Why new onside kick alternative would give Eagles an advantage

Why new onside kick alternative would give Eagles an advantage

NFL owners are expected to vote Thursday on an onside kick alternative that would give teams the option to go for a 4th-and-15 from their own 25-yard line to retain possession. 

If this passes, it’ll be good news for the Eagles. 

Because while the rule is reportedly gaining steam among many NFL teams, there’s a reason the Eagles were the team that proposed this rule change. 

It will give them an advantage for two main reasons: 

1. The Eagles have an aggressive-minded head coach willing to buck convention 

During his four years as head coach of the Eagles, Doug Pederson has gone for more 4th-down attempts than any other team. The Eagles have 99 total 4th down attempts in four years; the next closest team has 91. The Eagles have converted on 52.5% of those fourth down conversions. 

And during the four years with Pederson as head coach, the Eagles have also gone for a league-high 28 two-point conversions. Pederson and the Eagles don’t care about conventional wisdom in the NFL; in fact, the organization believes a lot of league-wide thinking is outdated. 

All this aggressiveness from Pederson is a combination of using analytics and pairing them with his gut feel depending on how his offense is performing. 

If the Eagles didn’t think the analytics would tell them to go for an onside kick alternative at times, why would they propose it? 

2. They have a quarterback with the ability to extend plays and make tough throws 

Pederson and Carson Wentz have been together now for four seasons so, first, Pederson should have a perfect understanding of the kinds of plays to use with Wentz in these situations. 

The great thing about Wentz, though, is his ability to create when a play breaks down. To pick up plays of 15-plus yards when the defense knows you need to gain 15 yards isn’t easy. But with a quarterback like Wentz, there are multiple chances on the same play. His ability to scramble and buy time will give his receivers chances to get open down the field. And Wentz then has the arm strength to get the ball to them in a hurry. 

During his career, Wentz has gained first downs on 6 of 50 passing attempts on 3rd or 4th-and-15+, but those situations are different than this hypothetical one. We admittedly don’t have a ton of data to support the idea that he’ll be great in these situations. But use the eye test. He has a skillset that should allow him to make these plays. 

• • • 

There are a few important notes and details about this rule proposal you need to know. These come from NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero and they will determine the way teams use this alternative if it passes. 

• Teams can use the alternative onside kick twice in regulation and it doesn’t matter if they’re leading, trailing or tied. 

• But no overtime. You can’t decide to forgo kicking off in OT, trying to keep the ball to win the game. 

• It’s an untimed down but there is a play clock of 25 seconds. 

• If the offense converts, it’s a first down and the drive keeps going. If the defense stops them, they get the ball back at the dead-ball spot. 

• If a penalty occurs during or after a score (let’s say there’s an unsportsmanlike conduct) and it was scheduled to be enforced on the kickoff, it can be enforced on this untimed down. So if there’s an unsportsmanlike penalty, the kicking team could attempt a 4th-and-15 from their own 40-yard line instead of their own 25. 

• If an offensive penalty occurs during the play, the kicking team can’t then change their mind and kick off. So if there’s an offensive holding, it could be 4th-and-25 from their own 15. 

• • •  

We’ll find out soon enough if this proposal and some of the others on the docket pass this week. But in my mind, there’s no reason to prevent this rule from passing other than desire from some teams to keep things status-quo. This rule would be fun. 

And, at least for now, the Eagles would probably be able to use it to their advantage. 

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Randall Cunningham joining Las Vegas Raiders organization

Randall Cunningham joining Las Vegas Raiders organization

Former Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham is reportedly joining the Las Vegas Raiders organization.

While Cunningham, 57, can still likely throw bombs to Raiders receivers, he'll be guiding them spiritually as the team chaplain, according to ESPN.

"I'm elated, flabbergasted," Cunningham told ESPN on Friday. "I've already been in on some [Zoom] meetings with the team. I plan on spending a lot of time with the guys when it's OK. I've talked with Marcus Mariota, Nelson Agholor. What an amazing group of people Mark Davis and Jon Gruden have put together."

Cunningham played his college ball at UNLV and coached high school football in Las Vegas for a couple of seasons a few years back.

Randall has spent much of the past few years working with daughter, Vashti, and son, Randall II, in their quest for Olympic dreams.

The former NFL MVP is highly regarded around the league and will be a solid addition to the Raiders organization. His Twitter account, which is mostly dormant, has the handle "PastorRandallC."

Randall worked with Raiders head coach Jon Gruden during his playing days in Philadelphia.

"He's going to take care of the guys in Las Vegas," Raiders owner Mark Davis told ESPN.com. "Jon had him address the team in a team Zoom [recently] and he did a really good job of setting the stage for the team in Las Vegas.

Just last week, NBC Sports Philadelphia ranked Randall as the second best quarterback in Eagles history.

If DeSean Jackson sits, Eagles have an intriguing but risky option

If DeSean Jackson sits, Eagles have an intriguing but risky option

If the Eagles are without DeSean Jackson for any or all of the next football season, which certainly seems within the realm of possibility at this point, there’s one person on their roster who has a similar skill set.

But he comes along with a ton of question marks.

Marquise Goodwin is definitely not DeSean Jackson, but at his best, when he’s healthy — which hasn’t been very often — he can do some of the same things as Jackson.

Over the past four years, Goodwin has only four fewer catches of at least 40 yards than Jackson, and in his one full season, he was among the league’s best big-play practitioners.

In their statement Friday, the Eagles made it clear that if Jackson doesn’t commit to showing genuine growth following what the team called “absolutely appalling” social media posts, he’s gone.

If the Eagles are forced to play regular-season games without Jackson, Goodwin could turn out to be a huge addition.

Jackson of course is one of the greatest deep threats in NFL history. His 31 career TDs of 50 yards or more are second only to Jerry Rice.

Over the last four years, Jackson has 13 catches of at least 40 yards — including two long TDs against the Redskins on opening day last year, his only significant action of the year. Goodwin during the same four-year span has nine 40-yard catches. Only 14 receivers have more during that stretch.

Jackson’s career average of 17.4 yards per catch is highest among active receivers and highest in the NFL over the last 35 years. But Goodwin is 5th on that list at 16.6, behind only Jackson, Josh Gordon (17.2), Mike Williams (17.1) and Kenny Golladay (16.8), with a minimum of 100 catches.

Goodwin, acquired for virtually nothing in a draft-weekend trade with the 49ers, is one of only 11 active players with more than one career 80-yard touchdown. He also has TDs of 67, 67, 59 and 55 yards.

So his resume is solid. He’s fast and he’s a deep threat. He can score from anywhere on the field.

And he’s an Eagle.

The problem is injuries.

Lots of them.

He missed four games in 2013 with a broken hand. He missed six games in 2014 with a concussion and hamstring and rib injuries. He missed 14 games in 2015 with a rib injury. He suffered three more concussions in 2016 and a fifth in 2017. He missed five games in 2018 with injuries and seven last year with a knee injury.

He’s only managed 30 or more snaps in 13 games the last two years.

The only time Goodwin played 16 games was in 2017 with the 49ers, and he had a career-high 962 yards, finished 3rd in the NFL at 17.2 yards per catch and had five 40-yard catches — 7th-most in the league.

But in his six other seasons he’s averaged 14 catches and 226 yards. He has only 35 catches for 581 yards over the last two seasons, although he does have 5 TDs.

So which Goodwin did the Eagles get? 

The one who is one of the NFL’s top deep threats or the one who’s often injured and can’t stay on the field?

The Eagles have had a hard time keeping anybody healthy lately, so relying heavily on a guy with such a long injury history is a risk.

But when it comes to stretching the field, there aren’t a lot of options.

Alshon Jeffery has 20 career receptions of at least 40 yards, but 17 were with the Bears, none since 2018. And we don’t even know when he’ll be healthy enough to play.

Greg Ward had a promising start last year but he’s an inside slot guy and had only had one catch longer than 15 yards last year, a 38-yarder against the Cowboys that set up a Miles Sanders TD.

Deontay Burnett only played 15 snaps last year and had a 41-yard catch against the Giants, but who knows if he’ll even make the team. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is more of a big-frame possession guy than a deep threat and of his 10 passes as a rookie none were longer than 30 yards. 

Jalen Reagor has the potential to be a big-play threat, but he’s still an unknown quantity, a rookie without offseason programs and perhaps without preseason games. Quez Watkins and John Hightower are speedy, but it’s never easy for late-round rookies to get on the field, more so this year.

The reality is the Eagles need Jackson on the field. A healthy Goodwin is the next-best option. But based on his recent history it’s not one they can depend on.

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