Derek Barnett

LeSean McCoy; Derek Barnett vs. Mike Mamula in Roob's Random Points

LeSean McCoy; Derek Barnett vs. Mike Mamula in Roob's Random Points

Going deep into the Eagles' slow starts, my all-time top-5 Eagles defensive ends, the latest on Shady and lots more in this weekend's edition of Roob's 10 Random Eagles Points! 

1. The Cowboys are more banged up than the Eagles, the Cowboys have lost three in a row, the Cowboys just lost to the Jets, and it's time for the Eagles to start fast, finish strong, play smart and not just lay claim to first place in the NFC East but reassert themselves as one of the better teams in the NFC. A win over the Cowboys wouldn't lock anything up with nine games to go, but the Eagles have lost three straight to the Cowboys, they're 8-13 in the last 21 meetings (although they didn't play the starters in the 2017 season-ender), they haven't swept their biggest rival since 2011. They've never beaten a Cowboys team with Ezekiel Elliott. It's time to show up. It's time to stop making excuses. It's time to stop complaining about the officials and injuries and go into JerryWorld and win a football game.

2. I don't know if there's a non-QB in the NFL who's more important to his team's success than Ezekiel Elliott. When he rushes for at least 70 yards, the Cowboys are 31-8. When he rushes for less than 70 yards, they're 1-9. The Eagles? They have the No. 2 run defense in the NFL, and nobody has rushed for 70 yards against them this year. This is the first time they've gone six straight games without allowing a back to gain 70 yards since the last two games of 2002 and the first five of 2003. The Eagles will need every bit of that run defense Sunday, but if they can limit Elliott — who's averaged 116 yards and 5.4 yards per carry in four games against the Eagles — they have a terrific chance to bring a win back from North Texas.

3. Nelson Agholor is 12th among wide receivers in 2019 salary ($9.4 million) and 56th in yards (230).

4. I'm convinced one of the reasons for the Eagles' first-quarter struggles is that Pederson isn't being aggressive enough early in games. Take a look:

• The Eagles are running the ball on 57 percent of their first-quarter plays, 34 percent in the second quarter, 43 percent in the third and 41 percent in the fourth. And they have 17 offensive points in the first quarter, 51 in the second, 46 in the third and 33 in the fourth. 

• On first down in the first quarter, they've run on 18 of 31 plays. The only regular QB in the league who's thrown less often in the first quarter is Jameis Winston. 

• The Eagles run the ball the second-most of any team in the NFL in the first quarter, and they're one of the lowest-scoring first-quarter teams in the league. No way this is a coincidence.

5. My all-time Eagles top-5 defensive ends: 1. Reggie, 2. Clyde, 3. Trent Cole, 4. Hugh Douglas, 5. Brandon Graham.

6. After Mack Hollins had a productive 9-for-112 against the Falcons and Lions, I thought, "OK, I was wrong about Mack. He's not bad!" Since then, he's played 108 snaps over three games and has one 13-yard catch. In his career, Hollins has gotten 10 or more offensive snaps 16 times. He's had fewer than 15 yards in 11 of those 16 games. And still, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside can't get on the field? 

7. Derek Barnett hasn't been awful, but the Eagles need more than he's giving them. Barnett has two sacks this year — one in the Jets embarrassment — and has made headlines more for his penalties and fines than his play on the field. This is Year 3 for the first-round pick, and he was hurt much of last season, but for the sake of comparison, Mike Mamula had 11½ sacks in his first 27 games. Barnett has 9½. The Eagles are relying heavily on Barnett to create pressure, and it's not happening enough.

8. I need to see Josh Sweat and Daeshon Hall get at least 20 snaps each. 

9. Brian Westbrook had five 30-yard catches in his first 50 career games. Miles Sanders has five in his first six games.

10. LeSean McCoy apparently has plenty left in the tank. All he had to do was get out of Buffalo. The Eagles' all-time leading rusher is 2nd in the NFL at 5.4 yards per carry (behind only Ravens QB Lamar Jackson) playing for Andy Reid in Kansas City. His 4.5 career average is 7th-highest in NFL history among backs with 10,000 yards. And he now has an incredible 48 career games with 10 or more carries and 5.0 yards per rush. Only Barry Sanders (64), Frank Gore (57), Walter Payton (56), Jim Brown (55) and Adrian Peterson (50) have had more.

5 matchups to watch as Eagles visit Cowboys in Week 7

5 matchups to watch as Eagles visit Cowboys in Week 7

The Eagles (3-3) are heading to North Texas this weekend to face the Cowboys (3-3) in a game that will give us the leader in the NFC East. 

This is the first of two meetings between these two teams this year. As it has been in recent years, this game in Dallas is on Sunday Night Football. 

The Eagles lost by 18 points to the Vikings last week, but the Cowboys lost to the Jets and have dropped three in a row. Both teams really need this win. 

To the matchups: 

Ezekiel Elliott vs. Eagles' LBs

Zeke is still Zeke. Through six games, he has 491 rushing yards and five touchdowns to go along with 140 receiving yards. Just four players in the league have more touches than Elliott this season and since he entered the league in 2016, Elliott has more than anyone. The Cowboys have always, and still do, feed him the rock. 

While the Eagles were gashed through the air, they actually held up pretty well against the Vikings’ rushing attack last week. The Vikings finished with 122 yards, but Dalvin Cook had just 41. Elliott is obviously a much different runner. Through six weeks, the Eagles have the NFL’s second-best rushing defense, giving up 68.0 yards per game. But they just cut Zach Brown and now Nigel Bradham (ankle) is banged up. That means a very different-looking linebacker corps against Elliott. That’s a lot of pressure on Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry and T.J. Edwards. 

And as you probably already know, Elliott is 4-0 against the Eagles in his career. In those four games, he has averaged 115.8 yards per game on the ground and 51.3 yards per game as a receiver. In the two games against the Eagles last year, Elliott had 379 yards from scrimmage. The Eagles need to stop him — or at least slow him down — on Sunday. 

Cowboys' OTs vs. Derek Barnett, Brandon Graham 

Against the Jets, the Cowboys were without left tackle Tyron Smith (ankle) and right tackle La’el Collins (knee) and it definitely showed. Veteran Cameron Fleming played left tackle and undrafted rookie Brandon Knight (from Indiana) played at right tackle. Barnett on Wednesday mentioned that he’s preparing for Smith and Fleming right now. 

Even if one or both Dallas starters are back (both practiced Thursday), they likely won’t be at 100 percent, so this should be a week where the Eagles’ edge rushers can get home. I listed Barnett and Graham, but even Josh Sweat and Vinny Curry should be able to make an impact on this game. 

If the Eagles are able to control Elliott (and that’s a big if), then they can try to put the game on Dak Prescott. If that happens and then the Eagles get pressure, it could really help. That should be the game plan. 

Andre Dillard vs. Robert Quinn

Since Jason Peters (knee) is out this weekend, rookie Andre Dillard will make his first-career start. He was thrust into a really tough spot against Minnesota and had his ups and downs. Overall, though, there were plenty of encouraging signs. With a full week of preparation and practice reps, and with Jason Peters coaching him up from the sideline, I suspect Dillard will be fine. 

This week, he’ll face Robert Quinn, who actually leads the Cowboys with five sacks, and he’s done it in four games. But make no mistake, Lane Johnson will still have the tougher task on DeMarcus Lawrence on the other side. Johnson has handled him very well in the past. 

Eagles' run game vs. Cowboys' LBs 

The Cowboys have two of the best young linebackers in the NFL in Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Both players have around 50 tackles each this season and are everywhere on the field. Most teams have devalued the linebacker position in recent years, but the Cowboys are proof that good ‘backers can still make a difference. 

“Well, they're big, they really run well, they tackle really well, they're strong,” Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. “Both are capable pass rushers. They do a good job in their scheme and utilize them in that way.”

Meanwhile, the Eagles have found some success running the football this season. They got behind early in the Vikings game, so they didn’t run a ton. But Jordan Howard has been pretty good and has taken over lead back duties. Miles Sanders has been a factor in the pass game, but we’re still waiting to see him be better in the run game. 

Eagles' receivers vs. Cowboys’ injured secondary 

It doesn’t sound like the Eagles will have DeSean Jackson this week, and that’s a shame because two Cowboys corners (Byron Jones and Anthony Brown) tweaked their hamstrings last week. The Eagles might get to see some more of Jourdan Lewis. 

Any help these Eagles receivers can get might go a long way. While Alshon Jeffery has at least provided some production, the Eagles haven’t gotten enough from Nelson Agholor and they haven’t gotten much of anything from Mack Hollins in recent weeks. 

On the flip side, it sounds like Amari Cooper (quad) probably won’t play this week. That’s a good thing for the Eagles. In December last year, Cooper had 10 catches for 217 yards and three touchdowns against the Birds. 

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More on the Eagles

The real reason the Eagles aren't very good right now

The real reason the Eagles aren't very good right now

Maybe they’re just not that good.

Maybe they’re just not that talented.

Maybe they just don’t have enough elite players.

Think about it. 

Nobody on this team is playing at an elite level. Not a soul.

And that's a tough way to win.

The older players the Eagles were counting heavily on are either hurt or their level of play has declined significantly (or both). The younger players they were counting heavily on are underachieving or regressing. 

So when things start going bad, there’s really nobody on either side of the ball to pull the Eagles out of it.

The usual defensive stars, guys like Malcolm Jenkins, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham haven’t been awful. But they sure haven’t made the game-changing plays you need from your best players.

The key guys on offense? Zach Ertz has decent numbers, Alshon Jeffery has been OK, Jordan Howard has been all right, Nelly is just kind of floating through. None of them has come close to making a huge impact.

The young guys? Miles Sanders has shown a nice knack for catching the ball and getting down the field, but it’s not like he’s taking over games. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside hasn’t done anything. Derek Barnett shows flashes but has made headlines more for his personal fouls and fines than his sacks. Andre Dillard, too early to say. The young corners? You know that story.

I thought both lines would dominate. Hasn’t happened. The defensive line hasn't gotten pressure, and the offensive line hasn't run blocked or or pass protected consistently.

Then there’s Carson.

He hasn’t been terrible. He certainly hasn’t gotten any help from the people around him, and his numbers are OK. He’s had stretches where he looks unstoppable. Flashes of brilliance.

But he also hasn’t been elite, and he’s the one guy more than anybody the Eagles really need to carry the team through rough stretches.

It’s only six games, and the Eagles are 3-3 in a division where nobody has a winning record, so anything’s possible. The Eagles still have time to get back to the top of the NFC. Heck, seven of the last nine times they’ve been 3-3, they’ve reached the playoffs.

But let’s be honest. The Eagles deserve every bit of that 3-3 record. They’re an average team right now with average talent.

Yeah, the Packers win was remarkable. To go into that building and win that game on a short week? Amazing.

But a loss to a Falcons team that’s now 1-5 cancels that out. And their wins other than the Packers? Over two one-win teams. 

At some point, and that point is growing closer, the focus has to turn from the secondary and wide receivers and pass rush and running game to Howie Roseman.

He built the Super Bowl roster — along with Joe Douglas — and he deserves all the accolades he got for that.

But the biggest challenge for any championship team — in any sport — is figuring out how to stay on top, and the only way to do that is to constantly replenish the roster with young talent and fill in the blanks with free agents.

Hasn’t happened.

Wentz is the only Pro Bowler the Eagles have drafted since 2013, and Chip Kelly obviously plays a small role in that as well because the 2015 draft was his, but in the big picture, the lack of young talent on this roster is alarming.

Not just OK players who may have a terrific game here and there. But young, elite, playmaking, impact, superstar talent.

You watch other NFL teams and you see these young stud cornerbacks and hot-shot wide receivers and eye-opening rookies and budding superstars.

It’s not happening here. The young guys are either not ready or never will be, the older guys are fading or hurt and the guys in between just haven’t been good enough.

If the season ended today, the Eagles wouldn’t have a slam-dunk Pro Bowler. Not one. Maybe Fletcher Cox would go because he always goes. Maybe Brandon Brooks. 

But right now, this is a team without a single guy playing at a superstar level.

Doug Pederson and his staff certainly deserve some of the blame for this uninspired six-game start. But it's not hard to wonder just how much talent they really have to work with.

There’s 10 games left. Plenty of time to go on a run, put together a winning streak, start playing like the Super Bowl contender a lot of people expected this team to be.

Remember, the Eagles lost by 14 in Seattle in 2017 and didn’t lose a meaningful game the rest of the year. They lost by 41 in New Orleans last year and then won six of their next seven.

The loss Sunday to the Vikings was only the Eagles’ third by more than seven points over the last three seasons, and they followed the first two with runs to the playoffs.

To do that again, the Eagles need elite play from their elite players.

And right now it’s fair to wonder how many of them they really have.

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