Which Eagles belong in the Pro Bowl?

Which Eagles belong in the Pro Bowl?

Upon finishing up practice on Tuesday, the Eagles were officially on vacation until next week. That means come Sunday you’ll finally have time to rake the leaves, have dinner with your in-laws, or worse, fill out Pro Bowl ballots at NFL.com.

The Pro Bowl has long been a punch line in NFL circles. Playing at half speed might work for All-Star games in the NBA and NHL, but it makes a mockery of the game of football. That said, the league is trying to spice things up this year by letting captains choose their teams rather than the traditional AFC vs. NFC, so that could be kind of cool. Yes, they totally ripped that idea from the NHL, no, I don’t care.

Either way, it would be nice if a few Eagles could represent. And I’m sure the players would appreciate your vote so they can collect a nice bonus and free trip to Honolulu.

A few of the choices are obvious. LeSean McCoy is a shoe-in as the NFL’s leading rusher this season, as is DeSean Jackson who’s third in receiving yards. A long-form ballot can be difficult to fill out though, so unless you’re just going to pick Birds all the way, here are a few suggestions.

Evan Mathis

Hands down the best offensive guard in the NFL the past two seasons according to Pro Football Focus, that has yet to turn into a Pro Bowl appearance for Mathis. He came from nowhere in 2011, and was likely overlooked last year because the rest of the Eagles’ offensive line was garbage. Mathis is having another fine season though, and it’s about time he gets his due.

Jason Kelce

Jason Kelce is having a nice return campaign after torn knee ligaments ended his 2012 early. I’m not sure it’s worthy of a trip to the Pro Bowl necessarily, and center can be a tough position to crack the list because long-time veterans tend to get that call. Kelce won me over with his promo though, so go ahead and put him on there if for no other reason than The700Level would undoubtedly get some quality posts out of his trip.

Cedric Thornton

Cedric Thornton arguably has been the Eagles’ best defensive player this season. My subscription to Pro Football Focus is in need of renewal, but as of a couple weeks ago, Thornton ranked first among all 3-4 defensive ends in the metrics site’s run-stop percentage. Unofficially, he has about 55 for tackles for loss this season. Fletcher Cox is really starting to come along too, but Thornton has been a force up front since Week 1.

DeMeco Ryans

Defensive coordinator Bill Davis called DeMeco Ryans the heart and sould of the Eagles’ defense, and it’s hard to argue. He’s never been one to put up flashy numbers with two sacks and two interceptions on the season, but Ryans is third in the NFL with 96 tackles. This is on a unit that has held opposing offenses to 21 points or less in nine of 11 games this season, including the last seven in a row.

Bradley Fletcher

Brandon Boykin may lead the team in interceptions, but Bradley Fletcher quietly has been the true standout at corner this year. Fletcher has lost three games to injury now, yet he’s tied for sixth in the NFL with 15 pass breakups to go along with two interceptions—imagine where he might be with a full season. The free-agent signing from the Rams has been a willing tackler who doesn’t get beat very often, and his name definitely deserves to be in the mix.

Donnie Jones

Only three punters in the NFL have downed more attempts inside their opponents’ 20-yard line than Jones. Before you assume those players are all more deserving though, Jones’ 40.9 net average tops them all. He’s worth considering for his punt to pin Washington at its own 4-yard line late in the fourth quarter on Sunday alone.

Nick Foles

Nick Foles isn’t on the ballot because Michael Vick was the starter at the beginning of the season, so technically you can’t vote for him online. You could petition Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league office through a write-in campaign though. He prefers hand-written letters, so really take your time—good penmanship, people—and craft a thoughtful note on your best stationary so he takes notice.

Of course, nobody would be upset if Foles decided to skip the Pro Bowl altogether and go straight to the Super Bowl, at which point all these hours you devoted to voting will be for naught. Then again, that’s a trade-off any Eagles fan would take, however unlikely it may be.

Who would you vote for?

>> 2014 Pro Bowl Ballot [NFL.com]

Snap counts: Nelson Agholor plays whole game vs. Bengals

Snap counts: Nelson Agholor plays whole game vs. Bengals

CINCINNATI -- Just six days after being a healthy scratch against the Packers, Nelson Agholor didn't just play against the Bengals. He didn't just start either. 

He played all 80 snaps on Sunday afternoon in the 32-14 loss at Paul Brown Stadium. 

Agholor, 23, had an awful game in Seattle a couple weeks ago and then said he was in his own head as the pressure of the NFL was seemingly crushing him. So head coach Doug Pederson gave him a day off. 

On Sunday, Agholor tied a career-high with four catches that went for just 23 yards. 

With Jordan Matthews out with an ankle injury, undrafted rookie Paul Turner got significant playing time. Turner played a career-high 41 snaps (51 percent), while Bryce Treggs got just two snaps. With Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham playing most of the game, there wasn't much left for Treggs. 

Zach Ertz played 70 snaps and had nine catches on 15 targets. Trey Burton played 53 snaps, which was likely a result of not having Matthews. 

In the running back rotation, Darren Sproles led the way with 44 snaps, while Wendell Smallwood had 24 and Kenjon Barner had 13. Ryan Mathews missed his second straight game with an MCL sprain. 

On defense, Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod played the entire game, which has been customary. 

In somewhat of a surprise, Leodis McKelvin led corners with 55 snaps (86 percent). Nolan Carroll had 51 and rookie Jalen Mills, who had been playing significant time, got just 23. 

The Eagles weren't in nickel all game, so Mychal Kendricks played 26 snaps, while Jaylen Watkins played 39. 

Here are full snap counts from Sunday afternoon: 

Offense
Brandon Brooks: 80 snaps (100 percent)
Allen Barbre: 80 (100)
Jason Kelce: 80 (100)
Stefen Wisniewski: 80 (100)
Jason Peters: 80 (100)
Carson Wentz: 80 (100)
Nelson Agholor: 80 (100)
Zach Ertz: 70 (88)
Trey Burton: 53 (66)
Dorial Green-Beckham: 50 (62)
Darren Sproles: 44 (55)
Paul Turner: 41 (51)
Wendell Smallwood: 24 (30)
Brent Celek: 19 (24)
Kenjon Barner: 13 (16)
Isaac Seumalo: 4 (5)
Bryce Treggs: 2 (2)

Defense
Malcolm Jenkins: 64 snaps (100 percent)
Rodney McLeod: 64 (100)
Jordan Hicks: 63 (98)
Nigel Bradham: 61 (95)
Leodis McKelvin: 55 (86)
Nolan Carroll: 51 (80)
Brandon Graham: 49 (77)
Fletcher Cox: 47 (73)
Connor Barwin: 42 (66)
Jaylen Watkins: 39 (61)
Bennie Logan: 37 (58)
Vinny Curry: 26 (41)
Mychal Kendricks: 26 (41)
Jalen Mills: 23 (36)
Beau Allen: 22 (34)
Marcus Smith: 18 (28)
Destiny Vaeao: 16 (25)
Stephen Tulloch: 1 (2)

Nelson Agholor takes step in right direction in return to action

Nelson Agholor takes step in right direction in return to action

CINCINNATI – Nelson Agholor took a step forward on Sunday afternoon.

It was a baby step, but it was still a step.

The Eagles’ first-round pick from a year ago started in Sunday’s 32-14 loss to the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium six days after being a healthy scratch – call it a mental health day – against the Packers.

Two weeks ago, Agholor, 23, had an awful day in Seattle, after which he admitted that he was in his own head. It appeared the pressure of being in the NFL had become overwhelming.

Head coach Doug Pederson elected to sit Agholor for the Packers game, but didn’t have much of a choice on Sunday with Jordan Matthews’ ankle injury.

“I felt good, competing again, just getting the chance to lace it up and go out there felt great,” Agholor said. “I had fun doing it and now I just have to build on it.”

It wasn’t a great day for Agholor, but it wasn’t an awful one either. He tied a career-high with four catches that went for just 23 yards. He was the Eagles’ sixth-leading receiver on a day where the offense struggled mightily.

But he caught the football, didn’t have a drop and didn’t have any major mental blunders. Yes, the bar is low.

A baby step.

“I thought it was a great time to get out there, got to touch the ball a bit, caught some passes, caught some contested ones,” Agholor said. “And now it's just about finding a way to take the next step for myself. Watch the game with a critical eye and continue to grow as a football player.”

Since the Eagles drafted Agholor with the 20th overall pick in the 2015 draft, he’s been a colossal disappointment. During Sunday’s embarrassing loss to the Bengals, Agholor quietly surpassed his receiving yards total from his rookie season. In 2016, he has 287 yards on 31 catches.

Perhaps that means there’s been improvement, but not really. The Eagles were counting on Agholor to become a viable option for rookie quarterback Carson Wentz and that hasn’t happened. In fact, at times, Agholor has made a negative impact.

Undrafted rookie Paul Turner, in his second career game on Sunday, caught six passes for 80 yards, both surpassing career highs for Agholor, who has been a starter since he joined the Eagles.

“The most important thing for me is to focus on me right now,” Agholor said when asked if the Eagles are giving maximum effort. “And I want to give unmatched effort and have great focus in the classroom and let it translate to football games.”

Agholor said there wasn’t some grand announcement from Pederson telling him that he was going to be active for Sunday. More or less, that announcement was inferred thanks to Matthews' injury status and Agholor’s practice load during the week.

No, it wasn’t Pro Bowl stuff from Agholor on Sunday. Four catches for 23 yards isn’t going to ever be good enough. But he was at least able to take a baby step forward.

He wasn’t too nervous either.

“I was blessed to be honest with you,” he said. “Put the shoulder pads on, the helmet on again. The lesson that I truly thought I learned from last week was something that I loved so much, I didn't have an opportunity to do. So now, I didn't care if I just ran go routes every play and the ball didn't come my way. As long as I got to put my cleats on and play with my teammates and play the game that I've loved for so long, I was happy about it.”