10 observations from Eagles-Buccaneers

ap-doug-martin-buccaneers-eagles.jpg

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!

Eagles-Steelers inactives: Mychal Kendricks active

Eagles-Steelers inactives: Mychal Kendricks active

Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who entered the weekend listed as questionable, is active for the team’s game against the Steelers on Sunday afternoon.

Kendricks suffered a broken nose and a quad contusion in last week’s game against the Bears in Chicago. After missing practice for a couple days, he returned in full on Friday and was expected to be ready to go.

In past years, Kendricks would have likely been listed as probable, but the NFL confusingly did away with its “probable” label on injury reports this season.

As for the players who aren’t playing on Sunday, there aren’t any surprises. Zach Ertz (ribs), Leodis McKelvin (hamstring) and Isaac Seumalo (pec) were all ruled out earlier in the week and are inactive.

Brent Celek will start at tight end for Ertz and Ron Brooks will start at corner for McKelvin. Expect rookie Jalen Mills to be on the field as the outside corner in the nickel package.

Joining them on the list of inactives are WR Bryce Treggs, OL Dillon Gordon, OL Halapoulivaati Vaitai and OL Josh Andrews.

If you’re wondering about Treggs, the receiver the Eagles claimed off waivers from the 49ers and last cuts, it seems like the team isn’t ready to activate him just yet. Here’s what Pederson said on Friday about Treggs and the possibility of activating him:

“Yeah, it’s tough to keep the five receivers up based on what you need, defense, special teams and all that,” Pederson said. “He’s shown flashes of his speed in practice and doing a nice job there. And with him too, much like DGB, it’s how well he can process and how well he knows the system in order for him to, one, be active and, two, get a chance to play.”

Visit TicketIQ to discover the lowest prices on Eagles tickets anywhere, zone-level ticket data and seat views from fans just like you!”

Eagles-Steelers 5 things: The battle for Wentz-ylvania

Eagles-Steelers 5 things: The battle for Wentz-ylvania

Eagles (2-0) vs. Steelers (2-0)
4:25 p.m. on CBS
Eagles +3.5

The Eagles look to jump out to a 3-0 start in 2016 but face their toughest test yet Sunday when they host the unbeaten Steelers, a trendy Super Bowl pick this year.

So far, the Eagles have defeated a pair of opponents still in search of their first win, raising questions as to just how good they really are. A victory over Pittsburgh, or even a close game, would legitimize some of their early success.

1. The battle for Wentz-ylvania
Carson Wentz isn't playing merely for an Eagles victory this week. The 23-year-old out of North Dakota State is already chasing history in just his third NFL game.

With a win over the Steelers on Sunday, Wentz could become just the second rookie quarterback ever to guide his team to a 3-0 start. The other? Mark Sanchez, who guided the Jets all the way to the AFC Conference Championship Game in 2009.

Of course, beating the Browns and the Bears is one thing. Beating the Ben Roethlisberger-led Steelers in the battle for Pennsylvania is quite another.

Don't let Pittsburgh's 31st-ranked pass defense and Wentz's performance through two games fool you into thinking he should be able to throw on this secondary with ease. The Steelers are going to play things differently than the Eagles' previous two opponents, using far more zone coverage and trying a lot more disguise their intentions pre-snap.

If Wentz excels against this defense too, that should serve to quiet some of the skeptics — they're out there — not to mention put another feather in the young signal-caller's cap.

2. Who's got Roethlisberger?
In order for Wentz to even have a chance at making more history, the Eagles' defense will have to hold up its end of the bargain against one of the most potent offenses in the NFL. Roethlisberger has this unit firing on all cylinders, ranked eighth in the NFL in yards per game (405.5) and fourth in points (31.0).

Roethlisberger was always tough to bring down. Nowadays, even pressuring the 13-year veteran isn't easy because he gets rid of the ball so quickly. For much of his career though, he was among the most sacked quarterbacks in the league, yet even then getting to him and getting him on the ground was two different animals.

It's telling there's only one member of the Eagles' defense who has ever sacked Roethlisberger in a regular season game. That would be Connor Barwin, who once wrestled Big Ben to the turf while a member of the Texans in 2011.

Now many Eagles players — especially those along the defensive line — have faced Roethlisberger only one time in the regular season, or never. Regardless, the fact is only one person in that locker room has ever taken the man down in a meaningful game, so when Fletcher Cox or Brandon Graham finally do get their shot, it remains to be seen if they'll be able to finish the play.

3. Antonio Brown, meet Jalen Mills
You can't talk about the Steelers and not mention Antonio Brown, who improbably has become the best wide receiver in the NFL over the past few years. Since 2013, the four-time Pro Bowler has 389 receptions for 5,169 yards and 33 touchdowns. Remarkable.

Brown should have plenty of opportunities to add to his prolific totals against the Eagles' questionable cornerbacks Sunday. Nolan Carroll is a solid veteran coming off an ankle injury last season, but he had a rough 2016 debut against the Browns in Week 1, getting beat twice on deep passes. Then last week, seventh-round rookie Jalen Mills saw his most extensive action and was caught biting on a double move that resulted in a big 49-yard gain against the Bears.

It was Cleveland and Chicago, two offenses currently incapable of consistently hitting those kinds of plays, but not Pittsburgh. If the Eagles allow Brown to go one-on-one against these cornerbacks, the seventh-year wideout could eat them alive.

If Brown is matched up up on Mills specifically, it would result in some on-the-job training for the 22-year-old. To his credit, Mills has exceeded expectations by even getting on the field in his first season and has played the game without fear. But when he's lining up against Brown, it might help to have some.

4. Time on the Eagles' side
Maybe there is something to controlling the clock after all. After finishing dead last in time of possession for three years in a row under coach Chip Kelly, through two weeks the Eagles are leading the league in the category, averaging nearly 38 minutes per game on offense.

Is it any coincidence they're 2-0?

Yes, to an extent. While three of the top four teams in time of possession in 2015 made it to at least the divisional round of the playoffs (Seattle, Arizona, Carolina), the No. 1 team in the NFL last year was the Falcons, who went 8-8, and rounding out the top five was the 3-13 Chargers.

That being said, there's no denying that ball control has aided Wentz immensely. Doing something as small as sticking with the run keeps the offense on schedule to convert on third and fourth down. It can also help the quarterback and shorten the game. It helps the defense stay fresh too since they aren't constantly on the field.

The offense still has to make those conversions though to keep the football, and the defense has to makes stops on third down as well, which the Eagles have done well — seventh-best in the NFL. Time of possession is typically a byproduct of those two things, but not necessarily a big indicator of success.

5. Pittsburgh hates Philly
There may be a rivalry among the cities' sports fans, but these two teams meet only once every four years. And the Steelers are probably happy keeping it that way.

Meetings between the two teams have gone decidedly in the Eagles' favor, with a 17-9-2 record against Pittsburgh since 1960. However, it's particularly in Philadelphia where the Steelers have struggled for whatever reason, with eight consecutive road losses in the series going back to 1966.

With a sample size that small and so much turnover every year, let alone dating back to the '60s, it's hard to put a lot of stock in these records. Both teams have retained only a handful of players since their last clash in 2012, so it shouldn't be predictive of anything.

Yet games between the Steelers and Eagles historically tend to be on the low-scoring side and close, and Pittsburgh doesn't fare well in doesn't play well in Philly. We'll see if any of those trends are broken on Sunday.

Visit TicketIQ to discover the lowest prices on Eagles tickets anywhere, zone-level ticket data and seat views from fans just like you!”