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.

'Highly respected' Zach Ertz important piece of Eagles' offense

'Highly respected' Zach Ertz important piece of Eagles' offense

It doesn't take long in any conversation about Zach Ertz in Philadelphia before the words "breakout season" are tossed around.
 
Again.
 
But while a good portion of Eagles fans have been impatiently waiting for Ertz to "break out," the 2013 draft pick has quietly put together an extremely impressive start to his career.
 
In four seasons, Ertz has caught 247 passes for 2,840 yards and 13 touchdowns. He's one of just seven tight ends in NFL history to put up those numbers in the first four seasons of a career. The other six: Jimmy Graham, Antonio Gates, Jeremy Shockey, Tony Gonzalez, Kellen Winslow and Mike Ditka.
 
Not bad company.
 
But for whatever reason, Ertz hasn't become a real fan favorite. Fans have questioned his talent, his play-making ability and even his toughness.
 
Why the indifference?
 
"I don't know," tight ends coach Justin Peele said. "I love coaching him. I think he's good for this team. Every day he comes to work with the right attitude, trying to get better. He's had some success. I don't know. He's a pleasure to coach and I know he's very highly respected in this organization."
 
Ertz, 26, admitted this spring that the constant criticism from fans used to bother him when he was younger. But now entering his fifth season with the Eagles, he's gotten used to it.
 
Does Ertz think he's underrated or overrated?
 
"Whatever people think, people think," Ertz said earlier this spring on Quick Slants on CSN. "I'm not going to get caught up in people's opinions. It's the guys in this building, their opinions of me. I'm really happy with how I progressed this spring and I think I'm setting the stage for a good season."
 
The one thing Ertz admitted he needs to improve is his production in the end zone. He has just 13 touchdown catches in four years and has never had more than four in a season.
 
To put that in perspective, only two players over the last four years — Matt Forte and Jarvis Landry — have had more catches with 13 or fewer touchdowns. 
 
"That falls on me to go out there every Sunday to make plays," Ertz said. "Show I can do it in the spring and in the summer leading into the season and I'm working really hard at it."
 
The height of Ertz criticism came during a 32-14 Week 13 loss at Cincinnati last season. There was an infamous play where Carson Wentz went scrambling and Ertz failed to block a charging Vontaze Burfict, who was in pursuit. The play actually looked like Ertz got out of the way.
 
It was a bad look.
 
And Ertz knew it. He heard the criticism loudly and went out the next week and had a tough, physical game. But the damage was done. A lot of the fanbase turned on him.
 
"One play is not going to define him," Peele said. "The kid played through injury, he came back quick off of surgery a few years ago. He practices every day. This team is important to him. The game of football is important to him."
 
One way Ertz can win back Eagles fans this year is by having a big season. And that isn't out of the realm of possibility for one big reason. He's entering Year 2 with Wentz.
 
Since he entered the league in 2013, he's played with a new quarterback every season. So for this upcoming year, he's worked hard to build a rapport with Wentz and hopes the two of them can build something (see story).
 
How big of a season can Ertz have in 2017?
 
"It just really depends on the health," Peele said. "He's really talented. He can do a lot of things. He can help this offense in a lot of ways. I'm looking forward to it. He's doing well right now."

Seumalo, Vaitai comfortable heading into Year 2 after busy rookie seasons

Seumalo, Vaitai comfortable heading into Year 2 after busy rookie seasons

Had everything gone to plan in 2016, Isaac Seumalo and Halapoulivaati Vaitai would have spent their rookie seasons watching from the sideline. 

Everything didn't go to plan. 

Allen Barbre had a hamstring injury, Lane Johnson was suspended for 10 games and Brandon Brooks lost two games as he dealt with anxiety issues. 

As a result, Seumalo and Vaitai, third- and fifth-round draft picks, respectively, aren't just one year into their NFL careers. They've also played significant NFL snaps. 

And this year, they'll arrive at training camp as seasoned veterans, not green rookies. So which has had the greater impact: the year or playing time? 

"It’s both," head coach Doug Pederson said. "It's a combination of both. But the biggest thing is the actual playing time last year has really put them in good position this year."

Vaitai ended up playing in seven games with six starts. He played a total of 423 snaps as a rookie and filled in for Johnson until he went down with a knee injury. After a rough start — really rough — Vaitai settled in and showed signs that he could possibly be the Eagles' right tackle of the future. 

When asked about the difference in Vaitai from last year to this year, offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland laughed before answering. 

"Night and day, apples and oranges," Stoutland said. "Just his understanding of the position, his balance, his body control, the way he uses his hands. This is a lot faster game than college."

Vaitai found out about the speed of the game first-hand in Week 6 last year. Thanks to Johnson's suspension, Vaitai started at right tackle and didn't have a bad game. He had a horrible game. 

He didn't need to think very long when he was asked what his "welcome to the NFL" moment was. 

"It was that game," he said. "Because in camp I'm going with the threes and twos. I was still a rookie, but when I got thrown into the fire, I learned real quick that if you're not doing great, then you're out. I didn't want to be a disappointment to my family and be that guy who gets drafted and then is out the next year."

Seumalo ended up playing in nine games with four starts and a total of 335 snaps. He played four positions along the offensive line; the only one he didn't play was his most natural spot at center. 

"It's not just the year, it's the playing experience," Stoutland said. "He's played in nine games I think he started four of those games. ... He played a lot of football in his first year. Just that experience in playing those positions and understanding the angles we need to take. He's a very intelligent player. I love coaching players of his magnitude. They have talent, they're smart. Really all you do is coach him one time on something and he pretty much has it."

Seumalo didn't get to play at center last year because veteran Jason Kelce didn't miss any of the 1,133 snaps in 2016. Kelce is still on the team, but it seems like the Eagles are grooming Seumalo to eventually take over. Even this spring, the second-year lineman has been taking some first-team reps at center. 

That's actually how Seumalo thinks he got better. By learning the center position, he gained a better grasp of the offense. That, combined with a year under his belt and significant playing time, have him feeling much more confident heading into Year 2.

"Training camp was tough and a grind and the season is just long," Seumalo said. "Now, I know what to expect a little bit more."