Can't win playing race card in Cooper vs. Jackson

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Can't win playing race card in Cooper vs. Jackson

Almost a week after the Eagles dropped the hammer on the NFL’s most prolific deep threat, people are still scratching their heads, still trying to make sense of why Chip Kelly abruptly cut the cord with Pro Bowl wideout DeSean Jackson.

The franchise’s continued silence outside of a cursory statement that explained, well, nothing has only fueled some out-there theories about the hidden intentions behind coach Chip Kelly’s decision to nix Jackson from the roster.

One widespread opinion that grows louder by the day is that the Eagles are somehow guilty of racial preference, having severed ties with Jackson just a few weeks after handing wide receiver Riley Cooper a five-year deal with $10 million in guaranteed money.

Cooper, if you didn’t know, is white. Until this past summer, when the world learned via social media that he flung a racial slur at a black security officer while attending a country music concert, Cooper was barely a household name in the Delaware Valley.

Jackson, who is black, has also encountered off-field issues. Some of them were detailed in an NJ.com story last week that outlined the receiver’s association with friends who are alleged gang members, but Jackson had already cultivated a reputation for irking management with immaturity and an ugly contract dispute.

Now that Jackson has freely walked to the division-rival Redskins, fingers are pointing at the Eagles’ braintrust -- Kelly, general manager Howie Roseman and owner Jeff Lurie -- accompanied by accusations of racial bias.

Seahawks corner Richard Sherman, who grew up with Jackson in Los Angeles, seemed to echo the sentiment when he suggested, in a piece for MMQB, that the Eagles showed less tolerance for a punk receiver than a known racist.

“What did they do to Riley Cooper, who, if he’s not a racist, at least has 'ties' to racist activity?” Sherman wrote. “They fined him and sent him to counseling. Commit certain crimes in this league and be a certain color, and you get help, not scorn.”

It’s a convenient argument for those still struggling to come to grips with Jackson’s departure and subsequent signing with the rival ’Skins. But it’s not a rational debate. It’s baseless and groundless, mainly because it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison more rooted in resentment and anger than actual logic.

Instead of comparing Jackson’s situation to Cooper’s, shouldn’t the current regime’s history of dealing with troubled players come under the microscope?

If the Eagles are more tolerant of transgressions of white players, why were they the first team to reach out to Michael Vick and then sign the tarnished superstar out of prison, and then re-sign him to a $100 million contract just three years later?

If the Eagles treat black players with legal issues more harshly than white ones, why didn’t they punish Jason Peters for his drag racing arrest last offseason? Charges were eventually reduced and Peters paid a fine. Why was Peters -- who has been arrested twice since joining the team -- given a monster extension last month, making him the team’s highest-paid player?

LeSean McCoy intentionally sought to embarrass and humiliate the mother of his child on Twitter last offseason, inviting his followers to chastise her while Kelly was still decorating his office. All Kelly did was give McCoy the most carries of his career and repeatedly express his admiration for his Pro Bowl halfback.

Last I checked, McCoy’s not on the trading or cutting block.

Juqua Parker, Akeem Jordan, Mike Patterson, Stacy Andrews, King Dunlap -- just a few former Eagles who were involved in minor legal trouble during their careers, each one black and each having their paychecks authorized by Lurie. None was disciplined or abruptly kicked off the team without explanation.

If you want to bury the Eagles for their awkward handling of the situation and mysterious silence since Friday, go ahead. It’s fair and justifiable. The charade Kelly staged last Wednesday in Orlando at the owners meetings warranted every roll of the eyes it drew.

But to suggest that race played a part in Kelly’s decision to keep Cooper and remove Jackson is to ignore the basic fact that Cooper is a one-time offender who was welcomed back into the locker room by several of his teammates and Jackson showed a repeated pattern of bothersome behavior.

Jackson gave former coach Andy Reid one migraine after another and the team still rewarded him in 2011 with an extension that paid out $18 million in guaranteed money. How many teammates have publicly rallied against the decision to jettison Jackson? Still waiting for one.

If another racial slur ever drips from Cooper’s mouth, the organization should kick him to the curb immediately. If they don’t, it’s fair to play the race card.

Until then, the dots don’t connect.

Eagles Injury Update: Eagles hurting at wideout vs. Washington

Eagles Injury Update: Eagles hurting at wideout vs. Washington

The Eagles are a little banged up at their skill positions heading into Sunday’s game against Washington at the Linc. 

Jordan Matthews (ankle), Ryan Mathews (knee) and Dorial Green-Beckham (abdomen) are all listed as questionable. 

Right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee) is the only player who has been ruled out. 

Ryan Mathews, who has missed the past two games with an MCL sprain, was a full participant on both Wednesday and Thursday. “Today, we’re going to back [Mathews] down just a touch, so we can keep him ready to go for Sunday,” head coach Doug Pederson said on Friday morning. 

Jordan Matthews missed the Bengals game after injuring his ankle against the Packers. It was the first missed game of his career. Matthews was a limited participant on Wednesday for precautionary reasons, according to Pederson. 

“[Matthews] was great on Thursday and no setbacks,” Pederson said. “He made it through practice. We look forward to having him a good day again today.”

It seems a little more likely that Matthews and Mathews will be able to play on Sunday than Green-Beckham. 

Green-Beckham, who hurt his mid-section during the loss to the Bengals, wasn't able to practice on Wednesday or Thursday. Still, earlier in the week, Pederson said he thought DGB would be able to play this weekend. 

“He’s still on that path,” Pederson said Friday. “He worked yesterday a little bit. It’s still sore. I want to see where he’s going to be today before making a full decision on him. I don’t want to risk having a guy out there that’s not 100 percent.”

With Green-Beckham and Matthews banged up, it looks like the Eagles will go into this game with just three fully healthy wide receivers – Nelson Agholor, Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner.

Pederson said there’s no immediate plan to sign another receiver to the 53-man roster. 

So what’s the plan at wideout? The same thing the Eagles did last week. 

“Well, I’ll probably lean more on the tight ends,” Pederson said. “Trey [Burton] has kind of taken that role the last couple of weeks. Trey Burton and Zach [Ertz] and Brent [Celek]. That’d be the direction we’d go.”

Jalen Mills on Eagles' CBs: 'We have a standard and we're not playing at it'

Jalen Mills on Eagles' CBs: 'We have a standard and we're not playing at it'

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz didn’t exactly break any news during his press conference on Tuesday while saying his defense is in a slump

“Facts of life, our corners aren’t playing very well right now,” Schwartz said. 

No. They're not. 

Against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks, the Eagles gave up 287 yards through the air. Then they gave up 313 to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. And then 332 to Andy Dalton and the Bengals. 

So in three consecutive weeks, the Eagles have had their worst game of the season in terms of passing defense. And those three weeks have compounded to put the 2016 Eagles on the absolute wrong side of history. 

The last three weeks mark the first time in franchise history the Eagles have given up 280-plus passing yards in three consecutive weeks. 

So Schwartz is right. Their corners aren’t playing very well right now. 

“Yeah, of course,” rookie Jalen Mills said when asked if his position group is in a slump. “We're not playing at the level we want to. For sure. We have a standard and we're not playing at it. But this is a game where we're really looking forward to.” 

So what has happened to the unit that had given up just 222.4 yards per game through the air for the first nine games of the season? 

Well, Nolan Carroll pointed toward technique. The veteran said at times, for whatever reason, he and Mills and Leodis McKelvin have gotten lazy with their technique, but it’s on just a few big plays that change games. When asked how that can happen this late in the season, he didn’t have an answer. 

McKelvin had a different view of what’s gone wrong. 

“Hey, there are great athletes in this world that play football,” he said. “Those guys are going to make plays. They're not like average [guys] out there. They're paid to make plays … so when the ball does come their way, they're going to do the best they can to make plays. We just have to do the best we can do defend that, and that's what we're doing.”

Every defense gives up big plays from time to time. But the frequency which with these Eagles have given up big plays is troubling. 

The Eagles have given up 47 passing plays of 20 or more yards. That's the most in the NFL. By comparison, the lowest number in the league belongs to Denver and Jacksonville (26).  

What does Mills think their problem has been? 

“I think it's the National Football League,” he said. “Things aren't always going to go your way. You are going to have those games where things just aren't working. But as a group, we have to keep grinding, period.”

Cornerbacks, perhaps more than any other position, depend on confidence. Every corner is going to get beat, so it’s important to shake it off and line up ready in a few seconds. That’s not easy. 

But Schwartz on Tuesday said he hasn’t lost confidence in this bunch because it’s the same group that “shut down some of the best offenses in the NFL” earlier in the year. 

Likewise, all three corners said they haven’t lost confidence, either. 

“Very high. Same as it was at the beginning of the year,” Mills said. “Like I said, things happen. If a guy catches a ball, nobody's out there losing their mind or going crazy about it. They caught a ball, line up on the next play.”

“Me, Leo and Jalen, we're still confident that we're going to get it done,” Carroll said. 

At this point in the season, it’s fair to question the trade that shipped last year’s second-round pick, Eric Rowe, out of town before the opener. That left the Eagles with Carroll, McKelvin, Mills and Ron Brooks, who landed on IR earlier this season. 

That means with a schedule that saw Dez Bryant, Odell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones, Marvin Jones, DeSean Jackson and others, the Eagles entrusted a guy on a one-year deal (Carroll), a veteran who never lived up to his draft status (McKelvin) and a seventh-round pick (Mills). 

Meanwhile, the Eagles invested a ton of money this offseason in their two safeties, Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. 

“Well, you know, a lot of it is availability, also,” Schwartz said when asked for his philosophy on paying corners vs. safeties. “I mean, there's a lot of great corners in the league that don't become available in free agency, and you've got to take every chance you can to improve our team, or to improve anyway you can. There's something to be said for being strong up the middle, also. So I guess I don't know any other way to answer it than that, but good corners are important.”

And right now, the Eagles’ corners aren’t playing well. 

Not that it’s news to anyone.