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 need to find out exactly what they have in JJ Arcega-Whiteside

Eagles need to find out exactly what they have in JJ Arcega-Whiteside

For most teams, it wouldn’t have been a huge deal. Guy makes a catch. Big whoop.

For this team? It was monumental.

For any wide receiver on the post-DeSean Jackson 2019 Eagles to record a 29-yard reception, that’s a rarity.

For a rookie who we’re all waiting to see something positive from, it was virtually historic.

Rookie second-round pick JJ Arcega-Whiteside, who had just two catches for 14 yards to show for his first nine NFL games, had a big 29-yarder in the fourth quarter of the Eagles-Patriots game Sunday at the Linc.

To put that into context, it was the fourth-longest reception by an Eagles wide receiver in the post-Jackson Era (since Week 2).

“The game, everything kind of slowed down, definitely, knowing the plays and getting a little more experience here and there,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “But every day you’ve got to learn from your mistakes. I definitely did some good things, but I’m sure there’s some mistakes in there, too.”

Arcega-Whiteside has been one of the biggest mysteries on the team this year.

Why was a rookie who had such a promising preseason unable to get on the field while the rest of the Eagles’ wide receivers sputtered and struggled?

He played 128 snaps against the Falcons and Lions, when Alshon Jeffery was hurt, then got just 43 snaps — with no catches — over the next six weeks.

With Jeffery sidelined again, Arcega-Whiteside got 19 snaps Sunday, his most since Week 3.

He had a nine-yard catch in the first quarter that was wiped out by a penalty, then early in the fourth quarter made a nice grab for 29 yards on a 1st-and-10 from the Eagles’ 6-yard-line, getting the Eagles out of the soup.

Believe it or not, that was the 4th-longest catch this year against the Patriots, the longest by a rookie.

That was Arcega-Whiteside's only catch in the Eagles' 17-10 loss, but it was definitely an encouraging step.

The Eagles are desperate for anything from their wide receivers. Any positive sign is huge.

Just with that one 29-yard catch, Arcega-Whiteside had more yards than Nelson Agholor in five of Agholor's last seven games and more catches than Mack Hollins has in his last six games.

Small steps.

“There were some times where I got open, there were some times I didn’t get open and I’ve got to look at it and learn from it and see how I can get better,” he said. “No matter how big or small the play is you’ve just got to build off each play and learn from the ones that don’t go your way, because the second you get complacent, bad things happen.”

Arcega-Whiteside’s catch was the longest by an Eagles rookie wide receiver since Hollins had a 64-yarder against the Redskins in 2017.

“Making plays feels good,” he said. “They feel better when you win, but every day just stack it, build off of this and keep it going. Just build off every success, learn from every failure and get better.”

You would think Arcega-Whitside has earned some more playing time. How do you not play this kid?

He’s got the size, he’s got the hands, he's got the ball control, and he’s getting more and more comfortable in the offense.

The Eagles need to find out exactly what they have in Arcega-Whiteside. Because there's a decent chance it's more than we're seeing from anybody else.



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Hey Eagles fans, the sky isn't falling

Hey Eagles fans, the sky isn't falling

The sky isn’t falling. 

I know, I know, that’s exactly what you want to hear less than 48 hours after a frustrating 17-10 loss to the New England Patriots. It’s the truth, though. 

Don’t get me wrong. The Eagles were up 10-0 at home on Sunday and they should have won that game. It was right there for them and they came up short. And because of common opponents between the Eagles and Cowboys, the Patriots game was actually more important than the one upcoming against the Seahawks.  

There were certainly things in that 17-10 loss that were concerning, mostly on the offensive side of the ball. 

But they were things we already knew coming into Sunday; the receivers stink, there are no big plays, injuries hurt. We also learned the Eagles’ defense might be legit. 

So, believe it or not, the Eagles still have a good shot at making it into the playoffs. 

Now, we have to remember that the outlook on the entire season has changed quite a bit. Coming into the year, we were talking about the Eagles’ being one of the top teams in the league. That ship sailed a long time ago. The new bar is just trying to make it into the playoffs and Sunday hurt, but it didn’t really hurt that much. 

According to FiveThirtyEight, after beating the Lions on Sunday, the Cowboys have a 58 percent chance to win the division and the Eagles have a 42 percent chance. 

This coming week, the Eagles are home against the Seahawks (8-2), while the Cowboys have to go on the road to face the Patriots (9-1). 

Using FiveThirtyEight’s playoff predictor, here’s how next Sunday’s outcomes will affect each team’s chances to win the division, which is still their clearest way to a playoff spot: 

Eagles and Cowboys lose
Cowboys: 64 percent 
Eagles: 36 percent

Eagles and Cowboys win 
Cowboys: 66 percent
Eagles: 34 percent

Eagles win, Cowboys lose
Eagles: 58 percent
Cowboys: 42 percent

Eagles lose, Cowboys win
Cowboys: 83 percent
Eagles: 17 percent 

But here’s the part where I remind you that after next weekend, the Eagles’ remaining schedule is easier than the Cowboys’ remaining schedule. From Week 13 on, Eagles’ opponents have a winning percentage of .351, while Cowboys’ opponents have a winning percentage of .460. The Cowboys aren’t playing world-beaters, but I like the Eagles’ chances of beating the Giants, Redskins and Dolphins more than the Cowboys’ chances of beating the Bills, Bears and Rams. 

Even if the Eagles lose to the Seahawks, they’d be 5-6 and still likely just one game behind the Cowboys, assuming they lose on the road to the Patriots and are 6-5. If that happens, the Eagles will have made life tough on themselves, but winning out is clearly a possibility. The big game will still be that Week 16 matchup at the Linc against the Cowboys. That might still decide the NFC East. 

A quick reminder of division tiebreakers if it gets to that point: 

1. Head to head 
2. Division record 
3. Common opponents
4. Conference record 

If the Eagles beat the Cowboys in Week 16, they’d be 1-1 against each other. From there, it seems like both teams could be 5-1 in the division. That means it would come down to common opponents, which is where the Eagles took a hit in Week 11. But they still have the Packers and Jets on the Cowboys, who now have the Lions on the Eagles. 

The Eagles’ offense has to find a way to be better and we know that. But we’re now in Week 12, so it’s unlikely they just flip a switch. They’re not going to be explosive, but if Carson Wentz can be more consistent, if they get a little more production from their weapons and if the Eagles’ defense keeps it up, they should be able to keep themselves in the mix. 

Remember, this isn’t what any of us thought we’d be talking about in Week 12. This is the time of year when many thought we’d be talking about the Eagles’ push to lock up the division and potentially earn a top seed in the NFC. 

On a macro level, this team and the way it was put together is a problem. The Eagles were supposed to build a dynasty and they built a slightly above average team that has to try to claw its way into the playoffs. But on a micro level, the Eagles still have a pretty decent chance to do just that … claw into the playoffs. 

So the ceiling might be low, but the sky isn’t falling. 



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