Eagles Rookie Report: Rookies don't make big plays but make impact

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Eagles Rookie Report: Rookies don't make big plays but make impact

The Eagles took care of business Sunday by beating the lowly Bears, 31-3, at the Linc (see breakdown).

In recent weeks, first-round pick Derek Barnett and undrafted running back Corey Clement have dominated this space. This week, the rookies weren't as impactful in the Eagles' convincing win.

Here are a few of the highlights from this week's rookie report.

2nd quarter, 11:04, 3rd-and-12 at CHI 20 - Eagles 7, Bears 0
Mack Hollins is lined up in the slot on this play against corner Prince Amukamara. Amukamara gets a hold of Hollins off the line, but the rookie receiver gets a nice release off the line and forces the veteran corner to grab hold on the post route. Carson Wentz overthrows this ball as a result of the hold, but the Eagles do get the call. This is why the Eagles like Hollins. He's a matchup nightmare with the size to beat small corners and the speed and quick feet to beat longer corners.

2nd quarter, 0:38, 3rd-and-5 at CHI 26 - Eagles 17, Bears 0
This wasn't pretty by Clement but it got the job done. Wentz is lined up in the shotgun with Clement to his left. A blitzer comes off the edge from the left clean, with only Clement standing in the way of Wentz. Clement gets pushed back but gets enough of the blitzer to allow Wentz to float the ball out to Torrey Smith. The ball falls incomplete, but the Eagles get a first down because of another hold against Amukamara on Smith (see Roob's observations).

2nd quarter, 0:27, 2nd-and-10 at CHI 21 - Eagles 17, Bears 0
Nothing fancy on this play. Wentz again is lined up in the shotgun with Clement lined up to his right. It's a three-receiver set with Zach Ertz as the only tight end on the field. Clearly the Bears are thinking pass with this formation and just 27 seconds left in the half. Instead, it's a straight handoff to Clement. The formation allows the Eagles to get 1-on-1 blocks all around, including center Jason Kelce getting to the second level to block a linebacker. Clement hits the hole with a good burst and nearly picks up a first down.

3rd quarter, 7:09, 1st-and-10 at PHI 37 - Eagles 24, Bears 3
This is excellent play design from Doug Pederson. Nelson Agholor is lined up to the right in the slot. He motions left to the other slot, then swings back for the fake on the jet sweep. All that motion affects the defense. Clement does an excellent job staying patient then runs a little bubble to the left. All Wentz has to do is float the ball over the defensive end's head. Clement secures the catch and finishes off the play, plowing into two Bears' defenders for the first down.

4th quarter, 2:22, 1st-and-10  at PHI 32 - Eagles 31, Bears 3
Cornerback Rasul Douglas has been relegated to backup duty since the return of Ronald Darby last week. On this play in garbage time, Douglas flashed what made the rookie a solid stand-in during the time Darby missed. Marcus Wheaton runs a 10-yard in. Douglas, playing off coverage, as usual, reads quarterback Mitchell Trubisky's eyes and makes a break on the football. Trubisky's throw is behind Wheaton, which allows Douglas to pick it off. Unfortunately, when Douglas rolls over, he bobbles the ball and it hits the ground. Upon review, it's overturned to an incompletion. But the choreographed Electric Slide/Remember the Titans tribute was excellent.

Barnett certainly didn't play poorly. The rookie defensive end didn't have any "splash" plays but was disciplined and did have a couple nice rushes. But as we've pointed out all season, just because he's not getting sacks, doesn't mean Barnett isn't making an impact (see report card).

Clement continues to get reps and be steady in production. After rookie camp, running backs coach Duce Staley told Clement to lose weight, work on his pass catching and — most importantly — work on his pass protection. It's to a point now where Clement is easily the team's best back on third down. This is from a guy that went undrafted in large part because he wasn't effective in the passing game in Wisconsin. He finished with four carries for 27 yards and one catch for 12 yards.

It's fair to wonder if Hollins should see more reps over Smith. While Hollins has perhaps earned it, the formula has been working for Pederson at receiver. Smith has been catching the ball more consistently and provides a veteran presence. Hollins will get his reps and he has to keep capitalize. Hollins finished with two catches for 12 yards.

Eagles injury update: Things aren’t looking good for corners

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Eagles injury update: Things aren’t looking good for corners

On Monday, Doug Pederson admitted the Eagles were hurting physically and emotionally after Sunday's 48-7 loss to the Saints. 

With four days to go until their matchup against the suddenly-surging Giants, Pederson delivered some bits of notable injury news during his press conference Wednesday. 

• Jalen Mills (foot) isn’t ready to practice yet 

• Jason Kelce (elbow) is doing well and will practice today

• Rasul Douglas (knee) and Avonte Maddox (knee) are day to day but are unlikely to practice today 

• Tim Jernigan is expected to have a “good” role in Sunday’s game 

The big takeaway from that is the corners are hurting. Sidney Jones’ hamstring injury was already ruled as a “week to week” injury. So that means the Eagles might very well go into this game without Jones, Mills, Douglas and Maddox. 

If all four of those guys are missing, we’re looking at a starting cornerback trio of Chandon Sullivan, De’Vante Bausby and Cre’Von LeBlanc. That’s not great going against Odell Beckham Jr. and the Giants. 

The official injury report will be released later this afternoon.

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Eagles' once-stout run defense is suddenly a huge problem

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Eagles' once-stout run defense is suddenly a huge problem

At the root of the Eagles’ growing defensive issues is a newfound inability to stop the run.

Coming out of London, the Eagles had the No. 4 rush defense in the NFL. They were allowing just 83 rushing yards per game, which went a long way into keeping the Eagles in every game and keeping an undermanned unit afloat.

Since then?

The Cowboys and Saints both gashed the Eagles for over 170 yards on the ground and for the first time in six years the Eagles allowed 100-yard rushers in back-to-back games.

With just two games, the Eagles have dropped from fourth to 12th in rush defense. And trending the wrong way.

And here come the Giants and Saquan Barkley, who will most likely try to pound it on the ground against the Eagles.

“Quite honestly,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said, “that’s what I would do against us now.”

The disturbing thing is that the Eagles’ defensive front seven has been largely healthy. They're missing Derek Barnett, who gave great effort against the run, and they lost Haloti Ngati for a few games, but the unit has been largely intact while the Cowboys ran for 171 yards and the Saints 173.

The same group that held six of the Eagles’ first eight opponents to fewer than 80 rushing yards. 

When asked what bothered him most about Sunday’s 48-7 loss to the Saints, Schwartz didn’t hesitate to name run defense:

We knew we would have challenges in coverage, we knew it was tough to get turnovers, we knew it was tough to get sacks, but we put ourselves, scheme-wise, in position to stop the run, and we didn't get that done for a second week in a row.

I think that's the most disappointing thing that came out of it.

How bad have the last two weeks been?

 • This is the first time the Eagles have allowed 170 or more rushing yards in consecutive games in 12 years, since the Titans (209) and Colts (237) did it in November 2006.

• Ezekiel Elliott (19-151, 8.0) and Mark Ingram (16-103, 6.4) are the first running backs to go over 100 yards against the Eagles in consecutive games in six years, since Doug Martin of the Buccaneers and BenJarvus Green-Ellis of the Bengals in December 2012.

What the heck is going on here?

“I think that any time you talk about the run game you have to talk about all three levels,” Schwartz said. “I think that there were some (runs) that you can attribute to d-line techniques and some to linebacker techniques and some to missed tackles. 

“We had one — I mean, it was a difficult situation — but we had one where we had some guys get on the field that didn't communicate, and all of a sudden, we just let a guy walk into the end zone when we should have a guy sitting right there.

"Sometimes you miss tackles, but we shouldn't have those miscommunications and just let guys walk in on us.”

Up next? The Giants, who ran for 147 against the Eagles in October, then the Redskins, who are 12th in the NFL in rushing, then the Cowboys again, the NFL’s fourth-ranked rushing offense. Then the high-flying Rams, who are No. 2 in rushing offense (as well as No. 5 in passing offense).

And now the Eagles are going to be without middle linebacker Jordan Hicks indefinitely.

The Eagles have to get this figured out soon or things are just going to continue to spiral out of control.

“Our biggest thing is controlling the run game,” Schwartz said. “If we can do that, then that can go a long way to solving a lot of our problems on defense.”

Much of playing run defense is just want-to. Attitude. 

We’ll find out quickly Sunday if the Eagles have any left.

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