Eagles Slop Their Way Past Rams

Eagles Slop Their Way Past Rams

When Steven Jackson scampered 47 yards to paydirt on the Rams' first play from scrimmage, you could hear the Delaware Valley muttering expletives less than four minutes into the season. As it turned out, that was basically the only moment where the result was in question.

The Eagles defense was gashed in the running game, Michael Vick took his share of hits, and the team battled penalties and clock management issues. In the end, they were simply more talented than their counterparts, and cruised to a rather easy 31-13 victory to open the 2011 season.

The addition of Nnamdi Asomugha has already paid dividends. Despite their running backs accounting for 169 yards on the ground, St. Louis lacked the ability to throw the ball down the field. QB Sam Bradford was 17-for-30 for 189 yards, with wide receivers catching nine balls for 100 yards. Most of those were on underneath routes to Danny Amendola, who had five receptions for 45.

Bradford's mates didn't exactly do him any favors either. The Rams dropped several catchable passes, some of which were drive killers.

The changes along the defensive line were also visible. While backs had little trouble finding holes most of the afternoon, averaging 4.8 yards per carry, the front four brought down the quarterback five times, including two from Jason Babin in his first game back in an Eagles uniform.

Darryl Tapp was among the four linemen with a sack, and also was credited with a forced fumble that swung the momentum permanently. Tied 7-7 in the first quarter, Tapp got immediate pressure from the right defensive end position, disrupting a handoff in the backfield. Bradford put the ball on the carpet, and Juqua Parker picked up and returned 56 yards for the score.

Overall, it was mixed results for Juan Castillo's defense. Steven Jackson injured his quad on his long TD run and managed only two carries, but the Rams were still able to pound the rock. Cadillac Williams was particularly effective, rushing for 91 yards on 19 carries. The Eagles also obliged with a litany of drive-extending penalties.

The effort was more than enough for Vick's potent offense to close. St. Louis had some success, especially blitzing to his blindside, but in typical Vick fashion, he made enough big plays to make them pay. The phenom carried for 98 yards, and threw for another 187 and two touchdowns.

Vick connected with DeSean Jackson on a beautiful loft to the back of the end zone to extend their lead early in the third quarter. Up by seven coming out of the locker room, Vick rolled to his left with the pass rush in his face. He managed to elude the would-be sackers, lobbing a touch pass off of his back foot into a crossing DeSean's hands. [Watch video]

Jackson was the leading receiver on the day, catching six passes for 102 yards.

LeSean McCoy put the game on ice in the fourth quarter. Nothing was coming easy in the running game earlier, but he had his way on the Eagles' final scoring drive, capping it by blasting through the line of scrimmage and racing to the end zone for a 49-yard score. He finished with 15 carries for 122 yards, and added a touchdown reception in the first quarter.

The offense was not super-efficient, with Vick completing less than 50% of his passes against a blitz-happy defense, and the defense has to find a way to limit the ground game. However, some of the sloppy play can be attributed to the lack of off-season programs and the short amount of time they had to integrate new signings and all the changes along the offensive line.

It was a solid start though, proving they have one of more talented rosters in the league, if there was ever any doubt. Plenty of time to work out the kinks.

After 'soul searching,' Jaylen Watkins in line for major role with Eagles

After 'soul searching,' Jaylen Watkins in line for major role with Eagles

Every morning on his way to work, Jaylen Watkins drives down Broad Street toward the NovaCare Complex and thinks back to his three months on the Bills' practice squad.

The former fourth-round pick out of Florida in 2014 joined the Bills' practice squad after the Eagles cut him last Sept. 5 in what he has previously referred to as a “humbling” experience.

“I try to never forget that moment because it was definitely a soul-searching moment,” Watkins said on Wednesday. “Anyone who is released or fired from their job, you have to do some soul-searching.

“Every day that I drive down Broad Street, I think about Buffalo and how far I’ve come and just not wanting to be on a practice squad again. Nothing’s wrong with the practice squad, but my goal is to be on the 53 and making contributions to the team.”

Watkins isn’t just on the Eagles’ 53 after rejoining them late in 2015. For the rest of the 2016 season, he’s also expected to have a major role.

After Ron Brooks was lost for the season when he tore his quad tendon against the Vikings, Malcolm Jenkins is the Eagles’ new slot cornerback. That means that Watkins, 23, will be the second safety on the field in the team’s nickel package.

That meant that he played 46 snaps against the Vikings after Brooks went out. And with how much teams pass in the current NFL, he’ll probably play a considerable amount the rest of the season.

“It’s something that I’ve been waiting for and I’ve just been patient,” Watkins said. “I’ve been waiting for this experience, so I’m just excited. This week was amazing for me. ... It was good for me this past week to be in the game plan and putting yourself in position that this could possibly be me on the first play of the game.”

Jenkins has said multiple times that he enjoys playing as the slot corner, but until Brooks went down, the team thought it was better off with him staying at safety.

With the secondary shuffle, what’s different with Watkins at safety instead of Jenkins?

“Nothing really man,” the Eagles’ other starting safety, Rodney McLeod, said. “It’s been a next-man-up mentality this whole year. ... Guys have a lot of experience back there. I don’t think we’re going to miss a beat. It’s obviously an unfortunate situation with Ron playing great. But Jenkins is ready and so is (Jalen) Mills and Watkins.”

Watkins was drafted by the Eagles in the fourth round in 2014 and played just four games as a rookie before he was cut at the start of his sophomore season. He spent three months in Buffalo, where his younger brother Sammy is a star receiver.

When Jim Schwartz became the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, Watkins was moved to safety. He quickly asserted himself as the first option off the bench at that position.

And just like McLeod and Jenkins, he’s a safety with a history and knowledge of every position in the secondary.

“He’s kind of our Tyrann Mathieu a little bit as far as being able to play safety, being able to play nickel, being able to play corner, being able to play all those positions,” cornerback Nolan Carroll said. “A swiss-army knife if you want to call it that. For him, it’s just about continuing to get reps, continuing to be confident.”

Jenkins, McLeod and Watkins are so interchangeable, Watkins joked that sometimes they get confused because they forget which position they’re playing. According to McLeod, there haven’t been any communication issues between him at Watkins when Jenkins moves down into his role as the nickel corner.

Watkins still thinks about his time in Buffalo, but he also thinks he’s a much better player now than he was before he went there.

“Just more confident player, I would say,” Watkins said. “My coaches believe in me. My teammates believe in me. Now, I’m just confident and relaxed when I go out and play, making plays, doing what I did in college. I think I’m a much better player than before.”

Carson Wentz falls far behind Elliott, Prescott in Rookie of Year odds

Carson Wentz falls far behind Elliott, Prescott in Rookie of Year odds

Carson Wentz's Rookie of the Year odds took a hit, the Eagles' Super Bowl odds shortened and the Vikings' lengthened after Sunday's 21-10 win.

The Eagles are 33/1 to win it all, a week after being listed by Bovada at 50/1. The Vikings, meanwhile, went from 7/1 to 9/1. They still have the third-shortest Super Bowl odds in the NFL and are two spots ahead of the Cowboys (14/1). 

Wentz, who had his worst statistical game against Minnesota, is now 9/1 to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, according to Bovada. Last Wednesday, he was 6/1.

Wentz trails Cowboys studs Ezekiel Elliott (2/5) and Dak Prescott (11/5) on that leaderboard.

As far as this week, Wentz is favored to throw for more yards than Prescott. Wentz is 5/7 to outgain Prescott through the air in Week 8, while Prescott is 1/1 to outgain Wentz.

Elliott's over/under rushing total against the Eagles is 99.5. He's rushed for 130-plus yards in each of his last four games, and the odds are 3/1 that he'll reach that number again this week. 

The Eagles have allowed just one 100-yard rusher this season, Washington's Matt Jones (16 for 135).

Elliott is also now on pace to break Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record. Dickerson had 1,808 in 1983; Elliott is on pace for 1,875. Will Elliott break that 33-year-old mark? A "yes" bet pays 2/1; a "no" bet pays 1/3.