10 observations from Eagles-Giants


10 observations from Eagles-Giants


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.

Eagles bring back Taylor Hart after stint with Chip Kelly

Eagles bring back Taylor Hart after stint with Chip Kelly

The Eagles have brought back a familiar face to take Ron Brooks' roster spot.

On Monday, the team claimed defensive tackle Taylor Hart off waivers from San Francisco. Hart was just waived on Saturday by the 49ers, who claimed him after the Eagles waived him at final cuts.

So, Hart is coming back to Philly after a stint with Chip Kelly in San Francisco.

Hart, 25, played in one game for the 49ers this year. The Eagles are light at defensive tackle thanks to Bennie Logan's groin injury. While head coach Doug Pederson on Monday said Logan was getting better, the Eagles still brought in more depth by claiming Hart.

While still with the Eagles, Kelly had a hand in drafting Hart, an Oregon product, in the fifth round of 2014.

Hart worked hard this offseason to learn how to play in Jim Schwartz's aggressive 4-3 defense, which is very unlike the ones he had played in during college and in the NFL.

Brooks has been placed on IR after rupturing a quad tendon during Sunday's game against the Vikings. He'll have surgery this week.

In addition to adding Hart to the active roster, the Eagles also added cornerback Aaron Grymes to their practice squad.

Grymes, 25, was having an impressive training camp and preseason with the Eagles before injuring his right shoulder. He was waived shortly after that.

After coming out of the University of Idaho in 2013, Grymes didn't make an NFL team so he went to Canada. He ended up as a starter and All-Star on the Edmonton Eskimos and won a Grey Cup in 2015.

To make room for Grymes, the Eagles cut OL Matt Rotheram from the practice squad.

Vikings learn why Eagles are among NFL's best in red zone

Vikings learn why Eagles are among NFL's best in red zone

Three times they drove inside the 20, three times they were denied.

The Vikings opened Sunday's game against the Eagles at the Linc by driving to the 6-yard line and the 17-yard line in the first quarter and then added another drive to the 6-yard line in the fourth quarter.

Each time, the Eagles' defense stopped them.

The Vikings got the ball at the 2-yard line 5½ minutes into the game after Andrew Sendejo's interception and 16-yard return. But two plays later, Rodney McLeod picked off Sam Bradford in the end zone, ending that threat.

On the Vikings' next drive, after Carson Wentz's fumble and Anthony Barr's recovery, the Vikings had a 1st-and-10 on the Eagles' 17. But on the very next play, Connor Barwin stripped Bradford and Malcolm Jenkins recovered.

Then early in the fourth quarter, the Vikings had a 1st-and-Goal on the Eagles' 15, but the Eagles stopped the Vikings on downs, with Jordan Hicks stuffing fullback Zach Line on 3rd-and-1 from the 6 and Beau Allen stuffing Matt Asiata on 4th-and-1.

Three red-zone drives. Zero points.

"It's huge, man," McLeod said. "The past few weeks we've been giving up touchdowns, (which is) uncharacteristic of us. So we just locked in and we just played sound defense. And fundamentals and technique showed up huge. 

"The defensive line did a great job and guys in the back end covered up and we were able to make a lot of plays because of that."

Sunday marked the first time in 12 years the Eagles have held an opponent scoreless on three separate red-zone drives.

On Sept. 12, 2004 — opening day of the Super Bowl season — the Eagles beat the Giants 31-17 at the Linc, and the Giants had three late drives inside the 20 that resulted in no points:

• On a 3rd-and-Goal from the Eagles' 1-yard line late in the third quarter, quarterback Kurt Warner fumbled on an aborted play and Jevon Kearse recovered at the 4-yard-line;

• On a 4th-and-Goal from the Eagles' 5-yard line early in the fourth quarter, Warner threw incomplete to Ike Hillliard with Ike Reese in coverage;

• And at the end of the game, relief quarterback Eli Manning, playing in his first NFL game, was sacked by Jerome McDougle — the first of his three career sacks — at the Eagles' 19-yard line.

The Vikings did score in the red zone Sunday at the end of the game, but the bottom line is the Eagles allowed only seven of a possible 28 red-zone points in a game they won by 11.

"It's huge, it is huge," head coach Doug Pederson said. "Our defense — you look at Minnesota, interception, a fumble on downs, they had a touchdown late in the game. Our defense playing as well as they did down there and stopping them — again, it does start up front, and the pressure on the quarterback.

"I'll tell you what, it was fun to watch our defense (against the Vikings). That's the defense that we expect every week going forward."

The Eagles have faced 20 red-zone drives this year and allowed nine touchdowns and four field goals.

That's 3.75 points per possession, which is second-best in the NFL behind only the Seahawks (3.69 points per possession).

They're No. 1 in red-zone scoring efficiency, allowing those 13 scores on 20 drives (65 percent), and they're No. 5 in TDs allowed with nine on 20 drives (45 percent).

"First thing is stopping the run and we did a good job of that," Malcolm Jenkins said. "And then once you stop the run, you pack the middle of the field and you've got to make them throw outside and if they make a mistake you've got to come up with a turnover.

"There was the one good pressure we stopped them running it, the one I batted the ball up in the air and Rodney comes up with the pick, and the other one we get a fumble recovery. Those are all big. Those plays, you can't scheme them up, you've just got to go down there and make something happen."

The Eagles are allowing 2.4 yards per pass play in the red zone, which is sixth-best in the league this year, and they're allowing 1.0 yards per rushing play, which is — by far — best in the NFL.

Overall, they're allowing 1.81 yards per play inside the 20, second-best in the league behind the Panthers (1.77). The league average is 3.0.

There's no magic to it.

"It's just bowing up," Hicks said. "It's toughness down there. We knew they like to run the ball and we shut them down. Make them one-dimensional and force them to pass. When they did run it, we stopped them.

"Just shows the character of this defense and the toughness and mindset of this defense as well."