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Eagle Eye: Biggest surprises of the season
Sixers rookie guard Michael Carter-Williams is averaging 17.3 points, 7.4 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 3.0 steals per game over his first 11 NBA contests. (AP)
(Updated 9:14 p.m.)
As random as 25 Random Points usually is, the bye week version is more random than ever.
If that’s possible.
With that in mind, read on. This week we tackle Michael Carter-Williams, Nate Allen, Genesis, Ryan Fannon, cross-country rail travel, creepy radio jingles and much, much more.
Here we go!
1. Are you a Giants fan Sunday or a Cowboys fan? It’s an interesting call. On paper, it would have seemed to make sense for Eagles fans to root for the Giants to beat the Cowboys. The Eagles are 6-5, the Cowboys entered the day 5-5 and the Giants 4-6. A Giants win would have given the Eagles a full game lead over both the Giants and Cowboys with five games left for all three teams. But I would suggest it makes more sense to have hoped for a Cowboys win. Because you have to look at not just where both teams are but how they got there. After losing their first six games, the Giants had won four straight and were gaining confidence. The Cowboys, conversely, had lost two of their last three and four of their last seven, including a 32-point loss in New Orleans last weekend. A surging Giants team scares me a little. The Cowboys don’t. I’d be more worried about the Giants, who have a knack for starting out slowly and finishing strong. The Cowboys are known for doing the opposite. I think it’s best for the Eagles that the Cowboys slowed down the Giants, dropping them to 4-7. Now the the Eagles can just worry about a Cowboys team that’s 15-22 in December and January under Tony Romo.
2. If the Eagles’ defense keeps improving and the Eagles keep winning, I could see Billy Davis getting consideration for head coaching jobs that open up this winter. With a bunch of young, unproven players, he’s done a miraculous job taking one of the worst defenses in NFL history and getting them to play sound, physical, fundamental football while overseeing their switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Plus, he’s a Bill Cowher disciple, he’s extremely well-spoken, he comes across very well in interviews and he just has that head coaching look about him.
3. The last Eagles defensive coordinator to become a head coach the following year was Marion Campbell, Dick Vermeil’s defensive coordinator from 1977 through 1982 and his replacement in 1983. Wade Phillips and Jeff Fisher became head coaches several years after serving as Eagles defensive coordinators but not the following season.
4. I could also see Eagles quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor becoming an NFL or big-time college head coach down the line a few years. Very impressive guy. What he’s done with Nick Foles is a heck of a thing to put on a resume.
5. Only seven quarterbacks have had a passer rating of 90 or better after two seasons (in which they’ve thrown a combined 400 passes). Right now, Foles is at 97.6. Only Otto Graham (110.3), Dan Marino (104.5), Russell Wilson (102.1), Ben Roethlisberger (98.3) and Daunte Culpepper (98.0) were higher after their second season (or in Wilson’s case, at this point in his second season). The other one over 90 is RG3 (93.2).
6. What band had the greatest artistic decline in its lifetime? REM? Guns ‘n’ Roses? Genesis? I’d go with Genesis. How do you go from The Musical Box to We Can’t Dance? You don’t. You can’t. They did.
7. DeMeco Ryans is enjoying a big year, but the Pro Bowl talk might be a little premature. As CSNPhilly.com Eagles Insider Geoff Mosher points out, several NFC inside linebackers are having monster seasons, including Luke Kuechley of the Panthers, Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman of the 49ers, Bobby Wagner of the Seahawks and DeAndre Levy of the Lions (see story). Kuechley and Bowman are Pro Bowl locks and Willis probably is, too. They take four inside linebackers from each conference, but it’s not going to be easy for Ryans.
8. When’s the last time Nate Allen gave up a big play? Out of all the surprises on the Eagles this year, Allen may be the biggest. Right now, he’s a capable NFL safety. He deserves a ton of credit for taking instruction from D-backs coaches John Lovett and Todd Lyght, improving his tackling and angles to the ball and giving the Eagles some solid safety play. Honestly, did not see that coming.
9. I understand why the Eagles want Brandon Boykin to stick to the slot this year. He’s 23, he’s a second-year pro, he plays a ton of special teams and they just don’t want to overload his plate. They want him to focus on playing inside corner without worrying about moving back and forth from inside to outside. But you look at a game like Sunday against the Redskins, and the guy who is arguably the Eagles’ biggest playmaker was on the field for only 26 of 82 defensive snaps. That’s 56 Redskins plays that Boykin was watching from the sideline. Fortunately, he was on the field for the last one, since he turned in the game-winning interception. I just think the kid is going to be a big-time, every-down cornerback. He’s got a lot of Lito Sheppard in him. Not great size but plenty of speed and athleticism and a knack for playmaking. Like Lito, Boykin has that swagger you love. I would think by next fall, he’s a full-time, every-down cornerback. He should be.
10. I was so wrong about Damaris Johnson. I thought the all-time NCAA total yardage record-holder would mature in his second year into a dynamic returner and a decent third-down receiver. Neither has happened, and Johnson was a healthy scratch for the Redskins. If anything, he’s regressed. The kid has tremendous speed but for whatever reason, other than that one record-setting punt return against the Cowboys last year, he hasn’t been able to translate it into playmaking. His judgment on punt returns has been awful. Big disappointment.
11. Since they beat the Cowboys in the 1980 NFC Championship game, the Eagles have won two playoff games under a coach other than Andy Reid.
12. Supper’s Ready is the greatest song ever written.
13. Since 1950, only two quarterbacks -- Jaws and Donovan -- have won more than one playoff game for the Eagles. McNabb won nine, Ron Jaworski won three, and Randall Cunningham, Rodney Peete and Jeff Garcia won one each.
14. What a remarkable performance by University of Oregon freshman Edward Cheserek from St. Benedict’s High School in Newark on Saturday, winning the NCAA cross country championship in Terre Haute, Ind. All Cheserek had to do as a true freshman was pass huge favorite Kennedy Kithuka of Texas A&M, the defending champ and NCAA 5,000-meter champ, with 2,000 meters to go and run away from Kithuka, previously unbeaten in his entire college career. Cheserek became the first NCAA XC champ from a New Jersey high school in the race’s 75-year history. Great kid. I got to announce his race last winter when he broke legendary Alberto Salazar’s meet record in the Eastern States two-mile at the 168th Street Armory in New York. Now, Cheserek has joined Salazar, Steve Prefontaine and Galen Rupp as only the fourth NCAA XC champ from Oregon. Amazing stuff.
15. Most sacks by Eagles in their first two professional seasons: Corey Simon (17), Mike Mamula (13½), Trent Cole (13), Jerome Brown (9), Fletcher Cox (8½).
16. Ryan Fannon does a terrific job calling Villanova hoops on the radio. So many college hoops guys resort to screaming and yelling, constantly blast the refs, don’t give you the game situation nearly enough (score, time remaining, who has the ball) and don’t prepare properly (“Great pass by … No. 23”). Most importantly, Fannon keeps it together in the final seconds of a tight game, when so many play-by-play guys get so excited they simply forget to tell listeners exactly what’s happening.
17. I feel like the Eagles have never gotten the running game consistently going this year, and still LeSean McCoy is over 1,000 yards after 11 games. With six more receptions, McCoy will have started his NFL career with five straight seasons of at least 600 rushing yards and 40 catches. Only Matt Forte, Roger Craig and LaDainian Tomlinson have done that. If Jason Peters can come back from the bye a little healthier and a little closer to his all-pro, pre-Achilles injury form, Shady will have a huge final five games.
18. I try not to get too carried away, but 11 games into his NBA career, Michael Carter-Williams is averaging 17.2 points, 7.4 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 3.0 steals per game. Nobody in NBA history has ever been at 17, 7, 5 and 3 after their first 11 NBA games. This kid just has it. That look in his eye. That swagger that’s been missing here for so long. Unlimited potential. This is going to be fun to watch.
19. If I was in charge of this stuff, anybody who parked directly in front of a business -- take-out restaurant, dry cleaner, coffee shop -- blocking traffic because they’re too damn lazy to park in an actual parking space 20 feet away would have their driver’s license revoked for one year. Do it again and your license is gone for life. I’m not messing around here.
20. The Eagles’ final five opponents rank 19th, 30th, 29th, 16th and 31st in pass defense.
21. In honor of the 40th anniversary of Brain Salad Surgery, here are my all-time top 10 favorite prog records: 1. Close to the Edge, Yes, 2. Brain Salad Surgery, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, 3. Selling England by the Pound, Genesis, 4. The Yes Album, Yes, 5. Tab in the Ocean, Nektar, 6. Fountains of Light, Starcastle, 7. Nursery Cryme, Genesis, 8. Fish out of Water, Chris Squire, 9. Free Hand, Gentle Giant, 10. Animals, Pink Floyd.
22. Philly pro athletes 24 years old and under: Carter-Williams, Tony Wroten and Nerlens Noel of the 76ers; Sean Couturier, Jakub Voracek and Brayden Schenn of the Flyers; Fletcher Cox, Nick Foles and Brandon Boykin of the Eagles; and … umm, Cody Asche, Jonathan Pettibone and Freddy Galvis of the Phillies? At least three teams in the city are building the right way.
23. Best view of Center City: From Belmont Mansion Drive at Belmont Plateau looking southeast.
24. That 1-877 Kars for Kids commercial flat-out creeps me out.
25. If we could build a bullet train like Japan’s Shinkansen train, you could travel by rail from New York to Los Angeles in under nine hours. According to Amtrak.com, the fastest train currently from N.Y. to L.A. takes 76 hours and 30 minutes, including a five-hour layover in Chicago.