Eagles

Eagles-Giants notes, quotes and tidbits: 4th-and-8, Shepard's TD-no TD

Eagles-Giants notes, quotes and tidbits: 4th-and-8, Shepard's TD-no TD

Going for it on 4th-and-1 or 4th-and-2 or even 4th-and-3 is one thing.

But 4th-and-8?

The Eagles led 7-0 with 2:36 left in the first half and were at the Giants' 43. Doug Pederson went for it, but Carson Wentz was sacked for a 6-yard loss. 

Fortunately for Pederson, that decision, along with some other things — e.g. a shaky game by Wentz and a costly fumble by his buddy Zach Ertz — will be overshadowed by Jake Elliott's 61-yard game-winning bomb.

But why did Pederson go for it? 

Analytics. 

"It was something that I discussed with the guy that's helping me upstairs with analytics," Pederson said after his team's 27-24 win (see studs, duds and more). "Where we were on the field, what we were doing offensively at the time. The defense was playing extremely well. [We] had an opportunity to keep ourselves on the field at the time, so I elected to go for it at that point. Obviously, we didn't get it. The defense held."

Barely. 

The Giants appeared to score a touchdown when Sterling Shepard joined Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant by making a catch that's a catch on the playground but not in the NFL (more on that below). Two plays later, the Giants went for it on 4th-and-goal from the 1, but the Eagles stuffed Orleans Darkwa. 

Then they returned to their locker room still up seven. No harm, no foul.

But analytics aside — and there is an involved study on the subject — Pederson did acknowledge that it's a "risky" play. And when it was suggested that his numbers guys might be telling him what he wants to hear because he likes to be aggressive, Pederson said he trusts his staff to give him all the relevant information so he can make the final call. 

"Our guys are right on point with it, all the way down to replays, challenges and things of that nature," Pederson said. "So they give me the information, and it's my job to pull the trigger."

The Eagles made their two other fourth-down conversions, albeit on QB sneaks that gained a yard. Wentz said he's "always down to go with the quarterback sneak" in those situations. As for the 4th-and-8, Wentz admitted the blame doesn't solely reside with Pederson. 

"They just had good coverage, and we were playing aggressive," he said. "Unfortunately, I just held onto the ball too long."

Shepard's TD catch-no-catch
It certainly looked like Shepard had made the 1-yard TD reception. He caught it and took a couple steps in the end zone before falling out of bounds and dropping it when he hit the ground. 

He ran around looking for congratulations as if he had scored, but he didn't complete the process of making the catch.

So no score.

"I’m trying to figure out what a touchdown catch is and what isn’t a touchdown catch right now," Giants coach Ben McAdoo said.

Said Eli Manning, "Everybody knows the rules, have to finish the play, finish the catch."

Seems like we've been hearing that for a while.

Pass interference?
That wasn't the only call that worked in the Eagles' favor. After the Giants took a 21-14 lead in the fourth quarter, cornerback Eli Apple was called for pass interference on a deep ball to Torrey Smith. 

The 36-yard gain set up Corey Clement's 15-yard game-tying touchdown run.

First, there didn't appear to be significant contact on the play, and second, the ball sailed out of bounds and could have been deemed uncatchable. 

"Me and the [official] had an intellectual conversation about how it was catchable and how I was kind of like the receiver on that play because I was in front of him," Apple said. "He thought it was pass interference, but those are the calls they make and you have to continue to play."

This was pass interference
Later in the fourth, Malcolm Jenkins clothes-lined Odell Beckham Jr. on a deep ball down the sideline. Beckham, who had a step on Jalen Mills, didn't think the play was dirty.

"He made a smart play," Beckham said. "I'm running down the field. I'm gonna make a play, so he stops that. It's football. He made a play to stop me from making a play. 

"Nothing dirty to me."

5 more Eagles who were impressive during spring practices

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AP Images

5 more Eagles who were impressive during spring practices

As the Eagles wrapped up their spring practices last week, head coach Doug Pederson was asked for a list of young players who stood out over the last few weeks. 

It was a pretty good list (see story)

But with a limited amount of time, Pederson probably didn’t mention every young player who had a good spring. I’m gonna give him a hand and list five more players he failed to mention. 

De’Vante Bausby 
This guy was the revelation of the spring. He joined the Eagles’ practice squad last season but seemingly has a great shot to make the active roster this year. During many OTA practices and in minicamp, the 25-year-old took first-team reps at the nickel corner spot. I still have trouble believing that Bausby is going to be on the field ahead of Sidney Jones, but that doesn’t take away from how good he’s looked so far. Aside from just getting first-team reps, he made the most of them. It seemed like he was making a play every day. 

Nate Sudfeld
This was really our first extended look at Sudfeld, but it’s far from our last. In fact, prepare yourselves to see a ton of the third-stringer this summer. Because while Carson Wentz recovers, Sudfeld is Nick Foles’ backup. And the Eagles need to treat Foles like a starter, which means fewer reps. Sudfeld didn’t come to the Eagles until after last cuts a year ago. This spring, it was easy to see why the Eagles like Sudfeld so much. He’s pretty athletic, can move his legs, and spent the few weeks dropping dimes all over the field. Eventually, Foles is going to move on and Sudfeld should be able to take the backup role. 

Bryce Treggs
Remember when Treggs-mania took over Philadelphia in 2016? Fans were clamoring for more of Treggs after he made that one big catch. Since then, that mania has certainly died down, but Treggs is off to a good start in 2018. He’s a much better player than he was a few years ago. To me, he made the best play we saw all spring, when he stretched out to catch one of those dimes from Sudfeld. Treggs doesn't have a great shot of making the Eagles’ roster, but he can put together some more good tape and maybe find another team. 

Nate Gerry 
In his second season out of Nebraska, Gerry has a real chance to win the weakside linebacker job. He’s battling Kamu Grugier-Hill and Corey Nelson for the spot left by Mychal Kendricks’ release. And Gerry is off to a good start. Having a year in the defense under his belt should certainly help him gain an edge on Nelson, but he still needs to make plays. In the spring, he did. He had a couple interceptions and seemed to read everything well. His background as a safety is clearly something the Eagles like for this position; the other two guys have coverage skills too. 

Josh Sweat
It’s a little tough for defensive ends to stand out in non-padded practices, but the rookie from Florida State did. The first thing to notice about Sweat is just how big he is. He’s listed at 6-5, 251. For now, he’s really long and skinny, but is quick and athletic too. It helped him going against someone as raw as Jordan Mailata, but even when he was facing others, Sweat still looked explosive. We’ll know more once the pads go on, but it seems like the Eagles might have a steal and somehow added even more depth on the D-line. 

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Watching Carson Wentz attack his rehab is nothing short of incredible

Watching Carson Wentz attack his rehab is nothing short of incredible

Carson Wentz has done some of his best work behind closed doors, far from any TV cameras or adoring fans, with just a trainer or two and maybe a few teammates in the room.

While Nick Foles has enjoyed the banquet circuit these last few months and all that comes with being Super Bowl MVP — national TV appearances, a book deal, life as a celebrity — the guy he replaced has had a pretty good offseason himself.

It’s just that nobody has seen it.

For Wentz to do what he did at these spring minicamps — compete in a variety of individual and team drills and look comfortable, fluid and confident six months after hobbling off the field at LA Coliseum with a towel covering his head — speaks volumes about this kid.

We know he’s a competitor on the field. We’ve all seen it. But rehabbing a shredded knee is different.

Throw a touchdown pass, and you instantaneously hear 66,000 fans roaring their approval.

Extend your range of motion by one degree and you get a trainer telling you, “Good. Now do it again 50 times.”

We can talk all day and night about how Wentz has attacked his rehab, but now we’re seeing the fruits of his labor. And it’s impressive.

It takes a certain type of motivation and determination to keep grinding away when nobody is cheering you on and the moments of true progress are fleeting and measured in millimeters.

We saw Wentz out there at practice taking five-step drops, firing dimes to Mike Wallace and Nelson Agholor in 7-on-7s and sprinting the length of the field under the midday sun.

What we never saw is what it took to get there.

It’s been about six months since Wentz tore his ACL and LCL.

That means probably about 150 days where Wentz has driven from his home in South Jersey to the NovaCare Complex at dawn and pushed himself through hour after hour of drills to regain his strength, his mobility, his speed, his endurance, his agility.

And then he’s back the next day to do it all over again.

We’re so used to athletes getting hurt and rehabbing it’s easy to forget just how grueling it is, and the fact that Wentz has made the progress he has since Dec. 10 is astonishing.

He’s taken that same ferocious competitive spirit we saw the first 29 games of his career and used it to fuel his rehab.

A month ago, there was no reason to think he’d be cleared to do anything at OTAs and there he was running, throwing, competing and looking every bit like the Carson Wentz we watched evolve into a legit MVP candidate the first 14 weeks of last season.

And if that doesn’t mean he’s ahead of schedule, I don’t know what does.

At this point, I’d be shocked if Wentz isn’t the Eagles’ opening day quarterback in 2018.

There’s always the possibility of a setback. Maybe he doesn’t get completely cleared quite in time to face the Falcons on Sept. 6. But the progress he’s made already has to make every Eagles fan feel confident and encouraged.  

Since he got hurt, Wentz has put the same remarkable level of energy and effort into rehabbing that he put into preparing to play football every Sunday.

Think about Wentz’s 2017 season.

Everything was going perfectly. The Eagles were on top of the football world. He was putting up numbers that were unprecedented for anybody other than Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Before Foles was on anybody’s mind, the Eagles were a Super Bowl contender.

And then disaster.

We’ve all seen Wentz when things are going well. He blossomed into a superstar in front of our eyes.

But you really learn the most about a person when things aren’t going well. When they face adversity. What are they really about? How will they respond?

Wentz has definitively answered those questions.

We didn’t see Wentz in those long, lonely, arduous rehab sessions, but we can see the results.

While Foles was out winning the Super Bowl and taking all the bows, Wentz was doing everything humanly possible to make sure he’s ready to lead the Eagles to another Super Bowl title this year.

And I don’t know about you, but I’m not betting against him.

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