LeGarrette Blount

Meeting O.J. Simpson, changes to D-line, more in Roob's 10 random Eagles observations

Meeting O.J. Simpson, changes to D-line, more in Roob's 10 random Eagles observations

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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Eagles Mailbag: Re-signing Golden Tate, missing LeGarrette Blount, more

Eagles Mailbag: Re-signing Golden Tate, missing LeGarrette Blount, more

We asked for mailbag questions and you guys came through again. Since we got enough, I have split them into two separate posts. 

One today, one on Sunday morning as you spend the day preparing for Eagles-Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. 

Let’s dive in: 

It’s an interesting question and, in a vacuum, the answer is obviously yes. Even though he’s 30, there haven’t been many more productive players than Golden Tate in recent NFL history. Here’s the problem: Alshon Jeffery’s cap number is nearly $15 million next season. If they keep Nelson Agholor on his fifth-year option, that’s around another $9.5 million (they’ve already exercised the option but it’s not guaranteed). So we’re talking about nearly $25 million between two receivers after the Eagles are allocating less than $17 million for that entire position group in cap space coming into this season. Would the Eagles be willing to spend over $30 million on three players at one position? To put that into perspective, just one team (the Buccaneers) allocated over $30 million to receivers this season.

Still, it’s possible the Eagles might re-sign Tate. They could even part ways with Agholor if they don’t want to keep him on that fifth-year option deal or they could sign him to a long-term deal and alleviate some cap space for 2019. But this is also the first offseason with the opportunity to extend Carson Wentz, which could absolutely change anything. It’s a little bit of a double-edged sword; the better Tate plays these last eight games, the more expensive he’ll be to keep. I don’t think it’s likely, but I’ll never rule Howie Roseman out. 

It’s easy to look at this running backs group and the trouble the Eagles have had keeping leads and miss LeGarrette Blount. But he wouldn’t have been the answer. 

Out in Detroit, Blount signed a one-year, $2 million deal and lost his starting job after three games. He’s carried the ball 65 times and has an average of 2.7 yards per carry. There are 60 players in the NFL with at least 40 carries this season. Blount is dead last among them in yards per carry. 

Give credit to that guy for everything he did while he was here, but the Eagles were wise to move on. 

I think the Eagles will finish the season with nine or 10 wins. Of their eight games, five of them are in this lousy division. I don’t think it’s out of the question to sweep those games, which would put them at nine wins alone. But even if they win four out of five, they have to be able to win at least one tough game —  at NO,  at LAR or vs. HOU. 

I get why everyone is so excited to finally see Jordan Mailata. He’s the most intriguing prospect we’ve ever seen. But I just don’t think he’s ready. With injuries to the offensive line, maybe he’ll be active for an emergency situation, but I can’t see him playing. And I know everyone wants to see him at running back, but I don’t see that happening either … at least not right now. 

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Jay Ajayi embracing the changes with Eagles

Jay Ajayi embracing the changes with Eagles

In June, Doug Pederson said that Jay Ajayi would be the lead back in the rotation going into training camp.

Ajayi certainly deserved the promotion as he showed in 2017 he could be effective in this Eagles offense. He averaged 5.8 yards per carry in seven regular-season games after he was traded here from Miami. 

"Basically it's the guy we'll roll with in this offense," Ajayi said Friday about taking the lead role. "The guy who will keep us moving, [keep] the flow of the game going and make big plays for the team."

Maybe Ajayi can get back to his 2016 form in which he ran for 1,272 yards (fourth-best in the league). He wouldn’t reveal how many touches he’d like to get per game, but Ajayi wants to be considered a consistent option in the offense.

“I like to feel a part of the game," he said. "I like to feel like I’m doing something going into the fourth quarter, especially in close games, because I feel like I do a great job of wearing defenses down.”

Ajayi misses LeGarrette Blount, who was his mentor when he arrived. He even calls Blount his brother.

But Ajayi still has Duce Staley to lean on. 

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a running back coach in my career who actually played the position," Ajayi said. "Now I’ve got one that’s actually played in the NFL. Just him telling me the little tidbits of how to attack a defense, and how to stick one way while getting a defense to move another way. His knowledge of the game and defenses allows me to be smarter out there and helps me know what’s coming even before it happens.

"All of those things are going to help me be a better player and teammate. It’s been a great opportunity for me to learn from him."

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