Philadelphia Eagles

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!

Roob: Talented, young cornerbacks no 'Band-Aids' for Eagles

Roob: Talented, young cornerbacks no 'Band-Aids' for Eagles

It's hard not to wonder: With Jalen Mills on the brink of establishing himself as a true No. 1 cornerback and rookie Rasul Douglas shining in his first two NFL starts, what happens when Ronald Darby gets back? And what happens when Sidney Jones gets back?

Answer? Who cares!

All I know is that after a decade of watching recycled, over-priced, disinterested veterans like Ellis Hobbs, Nnamdi Asomugha, Byron Maxwell, Bradley Fletcher, Nolan Carroll, Cary Williams and Leodis McKelvin, it sure is encouraging to see the Eagles stockpile promising, young largely home-grown cornerbacks.

Soon after last year ended, Howie Roseman vowed to finally stop trying to solve the Eagles' cornerback problems with what he called "Band-Aids."

"What we’ve done at the cornerback position is put Band-Aids on things," he said.

And then Roseman and Joe Douglas went and did something about it.

The Eagles drafted Jones and Douglas in the second and third rounds, then traded Jordan Matthews and a third-round pick to the Bills for Darby, and with Mills returning for a second season, all of a sudden the Eagles found themselves with four promising cornerbacks 23 or younger, something unprecedented in franchise history.

The thinking was that the Eagles would be patient and take their lumps waiting for these raw, young corners to develop into legit NFL starters instead of riding the free agent veteran carousel year after year.

And that's where their plan went awry. Because Mills and Douglas are both playing at a high level, and that long-term plan seems to be way ahead of schedule.

It sure looks like for the first time since Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown first became starters 15 years ago, the Eagles have capable cornerbacks they can grow with.

Mills has come so far. He now has the technique to match his confidence. He had Terrelle Pryor most of opening day, and Pryor finished with six catches for 66 yards. Last week in Kansas City, he tracked explosive Tyreek Hill most of the game, and Hill caught four passes for 43 yards with a long gain of 18 yards. Mills drew one of the league's best Sunday — Odell Beckham Jr. — and although he caught seven passes, none went longer than 14 yards. 

Douglas, inactive on opening day, has been shockingly good in his two starts. He's proven to be a tough, hard-nosed, physical corner who makes up for average speed with very good technique, and he's as sure a tackler as the Eagles have had at corner since Brown.

How can you not be excited about these two?

The Eagles were without four defensive backs Sunday — Darby, Jaylen Watkins, Rodney McCloud and Corey Graham (five if you include Jones) — and they still beat a healthy division opponent with a Hall of Fame quarterback who threw 47 times and went after Mills and Douglas snap after snap.

I don't care what Manning's stats say, Mills and Douglas have both given the Eagles distinguished cornerback play the last two weeks, and now remind yourself that Mills just turned 23 in April, and Douglas doesn't turn 23 until next summer.

Which brings us to the future.

Jones, a projected first-round pick before his Achilles injury, has the glossiest résumé of any of these guys. He doesn't turn 22 until May. And Darby, who the Eagles liked enough to part with Matthews and a third-round pick, doesn't turn 24 until soon after the season ends.

Now maybe if the Eagles knew what they had in Douglas, they never would have made the Darby trade. But it doesn't matter at this point.

What's important is the Eagles have stocked the cornerback position with enough young talent that they should be in good shape for the foreseeable future. It's tough to find talented young cornerbacks, and the Eagles seem to have found a bunch of them.

And maybe it seems like they have too many. What do you do with all these guys?!?!?! But if you've lived through Asomugha and Maxwell and Fletcher and all the other guys the Eagles have paraded through the Linc over the last decade you're never going to worry about having too many young corners.

So what do the Eagles do when guys start coming back? And remember, even 30-year-old Patrick Robinson has been way better than expected in the slot.

We know Mills will play somewhere. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz could start Darby and Douglas and use Mills in the slot. Or he could keep Robinson in the slot with Mills and Douglas outside, leaving Darby as the fourth corner. He could go with Darby and Mills outside and Douglas in the slot.

And when Jones enters the picture? Jones and Mills outside with Douglas in the slot? Darby and Jones outside with Mills in the slot and Douglas at safety?

There are a million different ways to go, but all that stuff will sort itself out.

Really, all that's important now is that the Eagles have a stable of young corners to grow with. And not a Band-Aid in sight.

Jake Elliott's photo after unforgettable finish a major breath of fresh air

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Jake Elliott's photo after unforgettable finish a major breath of fresh air

"A picture is worth a thousand words."

The saying is attributed to Frederick R. Barnard, but there is some debate who coined the phrase. We’ll let historians debate the origin. Fast-forward some 90-odd years later to a hot Sunday afternoon in South Philadelphia and the visual of Jake Elliott triumphantly being carried off the field on the shoulders of Mychal Kendricks and Kamu Grugier-Hill.

It was a fitting close to a crazy game. Elliott had just buried the longest field goal in franchise history. The sixth-longest ever in the NFL. Sixty-one yards of pure bliss for Eagles fans. All courtesy of a player who was not even on the team two weeks ago. A guy most had never heard of prior to that, including his now teammates, being given the ultimate escort. A kicker nonetheless. The still photo now serves a screen saver or backdrop for countless Eagles fans. A reminder of yet another wild finish between these two old rivals. But the image also represents something much deeper.

Sunday was dominated by images of the sidelines during the national anthem, as players responded to the President Trump's comments. The Eagles, along with their owner, Jeffrey Lurie, stood arms locked along with Philadelphia police during the national anthem. Others around the league sat or kneeled. Some teams never came out of the locker room. Some went the traditional route of standing with their hand over their heart to honor our flag. But unlike Colin Kaepernick’s protests last year or Malcolm Jenkins' clenched fist, this was a much broader protest being made by NFL players.

That this a complex, polarizing issue, no one will argue. The overriding message or theme from the players who took part in the demonstrations was it was done in response to the president’s cry Friday that NFL owners who see players “disrespecting the flag” should say “get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired.” The protests were also done to raise awareness of the racial inequalities in our country. There are those who find any action other than standing at attention for the anthem to be disrespectful to our country regardless of the reasoning behind it.

Sports has long been the cocoon that allows fans to escape "real world" problems. Attend or turn on a game and you could get a two-three hour respite from work or politics or family issues. Those days are gone. The two worlds have collided, and, like it or not, there is no untangling the two forces.

But there was something about the shot of Elliott, a white man being carried off the field by two African-American men. There was no division, race or class or otherwise. It was unbridled joy by three human beings from differing backgrounds. They put color and beliefs — and politics — to the side and celebrated a unique accomplishment. And that is what is still beautiful about sports. Pollyanna perhaps. But individuals of all races and ethnicities and backgrounds working together for a greater good.

Kind of the way it’s supposed to be in that "real world." Picture that.