goal. Fair to say at least three of the sacks were avoidable. I understand Wentz always wants to make a play, but he’s got to be smarter with his decision making. He was better in the second half. And it’s important to remember the Patriots’ pass defense is 2nd-best in the NFL over the last 20 years. But it’s definitely something Wentz has to be better at.

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4. I don’t get the kid gloves with Miles Sanders. Splitting the carries with Jordan Howard is one thing. But with Boston Scott? After what I’ve seen from him over the last month and a half, I figured Sanders would get 18 to 22 touches. He had 13 and only four in the second half. With no DeSean Jackson, no Alshon Jeffery, no Jordan Howard. Four touches in the second half. The same number as Scott. That's just a terrible job by Pederson.  

5. It felt like once the Patriots took that 17-10 lead early in the third quarter they were just content to run a few plays, punt the ball deep and let Boston Scott either let the ball roll inside the 10 or return it a few yards. Bill Belichick used field position as a weapon. He knows the Eagles can’t make plays down the field, and he was perfectly fine just giving them the ball and letting them do pretty much nothing. He wanted them to have the ball. His plan worked, which is a pretty sad statement about the Eagles’ offense.

6. I just can’t take Nelson Agholor mistiming or misjudging or misplaying a deep ball. It’s just tough to watch him right now. They’re not going to cut him, but sometimes I feel like it might be best for everyone if they do.

7. I can’t even imagine where the Eagles would be without Zach Ertz. He was 9-for-94 Sunday and is having another big year. On a day when all the wide receivers combined had 75 yards, Ertz was huge. Dallas Goedert had three awful drops (one negated by a penalty), but Ertz has been very good. There are times it feels like he’s their only weapon.

8. That missed tackle by Nate Gerry on Mohamad Sanu was one of the worst plays we’ve seen this year by an Eagles defender. Gerry was in perfect position to stop Sanu for a one-yard gain but just flat-out whiffed, and Sanu turned what should have been a nothing play into a 30-yard gain — the Patriots’ longest play of the game. Five plays later, the Patriots scored their only touchdown and took the lead for good. Just inexcusable.

9. In all, though, really a terrific effort by the defense. They’ve now allowed just 44 points in their last three games, and that’s a huge improvement from earlier in the year. I still think the Eagles win the NFC East, but they definitely have some things to figure out on the other side of the ball.

10. I’ll tell you what — Jalen Mills has played really, really well since he came back. This defense is so much sounder with Mills and Ronald Darby than it’s been in a long time.

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The area where JJ Arcega-Whiteside is showing some potential

The area where JJ Arcega-Whiteside is showing some potential

For a second-round pick, it’s fair to say that JJ Arcega-Whiteside’s rookie season hasn’t been a resounding success to this point. 

So it’s definitely notable that his two biggest catches of the season have come on off-schedule plays. 

“That’s kind of like backyard football,” Arcega-Whiteside said this week. “Ain’t no real way to coach it or train for it. It’s just like, broken play, get open. There’s no technique or nothing. It’s just get open. I’ve just been lucky that Carson has found me and I was in the right place at the right time. Hopefully, we can get some more going forward.” 

For whatever reason, it seems like the rookie is better in those situations right now. Maybe it’s because of the NFL learning curve or because these are the situations where thinking is completely removed from the equation. Just go out there and make a play. 

It’s encouraging to see his playmaking ability, even when it hasn’t come as much on the initial play calls. At least we can see that he has it in him. 

Arcega-Whiteside caught a 29-yard pass on an off-schedule play in the fourth quarter of the Patriots game. And then on Sunday in Miami, his first NFL touchdown came on a 15-yarder on a broken play. 

The touchdown came with 13 seconds left in the first half against the Dolphins. It was 3rd-and-goal from the 15, which is a difficult situation to convert. In fact, NFL offenses have gotten touchdowns on just 2 of 13 such opportunities this year. 

“He's been at the right place at the right time,” offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. “The play there at the end of the half for the touchdown where he's inside releasing there and then he is working with Carson as Carson scrambles out there to the right, and then he's able to get out of the grass above the DB and come back and fight for the ball was a really good play by JJ and Carson.”

As Wentz escapes the pocket, you can see the rookie lock eyes with him. He’s about to take one more step toward the sideline and cut back inside, avoiding the defender that had tight coverage on him. Wentz puts it on him. 

Arcega-Whiteside and Wentz haven’t played a ton together, so it’s impressive that they’re able to connect on these types of plays. The receiver has to understand where the quarterback is going to throw it and the quarterback has to trust that the receiver is thinking the same thing. 

“We talk about it,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “It’s like, ‘ideally, we want this guy to do this or this guy to do this.’ But at the end of the day, just get open. Come back to the quarterback, be friendly and play ball.”

That’s usually the main coaching point for receivers in these off-schedule situations: Be quarterback friendly, which means give him a target, give him an opportunity to get the ball to you. 

That’s exactly what Arcega-Whiteside also did in the fourth quarter against the Patriots a couple weeks ago. He found an open spot in the field where Wentz threw it and came back to get the ball. 

 

What makes Arcega-Whiteside good in these situations?  

It’s pretty simple. 

“Just his ability to keep working,” Wentz said. “JJ does a great job of it.” 

The Eagles have struggled to find consistent plays from their receivers this year, so the fact that their second-round pick had trouble getting on the field at first and still has just six catches for 101 yards isn’t great. But Arcega-Whiteside and Wentz will be together for a least a couple more years after 2019. 

And these plays are certainly a silver lining. 

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Eagles Injury Update: Derek Barnett, Nelson Agholor, Kamu Grugier-Hill miss practice again

Eagles Injury Update: Derek Barnett, Nelson Agholor, Kamu Grugier-Hill miss practice again

For the second straight day, the Eagles were without three key players at practice. 

Derek Barnett (ankle), Kamu Grugier-Hill (concussion) and Nelson Agholor (knee) all missed Friday’s session after also missing Thursday. 

It’s rare for players to miss the first two practice days of the week and play that weekend. 

Barnett, it seemed, hurt his ankle during the loss to the Dolphins but was able to finish the game, playing 50 snaps. This season, Barnett is second on the team in sacks with 4 1/2 and has played more snaps (78 percent) than any other defensive lineman. 

The only other defensive players to play more than him this season are Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. 

If Barnett can’t play on Monday, it’s likely Vinny Curry and Josh Sweat will see more playing time and perhaps Genard Avery will see a few more snaps. Maybe even Daeshon Hall or Shareef Miller might get to play a bit. 

Agholor has been dealing with his knee injury since the Patriots game. He missed the game against Seattle, but returned last week to play 63 snaps against the Dolphins. Last week, Agholor was limited in practice the first two days of the week and was not given a game status. 

If Agholor can’t play, Greg Ward could perhaps have a bigger role on Monday night. 

Meanwhile, Grugier-Hill didn’t report concussion symptoms until Thursday and was then placed into the NFL’s concussion protocol. Based on the timing of all that, it seems like a long shot that he’ll be able to play on Monday night. 

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