10 observations from Eagles-Buccaneers

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10 observations from Eagles-Buccaneers

BOX SCORE

Where do you start?

The Buccaneers piled up more than 500 yards. They ran for nearly 300 yards. Their 21-year-old rookie quarterback playing in his 10th career game threw five touchdown passes.

45-17? This was an absolute disgrace for the Eagles, who became only the second team since 1950 to allow 280 rushing yards and five TDs in a home game (see Instant Replay).

I could have written 500 points off this game, but the rules say just 10.

So buckle up and read on.

1. If this game demonstrated anything, it’s how desperately the Eagles need what Tampa has. A young quarterback to build around. I’ve been harping about this all year, but until the Eagles draft a quarterback they believe can be a franchise guy, they’re just not going to win a thing. If you have Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Sam Bradford or Mark Sanchez, you might win a few games here and there and you might even sneak into the playoffs once in a while. But let’s face it. The Eagles aren’t going anywhere with Bradford or Sanchez (more on Sanchez here). They’re buried in mediocrity right now, winning too many games to get a pick to draft a Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota but not winning enough to be taken seriously. This will be seven straight years without a playoff win for the Eagles, and it’s no coincidence that coincides with Donovan McNabb’s career winding down. Think about this. Winston is 21 years old. The Bucs won two games last year but have solidified their future for the next decade with one draft pick. The Eagles won’t draft No. 1 but they’ve got to find somebody because without a young, elite, stud QB, they’re just not going anywhere.

2. And onto the defense. Goodness gracious. I don’t like to use the word gutless, but I don’t know a word that better describes the effort the Eagles showed against an average offense — ranked No. 14 in the league coming in. They allowed Doug Martin runs of 58 and 84 yards — equaling his career total of two runs of 50 yards before halftime. They let Winston — who had thrown four touchdown passes in Tampa’s last five games combined — throw four before halftime and five in all. They gave up 521 total yards, fifth-most they’ve ever allowed at home. Ever. I’m not sure how it got this bad. The Eagles’ defense was actually very good up through the Giants game and pretty good since. Sure, they lost Jordan Hicks, but come on. Something much deeper is missing. I’ve always been a big Bill Davis fan, and I always thought once he got decent players he’d be a very good coach, but I have to question everything right now. Every player, every coach, every scheme. This was a disgrace, and it’s getting worse. The product the defense put out there in its own stadium was embarrassing and pitiful and inexcusable (see story). This is the kind of game that gets people fired. And it should. Somebody should pay for this.

3. I very much believe the Eagles’ problems go beyond offense and defense and beyond personnel. They don’t seem to fight back when bad things happen. They had a 13-point lead at home last week against a last-place team that just fired its coach and was playing on the road for a third straight week, and they just kind of stopped playing, stopped fighting. And then this on top of that? It raises very sobering questions about Chip Kelly and his ability to get this team to play hard and to play hard for 60 minutes. The Eagles have now won five of their last 14 games, and this is the team Chip wanted, the team Chip built. I won’t go as far as saying the Eagles quit because I didn’t see that. But my doubts about Chip’s ability to lead this team and prepare this team and get this team ready to play a football game are only getting stronger. The Eagles just lost back-to-back games at home to teams with losing records, and they lost both in embarrassing fashion (see story), getting outscored, 17-3, by Miami after the first quarter and, 38-14, Sunday. That reflects on one person more than any other: Chip.

4. Let’s try to put the Buccaneers’ offensive performance in context. They amassed 285 rushing yards and five touchdown passes against the Eagles’ utterly overmatched defense. That makes the Bucs the first NFL team since 1977 and only the seventh team in NFL history with five TD passes and 280 rushing yards in the same game.  

5. It’s tough to single out anybody on the defense as being particularly bad because everybody was Sunday. But I really can’t believe what I’ve seen so far from Kiko Alonso. He had that interception on opening day and obviously he missed a huge chunk of the season, but when he has played he’s been completely ineffective against the run, a non-factor in coverage and unable to produce any big plays. Maybe my expectations were too high coming off a season lost to injury and considering he missed half the season. But the Eagles gave up LeSean McCoy for this guy, and they haven’t gotten anything back.

6. Let’s touch for a moment on Martin. He’s a very tough back, a solid player. But he hasn’t been an elite back since 2012, when he had his only 1,000-yard season. Hasn’t been healthy since. So for the Eagles to stand there and let him have the biggest game ever against the Eagles is shocking. The Eagles have faced Walter Payton, Tony Dorsett, Jim Brown, Adrian Peterson … none of them ever ran for 235 yards against this football team. It wasn’t that long ago the Eagles had the No. 2 rush defense in the NFL. Going into Week 7. But stopping the run is an attitude. It’s a mentality. It’s mental and physical toughness. It’s want-to. You have to want to. When you lack all those qualities, this is what you get. An absolute embarrassment. On their own turf. In front of their own fans. Martin reached 240 yards twice late in the game — which is the most anybody has ever gained against the Eagles — but he finished with 235 yards, two shy of Emmitt Smith’s and Brown's record. Still. The Eagles are only the eighth team since 1960 — more than 60 years — to allow a back 235 rushing yards in its own stadium. Pathetic.

7. I really want to hear Chip after the game say, “I did not have this team prepared. I did not do my job. This is my fault. This was an embarrassing loss and it’s all on me.” Because say what you want about Davis and everybody else, this is Chip’s team right now and this was an abomination. I’d like to see him be accountable (here's what Chip had to say).

8. Did you see Sanchez and Darren Sproles having words after Sanchez’s third interception — Lavonte David’s pick-six in the fourth quarter? Maybe Sproles did run the wrong route, but that’s the last thing this team needs right now, the quarterback and running back yapping at each other (see story). Sanchez is fiery, and fiery is fine. But when you’re down, 45-17, in the fourth quarter in your own stadium, and you’re about to fall to 4-6 with your second straight humiliating loss, you don’t need that stuff. Be a leader. Help the Eagles out of this instead of making it worse.

9. Is it even fair for you guys to go through all of that and then start talking about the Eagles’ wide receivers? What the heck. It’s truly painful to watch this group (more on offense here). Nelson Agholor was invisible again Sunday, with three catches for 11 yards. That’s 14 for 148 in six games. The Eagles really need to find a way to get this kid going.

10. And only four days until their next game!

Eric Rowe explains 'hiccups,' ready for fresh start in pads

Eric Rowe explains 'hiccups,' ready for fresh start in pads

Earlier this week, Doug Pederson admitted cornerback Eric Rowe had some “hiccups” during the spring, and seemed to indicate they stemmed from learning a new defense. 

Rowe says that wasn’t the problem at all.

“It wasn’t the new defense that was giving me whatever hiccups [Pederson] was talking about,” Rowe said on Wednesday as he reported for his second training camp (see Day 3 observations). “It was just, I was having trouble breaking on top of the routes, specifically the curl routes. But fade ball, deep post, digs, I didn’t have any trouble there. It was just curl routes. I just knew I had to work on it after the OTAs.”

Rowe, 23, said the problem was technical; he just needed to get his feet down quicker.

Whatever the problem, whatever the hiccups, it seems as though Rowe’s standing within the organization and on the depth chart isn’t what it once was.

Many thought he would be a starter in 2016, like he was at the end of 2015, but that wasn’t the way things were in the spring. Instead, Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks took those positions, and it looks like Nolan Carroll, returning from an injury, and rookie Jalen Mills, who hasn’t yet practiced in pads, are vying for playing time, too.

In back-to-back days earlier this week, Pederson and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz failed to mention Rowe’s name while listing players at the cornerback spot. Coincidental omissions or a vocalized unofficial depth chart?

Rowe could possibly go from starter to deep bench player, but that’s not what he’s planning on.

“I know I had a little ups and downs in OTAs, but now the pads are coming on,” Rowe said. “I feel like it’s a fresh start for me and I’m just ready to get out here.”

Pads go on Saturday.

“Right now, I think I still stand in a good position (with the team),” Rowe said. “Football is about the game with pads on. Now we’re really about to see in a couple days when we put the pads on.”

Small in stature, Wendell Smallwood likes to play big

Small in stature, Wendell Smallwood likes to play big

He looks like a small back. He's built like a small back. He wants to play like a big back.

Wendell Smallwood, trying to make the Eagles as a reserve tailback, stands 5-foot-10, 208 pounds, but he said he’s got a surprise for defenders that think he’s one of those itty-bitty backs that dances around looking pretty … until they get hit.

“I think that’s what most people expect,” he said Tuesday. “But when I actually put my head down and fight for those extra yards and get under guys, guys start to say, ‘Hey!’ They start to feel me a little bit.

“So I definitely think that started to show my last year in college, and I started becoming more of an inside zone type of runner instead of an outside runner.”

None of this should be a surprise considering Smallwood’s position coach is Duce Staley, who during his 10-year NFL career was much more interested in running over people than around them.

Smallwood is nowhere near as big as Staley, who played at about 235 to 240. But that’s the kind of back he wants to be.

“It’s definitely important to me and it’s definitely what Duce wants me to do,” Smallwood said. “He wants me to hit the holes and hit ‘em hard and that’s the reason he got me here.

“Duce, he doesn’t like small backs. He doesn’t. I don’t think he believes in those guys. He was a big boy. Running dudes over left and right. That’s what he wants.”

Smallwood played sparingly as a freshman at West Virginia, shared time with Rushel Shell as a sophomore, then took over last year when he led the Big 12 with 1,519 rushing yards and added nine touchdowns, 26 catches and a 6.4 rushing average.

The Eagles plucked him out of Morgantown in the fifth round, and in an uncertain running back picture, he’s got a realistic chance to not just make the team but also play a role.

Just don’t expect him to play like a typical guy his size.

“I don’t consider myself a small back anymore,” he said. “People have always said that and I kind of started to agree, but then I looked at some of the guys who are around and I’m not a small back at all.

“I’m not little and the running style I like to do is suited for a big back, and my catching kind of throws people off. I definitely think I’m a mixture of both.”

Smallwood ranked 13th in Division I in rushing yards last year, and his 6.4 average was tied for ninth among backs with at least 200 carries.

He said a lot of defenders expect him to be a finesse back, a guy who likes to juke safeties and linebackers instead of bowling them over.

“Get me going downhill and I’ll get you what I can get you,” he said. “A lot of [defenders] kind of take the easy route and think it’s going to be easy and then the rest of the game they’re going low and trying to take my legs out.”

Look at the Eagles’ running back picture.

The starter is Ryan Mathews, who is talented but injury-prone. The backup right now probably is Kenjon Barner, who has 34 career carries. Then there’s Darren Sproles, whose 3.8 average last year was his lowest since 2009 and second lowest of his 11-year career.

With a strong camp, there’s no reason Smallwood can’t work himself into that picture.

The last frontier for the Northern Delaware native is blitz pickup. Something he was never asked to do at WVU.

“I don’t think I did basically any in college,” he said. “They didn’t ask me to block at all. I was mainly running routes.

“But as soon as I got here, Duce emphasized, ‘If you want to get on the field, you’re going to block. If you’re not going to block, you’re not going to play.'”

Staley’s No. 22 wasn’t available, but Smallwood is happy to wear the jersey number of another one of his favorite backs growing up, Correll Buckhalter’s No. 28, who he seems quite similar to.

It’s not fair to compare Smallwood to Staley, Buckhalter, Brian Westbrook or any other former Eagles back until the pads go on and we see what he’s really made of.

But Smallwood said he’s thrilled Staley is his coach and said there’s nobody he’d rather be playing for.

“I think he’s a great fit for me as a coach,” Smallwood said. “I need a kind of guy who drives me, tough guy, who’s not going to let up, who’s going to keep his foot on my back. I definitely need that kind of coaching.

“Just being around him growing up and seeing what he did when he was here and how he runs and him being one of my favorite backs, I was kind of star-struck to be around him, and now he’s my coach. It’s definitely a great situation for me.”

NFL Notes: Rams release former Eagles QB Nick Foles

NFL Notes: Rams release former Eagles QB Nick Foles

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Rams released quarterback Nick Foles on Wednesday after failing to find a trade destination for the disgruntled veteran.

The Rams announced the move one day before their veterans report to training camp for their homecoming season in Southern California.

Foles hasn't been around the Rams since they traded up to choose California quarterback Jared Goff with the No. 1 pick in the draft this spring. The veteran skipped offseason workouts while Los Angeles attempted to trade him.

Instead, the Rams had to release a capable veteran quarterback without compensation after teams likely realized they could attempt to sign Foles as a free agent (see full story).

Panthers: Former Eagles S Coleman extended 3 years
SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- The Carolina Panthers have signed safety Kurt Coleman to a three-year contract extension through the 2019 season.

Coleman led the Panthers and finished tied for third in the NFL with career-high seven interceptions in his first season in Carolina last year. He contributed to a team that ranked sixth in the NFL in total defense and led the NFL in interceptions (24), takeaways (39) and points off turnovers (148).

The 28-year-old Coleman finished third on the team with 103 tackles. Financial details were not released Wednesday.

Coleman called the contract a blessing, saying "when you go through situations you want what's best for your family and what's best for the team, and I'm really excited. I'm fortunate to be a part of this team for three more years."

Ravens: Long signs 1-year contract pending physical
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens have reached an agreement with veteran offensive lineman Jake Long on a one-year contract, pending the condition of his oft-injured right knee.

Long played in four Pro Bowls after being selected by Miami as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 draft.

But he played sparingly in just four games with Atlanta last year after tearing his right ACL in back-to-back seasons.

The contract won't be official until the Ravens receive more information on Long's knee. He will visit Dr. James Andrews to receive an assessment of the knee, coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday.

The Ravens are willing to sign the 31-year-old Long if they're not on the hook to pay him for the entire season if he's forced out with another knee injury.

Baltimore has been looking for another tackle since releasing Eugene Monroe last month.

Vikings: 5-time All-Pro Kevin Williams to retire
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings have signed five-time All-Pro defensive tackle Kevin Williams to a one-day contract so he can formally retire as a member of the team.

The Vikings announced the news Wednesday. Williams will finalize his retirement Thursday after 13 seasons, including 11 with Minnesota.

Taken with the ninth pick in the 2003 draft by the Vikings from Oklahoma State, Williams is eighth in team history with 60 sacks. His 171 regular-season starts are the most all time by a Vikings defensive tackle, and his five interceptions are tied for the most by a defensive tackle in NFL history.

Williams played for NFC champion Seattle in 2014 and New Orleans in 2015. He was picked for six Pro Bowls.

Jets: Bernard Pierce signed; Zac Stacy waived
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets are signing running back Bernard Pierce and waiving running back Zac Stacy, who failed his physical after missing the last half of last season with a broken left ankle.

Pierce ran for just 11 yards on six carries in seven games last season with Jacksonville after spending his first three NFL seasons with Baltimore. He ran for a career-best 532 yards as a rookie with the Ravens in 2012 after being a third-round pick out of Temple.

Pierce was released by Baltimore in March 2015, when he was charged with drunken driving. He was claimed off waivers by Jacksonville the next day.

The NFL announced in May that Pierce will be suspended for the first two games of this season, likely stemming from the DUI arrest.

Stacy ran for 89 yards in eight games for the Jets last season, but he was lost for the rest of the season in November when he broke his ankle on a kickoff return.