10 observations from Eagles-Bears

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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.

Eagles Stay or Go Part 2: Connor Barwin to Terrence Brooks

Eagles Stay or Go Part 2: Connor Barwin to Terrence Brooks

In the second 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 2 is Barwin to Brooks. 

Connor Barwin
Cap hit: $8.35M

Roob: Not only is Barwin a massive force in the community, he’s the only guy on the team I can talk music with. Who else am I going to hang out with at a War on Drugs gig? And he’s really been a terrific Eagle. A Pro Bowler a couple years ago, a tremendous locker room guy, durable, dependable, productive. All that said, Barwin will go, and that’s what makes this such a tough business. Barwin just does not fit in this 4-3 defense, and at 30 years old and with an $8.35 million cap figure, it doesn’t make sense to keep him when releasing him will create only $600,000 in dead money. Barwin has said he’s open to taking a pay cut, and if the Eagles and Barwin can make the numbers work, I’m fine with keeping him around as a rotational guy with a far lower cap figure. Maybe he would be more productive in a second year in this defense. But otherwise, this really seems to be one of those cases where you have to put your emotions aside and do what’s best long-term. 

Verdict: GOES

Dave: We’re starting off today with a tough one. One of the toughest names we’ll encounter throughout this 12-day journey. If the Eagles just decided to cut Barwin, they would save $7.75 million. That’s a ton of money, especially for a team that could desperately use any cap space it can find. Barwin, for his part, has repeatedly made it known that he’d be willing to take a pay cut to rejoin the Eagles next year. I’m just not sure it makes sense, even with a pay cut. The Eagles have Vinny Curry making a ton of money waiting to play and Barwin could fit better in a different defense. It’s not often a mayor of a city goes to bat for a player. That’s how much Barwin means to the community. But it just doesn’t make football sense or business sense to keep him, which is a shame.  

Verdict: GOES

Nigel Bradham
Cap hit: $4.25M

Roob: Bradham played fairly well this year, although his performance tailed off a bit in December. But he’s a guy you definitely want to keep around. Still young, contract not prohibitive. The only possible issue with Bradham is a potential NFL suspension following his two legal issues in Florida last year. But Bradham is solid at a position the Eagles have very little depth. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: If you can look past Bradham’s “dumbass” off-the-field incidents in his first year with the Eagles, he played pretty well. No, he’s not a Pro Bowler, but at the price of his two-year deal, he was a pretty good value. He played 97 percent of the Eagles’ defensive snaps in 2016. He led the team in combined tackles with 102 and had two sacks. He has just one year left on his contract, so it might actually be time to think about extending him once his legal issues are cleared up. 

Verdict: STAYS

Bryan Braman
Unrestricted free agent

Roob: Braman, an unrestricted free agent, is still a decent special teams player, although, at nearly 30 years old, not as productive as he once was. The problem is although he’s listed as a defensive end, he’s really not a defensive end except in a dire emergency. He really doesn't have a position. As a seven-year veteran, Braman’s minimum base salary would be fairly high next year -- $900,000. If I were the Eagles, I’d replace Braman with a young outside linebacker – a late-round draft pick or undrafted rookie - who can play special teams at a high level but can also fill in on defense and is cheaper. 

Verdict: GOES

Dave: This is another tough one. Braman had a cap hit near $1 million in 2016, the last year of his contract. The big question here is, do the Eagles want to invest in an aging special teamer or try to replace him with someone younger and possibly cheaper? That said, Braman is a beast on special teams and the Eagles have put plenty of resources into their special teams units. I think they can figure something out. 

Verdict: STAYS

Brandon Brooks
Cap hit: $7.2M

Roob: As long as his stomach ailments are under control, Brooks isn’t going anywhere. He was solid in his first year as an Eagle … when he was able to play. Hopefully, Brooks has put this all behind him, and he’s able to be there for his team at right guard for 16 games next year. Is Brooks worth $40 million over five years? Probably not. He’s above average, but not a superstar. But with that contract, he’ll be here at least through 2018. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Sure, Brooks had a problem with anxiety during the 2016 season, but hopefully he’s gotten past it. Hopefully, he’s found a way to deal with the issue. Because when he’s been on the field, he’s been really good. The Eagles put a lot of money into improving their guard positions from a disastrous 2015 and Brooks looks like the real deal. According to ProFootballFocus, Brooks was the fourth best offensive guard in football. He allowed just one sack and two quarterback hits all year. 

Verdict: STAYS

Ron Brooks
Cap hit: $2.1M

Roob: Honestly, I still think Brooks is best as a special teamer with minimal responsibilities on defense. Jim Schwartz, who coached Brooks with the Bills, feels otherwise and believes Brooks can be a capable slot corner. So he’ll be here. I just would like to see the Eagles upgrade across the secondary. Including at the slot. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: It’s easy to say get rid of all the corners and start over, but it’s not that easy to actually do. Brooks was actually having a pretty decent season before an injury ended his 2016 season early. And if Nolan Carroll isn’t back and if Leodis McKelving gets cut (I think it’s likely), it would be smart for the Eagles to keep Brooks. He doesn’t cost a whole lot and when he got hurt in 2016, it completely changed the defense because it forced Malcolm Jenkins into the slot. 

Verdict: STAYS

Terrence Brooks
Cap hit: $705K

Roob: His interception clinched the Eagles’ only real win the last month and a half of the season, but Brooks’ main role here will remain on special teams, and he’s very good. But then again, it’s not like the Eagles have a bunch of young safeties to develop, so maybe Brooks can find a bigger role given time to develop. Heck, he made one huge game-clinching play, and that's more than a lot of people on this team.  

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Brooks was once a third-round pick of the Ravens in 2014, so it’s probable that Joe Douglas had a role in drafting him. With the Eagles, he didn’t get to play defense for most of the year, instead being relegated to a special teams player. He was very good in that role. With a full training camp, he’ll get to prove he can play on defense too. 

Verdict: STAYS

NFL Notes: Andy Reid doesn't believe costly hold on Chiefs was worth flag

NFL Notes: Andy Reid doesn't believe costly hold on Chiefs was worth flag

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Chiefs coach Andy Reid doesn't believe the holding penalty on left tackle Eric Fisher that cost Kansas City a tying 2-point conversion against Pittsburgh on Sunday night should have been called.

After watching film of the decisive play in the Steelers' 18-16 playoff victory, Reid said Monday that "I don't want to be fined any money, but I'd lean a different way."

Fisher appeared to hook Steelers pass rusher James Harrison on the conversion attempt with less than 3 minutes left in the game.

But the play was not cut-and-dried: Harrison dipped especially low and may have been losing his balance, and he likely would not have gotten to the quarterback anyway.

Still, the flag negated the successful 2-point conversion. And when the Chiefs tried again from the 12-yard line, Alex Smith's throw fell incomplete and the Steelers were able to run out the clock.

PATRIOTS: McDaniels staying on as OC
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels expressed appreciation for the opportunity to interview with the San Francisco 49ers but says for now he will remain in New England.

He said during a conference call Monday that the decision was what's "best for my family and myself" and that he will stay with the Patriots to focus on this year's playoffs and finish out the season "however it turns out."

McDaniels, who was a head coach with the Denver Broncos in 2009 and 2010, interviewed with the 49ers during the Patriots' bye to open the playoffs. He also interviewed with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Both McDaniels and Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia have been candidates for teams with open head coaching jobs this offseason after helping lead the Patriots to 14-2 regular season.

New England beat the Houston Texans 34-16 in the divisional round and will host the Pittsburgh Steelers in Sunday's AFC championship game.

SEAHAWKS: Carroll says Sherman played with MCL injury
RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said on his radio show Monday morning that cornerback Richard Sherman played the second half of the season with an MCL injury in his knee.

Carroll told KIRO-AM that Sherman's injury was significant and it was "stressful" for Sherman to play with the injury.

Carroll did not specify which knee was injured, but said it was similar to Russell Wilson's sprained MCL suffered early in the season in that Sherman could play with the injury.

Sherman was not listed on any injury/practice report this season with a knee injury.

Any practices he missed were listed with the "NIR" -- not injury related -- designation with the exception of Week 12 against Tampa Bay when he was listed with an ankle injury.

Carroll said he had a "big meeting" with Sherman in regards to a tumultuous season for the cornerback that included two sideline blowups during games. "He has some regrets," Carroll said.

TITANS: Former Temple coach Jackson hired as WR coach
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans have hired Frisman Jackson as their new wide receivers coach and Craig Aukerman as assistant special teams coach.

The Titans announced the moves Monday.

Jackson joins the Titans from Temple where he was passing game coordinator this past season and wide receivers coach the past two seasons. Jackson also coached at North Carolina State, Northern Illinois, Akron and Western Illinois.

Titans offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie also coached Jackson when he was a wide receiver for four seasons with the Cleveland Browns.

Aukerman spent the past four seasons coaching the Chargers' special teams, the most recent as special teams coordinator, and has coached with the Jaguars and Broncos. He also coached at Kent State, Miami (Ohio), Western Kentucky and Findlay.