Eagles

Roob's 10 observations: Brilliance of Jake Elliott, Eagles' comeback wins, wild Wendell Smallwood prediction

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Roob's 10 observations: Brilliance of Jake Elliott, Eagles' comeback wins, wild Wendell Smallwood prediction

The brilliance of Jake Elliott, Eagles comeback wins, DeSean's career body of work and a Wendell Smallwood prediction.

All this and much more in a 4th of July edition of Roob's 10 Random Eagles Observations! 

Turn on the Phillies game, light up the grill, pour yourself a cold beverage and dive in!  

1. One thing that struck me watching the Super Bowl replay on NFL Network the other night with a few thousand of my Twitter pals was just how calm and poised the Eagles were once the Patriots took the lead with 9½ minutes left. That game-winning drive, which included the 4th-down completion to Zach Ertz, was an absolute masterpiece. It’s easy to forget the Eagles were trailing in that game with 2½ minutes left. With 100 million people watching and the Lombardi Trophy at stake, they played so loose and carefree, which is a testament to the atmosphere Doug Pederson created. But it’s also something the Eagles were good at all year and were prepared for. We think of the 2017 Eagles as this untouchable indestructible force, but they actually trailed at some point in 15 of their 19 games and they went 12-3 in those 15 games. Now, a couple of those deficits were early and small, but they trailed the Giants twice in the second half, once in the final minute, they trailed the Cowboys at halftime, the Raiders in the third quarter and the Rams in the fourth quarter. They trailed all three postseason opponents at some point. The Eagles deserve credit for a lot of different things during their championship run, but their resilience while trailing is yet another thing to add to the list. 

2. Interesting note about Nick Foles’ fourth-down Super Bowl completion to Ertz: It was the Eagles’ first fourth-down, fourth-quarter pass completion in the postseason since 4th-and-26, some 14 years earlier.

3. There were so many Super Bowl heroes for the Eagles, it’s easy to forget about Elliott. But as a rookie playing in his 18th career game, he made field goals of 42 and 46 yards in the fourth quarter. Before last year, there had been only three fourth-quarter field goals of 42 yards or longer in Super Bowl history (by Adam Vinatieri, Al Del Greco and Norm Johnson). Then Elliott hit a 42-yarder with the Eagles up three with 14 minutes left and a 46-yarder up five with a minute left. Incredible pressure kicks for a 23-year-old rookie in the tensest possible situation with 100 million people watching. Dazzling.

4. I watched Corey Clement’s Super Bowl TD catch about 17,000 times the past few days and once you get beyond trying to figure out whether it really was a touchdown (it was), you have to consider that this was not only an undrafted rookie running back making this remarkable catch surrounded by three defenders in the back of the end zone but an undrafted rookie running back who had 10 catches in the entire regular season. I don’t know how you explain some of the things that happened with this team last year. Magic, I guess.

5. I don’t know how this is even possible, but here are the top-ranked third-down passers in the NFL last year (minimum of 20 attempts):

125.0 … Carson Wentz [86-for-133], 65 percent, 1,239 yards, 16 TD, 3 INT

116.0 … Nick Foles [41-for-64], 64 percent, 530 yards, 5 TD, 0 INT

6. Wentz goes into 2018 riding a streak of 15 straight games with at least one touchdown pass and one or fewer interceptions, a streak that dates back to 2016. It’s already the sixth-longest streak in NFL history and just six shy of Matt Ryan’s record of 21, set over the 2015 through 2017 seasons. Pretty revealing stat because it speaks to his long-term consistency as a passer. 

7. The whole notion that this team’s schedule is really tough and that team’s schedule is super easy is silly. The NFL is such a non-linear league. The reality is you don’t ever have any clue. Look at last year. NFL.com’s preseason rankings had the Vikings 18th, the Panthers 19th, the Eagles 20th, the Saints 22nd, the Chargers 24th, the Bills 25th, the Jaguars 26th and the Rams 27th. Bottom of the barrel. Easy opponents. Circle those as wins. Well, those eight teams went a combined 87-41 (and all but the Chargers made the playoffs). The Packers, Raiders, Giants, Buccaneers and Texans were ranked 3rd, 4th, 6th and 14th and they went a combined 18-46. The reality is the NFL is unpredictable and what looks like a tough stretch now could wind up being easy — and vice versa. You really never know.

8. I can see Smallwood getting cut at the end of training camp, signing with the Patriots and rushing for 788 yards with 34 catches. If he can find a way to stay healthy.

9. DeSean Jackson hasn’t played here since 2013, but he’s quietly piled up some crazy career numbers. With 513 yards in 2018, Jackson will become only the sixth player in NFL history with 10,000 career receiving yards and an average of at least 17 yards per catch. The others? Hall of Famers Lance Alworth, Don Maynard and James Lofton, plus Harold Jackson and Stanley Morgan. D-Jack is already one of only seven players in NFL history with five career seasons with 1,000 yards and 16 yards per catch. Jackson turns 32 on Dec. 1. If he records 513 yards in the Buccaneers’ first 12 games, he’d be only the third player in NFL history with 10,000 yards and a 17.0 average or higher before his 32nd birthday.     

10. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched the Super Bowl over the past five months, but every time I do, I find another six or seven things that I hadn't noticed to marvel at. The whole thing just keeps getting crazier and crazier. And I don’t think that’ll ever stop.

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Titans love to run, which will play right into Eagles' hands

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Titans love to run, which will play right into Eagles' hands

In an era where the average team throws 41 times a game and runs 24 times a game, the Tennessee Titans are a rare exception to NFL convention.

They run more than they throw. Way more.

The Titans love to run. Which should play right into the Eagles’ hands Sunday, when they face the Titans at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.

The Titans are averaging 32.7 rushing attempts per game so far, second-most in the league (they have one carry fewer than the Redskins). But they’re only 24th in yards per carry (3.7).

It’s an anachronistic way of operating an offense in the NFL these days.

So far, the Titans have run 54 percent of the time and thrown just 46 percent.

The league averages are 37 and 63.

So Tennessee runs 27 percent more than the average 2018 NFL team.

They’re averaging six more rushing attempts per game through three weeks than passing attempts.

The combination of a very good defense and ball control means the Titans want to win low-scoring games, like they did Sunday, 9-6 over Jacksonville.

They’ve only scored three offensive TDs this year, but they’re 2-1.

The Titans are the only NFL team that hasn’t scored or allowed more than 50 points, and they’re actually only the third team to do that after three games in the last nine years.

But in the Eagles, the Titans will see the best rushing defense in the league.

Since 2016, they’ve allowed an NFL-low 89 rushing yards per game. This year, that number is an NFL-best 61.7, their lowest since 2008.

At their current pace, the Eagles will become only the 11th team since 1960 to allow fewer than 1,300 rushing yards in consecutive seasons.

The Eagles have faced 54 runs so far this year, only four for 10 yards or more and only two of those by running backs.

Nobody has even rushed for 40 yards against the Eagles in their last five games, the first time that’s happened since the last two games of 2002 and the first five games of 2003.

The Eagles haven’t allowed a second-half run over nine yards this year and just one over six yards.

So a team that wants to run far more than it throws is about to take on a historically great rush defense.

“They are committed to the run,” Jim Schwartz said. “They've invested a lot of resources in it.

“Drafted a couple offensive lineman, offensive tackles (in the first round). They’ve got a veteran offensive line. They have a Heisman Trophy running back. They had probably their premier free-agent pick-up this year, Dion Lewis, and they have a running quarterback.

“So obviously it's what they want to do and they're committed to it, so it's our job to combat that. … So our goal is to get opponents stopped. However we do it, we do it.”

Lewis is the Titans’ leading rusher with 143 yards but only 3.7 per carry. Derrick Henry, the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner for Alabama, has 139 yards but only a 3.0 average.

QB Marcus Mariota is averaging 6.6 yards per carry and has a 5.9 career average, ninth-highest in NFL history.

He’s really the Titans’ only threat in the backfield.

“He's probably the fastest quarterback in the NFL right now,” Schwartz said. “Looks like a 40-yard dash he's running so fast.”

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How the heck did Sidney Jones make this crazy play?

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How the heck did Sidney Jones make this crazy play?

As I rewatched the Eagles’ 20-16 win over the Colts from Sunday, there was one play that I kept coming back to. 

It was a play from Sidney Jones late in the third quarter that I found to be pretty amazing. 

After he saw the tape, Jones thought so too. 

“Yeah, it’s crazy. It’s a crazy play,” Jones said. “But it’s a good play.”

Jones said that every once in a while, he’ll make a play that even surprises him when he goes back and watches the film. 

“Especially that one,” Jones said. “I’ve never done anything like that before. That was a good play for me.” 

At the snap, Jones gets chopped by Ryan Grant, but somehow doesn’t go to the ground. 

“I made (an) athletic play and caught myself,” Jones said, “and it was a like a leap-frog-looking type of play.”

From there, the 22-year-old nickel cornerback needed to go through offensive lineman Denzell Good, who outweighs him by 164 pounds. So Jones basically tried to tackle Good and Zac Pascal, who caught the receiver screen. 

Jones said he just tried to grab whatever he could. That meant his left arm went around Good and his right arm went around Pascal, which didn’t bring the runner to the ground, but did slow him up. 

It’s a shame that Jones didn’t even show up in the box score for this play. Jalen Mills came down and make the tackle on Pascal after a three-yard gain. Two plays later, the Colts settled for a field goal. 

If Jones doesn’t slow down this play and if he gets wiped out by that chop block, it leaves a 1-on-1 block for Pascal with a chance to go for a touchdown. It was a huge play from Jones and I’ll probably watch it another hundred times or so.

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