Eagles

Hey Eagles fans, the sky isn't falling

Hey Eagles fans, the sky isn't falling

The sky isn’t falling. 

I know, I know, that’s exactly what you want to hear less than 48 hours after a frustrating 17-10 loss to the New England Patriots. It’s the truth, though. 

Don’t get me wrong. The Eagles were up 10-0 at home on Sunday and they should have won that game. It was right there for them and they came up short. And because of common opponents between the Eagles and Cowboys, the Patriots game was actually more important than the one upcoming against the Seahawks.  

There were certainly things in that 17-10 loss that were concerning, mostly on the offensive side of the ball. 

But they were things we already knew coming into Sunday; the receivers stink, there are no big plays, injuries hurt. We also learned the Eagles’ defense might be legit. 

So, believe it or not, the Eagles still have a good shot at making it into the playoffs. 

Now, we have to remember that the outlook on the entire season has changed quite a bit. Coming into the year, we were talking about the Eagles’ being one of the top teams in the league. That ship sailed a long time ago. The new bar is just trying to make it into the playoffs and Sunday hurt, but it didn’t really hurt that much. 

According to FiveThirtyEight, after beating the Lions on Sunday, the Cowboys have a 58 percent chance to win the division and the Eagles have a 42 percent chance. 

This coming week, the Eagles are home against the Seahawks (8-2), while the Cowboys have to go on the road to face the Patriots (9-1). 

Using FiveThirtyEight’s playoff predictor, here’s how next Sunday’s outcomes will affect each team’s chances to win the division, which is still their clearest way to a playoff spot: 

Eagles and Cowboys lose
Cowboys: 64 percent 
Eagles: 36 percent

Eagles and Cowboys win 
Cowboys: 66 percent
Eagles: 34 percent

Eagles win, Cowboys lose
Eagles: 58 percent
Cowboys: 42 percent

Eagles lose, Cowboys win
Cowboys: 83 percent
Eagles: 17 percent 

But here’s the part where I remind you that after next weekend, the Eagles’ remaining schedule is easier than the Cowboys’ remaining schedule. From Week 13 on, Eagles’ opponents have a winning percentage of .351, while Cowboys’ opponents have a winning percentage of .460. The Cowboys aren’t playing world-beaters, but I like the Eagles’ chances of beating the Giants, Redskins and Dolphins more than the Cowboys’ chances of beating the Bills, Bears and Rams. 

Even if the Eagles lose to the Seahawks, they’d be 5-6 and still likely just one game behind the Cowboys, assuming they lose on the road to the Patriots and are 6-5. If that happens, the Eagles will have made life tough on themselves, but winning out is clearly a possibility. The big game will still be that Week 16 matchup at the Linc against the Cowboys. That might still decide the NFC East. 

A quick reminder of division tiebreakers if it gets to that point: 

1. Head to head 
2. Division record 
3. Common opponents
4. Conference record 

If the Eagles beat the Cowboys in Week 16, they’d be 1-1 against each other. From there, it seems like both teams could be 5-1 in the division. That means it would come down to common opponents, which is where the Eagles took a hit in Week 11. But they still have the Packers and Jets on the Cowboys, who now have the Lions on the Eagles. 

The Eagles’ offense has to find a way to be better and we know that. But we’re now in Week 12, so it’s unlikely they just flip a switch. They’re not going to be explosive, but if Carson Wentz can be more consistent, if they get a little more production from their weapons and if the Eagles’ defense keeps it up, they should be able to keep themselves in the mix. 

Remember, this isn’t what any of us thought we’d be talking about in Week 12. This is the time of year when many thought we’d be talking about the Eagles’ push to lock up the division and potentially earn a top seed in the NFC. 

On a macro level, this team and the way it was put together is a problem. The Eagles were supposed to build a dynasty and they built a slightly above average team that has to try to claw its way into the playoffs. But on a micro level, the Eagles still have a pretty decent chance to do just that … claw into the playoffs. 

So the ceiling might be low, but the sky isn’t falling. 



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The 10 greatest NFL players who became irrelevant Eagles

The 10 greatest NFL players who became irrelevant Eagles

They’re all-time NFL greats. And they’re former Eagles.

But they were never both at the same time.

We thought it would be fun to come up with a list of the 10 greatest NFL players who finished their careers in obscurity as Eagles.

Two rules: They weren’t allowed to spend more than one season with the Eagles and their final NFL game had to be in an Eagles uniform.

That eliminates guys like Mark Bavaro, Roy Green and Greg Townsend.  

But there are some pretty notable players - including three Hall of Famers - who finished their brilliant NFL careers as mediocre and forgotten Eagles.

Interesting to note that seven of the 10 played for the Eagles between 1993 and 1997!

Tomorrow, we'll do the opposite top-10 list ... the 10 greatest players who began their career in obscurity with the Eagles! 

1. DE Richard Dent

Before he was an Eagle [1983-1996]: Four-time Pro Bowler with the Bears and an all-pro and Super Bowl MVP in1985. One of only six defensive players named Super Bowl MVP.  Ranked 3rd in NFL history with 133 sacks through 1996 (behind Reggie White and Bruce Smith). One of only four players in NFL history with consecutive 17-sack seasons (White, J.J. Watt and Mark Gastineau are the others). Was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.

As an Eagle [1997]: Had 4 1/2 sacks in 15 games with no starts playing for a 6-win team. Finished third on team in sacks, behind Rhett Hall [8.0] and William Thomas [5.0]. 

2. WR James Lofton

Before he was an Eagle [1978-1992]: Eight-time Pro Bowler with Packers and Bills. 

Held NFL record with 13,821 yards when he signed with Eagles and ranked 3rd with 750 catches [behind Art Monk and Steve Largent]. Had 18.4 yards-per-catch average, 4th-highest in NFL history. Had 6th 1,000-yard season at 35 years old. One of seven players in history to average over 20 yards per catch four times. Named to NFL team of the decade for the 1980s. Inducted into Hall of Fame in 2003.

As an Eagle [1993]: Played nine games. Caught 13 passes for 167 yards and no TDs. Final career reception was 32-yarder from Bubby Brister against 49ers on final day of 1993 season.

3. WR Art Monk

Before he was an Eagle [1980-1994]: Held NFL record with 934 receptions when he signed with Eagles and ranked 4th with 12,607 receiving yards. Set NFL record with 106 catches in 1984 all-pro season. Won two Super Bowls. Had over 1,000 yards in postseason. Named to NFL team of the decade for the 1980s. Inducted into Hall of Fame in 2008. 

As an Eagle [1995]: Played in three games. Caught six passes for 114 yards. Final career reception was a 36-yarder from Rodney Peele in Christmas Eve loss to Bears at Soldier Field. Monk broke his arm on the play while being tackled by Mark Carrier. He never played again.

4. PR-KR Mel Gray

Before he was an Eagle [1986-1997]: Three-time all-pro and three-time Pro Bowl returner with the Lions. Had six kick return TDs and three punt return TDs. Led NFL in kick return average in 1991 and 1994 and in punt return average in 1987 and 1991. One of four players in NFL history to average 10 yards per punt return and 24 yards per kick return and one of only four players with 3 TD returns on both punts and kicks. Was named to the team of the decade for the 1990s second team as both punt returner and kick returner.

As an Eagle [1997]: Played in three games. In his first game called for a fair catch of a Brad Maynard punt at the Eagles’ 5-yard-line.  Returned two punts for an 8.5 average and one kickoff for 8 yards. 

5. WR Mark Duper

Before he was an Eagle [1982-1992]: Had 511 catches for 8,869 yards and 59 touchdowns with the Dolphins, made three Pro Bowls, had five straight years averaging at least 18 yards per catch and as of the end of the 1992 season had a 17.4 yards-per-catch average, 6th-highest in NFL history.

As an Eagle [1993]: The Eagles actually signed him on Aug. 18, two days after Carter retired. He was released 12 days later (along with Casey Weldon, Siran Stacy and Ephesians Bartley). 

6. DT Michael Carter 

Before he was an Eagle [1984-1992]: Three-time Pro Bowler and all-pro defensive tackle with 49ers. Starter on three 49ers Super Bowl teams. Olympic silver medalist in the shot put in 1984.

As an Eagle [1993]: Signed with the Eagles on July 15 and retired on Aug. 16. 

7. DT Haloti Ngata

Before he was an Eagle [2006-2017]: Ngata made five straight Pro Bowls as a Raven and two all-pro teams.  He was a starter on the Ravens’ Super Bowl-championship team in 2012. His teams made the playoffs in 9 of his 13 seasons. His 19 career playoff games are 2nd-most in NFL history by a defensive lineman (Vince Wilfork played in 24). He’s already been inducted into the Ravens’ Ring of Honor. 

As an Eagle [2018]: Played in 13 games starting nine for the 2018 Eagles. Played 368 snaps and had 17 tackles. Retired after the season.

8. RB Chris Warren

Before he was an Eagle [1990-2000]: Warren was one of the most accomplished running backs in the NFL in the 1990s. He made three straight Pro Bowls for the Seahawks, had four straight 1,000-yard seasons and during the 6-year span from 1992 through 1997 was the 3rd-leading rusher in the NFL, behind only Hall of Famers Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith. 

As an Eagle [2000]: With Duce Staley out for the season and the running game ineffective, the Eagles signed Warren late in the 2000 regular season. He rushed for 42 yards in the regular-season finale against the Bengals, then was 22-for-85 in the playoff win over the Bucs - the Eagles’ first playoff win under Andy Reid. In Eagles history only Wilbert Montgomery has more carries in a playoff game. Warren ran for 11 yards against the Giants a week later in his final NFL game.

9. DT Keith Millard 

Before he was an Eagle [1985-1992]: Two-time all-pro defensive tackle for Vikings. Had 54 sacks as an interior lineman. Set NFL record for defensive tackles with 18 sacks in 1989. His 51 sacks remains 2nd-most in NFL history by a defensive tackle in his first five seasons (behind Aaron Donald’s 59 1/2). 

As an Eagle [1993]: Played in 14 games, starting six on a defensive line with Andy Harmon, William Perry, Mike Floes and Clyde Simmons. Played his final NFL game on final day of 1993 season - also Lofton’s final NFL game. Sacked Steve Bono on the final play of his career.

10. WR Carlos Carson

Before he was an Eagle [1980-89]: Caught 353 passes for 6,372 yards and 33 touchdowns with the Chiefs and made the Pro Bowl in 1983 and 1987. Had three 1,000-yard seasons, and in 1983 finished second in the NFL to Mike Quick with 1,351 yards. Piled up 6,431 scrimmage yards in a Chiefs uniform.

As an Eagle [1989]: In his first game as an Eagle, against the Redskins at the Vet, he dropped a perfectly thrown pass from Randall Cunningham that would have been a long touchdown. He finished the season with one 12-yard catch and minus-nine yards on an end around for three scrimmage yards.

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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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