Eagles

President Donald Trump asks NFL players for pardon recommendations

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USA Today Images

President Donald Trump asks NFL players for pardon recommendations

President Donald Trump has long been at odds with NFL players over protests during the national anthem, but on Friday expressed the desire to listen. 

One of the main reasons some NFL players have been protesting is the topic of criminal justice reform, a topic that’s also very important to Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins. Earlier this week, when Jenkins used posters to illustrate his point that people hadn’t been listening, several of his statistics were based on the idea of criminal justice reform (see story).

Trump acknowledged this one reason for protests Friday morning. 

“I am going to ask all of those people to recommend to me — because that’s what they’re protesting — people that they think were unfairly treated by the justice system,” Trump said. “And I understand that. And I’m going to ask them to recommend to me people that were unfairly treated — friends of theirs or people that they know about — and I’m going to take a look at those applications. And if I find, and my committee finds that they are unfairly treated, then we will pardon them or at least let them out (of prison).”

Before saying he’d listen to suggestions for folks to be pardoned, Trump again said those players weren’t “proud enough” to stand for the anthem. This comes just a few days after the Eagles’ White House visit, when Trump, in part, cited differing viewpoints on protests during the national anthem. 

And he again Friday mentioned players shouldn’t be in the locker room during the anthem, a solution offered by the NFL’s new national anthem policy. This time, the president tried to offer a solution of his own. 

We’ll see if he follows through. 

Former Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes already has a name in mind. His brother, who is serving a 324-month sentence for a weed-relation offense. 

On Friday, Trump also said he was looking into possibly pardoning late boxer Muhammad Ali, whose attorney pointed out that a pardon wasn’t needed. 

Still, the sentiment was seemingly there and the president at least acknowledged a reason some NFL players have been protesting. 

When asked if he’d invite players to the White House for a roundtable chat, the president said he doesn’t have to do that. 

“You know, I don’t have to do that,” Trump said. “I’m not looking to grandstand.  We’ve got enough grandstanders in this town.

“I’m just saying, for the leagues, if they have people — if the players, if the athletes have friends of theirs or people that they know about that have been unfairly treated by the system, let me know.”

Now, pardoning a few people is a drop in the bucket when we’re talking about criminal justice reform. The president also didn’t address systemic and racial oppression, another huge part of the players’ protests. 

And folks who are in jail either wrongly or are serving too harsh of penalties don’t begin to complete the list of things players feel is wrong with the system. But it’s at least a nice gesture. It would be an even nicer gesture if the president follows through.

Record-setting Saints offense laying in wait for Eagles

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USA Today Images

Record-setting Saints offense laying in wait for Eagles

What will the Eagles be dealing with this weekend in New Orleans?

One of the hottest quarterbacks in NFL history.

One of the highest-scoring offenses in NFL history.

One of the most productive wide receivers in NFL history.

That's all.

The Eagles, who fell to 4-5 Sunday with a home loss to the Cowboys, take on the hottest team in the NFL Sunday, the 8-1 Saints, winners of eight straight games. Kickoff at the Superdome is scheduled for 4:25 p.m. EST.

Here's a look at what the Eagles are up against:

• The Saints have scored 331 points, sixth-most in NFL history after nine games. That’s 15 more points per game than the Eagles have scored this year.

• The Saints have already scored 40 points five times, joining the 2013 Broncos, 2000 Rams and 1949 49ers as the fourth team to score 40 points five times this early in a season. The NFL record for 40-point games in a season is six by seven teams, most recently the 2013 Broncos.

• The Saints are averaging 37.3 points at home, which puts them on pace for the fifth-most points in NFL history at home. The Saints set the record of 41.1 in 2011.

• The Saints have 235 first downs, fourth-most in NFL history after nine games. The record is 259 by the 2012 Saints.

• Drew Brees is completing 77.3 percent of his passes, by far the highest in NFL history after nine games. The previous high was Tom Brady’s 73.2 percent in 2007. Brees has thrown 304 passes this year, and only 69 have been incomplete. In his last five games, Brees has thrown 13 touchdowns and 30 incomplete passes. 

• Brees’ 123.8 passer rating is third-highest in NFL history after nine games, behind only Brady’s 131.8 in 2007 and Aaron Rodgers’ 130.7 in 2011.

• In his career, Brees ranks second in NFL history with 509 touchdown passes (30 behind Peyton Manning), first in passing yards (73,046), fourth in wins (150), first in accuracy (67.3 percent) and ninth in interception percentage (one every 41.9 attempts).

• Brees has completed at least 66 percent of his passes in an NFL-record 11 straight home games and 20 of his last 21. 

• Brees and Brady share the NFL record with 123 career game with a passer rating of 100 or higher. 

• Michael Thomas has 78 receptions, second-most in NFL history after nine games. Only Julio Jones (80 in 2015) has ever had more at this point in a season. Adam Thielen also has 78 this year, and Zach Ertz has 75, fourth-most ever after nine games.

• Thomas has four 10-catch games this year. That’s the most in NFL history at this point in a season, tied with three players, including Ertz this year.

Film shows why screen didn't work, how Cowboys knew it was coming

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Film shows why screen didn't work, how Cowboys knew it was coming

After all that went wrong on Sunday night, the Eagles still had the ball with a chance to move down the field and at least tie the game late in the fourth quarter against the Cowboys. 

But first they needed to make this play and they couldn’t. 

With 2:00 left in the game, their screen pass on 3rd-and-2 from the Cowboys’ 30-yard line didn’t work. In fact, it lost five yards and set up a 4th-and-7 that they missed converting by less than a yard, pretty much ending their comeback attempt. 

We’re going to take a look at the screen play, why it didn’t work and why Cowboys rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch knew it was coming. 

Here’s what the play looked like at the snap. It’s Alshon Jeffery’s job at the top of the play to simply take away his corner. He’s running vertical. The other three — Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz — at the bottom are selling their routes, but are just decoys. Carson Wentz is going to look them off. 

The real key to this play is Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s letting the pressure through and then Jason Kelce and Brandon Brooks getting out in front to provide the blocks for Corey Clement. 

 

Just after the snap, it looks like Vander Esch is already seeing what’s going on. His man is Clement, so he’s not going anywhere. One thing that actually plays into the Cowboys’ favor on this play is they were running a stunt up front. So the right defensive tackle, Maliek Collins, is crossing and coming inside. That’s actually going to give him a head start in pursuit, which is going to be key. 

 

Here we are just as Clement catches the ball. Ideally, Brooks gets out there and blocks Vander Esch to the outside, so Clement can hit the hole and get a big gain. The problem was that stunt from Collins (circled) has given him an easier route in pursuit. And LB Jaylon Smith seemed to diagnose the screen pretty early too. Because of that, Clement makes the decision that he’s not going to be quick enough to hit the hole and now has to try to bounce it outside. 

 

At this point, Brooks is blocking Vander Esch, but that’s where Clement is going, trying to bounce it outside. Brooks could have gotten a better block, but ideally, Clement would break this inside and then Vander Esch is coming back toward Brooks, which makes it an easier block. Now, this play is going outside and the rookie linebacker read it perfectly and makes a nice diving tackle to take Clement down for a loss. 

If this play works, the Eagles pick up the first down and probably a lot more and maybe they score to tie the game. The problem with screen passes is that a lot of things need to go well and if one thing gets screwed up, the whole play can crap out. 

That’s what happened here. 

 

After the game, Vander Esch said he kind of knew the screen was coming there based on his own film study. 

He didn’t need to look back very far to see this on tape. Remember that touchdown on a screen pass to Wendell Smallwood two weeks ago in London? Same play. Or at least a really similar one that was just inverted. 

This is how the play is supposed to work when the spacing is right: 

 

That obviously didn’t happen on Sunday night against the Cowboys. Maybe it was too predictable. Maybe it’s just a bad idea to go backwards at all when all you need to do is go forward two yards in two plays. Both of those are valid gripes. And now the Eagles are 4-5 with dwindling playoff hopes.