Chris Polk’s unique place in NFL history, Jason Peters’ Hall of Fame chances, the best concerts of 2014, Riley Cooper’s numbers and who knows what else will show up in today’s edition of Roob’s 25 Random Points!
Fasten your seatbelts, here we go!
1. My biggest concern with the Eagles isn’t the lack of depth at wide receiver or a possible regression from Nick Foles or Lane Johnson's absence for the first month. It’s the fact that the only major additions to a defense that allowed the 15th-most yards in NFL history last year and fifth-most passing yards are Malcolm Jenkins, Nolan Carroll and Marcus Smith. The Eagles are banking on dramatic improvement on defense coming from everybody having one more year of experience in Billy Davis’ scheme and not from new personnel. That’s a lot to ask. Certainly, a lot of those guys have upside, but can you go from a unit that allowed a franchise-record 394 yards per game to a Super Bowl defense just by adding one starter and hoping everybody else gets significantly better? Maybe. But I’m not convinced. Davis is sure an impressive leader of this group, and he’ll get the most out of what he has. But it’s still a lot to ask. Is there an elite playmaker on this unit other than Brandon Boykin, who’s not even on the field half the time? That’s my biggest question about this group. I do think they’ll be improved. But how much?
2. When Donovan McNabb left Philly five years ago, I said that within 10 years, all the bitterness, ill will and frustration Eagles fans felt regarding the greatest QB in Eagles history would be gone, and he’d be able to return here and finally be appreciated for all his accomplishments instead of being remembered for his deficiencies and chronic lack of connection with Eagles fans. It sure happened with Randall. When he left in 1995, he wasn’t popular at all. But today he’s revered here and rightfully so. For Donovan, that 10-year period would have ended in 2019. But every time he opens his mouth, he resets the clock. We’re now looking at 2024. At the earliest.
3. It’s remarkable how quickly Connor Barwin has assimilated himself not only into the Eagles’ defense, becoming a key member of Billy Davis’s group, but into the Philadelphia community. He's become a community leader and tireless worker for some pretty darn good causes just 17 months after signing with the Eagles and moving to Philly. Barwin does so many different things it’s tough to quantify his value to the defense. He’s just never going to rack up huge sack numbers playing the Jack role. But he’s really a key guy on this defense and a consistent force, whatever he’s asked to do. Gotta be the Eagles’ most effective outside linebacker since Carlos Emmons, right? Plus, he’s friends with Kurt Vile, so he gets big points for that.
4. After his first 20 NFL games, Nick Foles has 33 touchdown passes, seven interceptions, 4,785 passing yards and has completed 63 percent of his passes. After his first 20 NFL games, McNabb had 24 touchdown passes, 19 interceptions, 3,725 passing yards and had completed 55 percent of his passes.
5. I’m not sure what to make of Riley Cooper. Throughout the offseason, I’ve expressed doubt that he can sustain the success he had last year, once Foles replaced Michael Vick. Almost all his production was squeezed into four mid-season games. Can he do it for a whole season? But maybe I’ve been unfair. Maybe I’m not giving him enough credit. Over the last 11 games of last season, Cooper was one of the top 20 receivers in the NFL, with 39 catches for 742 yards and seven touchdowns. Project those numbers over a full season and you have 57 receptions for 1,079 yards and 10 touchdowns, which is a heck of a season. Cooper’s ability to use his large frame and body control to gain favorable position over corners is quite a weapon, especially down the field. Once Foles replaced Vick, Cooper caught six passes of 40 yards or more. Only Josh Gordon and A.J. Green had more big catches over the last 11 weeks of the season. Maybe it’s time to rethink Cooper’s potential in this offense. Maybe he’s better than I’ve been giving him credit for.
6. Can Shady rush for 1,600 yards again? Wouldn’t be a shock. But only seven backs in NFL history have had consecutive seasons with 1,600 rushing yards: Larry Johnson, Terrell Davis, Earl Campbell, Tiki Barber, Shaun Alexander, LaDainian Tomlinson and Eric Dickerson. Nobody has had three straight.
7. Speaking of Shady, I never get tired of this stat: McCoy is already the greatest fourth-quarter big-play running back in NFL history. By far. And he just turned 26. McCoy has seven career TD runs of 40 yards or more in the fourth quarter, and nobody else in NFL history has more than four — Adrian Peterson, Barry Sanders, Antowain Smith, Robert Smith and Fred Taylor each have four. In Eagles history, Brian Westbrook (two) is the only other player with more than one fourth-quarter TD of at least 40 yards. A bunch of guys — from Bryce Brown to Cyril Pinder to Dorsey Levens to Swede Hanson to Ricky Watters — have one. Since Shady entered the league in 2009, there have been 35 total fourth-quarter TD runs of 40 or more yards. Only five players have more than one. McCoy has seven. Or 20 percent. That’s just insane.
7. Since sacks became an official stat in 1982, the Eagles have taken one player in the first three rounds of the draft who’s had a double-digit sack season. That was Jerome Brown, who had 10½ sacks in 1989.
8. Opposing batters hit .304 vs. Cliff Lee this year. That’s the highest average against a Phillies pitcher since 2008, when batters hit .310 against Adam Eaton. Since 1978, the only pitchers who allowed a higher batting average in a season than Lee this year are Carlton Loewer (.312 in 1998), Mike Grace (.312 in 1998) and Ryan Madson (.321 in 2006).
9. Seth Joyner has never even been a Hall of Fame finalist, but he absolutely should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Think about it — 52 sacks, 24 interceptions, 26 forced fumbles. Joyner is the only player in NFL history with 50 sacks, 20 interceptions and 20 forced fumbles. In fact, he’s the only player just with 50 sacks and 20 INTs. Joyner was unquestionably one of the most productive playmaking outside linebackers in NFL history, not to mention a force against the run on one of the NFL’s best defenses over a period of a number of years. Joyner and Eric Allen have both been victimized by Reggie White’s legacy. But as gifted as Reggie was, that great defense was more than one person. Joyner and E.A. should both be enshrined in Canton. That Joyner hasn’t even become a serious candidate is a disgrace.
10. There are six backs in NFL history with at least 250 receptions, a 4.8 rushing average and 35 career touchdowns. Four are in the Hall of Fame. The others are McCoy and Darren Sproles.
11. Foles threw more touchdown passes in 10 games last year than Troy Aikman ever threw in a season.
12. Foles’ 2013 stats projected over a full 16-game season: 4,205 passing yards, 39 touchdowns, three interceptions, 321 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns.
13. Intrigued to see Marcus Smith once the preseason games roll around next week. Coming into camp, I kind of had him pegged as a project, a guy who might not even be active early in the season. But listening to DeMeco Ryans and Barwin talk about his progress, his athleticism and his ability to quickly pick up Davis’ defense, I’m starting to wonder if he might actually have a role right off the bat. Physically, he’s ready now. He’s big, fast and strong. But he’s being asked to learn an awful lot at Barwin’s Jack position. If he can handle the mental aspect, he can be an intriguing piece of the puzzle. Now.
14. Eighteen NFL teams have won a playoff game since the Eagles’ last postseason win. From 2000 through 2008, only the Patriots won more playoff games than the Eagles.
15. The last player other than Trent Cole the Eagles drafted who had 10 sacks in a season as an Eagle was Andy Harmon.
16. Only one running back in NFL history has rushed for three or more touchdowns in a season despite 11 or fewer carries. That’s Chris Polk last year.
17. Not sure why so many Eagles fans are down on Mark Sanchez. Here’s a backup quarterback who’s got four career playoff wins and two AFC Championship game appearances under his belt. Can’t ask for more than that. Sanchez’s playoff passer rating of 94.3 is 11th-highest in NFL history.
18. Speaking of Sanchez, the odds are he’s going to start at some point this year. Only 12 times in the 35 years since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule has the Eagles’ opening-day QB started all year — Jaws five times, Randall three times and Donovan four times. Since 1991, the Eagles have used multiple starting quarterbacks in 19 of 23 years.
19. My 10 favorite concerts so far this year: 1. Jimmer Podrasky, World Café Live, 2. War on Drugs, World Café Live, 3. Joseph Arthur, Tin Angel, 4. Mark Mulcahey, World Café Live, 5. St. Vincent, World Café Live, 6. Spanish Gold, World Café Live, 7. Sharon Van Etten, Union Transfer, 8. Strand of Oaks, World Café Live, 9. Nick Cave, Mann Music Center, 10. Jon Anderson, Keswick Theater.
20. Keep an eye on rookie Beau Allen once the preseason games start. Allen was only a seventh-round pick, but the Eagles like him. Tough to evaluate nose tackles at practice when there’s no hitting, but the 335-pounder from Wisconsin has a chance to be a player.
21. The John Harbaugh story is such an inspiring one. He was an assistant coach with the Eagles for 10 years and couldn’t even get Division 1 colleges to interview him. Couldn’t even get them to call him back. Harbs stayed positive, never complained, became one of the best special teams coaches in NFL history, and on Jan. 19, 2008, Philly-born Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti stunned the football world by naming Harbaugh his head coach — even though Harbs had never been a head coach on any level. "You have to take chances in life to be successful,” Bisciotti told me the next day at the Ravens’ facility in Owings Mills, Maryland. “You have to be willing to do things that the masses wouldn't do or I don't think that you're ever going to separate yourself from the masses. Is it a little risky? Yeah, but the time we spent with John gave me the confidence level that we hired the right guy. I was looking for a leader that I could look at and say, 'I could see him standing up there in front of my team.'" Six years later, Harbaugh has a 62-34 win-loss record, 15th-best in NFL history, along with nine playoff wins and a Super Bowl title. It occurred to me the other day that Jeff Lurie’s decision to hire Chip Kelly, with zero NFL experience, was a lot like Bisciotti hiring Harbs. Will be interesting to see how far the parallel goes.
22. There are only four players on the Eagles’ roster who’ve played in a postseason win in an Eagles uniform: Todd Herremans, Trent Cole, Jon Dorenbos and Brent Celek.
23. Here are CSNPhilly.com Flyers writer Sarah Baicker’s Philly Pop-Up Beer Gardens Ranked! 1. Spruce Street Harbor Park (food by Jose Garces and hammocks!), 2. The Oval on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway (a full slate of cool events in addition to beer!), 3. PHS pop-up next to the Jamaican Jerk Hut (the best use of a vacant lot yet — plus they're dog friendly. Beer and puppies.), 4. Independence Beer Garden (who wouldn't want to enjoy local brews so close to the Liberty Bell?).
24. I love seeing Lito Sheppard working with the Eagles’ coaching staff this summer. When he first came to the Eagles more than a decade ago as a first-round pick out of Florida, Lito wasn’t the type you’d ever imagine coaching, and he and defensive coordinator Jim Johnson clashed a few times over Lito’s reliance on his pure physical gifts, where Sheldon Brown was not as physically gifted but more of a student of the game. But Lito ended up playing 10 years, made a couple Pro Bowls, was All-Pro once and had those three long touchdown returns, two against the Cowboys. In fact to this day, Sheppard is one of only two players in NFL history with more than one INT return of 100 yards. The other is Ed Reed, who joined Sheppard on that list when he picked off Kevin Kolb in that 2008 game in Baltimore when McNabb got benched at halftime. I asked Lito what Jim would think today if he saw Lito coaching. “He’d be real proud of me,” he said. “He’d be proud of how far I’ve come.”
25. One more Hall of Fame note: Eight Pro Bowls seems to be the magic number for offensive linemen to reach the Hall of Fame, and Jason Peters is at six. Of the 27 offensive linemen to make eight Pro Bowls who are eligible for Hall induction, 21 are in the Hall of Fame. The way Peters played last year coming off those Achilles surgeries and with no sign of slowing down, I think Peters does make his way to Canton one day.