Eagles rushing predictions, no-fluke Foles, and more in Roob's observations

Eagles rushing predictions, no-fluke Foles, and more in Roob's observations

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Comeback players, rushing predictions, Minneapolis bands, the first NFL game ever played on the site of the Mall of America and two dorks in a coffee shop.

All that and more in Monday's edition of Roob's 10 random Eagles Super Bowl observations.

1. If you had to pick a Comeback Player of the Year on the Eagles, you’d sure have plenty of candidates. Jason Kelce has gone from an inconsistent veteran center last year to a first-team All-Pro. Lane Johnson was suspended for 10 games a year ago and made first-team All-Pro this year. Nelson Agholor was so bad last year he was benched during one terrible stretch and spoke openly and honestly about his challenges with confidence, but he had a career year, easily surpassing his first two NFL seasons combined with 69 catches for 851 yards and eight TDs if you include the postseason. Brandon Brooks is another one who was public about mental struggles a year ago, ones that were so powerful he missed two games. Now he’s a Pro Bowler. Nick Foles hasn’t had a winning record since 2014 and now he’s starting in a Super Bowl. There are other guys who have come a long way. Jalen Mills. Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Vinny Curry. Nigel Bradham. Patrick Robinson. Mychal Kendricks. And you know what … I can’t think of one guy whose level of play has dropped off. That is coaching. Flat-out great coaching. To have that many guys significantly improve their level of play from one year to the next is remarkable and speaks volumes about Doug Pederson and his staff.

2. The Eagles have faced 54 passes in their two Super Bowls without an interception. They're one of only two teams that's played at least two Super Bowls and doesn't have an interception (the Bengals are the other). I'm predicting that streak ends Sunday. In fact, I'm predicting Rodney McLeod ends it. Who do you think picks off Tom Brady Sunday evening?

3. I don't worry about Foles. No doubt in my mind he's going to play really well Sunday. None of this is a fluke. Just like 2013 wasn't a fluke. Give him weapons, give him time and he'll perform at a high level. He's put together too many games in his career for it to be a mirage. And he wins. He's 18-5 as the Eagles' starter since 2014 when he plays more than a quarter. That doesn't just happen. It's no accident. He can play.

4. Conversation I overheard Monday morning between two dorks in a Minneapolis coffee shop:

Dude No. 1: "Were you at the Minnesota Miracle?"

Dude No. 2: "No, I couldn't go, but what a finish!"

Dude No. 1: "I was there! It was unbelievable! I've never seen anything like it!"

Dude No. 2: "Un-freaking-real!"

I felt like just getting in their face and screaming, "Ummm … guess what. You lost last week! You got destroyed, 38-7, to a team you were favored over that was playing with its backup quarterback, so shut up!"

5. Five random Donnie Jones facts: 1. When Jones steps on the field Sunday, he'll become the oldest Eagle ever to play in a Super Bowl. 2. Jones is one of only three active players in the NFL who was a teammate of Jerry Rice. The others are Shane Lechler and Sebastian Janikowski. 3. He's been released six times in his career. 4. He's one of only three punters in NFL history to punt 1,000 times and have an average of 45.0 or higher (Lechler and Andy Lee are the others). And 5. He's the only player on the roster who could drink legally when Brady won his first Super Bowl. (Thanks to Dave Zangaro for that one!)

6. Eagles running back predictions: Jay Ajayi 17 for 81, LeGarrette Blount 8 for 39, Corey Clement 6 for 51. Math: 31 for 171.

7. The Eagles' offensive line is so dominant these days it's easy to forget that not all that long ago, the Eagles had atrocious offensive lines every year. From 1982 through 2001, a span of 20 years, the Eagles didn't have a single Pro Bowl offensive lineman. Imagine that? Twenty years? And not surprisingly they weren't very good during most of those years. But since 2002, they've had nine different guys make a total of 20 Pro Bowl teams. In fact, they’ve had at least one guy make the Pro Bowl at each position in just the last four seasons — Jason Peters at left tackle, Evan Mathis at left guard, Kelce at center, Brooks at right guard and Johnson at right tackle. The others since 2002 are Jermane Mayberry, Shawn Andrews, Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas. Interesting that Andy Reid brought in seven of those nine. One thing Big Red could do was find offensive linemen.

8. My top five Minneapolis bands: 1. The Replacements, 2. Hüsker Dü, 3. The Beatifics, 4. Soul Asylum, 5. Hippo Campus.

9. I find it fascinating that the Mall of America sits on the site of the old Metropolitan Stadium, where the Vikings played from 1959 through 1981, when they moved into the Metrodome. The first game ever played at Metropolitan Stadium? Buck Shaw's Eagles beat Pop Ivy's Vikings, 28-24, on Oct. 25, 1959. Billy Ray Barnes rushed for 111 yards, Tommy McDonald had three catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns, Norm Van Brocklin threw for 254 yards and the Eagles picked off the Vikings four times. And the next year the Eagles won their last NFL championship and now 58 years later all the interviews for Super Bowl LII are on the exact same site as that game! Omg it's an omen!!!!!

10. Mind-boggling Nick Foles Stat of the Day: Over the last six postseasons, Foles has recorded more games with 76.5 percent accuracy and no interceptions (minimum of 20 attempts) than every other quarterback combined. Foles has done it in each of the last two games. The only other quarterback with a single performance with 76.5 percent completion and no INTs is Russell Wilson last year against the Lions.

How the loss of Jordan Howard has damaged the Eagles

How the loss of Jordan Howard has damaged the Eagles

Jordan Howard still hasn’t been cleared for contact nearly five weeks after he hurt his shoulder, and at this point it certainly seems more likely than not that he will miss a fourth straight game when the Eagles face the Giants Monday night at the Linc.

A lot of factors have contributed to the Eagles’ three-game losing streak, but Howard’s absence is an under-rated huge one.

The Eagles were 5-4 and averaging 23 points per game with the fourth-year running back, and they’re 0-3 and averaging less than 17 points without him.

With Howard on the field, the Eagles were controlling the clock and keeping defenses off-balance. Doug Pederson spoke more than once about how an authoritative running attack had become the team’s identity.

That identity no longer exists.

Howard injured his shoulder in the win over the Bears on Nov. 3.

Pederson didn't mention Howard's injury after the game or the next day, and when the Eagles went into the bye there was no reason to believe it was serious.

Pederson first referred to Howard's injury as a “stinger,” or nerve damage in the shoulder area, on Nov. 15, nearly two weeks after Howard first got hurt.

Howard has practiced on a limited basis since the injury, but Pederson said Thursday he still hasn’t been cleared for contact and said there’s no change in his status.

Although rookie Miles Sanders has played very well, the Eagles miss Howard tremendously.

Through nine games, he was 14th in the NFL with 525 rushing yards and averaging 4.4 yards per carry.

Most importantly, he was moving the chains and getting in the end zone.

Going into Week 10, he had rushed for 28 first downs, 14th-most in the league (despite averaging just 13 carries per game), and he had six rushing TDs, 6th-most in the league.

In the three games Howard has missed, Sanders has averaged 4.6 yards per carry but has only 40 carries as Pederson has moved away from the running game.

The Eagles don’t have a rushing touchdown since Howard got hurt.

Interesting to note that in the nine games Howard played, the Eagles ranked 5th in the NFL in time of possession at 32:13 per game. Without Howard, they’re 13th at 30:44.

There are obviously other factors, but the Eagles’ offensive scoring is also down dramatically without Howard, from 23.3 to 16.7.

And most notably, instead of increasing Sanders’ workload with Sanders out, Pederson has simply decided not to run nearly as much.

In the nine games with Howard, the Eagles had the 6th-most rushing attempts in the NFL and a 55-45 pass-run ratio.

In the three games without Howard, the Eagles have the 3rd-FEWEST rushing attempts in the NFL and a 69-31 pass-run ratio.

The Eagles, who have lost running backs Corey Clement and Darren Sproles to season-ending injuries, signed Jay Ajayi a few weeks ago, but he’s only averaging 3.1 yards on eight carries so far.

When can we expect to see Howard?

It’s impossible to tell.

Pederson said Thursday he doesn’t expect this injury to be season-ending, but the season is over in 24 days, and Howard hasn’t played in 32 days.

Adding to the equation is the fact that Howard is scheduled to become a free agent after this season and the Eagles need to decide whether to offer him a long-term deal or not.

The season is slipping away, the Eagles haven’t won a game in over a month and one of the players they miss the most remains sidelined with an injury that won't go away.

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Eagles sign training camp standout receiver Marken Michel to practice squad

Eagles sign training camp standout receiver Marken Michel to practice squad

The Eagles on Thursday signed preseason and training camp standout Marken Michel to their practice squad.

Michel, 26, had an impressive summer in Philadelphia and was a strong contender to make the initial 53-man roster but was released at final cuts. The Eagles kept just five receivers out of training camp.

The Eagles reportedly had Michel in for a workout earlier this week.

During the preseason, Michel had four catches for 117 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown on a deep post against the Titans from Nate Sudfeld.

Michel is the older brother (by about a year and a half) of Patriots running back Sony Michel. While Sony has found a home in the NFL, Marken’s route has been more circuitous to this point.

Marken Michel went undrafted out of UMass in 2016. He spent one summer with the Vikings and then carved out a career in the Canadian Football League for two years. He was a teammate of Eagles linebacker Alex Singleton on the Calgary Stampeders when the Stampeders won the 2018 Grey Cup.

With this move to sign Michel (5-11, 190), the Eagles’ practice squad is now at capacity with 10 members and three of them are receivers. They have just four receivers on the 53-man roster.

The Eagles also have Robert Davis (6-3, 210) and Marcus Green (5-8, 191) on the practice squad.

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