Eagles

Miles Sanders is a bright spot, an impressive streak ends and more in Roob Stats

Miles Sanders is a bright spot, an impressive streak ends and more in Roob Stats

The Eagles are 5-7 with three straight losses. Things are grim down at the NovaCare Complex. But we won’t stop on our appointed rounds just because of a few losses! As the old saying goes, “The stats must go on!”

MILES TO GO: We’ll start with Miles Sanders, one of the few bright spots in a grim stretch. Sanders added 105 scrimmage yards Sunday in Miami, giving him 879 this year, most ever by an Eagles rookie in his first 12 games. That’s six more than DeSean Jackson had in 2008. It’s also third-most ever by an Eagles rookie, behind Jackson [1,008 in 2008] and LeSean McCoy [945 in 2009]. Sanders needs 130 yards in the last four games to pass Jackson and break the franchise rookie yardage record.

HISTORIC PACE: Sanders has gotten to 879 yards on just 148 touches. That’s the 13th-fewest ever by a rookie to reach 879 scrimmage yards. He’s on pace for 1,172 yards on 197 touches. Only five rookie running backs in NFL history have netted 1,150 or more scrimmage yards on fewer than 200 touches - only one since 1965.

CHASING SHADY: One more Sanders: His 520 rushing yards are only 117 off the Eagles’ rookie rushing record of 637, set in 2009 by McCoy.

A DUBIOUS RECORD: The Eagles have run the ball 23 or fewer times and thrown it 40 or more times in three consecutive games. It's the first time in franchise history that's happened.

RARE COMPANY: Zach Ertz didn’t have his best game Sunday, but he did reach 70 catches for the fifth straight season. Only DeAndre Hopkins (6 straight) currently has a longer streak of 70-catch seasons. The only other tight ends streaks of five 70-catch seasons or longer in NFL history are Tony Gonzalez (11 straight from 2003-13) and Jason Witten (7 straight from 2007-13).

MOVING UP THE LIST: With three catches, Ertz increased his career total to 507 and moved past Frank Wycheck (505) and Dallas Clark (505) into 14th place in NFL history among tight ends. Next on the list is Gronk, who caught 521. At his current pace, Ertz would be in the all-time top 10 by Week 3 next season.

25 YEARS AGO: Here’s a fun happy one: Sunday was the first time the Eagles blew a second-half lead of 14 or more points to a team with a losing record in 25 years. Last time it happened, they led the Bengals 27-10 in the third quarter at Riverfront Stadium and lost 33-30 when Doug Pelfrey hit two field goals in the final three seconds (with an Eagles kickoff fumble in between). Head coach Rich Kotite was fired the next day.

GOEDERT GETTING IN END ZONE: Dallas Goedert is only the 7th Eagle — and first tight end — with 4 TD catches in both of his first two seasons.

AN IMPRESSIVE STREAK ENDS: Before Sunday, the Eagles had won 33 straight games in which they scored 30 or more points. Their last loss when they hit 30 points was Dec. 15, 2013, a 48-30 loss to the Vikings at the Metrodome. The Eagles’ 32-1 record when they score 30 or more points is 2nd-best in the NFL since 2014, behind only the Broncos, who are 13-0.

A 30-POINT RARITY: Interesting that despite Sunday’s game, the Eagles have still allowed 30 or more points the fewest times in the NFL since 2016. They are actually tied with the Cowboys, allowing 30 or more points seven times each. The Vikings (8) and Ravens, Steelers and Broncos (9 each) are next. The Buccaneers (25), Dolphins (24) and Cards (23) have allowed 30 points the most.

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Learning on the fly, Eagles’ interior DL needs to lead defense

Learning on the fly, Eagles’ interior DL needs to lead defense

As we’ve learned over the last four seasons, Jim Schwartz’s entire defense is predicated on getting pass rush from the front four. 

That won’t change in 2020.

Where that pass rush specifically comes from, however, might. 

Because after a year when the Eagles interior defensive line was completely demolished by injuries, the Eagles now boast an impressive group of defensive tackles that might just be the best in the entire league. 

It’s no secret: Those defensive tackles will need to be the engine that powers the defense in 2020. 

With us three healthy, and it being a really good rotation, that it should be really good for this team,” Fletcher Cox said on Wednesday. “… The defensive line, we have to be the group that leads this team. I’m really looking forward to it.

In 2019, the Eagles were forced to sign guys off the street to play next to their perennial Pro Bowler, Cox. But even Cox wasn’t his usual self last year after coming back from offseason toe surgery. 

In 2020? 

Cox is fully healthy and having a full offseason to prepare. Malik Jackson and Hassan Ridgeway both return from injuries that ended their 2019 seasons early. And the Eagles went out and signed Javon Hargrave to a three-year, $39 million contact. This defensive line is legitimately four deep with guys who are starter caliber. 

“I think it’s a really good group,” Cox said. “It’ll be a solid group along with all the other guys that’s in the room that I played with last year. It’s a really solid group and I’m really looking forward to getting back to football with those guys, with Malik and [Javon] coming in. It’ll be a really good rotation, whatever we decide to do. I’m just excited for those guys.”

That doesn’t mean there won’t be growing pains. Because obviously Cox is still the centerpiece of the defensive line and, really, the entire defense. But he hasn’t played much — or at all — with the three guys who will be playing next to him. 

Take a look: 

Cox and Hargrave: Have never played together 

Cox and Jackson: Have half a game together 

Cox and Ridgeway: Started five games together 

And with Jackson, that half of football came after a training camp where Cox was limited coming off injury. So Cox has the most experience with the defensive tackle who is expected to play the least. Hargrave is expected to be a starter and Jackson will be a rotational player who might play a lot of snaps at defensive end too. 

It’s going to take time for these guys to learn to play with one another. And this offseason is obviously an unusual one thanks to COVID-19. There were no OTAs and there’s an abbreviated training camp with no preseason games. 

“When Timmy (Jernigan) was here, it took a while for us to get on the same page,” Cox said. “You just don’t learn those things over night. I didn’t have a training camp with Malik. We only had like half of a game under our belt. We never really got into that same groove. It’s going to take some time. 

“I think the main thing for [Hargrave] is going out, playing fast, learning the defense, which he’s doing a really good job at, catching onto things that we do. The realest thing is just going out and getting the repetitions with him. It think it’s going to take a lot of repetition for him and me to get on the same page, a lot of communication. So far, so good.”

On paper, this is the best group of defensive tackles ever assembled with Cox. And Hargrave ought to be the best complement next to him we’ve ever seen, surpassing the likes of Jernigan and Bennie Logan. But we’ve got to see it first. 

The Eagles better hope these guys figure out how to play next to each other pretty quickly. The 2020 defense is relying on them. 

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Eagles waive DT Bruce Hector and DB Prince Smith

Eagles waive DT Bruce Hector and DB Prince Smith

The Eagles on Friday released two players, including a defensive tackle who played in 11 games over the last two years and a Philadelphia native trying to make the team as an undrafted rookie.

The moves, along with the additions of Vinny Curry and Marcus Green, leave the roster right at the 80-man training camp limit.

The team released defensive tackle Bruce Hector and cornerback Prince Smith, an undrafted rookie who played at New Hampshire.

Hector originally made the Eagles as an undrafted rookie free agent out of South Florida in 2018. He bounced up and down between the active roster and the practice squad three times and played in eight games, with 82 defensive snaps and 19 more on special teams. 

Hector, 25, was with the team in last year’s preseason but was traded on Aug. 22 to the Cards in exchange for safety Rudy Ford. But when the Cards released him nine days later, he rejoined the Eagles on Sept. 1 on the practice squad. 

He had two more stints on the practice squad and two on the active roster last year, playing 53 defensive snaps and 20 special teams snaps in three games. He was active for the Seattle playoff game and got five defensive snaps and seven on special teams.

After cutting ties with Hector, the Eagles have six defensive tackles remaining on the roster - Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, Hassan Ridgeway and Anthony Rush, who were all with the team last year, Steelers free agent Javon Hargrave and undrafted rookie Raequan Williams.

Smith grew up in Philadelphia and played high school football at Imhotep Institute Charter in West Oak Lane. He signed with the Eagles on April 30, just after the draft.

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