ronald darby

Boston Scott impresses, Carson Wentz has a signature win and more in Eagles-Giants report card

Boston Scott impresses, Carson Wentz has a signature win and more in Eagles-Giants report card

Amazing what 30 minutes can mean for a football team. At halftime, the Eagles were barreling toward a loss to one of the worst teams in the NFL in the NFC East rival Giants and another report card filled with F’s. Then, out of nowhere, the Eagles with a ragtag offense and much maligned defense launched a comeback, turning a 14-point deficit into a 23-17 overtime victory.

Good grades for all! Well, good grades for most, and satisfactory grades for all, as a home win over New York shouldn’t have been quite that difficult.

Quarterback

Carson Wentz: 33/50, 325 YDS, 2 TD

For two-and-a-half quarters, it appeared Wentz was headed for another uneven performance everybody could nitpick all week. Then, improbably, with only two healthy wide receivers and his right tackle sidelined, he got into a rhythm. Wentz completed 22 of 31 for 228 yards in the second half and overtime, leading three scoring drives on the Eagles’ final five possessions. And when you consider the supporting cast he did it with, it’s even more surprising. Giants or no, this was a signature win for the fourth-year signal caller.

Grade: A

Running backs

Boston Scott: 10 CAR, 59 YDS, TD, 6 REC, 69 YDS

The numbers weren’t stellar, but Miles Sanders (15 CAR, 45 YDS, 4 REC, 24 YDS) gave maximum effort, running with a purpose, jumping and juking, trying to create explosive plays. Protected his quarterback, too. The big gainers just weren’t there – couldn’t make that last guy miss or slip one last tackle. With Sanders apparently hurting, Boston Scott got an extended look in the second half and went off, which played a huge part in changing the game.

Grade: A

Wide receivers and tight ends

Zach Ertz: 9 REC, 91 YDS, 2 TD

Once Alshon Jeffery was lost to injury, the Eagles were extremely shorthanded here, so it’s no surprise Ertz was the only member of either unit with better than 5 catches (Joshua Perkins) or 41 yards (Dallas Goedert). The cherry on top was Greg Ward dropping a touchdown pass right on is hands, one of five in nine targets that went for incompletions. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside came up with a highlight-reel over-the-shoulder grab for 22 yards on the game-tying drive in the fourth quarter though.

Grade: B

Offensive line

Jason Peters will have nightmares about this one. The future Hall of Famer was tossed aside like a rookie when his man sacked the quarterback into Lane Johnson, causing the right tackle’s nasty-looking ankle injury. The line was only adequate otherwise, paving the way for a ho-hum 3.7 yards per carry on the ground and allowing 10 quarterback hits and three sacks in 54 dropbacks.

Grade: C+

Defensive line

Vinny Curry: 2 TFL, 2.0 SK

The Eagles limited the Giants to 3.9 yards per carry on the ground, then the front four turned up the rush in the second half, with Curry killing a pair of drives. It was clear New York’s game plan was to get the ball out quickly, so there were only five hits on the quarterback, but the line definitely affected the passer.

Grade: A

Linebackers

Nate Gerry: 5 TKL, PD

Not hugely impactful in terms of volume, as Gerry and Nigel Bradham combined for nine tackles. However, the duo also combined for a couple of pass breakups, which were no small potatoes.

Grade: B

Defensive backs

Malcolm Jenkins: 4 TKL, TFL, 2 PD, FF

Hope you like your Ronald Darby extra crispy. The corner missed a tackle to turn a short slant into a 35-yard score, then was involved in a mix-up with Rodney McLeod on a 55-yard bomb for another six, which Jenkins accepted the blame for postgame. The secondary settled down after that, allowing just 24 yards through the air in the second half – but those plays almost proved costly.

Grade: B-

Special teams

Cameron Johnston: 48.4 AVG, 5 IN20

Are the Eagles even in this game if Johnston doesn’t continuously pin the Giants in their own end? Probably not. Jake Elliott missed a 47-yard field goal attempt in the fourth quarter that, as it turned out, would’ve helped the Eagles put the game away in regulation – no harm, no foul, I guess.

Grade: A-

Coaching

Eagles’ record: 6-7

Was all set to give the staff an F after a pitiful first half, but look at what this team accomplished. Jim Schwartz’s unit limited the Giants to two first downs and 29 yards of total offense in the second half, and Doug Pederson’s offense put together three touchdown drives with Boston Scott, Greg Ward, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Joshua Perkins among Carson Wentz’s primary targets, not to mention with Lane Johnson out of the game. They rallied the troops, and Giants or no, took care of business in dramatic fashion.

Grade: A-

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Saviors of the secondary? Forget it — Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby roasted by Dolphins

Saviors of the secondary? Forget it — Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby roasted by Dolphins

MIAMI — For the last month, it really seemed like Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby had solidified the Eagles’ secondary. 

Forget all that. 

On Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium, the Eagles lost 37-31 to one of the worst teams in the NFL thanks to an absolutely pathetic performance (see Roob's observations). And Mills and Darby were burnt up and down the field. 

“Every dog has its day,” Mills said. “It’s part of the game. Those guys get paid too. At the end of the day, gotta watch the film and come back. Next week, we got the Giants. Big game on Monday night, just come out and play hard.”

It’s a good thing that these cornerbacks are known for their short memories. 

Because Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins is one they’ll want to forget as quick as humanly possible. 

NFL journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 365 yards and three touchdowns. Tight end Mike Gesicki had five catches for 79 yards and a touchdown. 

But DeVante Parker was the star. He had a career game, catching seven passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns. Most of those came on big plays down the field against Darby and Mills. 

“He had a day,” Mills said. “That guy gets paid too.” 

Parker on Sunday had two 40-plus-yard catches and now has six on the season. The Eagles, as a team, have just five. 

On some of the plays to Parker, the Eagles’ defensive backs had good position, but Parker is 6-3 and simply beat Mills (6-0) and Darby (5-11) on 50-50 balls. Same goes for the 6-foot-6 Gesicki. The Eagles’ tallest cornerback, Rasul Douglas (6-foot-2), stayed on the bench. 

That they were in position to make plays and didn’t was no consolation to Mills and Darby after that loss. 

“I just have to finish,” Darby said. “It goes like that sometimes. I just have to find a way to finish and make a play on the ball.”

Mills and Darby at least talked to reporters after the game; several big-name Eagles declined interview requests as they left the locker room. 

Parker is now the eighth receiver to go over 100 yards against the Eagles this season, but he’s the first since Oct. 20, when Amari Cooper did it. Because with Darby and Mills back in the lineup together beginning in Buffalo, the Eagles’ defense had looked really good. 

With Mills and Darby together in the previous four games, the Eagles’ defense had given up 15.25 points per game. Coming into this weekend, that made them the NFL’s second-best defense since Week 8 and their two starting cornerbacks seemed to be a big part of that. 

Well … that all changed in Miami. On Sunday, they were a huge reason why the Eagles got embarrassed by one of the worst teams in the league. 

For Eagles fans, this is definitely the low point of the season. 

Darby claims he doesn’t rank them. 

“A low is a low,” Darby said. “Any loss feels horrible, especially when you give up plays. Like, you feel bad, you feel me?” 

Yeah, Ronald, we do. We all do.

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Jalen Mills, the man who saved the Eagles' secondary

Jalen Mills, the man who saved the Eagles' secondary

It’s no coincidence the Eagles’ defense has suddenly started playing light years better the last few weeks.

That’s when Jalen Mills showed up.

For some reason a large segment of the Eagles' fan base has decided Mills isn’t any good.

Maybe because he was a seventh-round pick. Maybe because he doesn't have typical NFL cornerback wheels. Maybe it's the green hair.

But if you forget your assumptions and actually watch him play, you see a tough, physical, smart, fundamentally sound cornerback who has helped transform the Eagles’ defense from a disaster the first month and a half into the season into a legit unit today.

Mills came back for the Cowboys game and Ronald Darby a week later for the Bills game. Along with safeties Rodney McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins and slot corner Avonte Maddox, it's the first time the Eagles have had their full projected starting secondary together since Week 3 of last year.

Jalen is playing at a high level all across the field,”defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “He's tackling well, he's covering well. He's up to the challenge of covering guys, and he brings us a lot of spirit and a lot of competitiveness and toughness. I think you've seen the level of defensive play increase since he's been back. He's always been a respected member of our defense and a guy that the coaches and players both have a lot of confidence in. He was down for a while. He worked really hard to get back, and I think all that hard work is paying off for him. I'm really proud of him.

The Eagles are 22-8 over the last three years when Mills starts and 15-6 when both Darby and Mills start.

Mills missed over a year with a foot injury. Darby missed the stretch run last year with a torn ACL and then four games this year with a hamstring injury.

Let’s take a look at the Eagles this year with and without Mills. The difference is astonishing:

Passing yards allowed

Before Mills: 280 per game (27th)
With Mills: 174 per game (3rd)

Opposing completion percentage

Before Mills: 64.3 percent (14th)
With Mills: 56.9 percent (3rd)

Opposing passer rating

Before Mills: 94.5 (20th)
With Mills: 81.1 (11th)

Opposing TD passes

Before Mills: 13 (27th)
With Mills: 4 (6th)

Opposing net yards

Before Mills: 353 per game (15th)
With Mills: 174 per game (3rd)

Obviously there are other factors. But after missing 16 games, Mills has picked up right where he left off.

“I feel good,” Mills said. “I’m running round, playing a lot of different positions for sure, more this year than I did in my previous years.”

Mills has gotten some work in the slot over the past few weeks, something he did at LSU but hasn’t done here since his rookie year in 2016.

At the end of the day I pride myself on being a defensive back, I don’t pride myself on just being an [outside] corner,” he said. “Whatever the game plan is, Schwartz needs me to play on the outside, inside, weak side, strong side, it doesn’t matter, I feel like I can do it.

With Mills and Darby holding it down at corner as opposed to Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas and all the others who've come and gone, Schwartz is able to call a much more aggressive game. You can’t blitz if you don’t trust your corners.

Finally, Schwartz does.

“It never hurts to have your guys back in there,” Schwartz said. “It does give you a little bit more flexibility and be able to match up different ways."

You saw that Sunday, when the Eagles harassed Tom Brady throughout the afternoon. The Eagles lost, but the defense held Brady to a pedestrian 67.3 passer rating, just 216 yards and no TD passes.

It was only the fifth time in 172 games over the last 10 years Brady has had a passer rating under 70, fewer than 220 yards and no TD passes.

You think that’s happening without Mills?  

The most remarkable thing is that Mills literally did not play football from Oct. 28, 2018, until Oct. 20, 2019.

As soon as he got back, he was back to his old self.

Jalen has never checked out, so you could say, ‘Yeah, it's surprising because it's a tough thing to do,’ but I also recognize all the work that he's put into it, and it hasn't just been sit around for a year waiting for it to come back," Schwartz said. "He's been actively engaged in every one of our meetings and every one of our game plans. Even if he wasn't playing, he sits right over there and he's into the game taking notes like if he was playing. And that's paid off for him. We've had other players, not just Jalen, injured players, but we've had guys on the practice squad that have been that way, and generally the guys that succeed are the guys that stay ready so they don't have to get ready, and Jalen certainly personifies that.

Things don’t get any easier Sunday when Russell Wilson and the mighty Seahawks come to the Linc.

But with Mills and Darby back there, at least the Eagles will have a chance. Without them? They would have none.

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