10 observations from Eagles-Lions

usa-mark-sanchez.jpg

10 observations from Eagles-Lions

BOX SCORE

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.

Upon arrival, newest Eagles LB Stephen Tulloch ready — but for what?

Upon arrival, newest Eagles LB Stephen Tulloch ready — but for what?

Stephen Tulloch walked out of the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday afternoon chatting with new teammate Brandon Graham, while wearing a crisp white No. 54 jersey for his first practice.

Jim Schwartz wasn’t sure if Tulloch would make it onto the field Tuesday because of all the “administration stuff” the linebacker needed to do, including putting ink to paper. But as the Eagles took the field at around 1:30 p.m., Tulloch joined them. He wouldn’t miss it.

After all, practice is where the 31-year-old feels most comfortable.

Schwartz on Tuesday morning recalled a story from training camp several years ago, when, as the head coach of the Lions, he wanted to give Tulloch a veteran day off. The coaches even told the training staff that Tulloch wouldn’t be participating that day.

“He came in my office mad as a hornet and was ready to practice,” Schwartz said.

Tulloch then told his head coach that he was ruining his streak. Forget games — dating back to high school, the linebacker hadn’t missed a practice.

Schwartz admitted he’s not one for compromising, but did make a compromise that summer day. Tulloch was allowed to practice, but his reps were cut down some.

“He knows how I am. I prepare,” said Tulloch, who remembered the story. “To me, practice is more important than that game. When you miss a rep, you miss something and you can’t make it up. I try to be present every day that I’m out here on this field. We’re playing a kid’s game. I’m 31 years old and to be able to come out here and play this game, it’s pretty fun.”

Tulloch was 28 during the 2013 training camp and went on to play and start all 16 games in the 2013 season. In 2014, he played just three before tearing his ACL, but returned to play in all 16 last year.

Tulloch told Schwartz he has been working out twice per day while unemployed this summer. “Guys like that, they know how to get themselves ready,” Schwartz said.

“I have tremendous respect for guys that get 10 years in the NFL because you can’t make 10 years on talent alone,” Schwartz said. “You can’t make 10 years by being a try-hard guy. You gotta have a great combination of things and also in 10 years, you’re going to be working with different coaching staffs in 10 years. You gotta have the ability to work in a lot of different schemes, whether you’re an offensive player or a defensive player. I’ll bow down to guys who play 10 years in this league because that’s tough business.”

Tulloch has been a starter in the NFL for years but likely won’t have that role in Philly. The Eagles have a starting linebacker group of Jordan Hicks, Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham. Doug Pederson said Tulloch will compete at the middle linebacker spot, but Hicks is still the starter for now (see story).

For a long time, Tulloch was very good. He's one of just nine players in the league to have five interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries since 2006. And he’s played six of his 10 NFL seasons under Schwartz, who already has three of his former players in prominent roles this year.

Schwartz said Tulloch is “not here to replace anybody,” but added that a rotation isn’t out of the realm of possibility. The defensive coordinator, citing an analogy where everyone brings something different to a party, said it’s important to accentuate each of his players' strengths.

Despite starting for most of his career, Tulloch in 2016 will likely be a backup, which includes playing special teams. Earlier in the week, head coach Doug Pederson said he wants to get Tulloch on at least one special teams unit. The veteran linebacker on Tuesday said he hasn’t played special teams since 2006 or 2007.

“Whatever’s asked of me, I’ll do,” Tulloch said.

Tulloch was informed of his release from Detroit in February, but he wasn’t officially cut by the Lions until July, after he healed completely from a minor ankle surgery. He said he felt good a long time ago, and had a couple other teams interested in him. Ultimately, though, he decided to join the Eagles and reunite with Schwartz, for whom he has great respect and whose defense he feels most comfortable in.

Even if Schwartz tries to make him take a day off.

“I just love football,” Tulloch said. “I think this is my 26th, 27th year of playing football. I started back in 1991 when I was five years old. It’s just a way of life for me. It’s something I do. I have a passion for practice, I have a passion for the game. I play hard, I work hard, I take care of my body. I do what I have to do.”

NFL Notes: Cowboys WR Dez Bryant out after concussion in practice

NFL Notes: Cowboys WR Dez Bryant out after concussion in practice

FRISCO, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant will miss the next preseason game after sustaining a concussion in practice.

Coach Jason Garrett said Tuesday that Bryant was hurt a day earlier when the receiver's head hit the shoulder pads of safety Barry Church. Garrett says Bryant was held out of the rest of that practice and will not play Thursday night at Seattle.

On his Twitter account Tuesday, Bryant promised Cowboys fans that he is OK.

Garrett said Bryant seemed "much better" Tuesday, and the coach doesn't think there is a long-term concern.

Bryant had four catches for 74 yards in two preseason games. He had a touchdown catch in each game.

Patriots: Brady ready after 'silly accident' with scissors cuts thumb
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tom Brady says he's ready to play after a "silly accident" cut his right thumb with a pair of scissors before the Patriots preseason game against the Bears last week.

Brady says he missed the first two practices this week for personal reasons, but he's available and ready to play as New England prepares to play at Carolina.

He says the accident with the scissors occurred when he was trying to get something out of his cleats and the scissors slipped and cut his thumb. Brady said he wanted to play, but coach Bill Belichick made the decision he'd sit out.

Brady has yet to appear in a game this preseason. He's got two remaining opportunities before the start of four-game regular-season NFL suspension for what the league says was his role in "Deflategate."

Bills: Receiver Marquise Goodwin sustains possible concussion
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills receiver Marquise Goodwin is being evaluated for a possible concussion sustained during practice on Tuesday.

Coach Rex Ryan would only say the player was placed in the NFL's concussion protocol, which makes it unlikely Goodwin will play in Buffalo's preseason game at Washington on Friday.

The fourth-year player was hurt when the back of his head slammed against the turf while attempting to make a catch in the end zone during a red-zone drill.

Ryan says he didn't have an update on the status of right tackle Jordan Mills, who hurt his knee and did not return.

Ryan expects Watkins and linebacker Manny Lawson to make their preseason debuts Friday. Watkins has practiced the past two weeks since recovering from surgery in April to repair a stress fracture in his left foot. Lawson missed the first two weeks of training camp with a partly torn chest muscle.

Eagles safety Jaylen Watkins stopped making excuses and started improving

Eagles safety Jaylen Watkins stopped making excuses and started improving

When Jaylen Watkins was released by the Eagles a year ago, he started looking for excuses.
 
He never got a fair chance. Flip-flopping back and forth from corner to safety hurt him. The coaches didn’t like him.
 
He felt sorry for himself, and that lasted for two weeks.
 
Then he realized he had to be honest with himself or he was never going to be able to resurrect his NFL career.
 
“There’s two ways you can take being released, man,” Watkins said. “You can say it’s a failure or you can be honest with yourself and say, ‘Hey man, I’ve got to get better.’
 
“When you get released, immediately you try to find reasons to justify why you got released, and I think I did that for the first two weeks. But then I understood that if I want to play this game, I’ve got to find the reason I got released.”
 
Watkins, a fourth-round pick in 2014, spent his rookie year with the Eagles, playing in four games, mainly on special teams. After he was released last Sept. 1, he signed to the Bills’ practice squad, where he began the process of addressing his deficincies.
 
“For me, it went back to tackling,” he said. “When I was honest with myself, why did the Eagles release me? There were a couple plays I should have made, and I just said, ‘Next time around, let’s just see if I can clean this up and maybe it’ll work out.’
 
“And if it doesn’t, then find something else I have to get better at and focus on improving there. It’s about correcting what you know is really wrong.”
 
In Buffalo, Watkins was reunited with younger half-brother Sammy, whose 2,029 receiving yards the last two seasons are 22nd-most in NFL history by a player in his first two years.
 
Instead of feeling sorry for himself, Jaylen Watkins made the most of his time with the Bills.
 
“I just looked at it as an opportunity,” he said. “A lot of people don’t get them in this world, and I realized I didn’t take advantage of mine the first time. So going to Buffalo, went up there and got better, learned some things from those guys.
 
“I was playing corner in Buffalo but I was on scout team, so I was doing a little bit of everything. Playing corner, playing safety, covering my brother, covering tight ends, Charles Clay, so I got a lot of different things every day and I took advantage of it.”
 
The best thing about being in Buffalo was the two months Watkins got to spend with Sammy. Since they went to different high schools in Florida and different colleges, it was the first time in their lives they were teammates in organized football.
 
“It was great,” Jaylen said. “I would wear the other team’s (Darrelle) Revis or Malcolm Butler (jersey) or whoever they were playing and lock in on him. [Sammy] would get 15 targets each practice and I couldn’t go for the ball because it was scout team, but I was able to actually get more rough with him than most DBs because I’m his brother and he wanted that from me.
 
“So I was able to get some good work for two months, and it made me a better player.”
 
When Eagles corner Nolan Carroll broke his ankle playing against the on Lions on Thanksgiving Day in Detroit, the Eagles signed Watkins off the Bills’ practice squad to take his roster spot.
 
He ended up playing 80 snaps in late-season games against the Cardinals and Redskins and although his tackling still wasn't where it needed to be, he showed enough in coverage to survive the transition from Chip Kelly and Billy Davis to Doug Pederson and Jim Schwartz.
 
This summer, Watkins has played exclusively safety, and he’s been one of the biggest surprises in camp. He’s played very well in both preseason games and has been solid in practice.
 
“I played safety in a similar system in college, covering the slot, being active in the box, so it’s familiar to me,” he said. “Being able to recognize formations and sets and stuff like that, I do pretty well with that now. The coverage part, I feel good about that. That comes easy for me.
 
“Tackling? I knew that’s where I had to get better and I feel like I put out two good games of tackling so far, so I feel good about that.”
 
Nothing is set behind starters Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod, but right now it looks like Watkins is ahead of third-year pro Ed Reynolds, who was taken one round after Watkins in that 2014 draft, and rookie sixth-round pick Blake Countess.
 
Chris Maragos, a safety by trade, is essentially guaranteed a roster spot because of his special teams ability.
 
“His challenge has always been tackling and run game,” Schwartz said before practice Tuesday. “Last year, if you watched a little bit of him, that’s where he broke down a little bit. Early in camp this year, that’s where he broke down.
 
“He’s worked very hard, and the coaches have worked very hard with him, to address that, and you’re seeing the results of that. He’s playing more aggressively in the run game. And there’s times that safeties can play aggressively, and there’s times where they can’t.
 
“When you’re the last line of defense, you’ve got to get that guy on the ground however you can. But there’s sometimes where there’s leverage and there’s a hole to fill, you need to be a missile, you need to go fill it, and he’s done a good job of that.
 
“He’s on the right track. We just need to keep seeing improvement from him. I’m very proud of him. He’s done a really good job. It’s easy to work on your strengths. He’s really shown he’s willing to work on his weaknesses, and it’s shown on the field.”
 
Watkins said the coaches told him after the draft and free agency that from this point forward he was going to play safety.

The Eagles have a bunch of young corners, and the move to safety has allowed Watkins to really establish himself at one position.  

“This year, it was like, ‘We’re going to move you to safety and that’s it, where in the past it was, ‘OK, you’re going to play some of this and some of that and we might move you back and forth,’” he said. “Now I can focus on one thing.
 
“It’s tough to do both. You can do it in college because you’re just more athletic but once you get to this level, man, it’s tough to juggle.
 
“I’m just trying to take advantage of anything I can as long as I can play, man, and it’s working out good for me. Just keep learning as much as I can from Malcolm and Rodney."

Like Watkins said, getting released can send a player in a lot of different directions. 

A year later, Watkins has turned it into a positive.

“Obviously, I would have loved to never get released and be here all last year," Watkins said. "But I don’t know if I would have been the same player if I hadn’t gone through it. I don't know if I'd be the same player if I hadn't been released."