Roob's 10 observations: Fletcher Cox's standing, Donovan McNabb's finest day, Darren Sproles' impact

Roob's 10 observations: Fletcher Cox's standing, Donovan McNabb's finest day, Darren Sproles' impact

Fletcher Cox’s unique place in Eagles history, Donovan McNabb’s finest day in an Eagles uniform, Darren Sproles’ impact and tons more in a playoff weekend edition of Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Observations!

1. If you asked me about the Eagles’ defensive line a month and a half ago, I would have told you it was a liability. I would have told you that it looked like an aging, inconsistent, over-priced, under-achieving unit that desperately needed an infusion of young talent this offseason. Here we are going into the playoffs and that very same defensive line may be the Eagles’ best hope Sunday in Chicago. Michael Bennett suddenly found himself and has been a monster off the edge. Cox has raised his level from dominating to unstoppable. Haloti Ngata is finally healthy and playing tough. Tim Jernigan is back and contributing. Brandon Graham is finally starting to look like himself. Chris Long is playing like last year. Even a guy like Treyvon Hester has been giving the Eagles productive snaps. The main reason I’m picking the Eagles to beat the Bears is the way the D-line has been playing. Mitchell Trubisky is a talented young quarterback, but I expect Cox, Bennett and Co. to make him extremely uncomfortable and harass him into mistakes. They’ve been very good lately, and the Eagles need more of that to get out of Soldier Field with a win. 

2. I think that 2001 playoff game against the Bears is the best game McNabb ever played. That was a 13-3 Bears team, No. 2 seed, No. 1 defense in the NFL, at home, rested coming off a bye and No. 5 played so tough that day, leading the Eagles to a 33-19 win on a bitterly cold day at Soldier Field. His stats weren’t anything special — 26 for 40, 262 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT and a rushing TD — but he stood tall against a tremendous pass rush, he absorbed hit after ferocious hit and he led the Eagles to two TDs and two FGs on their last five drives after the Bears had taken a 14-13 lead in the third quarter. McNabb has had better statistical performances, but considering everything, I consider that his finest day in an Eagles uniform.

3. One guy who deserves a ton of credit is secondary coach Corey Undlin, and it’s comical to me that people were blasting the guy coming out of New Orleans. He was coaching guys who weren’t even in the NFL a week or two earlier. But despite an almost complete secondary overhaul — safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Corey Graham are the only members of the secondary who played on opening day and will play Sunday in Chicago — the Eagles have been very good in the back end. Over the last six games — post-Saints — they’ve allowed the sixth-fewest TD passes in the NFL, they have the 10th-most INTs and they’re 11th in passer rating. And that’s without Ronald Darby, Rodney McLeod, Jalen Mills and Sidney Jones. The Eagles have used 15 defensive backs this year and 10 cornerbacks, eight of them 24 and under. Every week, Avonte Maddox, Rasul Douglas and Cre’von LeBlanc get better. Every week, this unit gets better. Coaching is teaching, and Undlin has done a lot of that this year. And look where the Eagles are.

4. Cox finished with a career-high 10 1/2 sacks and tied with Chris Jones of the Chiefs for the most sacks in the NFL over the last six weeks of the regular season. A run-stuffing force with double-digit sacks? We always hear about J.J. Watt, Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald, but as far as I’m concerned, Cox is the best defensive lineman in the NFL. And over the last month and a half, he’s played his best football ever. At this point, there’s only one guy on the Eagles all-time defensive line list ahead of Cox. And he wore No. 92.

5. I’ve never seen a player make as much of an impact on a game with fewer touches than Darren Sproles. Think about how much he’s added to the offense these last five weeks. He only had 35 touches in those five games! Hard to believe this will be his first postseason since he ruined the Eagles’ 2013 postseason!

6. One of the craziest stats from this year is that Eagles QBs completed at least 66 percent of their passes in 14 out of 16 games. Carson Wentz and Nick Foles (and Nate Sudfeld and Nelson Agholor) combined to complete 70.5 percent of their passes this year, fourth-highest in NFL history.

7. Myth: Nick Foles can throw deep. Carson Wentz can’t. Truth: Over the last two years, Wentz has hit 10 passes of 50 yards, or one every 84 attempts. Foles has hit on four passes of 50 yards or more, one every 100 attempts. They’re actually both pretty good at throwing deep. Since the start of last year, Wentz has the fourth-highest percentage of 50-yard passes in the league, behind only Patrick Mahomes (one every 68 passes), Aaron Rodgers (one every 70) and Alex Smith (78).

8. Here’s what the Eagles are up against Sunday: They’ve only won four of 11 road postseason games since 1950 — at New Orleans in 1992, in Chicago in 2001 and then in Minneapolis and at the Giants in 2008. That’s it. That .364 winning percentage is actually higher than the league average. Since 1990, road playoff teams are 90-190 (.321). Going back to 1960, it’s about the same — 149-312 (.323). Tough task for the Eagles.

9. How good is the Bears’ run defense? Some 17 backs had 10 or more carries against the Bears this year, and 12 of them averaged 3.6 or worse. The only exceptions were Frank Gore (6.7), Saquon Barkley (5.2), LeGarrette Blount (4.6), Jamaal Williams (4.6) and Kenyan Drake (4.4).

10. Cameron Johnston’s consistency this year was astonishing. In his first NFL season, Johnston punted 61 times and finished fourth in the NFL at 48.2 yards per punt, a franchise record, as was his 42.7 net. Incredibly, nearly half of his punts — 28 of 61 — went at least 50 yards. What a find!

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Alshon vs. Thrash in Roob's 10 Observations!

Alshon vs. Thrash in Roob's 10 Observations!

Alshon Jeffery vs. James Thrash, Henry Ruggs’ 40 time, the Gin Blossoms and Mark Duper all found their way into this weekend’s edition of Roob’s 10 Random Offseason Eagles Observations.

I’m guessing that’s never happened before!

ALSHON VS. JAMES THRASH: Forget all the Carson stuff. Forget about the injuries and the terrible body language and the awful contract and the dropped passes that turned into Nick Foles interceptions in the Super Bowl and the playoff loss to the Saints. Let’s just focus on production, and Alshon Jeffery in three seasons in an Eagles uniform has 165 catches, 2,122 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Let’s do a little comparison of three WRs. These are averages based on their years when they were regulars on the Eagles:

Todd Pinkston: 44 catches, 659 yards, 15.0 ypc, 4.0 TDs

James Thrash: 55 catches, 675 yards, 12.4 ypc, 5.0 TDs

Alshon Jeffery: 55 catches, 707 yards, 12.9 ypc, 6 TDs

Jeffery did have a big 2017 postseason, but for the most part he’s been a pedestrian receiver since he’s been here. He’s the 14th-highest-paid WR in the NFL, but since 2017 he’s 37th among WRs in yards per game (54).

He’s an underachieving, overpaid, injury-prone 30-year-old James Thrash clone. Howie’s gotta find an exit strategy.

HOW FAST WILL HE RUN? I’ve never been a huge Combine fan, but I'll be glued to the TV Thursday when the wide receivers run the 40. How fast can Henry Ruggs go? In a way, Eagles fans should hope he doesn’t put up a 4.23 or something absurd because that might move him up too high for the Eagles to even trade up for. But I just want to see this kid run. It’s been a long time since one player made so much sense for the Eagles.

GET THIS MAN A CONTRACT: Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson are both scheduled to speak at the Combine on Tuesday, and it will be the first time we’ve heard from them in about six weeks, since Doug assured us that Mike Groh and Carson Walch weren’t getting fired. I’m most interested to hear what Howie has to say about Malcolm Jenkins. The Eagles need to resolve this situation quickly because the last thing they need this offsaeson is a growing impasse between the franchise and one of their best players and the drama and distraction it would bring. Jenkins deserves a new deal. They have the money. Get it done.

NICK AND DENNIS: It’s hilarious to me that the two players the Eagles took in the 2012 draft who’ve caught postseason touchdown passes are Nick Foles and Dennis Kelly.

WHO'S AFTER MILES AND DALLAS? I was going to make a list of the top 5 Eagles 25 or younger but after I jotted down Miles Sanders and Dallas Goedert I got stuck. Who else would you put on that list? Derek Barnett? Nate Gerry? Jake Elliott? Avonte Maddox? Boston Scott? Greg Ward? Cre’von LeBlanc? Andre Dillard? Sidney Jones?

I guess I’d go:

1. Miles Sanders

2. Dallas Goedert

3. Derek Barnett

4. Avonte Maddox

5. Jake Elliott

MARK DUPER'S BRIEF EAGLES CAREER: History has forgotten it, but Mark Duper was briefly with the Eagles during 1993 training camp. You won’t find it mentioned on his Wikipedia page or his Pro Football Reference page. None of his on-line bios mention it. But after spending 1982 through 1992 with the Dolphins – he was a three-time Pro Bowler and had four 1,000-yard seasons – Duper signed in the summer of 1993 with the Bengals. It didn’t go well. They released him a couple weeks into training camp. Rich Kotite, desperate for more old broken-down players who couldn’t play anymore, immediately signed the 34-year-old Duper. He arrived at training camp in West Chester late in the day on Aug. 19, and a group of us grabbed him walking into the dining hall:

“The biggest mistake I ever made was going to the Bengals,” he said, adding, “I feel like I still have a few good years of football left.”

Turned out he didn’t even have a few weeks of football left. Duper was 34, which made him a typical Rich Kotite favorite. Not surprisingly, he couldn’t run anymore. We saw it in his first practice. The Eagles released him a couple weeks later, and he never played football again.

FOUND OUT ABOUT YOU: Anybody remember when the Gin Blossoms played the Eagles’ 2004 pep rally in the Headhouse Plaza outside the Linc? It was Sept. 9, 2004, three days before the 2004 Super Bowl season began. Did you know that gig was the first time several songs from their next record, Major Lodge Victory, were ever played live? And the next night the entire band was at the TLA on South Street to see the late, great Tommy Keene, a long-time Gin Blossoms collaborator, open for Guided by Voices?

1-FOR-62: The Eagles have selected 62 defensive players in their last 14 drafts, and one has gone to a Pro Bowl. Fletcher Cox, naturally. The rest of the league has drafted 171 Pro Bowl defensive players over the last 14 years.

BEING GREG LEWIS: How about Greg Lewis’s career. As a player, he made little impact in his five years with the Eagles – he averaged just 25 catches and 339 yards per season – but he caught a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl on what may have been the best pass Donovan McNabb ever threw. Then he goes to Minnesota in 2009, playing for Brad Childress, and in his first game with the Vikings makes that insane miracle 32-yard TD catch in the back of the end zone with 2 seconds left against the 49ers that wins him a freaking ESPY for Play of the Year. Then he becomes Eagles WRs coach in 2016 and gets fired after one year. Then he goes to the Chiefs in the same role and wins a Super Bowl.

WHAT ABOUT THIS GUY? So maybe there’s hope for Carson Walch, too!

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Four reasons the NFL's CBA proposal is bad for the players

Four reasons the NFL's CBA proposal is bad for the players

If you're a football fan, you've probably read about ongoing negotiations on a new CBA between the NFLPA, which the union representing the players, and management council, which represents the 32 NFL owners.

The NFL’s current collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2020 season, but negotiations have been ongoing this offseason.

The NFLPA executive committee voted 6-5 to not recommend the current proposal to the members, so negotiations continue.

The complete proposal hasn’t been made available to the public, but enough details have leaked over the last two days to get some sense of what’s included.

The NFLPA released this fact sheet outlining key points in the CBA proposal.

And there are a lot of positives for the players. It expands pension eligibility and improves insurance benefits for retired players and raises minimum salaries, eases drug testing and reduces fines.

All good.

But there are plenty of red flags, enough that numerous high-profile players have been tweeting against the proposal.

Here are four reasons the deal as currently proposed is a bad one for the players:

1. The proposal calls for a 17-game regular-season schedule while also calling for an increase in player revenue from the current 47 to 48.5 percent. That’s about a 3.1 percent revenue increase for a 6.3 increase in games played. How is that fair? The owners are going to be raking in massive TV revenue increases, especially with the expanded playoff schedule, but the players won’t be receiving an equivalent share of that money.

2.  All players under contract when the league goes to a 17-game schedule — presumably in 2021 — will be paid only $250,000 more for that 17th game game. So anybody with a base salary over $4.25 million in 2021 will essentially be taking a pay cut. The Eagles have 10 players with 2021 base salaries of at least $5 million. Carson Wentz is on the books at $15.4 million. That’s $905,882 per week based on a 17-week schedule. So his weekly salary would go down to $869,440. That’s a $36,000 pay CUT per week. He’ll essentially be making less money per week. Now multiple that pay cut by several hundred players. The NFL will be raking in billions more dollars by increasing the regular season from 256 games to 272 - and eventually more with expansion - and increasing the postseason from 11 games to 13. While essentially asking the players to earn less per week.
3.  The proposal does shorten the preseason from four games to three, but there is apparently no second bye week included. So the players are being asked to play 17 regular-season games in an 18-week span in an era where the NFL loves blabbing about player safety. Add to that the likelihood of increased international travel and the wear and tear that takes on a player as the league explores more and more international games. This is just pure greed on the NFL’s part. It’s clear that everything the league says about player safety is just lip service if they are so desperate to add a 17th regular-season game in an era with increased focus on concussions, injuries and player health after football.  

4. The NFL is way too eager to get a deal done now when the current CBA doesn’t expire for another year. It definitely benefits both sides to have a deal hammered out and guarantee labor peace for a decade. But you just get the feeling the owners want to get this done before the NFLPA really has a chance to digest the full proposal and its long-term financial implications for the players. The owners over the last few days have embarked on a carefully strategized PR campaign to make this proposal seem like a good one for the players and try to rush a vote through before everybody knew what the implications were. Nobody wants a strike. Nobody wants a lockout. But the players are what makes the league work. Without them there is no NFL. They deserve more than what this CBA proposal calls for.

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