Roob's 10 Observations: Crazily underrated Eagles LB, Matthews' future and more

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Roob's 10 Observations: Crazily underrated Eagles LB, Matthews' future and more

Comparing the Eagles' 2004 and 2017 Super Bowl offensive lines, a drastically underrated Eagles linebacker, Jordan Matthews' future and more in the neverending parade of Nick Foles stats!

Somebody must have ordered Roob's 10 Random Eagles Observations! 

1. One of the biggest differences between the 2004 Super Bowl and the 2017 Super Bowl was the performance of the Eagles' offensive line. The Eagles' line in Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville got brutalized. The interior of the line in particular — guards Jermane Mayberry and Artis Hicks and center Hank Fraley — was destroyed by Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest and Mike Vrabel, who hit Donovan McNabb repeatedly, forced him to rush throws, sacked him four times, recorded eight tackles for loss and limited the Eagles to 2.6 yards per rush.

Compare that to the performance of Stefen Wisniewski, Jason Kelce and Brandon Brooks, the interior of the 2017 O-line this time around against the Patriots. The line was monstrous, controlling the line of scrimmage, keeping Foles clean (no sacks on 44 pass attempts) and paving the way for the Eagles to average 6.1 yards per carry. That 2004 O-line was a pretty good one, with three Pro Bowlers (Tra Thomas, Jon Runyan, Mayberry), but they just got destroyed in Jacksonville.

The 2017 group? Their play was superhuman despite losing a Hall of Fame left tackle. Lane Johnson, Brooks and Kelce all showed they're as good as anyone in the game. And Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Wisniewski, two guys that didn't even start the season in the starting lineup, were beasts down the stretch and in the playoffs. It's a group that's smart, physical and athletic and plays so well together. Best of all? They're all back. The team that brought you Ben Tamburello, Mike Schad, Steve Everitt, Ron Solt, Ian Beckles, Max Jean-Gilles, Jeff Dellenbach, Lonnie Palelei and a freaking 26-year-old rookie who wanted to ride around tooting the horn on a firetruck has the best O-line in football, and they're not going away any time soon.

2. I know Doug Pederson said Jay Ajayi will be the Eagles' lead back this year, but I still don't expect him to get more than 200 carries. The Eagles have been clear about their concern with his chronic knee issues, and with the talent they have at running back there's no reason to give Ajayi 20 carries a game. But, man, he can make a huge impact — and stay healthy — with 13 or 14 carries and two or three catches.

3. William Thomas was so underrated. Maybe it's because he was drafted in 1991, as the whole Reggie / Clyde / Seth / Jerome / Wes / Andre defense was unraveling. But Willie T. had 27 interceptions and 37 sacks in his career, and only five others in NFL history had 25 sacks and 25 INTs — including Dawk, Ray Lewis and Rodney Harrison. In fact, Willie T. and Lewis are the only linebackers ever with 25 and 25.  

4. I know everybody disagrees, but I still think Jordan Matthews is pretty good, and I expect him to have a solid season in New England.

5. Another reason to love Doug Pederson: The Eagles' 29 fourth-down attempts last year are the most on record (the NFL began tracking fourth-down attempts in 1991). The Eagles were an insane 20-for-29 on fourth down, including some fairly important ones. It was amazing watching Doug evolve last year into such a fearless play-caller. 

6. Nick Foles' stats on third down in the 2017 postseason are so ridiculous I double-checked them three times because I didn't think they could possibly be correct. But they're correct: 27-for-33 for 400 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions and a 156.8 passer rating. Yep, only two more incomplete passes than touchdowns. This is insanity.

7. The more time goes by, the more astonishing Foles' postseason seems to me. 

8. Only three players in Super Bowl history have caught a touchdown pass on fourth down: Irving Fryar when the Patriots were trailing the Bears 44-3 late in the fourth quarter in 1985, Don Beebe when the Bills were trailing the Redskins by 20 late in the fourth quarter in 1991 and Foles just before halftime of a three-point game. Conclusion: Foles is the only player in NFL history to catch a meaningful fourth-down touchdown pass in a Super Bowl.

9. I have no idea what really happened at NRG Stadium after Super Bowl LI. But I find it extremely difficult to believe that in this day and age when every single thing anybody does is caught on videotape, that not one video camera picked up the incident Michael Bennett is alleged to have been involved in. With all the security at major events these days? There was no video camera? At an entrance to the field? After a Super Bowl? Not buying it.

10. We haven't had a Zach Ertz stat in a while, so here ya go: Ertz is the only player in Eagles history with three straight seasons with 70 or more catches and 800 yards. Only two others have had two straight: Fryar and Matthews.

More on the Eagles

•​ Michael Bennett has arraignment postponed again

•​ Carson Wentz's odds to win 2018 NFL MVP

•​ The behind-the-scenes story of Eagles’ Super Bowl rings

•​ Is Eagles’ WR trio best group in team history?

•​ Foles is a legend, but Eagles still need Wentz

Eagles to ring bell at tonight's Sixers' game

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Eagles to ring bell at tonight's Sixers' game

There’s going to be Eagles mania at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Super Bowl champions will be in the building Tuesday evening for the Sixers game against the Wizards.

The Eagles' starting offensive line composed of Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Stefen Wisniewski, and the injured Jason Peters will ring the ceremonial pregame bell.

They won’t be the only ones in the arena. Other Eagles players and front office members also are expected to be there.

And judging by this quick Twitter poll last night, Sixers fans (loudly) will be showing their appreciation for the Eagles bringing the Lombardi Trophy to Philadelphia.

Big V excelling with help from Hall of Fame mentor

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Big V excelling with help from Hall of Fame mentor

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Having Jason Peters as a mentor is kind of liketaking piano lessons from Vladimir Horowitz or acting lessons from De Niro.

You can't help but improve.

And Halapoulivaati Vaitai sure has improved.

Vaitai played his best game yet in the NFC Championship Game, neutralizing feared pass rusher Everson Griffen in the Eagles' 38-7 blowout win over the Vikings at the Linc.

"Yeah, I was just locked in that night," Big V said. "I didn’t have any worries. I just try not to have any worries going into a game, but yeah. In my opinion I think I played pretty good."

And Peters was there the whole way to encourage him, support him, help him.

"He's been playing great, man," Peters said. "I always encourage the guy and keep him calm. He's been doing great. I'm just happy for him.

"It's going to take time. Guys are going to beat you. You just have to have a strong mindset to just keep coming back and battling."

Peters, a nine-time Pro Bowler, suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second Redskins game. Big V struggled at first but has gradually grown into the left tackle role.

With Stefen Wisniewski healthy and solidifying left guard, the left side of the offensive line has gone from liability to a real strength of this offense.

“It’s gotten (more) calm as each week’s gone by," Vaitai said. "Still not comfortable, still have to work to do, but as the weeks go on I guess my nerves have calmed down a little bit.

“The more repetition, the more experience I get (the better I'll play). I just have to continue doing what I’m doing. It’s night and day (over earlier this year)."

With All-Pro Jason Kelce at center and Pro Bowlers Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson at right guard and right tackle, the Eagles have dominated on the right side all year. Now the left side is holding its own.

The Eagles' offensive line muscled the Vikings' vaunted defensive line out of the Linc in the NFC Championship Game and will have to play just as well Sunday if the Eagles are going to have a chance in Super Bowl LII against the Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

"He's made strides throughout the year," Brooks said of Vaitai. "He did the same thing last year (at right tackle).

"The biggest thing J.P. told him out of the gate, there's no replacing Jason Peters. Just be you and do what you do well and he took that to heart."

The Eagles have had elite left tackles in their two previous Super Bowl appearances.

Stan Walters was a two-time Pro Bowler in his ninth NFL season when the Eagles faced the Raiders in 1980. And Tra Thomas was a three-time Pro Bowler in his seventh NFL season when the Eagles faced the Patriots in 2004.

Vaitai is a second-year fifth-round pick who has still only started 18 games in his NFL career, including the postseason.

On Sunday, he starts in a Super Bowl.

“It’s always been about the next man up," Vaitai said. "It’s crazy to be in a Super Bowl and actually be the left tackle here, but I’ve got to give it all for J.P.

"It’s unfortunate for him to go down but it’s just one of those deals. It’s crazy, but it’s just another game. Just another game.

"I treat every game like a big game. But it’s really cool to be in this spot, on this stage."

Obviously there are a ton of factors, but in the seven games Peters started, the Eagles' offense averaged 27.4 points and 381 yards per game and went 6-1. With Vaitai at left tackle, those figures were 24.5, 361 and 9-2.

Vaitai is clearly holding his own.

"He's a great player," said Peters, one of the best ever. "Once he gets his confidence up, you just can't really stop him. I'm going to be by his side all the way."