Turnovers, Ineptitude Doom Eagles

Turnovers, Ineptitude Doom Eagles

Where to begin? Do we start with Michael Vick's four interceptions, or do we point the finger at Jason Avant for his lack of ball security? Should we blame Vick, Andy Reid, or the time keeper for leaving three points on the field at the end of the first half? Were Jarrad Page and his comedy of missed tackles the most crippling defensive breakdowns, or should we jump all over Juqua Parker for committing a neutral zone infraction that kept the Bills' offense on the field -- a fitting way for the game to come to a close.

If you are like me and still searching for answers, Sunday's 31-24 loss in Buffalo did not provide any relief. It was just more of the same, this Eagles team contradicting itself over the course of 60 minutes, at times showing flashes of the Dream, but all too often reminding us why their record has now dropped to 1-4.

Vick threw for 315 yards and two touchdowns, and added 90 yards on the ground to top Randall Cunningham as the NFL's all-time leader in quarterback rushing yards. As usual, he made several stellar plays, and he helped give this team life after they had fallen behind by as many as 21 points in the third quarter.

His four interceptions were backbreakers though. You could give the quarterback a break on one or two, but he held the ball entirely too long and was hit as he was throwing the ball on one, and another he dumped right to LB Nick Barnett, who returned it 31 yards for a score.

However, the final pick wasn't Vick's fault at all. Jason Avant had a career day, hauling in nine passes for 139 yards, but he had two killer mistakes. First, he fumbled as the Eagles were finally showing signs of attempting a comeback, that error resulting in three points for the Bills. Then, as the offense was driving toward a potential tie, Vick's pass was in Avant's hands, but the wide receiver had it ripped out, bounce off his foot, and again into Barnett's waiting hands.

Does this club come up small in big situations, or what?

It was a similar story on defense, who were not wholly awful as you would expect. The Bills only scored 24 points on offense -- three on the short field after Avant's fumble -- and while RB Fred Jackson had a huge day with close to 200 total yards from scrimmage, the Buffalo passing game was held in check. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick had 197 yards passing, and was intercepted by Jamar Chaney.

But as we have sadly become programmed to expect, they missed far too many opportunities to erase a big play or stop a drive in its tracks. Page whiffed on one tackle after another, and while he certainly was not alone, his inability to get ball carriers to the ground was the most noticeable. He was eventually benched for Kurt Coleman, who was previously benched himself over spotty tackling.

Page failed to contain the edge on Jackson' five-yard touchdown scamper in the first quarter, the running back dancing untouched into the end zone. In all, the red zone woes continued, as the Eagles have now allowed their opponent to come away with at least three points in 51 consecutive trips inside the 20 yard line.

And then of course there was Parker's offsides on 4th and 1 with less than two minutes in the fourth quarter. There is a good chance the Bills never intended to snap the ball, would have taken a timeout, and punted it away. Even if they would have run the play, to gift wrap a first down that effectively ended the game, well, that's about as perfect a picture as you could get of this team through five weeks.

Does this club come up small in big situations, or what?

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.