The one thing that really held the Eagles back last year

The one thing that really held the Eagles back last year

Think what it means to score 41 points all year in the first quarter.

That’s a little more than a safety per game, a little less than a field goal.

That’s what the Eagles did in 2018, when they were the slowest-starting team in the NFL.

The Eagles last year tied their fourth-fewest first-quarter points since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978.

They scored 31 in 2012 (Andy Reid’s final year), 33 in 1998 (Ray Rhodes’ final year) and 36 in 1993.

Worse, the Eagles were outscored by 20 points in the first quarter, and only eight teams allowed a bigger point disparity in 2018, including bottom dwellars like the Jets, Jaguars, Raiders and Dolphins.

Not the company you want to keep.

The Eagles too often last year found themslves in early holes and that just doesn't work over the long haul. 

Getting off to faster starts this year has been a focus this offseason for Doug Pederson.

Almost every day with the offense,” Pederson said. “I've emphasized that quite a bit this summer with our offense, and being kind of open-minded but at the same time understanding that we have to start faster. We scored 41 points in all of the first quarters last year and it’s not good enough. That's something that we continue to talk about and address on a daily basis.

The Eagles ran 35 drives last year that started and ended in the first quarter. They included:

• 20 punts
• 6 turnovers
• 2 missed field goals
• 2 field goals
• 5 touchdowns

In the six games they scored in the first quarter, they were 6-0. When they didn’t? They were 3-7.

Only the 49ers, with eight, committed more first-quarter turnovers. Only the Jaguars and Jets scored fewer first-quarter touchdowns.

The biggest things you look at are penalties and turnovers,” Pederson said. “That was really the culprit to a lot of games. We would make a drive and get into the red area and we would have a penalty, maybe a sack, a turnover and we weren't capitalizing on that and those are things we can control. So really, the focus was just controlling what we can do and just executing our offense.

The disparity between Wentz in the first quarter and the rest of the game is huge.

WENTZ FIRST QUARTER: Last year Wentz completed 62 perent of his passes with three TDs and three interceptions and passed for just 44 yards per game with a 77.6 passer rating. He ranked 24th in the NFL in first quarter TD passes, fourth from the bottom with four INTs and 28th of 32 QBs in passer rating.

WENTZ 2ND THROUGH 4th QUARTERS: Completion percentage jumps to 71 percent with 18 touchdowns and four interceptions, 236 yards per game and a 107.8 passer rating, which trailed only Drew Brees, Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson and Matthew Ryan.

It’s something that even in practice we always just come out and we want to start fast,” Wentz said. “It’s easy to say, harder to execute. And so for us it’s just kind of taking a hard look at what do we do and what do we do well and how do we do that effectively early in games. Maybe not try to complicate it too much, maybe just stay the course and do what we do. I’ve seen that through training camp and through practices, now we just have to prove it.

Wentz has gotten off to slow starts his entire career. 

He’s got a 14-to-11 career TD-to-INT ratio in the first quarter but those numbers go to 56-to-17 the rest of the game.

Pederson’s challenge is to tailor the gameplan and the play calls to get Wentz into an early rhythm while reigning him in early so he doesn’t try to do too much.

I know as a quarterback you want to hit that big home run throw right away, and it's just part of the growth process,” he said. “I can do a better job maybe play calling. I still like calling shots in those situations, first-quarter situations, but at the same time get him in a rhythm. Maybe call a little more of the quicker game, get the ball out, get him into a rhythm, kind of lather it up a little bit and then we take our shots. It's kind of a give and take there. But it’s something we have to definitely get better at.

When the Eagles had a lead after the first quarter last year they were 5-1, losing only to the Saints in the playoffs. When they trailed or were tied? They were 5-7.

You’re not going to consistently beat good teams playing from behind. You just can’t consistently win like that.

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It looks like Eagles’ high-ranking front office member might stay after all

It looks like Eagles’ high-ranking front office member might stay after all

It sounds like Eagles Vice President of Football Operations Andrew Berry might be staying in Philadelphia after all. 

Berry, 32, interviewed with the Browns for their vacant general manager position last week but it seems like another candidate is going to get the job. 

According to Cleveland.com, Vikings assistant GM George Paton “could be hired as Browns GM early this week” as the top candidate for the gig.

Berry has been a hot name this offseason; he’s been mentioned for two possible promotions outside the Eagles’ facility. The other was with the Panthers but the Eagles reportedly turned down their request to interview him because the Panthers’ job wouldn’t involve final personnel say.

So despite plenty of interest in Berry, it appears there’s a pretty good chance he stays put for at least another season with the Eagles under Howie Roseman. 

Berry joined the Eagles last winter. The Eagles created the position for Berry because they wanted to find a way to get the Harvard-educated fast-riser into their building. Before coming to the Eagles, he was already in Cleveland as the Browns’ vice president of player personnel for three seasons. 

It was in that former role that he formed a relationship with Kevin Stefanski, who interviewed for the head coaching job in Cleveland before but finally got hired this offseason. The problem for Berry is that Paton is even closer to Stefanski from their time together in Minnesota. 

With Roseman firmly entrenched as the general manager in Philadelphia, it seems inevitable that the Eagles will eventually lose Berry. But it’s beginning to seem like that won’t happen this offseason. 

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NFL mock draft 2020 roundup 2.0: Some new names linked to Eagles

NFL mock draft 2020 roundup 2.0: Some new names linked to Eagles

As the football world takes over Mobile, Alabama, this week for Senior Bowl, we’re now in full mock draft season. 

We still have months before the 2020 draft but that hasn’t stopped the internet from doing what it does best: mock drafts! 

Here’s the latest roundup of possibilities for the Eagles with the 21st pick in April: 

NBC Sports Washington, Tyler Roman

Xavier McKinney, CB, Alabama

What they said: It’s no secret that the Eagles had one of the worst secondaries in the league this year, so it would make sense to rectify it this off-season. McKinney is a versatile chess piece for a team that really needs talent on the backend. McKinney can cover the slot and hold his own against the run, he’s the prototypical safety prospect for today’s NFL.

CBS Sports, Ryan Wilson

Xavier McKinney, CB, Alabama 

What they said: 32-year-old safety Malcolm Jenkins would like a new deal and Rodney McLoud could be headed for free agency. The Eagles would love to upgrade the cornerback position but three of the top CBs are already off the board. McKinney is a top-flight safety, and could possibly emerge as the top safety in the class by draft night.

My take on McKinney: The Eagles definitely need help at the cornerback position. Their two starters from 2019 (Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills) are both set to become free agents in March and it’s not exactly like the Eagles have a bunch of talent waiting in the wings. But they might need safeties too. Malcolm Jenkins said he won’t play on his current contract and Rodney McLeod is going to be a free agent. 

I listed McKinney as a cornerback because both Wilson and Roman did, but he’s really more of a versatile safety who can play everywhere. McKinney is an impressive athlete and the Eagles could plug and play him at a few different spots. In some ways, it’s hard not to see similarities to former Alabama DB Minkah Fitzpatrick because of the versatility. And we’ve seen how Jim Schwartz has been able to use Malcolm Jenkins over the last few years. I think this would be a solid pick. 

San Diego Union-Tribune, Eddie Brown

Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

What they said: The Eagles wide receiver corps is in shambles. The inconsistent Nelson Agholor faces free agency while DeSean Jackson isn’t getting any younger (or healthier). Higgins is a big-play machine with elite size (6-foot-4, 200 pounds) and speed. He has an “above the rim” mentality as a former basketball player and would be a steal this low in the first round. 

SB Nation, Dan Kadar

Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

What they said: Higgins may have only had three receptions in Monday night’s national title game, but he still profiles as a No. 1 receiver option in the NFL. As the season wore on, it was obvious that the Eagles need weapons on offense. A receiver like Higgins should be the first of a few added in this draft.

My take on Higgins: He’s been the most popular name mocked to the Eagles in the early mock draft season. It’s obvious the Eagles need receiver help and there are plenty in this draft, especially in the first round. We’ll probably see at least a half dozen receivers go in the first round and Higgins is likely going to be one of them. 

Higgins is big and fast. He really does have a good size/speed combo and there’s a lot to like about him. He’s coming off a great junior season when he had 59 catches for 1,167 yards (19.8) and 13 touchdowns. That’s great production, which used to really matter for the Eagles when Joe Douglas was here. But at his year-end press conference, Howie Roseman noted that production doesn’t always translate and there were successful rookie receivers who weren’t as productive in college. That doesn’t mean production at the college level is a bad thing, but it’s maybe not as important for the Eagles this time around. 

USA Today, Luke Easterling

Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU 

My take on Fulton: There were no explanations in this mock draft but we don’t need an explanation of why the Eagles need cornerbacks. They desperately need help at that position. And Fulton is a really good one. He has the potential to be a great man corner in the NFL and he’s coming from a school that has produced a ton of great DBs. He had just two interceptions in his time at LSU, which is noteworthy because he doesn’t appear to be a ballhawk. But he can cover. And the Eagles need guys who can cover. 

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