Meeting O.J. Simpson, changes to D-line, more in Roob's 10 random Eagles observations

Meeting O.J. Simpson, changes to D-line, more in Roob's 10 random Eagles observations

The future of the Eagles' defensive line, recalling Eric McCoo's brief Eagles career and a chance meeting in New Orleans with O.J. Simpson highlight this week's edition of Roob's 10 random Eagles observations.

1. The Eagles’ defensive line has underachieved this year, and I feel like this is a position that’s due for a major overhaul this offseason. Brandon Graham’s deal is up, and he’s going to be looking for a huge contract that the Eagles probably won’t be in position to get into a bidding war for him. Chris Long and Haloti Ngata most likely won’t be back. The only locks to return are Fletcher Cox, Derek Barnett and Michael Bennett. Josh Sweat was a fourth-round pick, so he’ll likely be back, but this is a group that desperately needs an infusion of young talent. Ngata is 34. Long and Bennett are 33. Graham is 30. Cox turns 28 in a few weeks. He’s in his prime and playing as well as ever. But he needs some help. A year ago, the defensive line was a real strength of this team. This year? Hasn’t been awful, but hasn’t lived up to its billing as one of the best in the league. I would expect changes this offseason, and I'd anticipate those changes will be significant.

2. Zach Ertz’s 75 catches are fourth most in NFL history after nine games. But only the second most among players who will be on the field at the Superdome this weekend. Saints receiver Michael Thomas has 78!

3. One more Ertz note: He already has 396 career receptions. That’s the 11th most in NFL history by a tight end in his first seven seasons. And Ertz is only halfway through his sixth season. So if he’s held without a catch in his next 23 games, he’ll still go into 2020 with the 11th-most catches ever by a tight end in his first seven seasons.  

4. The Eagles have allowed fewer touchdowns after nine games this year (19) than after nine games last year (20). Perspective is a funny thing.   

5. Considering the current state of the Eagles’ ground game, I get a ton of tweets lamenting the Eagles' decision to move on from LeGarrette Blount after last season. I’m the biggest LeGarrette Blount fan in the world, but there were clear signs last year he was on his last legs, and his production is way down this year in Detroit. He’s averaged less than 3.0 yards per carry in 13 of his last 17 games, including all but two games this year. If the season ended today, his 2.56 yards per carry would be the fourth lowest by a running back with 70 or more carries in the last 30 years. Blount was exceptional the first half of last year and had a massive Super Bowl, and I’ll always admire him for the selfless way he welcomed Jay Ajayi without a single complaint. But he’s not the answer.

6. Only one player in NFL history has played in just one game (not counting replacement players during the 1987 strike) and had more than 27 rushing yards. That was McCoo, a New Jersey native who played college football at Penn State and got to play in the Eagles’ 2004 season finale against the Bengals. With the Eagles having already locked up the No. 1 seed for the NFC playoffs, Andy Reid played a bunch of subs that day, including McCoo, who had spent much of the season on the practice squad. He responded with nine carries for 54 yards and never played another game. Three interesting notes about McCoo: 1. He was MVP of World Bowl XII after rushing for 167 yards in the Berlin Thunder’s 30-24 win over the Frankfurt Galaxy early in 2004, 2. He was New Jersey Meet of Champions long jump winner for Red Bank High in 1997 with a jump of 23-4, and 3. When McCoo was inducted into the Red Bank High School Hall of Fame, he went in with another former Eagle, Danny Stubbs, who was with the Eagles in 1995.

7. Josh Adams. Seventeen carries. Sunday.

8. With the Eagles going into New Orleans as nine-point underdogs, how about some Eagles underdog trivia?

• The last time the Eagles were underdogs of eight points or more was the Patriots game in Foxboro in 2015, when they won 35-28. Chip Kelly was fired 23 days later.

• Last time the Eagles won as double-digit underdogs was late in 2007, when they went into Dallas 5-8 and the Cowboys were 12-1. But with Brian Westbrook piling up 144 yards of offense and Reggie Brown catching a TD pass from Donovan McNabb, the Eagles won 10-6.

• The biggest upset win on record by the Eagles came in 1985, when they were 14-point underdogs against the Redskins at RFK Stadium but won 19-6 behind 22-year-old QB Randall Cunningham and a big game by Earnest Jackson.

9. Putting the Eagles’ seven takeaways in context: Only 15 teams in NFL history have had fewer after nine games. It’s almost impossible to have just seven takeaways in nine games.

10. Whenever the Eagles go to New Orleans, I’m reminded of Super Bowl week in 1990. Legendary Philly sports writer Phil Sheridan and I were in the outdoor courtyard at popular N’awlins watering hole Pat O’Brien’s and this being Super Bowl week, the place was packed with celebs. O.J. Simpson was there having a drink and this being 1990 he wasn’t O.J. Simpson yet, so everybody was approaching him asking for autographs and telling him he was the greatest and all that. Me, being a fan of O.J.’s acting prowess, went up to him and said, “Hey, Juice, I just wanted to say you were awesome in Capricorn One,” a reference to the 1978 movie thriller about a faked manned Mars landing starring O.J., Elliott Gould and James Brolin. O.J.’s face lit up and for the next few minutes we hung out there and talked about Capricorn One! Everybody thought I was goofing on him, but I was actually serious. I love that movie! And I read years later that he was terribly insecure about his acting career and really appreciated when people praised his acting. And that’s how O.J. and I became besties for a few minutes in a bar in the French Quarter!

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Donnel Pumphrey, Freddie Martino and more: Every former Eagles player on XFL rosters

Donnel Pumphrey, Freddie Martino and more: Every former Eagles player on XFL rosters

The XFL season kicks off on Saturday, Feb. 8 when the DC Defenders host the Seattle Dragons at 2 p.m. on ABC. 

You can watch that game and root on Donnel Pumphrey! 

But he’s just one of many former Eagles in the eight-team startup league. 

After scouring all eight rosters, I counted 25 former Eagles. That means the league is 6 percent former Eagles. 

Here’s a look at every former Eagles player on each team: 

Dallas Renegades 

WR Freddie Martino
CB Josh Hawkins
LB Asantay Brown
DE Winston Craig 

The most notable name on this list is Hawkins, who played late in the season for the Eagles in 2018. He was thrown into a really tough spot against the Saints in the divisional round playoff game and didn’t hold up very well. He came back for training camp in 2019 but was released at final cuts. Martino, Brown and Craig were camp bodies and never played for the Eagles. But Martino was a fan favorite in camp in 2015 and ended up playing for the Bucs for a few years. From 2016-18 in Tampa Bay, Martino had 13 catches for 238 yards and a touchdown. 

DC Defenders 

WR DeAndre Thompkins 
RB Donnel Pumphrey 
C Jon Toth 
OL Malcolm Bunche 
DT Elijah Qualls

The Defenders actually boast two former Eagles draft picks from the 2017. Pumphrey was a fourth-round pick and Qualls was a sixth-round pick. Neither ever played a game for the Eagles. Pumprhey was the most prolific running back in NCAA history but at 5-9, 176 pounds, the Eagles tried to change his entire game and he never worked out. As recently as last offseason, Pump was in camp with the Eagles. Thompkins, a receiver from Penn State, was in camp before last season. Bunche, who is from Newark, Delaware, went undrafted out of UCLA in 2015. He was cut by the Eagles but spent the entire 2015 season on the practice squad. 

Houston Roughnecks

S Trae Elston 
CB Ajene Harris 
RB De’Angelo Henderson
OL Toby Weathersby
DL Gabe Wright 

Henderson was with the Eagles on their practice squad for most of the 2019 season but the Birds brought in Elijah Holyfield at the end of the season instead of promoting him. After the season ended, Henderson didn’t sign a futures deal with the Eagles and instead is heading to the XFL. Harris, a corner from USC, was also with the Eagles on their practice squad for some of this past season. You probably don’t even remember him, but Elston played in one game for the Eagles in 2017; he got seven special teams snaps in the Week 3 win over the Giants. 

Los Angeles Wildcats

S Jerome Couplin III 
LB Quentin Gause 

In 2014-15, Couplin played in nine games with the Eagles and had a total of five combined tackles. The William & Mary product went undrafted in 2014 and was with the Lions and Bills before coming to Philly. Gause was with the Eagles in the summer of 2016 and ended up playing in three games that season for the Broncos. 

New York Guardians

QB Luis Perez
QB Matt McGloin
LB Ryan Mueller 

Perez came from the AAF and spent just a month with the Eagles. McGloin, the former Penn State quarterback, lasted the 2017 offseason with the Eagles. But he did play in 13 games (7 starts) for the Raiders from 2013-16. Mueller was a big-time defensive end at Kansas State but when he got to Philly in 2016, he was a fullback that offseason. That was the last time the Eagles toyed with the idea of a full-time fullback. 

St. Louis BattleHawks 

WR Carlton Agudosi 
DB Harold Jones-Quartey 
RB Matt Jones

Agudosi (6-6, 220) made some spectacular catches with the Eagles in the summer before the 2019 season but didn’t stick. And you’ll remember Matt Jones. He was with the Eagles briefly in 2018 but didn’t make the team. With the Redskins, the former third-round pick rushed for 950 yards in 2015-16. 

Seattle Dragons

S Godwin Igwebuike 

A year after Igwebuike played six games for the Niners and Bucs as an undrafted rookie out of Northwestern in 2018, he was with the Eagles in the summer of 2019. 

Tampa Bay Vipers 

QB Aaron Murray
WR Seantavius Jones 

Murray was with the Eagles in the 2016 season on the practice squad after he had been with the Chiefs under Doug Pederson in 2014-15. But the former fifth-round pick from Georgia went to the Rams in 2017. Jones was with the Eagles for a little over a month in the offseason of 2016 and never practiced in Philly. Still, he remains the best Seantavius in Eagles history. 

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Similarity Travis Kelce sees between Eagles' Super Bowl LII team and Chiefs' Super Bowl LIV team

Similarity Travis Kelce sees between Eagles' Super Bowl LII team and Chiefs' Super Bowl LIV team

Travis Kelce is about to play in his first Super Bowl but it’s not the first time he’s been around the biggest game in the sport. 

The Chiefs' tight end, and brother of Jason, was around the Eagles’ run to Super Bowl at the tail end of the 2017 season so he has an idea about what the week is like and what it takes to win it all. 

And Kelce, speaking to reporters in Miami, said he sees one big similarity between the Eagles in Super Bowl LII and his Chiefs that will play in Super Bowl LIV: 

I was out there in Minnesota. It was a very unique situation because I got to see it almost second hand and really kind of in the background of the Eagles, asking my brother everything that was going on that week. 

“It was unique how tight of a team they were, how their chemistry ... they just felt like a brotherhood, even from the outside. You could just tell how tight-knit that group was. With that being said, I think this team has the exact same feeling going into it. How much we appreciate each other and have fun on the field with each other and make sure we’re doing the right things so we’re accountable for each other.

There was definitely something special about that Eagles team that played in Super Bowl LII. It’s probably a bit much to call it a team of destiny, but that team had a special feel to it. And a big part of it is because of how close they were. 

In some sense, it shouldn’t be too surprising to see an Andy Reid-led team have a similar feel. The atmosphere around the 2017 Eagles was created in part by Doug Pederson and his coaching staff. Pederson wanted his guys to have fun, he wanted them to be themselves. And, of course, Pederson is a protégé of Reid. Both men are known as players coaches. 

As of early this week, Travis Kelce said he hadn’t yet asked his older brother about tips for Super Bowl week or playing in the big game. Jason was at the Pro Bowl with his family and baby daughter, so Travis wanted to give him a chance to enjoy himself. 

But Travis said he does plan on chatting with Jason soon. He wants to ask for tips about some things he might not know about playing in the big game, anything that will give him an advantage on Sunday evening. 

For now, how tight-knit the Chiefs are certainly won’t hurt. 

“Everyone is just enjoying their time, being themselves,” Kelce said. “I love this team more than any other team I’ve ever been on, man, because it’s that much more fun.”

Sound familiar? 

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