Eagles

Saints 48, Eagles 7: An embarrassing effort in the Superdome

Saints 48, Eagles 7: An embarrassing effort in the Superdome

BOX SCORE 

NEW ORLEANS — They were outgained by nearly 400 yards. They were outscored by 41 points. They were humiliated and embarrassed in a way that a defending Super Bowl champion never should be.

This looked like the last days of the Chip Kelly Era.

It was that bad.

In a game that makes you question just about everything about the franchise just nine months after Super Bowl LII, the Eagles lost 48-7 to the Saints Sunday at the Superdome.

Hang on, here we go.

1. How is it possible to be this unprepared week after week after week after week after week? The first quarter has been a horror show for the Eagles all year, but this was their worst. Outgained 190-15? I don’t know if the offense was worse or the defense was worse. I do know this is all on Doug Pederson and his staff. The Eagles were facing a crucial game against an elite team, and they came out with zero fire, zero intensity, zero urgency. How do you not have your team prepared? How do you not have your team ready? How do you come out every freaking week looking utterly lost on both sides of the ball? Embarrassing. Pitiful. Inexcusable. The Eagles have been blanked in eight of their 10 first quarters so far. They haven’t scored a first-quarter point since the Giants game, for crying out loud. Against a bad team, maybe you can dig out of a hole like that. Against the Saints? In their own building? Come on.

2. The Eagles are now 4-6 and have lost five of their last seven games, and it’s time to start thinking about peoples’ jobs. Doug isn’t going anywhere. He won the Super Bowl last year. He’s been terrible, but he gets at least next year and probably 2020. When you win a Super Bowl you earn some time to figure the thing out. Jim Schwartz? He’s not going anywhere, either. The Eagles went into Sunday sixth in the NFL in scoring defense, and considering all the injuries and considering the job he did last year, I just don’t see it. Now Mike Groh? I’m starting to wonder. The Eagles’ inability to score points has reached epic proportions, and Groh just seems overmatched. When you watch the Colts piling up points under Frank Reich you can’t help think that the offense lost its heart when the Eagles lost Reich. The Colts are averaging 36 points in their last five games. The Eagles have scored more than 24 once all year. Groh deserves the rest of the season, but this offense is legit terrible right now, and it shouldn’t be.

3. As for Carson Wentz, the first sign that it wasn’t his day was when he threw that ill-advised bomb into double coverage late in the first quarter. It was still just 10-0. Things weren’t going well, but it reeked of desperation or panic. You can’t just heave the ball up for grabs. Carson keeps showing this inclination of trying to do too much early on, trying to be Superman, instead of taking what’s there. Wentz has 25 career interceptions and 11 of them — nearly half — have been in the first quarter. He needs to find a way to stay within himself early on. You’re just giving away a possession against the sixth-highest-scoring offense in NFL history. And of course the Saints took the ball and drove down the field for a 17-0 lead. It keeps happening and it has to stop.

4. I feel like Wentz should be beyond a game like this three-interception monstrosity. Especially against the NFL’s 31st-ranked pass defense. For the first time in two years he was just terrible. He’s in his third year. His numbers have been really good, but the team is 4-6 and the offense looks lifeless. He sure isn’t the biggest problem on this team, but there are times an elite quarterback needs to raise his team up and Wentz hasn’t done that. And remember, Donovan McNabb got to the NFC Championship Game his third year.

5. Everybody is going to focus on the Eagles’ cornerbacks struggling Sunday, and that’s fair. But don’t let the defensive line off the hook. They’re supposed to be the heart and soul of the defense. They’re certainly the highest-paid unit on the team. The corners are a bunch of young inexperienced kids who’ve barely played any NFL football and let’s face it you probably haven’t heard of most of the guys who were out there by the end of the game. The pass rushers are Brandon Graham, Chris Long and Michael Bennett, and they are all big-name, high-paid veteran guys, and they never came close to Drew Brees. You’ve got Cre’Von LeBlanc, De’Vante Bausby and Chandon Sullivan in coverage against one of the hottest QBs in NFL history. By the end of the game, the Eagles didn’t even have a cornerback available who was on the roster three weeks ago. Without pressure, even the best corners in the league don’t stand a chance against Brees. These guys? Come on.

6. Two games in and Golden Tate has six catches for 58 yards. If anything, it seems like the offense has less rhythm than before he got here. Yeah, the Eagles will get compensation if they lose him, but this is not what they had in mind when they gave up a third-round pick for the veteran receiver. He hasn’t been a difference maker. It’s only two games, but you knew you were only getting him for eight games and a playoff run. So much for that.

7. It’s probably not a good sign when your punter has your best tackle of the game.

8. If you’re looking for a positive, let’s talk Josh Adams. Kid looks like a player. Had 7-for-43 rushing with a 28-yard TD before Doug abandoned the running game and even caught a few short passes for 19 yards. He’s now 34-for-197 this year, which is 5.8 yards a pop. That’s all I got.

9. This was the first time I’ve ever thought to myself, “I wonder if Doug should get Nick in there.” Honestly, I would have been fine with it. When things are this bad? Andy benched Donovan for Kevin Kolb at halftime of that Ravens game in 2008 — 10 years ago this week — then went right back to Donovan the next week, and the Eagles got to the NFC Championship Game. Maybe getting Carson out of there for a few drives and letting him catch his breath and see things from a different perspective would have helped.

10. Let’s close with this. There are five games left. The next two are at the Linc, where the Eagles have lost three straight. I don’t care who’s in uniform. I don’t care who the opponent is. I don’t care what’s at stake. I don’t care how many practice squad dudes are in the secondary. All I want to see is this football team play with some pride. Play like it means something to wear that Eagles uniform. Everybody on the roster should be embarrassed right now. Go do something about it.

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The 3 areas where Doug Pederson thinks he's grown most as a coach

The 3 areas where Doug Pederson thinks he's grown most as a coach

In less than five years, Doug Pederson has gone from a mostly unpopular coaching hire to being considered one of the top head coaches in the league. 

Earlier this week, NFL.com ranked Pederson as the fifth-best coach in the league. And after the last two years, that’s hard to argue. 

A big reason folks were so skeptical of the hire back in 2016 was because of Pederson’s relative inexperience. Ten years earlier, he was coaching high school ball, he had been an offensive coordinator for just three seasons and a play-caller for minimal time. But even as he enters Year 4, Pederson still isn’t a finished product. He’d be the first to admit he has more to learn. 

But before his team broke for summer, Pederson was asked about where he’s grown most as a head coach in his first three seasons on the job. 

He named three areas: 

Situational football 

“Situational football, you know, in the last three years has really been a top priority of mine. I think I've learned a lot from in-game decisions and different third-down decisions, fourth-down decisions, when to go for it on two-point conversions, things like that. And listen, I've got help in that area, but I think I've become better educated, I've studied that a little bit more, I've grown in that area, quite a bit.”

My take: If you’ve been paying attention to Pederson’s press conferences, especially during teaching times in minicamps and training camp, you’ll already know how important situational football is to him. We’re talking about third downs, fourth downs, red zone, backed up. Success in these situations is paramount to overall success and Pederson realizes it. This is where experience helps and there’s no expediting the process of acquiring it. Remember, Pederson didn’t have much time as a play-caller in K.C., so he’s been learning on the job and doing it well. 

We all know the Eagles use analytics, but some of it comes down to Pederson’s gut, too. He’s managed to find a real balance of the two over his first three years. What’s been most impressive is that in three years, Pederson managed to find his aggressive style fairly quickly. He knows the type of coach and play-caller he wants to be and backs it up with gutty calls all the time. In his first three seasons, the Eagles have gone for it on fourth down 76 times, the most in the league. The next closest team (Green Bay) has 65 attempts. The average of the other 31 teams during the three-year span is 46. 

Managing personalities

“I think just overall managing the football team with a lot of the different personalities that kind of come and go with your team and, you know, being able to handle the LeGarrette Blounts and Jay Ajayis and now DeSean Jackson back on your team and guys that are unique personality types and profiles, I mean, just being able to manage all that and listen to the team. I think I've had a pretty good handle on just listening to the guys and understanding where they are.”

My take: You’ve heard the cliche, but it’s true. The locker room really is a melting pot. This is where we get back to Jeff Lurie’s “emotional intelligence” comment during the coaching search of 2016. Pederson has emotional intelligence and his time as a player in the league has informed his knowledge about the variance of personalities in a locker room. He holds his players accountable, but he doesn’t treat them all the same; they’re not. Treating players the same is a high school/college mentality that doesn’t seem to fly when you’re coaching professional athletes who are making a ton of money and are at varying stages of their careers and lives. This is something Chip Kelly never seemed to understand. 

One of the most important things Pederson has done was when he set up his veteran council to report back to him with concerns of the whole team. Pederson immediately understood the more players are listened to, the more invested they’ll be, which can never be a bad thing. 

Building a staff

“And then I just think building a staff each year, because coaches are going to come and go, and being able to replace them with quality guys and teachers. And I think that's another area where I've gotten better in the last four years.”

My take: This is important for a team that’s having success because coaches will leave for promotions. I think it’s fair to question some of these decisions — promoting Mike Grow, hiring Gunter Brewer — but overall, the Eagles have so far been able to remain successful from a coaching standpoint. Promoting from within is something always stressed by Andy Reid and Pederson seems to feel the same way. Pederson got off to a good start in 2016 by bringing on Jim Schwartz and then having the humility to keep a bunch of good coaches from Kelly’s staff. Pederson thinks he’s grown in this area, but it’s hard for us to judge this just yet. We’ll learn more about this skill in the coming years. But Pederson’s willingness to listen to his coaches makes finding quality coaches to surround him even more important.  

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Will DeSean Jackson be a Hall of Famer?

Will DeSean Jackson be a Hall of Famer?

DeSean Jackson is the latest in a series of stories looking at the Hall of Fame chances of current or recent Eagles who are still active in the NFL.

Friday, July 19: Fletcher Cox
Saturday, July 20: Zach Ertz
Today: DeSean Jackson
Monday, July 22: Jason Kelce
Tuesday, July 23: LeSean McCoy
Wednesday, July 24: Jason Peters
Thursday, July 25: Darren Sproles

Numbers: 589 catches, 10,261 yards, 17.4 average, 53 receiving touchdowns, 4 rushing touchdowns, 4 punt return touchdowns.

Postseason numbers: Has 21 catches for 338 yards and two touchdowns in seven career playoff games, all but one with the Eagles between 2008 and 2013.

Honors: Three-time Pro Bowl pick (2009, 2010, 2013).

Favorite stat: With 1,156 yards and an 18.6 average in 2009 with the Eagles and then 774 yards and an 18.9 average last year with the Buccaneers, Jackson is the only player in NFL history with seasons of 750 yards and an 18.5 average at least nine years apart.

Records and rankings

• Jackson’s 17.4 yards per catch career average is highest in the NFL over the last 35 years.

• Jackson's 24 career touchdowns of 60 yards or more are most in NFL history (Jerry Rice had 23). He has 24 TD catches of at least 50 yards, fifth most in NFL history.

• He’s the only player in history to lead the NFL in yards per catch four times and the only one to do it for more than one team (he did it for three).

• Jackson is 45th in NFL history in receiving yards, but he’s one of only six guys ever with at least 10,000 receiving yards and a 17.0 average. Three of the five others are Hall of Famers.

• Jackson has had four seasons with 1,000 yards and a 17.5 average. Only Lance Alworth and Don Maynard — both Hall of Famers — have had more.

• Jackson has 29 total career TDs of at least 50 yards, which is one every five games over his entire career.

• D-Jack’s 6.4 career rushing average is seventh highest in NFL history by non-quarterbacks with at least 70 attempts.

Analysis

With 1,739 more yards and assuming he keeps his career average over 17.0 — and it will be hard for him not to at this point — D-Jack will join James Lofton as only the second player in history with 12,000 receiving yards and an average over 17 yards per catch.

He truly is one of the greatest deep threats in the history of the game, and his return to the Eagles and an opportunity to finish his career playing with Carson Wentz should give Jackson a chance to continue being productive late in his career.

When you ask yourself whether someone is a Hall of Famer, you ask if there’s anything he did better than anyone else in the game, and there’s never been anybody quite like Jackson.

I do think he needs two more seasons to even get himself into the mix, and I think even then he’ll always be a long shot, just because he’s not going to be one of those 15,000-yard career guys.

But he’s such a unique player and such a consistently explosive one, he definitely will deserve consideration five years after he does retire.

Verdict: Will not be a Hall of Famer. 

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