Philadelphia Eagles

10 observations from Eagles-Giants

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10 observations from Eagles-Giants

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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: Jaguars open up QB competition after Blake Bortles' struggles

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NFL Notes: Jaguars open up QB competition after Blake Bortles' struggles

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Blake Bortles may have started his last game in Jacksonville.

Coach Doug Marrone opened up the team's quarterback competition Thursday night after another inconsistent performance from Bortles, the third overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft.

Bortles completed 8 of 13 passes for 65 yards in a 12-8 exhibition loss to Tampa Bay. All four of his drives ended with punts. The first-team offense now has three points in Bortles' six preseason possessions.

He misfired to Allen Robinson twice Thursday, including a woefully underthrown pass down the seam that drew boos from the home crowd and caused some head-shaking on the sideline.

"It's hard to not hear people booing," Bortles said. "But if they're cheering or booing, it's kind of irrelevant, at least for me it is. I think you've got to treat adversity and prosperity the same way. They're not booing for no reason. They're booing because you didn't do your job" (see full story).

Steelers: LB Shazier returns to practice
LATROBE, Pa. -- On a day when the Pittsburgh Steelers were set to break camp and return home, inside linebacker Ryan Shazier was just glad to be back on the field.

Shazier fully practiced during the Steelers last day in Latrobe after missing the previous two weeks with a slight hamstring pull.

"I was telling the guys on the sideline that I was so thankful to be back in the mix," Shazier said after Friday's practice. "It was great to be back out there, running around and seeing football from the inside of my helmet instead of from the sideline."

Shazier said he isn't playing in the team's second preseason game on Sunday when the Steelers host the Atlanta Falcons. Though he admitted to feeling behind, the fourth-year linebacker believes he can catch up.

Ravens: Zuttah returns after being traded
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens have signed center Jeremy Zuttah, who returns to the team that traded him to San Francisco in March.

Zuttah started every game last year and made the Pro Bowl as an alternate. He was dealt to the 49ers so Baltimore could save salary-cap space and move up 12 spots in the sixth round of the NFL draft.

Zuttah was released by San Francisco last week, and the Ravens signed him Friday to join a depleted offensive line in dire need of a veteran presence in the middle.

The Ravens were counting on John Urschel to play center this season, but he abruptly retired in late July. Ryan Jensen has been playing center, but he could move to guard to replace Alex Lewis, who is out for the season with a shoulder injury.

The 31-year-old Zuttah started 41 games in Baltimore over the past three years.

NFL: Gun charge against linebacker Greene
ELIZABETH, N.J. -- A gun charge against an NFL linebacker has been dropped because the man who said he gave him a weapon admitted he lied, the player's attorney said.

The charge against free agent Khaseem Greene was dismissed by a judge on July 17 after a request from prosecutors, NJ.com reported this week.

His attorney, Joshua McMahon, provided an audio recording to NJ.com of the other man telling detectives he lied about Greene's involvement in a shooting outside a nightclub in Elizabeth last December.

Jason Sanders' admission came the same day he told detectives that Greene was involved, but it wasn't included in a criminal complaint that alleged that Greene was seen on camera handing him a gun, McMahon said. Sanders is accused of firing into a crowd and remains jailed on aggravated assault and weapons offenses.

McMahon said the audio recording proves prosecutors moved forward with charges even though Sanders admitted he lied.

LeSean McCoy as good as ever, building Hall of Fame case

LeSean McCoy as good as ever, building Hall of Fame case

After running four times for 21 yards and catching an 11-yard pass against his former team, LeSean McCoy contemplated his cameo performance in the Eagles-Bills preseason game.

"Felt good," he said. "If it was a real game? I probably would have gone for about 130."

He hasn't changed.

McCoy, the leading rusher in Eagles history, has been gone for three years now, and in the relative anonymity of Orchard Park, N.Y., is quietly putting up some staggering numbers, building on his six years with the Eagles.

Hard to believe McCoy is now starting his ninth NFL season, but he just turned 29 and at least based on last year is as good as ever.

If not better.

"When I was younger I could eat bad and hang out and then still be LeSean McCoy," he said Thursday night in the Bills' locker room. "Where now I'm older so I've got to watch what I eat, get some sleep. Small things that you didn't think would matter that really do matter."

It seems to be paying off. McCoy last year ran for nearly 1,300 yards with an NFL-leading 5.4 average, 14 touchdowns and 50 catches. He became the fourth-oldest back in NFL history to average at least 5.4 yards per carry and the first from that group in 70 years to also score 14 TDs.

McCoy's 5.4 average last year was fifth-highest in NFL history by a back 28 or older.

He said he feels like he's as good as ever.

"Yeah, for sure," he said. "I'm sure a lot of defenders from different teams and coordinators will tell you that. This year, I have to prove myself again. It's one of the things that I've been doing since I've been in the league when I was a rookie. And I look forward to the challenge.

"But the cool thing about it is is that it won't be as hard because of the guys I have around me. My linemen are really good. They give me opportunities in space to go 1-on-1 with defenders."

McCoy, whose 4.7 career average is tied for 10th in NFL history among non-quarterbacks, said one of the keys to his late-career success — which is rare for running backs — is the lessons he learned from former teammates like Brian Westbrook and Darren Sproles.

"Just talking to different guys," he said. "A guy like Westbrook telling me different things. You actually see it. Sproles is always talking about it, 'Take care of your body,' telling me that the whole year, even the offseason, you want to stay at the same weight. So right now I'm probably 209, 210, and I started out at 209, 210, so that's great."

McCoy has the 10th-most yards ever by a running back before his 29th birthday, and seven of the eight ahead of him who are eligible for the Hall of Fame are already in.

With three more years at his career averages — 1,119 rushing yards, 48 receptions — he'll be over 12,000 rushing yards and 500 catches, and all four backs who've done that (LaDainian Tomlinson, Marcus Allen, Emmitt Smith and Marshall Faulk) have been enshrined in Canton. And Shady has a far higher per-carry average than any of those four.

Because of his consistency and explosiveness, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has become a realistic goal for the Eagles' second-round pick out of Pitt.

He said he doesn't think about that stuff.

Well, sometimes.

"I think the biggest number that you want to get is a ring," he said. "This team, we haven't been in the playoffs in quite some time (since 1999). Hopefully, we get that established, accomplish that, and then if I get lucky and get a ring, man, then I start thinking about the numbers.

"But it's always in the back of my mind. I use that to kind of motivate me, whether it's a ring or chasing different yardage, it keeps me motivated."

McCoy is surrounded by familiar faces in Buffalo. New Bills head coach Sean McDermott was here with him in Philly, as was offensive line coach Juan Castillo and offensive assistant Chad Hall. Jordan Poyer and Jordan Matthews were with him in Philly. Even new Bills PR director Derek Boyko was with him all six years with the Eagles.

"All my old guys," he said. "I was excited when Sean got the job, I'm familiar with him, I know what type of attitude he'll bring here — which we need. All the coaches and guys here, we have our Philly stories. It's a special place, and a lot of people who come from here always show love and speak highly of playing with the Eagles and that's something I've shared here.

"No complaints. Some of the best times of my life were here. That's something me and Sean kind of share and have in common and that makes me more comfortable, having all those guys being in Buffalo."

McCoy would still be an Eagle if it weren't for Chip Kelly, and although he's finally moved on, he still has a home here and lots and lots of friends.

"It's always special getting back to Philly," he said. "This is my home and the fans and this organization were great to me since I got here at 20 years old, so it's always going to be special to me.

"I miss my house here, a lot of my family is from Harrisburg, which is an hour away, got a lot of Philly family, so it's always going to be like a second family for me, for sure.

"Started my career here, stay in contact with Duce (Staley), Sproles, we chat and text, (Brent) Celek all the time, a lot of friends here, a lot of good people that I know. This is a special place to me. Always."