10 observations from Eagles-Cardinals

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10 observations from Eagles-Cardinals

BOX SCORE

Can't tackle. Can't catch. Can't block. Can't run. Can't throw. Can't do anything.

After two encouraging weeks, the Eagles were back to embarrassing themselves Sunday night. 

They've now allowed 40 or more points in three of their last five games and lost by at least 23 points in those three games.

The Eagles got humiliated Sunday night on national TV, dropping a 40-17 decision to an Arizona Cardinals team that seemed to be just toying with the Eagles much of the game (see Instant Replay).

We've definitely had more than our share of this sort of 10 observations this year, haven't we?

1. Monday, the Eagles can get back to pretending they’re in a playoff race. And I guess technically they are, considering the current state of the NFC East. But nobody should confuse being in a playoff race with being a true playoff team. On Sunday, the Cards demonstrated just how big a gap there is between the Eagles and a true upper-echelon NFC team. They came in and manhandled the Eagles on both sides of the line of scrimmage, and they did it in the Eagles’ own building. Yeah, the Eagles can still back their way into the playoffs with wins over the Redskins and Giants (see Mychal Kendricks' take here), but they have a long way to go to be able to compete on a regular basis with a team like Arizona. The Eagles just looked overmatched Sunday. Missed tackles, blown coverages, fumbles. The kind of stuff that should have been cleaned up in training camp. The Cards have drafted better, signed better free agents and they’re better coached. They’re just on a different level right now, and they made sure everybody knew it.

2. I get giving DeMarco Murray a diminishing workload since he hasn’t been producing. I get playing Ryan Mathews more than Murray. But one thing Murray has done awfully well this year is convert on 3rd-and-short. In fact, going into Sunday’s game, Murray was 12 for 12 this year on 3rd- or-4th-and-1, and Mathews was 2 for 5. So why did Mathews get the ball on 4th-and-1 in the closing minutes of the second quarter? While Murray watched from the sidelines (see story), Mathews was stuffed for no gain. One guy is perfect on short yardage, the other guy is at 40 percent. I get using Murray less, but I don’t get not letting him do the one thing he’s still doing well (see Chip Kelly's take here).

3. We have to address David Johnson’s 47-yard touchdown run. Johnson is a talented kid, tough to tackle. But goodness gracious, that was embarrassing. There were five different times that play should have been over. I don’t care how many backups are on the field, how many guys are missing with injuries. That was a shameful effort. Johnson’s TD was the longest against the Eagles in six years and the longest at the Linc in nine years. That’s not talent. That’s not ability. That’s just want-to. Toughness. Will. When that’s missing, you really have a problem.

4. What a colossal embarrassment Chip Kelly’s three biggest offseason moves have turned out to be. Murray, last year’s NFL rushing leader, rides the bench. Kiko Alonso, traded for LeSean McCoy, can’t tackle anybody and doesn’t even look like he’s trying half the time. Byron Maxwell has had a few decent games this year but certainly has overall been a major disappointment. These are the kind of moves that can set a franchise back years when they fail. And when they all fail this miserably? This is what you get. Owner Jeff Lurie really has to think long and hard about making more changes in the front office this offseason and at least giving Kelly a respected NFL general manager to work with. Not Howie. A new voice, a respected voice, a reliable voice. Gotta do something. Gotta get players.

5. Note to Jordan Matthews: Do not celebrate a touchdown down 20 points in the fourth quarter. I don’t care how long it was, how don’t care how far it was. Hand the ball to the ref and go back to the bench. You are getting embarrassed on national TV in your own stadium. Understand the moment.

6. It’s understandable if you had no idea who No. 31 on the Cards was. He began the season as the Cards’ third-string running back. He only had 35 career carries until the Rams game two weeks ago. He’s started three games in his career. He’s David Johnson, a rookie third-round pick from Northern Iowa, and he pounded the Eagles for 187 yards Sunday. Yeah, he’s a talented kid. But to let him run up and down the field in your own stadium like that? Just embarrassing. Inexcusable. I don’t know what else to say about the Eagles’ run defense. I thought maybe they had turned the corner with a terrific second half against Shady, but this was just pathetic.

7. Just to put all this in context: From 1977 through 2014, a span of 36 years, one opposing running back ran for 185 yards or more in Philly — Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith in 1993. Then Doug Martin ran for 235 in Week 11 and Johnson ran for 187 Sunday. That means more backs have rushed for 185 or more yards in Philly in the Eagles’ last three home games than in the previous 36 years. Now that is bad run defense (see story).

8. I should probably say something about Sam Bradford. He did throw for 361 yards and he did make some big throws along the way. But he also threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown, and he only put 17 points on the scoreboard. I still don’t see the future when I watch him play football. Will the Eagles have a better option? I’m not sure. But I’m not straying from my belief that until they draft a young stud QB and grow with him, they’re not going to be an elite team.

9. One more note on the defense. The Cards racked up 493 yards Sunday. This is the second time this year they’ve given up 490 or more and the sixth time in three years under Bill Davis. The Eagles gave up 490 or more yards once under Jim Johnson. In fact, they’ve allowed at least 490 yards as much in the last three years as in the previous 40 years. The Eagles have now allowed at least 400 yards in five straight games, which ties the fifth-longest streak in NFL history.

10. As bad as the defense has been, the offense hasn’t been a whole lot better. The Eagles have now gone six straight games without scoring more than two offensive touchdowns. Now, two of those games were with Mark Sanchez and one was split between Bradford and Sanchez. Still. The second Dallas game is the only game since Week 6 in which the Eagles have scored more than two TDs on offense. And the last time they scored more than three was the Saints. And get this: The last Eagles wide receiver other than Matthews with 80 receiving yards in a game? Jeremy Maclin. That just about says it all.

Mike Mayock: Eagles should weigh Gareon Conley vs. offense at 14

Mike Mayock: Eagles should weigh Gareon Conley vs. offense at 14

The Eagles need cornerbacks. Plural. 

It's not a secret that the team's biggest weakness heading into next week's draft is at the cornerback position. So it would stand to reason that their best bet might be to simply take the best one off the board when they're on the clock at 14.

But NFL Network's Mike Mayock, on his annual pre-draft conference call marathon extravaganza Friday, said he thinks they should take a different approach. 

Looking at the top corners in the draft, Mayock is convinced Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore will be off the board well before the Eagles are on the clock at 14. His next rated corner is Gareon Conley. After that, Mayock has Marlon Humphrey but pointed out his major flaw of struggling to find the football in the air. 

So if Conley makes it to 14, the Eagles should pick him, right? 

Not so fast. 

"So I look at it this way, if Conley's on the board at 14, you have to compare him to the best playmaker on offense on your board," Mayock said. "Because I'm not convinced the Eagles should go defense, to be honest with you. 

"If Conley's not there, I think you want to go get your corner in the second or third round and I think they need two corners. But my perspective is, you drafted Carson Wentz. You better support him. You signed two wideouts in free agency (Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith) who are both effectively one-year contracts. Your slot receiver, (Jordan) Matthews is in the final year of his deal. (Brent) Celek, the tight end, is 32 years old. 

"So you might sit there and go, 'This year looks OK,' but get a running back. Get a (Christian) McCaffrey or a Dalvin Cook. Get a tight end, O.J. Howard. Get weapons. Get one of those wideouts you like. So I would be comparing Conley to the highest playmaker you have on the board offensively. And I might be leaning towards offense if it was me." 

Zach Ertz hopes he and Carson Wentz can be NFL's next great duo

Zach Ertz hopes he and Carson Wentz can be NFL's next great duo

Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham. Cam Newton and Greg Olsen. 

When Zach Ertz looks at the recent history of great quarterback-tight end duos in the NFL, he can't help but notice one thing stands out. 

"Those guys have been together for a long time," Ertz said Thursday afternoon. 

Brady and Gronk have been together for seven seasons. Cam and Olsen have been together for six. And Brees and Graham were together for five. 

"And I think just having that, where you're on the same page regardless of the coverage," Ertz continued. "If they give you this coverage, you know exactly what you're going to do. If they give you that coverage, he knows exactly what I'm going to do. When to expect the ball vs. certain coverages, it might be a little earlier, it might be a little later. So it's just that constant camaraderie where we're able to know what the other person is thinking without thinking about it."

Ertz hopes that's the kind of relationship he can forge with Carson Wentz, who will enter his second NFL season in 2017. 

Ertz and Wentz spend a lot of time together in the facility and away from it. A group of Eagles went to Ertz's wedding earlier this offseason, and of course, Wentz was present. If it seems like Ertz is going to great lengths to build a rapport with his quarterback, he is. 

After going through Mike Vick and Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford, the Eagles' starting tight end finally has a quarterback that isn't going anywhere for a while.  

"It's going to be huge," Ertz said about playing with Wentz for a second straight year. "I think when Carson was drafted, from the receivers and tight ends, that was the one thing we were really excited about. That we knew for the next five, 10, 20 years, hopefully, in Philadelphia, we knew who our quarterback was going to be."

Since he was drafted in the second round of the 2013 draft out of Stanford, Ertz has been an extremely productive player. But that has set up huge expectations as fans wait for a "breakout year." Zach Ertz might never be Rob Gronkowski, but the numbers are hard to argue. 

In the first four years of his career, Ertz has 247 catches for 2,840 yards and 13 touchdowns. Since 2013, here's the list of tight ends who have more catches and yards than Ertz: Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten, Delanie Walker, Antonio Gates. 

Ertz and Jeremy Maclin are the only two players in Eagles history to put up those numbers in their first four seasons. 

The argument often heard about Ertz's numbers is that they come in garbage time. Ertz has historically been an absolute beast in December. In the last few years, that hasn't meant much to a struggling Eagles franchise, but if they're in the playoff hunt in upcoming years, they'll probably want that trend to continue. 

The one statistic that doesn't seem to match the others: touchdowns. While Ertz has been among top tight ends in the league in receptions and yards, his 13 touchdowns rank 17th among tight ends since 2013. (It's not a stat, but for what it's worth, Ertz would likely be among the league leaders in touchdowns called back for penalties in the last few years.)

"I want to be the guy in the red zone, believe me," Ertz said. "For the first four years in my career, I think the most touchdowns I had in a year was four. So this year, we didn't have a lot of red zone touchdowns and that falls on us as players to get it down when we get down there, make plays when the ball's in the air. That's something I do pride myself on, making those tough and contested catches, whether it be in the red zone or third down. I want to be more of a go-to guy in the red zone, but I've got to earn that this spring and summer, earn that trust of the quarterback as well as Doug (Pederson). It's going to be a process, but when you look at the great tight ends in the league, the first thing that stands out is touchdowns."