The future of the Eagles' defensive line, recalling Eric McCoo's brief Eagles career and a chance meeting in New Orleans with O.J. Simpson highlight this week's edition of Roob's 10 random Eagles observations.
1. The Eagles’ defensive line has underachieved this year, and I feel like this is a position that’s due for a major overhaul this offseason. Brandon Graham’s deal is up, and he’s going to be looking for a huge contract that the Eagles probably won’t be in position to get into a bidding war for him. Chris Long and Haloti Ngata most likely won’t be back. The only locks to return are Fletcher Cox, Derek Barnett and Michael Bennett. Josh Sweat was a fourth-round pick, so he’ll likely be back, but this is a group that desperately needs an infusion of young talent. Ngata is 34. Long and Bennett are 33. Graham is 30. Cox turns 28 in a few weeks. He’s in his prime and playing as well as ever. But he needs some help. A year ago, the defensive line was a real strength of this team. This year? Hasn’t been awful, but hasn’t lived up to its billing as one of the best in the league. I would expect changes this offseason, and I'd anticipate those changes will be significant.
2. Zach Ertz’s 75 catches are fourth most in NFL history after nine games. But only the second most among players who will be on the field at the Superdome this weekend. Saints receiver Michael Thomas has 78!
3. One more Ertz note: He already has 396 career receptions. That’s the 11th most in NFL history by a tight end in his first seven seasons. And Ertz is only halfway through his sixth season. So if he’s held without a catch in his next 23 games, he’ll still go into 2020 with the 11th-most catches ever by a tight end in his first seven seasons.
4. The Eagles have allowed fewer touchdowns after nine games this year (19) than after nine games last year (20). Perspective is a funny thing.
5. Considering the current state of the Eagles’ ground game, I get a ton of tweets lamenting the Eagles' decision to move on from LeGarrette Blount after last season. I’m the biggest LeGarrette Blount fan in the world, but there were clear signs last year he was on his last legs, and his production is way down this year in Detroit. He’s averaged less than 3.0 yards per carry in 13 of his last 17 games, including all but two games this year. If the season ended today, his 2.56 yards per carry would be the fourth lowest by a running back with 70 or more carries in the last 30 years. Blount was exceptional the first half of last year and had a massive Super Bowl, and I’ll always admire him for the selfless way he welcomed Jay Ajayi without a single complaint. But he’s not the answer.
6. Only one player in NFL history has played in just one game (not counting replacement players during the 1987 strike) and had more than 27 rushing yards. That was McCoo, a New Jersey native who played college football at Penn State and got to play in the Eagles’ 2004 season finale against the Bengals. With the Eagles having already locked up the No. 1 seed for the NFC playoffs, Andy Reid played a bunch of subs that day, including McCoo, who had spent much of the season on the practice squad. He responded with nine carries for 54 yards and never played another game. Three interesting notes about McCoo: 1. He was MVP of World Bowl XII after rushing for 167 yards in the Berlin Thunder’s 30-24 win over the Frankfurt Galaxy early in 2004, 2. He was New Jersey Meet of Champions long jump winner for Red Bank High in 1997 with a jump of 23-4, and 3. When McCoo was inducted into the Red Bank High School Hall of Fame, he went in with another former Eagle, Danny Stubbs, who was with the Eagles in 1995.
7. Josh Adams. Seventeen carries. Sunday.
8. With the Eagles going into New Orleans as nine-point underdogs, how about some Eagles underdog trivia?
• The last time the Eagles were underdogs of eight points or more was the Patriots game in Foxboro in 2015, when they won 35-28. Chip Kelly was fired 23 days later.
• Last time the Eagles won as double-digit underdogs was late in 2007, when they went into Dallas 5-8 and the Cowboys were 12-1. But with Brian Westbrook piling up 144 yards of offense and Reggie Brown catching a TD pass from Donovan McNabb, the Eagles won 10-6.
• The biggest upset win on record by the Eagles came in 1985, when they were 14-point underdogs against the Redskins at RFK Stadium but won 19-6 behind 22-year-old QB Randall Cunningham and a big game by Earnest Jackson.
9. Putting the Eagles’ seven takeaways in context: Only 15 teams in NFL history have had fewer after nine games. It’s almost impossible to have just seven takeaways in nine games.
10. Whenever the Eagles go to New Orleans, I’m reminded of Super Bowl week in 1990. Legendary Philly sports writer Phil Sheridan and I were in the outdoor courtyard at popular N’awlins watering hole Pat O’Brien’s and this being Super Bowl week, the place was packed with celebs. O.J. Simpson was there having a drink and this being 1990 he wasn’t O.J. Simpson yet, so everybody was approaching him asking for autographs and telling him he was the greatest and all that. Me, being a fan of O.J.’s acting prowess, went up to him and said, “Hey, Juice, I just wanted to say you were awesome in Capricorn One,” a reference to the 1978 movie thriller about a faked manned Mars landing starring O.J., Elliott Gould and James Brolin. O.J.’s face lit up and for the next few minutes we hung out there and talked about Capricorn One! Everybody thought I was goofing on him, but I was actually serious. I love that movie! And I read years later that he was terribly insecure about his acting career and really appreciated when people praised his acting. And that’s how O.J. and I became besties for a few minutes in a bar in the French Quarter!
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