Midterms: Grading every player on Eagles defense

Midterms: Grading every player on Eagles defense

The Eagles are 4-4 after playing half of their 2018 schedule. It’s been a disappointing first half, but they’re still alive in the division. 

Here’s a quick first-half evaluation of every defensive player on the roster right now. We evaluated every player on the offense yesterday.: 

D.J. Alexander: He hasn’t played on defense, but has been OK on special teams, minus a bad penalty last week: 

Michael Bennett: He got off to a bit of a slow start, but has really turned it on since then. He’s been their best defensive end: A-

Nigel Bradham: Bradham hasn’t been bad, but he hasn’t made big plays either. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to him after this year because that money’s not guaranteed: B

Fletcher Cox: He’s probably never going to have enough sacks to be a Defensive Player of the Year, but he’s great. Really great: A+ 

Ronald Darby: Up-and-down first half for Darby, who should send Jalen Mills a fruit basket for taking the focus off him: C+

Rasul Douglas: We don’t get to see a lot of Douglas, but with a small sample size, he’s been pretty good: 

Jake Elliott: Oh yeah, we put the special teamers with defense. Elliott has been shaky: C

Nate Gerry: Gerry hasn’t played a lot on defense and now he’s hurt. Good special teamer but I don’t think I have enough to judge: Incomplete 

Brandon Graham: It’s not that BG has been terrible, it’s that he hasn’t made near the impact we thought he would. He’s been a disappointment: C+

Corey Graham: I can’t think of anything other than 4th-and-15. That’s probably unfair, but that was sooo bad. And he couldn’t keep a starting job over a rookie who had never played safety: D+

Kamu Grugier-Hill: KGH doesn’t get to play a lot, but he’s been good at the WILL. I like him: B+

Deiondre’ Hall: Haven’t seen enough, but it’s probably not a good sign he can’t get on the field on defense: Incomplete 

Bruce Hector: He’s played just 51 snaps, so it’s hard to tell. He hasn’t shown me much and is only playing because there’s no one else: C

Treyvon Hester: Hester made more plays on one series than Destiny Vaeao made in a few games before the Eagles moved on: B 

Jordan Hicks: He’s played every defensive snap and he’s starting to make some more plays. He tipped that one INT to KGH and he’s getting sacks: B+

Malcolm Jenkins: I thought he actually got off to a slow start this year, but he’s been as dependable as ever: A

Cameron Johnston: The Eagles lost Donnie Jones, but it looks like they might have found his long-term replacement. He needs work on placing the ball, but he’s got a monster leg: 

Sidney Jones: I liked what I saw from Jones before this latest hamstring injury. He hasn’t been perfect, but I’ve seen nothing that makes me rethink my stance that he’s gonna be good: B+

Chris Long: Long had a good game in London but before then hadn’t had a sack since the opener. Without Derek Barnett now, they need a little more from Long: C+

Rick Lovato: I haven’t thought about him once this season. That’s a good thing for a long snapper: A

Avonte Maddox: This kid played outside corner in college. He came to the NFL and learned nickel corner. Now he’s a starting safety and playing really well: A

Dexter McDougle: He went from the street to starter. Not ideal. His first game wasn’t bad; his second was terrible: D+ 

Jalen Mills: No, Mills hasn’t been as bad as you think. He hasn’t been as good as he was last year either: C-

Haloti Ngata: He hasn’t done a whole lot of anything: 

LaRoy Reynolds: Haven’t seen a lot of him, but he hasn’t done much when he’s out there: 

Chandon Sullivan: Haven’t seen enough: Incomplete 

Tre Sullivan: Sullivan hasn’t played much and the one play we all remember is when he got dragged into a punt and it was a fumble: C-

Josh Sweat: He just hasn’t played enough: Incomplete 

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Why Duce Staley keeps having visions of Ricky Watters and Charlie Garner

Why Duce Staley keeps having visions of Ricky Watters and Charlie Garner

Duce Staley has seen first-hand all the great Eagles running back tandems of the modern era.

If he didn't coach them, he was part of them.

Duce was an Eagles rookie in 1997, when Ricky Watters netted over 1,500 yards from scrimmage and Charlie Garner added close to 800.

In 2001, Staley had over 1,200 net yards and Correll Buckhalter over 700. By 2003, Brian Westbrook had joined Staley and Buck for the vaunted three-headed monster that carried the Eagles to the NFC Championship Game.

Even Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles each had over 750 net yards under Staley's watch in 2016. And in 2017, he coached Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount to big years during the Super Bowl run.

“You know how we do it around here,” Staley said Thursday. “We’ve been doing it as far as running back by rotation for a long time.”

And that’s the case again this year with Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders.

Staley spent seven years with the Eagles as a player, and he’s now in his ninth year as coach, having served under Andy Reid, Chip Kelly and Doug Pederson.

And after all those terrific tandems, Howard and Sanders could wind up being one of the best.

Both are young, both are talented, both work well together, and they have the benefit of an offensive line that’s playing at a high level.

Nine games in, Sanders has 641 scrimmrage yards and Howard has 594. This is the first time two Eagles running backs have had 500 yards from scrimmage and at least a 4.0 rushing average after nine games since 1973 (Norm Bulaich, Tom Sullivan.

The Eagles have never had two running backs with 1,000 scrimmage yards in the same seaason. Sanders and Howard are on pace to get there

When Duce watches them, who does he see?

“I think, honestly, they remind me Charlie Garner and Rickey Watters, thunder and lighting,” he said. “That’s what it reminds me of every time I see them out on the field.”

Howard has 525 rushing yards,  a 4.4 average and seven touchdowns. Sanders has over 300 yards both rushing and receiving.

In Staley’s scenario, Howard is Watters, a tough, physical inside runner, and Sanders is Garner, a faster, more elusive back.

“You look at Jordan, he’s always falling forward, he’s always falling forward,” Staley said. “What we take pride in is if nothing’s there, getting back to the line of scrimmage. That’s very important. It’s hard to call plays for 2nd and 13, but if it’s 2nd-and-10 it’s a little easier.”

As for Sanders, he just gets better and better each week. Since Week 3, he’s 12th among all NFL running backs in scrimmage yards.

“He’s slowly but surely coming along,” Staley said. “Some of my teachings, some of T.J,’s teachings (T.J. Paginetti, assistant running backs coach). We take pride in ball security, we take pride in protecting the quarterback, and he’s already a natural runner, so slowly but surely he’s coming along.”

The Eagles are among seven teams with two running backs on pace for 1,000 scrimmage yards.

If you want to put the football in the hands of a couple tough, physical, versatile rotational running backs, it’s hard to imagine a better young tandem than Jordan and Sanders.

And if  you're going to pick the perfect guy to coach a couple tough, physical, versatile rotational backs, it’s hard to imagine a better guy than Duce.

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Eagles vs. Patriots 2019: TV schedule, storylines, game time and more

Eagles vs. Patriots 2019: TV schedule, storylines, game time and more

The Eagles (5-4) are hosting the Patriots (8-1) at the Linc on Sunday in a rematch of Super Bowl LII.

Here’s everything you need to know:

3 p.m.: Eagles Pregame Live on NBCSP
4:25 p.m.: Eagles vs. Patriots on CBS
7:30 p.m.: Eagles Postgame Live on NBCSP
9:30 p.m.: Birds Outsiders on NBCSP

The CBS broadcast team for Eagles-Patriots is Jim Nantz (play by play), Tony Romo (analyst) and Tracy Wolfson (sideline).

Merrill Reese, Mike Quick and Howard Eskin will have the call on 94WIP.

The Eagles opened up at 3.5-point home underdogs against the Patriots.

The referee for this game is Bill Vinovich, whose crew has called the fewest penalties in the league this year. In eight games, they’ve called just 100 penalties. The next closest group has called 115. The Eagles have won their last three games with Vinovich as the ref.

Remember the Super Bowl?

It’s hard to go into this game without thinking about Super Bowl LII, the last time these two teams met in a game with stakes. A lot has changed since February 2018, but there’s plenty that’s stayed the same. And that’s why both teams have used the Super Bowl game tape as a tool during this week. The Eagles have claimed they’re able to watch it without emotion, but I have a hard time believing that.

The overall outlook

The Eagles have seven games left in the season and actually have a better chance to make the playoffs than the Cowboys, who also have a 5-4 record. There’s a good chance the entire season could come down to Week 16 at the Linc, but the Eagles have five games before that. These next two games, against the Patriots and Seahawks, are really tough. But after that, the Eagles play the Dolphins, Giants and Redskins. So even if the Eagles lose the next two, they’re not in an awful position.

This particular game

The Patriots have an 8-1 record, but just two of those wins (Steelers, Bills) have come against teams with winning records. In fact, their other six wins are against the Dolphins, Jets, Redskins, Giants, Jets and Browns. So how good are the Patriots? It’s a fair question, especially after they were spanked by the Ravens 37-20 before the bye week. If any team deserves the benefit of the doubt, it’s Bill Belichick’s unit, but this team might not be the juggernaut its record suggests.

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