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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That Golden Tate trade looks worse with each passing minute

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That Golden Tate trade looks worse with each passing minute

Amari Cooper put together an all-time great performance against the Eagles on Sunday and has helped transform the Dallas Cowboys’ offense. 

Golden Tate could barely get on the field. 

In the biggest game of the season, more than a month after he joined the team, Tate played just 38 percent of the Eagles’ offensive snaps. 

That’s unacceptable for a lot of reasons. 

In the wake of the Eagles’ 29-23 crushing loss in overtime at AT&T Stadium, it’s almost impossible to avoid the comparison. At the time, when the Cowboys traded a first-round pick for Cooper, a lot of us laughed at them. And then many of us in Philly were seemingly on board when the Eagles shipped a third-round pick for eight games of Tate. 

Oops. 

Look at Cooper’s stats from Sunday: He played 90 snaps and had 10 catches for 217 yards and three touchdowns. 

Tate played just 20 snaps. He had one catch for seven yards. He was targeted just three times. 

Cooper had more yards and touchdowns on Sunday afternoon than Tate has in five games (189 yards, 1 touchdown) since he joined the Eagles at the trade deadline on Oct. 30. 

Really, the inability for Tate to get involved in the Eagles’ offense falls directly on their offensive coaching staff. Howie Roseman handed them one of the most productive receivers over the last half decade and they haven’t been able to use him properly. In Dallas, they got Cooper and he has already had two monster games and looks like a Pro Bowl player, even in a new offense. 

The hardest part to swallow about Tate’s ineffectiveness and misuse on Sunday was that he finally had a big impact the previous week. Against Washington, he had seven catches for 85 yards and a touchdown. It looked like the Eagles had finally figured out how to use him, they were turning a corner. It looked like they were finally going to at least make that trade a little more worth it. 

And then one catch for seven yards. His worst game since October 2016 when he had one catch for one yard. During the last few seasons, Tate consistently produced every Sunday. And now the Eagles have no idea how to use him. The Eagles on Sunday prioritized using 12 personnel to get Dallas Goedert on the field and that worked, but keeping Tate on the bench is just unacceptable.

Maybe you can look at Tate and think at 30 years old maybe he just isn’t the same player anymore. But exactly a month before the Eagles traded for him, he had a game with eight catches, 132 yards and two touchdowns. The Lions obviously knew how to use him. 

Roseman had to be pulling his hair out watching this Sunday. He parted with a third-round pick to get Tate and to show the front office still had faith in the Eagles when they were 4-4. Well, the trade looks awful now and the Eagles’ playoff hopes are dwindling.  

I was on board with the trade when Roseman pulled the trigger in late October, but back then I had faith that the Eagles’ coaches were going to be able to figure out how to make it work. They haven’t. And because of that, this trade looks worse by the minute.

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Pump the brakes on calling Eagles cornerback Sidney Jones a bust

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Pump the brakes on calling Eagles cornerback Sidney Jones a bust

Sidney Jones is 22. He’s basically in his rookie season after recovering from his pre-draft Achilles tear last year. And he’s played most of this year with a nagging and lingering hamstring injury. 

Are there reasons to be concerned about him? 

Absolutely. 

It’s just waaaayyyyy too early to call him a bust. Let’s go ahead and pump the brakes on that. 

Jones started Sunday’s 29-23 loss in Arlington, Texas, but was hampered by that hamstring injury, saying he was nowhere near 100 percent. He gave up a few big plays and was eventually pulled by the trainers.

But I get it. Even when Jones has been “healthy” this season, he hasn’t been good. We haven’t seen the same guy the Eagles thought they were stealing at No. 43 in last year’s draft. So I get why fans are concerned. I get why, when you see him not get his head around in coverage, you’re thinking “that’s not injury related” and I can’t argue. He needs to get better and I think even he’d admit that. I think everyone knows it. 

I was bullish on Jones before the start of this season, saying I thought he has all the makings to become a star cornerback in the NFL. Over the last few weeks, I’ve had some folks try to throw that back in my face. I know it’s not everyone who is calling him a bust or a miss, but there’s at least a very vocal minority. And I get that this has been a frustrating season and Jones has been a part of that, but it’s just way too early to make a statement like that. 

It’s even too early for the Eagles to evaluate his play. He’s played in 10 career games and has had this hamstring injury almost all season. Here’s what Doug Pederson said about that Monday.  

Well, yeah, I think it's hard. It's tough to get a true evaluation. We knew the player we were getting based on what we saw in college. He's a tremendous corner. He's a good cover corner. I think for any player that's dealing with injury, you focus on that just a little bit and it can pull you away from playing at a high level at times.

I think that's where I can appreciate guys, and Sidney is one of them, guys that each week — everybody is a little banged up, a little sore, going through stuff. For them to battle through it, be out there at practice every day, and put themselves out there for the team I think is a credit to each player. Sidney is one of those guys.

I’m not ready to evaluate Jones either. It’s too early. He’s been hurt. 

And this is a significant hamstring injury. Although, it is interesting that Pederson mentioned the mental side of injury twice while talking about Jones. There’s an art to playing hurt — not injured — and part of that is avoiding getting hyper-focused on that injury. 

By the way, I also get the concern that Jones might just be an injury-prone player. Toss the Achilles aside because it was sort of a freak thing, but he’s dealt with this hamstring injury for months, had an ankle injury in the preseason and even got hurt in his NFL debut in Week 17 last year. You’re probably thinking Jordan Hicks 2.0 and if you feel that way, I can’t really do anything to move you off that stance right now. 

But some players grow and blossom at different rates. Remember when Super Bowl hero Brandon Graham was a bust? That was premature and some folks have gotten to that point — using the word “bust” — even earlier for Jones, who is 22 years old and is hurt. 

It’s just way too early. I get everyone is frustrated. But we gotta give the kid a chance. 

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