Eagles' defense preparing for challenge of slowing down Julio Jones

Eagles' defense preparing for challenge of slowing down Julio Jones

As the Eagles’ cornerbacks prepared this week to face one of the best receivers in the league, they couldn’t help but be impressed. 

Heck, they even enjoyed watching Julio Jones. 

Now they need to try to slow him down. 

“It’s cool to kind of see on film, to see how he gets to top speed and just stop on a dime like that,” Eagles cornerback Nolan Carroll said. “Him and Matt Ryan are just on the same page and everything is on a rope and it’s right there. That’s one of the things that’s special about him because a lot of receivers don’t know how to run routes and that’s the unique thing about him.” 

What makes Jones so unique, according to Carroll, is that at 6-foot-3, 220, Jones is a very big receiver but gets in and out of his breaks very quickly and runs crisp routes. 

The Eagles saw Jones not too long ago, when the Eagles opened the 2015 season with the Falcons on the schedule. In that game, with Byron Maxwell on him for most of it, Jones had nine catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns. 

“Can’t really key off of that game because it was a different defense we ran last year,” Carroll said. “You can’t really go off that.”

Instead, the Eagles have watched tape from the Falcons’ game against the Seahawks Broncos and Chargers – teams that play similarly in the secondary. They’ve watched a little of the Tampa Bay game and even some of the Carolina game, when Jones finished with 300 yards receiving. 

Jones had more receiving yards in that game than all but one of the Eagles’ receivers (Jordan Matthews) has all season. 

In fact, the Eagles’ receivers – Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham, Bryce Treggs and recently released Josh Huff – have 1,099 yards this season. That’s just 129 yards more than Jones (970). Eagles receivers have one more touchdown (6-5). 

“He makes it easy on a quarterback,” Falcons quarterback Ryan said on a conference call with Philly reporters this week. “He’s got an unbelievable catch radius and ability to track balls as well as anybody in the league. I try to do my best to put it in a space where he can catch and run afterwards, and he’s really as good as anybody with running after the catch, he’s so big and explosive. He’s so tough to bring down. He’s a great combination of speed and power.”

While talking about Jones on Thursday, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz also talked about the receiver’s impressive catch radius. 

Then, Schwartz compared Jones to another great receiver, one who will surely be headed to Canton one day. 

“I mean, Larry Fitzgerald has a lot of that,” Schwartz said. “I think Julio Jones might even be more explosive and more dynamic than Larry Fitzgerald, who is a Hall of Fame receiver.”

While Jones is clearly as dynamic as any receiver in the league, what’s made the Falcons so good this year is that they haven’t just relied on him in every game. 

There have been three games in which Jones has been held under 30 yards this season – the Falcons are 3-0 in those games. 

“The Falcons are playing well, offensively, because they're not a one-trick pony,” Schwartz said. “You talk about Matt Ryan, we talk about Julio Jones, but they run the ball very well. Their stats aren't great running the ball, but they're significant. They’ve got a running back that can break anywhere. It's not just Julio Jones.”

Still, the Eagles have to worry about No. 11 on Sunday, and they’ll have to do it with Carroll and Leodis McKelvin (questionable with a hamstring injury) and a rookie seventh-rounder in Jalen Mills. 

Last week, they had to worry about No. 13, the week before No. 88, earlier in the season No. 84. The Eagles have had to face some of the best receivers in the league this season; Jones is just the latest in a long list. 

“We know he’s up there,” Carroll said. “He’s one of the top receivers in the league. You can’t read too much into it. It’s just our next opponent. Really just trying to slow him down as much as we can.”

Doug Pederson reveals his plan for Boston Scott

Doug Pederson reveals his plan for Boston Scott

Can’t keep Boston Scott on the bench now.

After this?

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said Tuesday that Scott, the Eagles’ speedy 5-foot-6 running back, earned a regular spot in the team’s running back rotation with his electrifying performance against the Giants.

Scott, forced into action in the second half as rookie Miles Sanders battled cramps, was nothing less than brilliant, turning 16 touches into 128 scrimmage yards and the touchdown that started the Eagles’ comeback.

Scott, who entered the game with only 99 career yards from scrimmage and one career catch, ran 10 times for 59 yards and caught six passes for 69 yards, including a 25-yarder down the right sideline in overtime that was one of the Eagles’ biggest plays this year.

His 128 scrimmage yards are the most by any Eagles running back since LeGarrette Blount had 156 against the Chargers in 2017.

Asked whether that performance earned Scott playing time even when — or if — the Eagles’ running backs are healthy, Pederson said:

Sure, (because of) where we are right now as a team, an offense (and) his performance and what we've seen in practice, too. Really, it goes all the way back to training camp and some of the preseason games where he played and showed some of that speed and quickness. I think he can really make an impact for us.

The Eagles signed Scott off the Saints’ practice squad late last year, but he didn’t play on offense. He started this year on the Eagles’ practice squad and was signed to the 53 when Corey Clement went on Injured Reserve in mid-October.

But the 24-year-old Scott didn’t play much until Monday night, when Sanders left the game in the third quarter with cramps.

The Eagles trailed 17-3 at halftime, but with Scott making play after play, they scored 20 unanswered points and won 23-17 in overtime to keep their playoff hopes alive.  

It was good to see Boston get in the game and do the things he did,” Pederson said. “It just gave us as an offense a change of pace. There’s a quickness there, and that's just Boston. It takes nothing away from the other guys. Something we'll continue to implement into our game plan and find ways to utilize him in the offense.

It took four running back injuries — Clement, Sproles, Jordan Howard and Sanders — for Scott to finally get a chance.

Why did it take the Eagles so long to recognize his ability and why did it take four injuries to get him on the field?

Valid questions.

But what’s important now is that Scott continues to have the chance to make plays like he made Monday.

He netted his 128 scrimmage yards on just 16 touches and had 122 of those yards after halftime.

He's the first Eagles running back with 128 yards on 16 or fewer touches since Sproles against the Colts in 2014 and only the eighth to do that in the last 40 years.

He also became the first Eagles running back with 122 scrimmage yards in a half since LeSean McCoy had 170 of his 221 in the second half of the Snow Bowl win over the Lions in 2013.

Pederson said Tuesday that Sanders is fine. His 69 scrimmage yards Monday night gave him 948 this year, which quietly broke McCoy’s franchise record for scrimmage yards by a rookie running back.

But Clement and Sproles are out for the year and Howard remains out indefinitely with a stinger. He hasn’t played since the Bears game on Nov. 3.

As of now, Sanders, Scott and Jay Ajayi are the Eagles’ healthy running backs, although Ajayi has not been productive since his return, with 30 rushing yards on 10 carries in three games. Once Scott started going off Monday night, Ajayi didn’t play.

Looking ahead, Sproles is expected to retire and Howard and Ajayi are due to become free agents.

Sanders is under contract through 2022, and the Eagles control Scott through 2021 and Clement through 2020.

So the reps are there for Scott if he continues to produce. Not just this year, but in the future as well.

After seeing him play Monday night, how can you not play the kid?

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Jason Peters had a message for his teammates before Eagles’ comeback

Jason Peters had a message for his teammates before Eagles’ comeback

As ESPN’s broadcast came back from a TV timeout in the third quarter on Monday night, it showed a graphic of the previous five Eagles’ drives.

It was ugly.

Each of those previous five drives had lasted just three plays for a total of 31 net yards. All ended in punts.

What the broadcast didn’t show was that in the offensive huddle before the drive that began with 7:07 remaining in the third quarter, 37-year-old future Hall of Famer Jason Peters gave an impassioned speech to his teammates.

“I just told them to empty the tank. Empty the tank,” Peters recalled in the wee hours Tuesday morning to a small group of reporters left in a locker room that had mostly emptied.

“We got two quarters or we’re going home early. The guys answered after I told them that. It’s either win tonight or be at home in three weeks. That was just plain and simple.”

The Eagles them promptly marched down the field 58 yards on 10 plays and punched in their first touchdown of the night. They scored the game’s last 20 points to pull out a win.

Peters said he had “no question” that his teammates would respond.

“I told Doug coming out of halftime, ‘Just stick with what you’re doing. We gonna win the game.’ And he did,” Peters said. “He called a great game. Every play was kind of clicking for us.”

The Eagles were trailing 17-3 at halftime but Peters said he actually felt like they were getting close to making plays. The Eagles were able to move the ball at times in the first half, which gave him confidence that they’d be able to turn things around.

In his 16th NFL season, Peters isn’t the All-Pro he once was. He gets beat occasionally and, although he played every snap on Monday, has had trouble staying healthy. And, yeah, those false starts — he has three this season — can be annoying.

But if there’s one thing we know about Peters, it’s this: When he talks, his teammates listen.

“I always speak up. I ain’t gotta be all in the media or all on TV,” Peters said. “I get our guys, I talk to them every day, in practice, in meetings. I ain’t no big-time rah, rah guy that have to get on television or nothing. I just pull my guys to the side and talk to them individually.”

The Eagles drafted Andre Dillard in the first round this spring to be Peters’ replacement. Peters is the second-oldest starting tackle in the NFL and is playing this season on a reworked one-year deal. We all kind of understand the situation.

We could be nearing the end of one of the greatest careers in Eagles history.

Maybe the Eagles have one more run in them before it’s over.

“We’re not in a bad spot,” Peters said. “We’re taking it one week at a time. This wasn’t our best performance. I’m glad we came back and won but we can’t do that against the good teams. We gotta start off hot. Hopefully … we got some people banged up, we get some people to step up. We go from there.”

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