Eagles

Eagles-Panthers: Roob's 10 observations

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Eagles-Panthers: Roob's 10 observations

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Eagles are the best team in the NFC.

They just went into Bank of America Stadium and beat a playoff-savvy 4-1 Panthers team on national TV. That's four wins in a row, that's a 5-1 record, that's an elite team that you watched Thursday night.

So no more talk about who they've played or haven't played. You wanted a signature win? You got one. 

The Eagles have arrived.

The Eagles got another magical performance from Carson Wentz, intercepted Cam Newton three times, shut down the Panthers' rushing attack and got out of town with a 28-23 win (see breakdown).

What a great night for 10 instant observations!

1. Wentz took such a beating Thursday night, especially in the first half, that for him to come out in the second half and make the throws he did is nothing short of astonishing. Wentz got hit snap after snap. He was sacked three times early. When he ran, he got clobbered. The Eagles missed Lane Johnson big time. A lot of quarterbacks can put up big numbers when they have great protection and they can just stand back there and find the open guy and fire away. What Wentz did Thursday night is just remarkable. To get leveled that many times early and just shake it off and pick apart the No. 9-ranked pass defense in the NFL in a deafening stadium on the road on national TV on a short week … just scary what this kid is doing now just 22 games into his NFL career. Wentz threw 16 touchdowns in 16 games last year. He already has 13 in six games, seven in his last two. His TD-to-INT ratio is now 13 to 3. The kid is flat-out money. There isn't a player in the NFL I'd rather have. Nobody.

2. How much fun is it watching the Eagles' run defense? Goodness gracious. Sound in its gaps, physical, swarm to the ball and sure tacklers. That's a very potent combination, and it's no surprise only one running back has rushed for over 35 yards against the Eagles this year — Rookie of the Year candidate Kareem Hunt of the Chiefs. Getting Fletcher Cox back was huge (see story), but even when Cox was out, the Eagles were stout against the run, which is impressive. What an advantage forcing teams to play left-handed all the time. Newton ran for 71 yards Thursday night, but just talking running backs, the Panthers got one yard on 13 carries Thursday. That's less than three inches per carry. As long as the Eagles keep running the ball and stopping the run, they're going to be almost impossible to beat.

3. Huge moment in this one for me was the goal-line stand early in the third quarter. The Panthers had a 1st-and-goal on the Eagles' 5-yard line, but tremendous pressure forced Newton into back-to-back incomplete passes and then Nigel Bradham made something like his 587th big play of the night, stopping Christian McCaffrey short of the goal line, and the Panthers had to settle for a field goal. It was a huge momentum swing, and although the Panthers stayed in the game, they never recovered.

4. Speaking of Bradham, he played out of his mind in this one (see story). He threw Jonathan Stewart for a six-yard loss, he knocked down three passes, he had 10 tackles, he was all over the field. Really tremendous play by the veteran linebacker, especially after the Eagles lost Jordan Hicks to another ankle injury. Bradham is your Defensive Player of the Game.

5. Let's put Jake Elliott's achievements into some perspective: David Akers is the greatest kicker in Eagles history and is even going into the Eagles Hall of Fame later this season. He never made three 50-yard field goals in a season with the Eagles. Elliott has played five games in his career and has already made three field goals of 50 yards or more. In fact, only six kickers in history have made more 50-yarders in an Eagles uniform than Elliott has in five games. Elliott added a 48-yarder later in the game and will take a streak of 10 consecutive made field goals into the Monday night game into Washington. To think that they flat-out stole this kid from the Bengals' practice squad is incredible. Oh, and Randy Bullock? The kicker the Bengals kept instead of Elliott? His last 50-yarder was in 2014.

6. Let's talk about LeGarrette Blount. Are you kidding me? What he's been able to do in these last four games since his mysterious zero-carry game against the Chiefs is virtually unprecedented in NFL history. Blount ran 14 times for 67 yards Sunday — I wish that 14 were closer to 20 — and he's now put together four straight games with 12 or more carries and an average of 4.8 or higher. He's only the second player in NFL history in his 30s with four straight games with at least a dozen carries and an average that high. The only other one was James Brooks of the Bengals in 1989. Blount has a really unique combination of power and moves and balance and vision. He's a different kind of runner, but, man, he's fun to watch. I had no idea how good he was. I don't think anybody did. He's been dazzling.

7. I should have mentioned higher up what an incredible job Doug Pederson is doing with this team. The Eagles have scored at least 20 points in every game this year and, in fact, in 10 straight games going back to last year, which is the fourth-longest streak in franchise history. The Eagles are rolling on both sides of the ball and special teams, and Pederson deserves a world of credit with the way he has this group playing. He's not only in the Coach of the Year conversation, I'd say he's the leader with 2½ months to go.

8. Rasul Douglas makes mistakes. All rookie cornerbacks make mistakes. But I really see something special there. He picked up his second interception Thursday night (see rookie report), and he's the first Eagles cornerback with two INTs in his first five career games since Eric Allen. I have no idea what the Eagles are going to do once Sidney Jones is back and Ronald Darby is back, but they have some really talented young corners. 

9. And let's not forget Jalen Mills, who picked up his second interception as well Thursday night. Douglas is 22, Mills is 23. They have four interceptions, and it's Week 6. The smartest thing the Eagles did this offseason was finally go young at cornerback. 

10. I never complain about officiating. Ever. But 10 penalties for 126 yards against the Eagles and one penalty for one yard against the Panthers is hard to believe (see Gunn's bullet points). According to Pro Football Reference, this was only the third game since penalty yards started being tracked in which one team had at least 100 penalty yards and another had one or fewer. That's outrageous. For the Eagles to overcome that, as well as everything else they were up against, shows just how far this team has come.

Darren Sproles plans to retire after 2018 season

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USA Today Images

Darren Sproles plans to retire after 2018 season

The 2018 season will be the final one for Darren Sproles.

The Eagles' running back announced in a blog post Sunday that he plans to play just "one more year." In fact, Sproles wrote that he had originally planned for 2017 to be his final season in the NFL, but that changed after suffering a season-ending torn ACL and broken arm against the Giants in Week 3. 

"An injury is different; It’s something you don’t have any control over but I feel like I left a lot out there, and I couldn’t let my career end like that," Sproles wrote.

"Coming back from any injury is tough—especially a knee injury for a running back. I wondered if I was going to come back the same, if I would still have my quickness. That’s the main thing because I don’t want to go out there and start getting smacked. Once I started rehabbing and running again I could tell I was good and ready for one more healthy year."

The 35-year-old agreed to terms on a one-year deal to return to the Eagles back in April. This coming season, he will be part of a crowded Eagles backfield that's headlined by Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement.

Over four seasons with the Birds, Sproles has compiled 2,420 yards from scrimmage and 14 touchdowns. He's also been a weapon on special teams, posting a 12.5 yards per return average and four touchdowns. Acquired in a trade from the Saints in 2014, Sproles has made the Pro Bowl three times as an Eagle and was named to Second Team All-Pro as a returner in his first season in Philly.

"I’m excited to come back and I am even more excited to come back to the defending Super Bowl champion, Eagles," Sproles wrote. "We have something special here with the team, the fans, and the city. We made history bringing the first Lombardi trophy to Philly and now we want to go back-to-back."

In the post, Sproles noted that he has his sights set on getting into the top five of the all-time leaders in all-purpose yards. Sproles currently sits eighth all-time with 19,155 yards. He should pass Steve Smith (19,180) and Marshall Faulk (19,190) with ease, but will have to leap Tim Brown (19,682) to get into the top five. The 13-year veteran wrote that it "will probably take until about mid-season (maybe a little longer)" to catch Brown.

The other players in the top five? Jerry Rice, Brian Mitchell, Walter Payton and Emmit Smith. Pretty good company.

Though, records weren't the thing that ultimately convinced Sproles to push his retirement back one more season.

"But I don’t do it for the records," Sproles wrote. "Yeah, it would be an honor to be mentioned in the same conversation as those guys—but that’s not what’s important. I love this game. I love what I do. When my daughter Devyn looked me in the eye and told me I have to play one more year—well, that was it."

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Eagles Mailbag: Trading Nick Foles; will Carson Wentz be ready?

Eagles Mailbag: Trading Nick Foles; will Carson Wentz be ready?

Training camp starts next week!

After a shorter-than-usual offseason, the Eagles will try to become the first team to repeat as Super Bowl champs in over a decade. 

We answered half of your questions yesterday (see story). The rest today: 

To me, this has always been the most likely scenario if Nick Foles were to ever get traded for a few reasons. The first is that by training camp, the Eagles will have a much better idea of whether or not Carson Wentz is ready to play. They can decide to either keep the insurance policy or trade it away. And you’re right, desperation will raise Foles’ price. 

I remember asking Howie Roseman about this exact possibility back in March. 

“I’d say that’s a possibility of anyone on our team,” Roseman said. “We’re going to do what’s in the best interest of the Eagles. I don’t want to make this about just Nick, but anything that can make us better at any time in the year, we have to look at.”

I think it would have to be a first-rounder. The Eagles already didn’t trade Foles for an early second-rounder this year and if Sam Bradford was worth a first-rounder, the Super Bowl MVP damn-well better be. Now, it’s rare to have a Teddy Bridgewater-type situation arise, but if it does, the Eagles will be waiting by their phones.  

(And side note: I don’t think Foles’ restructured contract changes anything.) 

My gut is that he’s ready for Week 1, but I don’t know. On one hand, it’s a really serious injury. On the other, I was incredibly impressed by how much he was able to do in the spring and how well he did it. 

The one thing I know is this: It won’t be a decision. Either Wentz is cleared and he plays or he isn’t cleared and he doesn’t. There can’t be any thought to resting him if he’s cleared to play. These games are too important and they’re going to need him in every one. 

The Rams improved their roster and should be one of the favorites to win the NFC. The Rams already had a quarterback and some key pieces around him and then they won the offseason. 

The brought in Ndamukong Suh, Brandin Cooks, Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. Now, putting a bunch of great players together isn’t enough — remember the Dream Team — but it’s a good start. And the Rams certainly added a lot of talent. 

This is a fair question after Nigel Bradham’s suspension, but the good news for the Eagles is that Bradham’s suspension is just one game. The Eagles should have had more depth but Paul Worrilow went down for the season in the spring on the same day they cut Mychal Kendricks. That leaves the Eagles with a depth problem. 

I think they’ll try to get a better sense of what depth they have during the first week or two of training camp. Let’s see what they have in Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry, Corey Nelson, Joe Walker and LaRoy Reynolds. But I’d imagine the Eagles at least have a couple veteran names in mind. Remember, they did add Dannell Ellerbe late last season and I wouldn’t be surprised if they still have a short list of guys who would make sense. 

Hot dogs. Please don’t ask me if they’re a sandwich. 

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