Eagles dominate both sides of ball, blast Cowboys


Eagles dominate both sides of ball, blast Cowboys


They were unstoppable on offense. They were ferocious on defense. They scored in the red zone, they pressured the quarterback, they protected the football. For the first time in a long time, the Eagles dominated.

The Eagles, likely facing a lost season with a loss, ran the ball down the Cowboys throats and handed their hated NFC East rivals a nationally televised 34-7 annihilation Sunday night at the Linc.

Sitting here, after we played a game like this, its like, How in the world, did we lose those games in the beginning of the year? defensive tackle Trevor Laws said. It makes no sense to me.

LeSean McCoy ran for a career-high 185 yards and joined Hall of Famers Jim Brown, John Riggins and Walter Payton as one of only four players in history with two career 140-yard rushing performances against the Cowboys.

The Cowboys scored their only touchdown in the fourth quarter, after the Eagles had jumped out to a 34-0 lead.

Its been a long time since the Eagles played like this. Its been a long time since they crushed somebody. Its been a long time since theyve looked like an elite team.

Sunday night, finally, they did.

We hit on all cylinders and I think we showed everybody that were still a good team, McCoy said. Dont let the record fool anybody. I felt like we found that It factor. We finally got it.

Since 2000, the Cowboys have lost 11 games by 27 or more points. Six of those losses -- more than half -- have come at the hands of Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles.

On the same night that the Eagles added Jim Johnson and Eric Allen into their Honor Roll (see blog post), the Eagles played a game both would have been proud of.

We know how good we are, and its about time we started executing, playing a full game, guard Evan Mathis said. Were 3-4, and thats not great. We still have a long way ahead of us.

The Eagles, who had lost five straight home games, scored touchdowns on their first three drives and got points on their first five drives against the Cowboys No. 7-ranked defense. They led 14-0 after the first quarter, 24-0 at halftime and 27-0 late in the third quarter on the way to their first home win since December of last year.

The win was the Eagles second in a row after a 1-4 start and gave them their first two-game winning streak since Week 14 and 15 last year. The Cowboys fell to 3-4 and have lost three of their last four.

The Eagles remained perfect at 13-0 under Reid in their first game after their bye week.

I cant sit here and tell you that a week off doesnt make you feel a little bit better and recharge the battery, Reid said.

This was the first game ever for the Eagles projected offensive line, with Jason Peters, Mathis, Jason Kelce, Danny Watkins and Todd Herremans, and the it was tremendous against the Cowboys vaunted defensive line.

The Eagles moved the ball at will, like they have all year. But this time, they didnt turn it over.

Thanks to a dominating performance by the reconstructed offensive line, the Eagles moved the ball at will both through the air and on the ground against the Cowboys.

But this time -- for the first time in 15 games -- they didnt commit a turnover.

We didnt turn the ball over, we punched the ball in when we were in the red zone -- we stopped doing all the things that were screwing us up, Kelce said. This isnt surprising to us and it shouldnt be surprising to anybody whos been watching us, because weve been able to move the ball all year long, but the turnovers and not converting in short yardage have been killing us, and I think we corrected a lot of those things tonight.

Their 495 yards is the most the Eagles have ever gained against Dallas. The Eagles 239 rushing yards is the second most the Cowboys have allowed in the last 10 years.

We played fast, aggressive, and if you take care of the ball youre in pretty good shape, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. When you hang onto the ball, you win ball games.

The Eagles had more yards before halftime (324) than the Cowboys give up per game (301). Before the Cowboys scored their only touchdown on a 70-yard Tony Romo to Laurent Robinson pass early in the fourth quarter, the Eagles had a 465-120 yardage edge.

They finished with a 495-256 yardage advantage. The 495 yards are the most the Eagles have ever netted against the Cowboys and the 15th-most the Cowboys have allowed in franchise history.

The Eagles just took it to us tonight, Cowboys linebacker Keith Brooking said. I think sometimes in this game, things will snow ball and that happened to us tonight.

The Eagles 239-yard margin is their second-biggest ever against Dallas. They outgained Dallas by 258 yards in the 2000 opener at Texas Stadium.

Total domination.

The Eagles recorded 31 first downs -- fourth-most in team history -- and allowed just 12.

Michael Vick enjoyed his first truly brilliant performance of the year, completing 21 of 28 passes for 279 yards and touchdown passes to Brent Celek and Jeremy Maclin to go with 50 rushing yards. In the face of Dallass constant blitzing, Vick used the middle of the field, didnt complete a pass longer than 24 yards, and played mistake free. His 75 percent completion percentage was second best of his career, his best in nine years.

Mike played the quarterback position extremely well tonight, Mornhinweg said. He was really good against the blitz tonight. He did just a magnificent job tonight with that. He has come a long way playing that quarterback position at a high level.

McCoy, continuing to assert himself as the best tailback in football, battered the Cowboys top-ranked rush defense for 185 yards on 30 carries.

McCoys 185 yards are second most by an Eagle in the last 30 years, behind only Duce Staleys 201 at Dallas on opening day in 2000. Staley is now one of McCoys coaches. Its also the most rushing yards against the Cowboys since Tampas Warrick Dunn had 210 in 2000.

Celek enjoyed his best receiving game of the year, with seven catches for 94 yards and a touchdown. Jason Avant (5 for 74) and Jeremy Maclin (3 for 54, TD) were Vicks other primary targets.

As long as we keep the ball, its going to be hard to beat us, Peters said. When we give the ball away, its a different story.

Defensively, the Eagles kept Romo off balance most of the night, pressuring him consistently without blitzing. Jason Babin had two more sacks -- No. 8 and 9 this year -- and Trent Cole and Trevor Laws each had a sack.

The defense never let Romo get comfortable. He didnt complete a pass to either Miles Austin or Dez Bryant until the Eagles led by 24 points early in the third quarter. The secondary also excelled with outstanding coverage and tackling on the Cowboys numerous weapons.

The Eagles have allowed just 20 points in their last two games. Last time they won consecutive games and gave up a combined 20 or fewer points was in 2004, with a 28-6 win over the Redskins and a 27-6 over the Giants.

It felt like we played better, said Nnamdi Asomugha, who picked up his second interception (see story) and helped limit Jason Witten to four catches for 28 yards. The fact that were further into it now and are more comfortable with the defense, were able to show what we can do.
E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com

Frank Reich: Sam Bradford won't be handed Eagles' starting job


Frank Reich: Sam Bradford won't be handed Eagles' starting job

After the Eagles drafted quarterback Carson Wentz, head coach Doug Pederson declared that Sam Bradford was still the No. 1 quarterback.

Pederson reiterated it when a scowling Bradford chose to skip some voluntary workouts and did so again after Bradford returned to the team.

But Pederson's assistants haven't been so clear.

On Tuesday, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz discussed the topic when asked how he brought along QB Matt Stafford — the first overall pick in 2009 — while serving as head coach of the Detroit Lions. 

"Don't judge him on somebody else, and then also don't predetermine the results of the race," Schwartz said. "Just let him go play. Don't put pressure on him."

At the moment, it certainly seems like the results of the race are predetermined. It's Bradford, Chase Daniel and Wentz ... right? 

On Wednesday, offensive coordinator Frank Reich was on 94-WIP and was asked by Angelo Cataldi about the "impression" that Bradford is the No. 1 QB and there isn't an open competition. 

“No, I would actually say that’s probably not the right impression. I'll tell you why,” Reich said. “I’ve been around this business a long time as a player and as a coach, and one of the things I’ve really come to appreciate is it’s not a contradiction to say that you’ve got to have order. Because if you don’t order it’s chaos. 

"So if you’re the head coach you, gotta come in and you’ve gotta establish order. There has to be organization, there has to be order, but the other thing that, as coaches, that you’ve got to establish is a culture of competition. I mean this is one of the most competitive industries in the world — and so, to say that there’s not competition, that’s just the furthest thing from the truth.

“So I don’t see the problem with creating order and competition at the same time, personally. Every one of us as a coach and a player, you’re working harder to get better, but in that process you have to establish order, and things have a way of working themselves out.”

So there has to be a order — hence Pederson's QB depth chart — but there also has to be competition.

In other words, there is a depth chart, but it's written in pencil. And a big eraser is nearby.

Let the saga continue.

Training camp is still two months away.

New scheme, new Marcus Smith: 'You'll see a lot different Marcus'


New scheme, new Marcus Smith: 'You'll see a lot different Marcus'

It's a new year for the Eagles, but the same lowered expectations for Marcus Smith. The 2014 first-round pick recorded only seven tackles and 1½ sacks over his first two NFL seasons, so at this point you can forgive people for being pessimistic about his development.

Smith doesn't blame Eagles fans for being disappointed with his career up to this point. The 24-year-old isn't content with the way things have panned out thus far, either, but sounds as though he's ready to turn the page in a new scheme.

"I understand they want their first-round draft pick to play," Smith said of fan criticism. "I wanted to be on the field, but I wasn't. I learned a lot of things from my first to my second year and I think I've grown and matured a lot, and this third year you'll see a lot different Marcus."

That won't do much to sway public opinion that he's a draft bust. The Eagles, however, are hoping a position change will unlock the potential that led the club to take Smith with the 26th overall selection in the draft.

Smith came to the league a raw prospect to begin with, and was immediately asked to take on the many responsibilities of an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. In a 4-3 alignment under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, the third-year pro will line up at defensive end, where he'll primarily be used to create disruptions in opposing backfields.

"This is a scheme that greatly limits what he's asked to do," Schwartz said. "Difficult in execution, but easy in theory. Should allow him to play fast, attack spots, give him a little bit less responsibility but hopefully allow him to make a greater impact.

"He's very athletic. He's got great size. He's done very well so far, but let's reserve judgment on any of these guys until we get pads on them."

Smith admits it's a role he was more accustomed to playing in college.

"I never really dropped into coverage before," Smith said reminiscing of his time at Louisville. "I dropped into coverage in some spurts, I knew how to do it, I was athletic enough to do it, but their thing was they wanted me to go rush the passer and be able to make plays. That's what I'm doing now."

This could be an opportunity for Smith to hit the reset button, in a manner of speaking. He was overwhelmed and couldn't get on the field in a complex 3-4. Schwartz's 4-3, on the other hand, is much more streamlined, letting linemen pin their ears back and do one thing well rather than force them to be jacks of all trades.

"I feel like with Jim Schwartz, we have a great relationship to where I can just go make plays and not think about anything," Smith said. "He always talks about that with me. He says, 'Just go make plays, I don't want you to think.'

"Scheme is definitely more simplified. It's really just go get the ball. His philosophy is hit the ball on the way to the quarterback because we know sacks change games, so if you get a sack fumble and you're able to scoop and score, that's what changes a game. That's what Schwartz's philosophy is."

Believe it or not, there might still be hope for Smith. His 1½ sacks were registered in the final two games of the 2015 season, a late surge that could've been seen as a sign of progress, yet wound up flying under the radar at the conclusion of a lost year. After all, it's not at all uncommon for some players to need a year or two to adjust to life in the NFL.

If Smith has any chance of shedding the dreaded bust label, he certainly has a perfect mentor in teammate Brandon Graham. The 13th pick in 2010, Graham experienced similar hardships when his Eagles career didn't get off to a brilliant start, but has since proven to be a capable starter.

Graham's situation wasn't identical, as his progress and opportunities were derailed in large part because of injury. Regardless, he understands as well anybody the lack of playing time and criticism that comes with failing to live up to high expectations.

"We talk pretty much every day," Smith says of his relationship with Graham. "He actually went through something worse than I did because he went through a couple of years with not playing. He talks to me about it all the time, and told me to keep my head down and keep working and everything will fall into place."

As of now, Smith is currently lining up opposite Graham with the second-team defense, behind Connor Barwin and Vinny Curry. The Eagles also used a seventh-round pick on Alex McAllister.

Still, despite the competition, despite his lack of production to date, Smith is keeping a positive outlook and feels as though he has every opportunity to be productive as part of a rotation.

"The way we play and how fast we play, [Schwartz] wants an eight-man rotation," Smith said. "He wants us to be able to be fresh. All of us can play 25-30 snaps a game. He wants us to be well-rested and ready to go because we're gonna be going.

"Whoever is starting, whoever's not starting, I think when you get in the game, just go get it. Once the coaches put you in the ballgame, you've just gotta be able to make plays."

There's no question Smith is running out of chances with the Eagles, that his reclamation story is already beginning to wear thin. The truth is his roster spot might even be in jeopardy if the roster was much deeper, and any contribution in 2016 will be viewed as a pleasant surprise.

There's also no question the physical ability is there. Smith is 6-foot-3 with sub-4.7 speed and told reporters he weighs close to 260 pounds. Point him in one direction with a singular goal — get into the backfield — and the Eagles may squeeze some production out of him yet.

NFC East: DeSean Jackson a no-show at Redskins' OTAs


NFC East: DeSean Jackson a no-show at Redskins' OTAs

ASHBURN, Va. -- DeSean Jackson isn't taking part in voluntary team workouts, and the Washington Redskins don't seem to care.

Jackson was the only healthy player not at Redskins Park this week for the first organized team activities of the offseason. But teammates and coach Jay Gruden brushed off Jackson's notable absence, saying the veteran wide receiver knows how to get prepared.

"The last time I looked up the word `voluntary,' it is his choice," Gruden said Wednesday. "He's been in the league nine years I believe it is and he knows what type of shape he has to come in. Obviously last year he pulled his hamstring, and people are gonna say he was out of shape, but he wasn't really. I think he'll be ready to go."

Jackson missed six games last season after injuring his hamstring in the opener. After returning Nov. 8, he made 30 catches for 528 yards and four touchdowns.

The 29-year-old has one year left on his contract and is still expected to be a big part of Washington's offense with quarterback Kirk Cousins, tight end Jordan Reed and fellow receiver Pierre Garcon even after the Redskins drafted Josh Doctston out of TCU in the first round.

Veteran defensive back DeAngelo Hall said players understand Jackson's situation.

"As long as these guys are working I don't think we mind too much," Hall said. "Yes you want him here, but this is an offense he knows and he knows himself. When you have a guy that knows (himself), you kind of what them to train the way they want to train."

Cousins likes having OTAs to get on the same page with receivers and go over the nuances of running routes and recognizing coverages. He's the unquestioned starter for the first time, which he said gives him "permission to take ownership" of the team.

With that ownership, Cousins followed the theme of downplaying Jackson not being around.

"DeSean will get here," said Cousins, who's on a one-year deal with the franchise tag and had no update on long-term contract talks. "He was here the last few weeks and was able to work with us. He knows what's best for him and what he's gotta do to be ready this fall. I'm excited for whenever he does get here and expect to get a lot of work in."

Jackson must attend 90 percent of offseason workouts to earn a $500,000 bonus in his contract.

Hall said because Jackson's home is in California and with him having a newborn, it makes it easier to comprehend why he didn't make it to optional workouts. From the standpoint of the secondary that's trying to work in All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman, it'd be nice to have Jackson on the field.

"I'm just excited about getting him out here, Josh is excited about getting him out here," said Hall, who was one of the first-team safeties along with David Bruton Jr. "We want to go against him. We're juiced up to get him out here."

Gruden joked that Jackson "popped in and had a cup of coffee" at the team's facility but otherwise expressed no real concerns. He also doesn't know when Jackson will make an appearance.

"He'll probably show up here, could be next week could be whenever," Gruden said.