10 observations from Eagles-Saints


10 observations from Eagles-Saints


Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan. Sam Bradford in the first half, Sam Bradford in the second half. Josh Huff. Jason Peters and Lane Johnson. Even DeMarco Murray makes his way into our instant analysis in a positive way.

Plenty to be encouraged by in the Eagles’ 39-17 win over the Saints Sunday at the Linc, their first home win since last Nov. 23, their first win over an NFC opponent this year and the first win in Philly for Bradford (see Instant Replay).

For the first time in a while, you guys can read 10 observations and not want to puke!

1. I’m going to start with Cox because I feel like this football team desperately needed somebody to take command Sunday, and Cox did just that (see story). Once again, it was a sluggish start. Once again, nothing was going well early. Once again, we were all starting to hear boos raining down through the Linc as the offense sputtered through turnovers, dropped passes and fourth-down plays that had no chance. The Eagles went into the second quarter trailing Drew Brees and the Saints 7-0, and they were staring 1-4 right smack in the face. And Cox simply took over. A defensive lineman can’t play better than he did against the Saints Sunday. Cox is just a relentless force both against the run and rushing the passer. The Eagles sacked Brees 13 times in his first seven games against the Eagles, but Cox had a career-high three by himself Sunday. His strip-sack-recovery of Brees in the third quarter that set up the Eagles’ third touchdown was really the biggest play of the game. It was a farce Cox didn’t make the Pro Bowl last year. If he doesn’t this year, it will be a crime. This was a game the Eagles had to win, and when they needed somebody to step up and simply take over, Cox was the one that did it. He’s playing at a truly elite level right now.

2. Seems like we’re all ready to bench Bradford every week at halftime, and there’s a good reason for that. He’s been terrible this year in the first half. Here are Bradford’s five-game first-half numbers: 56 percent completions, 524 yards, three touchdowns, three interceptions and a passer rating of 64.8. And his second-half numbers: 67 percent completions, 721 yards with six TDs and three interceptions — a passer rating of 104.7. The disparity is insane. On the one hand, yeah, you need your quarterback to be consistent and play a complete game. But Bradford has shown some resilience in his ability to shake off bad starts — like his two end-zone interceptions Sunday — and finish games strong. Now, he should be past this. He can’t be this bad in the first half. Agreed. But those second-half numbers are pretty darn good. Sunday, he was 13 of 15 for 118 yards with a touchdown and no INTs. If Bradford can find a way to come out strong early and avoid the mistakes he’s been making, the Eagles will have themselves a decent quarterback (see story on Bradford's leadership).

3. We’ve all been waiting for this kind of performance from Huff for two years. Sometimes I think he’s got the most pure skill of any receiver on the Eagles. He’s big, tough, strong, runs good routes. He’s just never been able to put it all together. Whether it’s injuries, drops, fumbles, it’s always something with him. Sunday, we finally saw a consistent performance from Huff, and it was impressive. He was fast and tough after the catch and finished with a career-high 78 yards on four catches, including the Eagles’ first touchdown. I can do without the somersault. But the effort and production were huge.

4. And props also to Bennie Logan, Cox’s defensive linemate. He’s been a stud all year and seems to play better every week. He’s just so solid and sound. Goes hard every play. The defensive line is the only area on the team that you just don’t ever worry about. The heart of this football team.

5. Maybe all the stuff about how Chip Kelly can't coach will quiet down for a week. Let's be honest. He's an exceptional offensive football coach whose team just played awful the first month of the season. The Eagles netted 519 yards of offense Sunday, 16th-most in Eagles history and 11th-most ever against the Saints. Yes, this is a terrible Saints defense, but I have a hunch what we saw Sunday was closer to the real Eagles' offense than what we saw the first month of the season (more on Kelly here).

6. How about Caleb Sturgis? Yeah, he missed a PAT, but he was 4 for 4 on field goals, including a 41-yarder in the fourth quarter. Honestly, I’m not sure you can find anybody better out there. We’re just going to have to accept that he’s not David Akers and he’s not Cody Parkey, and we’re all going to have to hold our breath when he lines up. But 4 for 4 is encouraging.

7. I know what Chip was thinking going for it on 4th-and-7 and 4th-and-9 in the first half, but I don’t like it. I understand he’s desperate for a spark for his team but it’s just not fair to your defense to put them in that position against a Hall of Fame quarterback. If you trust your defense that much, play field position. I’m big on field position. It can really swing a game’s momentum. Donnie Jones is a wizard at punting it down inside the 10-yard line. Fourth-and-7 is about a 29 percent play. I just don’t like those odds.

8. I love how Jason Peters and Lane Johnson, who are both pretty banged up, simply refused to miss this game. These guys are flat-out warriors. They knew what was at stake. They knew how bad the offensive line has been. They knew the Eagles had to win this game, and there was a good chance that wasn’t going to happen with Dennis Kelly and Josh Andrews in there. Beastly stuff from the two offensive tackles who both played every offensive snap (more on O-line here).

9. We mentioned Cox and Logan earlier, but overall really a very impressive performance by the Eagles’ defense. This is what happens when you don’t have to play 40 minutes. They had a chance. The Saints aren’t what they used to be on offense, but that’s still a Hall of Fame quarterback out there with some potent weapons. The Eagles’ defense gave up too many big plays and too many yards, but ultimately it didn’t matter because it forced four turnovers, recorded five sacks and gave up just two touchdowns. Think about this: The defense has allowed only 10 touchdowns in five games. I’ve said all along if they don’t have to play an extra 10 minutes every Sunday they can be a great defense, and this game showed us all exactly how good they can be. If they have a chance.

10. And how about a running game for the first time this year? DeMarco Murray carried 20 times for 83 yards, and Ryan Mathews had 73 yards on just eight carries. Including 5 for 27 from Darren Sproles and a Bradford scramble, the Eagles had 183 rushing yards Sunday. That’s their most in their last nine games. That’s more than 2½ times their season average of 70 yards per game the first month of the year. Of all the positives that came out of Sunday (see story), discovering a running game may have been the biggest.

Eagles need Dorial Green-Beckham’s production to catch up to workload

Eagles need Dorial Green-Beckham’s production to catch up to workload

Dorial Green-Beckham was on the field in Washington for 42 of the Eagles’ 52 offensive snaps on Sunday.

He had one catch for 23 yards.

Green-Beckham, who the Eagles added during training camp via a trade with the Titans, has been brought along slowly since his arrival to Philadelphia. In each week, his playing time has increased.

Now, the Eagles just need his production to catch up.

“[We are] moving him a little bit more around in formations, but still trying to keep it to one position for him,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “Utilizing his strength; I think he's a tremendous slant runner. I think he can run those deeper in-routes, things like that, and utilize his height and strength in the red zone a little bit more. That's him and that's the type of player that he is. Can he be an every-down starter? I think he could eventually probably get there.”

Green-Beckham, who also had a 38-yard reception nullified by a questionable illegal block in the back in Washington, has all the qualities that could make him a special receiver. At 6-5, 237, he has size and strength to go along with his 4.49 speed.

There’s a reason the Titans took him in the second round last year. But there’s also a reason Tennessee was willing to give him up a year later for reserve tackle Dennis Kelly.

There had been knocks on Green-Beckham’s work ethic and consistency. But through a couple months in Philadelphia, those things don’t seem to be problems. In fact, Green-Beckham claims he’s been putting in extra work and asking plenty of questions in an attempt to catch up.

So when can we expect to see DGB targeted 8 to 10 times per game?

“Hopefully that day comes soon,” Green-Beckham said. “But right now, I feel like each and every day we're getting better and better. We just have to continue to do the right things, starting at practice. And then when it comes to the game, everything comes easy.”

Offensive coordinator Frank Reich said there are no more limitations with Green-Beckham because of the receiver’s late arrival, but Pederson made it seem like the team is still bringing him along slowly.

Pederson on Friday said he would love to have an entire offseason with DGB, but that’s a luxury he doesn’t have right now and won’t have until next spring and summer.

For now, Green-Beckham could offer the Eagles an alternative to a group of receivers that has been a clear disappointment over the last couple of seasons.

DGB played 81 percent of the Eagles’ offensive snaps on Sunday against Washington and he thinks that high number is a trend that will continue.

“I feel like every time I'm running a route, I'm always giving my all, giving my 100 percent,” Green-Beckham said. “Quarterbacks see that, coaches see that, players see that. That's why I feel like my reps have increased — coaches see that. And every time I'm out there, I'm just thinking open grass.”

Through five games, Green-Beckham has 11 catches for 131 yards without a touchdown. Thanks to his strength, he also has 65 yards after the catch, which means he averages 5.9 YAC per reception, second on the team to only Darren Sproles.

DGB has clearly surpassed Josh Huff on the depth chart and has a chance to become a go-to receiver for Carson Wentz. With Wentz just getting started, the combination of the two of them could be a mainstay in Philadelphia if they can get on the same page.

And if Green-Beckham can finally live up to his potential.

“DGB is playing very well,” Reich said. “I think he looks fast; he looks strong. We see it every time he gets the ball in his hands, he's hard to tackle. He's a big man who can run fast. He's gaining more and more confidence.”

NFL Notes: LeSean McCoy questionable; Jordan Reed out

NFL Notes: LeSean McCoy questionable; Jordan Reed out

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy is questionable and will be a game-time decision for Buffalo's upcoming game against the Miami Dolphins.

McCoy returned to practice on a limited basis Friday after sitting out Thursday. He revealed he suffered the injury in Buffalo's Wednesday practice session at the start of individual drills.

"We're confident in the guys that we have behind him but not ruling Shady out at all," Bills head coach Rex Ryan said. "He looked pretty good. So we'll be smart with him, but he looked pretty good."

McCoy has been the driving force behind the Bills offense this year and has gotten off to a hot start. The Bills (4-2) lead the league in rushing and McCoy is second in the NFL with 587 yards, behind only Dallas rookie Ezekiel Elliott.

McCoy said the injury is to his left hamstring, the same hamstring he injured last season. McCoy injured his hamstring last year during training camp and was hampered throughout the first half of the season, missing two games.

McCoy stressed that his current injury is not nearly as bad as his hamstring injury from a year ago.

"It's not as bad, really it's not as bad at all, so that's a good thing," McCoy said.

If McCoy is unable to play, he likely will be replaced by backup Mike Gillislee. Gillislee had a 44-yard touchdown late in Buffalo's Week 6 win over the San Francisco 49ers. Buffalo also has veteran Reggie Bush and rookie Jonathan Williams at running back.

The Dolphins (2-4) have the 31st-ranked run defense in the NFL.

Redskins: Doctson to IR; Reed out Sunday
ASHBURN, Va. — First-round draft pick Josh Doctson was put on injured reserve by the Washington Redskins on Friday with an injured left Achilles tendon.

Doctson has missed the past four games for Washington (4-2) after making just one catch in each of the team's first two games.

The wide receiver was the 22nd overall pick in this year's NFL draft but has been troubled by the Achilles tendon problem since rookie minicamp in May. Doctson did not play at all in the preseason.

"With all the work that we've put in, we thought it was best to immobilize him for a little bit of time and see if that can help," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Friday.

Gruden raised the possibility of bringing Doctson back from IR later on -- each team can do that with one player per season -- saying, "Hopefully we'll get him back for the last, maybe, two games of the year."

Said teammate DeSean Jackson: "Hopefully he'll get right and get the treatment he needs and be back out there for us as soon as possible."

Doctson had one catch for 9 yards in Week 1, and one catch for 57 yards in Week 2. The Redskins were hoping he could contribute this season and be ready to step into a bigger role next season if Jackson or Pierre Garcon leaves via free agency.

Gruden also said tight end Jordan Reed will miss Sunday's game at the Detroit Lions (3-3) with a concussion. Reed, who leads the team with 33 catches in 2016, also sat out last week's win over Philadelphia after hitting his head during a victory over Baltimore a week earlier.

He participated somewhat in practice Wednesday — wearing a yellow, noncontact jersey — before being held out entirely Thursday and Friday.

"I don't think he had a setback," Gruden said. "I just think they didn't really clear him. ... That's all I can say. I don't even try to argue or ask why. I just (ask) if he's cleared or not -- and the answer is `No.' So hopefully we'll get him back next week."