Philadelphia Eagles

10 observations from Eagles-Saints

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10 observations from Eagles-Saints

BOX SCORE

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.

NFL Notes: Emergence of Steelers rookie T.J. Watt signals changing of the guard

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NFL Notes: Emergence of Steelers rookie T.J. Watt signals changing of the guard

LATROBE, Pa. -- Pittsburgh Steelers first-round pick T.J. Watt will take all the preseason snaps he can get at right outside linebacker.

And perhaps most of them in the regular season too, a fact the man he is in the process of replacing isn't fighting.

James Harrison is the Steelers' all-time sacks leader, including a team-high five last season at the not-so tender age of 38.

The now-39-year-old Harrison doesn't care who has the starting spot he's held for the better part of a decade as long as it results in another Lombardi Trophy for the Steelers.

"I'm not worried about it," Harrison said Wednesday. "Whatever they want me to do. I'm 39 years old and still playing football."

Saints: Team replaces 2 doctors after Breaux misdiagnosis
METAIRIE, La. -- Saints coach Sean Payton says cornerback Delvin Breaux needs lower-leg surgery that will sideline him about six weeks and that an initial misdiagnosis of Breaux's injury has sparked a shake-up in the team's medical staff.

Payton says Breaux has a fibula fracture that was initially diagnosed as a contusion. Breaux has missed more than a week of practice and Payton said he had been getting frustrated with the pace of Breaux's recovery, based on the initial diagnosis.

"I certainly was pushing him, based on the information I was getting," Payton said.

The coach said the Saints will replace two orthopedic surgeons and in the meantime receive help from Chargers physicians during joint practices in California leading up to their game Sunday in Los Angeles (see full story).

Patriots: Ageless Brady not slowing down at 40
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Training camp is easier for Tom Brady at age 40 than it was when he entered the NFL in 2000.

Brady, who turned 40 on Aug. 3, was asked how camp with the New England Patriots is different for him now that he's one of the older players in the league.

"I think it's a lot easier for me now than it's ever been," he said. "I feel like my routine's better than it's ever been. When you're younger you don't know what to do, and after 17 years, going on my 18th year I know what to do. I know how to prepare."

Redskins: Safety Cravens undergoes knee surgery
ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins safety Su'a Cravens had knee surgery and there's no official timeline for him to return.

Coach Jay Gruden says Cravens had a knee scope to clean out some issues with his meniscus. Gruden says Cravens was injured on the third play of the Redskins' first preseason game last week at Baltimore.

With Cravens out, Deshazor Everett has taken most of the snaps as the first-team free safety and could start there when the Redskins host the Green Bay Packers on Saturday.

Tight end Jordan Reed, who's on the physically unable to perform list with a left big toe injury, isn't expected to play Saturday. Receiver Jamison Crowder, who has been bothered by a hamstring injury, said the plan is for him to play against the Packers.

Packers: TE Bennett ‘the quarterback whisperer’
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Call Martellus Bennett the "quarterback whisperer."

The Green Bay Packers' tight end is with his third team in as many seasons, which means another training camp of building rapport with a new quarterback. He's proven to be productive at every stop.

Bennett is confident he'll do just fine connecting with Aaron Rodgers, even if the veterans might get limited reps together in preseason games.

"I need all the reps I can (get) with Aaron -- practice reps, game reps, meeting room reps. Any rep I can get with him I'll try to get whether it's just whispering to him, try to be the quarterback whisperer," the always-entertaining Bennett said. "Over-communicate and over-rep every single thing we could possibly do."

Doug Pederson, Sean McDermott have same Coach of the Year odds

Doug Pederson, Sean McDermott have same Coach of the Year odds

In a complete and utter shock, Bill Belichick is Bovada's favorite to win NFL Coach of the Year. 

Belichick is 7/1 to win the award, followed by Oakland's Jack Del Rio (9/1) and Green Bay's Mike McCarthy (10/1).

Despite the expected success of the Patriots, Belichick doesn't seem like a great bet because his team is so loaded. Anything short of 14-2 would probably make it difficult for Belichick to win the award for the fourth time. (He took it home in 2003, 2007 and 2010.)

Carolina's Ron Rivera and Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin (12/1) round out the top five.

Doug Pederson is toward the bottom at 33/1, in a tie with nine others, including first-year Bills head coach and former Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott.

The reigning Coach of the Year, Jason Garrett, is 20/1 to repeat. If the Cowboys are able to win the NFC East with Ezekiel Elliott suspended for six games, he might deserve it.

The longest odds, 50/1, belong to Todd Bowles (Jets), Jim Caldwell (Colts), John Fox (Bears), Adam Gase (Dolphins), Hue Jackson (Browns), Marvin Lewis (Bengals) and Sean McVay (Rams), for reasons that should be pretty obvious.