Eagles

Roob’s observations after Eagles get off to brutal start, fall to Vikings

Roob’s observations after Eagles get off to brutal start, fall to Vikings

BOX SCORE 

MINNEAPOLIS — Another awful start. More terrible cornerback play. A baffling fake field goal.

Today’s edition of Roob’s 10 instant Eagles observations isn’t for the faint of heart.

Because this was ugly.

On the field where the franchise enjoyed its greatest triumph ever, the Eagles sputtered through one of their most disappointing defeats of the Doug Pederson Era.

Kirk Cousins threw four touchdowns, Stefon Diggs torched the Eagles’ beleaguered corners for 167 yards and three TDs and the Vikings embarrassed the Eagles, 38-20, Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

So much for Game 1 of the season-defining three-game road trip.

1. Terrible start, furious comeback. Same old story. How many times have we seen this same agonizing scenario repeat itself? This Eagles team so far has shown zero ability to play 60 consistent minutes. Down 10-0 vs. the Redskins. Down 17-6 to the Falcons. Down 20-10 to the Lions. Down 10-0 to the Packers. Down 10-0 and 24-3 Sunday. They inevitably fight back. They inevitably make it interesting. There’s the inevitable dramatic rally. But you just aren’t going to win consistently digging a big hole for yourself and then trying to fight out of it. Until Pederson figures out why this keeps happening, this team isn’t going anywhere.

2. One play really illustrates just how grave the Eagles’ cornerback issues are right now. The Vikings had a 1st-and-10 just outside midfield, Cousins dropped back, had great protection and a difficult choice to make. Throw to a wide-open Diggs streaking toward the end zone on the left side of the field with Rasul Douglas trailing the play or throw to an even-wider-open Olabisi Johnson running down the right side of the field after separating from Sidney Jones. When you’re in position to throw a 51-yard TD to TWO DIFFERENT PEOPLE AT THE SAME TIME … that’s catastrophic. That’s the way the whole game went. The Eagles’ corners were simply overmatched start to finish. I don’t know what the answer is. Is Jalen Mills going to come in next week and turn this around after not playing for a year? You have to put him in there. You have no choice. But the trade deadline is out there in a couple weeks, and if the Eagles really believe they’re a playoff team, they have to go get somebody. Because that was embarrassing.

3. I’ve sensed this before and written it, but I don’t think Pederson has been aggressive enough early in games, and it gets the Eagles into a passive mindset. The first drive Sunday was three runs and a punt, including a 2nd-and-5 handoff to Miles Sanders that went for two yards. Come on, 2nd-and-5? Throw the thing. By the time the Eagles’ best player threw his first pass, the Vikings were up 10-0 and the Eagles were already in scramble mode. I’m all for mixing in the run, but Pederson isn’t starting games with an aggressive mentality and it sure feels like that’s one of the reasons they’re falling behind early virtually every week.

4. I guess we can now say that the best and worst play calls of Pederson's career came in the same stadium. I’m not sure what the point of that fake field goal was. The only way the fake beats a sure three points is if Jake Elliott throws a 21-yard TD pass, and that wasn’t happening. Even if he completed the pass to Dallas Goedert, you have no timeouts and the clock is running with about 13 or 14 seconds left, and Carson Wentz isn’t even on the field to spike the ball. So you’re going to have your kicker try to spike the ball so you have enough time to kick a field goal? Which you could have just kicked in the first place? Made no sense. 

5. You could see his frustration a few times, and that’s rare because Wentz is so even-keeled. But it’s also understandable. He’s out there with shaky pass protection, not much of a running game and the usual assortment of drops by his receivers — four of them Sunday, including one by Mack Hollins in the end zone. He threw an interception in the final minutes but really did all he could to keep the Eagles in the game as long as possible. He Finished 26 for 40 for 306 yards with two TDs and the INT. I’m not sure what else he could have done.  

6. The progress Miles Sanders has made from the start of training camp really is incredible. With a 32-yard TD and a 45-yarder down to the four-yard-line to set up another TD, Sanders now has five catches of at least 30 yards in the last four games. All Eagles WRs during the same span of no catches of 30 yards. This is a kid who had two career games at Penn State with 30 yards. He’s got soft hands, he’s a matchup nightmare, he finds space in traffic after the catch, and you can see how much trust Wentz has in him. It’s terrific that he’s come so far, but when your No. 1 deep threat is a rookie running back who never caught the ball before … you’re in trouble.

7. I expected more from the Eagles’ defensive line Sunday. That was a real makeshift offensive line the Vikings had Sunday, and then they lost left tackle Riley Reiff early. Still, the Eagles really weren’t able to control the line of scrimmage. They only got to Cousins once and really didn’t generate much pressure. I didn’t expect 10 sacks like last week, but I expected them to compete at a higher level than this.

8. The Vikings' receivers catch the ball. It’s a simple concept, but they make easy catches, they make tough catches, they make impossible catches. Diggs is a former fourth-round pick, and Adam Thielen was undrafted. They make plays that make their quarterback look good. Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor both had decent games Sunday, but we’re just not seeing that next-level play from the Eagles’ wide outs, and we haven’t since opening day.

9. Darren Sproles is hurt again. DeSean Jackson's been out a month. Jason Peters is now dealing with another injury — we don’t know how serious. We talked about this all preseason. The Eagles brought the third-oldest roster into the season, and it’s just a reality that older guys get hurt more than younger guys. That’s a big part of where the Eagles are right now. 

10. Remember a few days ago when Zach Brown called Cousins the weak link on the Vikings’ offense? That was four TD passes ago.

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Week 11 NFL power rankings: A shakeup at the top of the NFC

Week 11 NFL power rankings: A shakeup at the top of the NFC

The Eagles (5-4) got to watch football last Sunday on their bye week, but they come back with seven games left and a good shot to make it to the playoffs. 

Let’s take a look at the latest NFC power rankings, which includes a shakeup at the top: 

1. Seahawks (8-2) Last week: 3
A new No. 1! In a really fun game on Monday night, the Seahawks handed the 49ers their first loss of the season. Seattle kicked a 42-yard field goal as time expired in overtime to pick up a 27-24 win over their divisional foe. That means the Seahawks have won both of their last two games in overtime. Their only losses this season are to the Saints and Ravens. 

2. 49ers (8-1) Last week: 1
I admire the 49ers’ aggressiveness, but they probably should have played for a tie late in that overtime. That would have kept more distance between them and the Seahawks in the NFC West. Anyway, they have just one loss and it came in overtime to a good team. After a game against the Cardinals, the Niners have three tough ones in a row, against the Packers, Ravens and Saints. 

3. Packers (8-2) Last week: 4
Even though the Packers let the Panthers stick around late, they got another win over a quality opponent, beating Carolina 24-16. They bounce back after that bad loss to the Chargers and have a bye week before traveling to San Francisco in Week 12. 

4. Saints (7-2) Last week: 2
Coming off the bye week, the Saints laid an egg against the Falcons, losing 26-9. That’s a bad loss. 

5. Vikings (7-3) Last week: 5
Nice 28-24 win over the Cowboys for the Vikings, but there’s no room for them to go up. I don’t think they’re better than any of the teams listed above them. Still, they’re just one game behind Green Bay in the NFC North and face the Broncos before their Week 12 bye. 

6. Cowboys (5-4) Last week: 7 
The Cowboys should have beaten the Vikings late in that game but a few questionable play calls killed them. Dallas is a talented team, but I question their coaching staff. 

7. Eagles (5-4) Last week: 8 
The Eagles rested on their bye week, but came out of it in a much better spot than they went in, largely because of the Cowboys’ loss. I couldn’t put them ahead of Dallas thanks to their head-to-head game a few weeks ago, but they have better playoff chances right now. 

8. Rams (5-4) Last week: 6
The Rams' offense looks broken, but at least Sean McVay remembers what he had for lunch 12 years ago. 

9. Panthers (5-4) Last week: 9
I won’t kill the Packers for losing to the Packers. They’re not on that level, but the Panthers were two yards away from possibly tying the game when a Christian McCaffrey run from the 2 fell short and time ran out on Carolina in a 24-16 loss. The Panthers had five plays inside the 10-yard line and couldn't score. 

10. Bears (4-5) Last week: 12
After losing four straight games, the Bears got a 20-13 win over the Lions, who were without Matthew Stafford. Remember, the Bears were 3-1 at one point earlier this season. 

11. Lions (3-5-1) Last week: 11
Without Matthew Stafford, the Lions lost to the reeling Bears, 20-13. It’s their second-straight loss and their fourth in five games since their early bye. So much for the Lions being contenders. 

12. Buccaneers (3-6) Last week: 13
After four-straight losses, the Bucs got a 30-27 win over the Cardinals last week to stop the bleeding. 

13. Cardinals (3-6-1) Last week: 10 
A three-point loss to the Bucs drops the Cards down three spots. 

14. Falcons (2-7) Last week: 15
Where did that come from? The Falcons went to New Orleans last week and beat the Saints, 26-9. Their two wins this season are over the Eagles (5-4) and the Saints (7-2). This is a weird league. 

15. Giants (2-8) Last week: 14
They lost to the Jets and now have to think about what they’ve done over the bye week. 

16. Redskins (1-8) Last week: 16 
Washington will face the Jets coming off their bye week for a rare chance to get a win. Good for them, deciding to go with Dwayne Haskins the rest of the way. 

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Does Howie Roseman finally see what he did wrong?

Does Howie Roseman finally see what he did wrong?

Taken alone, they’re not significant. Taken as a group, they just may give us an idea what Howie Roseman is thinking.

Roseman isn’t doing interviews these days, but we can get a sense of what he's thinking by what he's doing.

On Sept. 30, the Eagles shipped Johnathan Cyprien to the Falcons for Duke Riley. Cyprien is 29, Riley is 25.

On Oct. 14, they released Zach Brown, which meant playing time for T.J. Edwards. Brown is 30, Edwards is 23.

On Nov. 5, they waived Andrew Sendejo and signed Marcus Epps. Sendejo is 32, Epps is 23.

This might not be a trend, but it’s definitely a pattern.

The Eagles’ roster as Roseman built it through the spring and summer was too old.

We all knew it. We all saw it.

When the season began, the Eagles’ had the third-oldest roster in the NFL, and it wasn’t surprising to anybody when three of the most prominent older Eagles — 37-year-old Jason Peters, 36-year-old Darren Sproles and 32-year-old DeSean Jackson — suffered significant injuries.

You can win in the NFL with an older roster. The Patriots are the oldest team in the league, and the Saints and Chiefs are all among the top six in age. But it's risky because older players get hurt more often and generally start declining in their early 30s. You just can never predict when.

Any decent GM is going to have his eye not just on the current roster but the future roster, and if your older players aren’t producing, they’re just wasting space and blocking young guys who may develop into contributors.

Duke Riley? Who knows. He’s a linebacker by trade but has only played 11 snaps on defense in five games, although he has averaged 19 special teams snaps.

Marcus Epps? Who knows. He just got here, but he’s awfully small for a safety, although he should contribute on special teams if he gets on the field.

Why not at least get a look at younger guys when the older guys are giving you nothing?

The most significant beneficiary of these roster moves has been Edwards, who had 12 defensive snaps the first six games of the year but has 54 in three games since Brown was released.  

If you have a guy 31 or 32 who’s able to stay healthy and play at a high level, there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s actually unusual. Only two Eagles since Brian Dawkins more than a decade ago have started 16 games after their 32nd birthday — Evan Mathis and Jason Peters.

That’s why the Eagles are in dangerous territory.

Most of their key players are 29 or older, and it’s safe to assume that in the next couple years key guys like Jason Kelce, Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Nigel Bradham and Brandon Graham either won’t be here or won’t be the same players. We’ve already seen that dramatic decline in Alshon Jeffery.

If you don’t nail your draft picks — or replenish the roster with young talent in other ways — you’re in trouble.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not under any illusions that Epps, Riley or Edwards are going to change the world, although I do think Edwards has a chance to be a solid linebacker.

What’s important is that it looks like Roseman finally understands that the roster he put together was too old, that guys like Cyprien, Brown and Sendejo were mistakes, and that if the Eagles are going to be a winning franchise for the next five years they must continue the pattern of getting younger that he's started these last few weeks.

The Eagles are now the 10th-oldest team in the league, which still puts them in the top third, but it’s really what these moves represent.

Roseman didn't have a terrific offseason. Counting so heavily on Peters, Jackson and Sproles was a mistake. Bringing in guys like Sendejo, Brown and Cyprien was a mistake. Guaranteeing Jeffery’s contract was a mistake.

This wasn’t quite Dream Team-level reliance on older veterans, but it was close. And it’s just not a sound way to build a roster.

There are a few encouraging signs. Miles Sanders is getting better every week, and his backfield mate Jordan Howard is very good (although unsigned past this year). Andre Dillard has looked terrific. Derek Barnett has shown flashes. Dallas Goedert is solid. 

It’s a long way from watching Duke Riley and Marcus Epps run around on kick return coverage to developing a stable of young Pro Bowl talent.

The Eagles still don’t have any young superstars, but at least they seem to have a general manager that recognizes how badly this team needs them.

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