Fletcher Cox

Eagles mailbag: Who is the Eagles' 2019 MVP so far?

Eagles mailbag: Who is the Eagles' 2019 MVP so far?

Since the Eagles play on Monday night this week, we have an extra day to wait for their game against the Giants. 

So let’s take a dip into the mailbag. As always, thanks for all your great questions. 

We’ll get to some more tomorrow. 

This is a simple question, but it’s not a simple answer. Far from it. I spent way too much time thinking about this question, so I’ll walk you through some of my thought process. First, I came up with a list of players I deemed eligible: Carson Wentz, Rodney McLeod, Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, Brandon Graham, Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks, Zach Ertz, Fletcher Cox. 

Wentz: I had to include the quarterback, but he isn’t playing as well as he needs to play. I still think he’s far from their biggest problem, but he’s not the MVP either. 

McLeod: You wouldn’t know he’s coming back from injury and he’s been solid. But he hasn’t really made many splash plays either. 

Howard: The Eagles were 5-4 with Howard and are 0-3 without him. That shows how important he has been to this team. But he’s about to miss his fourth straight game, so he’s eliminated. 

Sanders: An interesting choice. The rookie running back got off to a slow start but is averaging 4.5 yards per carry and has been one of the most explosive playmakers on offense. 

Graham: There aren’t many players who are exceeding expectations this season, but Graham is one of them. He has 7 1/2 sacks to lead the team and has been consistently good, even before those sacks started piling up. 

Johnson: He missed one game with a concussion, but the right tackle has been as solid as they come this season. He was rewarded with a big contract and should be heading back to the Pro Bowl. 

Brooks: Like Graham, Brooks is one of the few players exceeding expectations. He missed most of one game after a return of his anxiety, but aside from that, he’s been their most reliable offensive lineman. And that’s after coming back from an Achilles tear. 

Ertz: Ertz has been the Eagles’ best offensive weapons again this season. He has 70 catches for 736 yards and three touchdowns. He’s on pace for 93 catches for 981 yards. Another great season, but a drop from his numbers in 2018 and he’s made more mistakes this year. 

Cox: He’s still their best player and he has come on incredibly strong, but he got off to a slow start coming back from injury. He always has a strong case. 

My verdict: I’m going with Graham. On offense, my pick would have been Brooks, but I’m going with the best player on what has been the stronger unit. Graham got paid this offseason and has been very good and consistent. He has a shot at his first 10-sack season and is still as stout in the run game as ever. 

(Note: It’s not a good sign that it was this hard.) 

I don’t think so. Right or wrong, the Eagles are committed to Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills as their starting corners. Now, if one of them were to get hurt, they’d have a decision. Ultimately, I think Maddox is either a nickel corner or a safety. As unorthodox as it might be for a guy of his size (5-9, 184), I really liked him at safety last year. 

During the 2018 season, Jim Schwartz compared Maddox to Cortland Finnegan. But I have another comp for Maddox. When he was playing safety last year, I saw a little Bob Sanders. Not saying he’ll be that good, but a smaller safety with ball skills who can still hit. The Eagles will have a decision to make on McLeod this offseason. If he’s not back, I’d think about Maddox at FS. 

Tough question because they’ve lost these games in different ways. Since the offense barely showed up in two of those three games, I’ll go with the lack of offensive consistency. Even in the game when they scored 31, they couldn’t get points late. 

As much as they don’t look like contenders, it’s Doug Pederson’s job to try to win games. And this team still has a really legitimate shot to make it into the playoffs. And if they win the division, they get a first-round home playoff game. I know it’s unlikely this team goes on a run to the Super Bowl, but they have to at least try to get to the playoffs and see what happens. Remember, they were pretty darn close to advancing to the NFC Championship Game last year after starting that season with a 4-6 record. Gotta at least try. 

I have actually talked to people about this before. I really don’t think they could bring him back. They made their decision to go with Carson Wentz — and it wasn’t even like they thought about it. Bringing back Foles would put so much unnecessary pressure on Wentz, it wouldn’t be fair. From a football standpoint, it would make a ton of sense. But everything the Eagles do should be with Wentz in mind. I wouldn’t do it. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

What did Eagles' defense think about that weak offensive showing?

What did Eagles' defense think about that weak offensive showing?

To a man, every Eagles defender who spoke to the media following Sunday’s 17-10 loss to the Patriots agreed it was a total team loss, that the defense didn’t play well enough to win. 

And there’s some truth to that. 

True, the Eagles managed to gain just 255 yards of total offense and failed to get on the scoreboard over the game’s final 42 minutes. Their final 10 possessions ended in either a punt, turnover, downs or with time expiring. Most observers would lay the blame for the loss right there. 

But if members of the defense were at all frustrated by the lack of production on the other side of the ball, it didn’t show in the aftermath. 

“We’ve got these guys’ backs 100 percent, man,” Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. “We’re not pointing fingers. That’s not what this locker room is about. We win together, we lose together. Nobody is pointing fingers at anybody.” 

Several players — particularly those in the secondary — took Cox’s sentiment a step further. 

“I thought we played well and definitely battled, but there were some drives that we needed to win the game and we didn’t make the plays,” Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “We had a solid game but just didn’t make enough plays.” 

The Eagles limited the Patriots' offense to 298 yards, forced a trio of field goals — including two on short fields — and eight punts. Tom Brady completed only 55.3 percent of his passes for a paltry 4.6 yards per attempt and failed to throw a touchdown. 

Could anybody reasonably expect the defense to play any better than that against the greatest quarterback and dynasty in NFL history?

There was, of course, the trick play the Patriots used to score their one and only touchdown. Eagles defensive backs also got their hands on a number of Brady passes — five total, two or three of which looked like they could’ve gone for interceptions. 

Even one pick could’ve changed the outcome of the game. 

“The missed opportunities really probably affected the game the most,” said Eagles safety Rodney McLeod. “If we come up with one or two, it’s the difference in the game.” 

Though the Eagles struggled offensively, it was against a Patriots defense that ranks No. 1 in yards, scoring and takeaways. 

The Eagles were also without Jordan Howard and Alshon Jeffery and lost Lane Johnson to an injury early in the game. When the ball wasn’t going to Miles Sanders or Zach Ertz, Carson Wentz was handing off to Boston Scott or targeting Jordan Matthews, who was on the street a week ago. 

Given the circumstances, it’s not totally unreasonable to place a larger burden on the defense. 

“We knew it was going to be a defensive battle coming into it,” Jenkins said. “You can’t get frustrated in those situations. Our defense was playing just as well as theirs. We just have to stay patient and look for plays we can take advantage of.” 

Nobody can say the defense played poorly, but they didn’t take advantage of opportunities, either. That’s what the Eagles needed to knock off the Patriots on Sunday. 

“As a competitor, you always think you could be better,” Cox said. “As a group, as an individual, and as a team. There’s no excuses. We played a really good football team and came up short and now have to move on to next week."

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

Carson Wentz struggles, defensive line shines and more in Eagles-Patriots report card

Carson Wentz struggles, defensive line shines and more in Eagles-Patriots report card

There’s no shame in losing to the defending world champions, as the Eagles were defeated 17-10 by the Patriots on Sunday (see Roob's observations). But had the offense performed even somewhat satisfactorily, the result could’ve been different.

The Eagles' defense deserves high marks after limiting a Tom Brady offense to a trio of field goals and a lone touchdown on a trick play. The offense, on the other hand, was a complete failure after jumping out to a quick 10-0 second-quarter lead, which means it’s time once again to break out the trusty red pen.

Quarterback

Carson Wentz: 20/40, 214 YDS, TD

Not Wentz’s best, to say the least. He was off the mark a bunch and took some sacks — five total — several the result of holding the ball too long, and one of which he fumbled to giftwrap three points for the Patriots. Understand, Wentz has only one reliable receiver and his production nosedived after the injury on the offensive line. Still, he missed too many throws the Eagles needed for an opportunity to beat one of the NFL’s best teams.

Grade: C

Running backs

Miles Sanders: 11 CAR, 38 YDS

The backs were much more effective in the first half, averaging 4.6 yards per carry in quarters one and two, but the running lanes weren’t there later, and the average dipped to 3.9. Boston Scott may have missed a huge hole, and Sanders got bullied once in protection for a sack, but the backs were otherwise solid and played turnover-free, albeit unspectacular football.

Grade: C+

Wide receivers and tight ends

Zach Ertz: 9 REC, 94 YDS

No separation and no hands is a bad combination. Dallas Goedert caught a touchdown, but a second-quarter drop led to a punt, while Nelson Agholor let one go through his hands on a crucial 3rd-and-2 in the fourth quarter, then misjudged a potential game-tying score in the final minute — he made it look a lot harder than it was. For the most part though, guys aren’t even open, which means there’s precious little room for error.

Grade: D

Offensive line

Big difference after Lane Johnson exited with a concussion. Prior to the right tackle’s absence, the Eagles had 10 points in three possessions, averaging a modest 4.5 yards per play with zero sacks. With Johnson out, the Eagles weren’t able to score again over their remaining 10 series, averaging 3.5 yards per play and surrendering five sacks. The quarterback wound up getting hit 12 times in 43 dropbacks, so once three or four passes. Jason Peters was also cited for back-to-back drive-killing penalties on the opening two drives in his return from injury.

Grade: D

Defensive line

Derek Barnett: 2 TKL, TFL

It won’t be reflected in the pass rush numbers — only four quarterback hits and zero sacks for the unit — but the Eagles were able to generate a lot of pressure on the quarterback, especially off the edges. Not coincidentally, the Patriots only completed 56.3 percent of their passes for 4.6 yards per attempt. New England didn’t have much luck running the football either (3.4 yards per carry) thanks in large part to the push up front.

Grade: A-

Linebackers

Nathan Gerry: 10 TKL, TFL, SK

Gerry made a bunch of plays before and after, but his missed tackle in the third quarter was costly. Instead of stopping a screen pass for no gain, the running back slipped away for a 30-yard gain — six plays later, the Patriots were in the end zone. Good game otherwise. Kamu Grugier-Hill was all over the place as well, finishing with three tackles, including three behind the line of scrimmage.

Grade: B+

Secondary

Ronald Darby: 5 TKL, 2 PD

Superb job as Darby, Jalen Mills, Avonte Maddox and Rodney McLeod all recorded pass breakups. The only problem: two or three of those could’ve and perhaps should’ve gone for interceptions. The defensive backs also got fooled by a wide receiver pass for New England’s lone touchdown, which marred an otherwise excellent performance, limiting New England to 234 yards through the air despite 48 attempts.

Grade: A

Special teams

Jake Elliott: 1/1 FG, 1/1 XP

Boston Scott sure is an adventure in the return game. He muffed and fumbled one kickoff and was fortunate to have it go out of bounds, dangerously made an over-the-shoulder catch on a punt and fielded another inside his own 10-yard line where a touchback appeared likely. Rudy Ford’s block in the back with four minutes to go didn’t do the Eagles any favors, either.

Grade: C-

Coaching

Eagles’ record: 5-5

With a 10-0 lead in the second quarter, it looked like Doug Pederson was on his way to calling his best game of the season with an undermanned offense. But it was one injury too many when Johnson went down, and the offense collapsed, never finding or coming particularly close to the goal line again. Great game for Jim Schwartz’s defense, and the team seemed properly motivated, so not sure how much more the staff could’ve done. They simply lacked the talent.

Grade: B+

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles