Eagles

Eagles-Cowboys: Roob's 10 observations

Eagles-Cowboys: Roob's 10 observations

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ARLINGTON, Texas — This game had Josh Huff throwing the longest pass of the night by an Eagle, it had the refs calling a holding penalty on Chase Daniel, it had Caleb Sturgis becoming the most accurate kicker in Eagles history and it had the Eagles going overtime at AT&T Stadium for the second time in 11½ months.

And in the end, it had the Cowboys beating the Eagles 29-23 in overtime in a battle for first place in the NFC East (see Instant Replay).

Some good, some bad. Some very bad.

So if you’re still awake ... here’s tonight’s (this morning’s) 10 Instant Observations:

1. It’s astonishing to me what Carson Wentz is able to do without an impact wide receiver, without an effective tight end of late, with a patchwork offensive line and with a running back who turns 34 next summer. Imagine if Wentz had Dak Prescott’s weapons? Wentz is so ridiculously good he transcends the mediocrity around him. After seeing Prescott in person, I don’t think there’s any question who the better rookie is. It’s not even close. Wentz can do so much more with so much less. He completed 74 percent of his passes Sunday night (32 for 43) for 202 yards, a TD and no interceptions. And at least five of the nine incompletions were drops. Imagine if Wentz had just average wide receivers? The kid is special, and once the Eagles surround him with some talent, he’s going to be unstoppable.  

2. The Eagles’ desperate need for a playmaker has never been so glaring as it was Sunday night in Dallas. Wentz can throw the ball down the field, he just has nobody who can get open. And when they do get open, they drop the ball. I’m not big on giving up a draft pick for a guy who might help you for half a dozen games by the time he gets here and learns the playbook, but the Eagles have to consider everything at this point. A trade, Bryce Treggs, re-signing T.O. ... everything. You just can’t play an entire season without throwing the ball down the field.

3. The Eagles had plenty of chances to put this game away, but their play-calling and execution on 2nd-and-short and 3rd-and-short was bad (see Standout Plays). Those are plays you just have to convert, and the Eagles didn’t have the juice to get it done on the handful of key plays that they needed to put Dallas away. This wasn’t Doug Pederson’s finest day as a play-caller. Too much horizontal, not enough vertical. This was a winnable game, but too many mistakes once they took that 10-point lead caught up with them in the second half and overtime. They had chances. A 3rd-and-2 early in the third quarter where they lost two yards. A 3rd-and-2 late in the fourth quarter where they lost two yards. A 3rd-and-4 where they dropped a pass. You can’t give the Cowboys that many chances, especially here, and the Cowboys showed why they haven’t lost since opening day. They took advantage of the opportunity the Eagles gave them and it got them to 6-1.

4. Caleb Sturgis was not a good kicker in Miami. Made 77.5 percent of his field goals in 2013 and 2014 with the Dolphins, which ranked him 31st of 34 kickers in the NFL who attempted at least 25 field goals during that two-year span. He was also 6-for-13 from 50-plus yards. So Cody Parkey gets hurt early last year, there’s nobody else on the street, and the Eagles sign Sturgis. He misses a 33-yarder on opening day, Chip Kelly decides to keep him around another week, and he goes 4-for-4 the next week against the Saints and winds up 18-for-22. He beats out Parkey this summer and all he’s done this year — after once again missing his first attempt of the season — is go 17-for-17 with three straight 50-yard makes, including Sunday's clutch 55-yarder to give the Eagles the lead just before halftime. Sturgis made 78 percent of his kicks with the Dolphins but is at 87.5 percent with the Eagles, including 5-for-7 from 50 yards and out. Chip could have easily cut Sturgis after that terrible 33-yard miss. But he kept him around, and Sturgis right now is absolute money. Sometimes you just never know.

5. Darren Sproles was nothing less than brilliant Sunday as the surprise lead ball carrier. His 86 rushing yards on 15 carries were the fourth-most in his career and his most in five years, since he had 88 as a Saint against the Colts on Oct. 23, 2011. With fumble-prone Ryan Mathews in mothballs most of the night (4-for-10), Sproles had his second-most carries as an Eagle and fourth-most in his 10-year career. Here’s the thing: I still think 14 carries every week is too much for Sproles. Sproles at 33 is still faster than most backs 10 years younger. He’s such a great Eagle. Just this little guy with so much heart. I just hope the Eagles don’t over use him. The reality is the Eagles don’t have a running back right now under 33 years old that they trust, and that’s not good.

6. I really believe Jordan Hicks is right on the brink of becoming a Pro Bowl-caliber middle linebacker. The ball just seems to find him. Now, you can say his interception was just a terrible pass by Prescott, but he makes the plays when they’re there and that’s all you can ask. Hicks has now jammed three interceptions, four pass knockdowns, four fumble recoveries, a forced fumble, five tackles for loss and a sack into 15 career games. The Eagles haven’t had a big-time middle linebacker since Trott, and Hicks is there right now.

7. I don’t care how many catches Huff does or doesn’t have, he has become such a weapon returning kicks that it doesn’t even matter. Huff followed his huge kickoff return TD last week that jumpstarted the Eagles when the offense was doing nothing against the Vikings with an electrifying 63-yarder against the Cowboys Sunday night. He now has his average up to 28.4 yards per kick return, which is eighth-highest in NFL history among returners with 40 or more career returns. This offense has so little firepower that a kick returner who can gobble up so many yards is huge.

8. Ezekiel Elliott’s final numbers were 22-for-96 (with a 72-yard run called back because of holding), so he didn’t get his fifth consecutive 130-yard game, but against this defense, that was a monumental game for him. I thought the Eagles to a great extent slowed him down, tackled well, were gap-sound, and he still ran for 96 yards. He’s a special player the Eagles are going to have to contend with him for a long, long time.

9. This was the third time in their last four games the Eagles didn’t have an offensive play of 30 yards or more. Their only offensive play longer than 30 yards since Sproles' 73-yard TD catch against the Steelers is Jordan Matthews’ 53-yard catch in the Redskins game. That’s almost impossible to do. The Eagles’ lack of firepower is shocking. They have one play of 30 yards or more in their last 242 offensive snaps. Think about that for a moment. That’s impossible to do. Tough to win when you can’t make a play down the field.

10. How about some props for Halapoulivaati Vaitai? Big V has gotten better in each of his three starts and really hung in there pretty well Sunday night in Dallas. It’s encouraging that he’s progressed each week from that disastrous start in Washington to a functional game against the Vikings and some more good stuff Sunday night. Seven more games for Lane Johnson, and let’s be clear — Vaitai is nowhere close to where Lane was when his suspension finally came down. But Big V has been solid, and he deserves credit for the steady improvement he’s made.

Bonus observation. Prescott’s numbers were ugly, but I was impressed. He was under siege most of the night but rallied the Cowboys back from 10 points down in the fourth quarter and made some big throws in overtime. Prescott was 14-for-34 for 231 yards in regulation but 5-for-5 for 56 yards and the TD to Jason Witten in overtime. He also ran for 38 yards. I’ll take Wentz any day of the week. But Prescott is impressive.

Eagles Mailbag: Predicting several positions for 2019 team

Eagles Mailbag: Predicting several positions for 2019 team

I’ll be heading to the annual NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday, so look forward to my coverage from Indianapolis. But until then, I put out a call for mailbag questions and you guys came through. 

We had so many that we split them into three parts. 

You can read Part 1 here

And Part 2 here. 

Now, let’s get to Part 3 today: 

RB1: Not on roster yet 

WR1: Alshon Jeffery 

QB2: Nate Sudfeld

I don’t know who the Eagles’ top running back will be, but I don’t think he’s on their roster right now. That means the Eagles will either sign a free agent or draft a running back — or very possibly both. If I had to guess, I’d say Tevin Coleman as a free agent and David Montgomery as a draft pick. 

Unless the Eagles trade for Antonio Brown (unlikely), Jeffery is going to be their top receiver in 2019. 

Some folks think the Eagles should get a veteran backup behind Carson Wentz, but I don’t think they’re going to. I think they’re going to offer Sudfeld a second-round tender and keep him on the team in 2019 as Wentz’s backup. He’s young, they like him and he’s been in the system. 

I’m guessing this question is because of something I have said plenty over the last few weeks: that the Eagles need a feature back. I wouldn’t bet on that being Clement. Could he develop into that one day? Perhaps. But I can’t go into a season expecting it, especially after his season ended with a serious knee injury. 

I did see enough of him as a rookie to think he can be a part of a rotation, but in Year 2, when he had a chance to take over, he was too banged up to do it. Haven’t seen enough from Clement to think he can be a No. 1. 

Nah, it’s not that great of a need. I’m not sure why so many national types keep mocking corners to the Eagles at 25. I guess it’s possible the Eagles could take a corner in the first round if that player is clearly the BPA, but there are more pressing needs. The Eagles still have Rasul Douglas, Jalen Mills, Avonte Maddox, Sidney Jones and Cre’Von LeBlanc under contract. My money is still on OL or DL in the first round. If a top CB fell to 25 and he was clearly (and I mean clearly) the best player available, then the Eagles could draft him. 

That’s a possibility. I’m not sure Johnson would develop into that true feature back, but as a change-of-pace guy, sure, especially if Darren Sproles retires or isn’t back with the Eagles in 2019. I think getting a guy like Johnson would allow the Eagles to then draft a running back to pair with him. Not sure if they’d sign Johnson and another decent running back in the free agent market. 

Johnson has never had more that 379 yards rushing in a season, but he’s a skilled receiver out of the backfield and the Eagles could certainly find a use for him. 

I like Humphries, but he’s a slot receiver and if Nelson Agholor is back in 2019, he should be in the slot. The Eagles need to bring in outside speed at receiver and the 5-11 Humphries doesn’t have exactly what they need. 

A list of some under-the-radar names I think are viable: RB Spencer Ware, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, S Blake Countess, S Terrence Brooks, DE Margus Hunt 

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Eagles release popular special teamer Chris Maragos

usa_chris_maragos_eagles.jpg
USA Today Images

Eagles release popular special teamer Chris Maragos

Chris Maragos, the popular special teams ace whose career has been derailed by a serious knee injury, was released Friday by the Eagles.

Maragos, 32, played in 47 of 48 games from 2014 through 2016, mainly on special teams but a significant amount at safety in 2015. But he suffered a career-threatening knee injury against the Panthers in Charlotte on Oct. 12, 2017, and hasn’t played since.

Maragos, who won a Super Bowl ring with the Seahawks in 2013 in addition to one with the Eagles in 2017, made all the road trips with the Eagles this past season even though he had no chance of playing simply because he was so respected in the locker room and such an effective leader.

“I’m really more of a coach and cheerleader these days than anything else,” he said with a smile before one game this past season.

Maragos went undrafted out of Wisconsin in 2010 and after a season with the 49ers played three years with the Seahawks before signing with the Eagles before the 2014 season.

He was signed through 2019 and will count $250,000 in dead money against the Eagles’ salary cap, which gives the Eagles a $2 million cap savings.

Maragos earned over $10 million in his career, including over $7 million from the Eagles, according to Spotrac. His career earnings high of $2.5 million came in 2016.

Maragos has had two knee operations since originally getting hurt against the Panthers, most recently this past fall. 

Even healthy, Maragos probably wouldn’t have fit in the Eagles’ plans this coming season.

Since re-signing Rodney McLeod to a contract restructure that lowered his 2019 cap figure from $.9 million to $4.84 million, the Eagles have safeties Malcolm Jenkins, McLeod and Tre’ Sullivan under contract, along with Avonte Maddox, who can play either safety or cornerback. 

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