Eagles

Roob's 10 observations from Eagles-Giants

Roob's 10 observations from Eagles-Giants

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Nick Foles was way better than expected, the defense was worse than expected and the Eagles somehow escaped the Meadowlands Sunday with a way-too-close 34-29 win over the Giants (see breakdown).

With the win, the Eagles clinched a first-round bye in the playoffs, their first since 2004.

It sure wasn't pretty. But that first-round bye will be. 

While we all catch our collective breath, here are 10 instant observations from the Eagles' 12th win of the year.

1. Nick Foles showed a little rust early but ultimately did everything you would want your quarterback to do. Moved the ball, got the offense in the end zone, managed the offense, avoided mistakes. In his first start in 14 months and first start in an Eagles uniform in more than three years, Foles threw four TDs on the road, and that's darn impressive. I really felt good about Foles going into Sunday. He's a good, solid QB, and other than a few bad games on a terrible Rams team in 2015, he's always been a good, solid quarterback. But he was actually better than I expected. He finished 24 for 38 for 237 yards and the four TDs, no INTs and a 115.8 passer rating (see report card). What I was most impressed with was how Foles kept his composure early, when the Giants had that two-TD lead and nothing was going right for the Eagles. This is a guy who hasn't played much football lately, but he was calm and poised in the face of adversity. On the road, down 13 points, nothing going right. Impressive afternoon for Foles.

2. On the other hand? This was an absolutely embarrassing performance by the Eagles' defense against one of the NFL's worst offenses, a team that just fired its coach, a team with a lame-duck interim coach, a team with nothing to play for, a team with the third-worst offense in the NFL. Pathetic. Forget who's playing quarterback for the Eagles, if the defense doesn't get its act together soon, the Eagles' postseason run is going to be a very short one. This is three straight games now where their tackling has been poor, they've allowed big plays and they've been unable to keep an opponent out of the end zone. After allowing just 18 touchdowns in their first 11 games, they've now given up 10 in their last three. For crying out loud, the Giants came into the game averaging 14 points on offense, and they scored three TDs on their first 26 plays and laid 29 points on the Eagles. Are they worn out? Are they being exposed by better, more experienced quarterbacks? Are they just getting away from basics, like tackling and coverage? Whatever the answer, Jim Schwartz has to get this solved very, very soon.

3. A couple numbers to ponder: Eli Manning, benched just a few weeks ago, threw for 434 yards, the second-most yards ever against the Eagles (Jon Kitna once had 446 for the Lions in a 2007 Eagles blowout win). And the Giants netted 504 yards. This is one of the worst offenses in the NFL! It just seemed like there were Giants open 8 to 12 yards down the field on every play, and nothing ever changed. The Eagles were really, really fortunate to escape North Jersey with a win.

4. I have to say I'm just not in love with the Eagles' running back rotation right now. It just seems too hard for any of the Eagles' four backs to get into any sort of rhythm right now. Early in the year, the way the offense was operating, they were all getting enough carries to kind of get going individually, but in close games, when the Eagles are scrambling on offense, it just seems that the rotation is hurting the offense's rhythm. Kenjon Barner had an 18-yard run at the start of the second quarter, then didn't get another carry. LeGarrette Blount gets the ball on a crucial 4th-and-1 midway through the second quarter, but it's only his second carry of the game and the play goes nowhere. Corey Clement runs for 10 yards midway through the first quarter and doesn't get another carry in the next five drives. Jay Ajayi? I've been saying since about the second game he played in an Eagles uniform he should be this team's lead back, but after gaining four yards on his first carry of the game, only five of the next 14 running back handoffs went his way. His next carry? That went 22 yards for a first down. Ajayi had only 12 carries Sunday and that's not enough. He needs to carry the bulk of the load. Has to.

5. I can't think of a more dramatic transformation in Philadelphia sports history than what we've seen this year from Nelson Agholor. It's flat-out remarkable, and that kid deserves so much credit for never making excuses and just working his ass off during the offseason and hammering himself into a legit NFL wide receiver. That insane third-quarter touchdown catch on the heels of his 141-yard game in L.A. last weekend … that's big-time stuff right there. 

6. Howie Roseman has to do everything imaginable to make sure the Eagles don't lose Trey Burton. That kid can play.

7. Impressive day for Zach Ertz, especially that 15-yard catch and run down the right sideline for a huge late first down. Ertz didn't have huge numbers — 7 for 59 with a touchdown — but his history with Foles really showed up. They were together in 2013 and 2014, and you can tell Foles loves having him out there.

8. I'm trying to figure out Ronald Darby. Played awful much of the game, but he did have that huge interception and big return, and then he made an enormous play in the end zone in the final minute, knocking away a potential Manning touchdown pass to Roger Lewis. One thing is for sure — the kid has talent. Another is for sure — he has to be more consistent.

9. With all due respect to Fletcher Cox, sometimes I really believe Brandon Graham is this team's defensive MVP. He was very good once again Sunday, extending his career high in sacks to 9½ and also making a huge play in the fourth quarter, throwing Shane Vereen for a nine-yard loss on a drive that ultimately ended with the Eagles' blocking a field goal. On a day when most of the guys around struggled, Graham continued his brilliant play. He was there when the Eagles needed him the most.

10. The left side of the offensive line was everybody's biggest concern going in, and while Chance Warmack and Halapoulivati Vaitai aren't going to pick up any late Pro Bowl votes for their performances, they hung in there enough, protecting the blind side of a quarterback making his first start in 14 months. Foles didn't always have a ton of time, but he was only sacked once — that was on Big V and caused a fumble (that the Eagles recovered). The Eagles scored 34 points with those guys. Could have been worse. Could have been a lot worse.

Nate Sudfeld confident in his ability to be Eagles’ backup QB

Nate Sudfeld confident in his ability to be Eagles’ backup QB

Had Nate Sudfeld not fractured his non-throwing wrist last summer, there’s a very good chance it would have been him attempting to lead the Eagles to an improbable playoff win against the Seahawks instead of 40-year-old Josh McCown after Carson Wentz suffered a concussion. 

But Sudfeld’s injury in August forced the Eagles to go out and lure McCown out of retirement. And once they did, even when Sudfeld was healthy, McCown wasn’t going to be the Eagles’ third-string quarterback. 

It was literally a bad break for Sudfeld. 

The 26-year-old quarterback didn’t technically hit free agency this year but he got close. Sudfeld at least got to test the waters of free agency during the legal tampering period before agreeing to a one-year, $2 million contract the day before the start of the new league year. 

When asked if the Eagles offered him any assurances about being the No. 2 quarterback, Sudfeld did not answer directly. But it seems like there’s a really good chance he’ll finally be Wentz’s No. 2 in 2020. 

“I don’t want to get into specifics but I’m very excited about the opportunity to come back and feel really good about coming back to Philadelphia,” Sudfeld said on a conference call this week. “Really excited to get back to work.” 

Will the Eagles bring in another veteran quarterback or draft a rookie to compete with him? It’s unclear. 

I think the NFL is obviously a meritocracy,” Sudfeld said. “As people have said before, it’s really ‘What have you done for me lately?’ What are you doing at each step? You have to keep proving yourself and you have to keep proving. 

“I definitely have a ton of confidence if I’m ever in a situation where I’m head-on-head competing with somebody. I have a lot of confidence in myself. I haven’t ever really had that opportunity so I’m looking forward to that if that comes.

The debate about whether or not Wentz is an injury-prone player has become trite at this point and it’s really not worth getting caught up in. But the fact remains that the final snaps in each of the Eagles’ last three seasons have been taken by his backup. 

Because of that, maybe it would have made sense for the Eagles to go out and grab a backup quarterback with some significant experience, sort of like what they did when they were forced to last year, signing McCown. 

Sudfeld might be great. But we just don’t know. 

Even he admits that. 

“The crazy thing about quarterback, especially, is you never really know about a guy until they’re thrown in there,” Sudfeld said. “The only way to get experience is to get experience.”

The Redskins drafted Sudfeld in the sixth-round out of Indiana back in 2016, but he left after one year to join Doug Pederson and the Eagles. At every turn, the Eagles have shown faith in him. They brought him in from Washington, they promoted him to the active roster that season to avoid losing him, they left him as the backup to Nick Foles in 2017 and 2018 after Wentz went down. And now they’ve brought him back as a free agent. 

And there’s a lot to like about Sudfeld. He’s 6-6 with a big arm and the ability to move in and out of the pocket. He’s shown his skills in practices and in the preseason. 

But in four NFL seasons, he’s thrown a total of 25 passes in the regular season. 

General manager Howie Roseman said that with the unique challenges of this offseason — we still don’t know if there will be spring practices — it was important to bring back a guy who knows the offense. Roseman said they really like him as a player too. 

With the NFL’s open negotiation period last week, Sudfeld got a chance to gauge interest from other teams and learn what they value in his game. It was a good experience, he said. But, ultimately, he felt like there was more left to do in Philly, at least for 2020. 

“Obviously, I want to be a starter someday,” Sudfeld said. “I want to play in this league. But I understand that it’s a process to get there and you have to get on the field.”

In a few months, he might be one injury away. 

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More on the Eagles

Brandon Graham is keeping busy with high school football tapes, 'Tiger King'

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NBCSP

Brandon Graham is keeping busy with high school football tapes, 'Tiger King'

During this time of social distancing, we’re checking in with those in the Philly sports world to see How They’re Keeping Busy. Up next, Super Bowl 52 hero Brandon Graham.

What have you been doing to keep busy during these strange times without live sports?

Brandon Graham: I have been playing a lot of board games, catching up on TV shows, and getting things done around the house with the family. 

Have you done any group FaceTiming with any of your Eagles teammates?

BG: No. I just talk to a couple people via text.

How are you getting your sports fill? Watching old games? YouTube?

BG: I've been watching old high school film that I got converted from VHS to USB. I have been watching alot of prank phone calls videos by the Steve Harvey morning show. They're a great distraction.

Any tips for everyone stuck at home who may be stressed?

BG: Try to look at the positives. We now have a bunch of free time to get stuff done, so spend your time staying prepared and being productive. 

Is there specific content you’d recommend to others? Anything you’re binge watching reading or listening to?

BG: I recommend everybody to go and watch Tiger King on Netflix and read a book called No More Excuses: The Five Accountabilities for Personal and Organizational Growth.

Is there a local business or charity you’re supporting during these tough times?

BG: I am donating $5,000 to Detroit PAL to help them with keeping some of the programs afloat. I'm also using social media to encourage others to donate.

Previously: