10 observations from Eagles-Redskins

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10 observations from Eagles-Redskins

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Deep down, you knew they weren’t going to accomplish anything this year. Deep down, you knew this was inevitable.

Tonight’s 10 Observations puts a bow on a completely miserable Eagles season.

For the seventh straight year, there will be no playoff victory for the Eagles. For the ninth straight year, there won’t be a playoff win at home. And for the 55th straight year, there won’t be an NFL championship in Philly. The Eagles lost, 38-24, to the Washington Redskins at Lincoln Financial Field (see Instant Replay).

It’s ugly. It’s miserable. It’s grim. It’s embarrassing. It’s pathetic.

1. Enough of the pretending. Enough of all the talk about the playoffs. Now we can take a long, hard, honest look at what the Philadelphia Eagles really are: A 6-9 team that doesn’t do anything particularly well, has only a handful of elite players, allowed 38 or more points in three of its last four home games, has allowed a franchise-record 34 passing touchdowns and early in the Giants game will become the second team in NFL history to allow 6,000 yards three straight seasons. This is a bad team that’s getting worse under the stewardship of Chip Kelly. The product they’ve consistently put on the field this year is an embarrassment, and the extent of the embarrassment was masked only slightly the last month or so by the poor excuse for a playoff race the Eagles found themselves in. Chip Kelly inexplicably gutted the roster of its talent and gutted the locker room of its swagger, and this is the result. Kelly deserves to be back as head coach next year because of the 10-6 seasons his first two years. But Jeff Lurie cannot allow him to continue with final say over personnel decisions. Lurie must find a respected, veteran general manager to start the long task of rebuilding this roster into a group that legitimately contend for a championship. Kelly has done enough damage.

2. Let’s put some context on Kelly’s first three seasons as head coach of the Eagles: He is the first Eagles head coach since the Swamp Fox — Marion Campbell — who failed to advance a round in the playoffs in his first three years. And Campbell coached in the mid-1980s. Buddy Ryan won the NFC East and got a first-round bye in his third year. Rich Kotite won a wild-card game in his second year. Ray Rhodes won a wild-card game in his first year. And Andy Reid got to the conference semifinals in his second year and an NFC Championship Game in his third year. Kelly has less to show for his first three years than any Eagles head coach in 30 years. That’s pitiful.

3. I still honestly have no clue how to evaluate Sam Bradford. Hard to ask for any more than he gave Saturday night. Threw for 380 yards and a touchdown and got no help. None. There are so many moving parts to this story. Does Chip want him back? And at what price? Does Bradford even want to come back here next year? And who else will pursue him? And at what price? And what are the options? Maybe Chip is intrigued by Robert Griffin III or Colin Kaepernick. Bradford’s numbers were very good Saturday night. But when you take into account all the drops, the lack of help from his offensive line and the absence of a running game, they were very impressive. He didn’t get the Eagles a win, but I’m not sure what else he could have done.

4. I would love to see what Bradford could do with the receivers Kirk Cousins has. They are just such non-factors. Somebody tweeted to me Saturday night asking if Todd Pinkston were available, and the sad truth is Pink would be the Eagles’ second-best receiver right now behind Jordan Matthews. The scary thing is the Eagles have devoted so many resources to restocking the wide receiver position after cutting ties with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. A second-round pick and a third-round pick last year on Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff and a first-round pick this year on Nelson Agholor. Not to mention some guaranteed money on Miles Austin. The Eagles have too many needs to keep drafting wide receivers with premium draft picks, so they just have to hope Agholor can blossom next year and somehow Huff can finally take that next step. Because whoever is playing quarterback for this team next year deserves an NFL-caliber group of wideouts. They didn’t have one this year.

5. Pretty clear now that Kelly has to make a change at defensive coordinator. I don’t think all the problems are Bill Davis’ fault. Certainly it’s tough running a defense when the offense is running tempo, and there’s clearly not a ton of talent here. But the Eagles are so historically bad something has to change. They’ve allowed 34 passing touchdowns, most in franchise history. They’ve allowed 400 yards in six straight games, something only four other NFL teams have ever done. Early in the Giants game, they’ll become only the second team in NFL history to allow 6,000 total yards in three straight seasons. This is just unprecedented stuff. I just don’t see how Chip can bring Davis back next year.

6. The Eagles’ inability to play competitive football at home is one of the more disturbing trends of the year. They lost by 10 to Dallas, by 28 to the Bucs, by 23 to the Cards and by 14 Saturday night. That’s just mind-boggling. If you’re routinely getting blown out in your own stadium, that’s a sign of a team that’s just not prepared to play football. They’re not just losing at home, they’re getting humiliated. This is the first time they lost four home games by 14 or more points since 1976. Just unacceptable. Embarrassing. Pathetic.

7. Some of these stats are just numbing. The Eagles allowed 33 touchdown passes in 2012, the Nnamdi year. They allowed 30 last year, the Bradley Fletcher, Cary Williams year. This year, they allowed more. They’re at 34 now, which is 17th-most in NFL history with a game to play. Two more Sunday gets them to 36, which would be seventh-most in NFL history. How can they be this bad? Part of it is pass rush, which has been largely up and down. Mainly down. But most of it is just guys roaming free and nobody there to cover them. When you see the same problems popping up again and again with the same coach and a different set of players, you know where to place the blame.

8. Seven years without a playoff win. That’s just unthinkable. From 2000 through 2008, the Eagles had only two years without a playoff win. This is the Eagles’ longest drought without a playoff win since 1981 through 1991 and matches their longest drought without reaching the conference semifinals since 1961 through 1978. Chip, what have you done with this football team?

9. We’ve spent a lot of time criticizing Kiko Alonso, but I’ll tell you what, Mychal Kendricks has not played a whole lot better than Alonso. After the way he performed the last two years, he’s been one of this team’s biggest disappointments.

10. Finally, this. I don’t think Lurie fires Kelly. But, man, I wouldn’t be shocked if he does. And honestly, I wouldn’t blame him. Down the stretch, the Eagles lost five of their last seven games, four of them in embarrassing fashion, three of those at home. This is a bad football team with not much hope for the near future. It’s one thing to lose. It’s another to just not be able to compete with teams like the Bucs, Lions and Redskins. This is a wretched football team, and it’s not going to be an easy process turning this around.

Other RBs thriving, but Ryan Mathews (ankle) still 'the guy' when healthy

Other RBs thriving, but Ryan Mathews (ankle) still 'the guy' when healthy

Kenjon Barner has the third-most runs in the NFL of 14-plus yards despite having just 14 carries all year.
 
Wendell Smallwood ran for 79 yards and a touchdown Sunday in the first extended playing time of his career.
 
Despite their gaudy stats, Ryan Mathews will be the Eagles’ featured running back when he’s healthy, head coach Doug Pederson said Monday.
 
“I think we just continue the same way, really,” Pederson said. “When Ryan is healthy, he’s the guy, and then we’ll mix Darren (Sproles) in there and you saw what Wendell can do and we know what Kenjon’s all about.”
 
Mathews, who has been injury prone throughout his career, did not play after two early carries Sunday in the Eagles’ 34-3 win over the Steelers at the Linc.
 
Pederson said Mathews’ left ankle — originally injured in July, before training camp even began and then aggravated in the season opener against the Browns — is still bothering him.
 
“With that thing, that ankle, it’s something that for him it never loosened up (Sunday) and was stiff and so again (we) just opted on the side of caution more than anything else,” Pederson said.
 
Mathews gained minus-five yards on two carries in the first quarter and didn’t play again.
 
He's rushed for three touchdowns this year but is averaging only 3.2 yards per carry — 36th out of 40 backs with 20 or more carries this year.
 
Meanwhile, Smallwood is averaging 4.8 yards per carry, eighth-highest in the NFL, and Barner, with just 14 carries, has four runs of 14 yards. He’s averaging 6.1 yards per carry but doesn’t have enough to qualify for the league leaders.

Although Barner has the 58th-most carries in the NFL, only LeSean McCoy and Isaiah Crowell have more runs of 14 or more yards.
 
Sproles has been his usual electriyfing self in the receiving game and returning punts, but he’s averaging just 2.7 yards per carry.
 
Since opening day last year, Sproles is at 3.6 per carry — 50th of 52 backs with at least 100 carries over the last two seasons.
 
Pederson said despite Mathews’ injury history — he started more than nine games twice in his first six seasons — he has no problem with the workload he gave him in Cleveland. Mathews had 22 carries against the Browns, his second-most since 2013.
 
“I think that’s a good number for him, honestly, and then for everyone else to get a few touches after that we’re on track,” Pederson said.
 
“It’s kind of with Carson (Wentz), I don’t think you ever want to go into a game thinking you want to throw it 50 times. If you manage it and keep it around 30 and have a successful running game, I think that’s a good balance.”
 
How much Barner and Smallwood will work in once Mathews returns remains to be seen.
 
But it’s hard to argue with their production.
 
“Everybody’s a little different runner,” Pederson said Monday, a day after the Eagles improved to 3-0.
 
“Wendell did an excellent job between the tackles last night, sort of downhill, Kenjon sort of off-tackle, and of course Darren can do everything.
 
“So we’ll still keep the rotation the same, we’re not going to change much that way, and just want to get everybody in the football game.”
 
It’s tough to put together a running back depth chart for this team. Mathews had the most carries against the Browns, Sproles had the most against the Bears and Smallwood the most against the Steelers.
 
Last time the Eagles opened a season with three different backs leading the team in attempts was 1989, when Mark Higgs had 13 carries in the opener vs. Seattle, Anthony Toney led the way a week later with nine carries against the Redskins (that was the huge comeback win from a 20-0 deficit) and then Heath Sherman had a team-high 16 carries a week later against the 49ers (when Joe Montana threw four touchdown passes in the fourth quarter).
 
How similar this year turns out to 2003 and the original Three-Head Monster of Duce Staley — now the Eagles’ running backs coach — Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter will sort itself out after the bye.
 
“It’s good to have that kind of depth at that position with as many touches collectively as a group that we’re going to get each game and the wear and tear on that position,” Pederson said. “It’s great to get that many guys in the game.”
 
The Eagles certainly do seem high on Smallwood, the only back in the group that Pederson didn’t inherit from Chip Kelly.
 
Smallwood missed most of training camp with a quad injury and concussion but has been very good since he’s been healthy.
 
“He’s much like Carson in how he prepares during the week,” Pederson said.
 
“We’ve been fortunate with our young players ... and how they work and how they handle themselves on and off the football field, and he’s done a great job in practice, he’s put himself in a position to help us, and it’s great to see him.
 
“We saw it early in the spring, we saw it in training camp before the injury.”

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Eagles head coach Doug Pederson says Carson Wentz’s prep is ‘Peyton Manning-ish’

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson says Carson Wentz’s prep is ‘Peyton Manning-ish’

At 8 a.m. on Sunday, eight and a half hours before game time, Jordan Matthews was in the team hotel, going to get breakfast when he ran into Carson Wentz.

But the 23-year-old quarterback wasn’t interested in food at that particular time. He was going to watch film.

“Everybody thinks that’s like a crazy thing,” Matthews said on Sunday night. “That’s his standard.”

This is just the latest example of Wentz’s obsession with football and film study. Since the No. 2 overall pick arrived in Philadelphia, and especially since he was named the Week 1 starter, we’ve been regaled with stories of his preparation and drive. The anecdotes of Wentz’s arrival before the sun to watch film have flowed.

“It’s Peyton Manning-ish,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said on Monday, as the team heads into its bye week with a 3-0 record.

“And you hate to label, you don’t want to put labels on guys. But that’s how Peyton prepared and that’s how these top quarterbacks prepare each week. And he has that now as a young quarterback and that will just carry him throughout his career.”

When asked if Wentz’s film study habits reach obsessive levels, Pederson said that notion was “accurate.”

“He loves watching tape,” Pederson said. “I know I’ve mentioned he and the quarterbacks, Chase [Daniel] and Aaron [Murray], are in here at 5:30 in the morning and they’re exhausting the tape. He’s constantly, I hear him in the building talking about plays and routes and protections.”

Aside from Wentz’s just putting in the time during film study, his unique ability to recall plays quickly has given him a huge advantage during his first three games.

When asked if Wentz’s memory is photographic, Pederson said he thinks it is.

In between series, Wentz and the coaching staff are able to go over plays on their Surface tablets. They go over plays and then when he’s on the field, he recognizes a defensive front or coverage and can get the offense in a different play.

Through three games, Wentz’s preparation and memory have helped the Eagles get off to a quick 3-0 start.

“He’s a different player that way,” Pederson said. “He’s much like our last quarterback, Alex Smith, in Kansas City. It’s the same type of memory. For a young kid to do that, it’s pretty special.”

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