Nick Foles’ strange career, Jim Schwartz’s remarkable defense, Jason Peters' age, some all-time Eagles opening-day records, a prediction for the 2018 season and much more.
It's an opening-day 2018 edition of Roob's 10 Random Eagles Observations!
1. Here’s why I think Nick Foles drives everybody crazy: Almost all of his career games have been either really, really incredible or really, really bad. There is very little middle ground with Foles, and the numbers support that. Foles has played in 47 games in his career in which he’s thrown 10 or more passes. He’s had a passer rating under 70 in 12 of them and over 85 in 29 of them. That means he’s only had a rating from 70 to 85 — which is a huge, huge range — six times in 47 games! So he’s frequently extremely good and occasionally crappy but only rarely mediocre.
2. The Eagles have allowed fewer points at home than any team in the NFL in two years under Jim Schwartz. And it’s not close. The Eagles’ defense has given up 220 points in 18 games at the Linc since opening day 2016. That’s 12.2 per game, and that’s insane. The Vikings (14.5) and Ravens (15.2) are next-best, so the Eagles are allowing nearly 2 1/2 points fewer points per game at home than anybody else. That includes playoff opponents, too. Schwartz is a genius.
3. Five predictions for 2018: 1) Nelson Agholor goes over 1,000 yards, 2) Corey Clement catches over 50 passes, 3) Derek Barnett gets 12 1/2 sacks, 4) Eagles record 50 sacks as a team for the first time since 2002, 5) Dallas Goedert catches at least 40 passes.
4. The most catches in NFL history by a rookie tight end is Keith Jackson’s 81 for the Eagles back in 1988. What an incredible achievement. To this day, only eight players in NFL history have had more catches as a rookie. Only two rookie tight ends have ever come within 25 catches of Jackson’s record, both with the Giants — Jeremy Shockey (74 in 2002) and Evan Engram (64 last year).
5. Here are some Eagles opening-day records:
Passing yards: 371, Ron Jaworski, vs. Redskins, 1982
Rushing yards: 201, Duce Staley, at Cowboys, 2000
Receiving yards:179, Tommy McDonald, vs. Steelers, 1963
Yards from scrimmage: 262, Duce Staley, at Cowboys, 2000
Sacks: 3.0, Reggie White, at Packers, 1991
Longest TD pass: 90 yards, Donovan McNabb to Hank Baskett, vs. Rams, 2008
Longest TD run: 81 yards, Swede Hanson, at Packers, 1934
Longest interception return: 34 yards, Joe Scarpati, vs. Browns, 1969
Longest fumble return: 70 yards, Reggie White, at Redskins, 1987
Longest punt return: 85 yards, DeSean Jackson, at Panthers, 2009
Longest kickoff return: 105 yards, Timmy Brown, vs. Browns, 1961
6. One interesting thing about this offseason is that the Eagles had no contract issues, no labor unrest. So many championship teams are torn apart because players invariably tend to feel like they contributed more than they were paid for during the Super Bowl run and deserve more money. This leads to holdouts, contract demands and all the distractions that come with all that. But not only were the Eagles an unselfish, team-first group during the season, they were the same during the offseason. And none of the guys whose contracts are up after this season — in particular, Brandon Graham, Ronald Darby, Jay Ajayi and Jordan Hicks — was a problem, when they easily could have been. What was the over-riding story the summer of 2005 after the Eagles’ last Super Bowl appearance? T.O. and his contract. Nothing like that this offseason, and that speaks volumes about the culture Doug Pederson has built.
7. This is a little ominous: The Eagles are 10-4 in openers since 2004, the second-best opening-day record in the NFL over the last 14 years. But they're 0-2 in openers against the Falcons during that span and 10-2 against everybody else.
8. Two thoughts about Jason Peters.
Thought No. 1: He’s 36 years and 227 days old, and when he starts against the Falcons Thursday night he’ll be the Eagles’ oldest starter since Jeff Garcia in 2006; their oldest opening-day starter since Irving Fryar in 1998; and their oldest starting offensive lineman since 37-year-old right guard Woody Peoples in 1980.
Thought No. 2: I never worry about Jason Peters.
9. My first Eagles opener was in 1988. The Eagles hadn’t had a winning season since 1981, but there was a lot of optimism around that 1988 team because the Eagles had gone 7-5 in non-strike games the previous season, Randall Cunningham had shown signs of greatness in 1987, and the draft had brought studs on both sides of the ball — Jackson in the first round and cornerback Eric Allen in the second. The Eagles couldn’t have picked a better opening-day opponent than the Buccaneers, who were 16-63 over the previous six seasons and were starting a scattershot young QB named Vinny Testaverde. It was a 90-degree day at old Tampa Stadium. The Eagles hadn’t won an opener since 1983, but they jumped all over the hapless Bucs. On the Eagles’ fourth play of the game, Bucs linebacker Kevin Murphy chased Cunningham out of the pocket, and he rolled to his left and floated a 37-yard TD to Mike Quick. By the time the first quarter was over, Anthony Toney had run for a TD and Cunningham had thrown an 8-yard TD to Jackson for a 21-0 lead. The Eagles even scored on a 38-yard TD run by safety Terry Hoage on the only carry of his 13-year career. The final score was 41-14, and that game signaled the Eagles’ arrival as an elite NFC team. They won the NFC East at 10-6, starting a five-year stretch in which they won 10 or more games every year. That team really put the Eagles on the map, and looking back, that opener in Tampa really announced the arrival of Eaglemania. It's hard to imagine now, but the Eagles really weren’t a huge deal in Philly until Buddy Ryan arrived in 1986 and woke a dormant fan base with his boasting and bragging. Since opening day 1988 the Eagles have been one of the best teams in the NFL. Their .571 winning percentage over the last 30 years is fifth-best in the league and second-best in the NFC behind the Packers (.595). And it all really began on that steamy day at Tampa Stadium 30 years ago this week.
10. OK, prediction time. I know nobody repeats anymore. I know how hard it is to overcome the Super Bowl hangover. I know it’s been a short offseason, and it’s been filled with celebrations, banquets, ring ceremonies, TV appearances, book tours and every imaginable distraction a championship team can have. I know everybody is going to pick the Eagles to come back to Earth, maybe go 9-7 and miss the playoffs. I don’t care. I think there’s something special here, and I don’t think that just evaporates overnight. The Eagles showed no signs of complacency or laziness this summer. The Super Bowl was all but a taboo topic in the locker room. They enjoyed the moment and then moved on. NFC East? Yeah, they take it. Super Bowl? Yeah, they reach it. Another championship? Yeah, they win it. You can do what you want. I’m not betting against Doug Pederson.