Eagles

10 day-after takeaways from Eagles' first preseason game

10 day-after takeaways from Eagles' first preseason game

For those who think I don't have a hard job, I watched the Eagles' preseason game live last night, then I watched it again this morning.

That's twice in like 12 hours!

When I watched it again Friday morning, some of the game confirmed what I already came away with from Thursday night, but I learned plenty more, too.

Here are 10 next-day takeaways from Preseason Game No.1:

1. I was in the locker room when Doug Pederson held his postgame press conference, but I couldn't believe what he said about Carson Wentz's flip play. You know, the one where Wentz ran downfield and was upended by a Bucs defender.

Wentz said he'll learn from the play. Hopefully he doesn't take his head coach's advice.

"Kind of loved it," Pederson said. "Wish he would have hurdled the guy instead of taking one in the legs. You know the guy is going low on a big quarterback like that. They're usually not going to stay up. I wish he would have hurdled. The fact he'd done a lot of that in college, that was a no-brainer for me."

I have ever heard an NFL head coach say he wants his star quarterback to hurdle defenders. That's not a good idea. Never a good idea. As bad as the play could have been, it could have been worse if Wentz was already in the air when it happened. I still can't believe Pederson said it.

2. While we're talking about things I can't believe Pederson said, there's this: he answered 12 questions about Lane Johnson. Twelve!

As a reporter, I'm all for honesty from coaches. It's refreshing and in many cases, there's not the downside some coaches think there is.

But on Thursday night, I was shocked to not only see how many questions Pederson fielded about Johnson, but also how he answered them. Pederson repeatedly used the word "upheld" when talking about the reported looming suspension. Just one problem, Johnson hasn't been suspended yet!

Aside from his press conference, I thought Pederson had a pretty good night. He didn't flub any time management or play calls to the surprise of many.

3. Chase Daniel had a horrible game (see story), but it wasn't all his fault. The offensive line in front of him and the receivers on the field with him were equally as bad. I'll focus on the two guards for a second. I was shocked to re-watch the game and see how poorly Stefen Wisniewksi played. Sure, he was going against Gerald McCoy for a good portion of the game, but still, he just looked terrible. So did Isaac Seumalo. Many thought the rookie third-rounder would challenge for a starting gig this year. Not happening yet. He looked lost at times.

4. Forget the numbers, I thought Wentz looked really good. Aside from the interception, which, upon review, was less of a terrible decision and more of a terrible throw, he played really well. He took command, fired the ball and showed his athleticism.

No, the accuracy wasn't always there. Plenty of throws weren't perfect, but his receivers did him no favors. I counted at least three blatant drops.

I want to highlight two plays: Earlier on the drive that ended with that interception, Wentz threw a ball to Chris Pantale across the middle, but the ball was a little behind him. Pantale caught it, but the pass slowed him down. After the play, Wentz nodded his head; he learned something. On the very next play, he rifled a ball to tight end M.J. McFarland across the middle. It was probably his best throw of the night because he hit McFarland in stride, through a tight window. It's going to be fun watching him figure this out.

5. Rueben Randle looked completely uninterested in playing football on Thursday night. I didn't notice it completely until re-watching, but he dropped balls, didn't run crisp routes, didn't look like he cared. I've seen this from Randle throughout training camp at times. And at other times, he looks pretty good. He's clearly talented, the type of talent this receiving corps desperately needs, but there's a reason the Giants didn't re-sign him. There's a reason the Eagles were able to get him on a cheap one-year prove-it deal. So far, all he's proved is what the Eagles probably feared.

6. Speaking of the receivers … yuck. Daniel wasn't good, but no one was open. When they were, they dropped balls. Nelson Agholor, Josh Huff, Chris Givens, Randle, T.J. Graham all showed nothing on Thursday night. This team is lost at receiver without Jordan Matthews.

A little nod in the direction of Paul Turner, though. He's not big or fast, but he finds some open field and catches the football. Maybe there's no room for him on the 53-man roster, but if I ran the Eagles, I'd think about finding a spot for him.

7. The most encouraging thing for Eagles fans on Thursday night should have been the defensive line play. That unit got a lot of work, even after the rest of the first team came out of the game. On the Fletcher Cox strip-sack, if he didn't get the ball out, Bennie Logan would have had a big sack. This unit is the key to the Eagles' defense. So far, so good.

8. In the secondary, the corners had a bad day, while the safeties had a good one. And we're not just talking about the starters, we're talking about the depth guys, too. Leodis McKelvin, Eric Rowe and Jalen Mills all struggled. Jaylen Watkins, Ed Reynolds and Chris Maragos all played well. Watkins has tremendous cover skills for a safety, but his tackling is the question. He did have one nice tackle on Thursday. When it comes time to form the 53-man roster, there might be a tough cut at safety.

9. If you're looking for two reserves who can play, look at DE Steven Means and LB Joe Walker. Walker immediately made an impact last night, avoiding a guard block for a big tackle for loss. It's still fair to be concerned about the depth at linebacker, but Walker might have a future. Because of the depth, his spot is pretty much cemented.

Then there's Means. He's been better than Marcus Smith during training camp and now Smith has a concussion, while Means had a strip sack and generated constant pressure on Thursday. If the decision is based on merit, Means will make this team over Smith.

10. The NFL's idea to put the ball on the 25-yard line on kickoff touchbacks is going to backfire. We already saw it on Thursday night. The league wanted to limit kick returns, but there are probably going to be more. During training camp, the Eagles worked on angling kicks and they were able to execute on Thursday night. During the last couple of weeks, I've been chatting with several special teams players about the new rule, which is on a one-year trial, and many were unsure what was going to happen.

So far, it looks like more returns. It'll make the game more exciting, but it won't have the intended result.

NFL playoffs: Rams, Patriots advance to Super Bowl after OT thrillers

NFL playoffs: Rams, Patriots advance to Super Bowl after OT thrillers

It's never been so clear: This year's Super Bowl matchup between the Patriots and Rams is a showdown between the NFL's past and its future.

Led by 24-year-old quarterback Jared Goff, the Rams and their 21st-century offense will take on 41-year-old Tom Brady and the Patriots, who are in search of a record-tying sixth Super Bowl title.

At 32, Sean McVay of the Rams (15-3) will be the youngest Super Bowl coach. He'll be going against 66-year-old Bill Belichick, who is taking the Patriots (13-5) to their third straight title game, fourth in the last five years and ninth since 2002.

That streak started against who else? The Rams.

Back then, though, they were in St. Louis. New England came in as a two-touchdown underdog and won 20-17.

The Rams open as a 1-point pick in this one, set for Feb. 3 in Atlanta.

Blown call, Zuerlein's 57-yard FG send Rams to Super Bowl

NEW ORLEANS — A big comeback. A blown call. And, finally, a booming kick that sent the Los Angeles Rams to the Super Bowl.

After rallying from an early 13-0 deficit, the Rams stunned the New Orleans Saints with Greg Zuerlein's 57-yard field goal in overtime for a 26-23 victory in the NFC championship game Sunday — an outcome that might not have been possible without an egregious mistake by the officials in the closing minutes of regulation.

Los Angeles cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman committed a blatant interference penalty with a helmet-to-helmet hit on Tommylee Lewis well before the pass arrived inside the 5, forcing the Saints to settle for Wil Lutz's 31-yard field goal that made it 23-20 with 1:41 left in regulation.

"Came to the sideline, looked at the football gods and was like, `Thank you,'" Robey-Coleman said. "I got away with one tonight."

After the no-call, Jared Goff had enough time to lead the Rams down the field for Zuerlein's tying field goal, a 48-yarder with 15 seconds remaining (see full story).

Patriots make 3rd straight Super Bowl, top Chiefs in thriller

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The New England Patriots are headed to their third straight Super Bowl, once more thanks to Tom Brady's brilliance.

The five-time NFL champion guided the Patriots 75 yards after winning the overtime coin toss, and backup Rex Burkhead's 2-yard TD lifted New England past Kansas City 37-31 for the AFC championship Sunday night.

The drive against an exhausted defense was reminiscent of when the Patriots beat Atlanta in the only Super Bowl to go to OT two years ago.

New England (13-5) benefited from two critical replay reviews and made its ninth Super Bowl with Brady at quarterback and Bill Belichick as coach (see full story).

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Roob's 10 observations: The bottom line about Carson Wentz, running back situation, more

Roob's 10 observations: The bottom line about Carson Wentz, running back situation, more

The Eagles' season is over, but it's not the end of Roob's 10 random Eagles observations.

The plan at running back, Jason Peters' future, some surprising Tom Brady stats — it's all here!

1. How bad was Wentz this year? 
I keep hearing how bad Carson Wentz was this season, and while I agree he was inconsistent at times and generally too slow to get started, the bottom line is that even hampered by a knee that wasn’t 100 percent and a broken bone in his back, he still had a higher passer rating than Jared Goff, Andrew Luck, Brady, Dak Prescott and Aaron Rodgers. He played 11 games and was very good in nine of them, mediocre in one of them (Indianapolis) and terrible in one of them (New Orleans). Look for yourself at his season game by game. You’ll be surprised. There’s no doubt in my mind that with a full, healthy offseason, he’ll be a top-five QB in the NFL next year.

2. The plan at running back 
We’ve talked a lot the last week about the Eagles’ running back situation, and I wrote about it a few days ago. I feel strongly that the Eagles need to attack running back with one of their second-round picks, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t welcome a free agent as well. Honestly, I think the Eagles could use one of each. As far as I’m concerned, everybody currently on the roster with the exception of Corey Clement starts out fighting for a roster spot. They need to completely make over the position. Not one defensive coordinator in the NFL sat in a meeting this year and said, “Hey, we have to account for the Eagles’ running backs.” They need weapons.

3. Figuring out which free agents to keep 
It’s interesting when you look at the list of the Eagles’ 17 free agents that there’s not one they have to bring back. There are a few you’d like back, a few who may be back simply because they’re hurt and have nowhere else to go and a few who you wouldn’t mind back if the price is right. But there’s not one who the Eagles are desperate to keep. Even Brandon Graham, as much as most of us love him, is a 31-year-old defensive end who had 4½ sacks last year. What this does is give the Eagles a ton of leverage. They don’t have to overpay to keep anybody. They can set a price, and if that guy wants more, they can move on. It’s a real position of strength.

4. The curious case of Jordan Hicks
Hicks is one of the more intriguing of those 17 free agents. He’s only 27, and we’ve all seen what kind of player he can be when he’s healthy. He actually had his best game of the year against the Saints last Sunday. But he can’t stay on the field. If he had stayed healthy this year, he would have been a pretty sought-after linebacker in free agency. But nobody is giving him much of a bonus considering he’s now missed significant time in three of his four NFL seasons — 21 of a possible 64 games in his career. I sure wouldn’t get into a bidding war for a guy that misses a third of his team’s games. But if nobody else wants him and you can bring him back at minimum wage or close to it? I’d do it in a second because the ability is there.

5. With the 25th pick in the draft, the Eagles take ... 
I’ll be shocked if the Eagles don’t go defensive line in the first round.

6. One for the fire Jim Schwartz crowd
Take a look at the Eagles’ five playoff opponents the last two years and how many points they averaged during the regular season and how many they scored against the Eagles:

2017 Falcons — Averaged 22.1, scored 10
2017 Vikings — Averaged 23.9, scored 7
2017 Patriots — Averaged 28.6, scored 33
2018 Bears — Averaged 26.3, scored 15
2018 Saints — Averaged 31.5, scored 20

Four of the five scored at least 10 points fewer than their season average, and they averaged 9½ points fewer per game against Schwartz’s defense than during the regular season. The one team that increased was led by the greatest QB ever.

Jim Johnson is the greatest defensive coordinator in Eagles history, and his units allowed 16.7 points per game in the playoffs, which from 2000 through 2008 was 4.4 points per game below the NFL average of 21.1.

Schwartz’s defenses have allowed 17.0 points per game in the playoffs in an era in which the scoring average is 22.5, so that’s 5.5 points per game below the average.

7. Some surprising Brady stats 
Check out Brady’s history in road playoff games:

• He’s thrown just eight TDs with eight INTs and completed 57 percent of his passes in seven career road games.

• He’s lost his last three road playoff games and hasn’t won on the road in the postseason since 2006, when the Patriots beat the Chargers, 24-21, in San Diego.

• He’s lost his last three road AFC Championship Games and hasn’t won a conference title game on the road since 2004 in Pittsburgh.

• Mark Sanchez has more career road playoff wins than Brady. David Garrard has a higher road postseason passer rating. Donovan McNabb has more road playoff touchdowns.

• Brady’s career postseason passer rating is 93.1 in Foxboro, where he’s 20-3. At neutral sites, it’s 98.0 and he’s 5-3. On the road, it’s 75.9 and he’s 3-4.

8. Pondering Peters' future 
The more I think about it, the more convinced I am Peters will be back at left tackle next year. Peters, who turns 37 next week, did leave some games early this year, but he also played 973 snaps — 80 percent of all the Eagles’ offensive snaps this year. When he was out there, he was solid, and although it’s not ideal, I’ll take Peters 80 percent of the time over anybody else. The Eagles would save about $5.1 million in cap space by releasing him, but Peters’ 2019 salary — $7.75 million — is middle of the pack for left tackles and certainly not prohibitive. Halapoulivaati Vaitai isn’t the answer. Jordan Mailata is a year away. It’s easy to say the Eagles should move on from him. It’s a lot harder to explain how.

9. On Alshon Jeffery and the interception
I was thinking about the Saints playoff game and what the Eagles’ chances would have been if Jeffery had caught that pass. It would have probably given the Eagles a 3rd-and-5 at the Saints’ 22-yard line. The Eagles were 7 for 17 this year on 3rd-and-5, which is 41 percent, and they were also 1 for 2 on 4th-and-5. So they basically had two 50 percent chances to convert, which is a 75 percent shot.

Now, what if they had a 1st-and-10 on the opposing 20? That happened six times this year, and the Eagles scored three TDs and three field goals on those drives. Of course they wouldn’t have attempted a field goal this time, and they kicked the field goals on 4th-and-8, 4th-and-13 and 4th-and-15, so I’m going to say it’s a 50 percent proposition to score a touchdown with a 1st-and-10 on the opposing 20. Factor in that the Saints were 23rd in the NFL in red-zone defense and Foles’ career red-zone numbers — 41 TDs, 5 INTs — and my entirely non-scientific conclusion is that, if converting a 3rd-and-5 with two chances is a 75 percent chance and then getting seven points from 20 yards out is a 50 percent chance, the Eagles had about a 38 percent chance to win if Jeffery caught the ball.

It would have been fun to watch Nick Foles try, but the odds were against the Eagles even if he caught it.

10. Predictions 
I’m going with both home teams today. Chiefs 37, Patriots 33, and Saints 31, Rams 27.

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