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.

Several reasons behind Brandon Graham's seemingly sudden emergence

Several reasons behind Brandon Graham's seemingly sudden emergence

With three sacks in three games, Brandon Graham is off to the fastest start of his career by far, already almost halfway to his career high of 6½. Naturally, the Eagles' defensive end is excited about the production, but not nearly as excited as he was with the defense as a whole after a 34-3 romp over the Steelers on Sunday.

"For us, I was just happy we stayed together, we played together and the outcome was good," Graham said postgame. "Hats off to Pittsburgh because we did a lot of planning for them. We respect them a lot.

"I am just happy to get this win and I am happy in the style we did it."

Graham was one of four Eagles players to bring down Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, marking the first time the seventh-year veteran has recorded at least one sack in three consecutive games. In fact, prior to this season, Graham had never posted a sack in Week 1.

For once, the numbers are taking care of themselves for Graham — although that's not what he's focused on.

"Since I've been here, I've never gotten a sack in the first game, and I've never been consistent," Graham said. "I'm just trying to be the leader, go out there, get W's and be relentless."

There are plenty of explanations for Graham's seemingly sudden emergence.

This is only his second season as a full-time player in the NFL after injuries, then depth conspired to keep the 2010 first-round pick on the bench early in his career. Perhaps all he needed was an opportunity. The switch back to a 4-3 defense and wide-nine front no doubt helped rejuvenate Graham's career as well, allowing him to move from outside linebacker back to his natural position at defensive end and focus on rushing the passer.

With Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry and Marcus Smith all rotating in at end, Graham is also being kept fresh. Last season, the Eagles lacked the quality reserves to provide many breathers for Barwin and Graham on the outside.

"It's a great feeling because there's no pressure to hurry up and get back out," Graham said. "I feel like everybody is just as good and there's no drop-off when we come out of there.

"It's definitely going to help us later on in the year. It's been helping now."

There are all sorts of schematic reasons why Graham could finally be on his way to a breakout season. This will be his first full season as a starter at D-end in a 4-3, it's the first time since 2012 he's in a wide-nine and the defense no longer has to be worried about being exhausted by Chip Kelly's offense's uptempo approach.

Graham was also blessed with a new addition to his family during the offseason — a baby girl. The 28-year-old admits that changed his perspective as well, making him want to work even harder toward achieving his goals.

"Just the preparation and then the work this offseason, I took it up to another level," Graham said. "I guess because I had a daughter this offseason, everything is kind of viewed a different way for me.

"I know we have a good defense — that helps out a lot, too. I couldn't ask for a better defense right now."

Clearly, those goals are not individually motivated. Graham wants to be part of something great, and with a dominant performance against the Steelers in Week 3, the Eagles and their defense passed a huge test.

"I feel like we improved," Graham said. "We got a lot better. We stopped a good team, a great team, a well-coached team. Our hats off to them because they made us work this week."

Few people were expecting the Eagles to handle a trendy Super Bowl pick the way they did, and Graham actually prefers it that way.

"I hope we still get overlooked because it feels so good when people are talking the way they did," Graham said. "It added a little fuel. We watched a little bit of the TV (Sunday) morning, and they were just saying how [the Steelers] were going to dog us.

"I'm just happy that we came out and did what we were supposed to do, and I hope we stay the underdog because, for us, nobody gave us a chance and we stayed together. If we stay together in here, that's all that matters."

Through three games, the Eagles lead the NFL in fewest points surrendered with a paltry 27 and rank fourth in yards allowed. They're also tied for third with 10 sacks and tied for seventh with six takeaways.

If the defense stays together the way Graham says they have, how far does he think the Eagles go this season?

"I don't know," Graham said. "If we keep playing like that, there is no ceiling."

Carson Wentz named NFC Offensive Player of the Week

Carson Wentz named NFC Offensive Player of the Week

Another week, another award for Carson Wentz.

This time the Eagles' electrifying rookie has been named the NFC's Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Steelers.

In the 34-3 win over Pittsburgh, Wentz completed 23 of 31 passes for 301 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 125.9. It was the first 300-yard game of his very young career.

Wentz is the first rookie QB in Eagles history to win an Offensive Player of the Week award, and the first Eagle to win the award since Jeremy Maclin in Week 9 of the 2014 season.

Through three games, the 23-year-old has completed 64.7 percent of his passes for 769 yards and five touchdowns. He's the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to achieve those stats in the first three games of a career. He still hasn't thrown an interception in 102 passing attempts, which is a record for rookies.

It looks like Wentz will have plenty more opportunities for awards this season.