Eagles

Roob's observations after Eagles take down Bears in must-win Week 9 game before bye week

Roob's observations after Eagles take down Bears in must-win Week 9 game before bye week

BOX SCORE

OK, take a deep breath. That was a lot uglier than it should have been, but the Eagles held on Sunday to upend the Bears, 22-14, at the Linc.

So they go into the bye 5-4 and on a two-game winning streak and, considering everything, it could be a lot worse.

So let’s get into our 10 instant observations!

1. That certainly was a lot tougher than it should have been. You have a team on a three-game losing streak down 19-0 in the third quarter in your own stadium — you need to finish them off. The Eagles were able to escape with a win over the Bears, but they had that team reeling and they’ve got to have a killer instinct in those situations. The Bears looked shaken after the first half. The Eagles were dominating both lines of scrimmage, but they let the Bears back in the game and made life a lot more difficult than it had to be.

But it’s a win and they’re back over .500 at 5-4. That’s two wins in a row after those disasters in Minnesota and Dallas, and that’s what’s most important. Doug Pederson is at his best when the sky seems to be falling. That’s when his leadership ability really shines through. That was a really tough week before the Buffalo game with tons of outside noise, and his team has responded with two critical wins to salvage the season.

2. Once again, Carson Wentz’s numbers weren’t flashy, but once again he did everything he had to do to win, and he did it without getting a lot of help from the people around him. Wentz finished 26 for 39 for 239 yards and a touchdown and once again, no interceptions. It’s a tough way for a quarterback to operate, with receivers that are performing this poorly. I give him a lot of credit for keeping his cool and finding a way to overcome the drops and the up-and-down pass protection and leading this team to a win.

Not a lot has come easily for Wentz lately, but he’s figuring out how to be efficient, he’s avoiding turnovers and he’s willing this team through big late fourth-quarter drives. The numbers don’t begin to say how well he’s playing.

3. The Eagles’ inability to put this game away when they had the opportunity is disturbing. Those two early short field goals should have been touchdowns, and this game should have been over at halftime. As dominating as the defense was early, where was that in the second half? What happened to the pass pressure? Once that dried up, the Bears were able to hit some big plays, and that really turned the momentum. First-half field goals are a dangerous thing. They come back to haunt you so often. The Eagles won, but up 19-0 in the third quarter, it never should have been this close.

4. Miles Sanders just looks more confident than he did even a few weeks ago. And that makes him look faster and stronger. When you’re confident in what you’re doing, it really allows your natural abilities to take over, and that’s what we’re seeing. Routine runs that were getting him a yard or two are now getting him four or five yards. He’s more decisive, he’s hitting the hole hard, and he’s moving the chains. And through it all, he’s been a weapon in the passing game. His 3rd-and-12 pickup with a 15-yard catch and run with 4½ minutes left was one of the biggest plays of the game. He had only 13 touches but netted 73 yards. He’s really becoming a force both in the running game and the passing game. The kid just keeps growing in front of our eyes.

5. The Eagles had one real weapon in the passing game Sunday. The Bears just couldn’t cover Zach Ertz and Wentz rarely misses a wide-open Ertz. He finished 9 for 103 with a 25-yard TD — his longest TD in five years. He broke some tackles and really was an impossible matchup. Nobody else on the Eagles had 40 receiving yards, so Ertz was really a one-man show. After catching just four passes over the last two weeks, it was huge to get him back involved.

6. I do not get Pederson’s obsession with Darren Sproles. The Eagles got the ball up 12 with two minutes left in the first half and Pederson just decided it was going to be Sproles’ drive. So Sanders and Jordan Howard, who have both been so productive, just sat and watched. After two Sproles runs and a Sproles drop, the Eagles punted and had to settle for that 12-0 lead. Sproles has had a tremendous career, but he’s 36, he hasn’t played in a month and he really hasn’t been a productive offensive player since 2016. Just don’t get it. At all.

7. Discouraging to see DeSean Jackson play a few snaps and then call it a day. After two months of rehab, the Eagles thought he was finally healthy enough to play, but he left the game after the first series and didn’t return. The Eagles said it’s precautionary, so maybe he’ll be back and good to go after the bye. But it’s concerning that the only real weapon the Eagles have in the receiving game can’t get healthy. As gifted as Jackson is, it’s clear the Eagles miscalculated when they made a 32-year-old speedster the centerpiece of their wide receiving corps.

8. Once again, the Eagles were able to put together a commanding drive late in the game when they really needed it. This one resulted in a field goal, not a touchdown, but the Eagles got the ball back with 8:39 left and a five-point lead and marched 74 yards in 16 plays and got a Jake Elliott field goal with just 25 seconds left. They did it in Buffalo last week and did it again Sunday. Great to see that no matter what inconsistencies they had throughout the game, they’re able to put it all together late when they have to and eat clock.

9. I don’t even know what to say about Alshon Jeffery. He obviously isn’t the player he once was, but this was as bad a game as I’ve ever seen a wide receiver play. He had at least three drops, two of them costing the Eagles important second-half third-down conversions. He looks lost out there. The Eagles made a huge financial investment in him, so he’s not going anywhere. Jeffery did make a huge third-down pickup on the final drive, so that’s something to build on. But he’s just been bad this year and worse Sunday. When you’re not getting anything from your other wideouts, you need Jeffery to be a heck of a lot better than this.

10. I thought Andre Dillard hung in there pretty well against Khalil Mack. That’s the toughest assignment yet for the rookie left tackle. Dillard has played well against speed rushers, but Mack is a power and speed guy, the kind of challenge Dillard has never seen. Mack wasn’t invisible, but he didn’t have any sacks and had one QB hit. Who knows when Jason Peters will be back. Who knows if Jason Peters will be back. This wasn’t a perfect performance by Dillard, but for his third career start? It was an encouraging one.

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Is this the year Jordan Mailata goes from project to player?

Is this the year Jordan Mailata goes from project to player?

A couple years ago, when the Eagles drafted Jordan Mailata in the 7th round of the NFL draft, I asked him a question and he gave an answer that has followed him. 

How much did you know about American football just a few months before the Eagles drafted you? 

“Mate, as little as peanuts.” 

By the end of his first training camp, Mailata said he had reached a quarter of a bag of peanuts. And it’s clear he has made progress. But now, entering Year 3 in the NFL, it’s time to start asking if Mailata has finally filled that bag. 

In other words, is this the year Mailata goes from a project to a real NFL player? 

“Look, I’m always as honest as I can be. I don’t want to lead you down a garden path, OK,” offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland said last week on a Zoom call with reporters. “So I always try to tell you that absolute truth; you guys know that. … I can’t answer that question right now.” 

Hopefully, we get our answer soon enough. 

Stoutland said the reason he couldn’t answer that question is because he needs to see Mailata do it on the field. That might have hit a snag last week, when Mailata was one of three Eagles placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, meaning he either tested positive for COVID-19 or was exposed to somebody who did. Lane Johnson said publicly that he tested positive. 

So, obviously, everyone is hoping Mailata is healthy; that’s more important. But he also can’t afford to miss any grass time, especially in a training camp that won’t have preseason games. With such limited game experience in his life, those preseason games were more important for Mailata than any other player on the roster. And now he’ll have only training camp practices and that will only happen once he’s off the Reserve/COVID-19 list. 

The good news is that Stoutland is very optimistic. 

“I can say this: In the meetings that we have, the virtual meetings, he was a completely different guy in the meetings,” Stoutland said. “And, you’re going to say, ‘What do you mean by that?’ His confidence level. Because we require these guys to know a lot and to be able to convert blocking schemes and calls. Completely, completely different in the meeting. 

“Now, will that carry over to the field? Every morning when I come here I pray that’s what will happen. Do I think that will happen? Absolutely. But I can’t guarantee that. We’re going to find out, though. That’s what this is all about. And if it does carry over then we got action. We’re going to be in good shape.”

This offseason, Halapoulivaati Vaitai left in free agency and got a big contract with the Detroit Lions, which means the Eagles’ depth at offensive tackle took a big hit. But then they drafted two players with tackle experience and brought back Jason Peters to play guard and also be insurance at tackle. 

So the Eagles have options if Mailata doesn’t work out or if he isn’t ready. But in Year 3, it’s probably time to get past the project phase. 

Mailata is still just 23 but in his first two NFL seasons he still hasn’t played in a single regular-season game. And he has ended both years on Injured Reserve with back injuries. 

But all the traits the Eagles saw in Mailata when they drafted for former rugby player to play offensive tackle are still there. 

Mailata is 6-foot-8, 346 pounds, incredibly strong, athletic and willing to learn. And in last year’s preseason, he looked good. We saw progress. Really, we’ve seen progress every time Mailata steps foot on a football field. 

But is he ready to be an NFL player and not just the guy trying to become an NFL player? 

We’ll find out soon enough. 

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Eagles coaches 'never felt more safe' at NovaCare Complex

Eagles coaches 'never felt more safe' at NovaCare Complex

On Friday, two days before Eagles head coach Doug Pederson tested positive for COVID-19, several of his assistant coaches spoke about how effective they believe the Eagles’ safety protocols are inside the NovaCare Complex and how safe they consider the facility.

The Eagles, under the direction of vice president of football operations and compliance Jon Ferrari, reconfigured the South Philadelphia facility over the last several weeks to comply with NFL safety measures once the players arrived.

On Monday, the Eagles' so-called IDER plan – that stands for Infectious Disease Emergency Response plan – was approved by the league, meaning the team's plan to deal with the virus in the facility met the safety standards required by the league and the players' association.

Yet here we are.

Without knowing how or where Pederson contracted the virus, it’s impossible to determine whether the safety measures are working. 

If nobody else in the building contracts it, they’re working. If it turns out there are additional positive tests within the building in the coming days, it’s possible that even the strictest adherence to the safety measures isn’t enough.

We’ll know more in the coming days, but offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, running backs coach and assistant head coach (and interim head coach) Duce Staley and special teams coach Dave Fipp all spoke on Friday about how effective the measures the Eagles took to create a safe working environment appeared to be.

Stoutland: “Coming through the front door, going through the gate, getting tested each morning, I gotta tell you guys, I’ve never felt more safe in my life. I told my wife that, I told my kids that. Mr. (Jeff) Lurie, he cares about his team, his coaches, and just proves it once again with the group of people that he’s put together to organize this whole operation. It’s all different, it’s all new, (team president) Don Smolenski, Jon Ferrari, it’s unbelievable. Every little detail that’s going on right now, the door handles, everything that I notice, I’m like, ‘Oh my goodness, they think of everything to keep us safe.’ That part of it is great I think for all of us because it kind of lets you (know), ‘OK, let me just focus on my job and detail what I have to do and the other stuff, we’re good. We’re going to be in good hands.’”

Staley: “We have to be careful, that’s something that all coaches are being redundant with. We’re talking with our players, we’re talking amongst ourselves. We’re all reminding each other how serious this is, reminding ourselves as coaches and reminding the players. This is a different time for us and as a team we must make the adjustments so we can be successful down the road. We must make the adjustments. I think the Eagles, this organization, Howie, Jeffery, along with Jon Ferrari, they’ve got a great plan here for us while we’re in the building, so we feel 100 percent safe in the building. Now, we understand everything going on, how it can be contracted, but we feel safe.”

Fipp: “I think common sense is the biggest thing. Gotta be smart, obviously. There’s definitely an issue going on out there. I think we feel good about it as long as we wear masks and take care of our responsibility outside the building. I feel great about being inside the building.”

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