10 observations from Eagles-Lions

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10 observations from Eagles-Lions

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DETROIT — From 1933 through the Miami game, three quarterbacks threw five touchdowns and no interceptions in a game against the Eagles. Frank Filchock in 1944, Don Meredith in 1966 and Eli Manning in 2012 in Andy Reid’s final game.

Now two have done it in the span of five days.

Nothing illustrates just how wretched the Eagles have become better than that.

After one of the worst two-game stretches in Eagles history — a 45-17 loss to the Bucs Sunday and a 45-14 loss to the Lions on Thursday (see Instant Replay) — it’s hard to imagine owner Jeff Lurie allowing this to continue without people losing their jobs.

So here is my Thanksgiving Day edition of Roob’s 10 observations.

And I didn’t even get to mention how bad Big Sean was.

1. Jeff Lurie is a patient guy, and a few weeks ago I wouldn’t have imagined any scenario in which he would make a coaching change after the season. Not when Chip Kelly went 10-6 his first two years. Not when he made what’s really designed to be a long-term move by giving him GM powers. But I don’t think anybody imagined it would get this bad this fast. The Eagles the last three weeks have played some of the worst football in franchise history. And that’s not hyperbole. They blew a 13-point lead at home, they became the first team in NFL history to allow a QB to throw five touchdowns and a back to run for 230 yards in the same game — again at home — and then they allowed three passing TDs in the first half for a second straight week for the first time in franchise history. This is uncharted waters. Honestly, this feels like 1994, Kotite’s last year. It feels like 1998, Ray Rhodes' last year. It feels like 2012, Big Red’s last year. A month ago I never dreamed I’d say this, but watching the Eagles these last few weeks, I don’t see how Lurie can bring Chip back for a fourth year (here's Kelly on the loss).

2. Another part of the equation for Lurie is that he’s very big on public perception. Lurie can’t be happy with the way Chip has handled the losing streak in public. He’s come across as unlikeable, arrogant and condescending these last few weeks, and if Lurie is teetering about whether to fire Kelly or not at the end of the season, Kelly’s demeanor could be a factor. Lurie wants a coach who is a classy, likeable front man for the organization, and Kelly has been anything but. You really tell a lot more about a man by how he handles losing than winning, and Kelly has really managed to turn off an entire city this year. If I was Lurie, I wouldn’t want him anywhere near my football team anymore (here are the players on Kelly).

3. Once upon a time — like a month ago — this was a pretty good secondary. I know, it’s hard to believe now, but the Eagles were 10th in the NFL seven weeks into the season with 10 touchdown passes allowed. They were battling for the ball, they were challenging receivers, they were tackling, they were aggressive and confident. Now they’re the second team in NFL history to allow five touchdown passes in back-to-back games (see story). I don’t even know how it’s possible to go from where they were to where they are. Somewhere along the line, this defense simply lost its heart. Lost its will. Lost its fight. I’m not entirely sure how much of it is Bill Davis’ fault, but I don’t think anybody would be surprised if Davis pays with his job as soon as the Eagles’ charter lands in Philly Thursday night.

4. To put the secondary’s performance in perspective: During the five years from 2000 through 2004, only three quarterbacks threw as many as three TDs in a game vs. Eagles — Brady, Peyton and Patrick Ramsey. In 2000, the Eagles allowed 11 passing touchdowns all year. Bobby. Troy. Dawk. Damon Moore. Times have changed.

5. This franchise has been around a long time, but this is the first time the Eagles have ever allowed 45 points in consecutive games. Think about that for a moment. They just allowed 90 points in five days. That ought to be impossible. The Eagles are making history all right.

6. Remember when we were all concerned that the Eagles might not go 3-0 against the three last-place teams they were about to face? In the span of 12 days, they got beat by three teams that were 7-17 at the start of this stretch. By a combined 110-43.

7. Back to Chip for a minute. He will now become the first Eagles coach since Marion Campbell in the mid-1980s to fail to advance to the second round of the playoffs in his first three seasons. Buddy Ryan won the NFC East in 1988 and got a first-round bye, Rich Kotite beat the Saints in a wild-card game at the Superdome in his second year, Ray Rhodes beat the Lions at the Vet in a wild-card in his first year, and by his third year, Andy Reid had reached the conference semifinals twice and gotten to an NFC championship game. This is three years now. And the Eagles are right back where they were when he got here. Except without LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, Evan Mathis and next year’s second-round pick.

8. The Eagles have one takeaway during this three-game losing streak. And it was by Zach Ertz. That pretty much says it all.

9. Attention, Mr. Brady: No NFL team has ever allowed five touchdown passes in three straight games.

10. I’m hesitant to single out one guy after a loss like this, but it is just impossible to watch DeMarco Murray play football (more on Murray here). This franchise has such a proud history of running backs. Just in the last 20 years, we’ve seen Ricky Watters, Duce Staley, Correll Buckhalter, Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy come through Philly and run the ball with the hard-nosed mentality of a defensive player. I don’t know how Murray led the NFL in rushing last year. I guess that monstrous offensive line had a lot to do with it. But Murray just doesn’t even compete out there. He plays football like he doesn’t want to be playing football. Murray had another brutal performance Thursday, carrying 14 times for 30 yards for 2.1 yards per carry. I saw some life out of Kenjon Barner, who ran seven times for 30 yards late in the game. It’s time to sit Murray down and let him watch. I don’t care how much money he’s making. Enough.

Stay or Go Part 9: Jalen Mills to Wendell Smallwood

Stay or Go Part 9: Jalen Mills to Wendell Smallwood

In the ninth 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 9 is Mills to Smallwood.

Jalen Mills
Cap hit: $559K

Roob: Mills has all the tools to be a capable cornerback except world-class speed. He’s fearless, he’s cocky, he’s smart, he’s a hard worker. He just doesn’t have that make-up speed you want your top outside corners to have. I’ve seen enough positives from Mills that I definitely want him on my team. I’m not sure he’ll ever be a starter, but I definitely want him around.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Mills really got thrown into the fire as a seventh-round rookie, didn’t he? It wasn’t all good, but it wasn’t all bad either. It’s pretty obvious defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s loves Mills’ competitiveness. He doesn’t have top-end speed and that’s probably going to prevent him from ever becoming a top-of-the-line corner in the league. But there’s no reason he can’t stick around for a long time. He certainly has the right mindset to be a corner in the NFL and that’s a part of the battle. The Eagles really need to upgrade the corner position, which could greatly reduce Mills’ role, but he should still have one. 

Verdict: STAYS

Aaron Neary

Roob: Neary is a guard who spent the year on the Eagles’ practice squad.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: I’d say there’s a fair to good chance most of you have never heard of Aaron Neary. He’s an undrafted O-lineman out of Eastern Washington who was on the practice squad in 2016. I’d be lying if I told you I knew a lot about him. 

Verdict: GOES

Jason Peters
Cap hit: $11.7M

Roob: Cut Jason Peters at your own risk. You want the $9.2 million cap savings that the Eagles would gain by releasing the perennial Pro Bowler? Find it somewhere else. Because some guys simply should never be released. Peters is an all-time great Eagle and unless his level of play drops off dramatically, he should be allowed to decide when it’s time to go. Only Chuck Bednarik has been picked to more Pro Bowls than Peters in Eagles history. Peters rebounded from a subpar 2015 with a vintage Peters season this past year. Considering that the Eagles have a promising young quarterback who has to be protected and considering that Lane Johnson is one more positive test from a two-year suspension, Peters has to stay. I don’t care what the cap savings would be by getting rid of him. He’s too good and means too much to cut him. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Sure, the Eagles could save over $9 million in cap room if they cut Peters, but who would they get to play? While they’d be fine moving Lane Johnson to left tackle, they’d then be relying on Halapoulivaati Vaitai to play right tackle. And while that might be the plan in coming years, it would weaken the team in 2017. Peters might not be the dominant force he once was, but he had a very good season and he was able to play 97 percent of the team’s offensive snaps, which is huge. He gets paid a lot, but he’s still worth it. 

Verdict: STAYS

Isaac Seumalo
Cap hit: $764K

Roob: I asked Jason Kelce about Seumalo back in training camp and Kelce said he thinks the third-round pick will one day be a Pro Bowl center. Pretty clear Seumalo is the heir apparent to Kelce, it’s just a matter of when the transition occurs. Kelce wasn’t as awful as some people seem to think. He actually finished the season strong. But I think Kelce goes this offseason and Seumalo is your opening-day center in 2017. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Seumalo’s rookie year was a really interesting one. It started with a pec strain in training camp that slowed him down, but eventually ended with his getting some real experience. In all, Seumalo played six different positions in 2016: right tackle, right guard, left guard, left tackle, fullback and tight end. He didn’t even play center, which might be his most natural spot. I think he’ll have a real shot to be the team’s opening-day starter at left guard. 

Verdict: STAYS

Aziz Shittu

Roob: Rookie defensive tackle spent the year on the practice squad. Depending on what happens with Bennie Logan in free agency, the Eagles could be on the prowl for defensive tackle depth this offseason, and Shittu is an interesting guy. He had a good training camp last year coming off a solid career at Stanford and it’s fair to say he has a chance, depending on what the Eagles do in the draft and free agency. Going with my instincts on this one.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: I actually really liked Shittu coming out of Stanford and not just because I giggle like a schoolgirl every time I hear his name. For an interior defensive lineman, he has some real pass rushing potential. I think he would have been the undrafted guy to make the team over Destiny Vaeao had he not missed the spring because of the silly college graduation/quarters rule. I’d like to see him get a legitimate shot to stick here. It’s a longshot, but I’m going to take a chance with this one. I think he can make the roster. 

Verdict: STAYS

Wendell Smallwood
Cap hit: $601K

Roob: We spend so much time talking about the Eagles’ desperate needs at cornerback and wide receiver that it’s easy to forget they're just as desperate at running back. Assuming Ryan Mathews isn’t back, the Eagles will have a real need for a No. 1 back. You can’t draft or sign every position. So Smallwood could get a real shot at the lead back role. Can he handle the role or is he best suited to be a No. 2? Not sure yet. I like how Smallwood responded when he got double-digit carries against the Steelers, Falcons and Seahawks. Averaged 4.2 yards in those three games. And he had nine runs of 10 yards or more out of just 77 carries. I know Smallwood is a player. I’m just not sure where he’ll fit in. Maybe it’s the No. 28 jersey, but at worst I see him as a Correll Buckhalter-type, a solid No. 2 back who can fill in once in a while as a lead guy. At best? We’ll see. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Smallwood might not be the true answer at the running back position, but he proved enough to earn a roster spot next year and a role in the offense. I’m not sure if his ceiling is very high, but he got better throughout the year, specifically as a blocker. He’ll be back for Year 2. 

Verdict: STAYS

Senior Bowl: Villanova's Tanoh Kpassagnon ready to put himself, Wildcats on NFL map

Senior Bowl: Villanova's Tanoh Kpassagnon ready to put himself, Wildcats on NFL map

MOBILE, Ala. — A couple days ago, Tanoh Kpassagnon received a text message from one of his school’s most famous alumni, Brian Westbrook.

On Tuesday morning, as he readied himself for the week of Senior Bowl practices leading up to Saturday’s game, Kpassagnon kept Westbrook’s message at the forefront of his mind.

“Just embrace the moment,” Kpassagnon said, relaying Westbrook’s message. “Don’t take anything for granted, and I belong here.”

Kpassagnon, 22, has a chance to join an elite group in April. There haven’t been many Villanova football players taken in the NFL draft, especially recently, but the big defensive lineman has a good chance to join the list.

In addition to Westbrook, Kpassagnon has also received some advice to help him through the pre-draft process from Hall of Famer Howie Long, the most famous Wildcat to make it in the NFL.

“It would be really cool to represent my school like that,” Kpassagnon said.

The last Villanova football player to be drafted was OL Ben Ijalana in the second round of the 2011 draft. Ijalana is one of just three Wildcats drafted since the early '80s. Kpassagnon is listed as a third-round prospect by CBS Sports.

Despite the Wildcats’ recent success on the football field at the FCS level, Villanova is, of course, known for its basketball program. Kpassagnon wants to do his small part to help the football team gain some recognition.

Coming out of Ambler's Wissahickon High School, the interest in Kpassagnon was lukewarm at best. But once Villanova showed interest, some other CAA schools followed. Ultimately, Kpassagnon settled on going to Villanova, which made his mother happy because he would be staying close. And ultimately, he thinks going to a small school was best for him.

“Definitely,” he said. “I know some other programs, they kind of pass by guys if you’re not ready yet. And definitely coming in as a freshman, I wasn’t ready. Villanova really took the time to develop me. My coaches really believed in me, saw what I could do. I think going to Villanova was a blessing.”

A blessing can sometimes be a curse, though. While Kpassagnon tore up his level of competition, being named the CAA Defensive Player of the Year, he’ll have to shake off the small school and FCS stigma.

That starts this week, which Kpassagnon said is probably one of the most important weeks of his life.

What does he need to show NFL teams?

“I can hang with the big boys,” said Kpassagnon, who was stuck on the South team as an FCS player. “... Villanova has kind of a reputation for basketball, not football, even though our football program is awesome. I kind of have to show that I can hang with the SEC guys, bigger schools.”

This season, Kpassagnon played against Pitt tackle Adam Bisnowaty, who is also at the Senior Bowl. Kpassagnon is looking forward to facing him and some other top tackles this week.

Physically, hanging with the big guys won’t be a problem. Kpassagnon is one of the biggest. At Senior Bowl weigh-in on Tuesday morning, he came in just shy of 6-foot-7 and 280 pounds. He was listed at 290 all season but said the 280 wasn’t a surprise and that he played at that weight all season. NFL teams want him to bulk up some more, so maybe he’ll be able to do it before the combine in early March.

But for now, Kpassagnon's focus is on showing NFL teams that he belongs. That starts with a good week of practice at the Senior Bowl.

“One of my best friend’s dads told me this going into college,” Kpassagnon said. “You want the coach to say your name at least once or twice per practice, for something good. I sort of took that with me to college and I’m trying to bring that here. I’m going to try to make a play or two each practice.”

When asked if the coaches will pronounce his name correctly, Kpassagnon smiled and said he’s heard it every way imaginable.

tawn-o pass-N-yo

This week, he has a chance to put his name and Villanova football’s on the map.