Eagle Eye: Eagles-Buccaneers predictions
Twenty-five random points to ponder while the Eagles make their way to Tampa, site of Randall Cunningham’s first career opening-day start, Brad Goebel’s first NFL start, Matt Bryant’s game-winning 62-yard field goal, Nick Foles’ only career win and the last Eagles wide receiver to catch two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Who was it? Read on!
1. The question I get asked the most these days is: why aren’t the Eagles doing anything to upgrade their wide receiver corps? It’s a great question. It’s been tough watching Riley Cooper, whose eight catches are by far the fewest among NFL starters. The Eagles feel Damaris Johnson isn’t big enough to play opposite DeSean Jackson, training camp phenom Greg Salas isn’t much of a special teams player, and Jeff Maehl is the only real option at this point. And he’ll continue to get a look, but how much of an upgrade he is over Cooper remains to be seen. Although fans want the Eagles to acquire a veteran receiver in a trade, that’s not going to happen. The Eagles are trying to build from the ground up, and there’s no way they’re going to part with a draft pick or picks, even if it would upgrade the position for now. There’s nobody on the street who can help, either. So this is likely what the Eagles will move forward with. Even though nobody likes it.
2. The Eagles’ wide receiver situation really magnifies just how much they miss Jeremy Maclin. A lot of fans don’t appreciate just how good Maclin is, which is mystifying. From 2009 through 2012 he was one of only 10 NFL receivers with at least 250 catches and 25 touchdowns. He’s also one of only 12 receivers in history with at least 50 catches for 750 yards in each of his first four seasons. He separates, and the Eagles desperately miss his ability to get open. Maclin’s a very good receiver who has made big plays in big games and the playoffs. His contract expires after this season, and the Eagles need to make it a priority to get him back here.
3. Between Tweets, e-mails and WIP calls, one of the biggest things I’m asked about is which quarterback the Eagles should take in the draft. Granted, this is a very good draft class, but 1) The top guys (Marcus Mariota, Teddy Bridgewater, Tajh Boyd, Brett Hundley and maybe even Johnny Manziel) could very well be off the board by the time the Eagles pick, and 2) I haven’t seen anything yet that tells me Nick Foles can’t be this team’s quarterback moving forward. Not to say he’s locked anything up, but he’s in the mix. He’s a big, strong, smart, accurate kid who doesn’t throw interceptions, has good pocket presence and poise, sees the field well and is productive in the red zone. If he can be efficient and productive Sunday against a loaded Tampa defense, his stock will rise even more.
4. Speaking of Foles, out of 43 quarterbacks who’ve thrown at least 100 passes since opening day of last year, only four have thrown fewer interceptions per pass attempt than Foles. Here’s the top five: Tom Brady (one every 75.7 attempts), Peyton Manning (one every 65.1 attempts), Aaron Rodgers (64.0), Robert Griffin III (62.6), Kevin Kolb (61.0), Nick Foles (59.0). And before you dismiss the list because Kolb is on it, Kolb’s issues weren’t accuracy, they were durability. He just couldn’t stay healthy. Foles so far seems to have that toughness you really like in a QB. The harder he gets hit, the faster he pops up. I like that.
5. OK, don’t laugh. Here’s a list of most Eagles interceptions over the last three years: Kurt Coleman (six), Nnamdi Asomugha (four), Jamar Chaney (three), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (three), Asante Samuel (three). Look for Brandon Boykin to sit atop that list soon, but for now … it’s just sad.
6. Since 2009, the Eagles have allowed 481 fourth-quarter points. Only the Panthers (492), Lions (494) and Cowboys (498) have allowed more.
7. Speaking of Matt Bryant’s 62-yard field goal, I was sitting next to Mark Eckel in the press box that day, and as Bryant was lining up to kick, Mark said, “Roob, he’s going to hit it. I’m telling you, he’s going to make this kick.” I told him he was nuts. At that point, only two kickers had ever made a field goal that long – Tom Dempsey in 1970 and Jason Elam at altitude in Denver in 1988. But Mark said he just sensed it. He had no doubt the kick was going through. Of course, Bryant nailed it. Everybody was in disbelief. Everybody but Eckel. He knew what was coming.
8. Andy Reid has won more games at the Linc over the past year than the Eagles. How weird is that?
9. Why didn’t SEPTA ever build a regional rail line into South Philly? How nice would it be to be able to take a train to an Eagles, Phillies, Flyers or Sixers game? There’s the Broad Street Line, but taking a train downtown or to Fern Rock or somewhere and transferring to the subway and then doing it all over again after a game is hardly convenient and takes forever. There are freight tracks that run parallel to I-95 just south of the Linc. Can’t we figure out how to get passenger rail onto those tracks and then build a footbridge over to the sports complex? Would sure beat parking. Imagine if you could jump onto the train at Jenkintown, Chestnut Hill East or Ardmore and be at a game in half an hour without worrying about parking?
10. Who would have thought that in 2013 the Rolling Stones would still be together and the Jonas Brothers would not?
11. The more I think about this, the more I believe that this whole running quarterback thing isn’t going to work long-term. They’ll give us plenty of highlights and win a lot of games, but these electrifying running quarterbacks keep getting hurt, and the pocket guys keep staying healthy. The last seven Super Bowl-winning QBs have thrown for 1,933 yards and run for a total of two yards. The last 20 have averaged 251 passing yards and 6.6 rushing yards per game. Yeah, Colin Kaepernick got to a Super Bowl, but he didn’t win it. And I just don’t know if that style of play is sustainable. Nobody has done it at a high level longer than Michael Vick, and he hasn’t won a playoff game since 2004. Until one of these hot-shot running QBs wins something, I just don’t know if it can be done.
12. This is a special guest Flyers random point from Sarah Baicker: Considering the Flyers' offensive woes (they have six goals in five games as of Saturday morning), I'm beginning to think they made a few roster mistakes. Namely, I think the Flyers should have kept rookie Scott Laughton with the team, instead of sending him back to the OHL after he sat on the bench for a single game. Not only is Laughton on fire right now with the Generals (five goals and seven assists in five games), but having him on the team could have allowed the Flyers to try out that other experiment that could pay dividends: Moving Vinny Lecavalier to the wing on Claude Giroux's line. Oh, and before you ask: Once an OHL player is returned to his team, he cannot be recalled to the NHL 'til after his season is over.
13. I’d rather get gas in Pennsylvania and pay a few extra cents a gallon and do it myself and get out of there fast than get cheaper gas in New Jersey and wait for the attendant to show up to pump my gas, then wait for them show up again to get my debit card, then wait a third time for the dude to show up with my card and receipt. I just don’t have the patience for New Jersey gas.
14. Luke and Laura’s wedding, man, now that was compelling TV, wasn’t it?
15. I’ve got the 76ers winning 56 games this year. If they can play Basket Bilboa every night!
16. Honestly, I can’t wait for 76ers season to start in a couple weeks. I don’t care how bad they’re going to be. I like their approach, I like their philosophy, I like their coach. To be great in any sport, you have to start from scratch. Teams that try to keep their nucleus together and tweak the roster wind up mired in eternal mediocrity. Right, Phils?
17. Along those lines … when the Eagles take the field Sunday in Tampa, they’ll have seven starters in their first or second year. That’s a lot.
18. Did you guess correctly the last Eagle to catch two TDs in a fourth quarter? It was Dameane Douglas in the Eagles-Bucs game on the final day of the 2001 season. The Eagles and Bucs were both already locked into a wild-card game at the Vet, so both teams played mainly subs. The Eagles trailed 13-3 in the fourth quarter before A.J. Feeley came in and gave the Eagles a season-ending win with TD passes of two and 24 yards to Douglas, whose nickname was D-1.
19. Why was Dameane Douglas’s nickname D-1? When he was at Hanford High School in Southern California, Douglas was overheard by his teammates trash talking a poor cornerback after he beat him for a long touchdown. “You can’t stop me,” Douglas said. “I’m going D-1.” Meaning Division 1. Meaning he was a highly-recruited player. The nickname stuck. To this day, Dameane Douglas is D-1.
20. The Sellersville Theater is in the absolute middle of nowhere (unless you live in Sellersville), but that is one great venue to see a concert. Top-5 Philly venues: 1) Johnny Brenda’s, 2) Union Transfer, 3) Tin Angel, 4) World Café Live, 5) Sellersville Theater.
21. Trust me on this: Your Facebook friends really don’t want to read about your grandmother’s surgery. I hope it went well. I really do. But keep it in-house, m-kay?
22. Did you know Eagles special teams coach Dave Fipp was a 15-5 pole vaulter while he was at La Jolla High School outside San Diego?
23. Another special guest Flyers random point from Sarah Baicker: How much of a pleasant surprise has Steve Mason been? The Flyers' 25-year-old goalie looked strong at the end of last year, sure, but he's looked even more impressive through the four games he's started this season -- despite his 1-3 record. Without him, there's no way the Flyers would have registered the sole win they do have. And two things make Mason's strong start to the 2013-14 season even better: first, they're paying him a paltry $1.5 million. That's cheap! And second, waiting in the wings if he should falter is Ray Emery, who's looking to build off of his 17-1 record from last year. It's been an ugly start for the Flyers, but at least it's refreshing to be talking about something other than goaltending issues.
24. I’ll never understand why people go to a concert, pay good money for tickets, drinks, parking, etc., and then proceed to stand in the middle of the floor and talk the entire night. This drives me crazy. If you want to see the band, go see the band. If you want to talk, go somewhere else. It’s really not that complicated.
25. Here’s the matchup that convinced me the Eagles win Sunday: Even before rookie Mike Glennon replaced Josh Freeman, the Bucs wanted to run the ball a lot. Doug Martin already has 100 carries in just four games. Only 14 running backs since 1980 have had more carries after four games. But the Eagles have been stout against the run, allowing 3.9 yards per carry – their best at this point of a season since 2008. Martin is only averaging 3.4 yards a pop. The Eagles are one of four NFL teams that hasn’t allowed a run longer than 20 yards. I don’t think the Bucs can beat the Eagles running it, so Glennon is going to have to win it throwing the ball. Which against this secondary he could very well do. But I don’t think he’s quite ready to have a huge passing game, even against the Eagles. So I picked Eagles 24, Bucs 23.