10 observations from Eagles-Giants

usa-nolan-carroll-malcolm-jenkins.jpg

10 observations from Eagles-Giants

BOX SCORE

Just your typical 10 observations featuring Miles Austin, Najee Goode and Riley Cooper.

Huge 27-7 win for the Eagles Monday night over the Giants (see Instant Replay), and the most encouraging thing about it was how the Eagles overcame a bunch of injuries to dominate their biggest challenger in the division.

Sam Bradford? Yeah, we’ll get to him. He was dreadful. But when your quarterback can throw three interceptions and you win by 20 points over a team that had won three straight games, hey, that’s not bad.

So here we go with our first 10 observations about a first-place football team:

1. What a tremendous beastly effort from the Eagles’ defense Monday night against an offense that’s been lighting up everybody. The Giants drove 80 yards for a touchdown on their first drive, then nothing. I give Bill Davis a ton of credit. He was down three inside linebackers by the middle of the second quarter, including DeMeco Ryans, who has been playing so well. He was undermanned, facing a top-five offense, down by a touchdown before half the fans were in their seats. But the Eagles got it together, got tremendous pressure on Eli Manning, played very well against the run, did a terrific job in coverage considering who they were facing, and forced three more turnovers, including Nolan Carroll’s pick-six. This is a physical, aggressive, ballhawking defense that Eagles fans should get behind (see story).

2. I really felt like Bradford was going to light up the NFL’s worst pass defense Monday night. After the way he played the second half against the Saints, I thought he was ready to finally put together a full 60-minute game. But, man, I did not like what I saw. He just seemed to regress dramatically, throwing wildly, putting the ball up for grabs, looking skittish in the pocket. We’re six weeks in now, and he has yet to put together a complete game. He came into the season with the fourth-best interception ratio in NFL history, but three more Monday night gives him nine this year (see story). Last time an Eagles quarterback had more interceptions through six games was Jaws in 1977. Jaws! And they were just bad interceptions. Not great plays by the Giants, just terrible throws by Bradford. It’s not early in the season anymore. We’re two games from the halfway mark, and Bradford has to be better. A lot better.

3. I thought Jordan Matthews was going to take a huge leap forward this year, but so far the opposite has been the case. He just hasn’t been able to build on the promise he showed the second half of last year. He’s been plagued all year by drops and had a bad fumble Monday night. We see flashes from Matthews, but the Eagles need more than flashes from him. They need consistently productive play and it’s just not there right now.

4. Staying with wide receivers, I get that some people can’t stand Riley Cooper. If you hate the guy because of the Kenny Chesney incident, that’s your right. But people who rip the guy as a football player are simply off base. Since opening day 2013, only eight wide receivers have more touchdowns of at least 30 yards. Eight. He came up big again Monday night, with a 32-yard touchdown and then a 43-yard gain to set up a field goal. Followed that up with a big tackle for a one-yard gain on a punt return. What more do you want from a fifth-round pick?

5. Was encouraged to see the Eagles run the ball with some authority against the NFL’s No. 2-ranked run defense. Was especially encouraging to see DeMarco Murray show signs of life. He ran 22 times for 109 yards, and on the big third-quarter TD drive that gave the Eagles a 24-7 lead and really turned the game, he ran five times for 42 yards, moving the chains with three first-down runs. Ryan Mathews, questionable for Monday with a groin injury, also got into the act, with 40 yards on nine carries. Great stuff against the NFL’s No. 2-ranked rush defense.

6. Goode deserves a lot of credit for coming in Monday night after Ryans’ injury and giving the Eagles a good solid half of play at inside linebacker. This is a kid who was on the street until about three weeks ago, out of football the first few weeks of the season. But he’s been here before, he was with the team up through final cuts, he knows the defense and he kept himself in good enough shape that he was able to give the Eagles solid play when Ryans got hurt. I’m not sure how many teams have a fifth inside linebacker as talented as Goode.

7. A quick word about Darren Sproles. My God, what a tough dude. He got absolutely obliterated on that fourth-quarter punt return. Got taken inside for a concussion test, and there he was a minute later, fielding a punt. Little dude but what a tough dude.

8. Too many penalties, but another solid all-around game for the Eagles’ offensive line. The last two weeks, the Eagles have 944 yards of offense. They’ve run the ball — 186 rushing yards last week, 155 against a very good run defense Monday. And they’ve thrown it — over 600 net passing yards the last two weeks. And they’ve protected Bradford, who has been sacked only once the last two weeks. This group has taken a lot of heat and most of it is deserved. But sure seems like they’ve turned the corner.

9. Props to Austin, who was forced into extensive action with injuries to Cooper and Josh Huff on top of Nelson Agholor already being out. Austin had three catches for 60 yards, which is pretty good production from a guy who was the Eagles’ fifth receiver before all these injuries.

10. Remember nine days ago when all these people in the national media came out of the woodwork to announce that Chip Kelly had lost the locker room and players weren’t buying into his system and the whole thing was in jeopardy of falling to pieces? Well guess what? The Eagles have won two straight games after that 1-3 start, winning both in commanding fashion without really playing great in either one. They’re back to .500 and atop the NFC East. Guess what? Kelly is a terrific football coach. And don’t listen to anybody who says he’s lost the locker room. Unless the person who says it has actually, you know, been inside the Eagles’ locker room in the past year.

NFL Notes: Raiders file papers to move from Oakland to Las Vegas

NFL Notes: Raiders file papers to move from Oakland to Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS -- The Oakland Raiders have filed paperwork to move to Las Vegas.

Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak told The Associated Press on Thursday that he spoke with the Raiders. Sisolak is part of an 11-member panel that was appointed by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval to study plans for a proposal backed by billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson's company, Las Vegas Sands Corp., to build a domed stadium to lure the Raiders to town.

The proposed 65,000-seat domed stadium is expected to cost $1.9 billion, including $750 million in hotel tax revenue, $650 million from Adelson, and $500 million from the Raiders and the NFL. Any relocation to Las Vegas must be approved by three-fourths of NFL team owners.

"I am happy to see the process moving forward, and greatly appreciate the commitment of the Raiders and work of the Adelson family to the hope of making Las Vegas the home of the Raiders," Sisolak said.

Colts: Luck has surgery
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has undergone surgery on the right shoulder that's bothered him the past two seasons.

Colts owner Jim Irsay announced Thursday on Twitter that Luck was recovering from successful outpatient surgery. Irsay says Luck will be ready for the 2017 season.

Luck was listed on the Colts injury report throughout this season and missed several practices, with coach Chuck Pagano saying the team had a plan for keeping Luck healthy while he dealt with a sore throwing shoulder.

Luck missed two games early in the 2015 season because of the shoulder injury. He threw for 4,240 yards and 31 touchdowns this past season after signing a six-year, $140 million contract in June.

Steelers: Roethlisberger chasing Brady 
PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger intended for the moment to be private. The camera following him to midfield and the microphone tucked inside Tom Brady's shoulder pads ended up making that impossible.

Their brief exchange before Brady and the New England Patriots visited the Pittsburgh Steelers in October provided a snapshot into a rivalry that never was. They bro-hugged. They lamented the left knee injury that forced Roethlisberger out the lineup on that warm late fall afternoon.

And then Roethlisberger made an uncharacteristic request : a signed Brady jersey to hang on the wall in Roethlisberger's home office next to Hall of Famers Dan Marino, John Elway and Jim Kelly.

"I consider him one, if not the best of all-time," Roethlisberger said.

A group Roethlisberger does not include himself in.

Not even with as many championships as Brady's longtime friend and occasional foil Peyton Manning (two). Not even with a spot in the top 10 in just about every major statistical category out there on Roethlisberger's still growing resume. Not even with a bust in Canton one day alongside Brady and the rest of the guys whose jerseys adorn the walls of his home almost assured regardless of what happens in Sunday's AFC title game.

The reason is simple: rings. Brady has four, including two he earned while carving a path through the playoffs that included victories in Pittsburgh in 2001 and 2004. Roethlisberger has two, neither of which required Roethlisberger or the Steelers to take out Brady along the way.

It's why Roethlisberger just shakes his head when asked if he's part of the "gold standard" label that he so eagerly attaches to Brady.

"Not as (his) level," Roethlisberger said. "Obviously, with all the Super Bowls he has."

This weekend provides Roethlisberger his best - and maybe his last - chance to do to Brady what Brady has done to so many others over the last 16 years. Even if the last thing Roethlisberger wants to do is get pulled into the "star quarterback vs. star quarterback" narrative that fueled so many showdowns between Brady and Manning through the years.

"It's obviously bigger than the two of us," Roethlisberger said. "I know he is used to it, with the Peyton Manning and Tom thing. This is two football teams that have won championships. Us going against each other is more than just one man. We aren't playing tennis. We are going out there to play a football game with 11 guys at a time."

NFL: Salute to service award finalists
HOUSTON -- Falcons coach Dan Quinn and Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva are the finalists for the NFL's Salute to Service Award.

The winner of the honor, presented by USAA, the official military appreciation sponsor of the league, will be announced during NFL Honors the night before the Super Bowl. Both Quinn's and Villanueva's teams, of course, are still in the running to play in that game on Feb. 5.

Quinn and Villanueva were selected for their exceptional efforts to honor and support members of the military community.

Last spring, Quinn hosted a "Rookie Club Olympics" for which he invited 100 military members from Fort Benning, Georgia to the Falcons' training facility to participate. He created the event as a way for NFL players and the military community to unite and work together as a team.

"The military represents team on the highest level," says Quinn, who in his second year as Atlanta's coach and has it hosting the NFC championship game Sunday against Green Bay. "It's an honor to be up for this award that recognizes the standard of excellence set by our nation's military and encourages our community to give back and support service members and their families who serve our nation."

Quinn also stages a military day at training camp and hosts 20 military members at each Falcons home game throughout the season. He also provided an opportunity for families of fallen soldiers with the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) to attend the Falcons' Salute to Service game on Nov. 27. All 63 families attending were given a VIP visit at practice and were provided a one-night hotel stay in Atlanta courtesy of Quinn. Each player wore the initials of a fallen hero on his helmet during the game and during practice; the families were given a replica helmet of that player with a personalized note in honor of their hero.

Last offseason, Quinn led four Falcons players on a weeklong USO tour through the Pacific.

Villanueva grew up as a military child, living in the United States and Europe, where he played high school football. He then attended West Point, where he was a tight end, and was commissioned in the Army in 2010.

Promoted to captain in 2014, Villanueva was deployed three times. He received the Bronze Star Medal and the Bronze Star Medal for Valor for heroism in combat.

Eagles Stay or Go Part 4: Chase Daniel to Dillon Gordon

Eagles Stay or Go Part 4: Chase Daniel to Dillon Gordon

In the fourth 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 4 is Daniel to Gordon.

Chase Daniel
Cap hit: $8M

Roob: Carson Wentz’s backup had a heck of a year — completed all his passes, passer rating of 118.7, averaged 16 yards per attempt. Project that over a full season and Chase Daniel is going to Canton. OK, so he threw only one pass. But that’s two straight years Daniel has been perfect. Last year, he was 2 for 2 for the Chiefs. Most importantly, Daniel has a $7 million base salary in 2017, and that makes him the 25th-highest paid quarterback in the NFL in 2017, and the sixth-highest paid Eagle. The numbers are ridiculous, but Daniel is clearly a good influence on Wentz, a valuable mentor. He’s a solid backup, but that contract is just way too lucrative. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: I know fans don’t understand why Daniel is getting paid this much money to be a backup who doesn’t ever play, and at times I have trouble figuring it out myself.  But here’s the reason. When Wentz arrives to the facility during the season at 5:15 a.m. and starts watching film, he’s not watching with Doug Pederson or Frank Reich or John DeFilippo. He’s watching it with Daniel. So while it might not make sense to pay a backup quarterback this much money, don’t think of Daniel as a backup quarterback. Think of him as an asset to the franchise quarterback. Then it doesn’t sound quite as bad. 

Verdict: STAYS

Anthony Denham

Roob: The Eagles must like Denham because he had two stints on the practice squad this year and they re-signed him to a futures deal when the season was over. But barring an injury, there just isn’t room on the roster for another tight end.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Denham is a tight end who was on the Eagles’ practice squad in 2016. Maybe he’d have a shot to make the roster if the Eagles aren’t able to bring back Trey Burton, but I don’t see that happening. They’ll bring him to camp and let him compete and maybe get another year on the practice squad. 

Verdict: GOES

Jon Dorenbos
Cap hit: $1.08M

Roob: Assuming he’s healthy, Dorenbos isn’t going anywhere. Rick Lovato did a nice job filling in at the end of the season, but until Dorenbos decides he wants to pursue magic full-time, there’s a spot for him on this roster.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: During last year’s training camp, I watched Dorenbos walk along the sideline, shaking hands and kissing babies (not literally). Then I looked on the field and saw his “competition” snapping footballs repeatedly to a goal post. That’s when I realized Dorenbos wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And now he has a new contract. He’ll end up playing more games as an Eagle than anyone in the history of the franchise. 

Verdict: STAYS

Zach Ertz
Cap hit: $5.6M

Roob: Even though he had the second-most catches in the entire NFL over the last 10 weeks of the season, a large segment of Eagles fans have decided Ertz is to blame for everything that went wrong with the Eagles this year. Never mind that he got off to a good start on opening day, then suffered a very serious rib injury, then came back after missing just two games, then after getting healthy finished the season with 67 catches for 685 yards and four TDs in the last 10 games. Not the last one or two or three games. The last 10 games. With a full offseason and preseason with Wentz, I fully expect Ertz to finish 2017 well over 1,000 yards. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: I don’t understand the Zach Ertz hate. He isn’t Rob Gronkowski or Travis Kelce. So what? He’s a really good tight end. Now, I understood why some people questioned the non-block play. I was one of them. But look at the numbers. Here’s a list of tight ends who had more receiving yards than Ertz in 2016: Kelce, Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham, Kyle Rudolph. Not bad company. And some look at his production and say, well, it all came in December. Maybe there will be a year in which his late-season production finally helps the Eagles with a playoff push. And he just signed a new contract, so he’s here for a while. 

Verdict: STAYS

Najee Goode
Unrestricted free agent

Roob: Goode, an unrestricted free agent, is a capable special teamer and emergency backup linebacker, but he would earn $775,000 even on a minimum-wage deal in 2017, and considering the Eagles’ salary cap crunch, they may elect to replace him with a rookie late-round pick or undrafted guy who would earn about $300,000 less. Based on ability, he would stay. But those mid-career veterans with high minimum salaries who don’t play much on offense or defense can be tough to keep around.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: In each of the last two seasons, Goode has managed to be on the team after missing out on the original 53-man roster. Maybe that’s a possibility for this season, but first the Eagles need to re-sign him. It might be time to move on from Goode and find a younger linebacker/special teamer. 

Verdict: GOES

Dillon Gordon
Cap hit: $543K

Roob: Gordon is an intriguing prospect. Like Jason Peters, he was a college tight end who moved to offensive tackle soon after arriving in the NFL. He’s big and strong and athletic, he’s just very new at offensive tackle. The Eagles liked him enough to keep him on the active roster all last year, and I’m guessing they see him as enough of a prospect that they’ll keep him around for at least another year. Especially with so many question marks at offensive tackle.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Gordon was on the Eagles’ roster for the entire season and was inactive in all but one week. He was a college tight end who came to Philly and is learning how to play offensive tackle. (Peters once made the same transition.) Gordon is crazy athletic for his size and the Eagles thought enough of him to put him on the active roster instead of risking losing him by placing him on the practice squad. He’s a project, but one worth keeping. 

Verdict: STAYS