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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The real reason this Kansas City radio host's attack on Andy Reid was out of line

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The real reason this Kansas City radio host's attack on Andy Reid was out of line

I get why people are so outraged by the comments made Monday by a Kansas City radio host who linked Tyreek Hill’s off-the-field issues with the death seven years ago of Andy Reid’s son Garrett.

The guy tried to make a case that Big Red’s inability to be a strict disciplinarian as both a parent and a coach was responsible for both. 

“It did not work out particularly well in his family life,“ is what Kevin Kietzman of Sports Radio 810 WHB said. “He’s had a lot of things go bad on him, family and players. He is not good at fixing people. He is not good at discipline.”

Of course, these sort of remarks are irresponsible, hurtful and off-base. But you consider the source and they're probably not all that surprising.

And let's be honest. We all understand you don’t record the eighth-most wins of any NFL head coach in history and the seventh-most playoff wins without being able to discipline players when it’s necessary. We’ve all seen coaches who truly are bad at this stuff, and they don’t have three losing seasons in 20 years. They don’t last three years.

So yeah, this isn’t about that. Andy doesn’t need to be defended. Not about this.

And outrage distracts us from the real point. The real shame of Kietzman’s comments is that he connects a lack of discipline with heroin addiction.

Garrett Reid, Andy’s oldest son, died during training camp in Bethlehem seven years ago from a heroin overdose after a long battle with addiction, and the notion that his death somehow was the result of his father not disciplining him enough shows such a lack of understanding of addiction and substance abuse.

Addiction is a mental health disorder. It’s a disease.

It’s not a weakness. It’s not a character flaw. It’s not a lack of discipline.

Treatment can help, but it’s a long and difficult process. The changes substance abuse cause in a person’s brain, the addictive traits of heroin and other opioids, make recovery difficult and in some cases impossible.

Garrett was a good kid, a smart kid, and he and his family battled his addiction for years.

Here’s part of Andy’s statement the evening Garrett died:

“We understood that Garrett's long-standing battle with addiction was going to be difficult. He will, however, always have our family's love and respect for the courage he showed in trying to overcome it.”

This guy doesn’t know Andy and the battle he and his family fought to try and help Garrett through that battle.

Addiction and substance abuse have become such an epidemic in our communities. Big city. Small town. Everywhere. All of us know someone who’s lost a family member. All of us have either directly or indirectly felt that pain.

What Kietzman said is wrong in so many ways, but worst of all is how he trivializes addiction by implying that a little parental discipline would have saved Garrett Reid’s life.

This was a horrible thing to say for a lot of reasons, and it’s been nice to see so many of Andy’s former players rallying behind him on social media.

No parents should have to go through what Andy and his family went through seven summers ago at Lehigh. No parents should have to go through this either.

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Are 2019 Eagles better or worse at defensive tackle?

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Are 2019 Eagles better or worse at defensive tackle?

The Eagles bolstered the defensive tackle position in free agency, through a trade and by re-signing one of their own, but whether the unit is better or worse in 2019 largely falls on one player.

Key additions: Malik Jackson (free agent, Jaguars), Hassan Ridgeway (trade, Colts) 

Key departures: Haloti Ngata (retired)

Why they could be better: Fletcher Cox gets some help

Cox was basically a one-man show in 2018, lining up for 80 percent of the Eagles’ defensive snaps. The next closest defensive tackle on the club: a way-past-his-prime Haloti Ngata (Ngata... Ngata... not gonna be here anymore) at 35.5 percent. Of returning interior linemen not named Cox, only Trayvon Hester was on the field more than 8 percent of the time.

And, incredibly, Cox set a new career-high with 10.5 sacks and finished second in the NFL with 34 quarterback hits. Opponents knew the guy next to him was either washed, a defensive end moving inside or just a body, and it didn’t matter one bit. Couldn't stop him. So what happens when Malik Jackson averaging 5.5 sacks over the last six seasons is occupying the space next to Cox? Tim Jernigan returns, too, and Hassan Ridgeway — acquired for a seventh-round pick — provides a veteran challenger for Hester’s spot. All of a sudden, this is a deep, dangerous group.

Why they could be worse: Cox’s injury

Up to this point, all indications are Cox’s offseason foot surgery was not serious and the four-time Pro Bowl selection will be ready to go for training camp. Great. When it’s July 25 and he’s practicing with his teammates, this immediately becomes a non-issue.

Honestly though, the only argument for the Eagles’ defensive tackles taking a step back in 2019 is if Cox isn’t 100 percent going into this season — and don’t act like it can’t happen. Every year in camps all across the league, there are players who were to be “ready for camp” who don't come back until late August, even after Week 1. Again, there is no reason to assume that will be the case with Cox, but on the off chance he’s not himself come September, any dip in performance, let alone absence, would be felt by the entire D-line.

The X-factor: Jernigan

Thanks to the Jackson signing, the defense probably won’t need to depend on a whole heck of a lot from Jernigan. Yet, imagine if he’s healthy and providing a high-end starter's level of talent off the bench, at a position where the Eagles were literally plugging in journeymen like T.Y. McGill last season. Yes, that is a real person who wore midnight green in ’18.

Jernigan basically missed all of the previous year with a mysterious back injury, pretty much only making a few bit appearances in the playoffs. But just one year earlier, he was a regular on a Super Bowl-winning defense, recording a respectable 2.5 sacks, 9 tackles for loss and 10 quarterback hits. He posted even bigger numbers with the Ravens before that. Now, he’s the No. 3, playing on a team-friendly one-year deal, with much to prove. If he’s healthy and motivated, the Eagles may very well field the best interior in the league.

Are the Eagles’ defensive tackles better or worse?

There really isn’t much to add at this point. As long as Cox is healthy, it’s a no-brainer. Jackson is an upgrade, Jernigan is healthy as far as we know and there’s competition for the other roster spot. BETTER

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