Eagles

What Nick Foles learned from Monday night nightmare

What Nick Foles learned from Monday night nightmare

Nick Foles has been taking first-team reps in the Eagles' walkthroughs this week so it appears he's going to at least start in Sunday's meaningless regular-season finale. 

That's good. 

Because he and the rest of the offense have plenty to work on. 

The offense had a lackluster showing against the Raiders on Christmas night and the Eagles needed five takeaways on defense to pull out a close win. When asked what he learned from rewatching the tape, Foles mentioned staying "inside the chains" and keeping themselves out of 2nd- and 3rd-and-long situations. 

The Eagles went into last weekend as the NFL's top third-down offense but went just 1 for 14 on third downs against the Raiders. 

What can Foles do to improve in those situations?

"If stuff's not open downfield, get it to the back right away," Foles said. "If we get three yards, we get three yards. And then it's 2nd-and-7. That's better than 2nd-and-10. It's little things like that, where it's all correctable that I see on film, taking the completions. Obviously, be aggressive downfield, but if it's not there, get to the checkdown right away." 

The thought of Foles opting to check down more than he already does might make some Eagles fans nauseous, but Foles doesn't have Carson Wentz's escapability and his penchant for turning nothing into something. 

And Foles and the Eagles have a point about the bad situations they put themselves in on Monday. They had a total of 16 third-down situations (two were converted by penalty) and faced an average of 7.4 yards to go. Four of 16 were from 10 yards or more! That's not a recipe for success. 

"So whether it's me being smart with the football, keeping the ball in play, giving our guys the opportunity to make plays," Foles said, "that will help us a lot." 

Another thing Foles learned from Monday's game is that he needs to find a way to get Alshon Jeffery more involved. Monday was, statistically speaking, the worst game of Jeffery's six-year career. He had zero catches and was targeted just twice. It was his second-career two-target game and second-career zero-catch game. The others came in his rookie season in 2012. 

Chemistry between quarterback and receiver is especially important for a player like Jeffery, who is known for timing routes and 50-50 balls. Jeffery said he isn't worried about their chemistry (see story), but it takes a certain level of trust for a quarterback to throw the ball to a receiver who is covered. It's hard to build that trust in two games and a few practices.

And it's one thing for Foles to realize during the week that he should give Jeffery a chance at those 50-50 balls. It's another during a game, when bodies are flying and he's going through his progressions, to see Jeffery with a man on him and still pull the trigger. 

"It's hard to cover Alshon and even when he's covered, he's not covered," Foles said. "That's definitely something I took from the last game and I'll move forward with."

Roob's 10 observations: Wendell Smallwood's chances, Tom Brady-Nick Foles handshake, Bryce Brown's elite company

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Roob's 10 observations: Wendell Smallwood's chances, Tom Brady-Nick Foles handshake, Bryce Brown's elite company

Wendell Smallwood working his way back into the running back picture, the bizarre NFL career of Bryce Brown, Michael Bennett and Shakespeare, the handshake that never was and Brian Westbrook’s 2006 postseason.

Only one place you’re getting all this!

It’s all this week’s Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Observations, and it starts here:

1. It’s been interesting watching Wendell Smallwood this preseason. He’s a guy who when training camp began I didn’t give much of a chance to, only because he’s never been able to stay healthy and the Eagles went into camp with a deep, talented stable of backs. But while Matt Jones, Josh Adams and Donnel Pumphrey have been banged up and on and off the field, Smallwood has not only stayed healthy, he’s made the most of his reps. He looks terrific. I’ve always felt Smallwood is a talented kid. I wrote about him last week and how he spent the offseason learning how to take better care of himself, and so far it’s paying off. Much of making an NFL roster is simply handling the workload during camp and proving to your coaches that they can rely on you. And Smallwood hasn’t missed a rep. This preseason. Not one. So far he’s outlasted the other guys in that battle for the fourth running back spot behind Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement and Darren Sproles. Has he done enough? With a couple weeks before final cuts, it’s too early to say. But he’s definitely worked himself from the brink back into the mix.

2. I’ve been disappointed by Mack Hollins’ training camp. He’s one guy I expected to make a big leap in Year 2, and while he still might, he hasn’t flashed yet. Shelton Gibson and Bryce Treggs have both outplayed Hollins in practice. Hollins has that great size and is a valued special teamer and as a second-year fourth-round pick he’s probably got the team made. But I expected to see more. Treggs is another guy who was off the radar when camp began but has that great speed and keeps showing up at practice. And Gibson simply looks like a different guy from last year. The depth the Eagles have at wideout is insane. Guys like Rashard Davis, Greg Ward Jr. and DeAndre Carter probably have no shot to make the team, but once upon a time, they would have been starters around here.

3. Michael Bennett is an interesting dude. Someone in the locker room used the phrase, “All’s well that ends well,” and he said, “Where’s that phrase from?” I said it’s the name of a Shakespeare play, and he said, “A lot of people think Shakespeare wasn’t a real person.” I said, “Yeah, there’s a theory that he was three different people.” His response: “I’m three different people.” 

4. I know a lot of people think the whole “Tom Brady hasn’t shaken Nick Foles’ hand” thing is overblown, but it really bothers me. There are certain customs in sports that are there for a reason. Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback ever, and he should have sought out Nick either on the field immediately after the game or somewhere after the game — the lockers weren’t too far apart. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but sportsmanship means a lot to me. I know one thing: If the Patriots won that game, Nick Foles would have found Tom Brady, told him “Great job,” and shook his hand. 

5. Brian Westbrook’s 2006 postseason was insane. He rushed 20 times for 141 yards against the Giants and 13 times for 116 yards against the Saints. His average of 7.8 yards per carry is second-highest in NFL history in a single postseason (minimum 30 carries) behind Hall of Famer Marcus Allen’s 8.03 in 1983. He’s the only back in NFL history with back-to-back playoff games with 100 rushing yards, a 7.0 average and a touchdown. His 257 rushing yards are third-most in NFL history by a back in a two-game postseason (behind Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson in 1985 and Arian Foster in 2011). 

6. I love listening to Doug Pederson talk about why he’s so aggressive as a play caller. Because generally, he admits he really has no idea. I think it almost evolved by accident. He started going for it on fourth down in 2016 with nothing at stake and it started working, and he just felt comfortable doing it, and he just got in that habit, and the team got used to it and enjoyed it, and by the time the Super Bowl came along it had developed into his personality and the team was completely in step with him, and the success of the Philly Special was the product of that. You can’t run that play if you’re the least bit tight or indecisive, but the team had gotten so used to Pederson doing anything at any time in any situation it was just another play. The man is a genius.

7. Chip Kelly and Pederson have the same number of regular-season wins after two years. 

8. You figured that had to be wrong so you looked it up, didn’t you!

9. I’ve never seen an assistant coach grow as much as Frank Reich did in his two years with the Eagles. When he first started out as Doug’s offensive coordinator, he seemed to be painfully shy around the media, gave one-word or brief answers during press conferences and appeared generally uninterested in providing anything remotely revealing about football or the players he coached. By the time he left, he was one of the most interesting, insightful and quotable assistant coaches I’ve ever been around, and his commentary after the Super Bowl about Nick Foles’ performance was brilliant. I’m convinced this transformation had a lot to do with him getting the Colts head coaching job. Teams don’t want a head coach who can’t handle the media, and Frank in a very short time went from a guy who wasn’t comfortable in those situations to one who embraced them.

10. Bryce Brown had one of the strangest career arcs in Eagles history. He averaged 15 yards in his first 10 NFL games and 19 yards in his last 30 NFL games. In between, with LeSean McCoy injured, he ran for 178 yards on just 19 carries against the Panthers and 169 yards on 24 carries against the Cowboys, with two TDs in each game. Only three players in NFL history have had consecutive games with 165 rushing yards, a 7.0 average and 2 TDs — LaDainian Tomlinson, Barry Sanders and … Bryce Brown. Other than those two historic games in a seven-day span, he averaged 3.5 yards per carry and 18 yards per game. But for a brief bit of an otherwise forgettable 2012 season, he made NFL history. 

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Eagle Eye podcast: Previewing second preseason game

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Eagle Eye podcast: Previewing second preseason game

On this edition of Eagle Eye, Derrick Gunn and Barrett Brooks discuss the likelihood of Carson Wentz not being healthy for the regular-season opener. Is this the best team Doug Pederson has had in Philadelphia? Also, how do players approach the second preseason game?

1:00 - Updating Carson Wentz's status.
4:00 - Guys still confident Wentz will start against the Falcons?
7:00 - Doug Pederson says this is the deepest team he's had.
10:30 - Doug Pederson and Nick Foles speak about preseason snaps.
15:00 - How do players approach the second preseason game?

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