Eagles

Roob's 10 observations from Eagles-Cowboys

Roob's 10 observations from Eagles-Cowboys

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OK, you thought the Raiders game was unwatchable?

This was worse. 

The Eagles finished the regular season with a ridiculously ugly 6-0 loss to the Cowboys, the first time they've been blanked at home since that Monday night game against the Seahawks in 2005 — the night they retired Reggie White's number (see breakdown).

The offense has been brutal the last two weeks, and the playoffs are up next.

So Doug Pederson, Frank Reich and John DeFilippo have two weeks to get this thing back on the rails. 

Here are today's 10 freezing observations from the Linc:

1. We talked about it all week, and this was the risk of letting Nick Foles play against Dallas to try to give him something positive going into the playoffs. By the time Pederson got him out of there, nothing positive had happened. Yeah, it was cold and windy. Yeah, Torrey Smith didn't do him any favors with that drop on the first drive (see report card). Still … this was a second straight terrible performance from Foles, and there are no more dress rehearsals. The Eagles have to be terrified internally with his inability to move the offense the last two weeks, and we all know if he's not significantly better it's going to be a very short playoff run. All I can say is Foles has a fairly sizeable career body of work, and although nobody expects him to be Carson Wentz, historically he hasn't been this bad. Just have to hope that two weeks of practice — and maybe some better weather the weekend of Jan. 13-14 — helps Foles find himself. Because what we've seen the last two weeks has been frightening.
 
2. Should Doug Pederson consider starting Nate Sudfeld in the playoffs? I know everybody always loves the backup quarterback and Sudfeld did do some good things against Dallas, but come on now. You can't just bench your backup QB — a guy who has won 16 of 21 starts in an Eagles uniform since 2013 — for a guy with three quarters of NFL experience. I know everybody is frustrated with Foles. And Sudfeld acquitted himself fine in his first NFL regular-season game, although he didn't get any points on the scoreboard. But when you're honest with yourself, the Eagles have a better chance of getting Foles back to where he was two weeks ago against the Giants than they do winning a playoff game with a kid who has thrown 23 passes in his career. It has to be Foles.   
 
3. But … if Foles doesn't play any better through the first, say, four series in the playoff opener? If he's this bad again? Get Sudfeld out there! 
 
4. What impressed me most about Sudfeld in his NFL debut was his accuracy. There wasn't anything down the field — I think the conditions have made that really tough the last couple weeks — but he did complete 19 of 23 passes for 128 yards and also showed some athleticism with a 22-yard run. Sudfeld broke the NFL record for most accurate performance by a player in his first career game (with a minimum of 20 passes). The record of 80 percent was set in 1968 by Sam Wyche of the Bengals, who went 20 for 25 against the Oilers. Definitely something to work with.
 
5. Was nice to see Sidney Jones out there running around. He did look rusty, which is understandable, considering he hadn't played in a game in exactly 365 days. But you got at least a small sense of his skill set, his ranginess and his confidence. Heck, he lined up against Dez Bryant on his first NFL defensive snap and didn't back down (see rookie report). Will Rasul Douglas move to safety? Will Jalen Mills move to the slot? Ronald Darby and Jones outside? They can all play. They're all versatile. Going to be interesting to see how this group of young corners grows over the next few years.

6. As wretched as Foles was, I have a lot of faith in this defense. Even the backups played pretty well Sunday against Dallas before they wore down in the fourth quarter. This defense is why the Eagles have a chance every time they play at home. Even with the backups playing most of the game Sunday, they still only allowed six points to a Cowboys team playing all its starters and clearly intent on trying to win the game. This defense always plays well at the Linc. They've only allowed 11 touchdowns at home this year and 23 at home the last two years, fewest in the NFL. The Eagles are going to be in every game they play at home.
 
7. Do we have to be concerned now with Kenjon Barner? He's fumbled a punt two weeks in a row now, and although he recovered both, he certainly looks shaky back there right now. Just another thing to worry about. 
 
8. He had one bad drop early, but I'm high on Mack Hollins. I see him moving right into that Smith role next year. Remember, when he was drafted, he was considered a special teamer and a big-play specialist. But he's got a well-rounded game and seems comfortable with all the routes. He just needs experience. I see him being a big part of this offense next year.
 
9. Speaking of Douglas, he had a rough time on the Cowboys' touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter, but you have to remember he hadn't played defense since the Denver game, and it definitely showed. He looked super rusty. I like Douglas. He's tough, physical and smart. I have no idea how everything will settle with all these young defensive backs moving forward, but I'll be surprised if he's not a significant part of this defense moving forward.
 
10. Finally, I'm just really disappointed the Eagles weren't able to get Brent Celek the 15 yards he needed for 5,000 in his career. Celek wasn't even on the field for the last drive. Celek has done nothing in his 11 years here other than play hard and practice hard without fail, never complain about his role and serve as a tremendous locker room leader and mentor to the younger tight ends, and he deserved to go out with that milestone. Celek has a $4 million base salary in 2018 but would count only $1 million against the cap if the Eagles release him. Maybe he'll retire. Maybe he'll play somewhere else. Maybe he'll take a pay cut and return to Philly. But there's a chance this was his final regular-season game in an Eagles uniform, and if it was, it kills me to know he fell just two yards shy of 5,000 in an Eagles uniform.

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.

More on the Eagles

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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