John Hightower's secret weapon and more in Roob's random Eagles observations

John Hightower's secret weapon and more in Roob's random Eagles observations

John Hightower's secret weapon, a 1948 statistical absurdity and whatever happened to Juan Castillo?

That's just a small sample of the goodies awaiting you in today's Roob's Random Eagles Observations! 

1. It’s pretty wild that the Eagles have reached the playoffs the last two years despite just 10 interceptions in 2018 and 11 this past year. That made them only the second team in NFL history with back-to-back playoff seasons with 11 or fewer interceptions (along with the 2010 and 2011 Saints). Only four teams had fewer interceptions the last two years than the Eagles, and that’s a tough way to play defense. Amazing that they’ve been as good as they’ve been without those impact plays that shift field position. Darius Slay is supposed to remedy that, but although he led the NFL with eight INTs in 2017, he’s only had five the last two years — tied for 31st-most in the NFL. Now, I understand that opposing quarterbacks weren’t throwing his way that much and I understand that a big part of interceptions is pass pressure. But the Eagles haven’t had a ballhawk in the secondary since Asante Samuel a decade ago. They need interceptions from Slay. Not two or three. Lots of ‘em.

2. It’s hard to imagine Marquise Goodwin making much of an impact. He’s had one year in seven NFL seasons with more than 431 yards, and at his age — he’ll be 30 this fall — you’re almost always already who you’re going to be. He is fast when he’s healthy, but his career season averages are 20 catches for 332 yards. For the sake of comparison, Nelson Agholor’s career averages are 45-for-503. 

3. Boston Scott had the third-most catches of any NFL running back over the last four weeks of this past season with 23. Only Pro Bowlers Christian McCaffrey (41) and Tarik Cohen (25) had more. The only running back in Eagles history with more catches over the last four games of a season is Herschel Walker with 25 in 1993.

4. The Eagles think speedy rookie receiver John Hightower has a shot to develop into a player, and one impressive thing about the fifth-rounder from Boise State is his rushing number. Hightower only had 24 carries in college but averaged a ridiculous 13.2 yards with two TDs. That’s the fourth-highest rushing average in the BCS on more than 20 carries going back to 2000, which is as far back as Sports Reference tracks college stats. So even if he’s not getting a lot of playing time as a receiver, if he can get himself on the game-day roster watch out for Hightower on jet sweeps and reverses.

5. While I was researching the 10 greatest defensive performances in Eagles history, I noticed something really weird: In 1948, the Eagles won three games by identical 45-0 scores in the span of 36 days, two of them in the span of eight days. And there have only been five other 45-0 games in NFL history! No other team has won more than one game by a 45-0 score and the other five have been spread out — 1951, 1976, 1984, 1991 and 1999. But the Eagles, during an eight-game winning streak on their way to their first NFL Championship, won three games by 45-0 in the span of six weeks. So the Eagles accounted for 38 percent of the 45-0 games in NFL history in 36 days.

6. From 1993 through 2006, half of the Eagles’ first-round draft picks — 6 of 12 — started fewer than 40 games in an Eagles uniform: Lester Holmes (38), Freddie Mitchell (17), Bernard Williams (16), Jon Harris (8), Leonard Renfro (2) and Jerome McDougle (0). 

7. Correll Buckhalter is one of the most underrated and underappreciated Eagles of the last 20 years. The dude bounced back from three torn ACLs. He missed the entire 2002, 2004 and 2005 seasons — he played 15 games from the end of the 2001 season until the start of 2006. But the dude could ball. Buck averaged 4.5 yards per carry, fourth-highest in Eagles history by a running back behind LeSean McCoy (4.7), Brian Westbrook (4.6) and Charlie Garner (4.6). Pretty good company. Buck’s knees never allowed him a huge workload, but Andy Reid used him perfectly, giving him enough work to make a difference but never overusing him on those surgically repaired knees. 

8. Andy Reid and Mike Holmgren are the only coaches in NFL history to win 75 games for two teams. Reid won 130 games with the Eagles and 77 with the Chiefs. Holmgren won 75 with the Packers and 86 with the Seahawks. Reid and Holmgren are best friends and were together in Green Bay from 1992 through 1998.

9. Good to see Juan Castillo back coaching in the NFL. He was out of the league last year after 24 years in the NFL and spent the year working at Michigan as an offensive analyst under Jim Harbaugh, whose brother John he worked with on both the Eagles and Ravens. As O-line coach in Chicago, he’s reunited with Matt Nagy, who he was with in Philly. If the only Castillo you remember is from his 22-game tenure here as Reid's defensive coordinator, he’s one of the best O-line coaches in the game. 

10. There have only been five quarterbacks drafted in the first two rounds who never played a regular-season snap in the NFL:

Harry Agganis, 1952, First round, Browns: When the Red Sox outbid the Browns, Agganis decided to play pro baseball in the Red Sox organization instead of pro football.
Eddie Crowder, 1953, Second round, Giants: Because he had a nerve problem in his throwing shoulder, he joined the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers instead of signing with the Giants. He eventually played in the CFL.
Sandy Stephens, 1962, Second round, Titans: Stephens also played in the CFL before his career was cut short by a very serious car crash, the same one that ended the career of Ted Dean, who scored the winning touchdown for the Eagles in the 1960 NFL Championship Game.
Gene Bradley, 1980, Second round, Bills: Played for the New Jersey Generals of the USFL instead of signing with the Bills.
Christian Hackenberg, 2016, Second round, Jets: The only QB in NFL history drafted in the first two rounds who never played in the NFL or another major sports league.

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A lost opportunity for Sidney Jones in Roob's 10 Observations

A lost opportunity for Sidney Jones in Roob's 10 Observations

A lost opportunity for Sidney Jones, an unbelievable Sam Bradford stat and the continuing saga of Reb Russell.

It's all right here in this weekend's Roob's 10 Eagles Observations! 

1. I keep trying to convince myself, "This will be the year we see the real Sidney Jones." And coming out of last year, I really believed Jones, going into Year 4, had a chance to really get his legs healthy this spring and then show everybody in minicamps, OTAs, training camp and the preseason games that he could hold down the CB2 opposite Darius Slay. But if the curtailed offseason and preseason hurts anybody the most, it's Jones. The Eagles have made it clear Avonte Maddox is the projected starter, and as long Maddox stays healthy I don't see how Sidney can win the job. Without any spring workouts or preseason games? Can Jones do enough just in a few weeks of training camp practice to beat out Maddox? I don't think so.

2. Who has the highest 4th-quarter passer rating among Eagles quarterbacks? Going back to 1994, as far back as the Pro Football Reference database logs quarter-by-quarter stats, here's the surprising answer (minimum of 100 4th-quarter attempts):

95.9 ... Sam Bradford

88.4 ... Michael Vick

84.5 ... Carson Wentz

83.6 ... Donovan McNabb

81.9 ... Nick Foles

76.9 ... Rodney Peele

76.7 ... Mark Sanchez

70.3 ... Ty Detmer

64.1 ... Bobby Hoying

62.7 ... Randall Cunningham

59.0 ... Koy Detmer 

(Remember, this only includes Randall's last two years with the Eagles) 

3. As good as T.O. was in 2004, he was on his way to an even bigger season in 2005 before he imploded and got himself suspended. Owens was 47-for-763 with 6 TDs after seven games, which put him on pace for 107 catches and 1,744 yards with 13 TDs. The only players in NFL history to reach those plateaus in a season are Jerry Rice and Isaac Bruce. T.O.'s 93.5 yards per game as an Eagle is 23 yards per game more than any other WR in franchise history. DeSean Jackson (69.7), Mike Quick (64.0), Irving Fryar (63.9) and Jeremy Maclin (63.6) are next.

4. If the NFL does wind up reducing rosters from 90 to 75 because of the curtailed or eliminated preseason and for social distancing purposes, the league needs to give each team the opportunity to retain the rights of some or all of the players they're forced to release. Maybe pay them a weekly reduced salary and let them participate in virtual meetings and remain part of the team without actually being at practice. It would be a shame to see the Eagles forced to cut ties with promising kids like Adrian Killians Jr., Grayland Arnold, Raequan Williams, Mike Warren, Sua Opeta or Deontay Burnett because of the current circumstances. The league and the NFLPA need to find a way to make sure that doesn't happen.

5. I just remembered the Eagles paid Nelson Agholor $9.387 million last year.

6. The Frankford Yellow Jackets won the 1926 NFL Championship, but by the early 1930s, they may have been the worst professional sports team in Philadelphia history. They won only 3 of their last 24 games and scored 7 or fewer points in 20 of those 24 games. 

7. What are the odds that the Eagles' two recent Hall of Famers — Brian Dawkins and Harold Carmichael — went to the same high school? Both graduated from Raines High in Jacksonville. Raines has produced numerous other NFL players, including Lito Sheppard, Shawn Jefferson and Ken Burrough, along with baseball's Vince Coleman. Surprisingly, 16 high schools produced multiple Hall of Famers, including one — George Washington in L.A. — that produced three (James Lofton, Hugh McElhenny, Bill Walsh). 

8. Carson Wentz's 32 wins are 15th-most in NFL history by a quarterback in his first four seasons. He's also one of only five of the top 20 that didn't win a playoff game during those four years. The others are Matt Ryan, Andy Dalton, Steve Grogan, Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer. Ryan won one in his 5th season, Manning in his 6th and Palmer in his 14th. Dalton and Grogan never did win one. One of these years, Wentz will win one. Right?

9. Donovan McNabb had already won four playoff games and reached two NFC Championship Games by the end of his fourth season.

10. Everyone seemed to enjoy last week's excerpt from newspaper coverage of the Eagles' first game in franchise history in 1933, so here's an excerpt from the Inquirer story reporting the first win in franchise history, 6-0 over the Reds later in 1933: 

"Tall, slab-sided, loose-limbed Swede Hanson, the new Galloping Ghost of the commercial gridiron, raced over the last white stripe today, as the Philadelphia Eagles achieved their first conquest of the season, 6-0. Hanson, lean and lank and lantern jawed, was the hero of this game, as he has starred in all of the frays in which the Eagles have been a part. For two periods, the Birds and their Red foes battered away at the line or sought the air but all in vain. In the third quarter, however, the Wraymen turned into a devastating horde." 

The story goes on to describe Hanson's touchdown, the game's only score: 

"It was fourth down now and the goal line beckoning in tantalizing fashion straight ahead. Then Hanson and (Reb) Russell outwtitted their foes. Reb came tearing in as if to shoot off tackle. The Reds tumbled through upon the former Purple hero, however, who was ready for this emergency. As the gang tried to pile up, Russell flipped a lateral, straight and unerring, right into Hanson's arms. Like a flash, the Swede lighted out for the end, slipped past two tackles and went over the line."

Wraymen? Really? Remember, that team's coach was Lud Wray. Guess I should start calling the Eagles the Dougmen?

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Report: NFLPA board unanimously recommends to cancel entire preseason 

Report: NFLPA board unanimously recommends to cancel entire preseason 

Just two days after we learned the NFL’s plan to cut the 2020 preseason in half, the NFL Players Association is reportedly recommending that the league cancel the entire preseason. 

The NFLPA’s board of representatives voted unanimously on the recommendation, according to ESPN. 

On Wednesday, ProFootballTalk reported that the NFL was cutting the preseason in half because of the coronavirus pandemic, keeping Weeks 2 and 3 but eliminating Weeks 1 and 4. Other reports indicated that those preseason games would be pushed back later into August. 

If the Eagles end up playing the original Weeks 2 and 3 of their preseason schedule, they will face the Dolphins on the road and the Patriots at home. They were originally scheduled to be at Indianapolis in Week 1 and at home against the Jets in Week 4, but those games have already been canceled. 

The NFL is still planning for training camps to begin on July 28 with rookies and select vets allowed to report earlier. 

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said earlier this offseason that his team will need the entire five-to-six-week training camp to get ready for the 2020 season, especially after missing the entire spring workout schedule because of the pandemic. 

The Eagles are scheduled to begin their 2020 regular season in Washington on Sept. 13. 

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