10 observations from Eagles-Redskins

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10 observations from Eagles-Redskins

BOX SCORE

LANDOVER, Md. – The Eagles keep inventing new ways to lose.

It had been at least 20 years since the Eagles lost a football game by allowing a fourth-quarter game-winning drive of 90 or more yards.

That’s exactly what the Redskins did Sunday in their 23-20 win over the Eagles (see Instant Replay).

These 10 observations are more fun to read when the Eagles are winning, aren’t they?

They’re more fun to write, too.

Here we go:

1. I give a lot of credit to the Eagles’ defense for holding up under the weight of the insane number of snaps they had to face Sunday. They were out-manned, depleted, and on the field for 41:08. Still, to let Kirk Cousins drive 90 yards in 15 plays and beat you with 26 seconds left? Kirk Cousins? That just can’t happen. The Eagles were one stop away from evening their record at 2-2, and they just couldn’t get off the field.

2. Sam Bradford showed me a lot with his second-half performance. I wouldn’t have blamed Chip Kelly if he benched him for Mark Sanchez at halftime. The Eagles hadn’t scored, and Bradford was once again grossly ineffective in the first half, going just 5 for 10 for 75 yards. But he showed some resilience, battling through his early ineffectiveness, a ton of early hits and sacks and even an ankle injury in the third quarter. He threw three touchdowns after halftime and for the first time all year got the ball down the field, something the Eagles should have been doing right from the start of the game against this awful Redskins secondary. But here’s the bottom line. Bradford has still yet to play a full game, and you’re just not going to win very many games with a quarterback who produces one good half every other week. Bradford was good in the second half, but he has yet to be good for 60 minutes, and he’s still the biggest reason the Eagles are 1-3

3. Chip Kelly has only himself to blame for the current state of the offensive line. For the first time in franchise history, the Eagles have gone two straight years without drafting an offensive lineman, and despite losing Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans this offseason, they didn’t even sign any free agents, other than John Moffitt, who had been retired. The conclusion that they could get by with Allen Barbre and Andrew Gardner as starters and Dennis Kelly and Matt Tobin as backups seems preposterous now. If you want to make some kind of point by cutting ties with two very solid guards in Mathis and Herremans, fine. Get rid of them. Make your point. But how do you get rid of them both and not replace them?

4. The Eagles did better running the football, but when they needed to dial it up in the fourth quarter to run out the clock? They couldn’t do it. The running game is still a liability for this football team.

5. It’s unbelievable how hard it is to find a kicker. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Eagles release Caleb Sturgis on Monday, ending his Eagles career after one game, one 33-yard field goal and one missed extra point. But if he was the best of the six guys they brought in for workouts Monday, then how bad were the other guys? Just makes you appreciate David Akers even more. Akers kicked at such a high level for the Eagles from 1999 through 2010. He missed a few, but you always felt that with the game on the line, he just wasn’t going to miss. Heck, Dave always kept himself in great shape. He’s only 40. I’ve heard worse ideas.

6. OK, three games into his NFL career, Jordan Hicks has two fumble recoveries, a forced fumble, a sack and an interception. I don’t know how long Mychal Kendricks will be out and I don’t know how long Kiko Alonso will be out, but I do know that Hicks has been phenomenal the last three weeks, and Bill Davis is going to have to find a way to get him on the field once the Eagles (if the Eagles) are back at full-strength at inside linebacker.

7. I think Nelson Agholor is going to be a stud, but he’s got to be stronger to the football and hang onto the thing. But he really does have a knack for getting open and making circus catches. His one-handed 45-yarder Sunday was magnificent. He’s just got to be more consistent. But you can say that about most rookie wide receivers.

8. He got off to a slow start Sunday, but in the second half, with the defense dragging, Donnie Jones hit some great punts to keep giving the Redskins a long field and give the defense a fighting chance. Jones is never going to be among the NFL’s statistical leaders because he plays in an outdoor stadium in the Northeast. But he’s solid. And he generally seems to come up big when you need a big punt at a big moment. It’s nice to have one guy they don’t have to worry about.

9. Was good to see a few guys who have been invisible making plays. Mainly Riley Cooper, whose 62-yard TD was the second-longest of Bradford’s career, and Miles Austin, whose 39-yard touchdown was his longest in four years. If the Eagles are going to salvage anything out of this lost season, they’re going to need more than just Jordan Matthews catching the football. So there’s that.

10. Finally, how much of this mess is on Chip? Really, most of it is on Chip. This is the team he wanted, this is the team he went out and got, this is the team he designed, this is the team he built. They’ve lost three of four games and are playing as inconsistently as any Eagles team we’ve seen since 1998. They’re now 1-3 and 0-2 in the division. Let’s be honest. They’re not going anywhere. It’s been seven years since the Eagles won a playoff game, and it’s hard to imagine it won’t be eight in a few months. Chip’s future? He’ll be here another year. But that’s all he gets. He’s got the rest of this year and next year to figure out a way to build a team that can put together a deep playoff run. If he doesn’t do it, time to bring in the next guy.

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

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

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.