Eagles

Jeffrey Lurie's decision on DeSean Jackson and more in Roob's 10 Eagles observations

Jeffrey Lurie's decision on DeSean Jackson and more in Roob's 10 Eagles observations

Jeffrey Lurie's handling of DeSean Jackson, the most underrated play of Super Bowl LII and an amazing Irving Fryar stat.

All that and so much more in this week's Roob's 10 random Eagles observations! 

1. I’ve heard everything from the Eagles were too hard on Jackson all the way to they let him off too easy. Very difficult situation. No easy answer, and I'm sure Lurie struggled with his response. Honestly, I think he got it right. Nobody benefits from just cutting him. And nobody learns a thing if there’s just a fine. I wrote when this first happened“DeSean simply can’t be allowed to put on an Eagles uniform again until he displays a true understanding of why his posts were so incredibly hateful and harmful,” and that’s exactly the route the Eagles took, and I believe Jackson is on his way toward doing just that. And if not? He's gone. I give the Eagles a tremendous amount of credit for their restraint, because I would guess Lurie’s initial reaction was outta here. But Lurie has never been one to make rash decisions. He genuinely wants his players — and all his employees — to have every opportunity to constantly evolve and learn and grow. And honestly, that’s what we should all want. 

2. I had to laugh at the NFL’s edict that players won’t be allowed to interact or exchange jerseys after games this year as a safety measure. So after blocking each other, tackling each other, sweating on each other and falling on top of each other for three hours they can’t shake hands? Makes perfect sense.

3. And as much as I love football and can’t imagine a Sunday afternoon in the fall without football and desperately hope the NFL can find a way to safely play this fall, I don’t see how it’s going to be possible without either a bubble or accurate testing with immediate results. 

4. But the amount of money at stake here is staggering. For each week of football the league can squeeze out, each team will receive about $10 million in TV revenue on the league’s massive $40 billion TV contract. If they have to cancel the season after six weeks? That’s $60 million each team has already pocketed. Is the league putting players at risk to generate as much of that revenue as possible? Whatever happens, don’t feel sorry for the NFL. Based on recent ratings and the new CBA, the next TV deal — which starts after the 2022 season — is going to be even more lucrative than the current one. 

5. Let's talk Super Bowl. The Eagles’ fourth-down conversion near midfield with 5 1/2 minutes left in the Super Bowl might be the most underrated play in Super Bowl history. It gets forgotten because of all the other remarkable plays — the Philly Special, the Corey Clement TD and 55-yard gain to set up the Philly Special, the Ertz game-winning TD later on the drive, the Brandon Graham strip sack and so many others. But think about it. There’s 5:39 left in the game, the Patriots are up 33-32, and the Eagles have 4th-and-1 on their own 45-yard-line. The Patriots at that point had scored touchdowns on three straight drives and four of their last five. If that fourth down fails, you’re giving the greatest Super Bowl QB of all-time a 45-yard field in the midst of one of the greatest passing days of his career. But Doug Pederson didn’t hesitate to keep his offense on the field. Nick Foles took the shotgun snap from Jason Kelce with one second on the play clock, dropped back and was instantly under tremendous pressure up the middle from defensive tackle Malcolm Brown. He was backpedaling as he threw and had to throw high to get the ball over charging linebacker Kyle Van Noy. It was astonishing just for him to get the throw off. Ertz went up and secured the ball just past the sticks and held on for dear life as he got drilled by safety Duron Harmon. A few plays later, the Eagles took the lead for good. That play remains the only fourth-quarter, fourth-down completion on a game-winning drive in Super Bowl history. If the Eagles don’t convert, they don’t win the Super Bowl. I've watched that play 5,000 times and it never ceases to blow my mind. 

6. Tom Brady only lost 21 home games in his 18 years as the Patriots' starting quarterback. 

7. If Nelson Agholor repeated his Super Bowl performance for 16 regular-season games, he’d have 144 catches for 1,344 yards and 1,488 scrimmage yards. 

8. The day Ertz was drafted, he gave a lot of credit to three-time All-Oro 49ers tight end Brent Jones, who coached him and mentored him in high school. I called Jones up that day in 2013 and wrote about his relationship with Ertz.

Check out a couple of Jones' comments from that interview:

​​​​“I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Zach surpasses all my numbers before he’s done. He’s going to have a tremendously successful career.”

“But what I’d really love to see is Zach help the Eagles win a Super Bowl. That would be great to see.”

Seven years later, Ertz has done both.

9. The Eagles ranked 22nd in the league with 17 takeaways in 2018 and 19th last year with 20. It’s the first time in franchise history they’ve had 20 or fewer takeaways in consecutive years.

10. Looking back, it’s incredible what Irving Fryar was able to do in 1996 and 1997. Despite playing with a rotating group of quarterbacks (Ty Detmer, Rodney Peete, Bobby Hoying), he became the first player in NFL history with consecutive seasons of at least 85 catches and 1,100 yards after his 34th birthday. Cris Carter did it a few years later for the Vikings. Fryar is still the only player in Eagles history — of any age — with more than one 85-catch, 1,100-yard season.

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Eagles' lack of young talent glaring in ESPN ranking

Eagles' lack of young talent glaring in ESPN ranking

Back in May, I wrote about the Eagles’ alarming lack of young talent. I ranked the Eagles’ top-10 players under 25 and as you can see the list drops off quickly once you get past Miles Sanders at No. 1.

The Eagles have reached the playoffs the last three years and won a Super Bowl in 2017 with a veteran roster, but Howie Roseman went to great lengths this offseason to re-stock the roster with talented young players. But just about every one of them comes with a giant question mark. 

People have noticed.

ESPN on Monday released an analytics-driven ranking of the under-25 talent on each of the 32 NFL teams, and the Eagles finished 29th, ahead of only the Vikings in 30th, the Patriots in 31st and the Falcons in 32nd.

The No. 29 ranking is actually an improvement over last year’s No. 32 ranking.

And while the analysis was flawed in one way and kind of ridiculous in another, the piece does correctly illustrate the concerning absence of proven young talent on the Eagles’ roster.

One absurdity in the ESPN piece: The Eagles are one of three teams listed with no so-called “blue-chip” players under 25.

Last we checked, Sanders is 23.

Sanders led all NFL rookies last year with 1,327 scrimmage yards, was 9th in the NFL in rushing average and had the 12th-most catches of all NFL running backs yet wasn’t one of 79 players listed as a blue-chipper.

That’s just silly.

Another absurdity: In explaining why the Eagles improved from 32nd to 29th, the piece credits the Eagles’ success with players drafted in “later rounds” of the draft and uses Sidney Jones as an example. But Jones was a 2nd-round pick and played more than 3 snaps in only two of the Eagles’ last nine games.

But despite the piece’s flaws, it does correctly highlight a general lack of young, proven talent on the roster.

As of now, the Eagles have only four slam-dunk projected under-25 starters: Sanders along with Andre Dillard, Derek Barnett and Avonte Maddox, who are all 24. T.J. Edwards, who is 24, is a likely starter, and either 23-year-old J.J. Arcega-Whiteside or 21-year-old Jalen Reagor will likely start as well.

For the sake of comparison, the Giants rank second in the ESPN piece after being No. 5 last year. They are listed with five “blue-chip” players under 25 (Will Hernandez, Saquon Barkley, Daniel Jones, Dexter Lawrence and Andrew Thomas). 

Washington is No. 11 with five blue-chippers (Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Daron Payne, Dwayne Haskins, Terry McLaurin).

And the Cowboys are No. 24 with four blue-chippers (Leighton Vander Esch, Connor Williams, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb).

The five teams with the most under-25 talent according to the piece are the Ravens, Giants, Cards, Bills and 49ers.

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The Cre'Von LeBlanc conundrum and more in Roob's 10 Eagles Observations

The Cre'Von LeBlanc conundrum and more in Roob's 10 Eagles Observations

 

The hidden value of Jason Avant, a ridiculous Kevin Curtis stat and the Cre’Von LeBlanc conundrum.

That’s just a taste of what lies ahead in this week’s Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Observations! 

1. Bringing Jason Avant in as part of the NFL’s minority coaching internship program is a really under-rated move. A few people complained on Twitter that it makes no sense to bring in one of the slowest receivers to work with this group of speedy receivers. But that’s exactly why it makes sense. Because it takes a lot more than just speed to make it as a WR, and Avant is proof of that. Jason’s 40 time at the 2006 Combine was 4.62, which ranked 38th out of 41 WRs who ran that year. Yet he went on to catch 346 passes for 4,118 yards in 10 seasons and was one of the NFL’s most dependable slots for a decade. Avant is here because although you can’t teach speed, you can teach everything else: “I was a technical receiver,” Avant said on the Eagles’ web site. “I wasn't the fastest receiver. I wasn't the biggest guy. I was able to get open by getting off the line of scrimmage and being precise. That's what I hope to help teach these receivers. It's just not about speed and movement.” Great move.

2. Speaking of slow receivers at the 2006 Combine … nobody in NFL history had more 85-yard touchdown catches than Hank Baskett, who ran a 4.50 at that same 2006 Combine. Hank had two in 2006 and one in 2008. In NFL history, only Cliff Branch, Bob Hayes, John Taylor and Wesley Walker had as many 85-yard TDs as Baskett, who was undrafted. Baskett had as many TD catches of at least 85 yards from 2006 through 2008 as every other Eagle has combined over the last 30 years.  

3. The last Eagles WR with consecutive 100-yard games: Jordan Matthews vs. the Cards and Redskins in 2015. Since then, 52 different NFL receivers from 29 other teams have had back-to-back 100-yard games.

4. It sure seems like Avonte Maddox will get the first crack at CB2 opposite Darius Slay, with Sidney Jones backing him up. And it sure seems like Nickell Robey-Coleman will get the first crack at the slot. If I were Jim Schwartz I’d make sure I found ways to get Cre’Von LeBlanc on the field. The guy is active, tough, smart, physical and instinctive. Good things happen when he plays. I don’t know where he fits in, but Schwartz and d-backs coach Marquand Manuel need to make sure he DOES fit in.

5. Misleading stats can be fun. Here’s one: Kevin Curtis averaged more yards per game in his Eagle career (56.3) than Harold Carmichael (49.9).

6. I wrote about 5-time Pro Bowler Jimmy Smith the other day in my piece on 10 great NFL players who began their careers in obscurity with the Eagles. How much of a difference would Smith have made if the Eagles kept him instead of Jeff Sydner at the end of 1994 training camp? From 1999 through 2005 - the seven years where Smith and Donovan McNabb were both in the league - Smith had 8,249 receiving yards. During the same span, the Eagles’ leading receiver was Todd Pinkston, with 2,816 yards. Imagine how much would have been different if Kotite had seen the greatness of Jimmy Smith staring him right in his face? 

7. We talk all the time about how incredible Nick Foles was in the 2017 playoffs, but right along with his remarkable performance is the fact that he dropped back 108 times and was sacked twice - once in the Falcons game and once in the Vikings game. Foles’ 971 passing yards in the 2017 postseason are the most in NFL history by a QB who was sacked two or fewer times. Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce and Brandon Brooks were the heart of that o-line, but Big V and Stefen Wisniewski were both huge during that run as well.

8. From the Be Careful What You Wish For Department: In the summer of 1971, there was a kicking competition in Eagles training camp between incumbent Mark Moseley, who the fans were furious with after his 27-yard miss cost the Eagles a 1970 win over the Falcons, and rookie 4th-round pick Happy Feller, the overwhelming fan favorite. “‘I’ll probably go out there to kick and the fans will all want to see Happy,” Moseley told Chuck Newman in the Aug. 13, 1971, Inquirer, before the first home preseason game of 1971. “Maybe they’ll boo, but that’s their privilege. The fans have their favorites.” As it turned out, the Eagles kept Feller and released Moseley. Feller went on to go 6-for-20 on field goal attempts in 1971, and that 30 percent accuracy is the worst in the NFL in the last 50 years. Feller spent a couple years with the Saints and made 37 percent of his career field goals. Nobody else in the NFL over the last 50 years has been under 50 percent. Moseley kicked in the NFL for 17 years and was a two-time Pro Bowler.

9. Crazy that there are more assistant coaches than players still with the Eagles from the Chip Kelly Era. Six coaches, two players. And there are more players remaining that Andy Reid brought in (five) than Chip brought in (two). And there isn’t a single player from either the 2014 or 2015 drafts still in the organization.

10. Need more evidence of Duce Staley’s ability to get the most out of his players? Since 2015, the Eagles are the only NFL team that hasn’t had a running back with 200 carries in a season. During that five-year period, Duce has made do with an ever-changing rotation of DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, Josh Adams one year, Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement and Boston Scott. Yet with that unsettled group of young unproven backs and veterans at the end of their career, the Eagles are 9th in the NFL in rushing during that five-year span. Of that group, Murray, Blount, Ajayi, Sproles and Mathews are all out of the league. 

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