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: Rams' All-Pro Aaron Donald skips OTAs amid contract talks

NFL Notes: Rams' All-Pro Aaron Donald skips OTAs amid contract talks

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald has skipped the Los Angeles Rams' first day of organized team activities while he negotiates a long-term contract extension with the club.

Rams general manager Les Snead says the team knew Donald wouldn't be at their training complex Monday.

Snead acknowledged Donald's absence is because of their contract negotiations, which are reaching "the serious part." The GM is confident Donald will be a long-term fixture on the Rams' line.

The Rams exercised their fifth-year option for 2018 on Donald last month. He will make nearly $7 million next year. Snead has repeatedly said the Rams plan to sign Donald to a long-term deal.

Donald is a three-time Pro Bowler and a two-time All-Pro in his three-year career.

Vikings: Zimmer takes time off after latest eye surgery
MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer finally relented, taking some time away from the team to allow his right eye a proper recovery from his latest surgery.

Better in the spring than during the fall, he realized.

As Zimmer departed Monday for some rest and relaxation at his vacation ranch in rural Kentucky, general manager Rick Spielman said the organization anticipates a return by Zimmer "in a few weeks." Players will take the field Tuesday for the first of 13 scheduled offseason practices, including the three-day mandatory minicamp that runs June 13-15.

"We all agree Mike's health is the priority, and we believe rest and recovery are in his best interest for the long term," Spielman said.

Zimmer directed a free youth football camp Saturday at team headquarters. He revealed to reporters that he underwent an eighth procedure on the eye last week, a trying seven-month stretch that has included several unplanned operations (see full story).

Jets: Former 2nd-round pick Smith waived
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Wide receiver Devin Smith has been waived from the injury list by the New York Jets.

A second-round draft pick from Ohio State in 2015, Smith rarely saw the field for the Jets. He tore his ACL during the offseason workout program after he appeared in four games last season. He started that season on the physically unable to perform list while rehabbing from another ACL tear suffered in December 2015.

If Smith clears waivers, he would revert to the Jets' injured reserve list.

"It's bad luck and bad timing because the kid worked so hard to get back," coach Todd Bowles said last month during the NFL draft. "He has to persevere and adversity will help him get stronger. But unfortunately in this game, over my course of time playing and coaching, you see these types of things. Some of the best athletes get hurt and don't get a chance to get on the field, and it's just bad timing, bad luck."

The Jets also re-signed wide receiver WR Deshon Foxx on Monday. Foxx originally signed with the Jets in January and was waived May 9. The Connecticut product first signed with Seattle 2015 after going undrafted and was waived/injured with a hamstring injury that August.

Buccaneers: TE Howard signs rookie deal
TAMPA, Fla. -- Tight end O.J. Howard has signed his rookie contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Howard, who was the 19th overall pick in last month's NFL draft, signed a four-year deal on Monday that includes a team option for a fifth season. He is the first of Tampa Bay's six draft picks to sign.

Howard, who is 6-foot-6 and 251 pounds, was a third-team Associated Press All-America selection last season. He started 12 of Alabama's 14 games last season and had 45 receptions for 595 yards and three touchdowns.

The drafting of Howard and signing DeSean Jackson in free agency should give Jameis Winston more options in Tampa Bay's passing game.

The Buccaneers also announced that defensive end Jacquies Smith has signed his restricted free agent tender.

Doug Pederson: Dak Prescott knew he didn't have to win by himself

Doug Pederson: Dak Prescott knew he didn't have to win by himself

For the most part, Carson Wentz had a pretty successful rookie season. 

Sure, the Eagles finished with a 7-9 record, but Wentz did enough to continue the franchise's belief that he is indeed the quarterback of the future. 

Another guy in Dallas did the same thing with the Cowboys. Actually, Dak Prescott had an even more impressive rookie season, leading the Cowboys to 13 wins, while winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. 

Prescott, a fourth-round pick, had a great year but didn't try to do too much. And that's what impressed Eagles head coach Doug Pederson the most. 

"[Prescott] understood this right away, that he didn't have to win the game for them," Pederson said on The Doomsday Podcast, hosted by Matt Mosley and Ed Werder. (Pederson also talked about running the Rocky steps). "He knew that he had a good defense, a tremendous offensive line, a great runner, he had some veteran players that he could rely on and he learned that early. As soon as he had the opportunity to play and that was early, from Day 1. 

"That's something that a young quarterback, sometimes it takes them a while to figure out the game that way. That's the impressive thing, that he learned how to handle that business that well, utilize the people around him and understand that he didn't have to go win the game."

While Prescott had plenty of help during his rookie season, it was pretty evident Wentz was lacking in that area. 

Prescott had a great offensive line, Dez Bryant, Ezekiel Elliott and others. Wentz had an offensive line that was missing Lane Johnson, an often-injured Ryan Mathews and receivers like Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham playing serious snaps. 

So it made sense when the team went out this offseason and signed Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, and recently LeGarrette Blount, as free agents, finally getting Wentz some real help. 

"We had opportunities to get those two guys and it was obvious last year, we were young at the wide receiver position," Pederson said. "We needed some leadership, some veteran presence there and we went out and got that with Torrey and Alshon. We still want to build through the draft, we still want to acquire young talent. 

"LeGarrette Blount now is a guy that gives us that big back, running back, that can come in and compete and hopefully he does everything he did at New England the last couple of seasons. He had 18 rushing touchdowns for over 1,000 yards and we just expect that same level of performance here."

Maybe having weapons will allow Wentz to do what made Prescott so impressive to Pederson in 2016: not too much.