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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Eagles hoping no-risk, high-reward veteran signings can rekindle past success

Eagles hoping no-risk, high-reward veteran signings can rekindle past success

When you’re in salary cap hell, you have to be creative when building a roster.

And one tactic Howie Roseman used when putting together the Eagles team that begins training camp Thursday is signing a handful of no-risk, high-reward guys.

Players trying to revive their careers. Players trying to reclaim past glory. Players running out of chances.

These are no-risk, high-reward guys. They could become contributors, but if it doesn’t work out? The Eagles can release them before the season with modest or no cap ramifications.

When you’re in salary cap hell, you can’t sign all the free agents you want. So you sign the free agents that you can. And you do that by signing players nobody else wants. Guys with no leverage.

One tool Roseman likes to use is the NFL’s minimum-salary benefit, which gives teams some salary cap relief when they sign veteran players to certain deals.

The minimum-salary benefit can be used only for veterans with at least four years of experience who sign one-year minimum-wage deals with combined bonuses equalling $90,000 or less. 

Here’s a look at four of these no-risk, high-reward players the Eagles added this offseason.

Markus Wheaton

The Eagles signed Wheaton to a one-year deal with a $790,000 base salary (sixth-year minimum) with a $45,000 signing bonus, a $45,000 workout bonus but a cap number of $720,000, thanks to the minimum-salary benefit.

If the Eagles release Wheaton before the season, he would count just $90,000 against the cap, the value of his two bonuses.

Wheaton is only 27 and should be in his prime but has done nearly nothing the last two seasons after two very good years.

In 2014 and 2015, he combined for 97 catches for 1,393 yards, seven touchdowns and a 14.4 average. He had seven catches of 40 yards or more during those two years. Pretty good production.

But the last two years, Wheaton had just seven catches for 102 yards and one TD for the Steelers and Bears.

If he’s healthy and can be even half the player he was in 2014 and 2015, he could really help as a fourth receiver.

Matt Jones

The Eagles signed Jones to a two-year, $1.51 million deal that includes base salaries of $705,000 this year and $805,000 next year with no bonus money, which means no dead cap money if he’s released.

Even though Jones’ deal is not subject to the minimum-salary benefit, his base salaries of $705,000 and $805,000 are minimum wage for a third-year veteran in 2018 and a fourth-year vet in 2019.

Jones was one of the NFL’s best running backs the first half of 2016. Through seven games, he had 460 yards and a 4.6 average with three TDs. In a mid-October win over the Eagles at FedEx Field, he ran for 135 yards, the most rushing yards against the Eagles the last two years.

But he hurt his knee and never got his job back, then was released before last season. He resurfaced with the Colts but had only five carries all year.

Jones is only 25 and is a good enough receiver that he caught 19 passes for 304 yards and a TD as a rookie reserve.

With LeGarrette Blount gone, Jay Ajayi on a pitch count because of chronic knee soreness, Corey Clement’s role still undefined and Darren Sproles likely to be limited on offense at 35 years old, Jones will have a chance to work his way into the mix.

And if it doesn’t work out? No cap hit.

Richard Rodgers

The Eagles signed Rodgers to a one-year, $880,000 contract that includes a $790,000 base salary, a $45,000 signing bonus, a $45,000 workout bonus and a $720,000 cap figure, courtesy of the minimum-salary benefit rule.

If the Eagles release him, he’ll count $245,000 in dead money, the amount of guaranteed money in his one-year deal.

As recently as 2015, Rodgers caught 58 passes for 510 yards and eight touchdowns, which ranked him 12th among all NFL tight ends in catches and fifth in TDs. But he dropped to 30 catches in 2016 and just 12 last year.

Rodgers is only 26 and should be in his prime, but he’s reached only 30 yards twice in his last 31 games.

With Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, the Eagles have a potent 1-2 punch, but if Rodgers can regain his form of 2015, it would give Doug Pederson even more options in a ridiculously talented array of skill players.

LaRoy Reynolds

The Eagles signed Reynolds to a one-year, $880,000 contract that includes a $790,000 base salary, a $90,000 roster bonus and a reduced $720,000 cap figure.

Because there’s nothing guaranteed in his contract, the Eagles would not absorb any dead money under the cap if they release him before the season.

Reynolds, now with his fourth team in four years, has played in 68 games with seven starts. He’s only 27 and is considered an above-average special teamer and adequate depth linebacker.

The Eagles have some big question marks at linebacker, with Paul Worrilow (Reynolds’ former teammate) out for the year, Mychal Kendricks now with the Browns, Nigel Bradham suspended for the opener and Jordan Hicks able to finish one of his first three seasons.

Reynolds will have a chance to work into that mix. If not? No harm done.

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Eagle Eye: When does a contract negotiation become a problem?

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Eagle Eye: When does a contract negotiation become a problem?

In the latest edition of Eagle Eye, John Clark and Barrett Brooks are pumped for the start of training camp. Following MLB Commissioner's comments on Mike Trout's marketability, the guys discuss if it's on the player or the league to market an athlete? The Falcons said they will not give Julio Jones a new contract. At what point does a public contract negotiation become a distraction in the locker room?

1:00 - Guys are excited for the start of training camp.
4:45 - Is it on a player or a league to market an athlete?
11:00 - When does a Julio Jones contract situation become a locker room distraction?
18:00 - When money starts dividing a locker room.

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