Jordan Hicks

Eagles Injury Update: Reports on all half a dozen injured Birds

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Eagles Injury Update: Reports on all half a dozen injured Birds

The Eagles are hurting emotionally and physically, Doug Pederson said, after their 48-7 loss to the Saints in New Orleans. 

Let’s dive into the physical portion now. 

Six Eagles left Sunday’s game early with injuries. Pederson was asked about all of them in a rapid-fire question to start his Monday morning press conference. 

“That’s a big list,” he said. “Big list, big list, big list.”

Here are those updates: 

• Long snapper Rick Lovato suffered a concussion and is in the NFL’s concussion protocol 

• Jordan Hicks (calf) is week to week

• Sidney Jones (hamstring) is week to week 

• Avonte Maddox (knee) is day to day 

• Rasul Douglas (knee) is day to day

• Jason Kelce (elbow) is “fine” 

Even though Pederson said Maddox is day to day, that’s somewhat hard to believe. Maddox’s injury looked nasty and he was seen walking away from the building Monday morning with a significant limp. 

Normally, when Pederson calls someone “week to week,” they’re going to miss some time. That’s where Hicks and Jones are. Pederson said Jones had healed completely from his hamstring injury but suffered a new injury. 

If Lovato can’t play this coming Sunday, linebacker Nate Gerry is the team’s backup. He long-snapped in college and was warming up on the sideline Sunday night. 

In light of the rash of injuries, Pederson was asked about his trust in the team’s medical staff. Pederson was defensive about this topic and said there’s “no problem.”

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Poor tackling reaches epidemic proportions for Eagles

Poor tackling reaches epidemic proportions for Eagles

There are a million reasons the Eagles are 4-5 a year after winning the Super Bowl, and poor tackling is right up there with shaky pass protection, bad play-calling, a lack of takeaways, slow starts and an inconsistent running game.
The Eagles tackled very well last year.
They've tackled very poorly this year.
A year ago, the Eagles were eighth-best in the NFL, allowing 5.02 yards per play. This year they’re 17th at 5.77.
That’s a difference of three-quarters of a yard per play, which is huge.
Is that all because of poor tackling? Not all of it but a lot of it.
There’s no doubt the Eagles miss Rodney McLeod, who is a very good tackler and may have saved the Eagles’ Super Bowl win with two huge solo red-zone stops on Gronk.
They also miss Jalen Mills, a very good tackling cornerback.
And Nigel Bradham, who was exceptional last year, seems to have taken a big step backwards this year in terms of coverage and tackling.
Even the usually reliable Jordan Hicks has missed his share of tackles.

It's been a team-wide malaise.

What the heck is going on here?
“I don't know,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “I think a lot of tackling goes to positioning, it goes to playing fast, playing confident. I think first when you look at tackling, you generally go there. I don't think we've looked as fast and as swarming on defense. I think here's what happened: I think a lot of times last year we would miss the same number of tackles, but we were just flying around so fast and guys were covering each other up. I think that we’ve got a lot of new faces and they're all sort of working their way through playing off of the other guy. And there is something to that sort of communication like offensive line, knowing what the other guy's going to do. I think we've got some work to do there.”
The Eagles’ tackling issues reached a new low Sunday night against the Cowboys, and it showed up in Ezekiel Elliott’s rushing numbers.
Elliott finished with 151 rushing yards, most by a Cowboy against the Eagles since Emmitt Smith in 1995.
“You have guys in positions to tackle,” Schwartz said. “Tackling, I think a lot of times you guys look at it as a 1-on-1 thing. I don't look at tackling as a 1-on-1 thing. Not only is it the guy getting the guy down, but it's everybody else supporting him so he doesn't have to make a two-way tackle.
“Plus, it's a tough situation sometimes when a guy has to make a tackle when a ball has broken through our front seven. We didn't see many of those in the past. We saw a couple of them on Sunday night.
“I mean, all due respect, Ezekiel Elliott's a great running back, but we shouldn’t give up rushing yards like that.”
What other methods can we use to measure poor tackling? Consider this:
• The Eagles allowed 50 plays of 20+ yards all last year (40 passing, 10 rushing). In just nine games this year they’ve already allowed 41 (33 passing, eight rushing). Poor tackling is a part of that.
• The Eagles allowed 3.8 yards per rushing attempt last year, and that figure has ballooned to 4.7 this year. Poor tackling is a part of that.
• Opposing offenses were 0-for-23 last year on 3rd-and-15 or longer. They’re 5-for-17 this year on 3rd-and-15 or longer (29.4 percent). Poor tackling is a part of that.

There is no simple single metric that defines missed tackles. But 4-5 might be the best one.

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Eagles defense forcing turnovers at an alarmingly low rate

Eagles defense forcing turnovers at an alarmingly low rate

Through nine games in the 2018 season, the Eagles are giving up 20.3 points per game, nearly identical to the 19.9 points per game they gave up through nine games during their Super Bowl season. 

So what’s missing? 

Well, it’s pretty simple. They aren’t getting any takeaways. 

Through these first nine games, Jim Schwartz’s unit has just seven takeaways. That ranks as the third-fewest in the league behind Tampa Bay (6) and San Francisco (5). The Giants, Raiders and Ravens also have seven. The Eagles’ turnover differential is minus-6. 

At 4-5, their seven takeaways are tied for the fewest in franchise history after nine games. The 1998 Eagles also had seven after nine games to go along with a 2-7 record. 

To put it into perspective, the 2017 Eagles had 16 takeaways through nine games and a turnover differential of plus-6, to go along with their 8-1 record. 

So why aren’t they getting any turnovers? Jordan Hicks can’t figure it out either. 

Goodness gracious. It’s tough. It’s tough. A lot of times, you get opportunities … I feel like we had one opportunity this game with Kamu (Grugier-Hill) with a big ol’ thing on his hand. It’s tough on him. It’s tough. We gotta find a way to get the ball back for our offense, whatever it is. The quarterback may not give us an opportunity, we’ve got to get after that ball when it’s in the runner’s hands. We gotta go after it. We haven’t done that well enough yet.

The play in Sunday’s game that Hicks was talking about came in the first quarter. On 1st-and-10 from their own 8-yard line, Dak Prescott threw a ball intended for Amari Cooper that was nearly picked off by Kamu Grugier-Hill, who might have pranced into the end zone for a pick-6.

But Grugier-Hill recently had surgery on his thumb and was wearing a club on his hand. He couldn’t pull it in. 

If Grugier-Hill was able to make this play, the Eagles could have finally taken a lead in the first quarter and maybe things end a little differently. But that’s kind of been the story for the Eagles this year. They aren’t capitalizing on their chances to force turnovers. 

It’s not all on the defense either. The Eagles’ offense was able to get off to faster starts last season, which allowed the defense to attack and forced opponents to pass the ball. Everything works in harmony and the Eagles, as a whole, are a mess. 

They have four interceptions. One each from Ronald Darby, Grugier-Hill and Rasul Douglas. And they have three fumble recoveries. One each from Hicks, Nigel Bradham and Malcolm Jenkins. 

That’s not enough. 

The lack of takeaways this year is pretty damning. They are one of 30 teams in NFL history with seven or fewer takeaways through nine games. Six of those teams are from this season and all six (Eagles, Raiders, Ravens, Giants, Bucs, 49ers) probably aren’t going to make the playoffs. And of the 24 teams to previously do it before this season, just six of them made the playoffs. 

Good teams find ways to get the ball back. 

Turnovers are hard to figure out. Some of it’s luck, some of it is being opportunistic. And some of it just comes down to guys making a play when the team needs them to make a play. The Eagles simply aren’t getting enough of that right now. 

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