Zach Brown's trash talk, looking ahead at corner, more in Roob's random Eagles points

Zach Brown's trash talk, looking ahead at corner, more in Roob's random Eagles points

A critical matchup on Sunday, another insane Nate Gerry stat, running backs of yore and lots more in this weekend’s edition of Roob’s 10 random Eagles points.

1. The matchup Sunday between Dalvin Cook and the Eagles’ top-ranked run defense is a huge one. If the Vikings can’t get Cook going, the Eagles win. If Cook gains big yards, I think it’ll one a long day for the Eagles. I do think the Eagles’ defensive line matches up well against the Vikings’ offensive line, but that Eagles’ No. 1 rushing ranking has come against Le’Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman, Kerryon Johnson, Derrius Guice and Aaron Jones, all of whom are averaging under 4.0 yards per carry. Bell is at 2.9, Freeman 3.2, Johnson 3.4, Guice 2.5 (currently hurt) and Jones is at 3.9. Cook is at 5.9 (and rookie teammate Alex Mattison isn’t far back at 5.6). Cook is way better than any back the Eagles have faced. If they can shut him down, this run defense is legit.

2. The fact that Miles Sanders has the Eagles’ three-longest receptions over the last three games speaks volumes about Sanders’ receiving ability. Unfortunately, it also speaks volumes about the recent play of the Eagles’ wide receivers.

3. When (if?) all the Eagles’ corners are totally healthy, who starts? It’s a fascinating question with no easy answer. Rasul Douglas has earned one of the two outside spots, but I have a hunch they’re going to go with Sidney Jones and Ronald Darby. The slot will be interesting, and you can make a case for Avonte Maddox, Cre’Von LeBlanc or Orlando Scandrick. We’ll see how the next couple weeks go, and I’m a big LeBlanc fan, but if Scandrick holds it down these next few weeks it’s going to be tough to take him out of there.

4. The strangest team record in the Eagles record book is the one for lowest career interception percentage. Does Nick Foles have it? Nope. Carson Wentz? Nope. Donovan McNabb, Jeff Garcia or Michael Vick? Nope. It actually belongs to Bubby Brister, who threw 6 INTs in 385 attempts as an Eagle, or one every 64 pass attempts. Wentz is second but would need to throw 304 consecutive passes without an interception to break Brister’s record. Walter Andrew “Bubby” Brister. Of all people.

5. Zach Ertz is kind of the forgotten guy since his numbers are predictably down from last year’s record-setting 116-catch season. But Ertz is quietly having another huge year. He’s on pace for 93 catches for 998 yards, and he’s had at least 50 yards in all five games. Nobody else on the roster has had 50 yards more than twice. Ertz has really been the Eagles’ only consistent receiving threat, and he’s only 34 catches from becoming only the 19th tight end in NFL history with 500 career receptions. Only Jason Witten has done it in his first seven seasons. Can’t take this dude for granted.

6. Did you see Zach Brown called former Redskins teammate Kirk Cousins “the weakest part” of the Vikings’ offense? Cousins has actually been pretty good against the Eagles — 5-3 record, 66 completion percentage, four 300-yard games, 17 TDs, 5 INTs and a 101.2 passer rating that’s sixth-highest ever vs. the Eagles. He’s faced the Eagles eight times and has thrown for at least 230 yards in each game. No other QB in history has done that eight straight games against the Eagles. And he’s thrown at least one TD with one or fewer INTs in all eight games. I don’t think anybody on this defense is in any position to talk trash right now. Brown better make some plays against Cousins Sunday because Cousins has made plenty against the Eagles.

7. Nate Gerry stats are my new favorite stats. We told you earlier in the week that Gerry’s 51-yard INT return against the Jets Sunday was the longest ever by an Eagles linebacker in Philadelphia — at any stadium. Now, how about this: Gerry is the first player the Eagles have drafted in the fifth round with three career interceptions since cornerback Eric Everett in 1988 and 1989. The only other one since 1960 is a linebacker named Dick Absher, who the Eagles drafted in the fifth round in 1967 and had three INTs for the Saints and Eagles from 1969 through 1972. Hard to believe, Harry! 

8. The Eagles’ four leading rushers last year were Josh Adams, Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement and Jay Ajayi. Looks like none of them will have a carry as an Eagle this year. 

9. And isn’t it crazy that Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy are the only Eagles running backs in the last 20 years with consecutive 700-rushing yard seasons?

10. It’s going to be tough to sit in U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday afternoon and not think about what happened on Feb. 4, 2018. My most vivid memory of Super Bowl Sunday isn’t the Philly Special or Brandon Graham’s strip sack of Tom Brady or Zach Ertz’s game-winning touchdown catch. It’s standing on the field two hours after the game with D-Gunn, and just standing there atop an ocean of confetti and looking up at the scoreboard and just seeing a massive Eagles logo. And that’s when it really hit me what had just happened. I’ll never forget that moment.

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Eagles need to find out exactly what they have in JJ Arcega-Whiteside

Eagles need to find out exactly what they have in JJ Arcega-Whiteside

For most teams, it wouldn’t have been a huge deal. Guy makes a catch. Big whoop.

For this team? It was monumental.

For any wide receiver on the post-DeSean Jackson 2019 Eagles to record a 29-yard reception, that’s a rarity.

For a rookie who we’re all waiting to see something positive from, it was virtually historic.

Rookie second-round pick JJ Arcega-Whiteside, who had just two catches for 14 yards to show for his first nine NFL games, had a big 29-yarder in the fourth quarter of the Eagles-Patriots game Sunday at the Linc.

To put that into context, it was the fourth-longest reception by an Eagles wide receiver in the post-Jackson Era (since Week 2).

“The game, everything kind of slowed down, definitely, knowing the plays and getting a little more experience here and there,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “But every day you’ve got to learn from your mistakes. I definitely did some good things, but I’m sure there’s some mistakes in there, too.”

Arcega-Whiteside has been one of the biggest mysteries on the team this year.

Why was a rookie who had such a promising preseason unable to get on the field while the rest of the Eagles’ wide receivers sputtered and struggled?

He played 128 snaps against the Falcons and Lions, when Alshon Jeffery was hurt, then got just 43 snaps — with no catches — over the next six weeks.

With Jeffery sidelined again, Arcega-Whiteside got 19 snaps Sunday, his most since Week 3.

He had a nine-yard catch in the first quarter that was wiped out by a penalty, then early in the fourth quarter made a nice grab for 29 yards on a 1st-and-10 from the Eagles’ 6-yard-line, getting the Eagles out of the soup.

Believe it or not, that was the 4th-longest catch this year against the Patriots, the longest by a rookie.

That was Arcega-Whiteside's only catch in the Eagles' 17-10 loss, but it was definitely an encouraging step.

The Eagles are desperate for anything from their wide receivers. Any positive sign is huge.

Just with that one 29-yard catch, Arcega-Whiteside had more yards than Nelson Agholor in five of Agholor's last seven games and more catches than Mack Hollins has in his last six games.

Small steps.

“There were some times where I got open, there were some times I didn’t get open and I’ve got to look at it and learn from it and see how I can get better,” he said. “No matter how big or small the play is you’ve just got to build off each play and learn from the ones that don’t go your way, because the second you get complacent, bad things happen.”

Arcega-Whiteside’s catch was the longest by an Eagles rookie wide receiver since Hollins had a 64-yarder against the Redskins in 2017.

“Making plays feels good,” he said. “They feel better when you win, but every day just stack it, build off of this and keep it going. Just build off every success, learn from every failure and get better.”

You would think Arcega-Whitside has earned some more playing time. How do you not play this kid?

He’s got the size, he’s got the hands, he's got the ball control, and he’s getting more and more comfortable in the offense.

The Eagles need to find out exactly what they have in Arcega-Whiteside. Because there's a decent chance it's more than we're seeing from anybody else.

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Hey Eagles fans, the sky isn't falling

Hey Eagles fans, the sky isn't falling

The sky isn’t falling. 

I know, I know, that’s exactly what you want to hear less than 48 hours after a frustrating 17-10 loss to the New England Patriots. It’s the truth, though. 

Don’t get me wrong. The Eagles were up 10-0 at home on Sunday and they should have won that game. It was right there for them and they came up short. And because of common opponents between the Eagles and Cowboys, the Patriots game was actually more important than the one upcoming against the Seahawks.  

There were certainly things in that 17-10 loss that were concerning, mostly on the offensive side of the ball. 

But they were things we already knew coming into Sunday; the receivers stink, there are no big plays, injuries hurt. We also learned the Eagles’ defense might be legit. 

So, believe it or not, the Eagles still have a good shot at making it into the playoffs. 

Now, we have to remember that the outlook on the entire season has changed quite a bit. Coming into the year, we were talking about the Eagles’ being one of the top teams in the league. That ship sailed a long time ago. The new bar is just trying to make it into the playoffs and Sunday hurt, but it didn’t really hurt that much. 

According to FiveThirtyEight, after beating the Lions on Sunday, the Cowboys have a 58 percent chance to win the division and the Eagles have a 42 percent chance. 

This coming week, the Eagles are home against the Seahawks (8-2), while the Cowboys have to go on the road to face the Patriots (9-1). 

Using FiveThirtyEight’s playoff predictor, here’s how next Sunday’s outcomes will affect each team’s chances to win the division, which is still their clearest way to a playoff spot: 

Eagles and Cowboys lose
Cowboys: 64 percent 
Eagles: 36 percent

Eagles and Cowboys win 
Cowboys: 66 percent
Eagles: 34 percent

Eagles win, Cowboys lose
Eagles: 58 percent
Cowboys: 42 percent

Eagles lose, Cowboys win
Cowboys: 83 percent
Eagles: 17 percent 

But here’s the part where I remind you that after next weekend, the Eagles’ remaining schedule is easier than the Cowboys’ remaining schedule. From Week 13 on, Eagles’ opponents have a winning percentage of .351, while Cowboys’ opponents have a winning percentage of .460. The Cowboys aren’t playing world-beaters, but I like the Eagles’ chances of beating the Giants, Redskins and Dolphins more than the Cowboys’ chances of beating the Bills, Bears and Rams. 

Even if the Eagles lose to the Seahawks, they’d be 5-6 and still likely just one game behind the Cowboys, assuming they lose on the road to the Patriots and are 6-5. If that happens, the Eagles will have made life tough on themselves, but winning out is clearly a possibility. The big game will still be that Week 16 matchup at the Linc against the Cowboys. That might still decide the NFC East. 

A quick reminder of division tiebreakers if it gets to that point: 

1. Head to head 
2. Division record 
3. Common opponents
4. Conference record 

If the Eagles beat the Cowboys in Week 16, they’d be 1-1 against each other. From there, it seems like both teams could be 5-1 in the division. That means it would come down to common opponents, which is where the Eagles took a hit in Week 11. But they still have the Packers and Jets on the Cowboys, who now have the Lions on the Eagles. 

The Eagles’ offense has to find a way to be better and we know that. But we’re now in Week 12, so it’s unlikely they just flip a switch. They’re not going to be explosive, but if Carson Wentz can be more consistent, if they get a little more production from their weapons and if the Eagles’ defense keeps it up, they should be able to keep themselves in the mix. 

Remember, this isn’t what any of us thought we’d be talking about in Week 12. This is the time of year when many thought we’d be talking about the Eagles’ push to lock up the division and potentially earn a top seed in the NFC. 

On a macro level, this team and the way it was put together is a problem. The Eagles were supposed to build a dynasty and they built a slightly above average team that has to try to claw its way into the playoffs. But on a micro level, the Eagles still have a pretty decent chance to do just that … claw into the playoffs. 

So the ceiling might be low, but the sky isn’t falling. 

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