Carson Wentz vs. Donovan McNabb in Roob's 10 Random Eagles Observations!

Carson Wentz vs. Donovan McNabb in Roob's 10 Random Eagles Observations!

Alshon's future, a crazy Shelton Gibson stat, Carson Wentz vs. Donovan McNabb and lots more in this weekend's 10 Random Eagles Offseason Observations! 

1. The question I’ve been asked more than any other since the season ended is: “What are they going to do with Alshon?” And it’s an intriguing one. Howie talked about Alshon when he met with the media a couple weeks ago, and bringing him back - if he’s healthy - makes sense in a way. When he’s healthy, he’s the most talented WR on the roster … by far (I know, I know, low bar), they’ve got to pay him anyway, and you can’t replace an entire corps of wide receivers, so why not keep the best one? But then I keep coming back to … I just don’t want this guy in my locker room. I don’t want him anywhere near Carson Wentz. I don’t want him near the young, impressionable wideouts the Eagles are going to draft. It’s a tough call, especially because of the economics. And Jeffery’s foot injury complicates everything. But bottom line is I just don’t think it’s a good idea for him to be in the building, and it’s up to Roseman to figure out a sensible way to make sure he's not. 

2. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of Graham Harrell as offensive coordinator. He’s obviously a bright offensive mind, but what I like is that he’s an outside voice who can bring some fresh ideas to Doug Pederson, but philosophically he’s coming from the same general place as Doug. Harrell is a disciple of Mike Leach - he played for him and coached under him - and Leach is not quite part of the Andy Reid coaching tree, but he used to visit Reid, Marty Mornhinweg and Pederson at Lehigh to pick their brains about their offense. They’re different enough because there’s no direct connection between Pederson and Harrell, but there’s enough common ground that it seems like a heck of a fit. 

3. I wrote this past week about Doug Pederson’s struggles hiring assistant coaches, and one of the more troublesome trends is that he’s now fired three coaches he brought in and then promoted. He hired Carson Walch in 2018 as assistant wide receivers coach and promoted him to WR coach after one year, he hired Phillip Daniels in 2016 as a quality control coach and promoted him to d-line in 2018 and he brought in Mike Groh as WRs and promoted him to offensive coordinator after the 2017 season. Groh lasted two years and Walch and Daniels one year. I don’t get how you can be so wrong about guys who’ve been on your staff that you want to get rid of him that quickly.

4. For the first time since 1984, the Eagles didn’t have a punt return of 20 yards this year. Their longest  was a 17-yarder by Darren Sproles on opening day. In 1984, their long was a 16-yarder by Evan Cooper against the Patriots. Overall, the Eagles ranked 25th in punt return average at 5.8, their lowest figure since 5.7 in 1983. Makes it tough on everybody when so many of your drives start deep in your own territory. Greg Ward is a nice slot receiver, but he's not a punt returner. Just another need for 2020. 

5. There’s no down-side to Connor Barwin joining the Eagles’ front office. He’s a smart guy, he knows the game, he really loves this team and wants to see it succeed as much now as when he played here. The more people like Connor Barwin in your organization the better off you are.

6. I still believe in Carson Wentz, but interesting to think that four years into Donovan McNabb’s career he had already won four playoff games and reached two NFC Championship Games. 

7. One-time Eagles training camp phenom Raheem Mostert, who plays for the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game Sunday, has a higher career rushing average than every running back in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

8. Shelton Gibson has more position coaches than receptions in his career. Gibson has three career catches. He’s had four position coaches - Mike Groh in 2017, Gunter Brewer in 2018, Adam Henry with the Browns this past season and then Carson Walch for a week. If Gibson stays here this offseason? That disparity will go up.

9. Just a reminder for those clinging to their membership in the Jim Schwartz Sucks Cabal: Since 2016, the Eagles are No. 7 in the NFL in points allowed, No. 1 in run defense, No. 3 stopping third down, 10th in sacks, 9th in takeaways and 2nd in first downs allowed. With a Super Bowl title in there last time I checked. And allowing 17 points per game in six playoff games. And that’s with two players you’d classify as elite — Fletcher Cox and Malcolm Jenkins. He's not the problem.

10. Jason Peters has been an Eagle for so long he blocked for Brian Westbrook! Crazy, ain’t it? Going to be tough to see J.P. go. But it’s time. 

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Roob's observations after Eagles lose Carson Wentz to injury, can't pull off improbable playoff win over Seahawks

Roob's observations after Eagles lose Carson Wentz to injury, can't pull off improbable playoff win over Seahawks

BOX SCORE

The Eagles must have just been cursed this year. I don’t know how else you explain virtually the entire team getting hurt.

They overcame all of it during one riveting undefeated month and an improbable run to the NFC East title and the playoffs.

Losing Carson Wentz was just too much to overcome.

The Eagles battled gallantly and they made it closer than it should have been, but the season ended Sunday with a 17-9 wild-card loss to the Seahawks at the Linc.  

Here are our 10 instant observations from a gut-wrenching end to the 2019 season:

1. It’s just a cruel joke that after missing the 2017 and 2018 playoff runs and finally getting through a season healthy and playing at such a high level going into the postseason, Wentz’s season ended early again, this time with a concussion on a helmet-to-helmet shot by Jadeveon Clowney. It should have been a personal foul, but even if the refs called it, Wentz still misses the game. Three years in a row. It’s hard to even fathom what he’s going through. And I don’t want to hear that he’s injury prone because that blow to the side of his helmet would have knocked any QB out of the game.

It’s unthinkable right now that after everything Wentz has been through — a run at the MVP, the torn ACL in L.A., missing the Super Bowl, rehab, the back fracture, more rehab, a terrific 2019 season and tremendous finish — his first postseason lasted eight snaps. But he will stay healthy and he will get past this and he will win a lot of games for this football team. None of which is any consolation today. For this season to end with Wentz on the bench? It’s just unthinkable.

2. There’s plenty of time to talk about what the Eagles need to do this offseason, but watching D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and David Moore make play after play after play — that trio combined for 12 catches for 279 yards — really magnifies just how desperately the Eagles need weapons at wide receiver. Eagles wide receivers had four catches for 29 yards. Even if DeSean Jackson comes back, you can’t count on a 33-year-old wide receiver. Greg Ward is a nice story and a capable slot, but the Eagles have to find some legit firepower. Practice squad guys can only get you so far.

3. My initial thought when the Eagles came up short on that 4th-and-4 down eight with 6½ minutes left from the Seattle 24-yard line was … what are you doing Doug? Kick the field goal! It's 4th-and-4! But you know what? I can’t complain about Doug Pederson being aggressive. That’s what makes him one of the best coaches in the NFL. And he had a great play call. Miles Sanders will tell you he should have caught it, even though Josh McCown threw it a little behind him. This is who Doug is. I’ll take it every time. 

4. McCown did some good things, ran around, made some plays, made it interesting. But … 4th-and-7 on the 10-yard line down eight with two minutes left? A one-possession game? In the playoffs? If you’re in your 18th season in the NFL — heck, if you’re in your 18th day in the NFL — you simply can’t take a sack. Do something. If you get sacked, the season is over. You just can’t let that happen in that situation.

5. I don’t think I’ve ever written about the refs in my 10 obs, but they let the Seahawks get away with so many cheap shots and late hits, it’s got to be mentioned. Not just Clowney’s hit on Carson, but it was open season on McCown as well. He was hit late at least three times. Nothing. And then in the third quarter somebody on the Seahawks actually tackled Ward by the back of his helmet and threw him down. No flag. Then Derek Barnett basically tries to hold Russell Wilson up so he doesn’t get hurt and … personal foul. You just want it called the same for both teams, and it wasn’t even close to happening. That was bad.

6. The Eagles’ corners have played well down the stretch, but this game, against an elite QB, was a sobering example of how much work there still is to do. Cre’Von LeBlanc’s missed tackle just before halftime turned what should have been a third-down stop into a 38-yard gain that led to a touchdown. Avonte Maddox was nowhere close to Metcalf on his 53-yard touchdown. And second- and third-round picks Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas sat and watched. Lots of questions for Howie Roseman to answer this offseason with these corners.

7. I better never hear anybody again talk about Zach Ertz not being tough. For him just to play 14 days after breaking a rib and suffering a small tear on his kidney is impressive enough. For him to catch two passes for 44 yards. Gamer. Don’t ever doubt it. While we’re at it, for Miles Sanders to play the way he did a week after suffering a sprained ankle? Just a bunch of tough guys on this team.  

8. Hats off to the defense for keeping the Eagles in this game. It wasn’t always pretty. It missed tackles, gave up big plays, kept losing contain on Wilson, gave up too many 3rd-and-longs. But it still held the Seahawks to 17 points. If you told me before the game Seattle would score 17, I wouldn’t have thought there was a chance it would win.

9. There will be a lot of changes this offseason, but with Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Sanders, Boston Scott and Ward, along with Wentz, the Eagles do have the makings of a dynamic offense. Those guys did all they could do Sunday playing with a 40-year-old quarterback making his playoff debut. Like we said, they need outside weapons, but with Wentz at the helm, this is going to be an elite offense for the foreseeable future.

10. During the two-minute warning I found myself thinking how the Eagles were 10 yards from the end zone down eight points in a playoff game with their entire team hurt. Without Wentz, Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks, Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Darren Sproles and Corey Clement and essentially Jordan Howard. Not to mention Malik Jackson, Ronald Darby and Kamu Grugier-Hill on defense. Disappointing loss.

But I’ll remember how this team battled to the end. How it never stopped fighting. How it rallied so improbably around a bunch of practice squad guys and won four straight. How it gave the Seahawks a hell of a scare with Shelton Gibson drawing penalties a week after being on the Browns’ practice squad, for crying out loud. It wasn’t the season we expected and it wasn’t the ending we expected, but the Eagles made things a lot more interesting and a lot more fun than anybody could have expected coming out of Miami 5-7.

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Roob's observations after Eagles pull away from Giants, clinch NFC East title

Roob's observations after Eagles pull away from Giants, clinch NFC East title

BOX SCORE 

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Pure magic. That’s the only way to describe what just happened at MetLife Stadium.

With a collection of practice squad call-ups, deep backups and a miracle-worker quarterback, the Eagles won a game they had to win Sunday, beating the Giants 34-17 to clinch the NFC East title.

There were no shortage of heros, no shortage of miracles, no shortage of simply unbelievable moments.

Here’s our 10 instant observations from one of the most unforgettable days in the history of a franchise that’s had a lot of them recently.

1. By the time it was over, the Eagles were operating without these offensive players they were counting on when the season began: DeSean Jackson, Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks, Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Corey Clement, Darren Sproles and Miles Sanders. That’s six Pro Bowlers, a couple key Super Bowl pieces and the best rookie in franchise history. Not to mention a bunch of guys on defense. For this team to shake all that off, to literally watch player after player limp off the field with a trainer, but still get out of here with a win over the Giants with the season at stake is one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever witnessed. They might not be the most talented Eagles team ever, but they may be the most resilient.

2. What Doug Pederson has done to keep this team motivated and focused and positive and hungry from 5-7 coming out of Miami through to 9-7 and this emotional win and an NFC East title is just remarkable. The Eagles are only the eighth team in NFL history to make the playoffs after sitting at 5-7. This group was so undermanned, so battered. Things appeared so hopeless leaving Miami. They had lost five of their last seven games, the injuries were mounting and then they blew a 17-point lead to a three-win Dolphins team. The Eagles haven’t lost since. I don’t know a lot of coaches who could keep the thing on the rails through all that. Pederson is a once-in-a-lifetime coach.

3. And what an astonishing performance by Carson Wentz. For him to play the way he did, make the throws he did and win this game throwing to Dallas Goedert, Greg Ward, Josh Perkins, Robert Davis, Deontay Burnett and Boston Scott? Just one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen. Wentz broke Donovan McNabb’s Eagles single-season yardage record and became the first 4,000-yard passer in franchise history. But this is about so much more than the numbers. All I can say is if you didn’t believe in this guy before, you better now.

4. Here are your Eagles practice squad alums: 

Burnett: Got to Philly Dec. 12, just promoted to the 53-man-roster on Monday. Was 2-for-48 with a 41-yard catch to set up the go-ahead field goal. It was the longest catch by an Eagles WR since Week 2. 
Scott: 54 yards and three TDs rushing, 4-for-84 receiving.
Perkins: 3-for-43 with a 29-yard TD.
Ward: 6-for-43.

Add it up and you have 272 scrimmage yards and four TDs by guys who were on the Eagles’ practice squad this season. That’s simply astounding.

5. The defense deserves a ton of credit as well. The long Saquon Barkley TD run was unfortunate, but overall it was a terrific performance on a day when the Eagles desperately needed it. For the most part, coverage was tremendous, pressure was very good in the second half and the Eagles didn’t allow any pass plays over the top. Seven of the last nine games, this defense allowed 17 or fewer points. They scare the heck out of you and they never seem to make it easy, but in their biggest moment of the year with everything at stake, they got the job done. 

6. The Eagles needed their two elite defensive players to have elite games Sunday, and it was only fitting that Malcolm Jenkins and Fletcher Cox combined on the defense’s biggest play of the year. With the Eagles up just three early in the fourth quarter, it was Jenkins that knocked the ball out of Daniel Jones’ hands deep in Giants territory and Cox who recovered it at the 1-yard-line to set up Scott’s pivotal TD. Jenkins and Cox aren’t quite what they used to be, but the Eagles desperately needed them Sunday and they delivered.

7. Cre’Von LeBlanc spent most of the season on Injured Reserve and only played six total snaps the last three weeks, but he was unbelievable Sunday. That was some of the best cornerback play we’ve seen around here in a long time. He is a stud. With Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby out and Avonte Maddox leaving early, LeBlanc was all over the field. He has to play a major role in this secondary next year. Heck, next week. Another practice squad alum, of course.

8. Just a few words about Scott. Think about him. He’s only on the team because of injuries to Sproles, Clement and Jordan Howard, and he’s only playing because of an injury to Miles Sanders and because Jay Ajayi didn’t have anything left. And he goes out there and makes play after play after play. What an amazing performance by yet another practice squad alum. He became only the third RB in franchise history with 50 yards rushing, 50 yards receiving and three TDs in a game. The other two were Wilbert Montgomery and Brian Westbrook. Sometimes this stuff doesn’t even seem real.

9. Just to put this in perspective: The Eagles are the first team in NFL history to make the playoffs in consecutive years after being 7-7 both years. The mental toughness we’ve seen from this group — whoever’s at quarterback — is something special.  

10. I don’t know what the Eagles will have left when they face the loser of the 49ers-Seahawks game, presumably on Sunday. Maybe they’ll get Lane Johnson back. Maybe they’ll get Zach Ertz and Sanders back. Whoever they can get healthy, they’ll be heavy underdogs in their own stadium. But after what I’ve seen? I sure ain’t picking against them. This has been a magical run, and I don’t see any reason for it to end.

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