Wrap It Up: Birds Migrate Into Offseason on Four-Game Winning Streak

Wrap It Up: Birds Migrate Into Offseason on Four-Game Winning Streak

The Eagles were able to weather an uneven offensive performance through three quarters before blowing the game open with 21 unanswered points in the fourth to defeat the hapless Redskins 34-10. The win moves Philadelphia to 8-8, and by all appearances, the players and coaches who return next season will have momentum on their side.

Yawn.

Surprise, surprise, a meaningless football game between two teams already eliminated from postseason contention proved to be a snoozer, and that'll do it for the Eagles this season.

The game got off to a slow start, with plenty of punting to go around. The contest featured nine punts in all, but oddly enough, it was a kick that helped get the scoring going. Former Eagle Sav Rocca gave his old mates a gift when he shanked his first attempt, giving the Birds the ball in Washington territory. Alex Henery gave Philly the early three-point lead, one of his two field goals on the day.

The Eagles finally got it going in the second, but again it was the Redskins' special teams contributing to the scoring. Graham Gano was setting up for a 36-yard field goal, but Derek Landri bowled his way into the backfield and stuffed the kick. It was the biggest play in a day full of them for Landri, who was an absolute terror to block, as he typical has been when given the opportunity.

From there, Michael Vick did the rest, leading his most efficient drive of the day up to that point. Vick went 6-for-6, and capping the 65-yard drive with a 6-yard pitch and catch to Chad Hall. Putting his team ahead 10-0, an elated Hall lept into the stands -- with the help of the fans in the front row of course.

Vick tried to return the favor to Washington late in the first half, running himself into a Brian Orakpo sack that resulted in a fumble. However, the Eagles literally couldn't give their opponent points. Starting inside the red zone, and at one point getting all the way down to the PHI 4, a costly unsportsmanlike penalty moved the ball off the goal line, and botched clock management led to no points at all.

The Redskins threatened in the third quarter. Their running game was starting to get going, and they were moving the ball. A well-timed screen pass caught the Eagles in a blitz, and a hobbled Roy Helu scampered 47 yards into the end zone uncontested to pull his club within three.

The Birds and Skins traded field goals, but the Eagles finally came to life in the end. Vick found DeSean Jackson on a 62-yard bomb -- a beautiful lead throw that DJac was able to run underneath -- and a few possessions later, they capped a 70-yard drive with a four-yard TD to Brent Celek on the tight end screen, a play and its variations that were effective throughout the day.

Dion Lewis added a score in garbage time on a nine-yard run, the first of his career. With LeSean McCoy inactive, Lewis finished with a team-high 58 rushing yards on 12 carries, most of those coming in the fourth quarter.

Vick was 24-39 for 335 yards and three touchdowns, but he had the fumble and an interception. He heated up as the game wore on, but they'll need better from him next season. Jeremy Maclin caught eight passes for 105 yards, while Jackson and Celek each had 86 yards to go with their respective scores.

The defense got the job done, albeit against a punch-less Redskins offense. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had another strong showing filling in for Asante Samuel, including a deflected pass intercepted by Nate Allen. Much of the secondary's success was predicated on the pressure up front, with Landri, Brian Rolle, and Trent Cole hustling the quarterback all day. Cole had the only sack.

The lack of turnovers were surprising though against a Rex Grossman-led offense. Washington also had success running the football, with rookie Evan Royster out of Penn State going over 100 yards. Mike Patterson, one of the defense's top run defenders, was also inactive however; that, and the fact that the Skins aren't working with much, made it difficult to gauge their performance overall.

And with that, we officially enter offseason mode. Unfortunately, we have plenty of time ahead to dissect the big decisions that are on the way, and the ones that need to be made. For tonight, the Eagles got back to .500 with four straight wins, and we are left to ask what could have been.

What could have been...?

Eagles Stay or Go Part 6: Taylor Hart to Donnie Jones

Eagles Stay or Go Part 6: Taylor Hart to Donnie Jones

In the sixth of our 12-part offseason series examining the future of the Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster in 2017. We go alphabetically — part 6 is Hart to Jones.

Taylor Hart

Roob: No matter how hard the Eagles try, they just can't get rid of Taylor Hart. Chip Kelly drafted Hart in the fifth round in 2014 and then Hart began last season with Kelly in San Francisco before reappearing here later in the season. Hart is going into his fourth NFL season and has 15 games, 12 tackles and no sacks to show for it. He turns 26 next month and has never shown any signs of being a guy who can contribute in a 4-3 defense. I’m going to say he goes, but don't be surprised if he finds his way back onto the roster at some point. 

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Hart was with the Eagles last training camp but cut him on Sept. 4 and he was claimed by the 49ers and Chip Kelly. Then when the Niners cut him, the Eagles claimed him back and he spent the rest of the season watching the Eagles play football. He was inactive in all but the last game and in that one he didn’t play. Hart is a former fifth-round pick who just fits better in a 3-4. The Eagles already played undrafted rookie Destiny Vaeao over him, so it’s time to set him free. 

Verdict: GOES

Jordan Hicks
Cap hit: $796K

Roob: Whenever you blast Chip for getting rid of Shady, DeSean and Jeremy Maclin, you have to mention that he did draft Jordan Hicks in the third round. Hicks, in just 24 games, has become one of the most productive playmaking linebackers in Eagles history. With seven interceptions, he already has the 11th-most interceptions in franchise history by a linebacker, and he led all NFL linebackers with five INTs this past season. Only four linebackers in NFL history have had more interceptions in their first two seasons – Hall of Famer Jack Ham is one of them. But Hicks is more than a ballhawk. He’s a smart, heady linebacker who is stout at the point of attack and is already developing into a terrific locker room leader as well. The future is certainly bright for Hicks.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: He just finished his second year in the NFL, but Hicks is quickly becoming one of the biggest playmaking linebackers in the league. Through the first 24 games of his career, he has seven interceptions. In his first two years, he has 7 INTs, 4 FRs, 1 FF. He’s the fifth player in NFL history to do that in his first two seasons and he’s the only linebacker. That said, Hicks needs to get better against the run and he knows it. Now that he won’t have an injury to heal from this offseason, he plans on hitting the weight room to get stronger and better at stopping the run. He looks like a cornerstone of the franchise. 

Verdict: STAYS

Malcolm Jenkins
Cap hit: $7.5M

Roob: Jenkins had another good year in his third season with the Eagles, although not quite up to his Pro Bowl level of 2015. Jenkins, who turns 30 late next season, is on the books for another four years with some pretty high cap figures — $7.5 million in 2017, then $10 million, $9.75 million and $9.25 million. But as long as Jenkins continues to play at a high level, I don’t see him going anywhere until after the 2018 season at the earliest, when he would count just $3 million in dead money if he’s released. But Jenkins is a guy you'd like to see finish his career in Philly. Hope that happens. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: It’s hard to quantify just how much Jenkins means to the Eagles or how much he’s worth. But it’s a lot. The last two seasons have been the best of his career and he’s shown no signs of slowing down. The best Jenkins stat is this: He’s missed just eight defensive snaps since arriving in 2013. Unreal. If the Eagles chose to play him at cornerback last year, he would have probably been their best one. 

Verdict: STAYS

Lane Johnson
Cap hit: $10M

Roob: If he goes, it’ll be because of a third positive drug test. Johnson’s play in the six games he was available to the Eagles was at an All-Pro level. But after two positive tests for banned substances and suspensions of four games in 2014 and 10 games in 2016, he’s now one positive test away from a two-year ban that would essentially end his Eagles career. My gut feeling is Johnson has learned his lesson and won’t take any more chances. That he understands what’s at stake here and isn’t going to risk his career by taking a supplement that hasn’t been pre-tested and cleared. Obviously there are other reasons the Eagles were 5-1 when Johnson played. Those five wins included games against the hapless Browns and Bears and a win against a Cowboys team that wasn’t trying to win. But that said, Johnson’s value is clear. He's a beast. It’s up to Johnson whether he becomes a Pro Bowl offensive tackle or a casualty of the NFL’s substance abuse regulations. I can’t imagine he’ll make the same mistake again.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: A lot was made about Johnson’s suspension voiding the guaranteed portion of his contract. And for a week or so, a bunch of fans were calling into talk radio saying the Eagles should cut him. That was laughable. Johnson is still the Eagles’ best offensive player and as long as he stays on the field and plays the way he did in 2016, he’s going to make most of the money in his contract. He obviously deserves plenty of blame for the way last season went, but he’s a big piece of the future. One more suspension and his career is basically over, so the Eagles just have to hope he doesn’t ruin everything.  

Verdict: STAYS

Marcus Johnson

Roob: Johnson is an interesting guy. Ran a 4.37 so he has wheels, but he didn’t have much of a career at Texas. Then again, Texas didn’t have a legit quarterback while he was there so maybe there’s a lot of untapped potential. The Eagles are so desperate for help at wide receiver they’ll take a good long look at everybody on the roster, even a guy who bounced off and on the practice squad last year. This Longhorn is a longshot to make the roster, but then again, if he catches the football consistently in training camp he’ll give himself a fighting chance.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The receiver was with the Eagles during training camp and flashed some before getting hurt. He joined the practice squad during the season and was there at season’s end. He’ll be brought to camp but is a longshot to make the roster. 

Verdict: GOES

Donnie Jones
Cap hit: $1.25M

Roob: At 36 years old, the greatest punter in Eagles history (sorry Mat McBriar) showed no signs of slowing down. In his 13th NFL season, Jones averaged 45.8 yards per punt with a 40.7 net – both above his career highs. The most amazing thing about Jones is his knack for dropping punts inside the 20 without hitting very many touchbacks. He had 21 inside the 20 this year with just six touchbacks, and in four seasons with the Eagles he has 117 inside the 20 with just 26 touchbacks. When you don’t have an explosive offense, field position is critical, and Jones is a human field position flipping machine. The Eagles signed him to a three-year extension this year, and he’s now under contract through 2019.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: At times during the last two seasons, Jones has looked like the offense’s best weapon. That’s not a good sign for the offense, but it is for Jones. He’s already the best punter in team history. He’ll be 37 by the time the 2017 season starts, but he just signed a contract and will be the team’s punter for at least a couple more years if everything goes to plan. 

Verdict: STAYS