10 observations from Eagles-Bears


10 observations from Eagles-Bears

CHICAGO -- There was some good. There was some bad. There was some really bad. And then there was Roc Carmichael.

It was certainly a tough evening for Carmichael, Jordan Matthews, Allen Barbre, Nick Foles and a handful of other Eagles Friday night in the preseason opener, a 34-28 loss to the Bears at Soldier Field (see Instant Replay).

But it was a good day for Mark Sanchez, Beau Allen, Zach Ertz and Vinny Curry, among others.

It’s the first of 20 (at least), so please welcome back … Roob’s 10 Observations!

1. Can’t say I’m concerned with Foles’ performance, but he was so bad — two interceptions in nine attempts, with a third INT dropped — that it does give the next two preseason games a little more importance. Foles wasn’t great last preseason — he didn’t throw a touchdown and went on to have one of the greatest seasons any QB has ever had. With the pressure of a QB competition off, Foles has the freedom to make throws he might ordinarily not make. It seemed like he was really focusing on getting rid of the ball quickly Friday night, and he got himself into trouble a few times with poor decisions.

2. I am a little concerned with Barbre, who is pegged to start the first four games at right tackle while Lane Johnson serves his suspension. Barbre got pushed around a little bit by the Bears, but this was his first real playing time at right tackle since 2009 with the Packers, so it shouldn’t be all that surprising. But keep an eye on him. He needs to be better.

3. First defense did some good things, but I didn’t like those two third-and-long conversions by the Bears on their second drive — a 3rd-and-11 and a 3rd-and-10 that led to the Bears’ first TD. Billy Davis wasn’t dialing up any exotic stuff, and there wasn’t a lot of pass pressure, but third-and-long was a problem last year. The Eagles allowed 18 conversions on 3rd-and-10 or longer last year, and only the Dolphins (20) and Vikings (22) allowed more. That’s got to change, so something to keep an eye on.

4. Saw some good things from special teams. Damion Square blocked a field goal, Alex Henery’s kickoffs all went into the end zone, and rookie Josh Huff looked fast and decisive on his explosive 102-yard kickoff return touchdown. The Eagles made a lot of changes on special teams this offseason, and it looks like they’re paying off. The return game was awful last year. If Huff can be a quality kick returner, that would really solve a huge question mark facing the Eagles.

5. Loved what I saw out of Beau Allen. It’s tough to evaluate the young defensive lineman, since the Eagles don’t do live goal-line or short-yardage anymore at practice. But Allen was very active in his NFL debut, stout against the run and got great push in the pocket.

6. Good stuff — as you’d expect — from Sanchez. Say what you want, he’s one of the best backup quarterbacks in the league. How many teams have a No. 2 quarterback who’s won four playoff games and has one of the 15 highest passer ratings in NFL postseason history? Put a smart, veteran QB in a preseason game against a second-team defense and you’re going to get efficiency, and Sanchez was sharp, completing 7 of 10 passes for 79 yards, with two touchdown drives. In 19 of the last 23 seasons, the Eagles’ No. 2 quarterback has started at least one game, so it’s a critical spot, and the Eagles are in good hands if Sanchez has to play.

7. Not an auspicious debut for Matthews, the rookie second-round pick. He had three drops in all. The first one was a tough catch, the next two are catches he has to make. Matthews finished with four receptions for 14 yards with a long of five. I’ve always said wideout is the toughest position for rookies to come in and shine. Matthews has all the tools, and I think he’ll be fine, but it’s not going to happen immediately.

8. Was good to see Jeremy Maclin play for the first time since 2012. Foles targeted him once, and he caught a 15-yarder. The Eagles were awfully vanilla offensively, and I feel like Maclin needs a good bit of work before the regular season. He’s been OK at practice but hasn’t flashed. He still looks a little rusty. Good start but a ways to go.

9. The Eagles have some crazy depth at running back. After Shady McCoy, Darren Sproles and Chris Polk, you have Matthew Tucker, who looked terrific Friday night (minus a fumble) and then you saw what David Fluellen can do, with six runs for 25 yards and an acrobatic 14-yard touchdown catch from Matt Barkley. Good production.

10. Was disappointed in Barkley. There’s been a lot of talk about how far he’s come and how much he’s improved, how he’s gotten stronger, healthier, but he just didn’t look sharp at all, going 7 for 16 for 73 yards with the one TD to Fluellen on a play that was really all Fluellen, and one interception. Was looking for a lot more.

Doug Pederson not afraid to get aggressive with play-calling

Doug Pederson not afraid to get aggressive with play-calling

Talk to Doug Pederson and he comes across … what’s a nice way to put it … dry?

Very nice guy. Very friendly. Very down to Earth. But not the most dynamic personality in public.

Which is why his personality on gameday has been so surprising.

Pederson is a risk taker as a playcaller. Aggressive and fearless.

Whether it’s going for it on fourth down with the lead, going for two after a successful PAT or throwing deep in a situation that doesn’t necessarily call for it, Pederson has proven to be the proverbial riverboat gambler that Chip Kelly was expected to be but never became.

“My personality is probably a little more conservative by nature, I think,” Pederson said Monday. “You'd probably agree with that.”

Pederson got a laugh with that comment because his public persona is exactly the opposite of his gameday demeanor.

It only took one day before we all got a taste of Pederson’s fearlessness.

In the season opener against the Browns, with the Eagles clinging to a 15-10 lead and a rookie quarterback making his first NFL appearance and a 4th-and-4 at the Browns’ 40--yard-line, he kept the offense on the field.

Carson Wentz responded by connecting with Zach Ertz on a five-yard gain to move the chains, and one play later, the Eagles took command on Wentz’s 35-yard TD pass to Nelson Agholor.

Six weeks in, the Eagles are 5 for 5 on fourth down. Only the Falcons have converted more fourth downs in the NFL this year, and they’re 6 for 10.

In the win over the Bears, the Eagles were 3 for 3 on fourth down, their best fourth-down conversion day in nine years.

This is the first time in 14 years the Eagles have converted five or more fourth downs through six games.

According to Pro Football Reference, the Eagles are one of only seven teams in NFL history to attempt five or more fourth down plays through six games and still be at 100 percent. The Lions are also 5 for 5 this year.

Pederson said analytics are a big part of his decision-making process, but he also trusts his instincts.

“I think it's both,” Pederson said. “But I trust our guys and I trust our offensive line and I think it sends a great message to the rest of the team, to the defense and special teams, that, ‘Hey, if we can convert this and stay on the field,’ it sends a good message.

“And on the other side of that, if you do convert, (it’s about) the message you send to the other team and the fact that you're going to stay aggressive.”

The Eagles are 29th-best in the NFL on third down at just 34 percent. But they’re one of only three teams that’s at 100 percent on fourth down.

“It's kind of a crazy deal when you're not great on third down, but you can be 5 for 5 on fourth down and convert them,” Pederson said. “It's a weird deal. But credit to the guys for the execution.

“I'm going to continue to look at it. I don't ever want to be in a position that I'm going to jeopardize the team at the time (by being too aggressive). Looking at the five fourth-down decisions this year, I don’t think they put us in any harm at that time.”

Wentz is 3 for 3 for 21 yards on fourth down, with the four-yard completion to Ertz, a seven-yard first down to Jordan Matthews in the Bears game and a nine-yard to Dorial Green-Beckham, also in the win in Chicago.

He also rushed six yards for a first down on a 4th-and-2 Sunday in the win over the Vikings. The Eagles’ other fourth-down conversion this year was Ryan Mathews’ one-yard TD on a 4th-and-goal against Chicago.

Pederson said as an assistant coach under Andy Reid, he always found himself asking himself whether he would be conservative or aggressive in crucial situations.

We’re all learning the answer now.

“Yeah, you definitely put yourself in those situations, as a coordinator and a position coach,” he said. “Putting yourself in those spots, it's a lot easier when you're not making the decision obviously to go, ‘Oh, yeah, I would have not gone for it there or not gone for it there.’

“Now, being in this position, it's my tail on the line if we don't convert.”

NFL Notes: Giants release kicker Josh Brown

NFL Notes: Giants release kicker Josh Brown

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants have released placekicker Josh Brown after police documents revealed Brown had admitted to repeatedly abusing his former wife while they were married.

The release came Tuesday shortly after the player issued a statement insisting that he never hit his wife during a six year period when he admits spousal abuse.

Giants President John Mara says the team was "misguided" in how it handled its relationship with Brown. He says the team hopes Brown will dedicate himself to rehabilitation and becoming a better person and father.

Brown was previously suspended for the opening game of the season for violating the league's personal conduct policy after the NFL investigated his arrest in May 2015 for spousal abuse against his now ex-wife, Molly. Brown was not charged by local authorities in the case in Washington state.

Dolphins: RB Foster abruptly retires
MIAMI -- Four-time Pro Bowler Arian Foster says he can no longer take the punishment an NFL running back endures, so he is retiring midway through an injury-plagued season with the Miami Dolphins.

Foster, 30, tried to come back from a torn Achilles tendon, but was slowed this season by groin and hamstring injuries. He announced his retirement Monday on the website Undefeated as the Dolphins began their bye week.

The team confirmed the decision, effective immediately.

"There comes a time in every athlete's career when their ambition and their body are no longer on the same page," Foster wrote. "I've reached that point. It's hard to write those words because this game has been everything to me ... my therapy, my joy, my solace and my enemy."

Foster signed a $1.5 million, one-year contract with the Dolphins in July after spending his first seven NFL seasons with the Houston Texans. He holds the Texans' franchise record with 6,472 yards rushing.

This season he rushed for 55 yards on 22 carries, and he had 5 yards on three carries Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.

"My father always said, `You'll know when it's time to walk away,'" he wrote. "It has never been more clear than right now. I'm walking away with peace. I know it's not commonplace to do it midseason, but my body just can't take the punishment this game asks for any longer."

Foster was one of several Miami players this season to kneel during the pregame national anthem to protest social inequality. His playing time was curtailed with the emergence of Jay Ajayi, who tied an NFL record by surpassing 200 yards rushing in consecutive games (see full story).

Jaguars: DT Miller out for year with torn Achillies
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars will be without defensive tackle Roy Miller for the rest of the season because of a torn right Achilles tendon.

The Jaguars (2-4) made the announcement Tuesday, two days after Miller left the game against Oakland and did not return.

A disruptive run-stopper whose 10 tackles this season don't show how important he is to Jacksonville's defense, Miller will be placed on injured reserve and undergo surgery later in the week.

Abry Jones is expected to replace Miller in the starting lineup when the Jaguars play at Tennessee (3-4) on Thursday night.

Miller has 244 tackles, eight sacks and a forced fumble in eight seasons. He has missed just six games in his previous seven years.