Eagles-Cowboys: Roob's 10 observations

Eagles-Cowboys: Roob's 10 observations

BOX SCORE

ARLINGTON, Texas — This game had Josh Huff throwing the longest pass of the night by an Eagle, it had the refs calling a holding penalty on Chase Daniel, it had Caleb Sturgis becoming the most accurate kicker in Eagles history and it had the Eagles going overtime at AT&T Stadium for the second time in 11½ months.

And in the end, it had the Cowboys beating the Eagles 29-23 in overtime in a battle for first place in the NFC East (see Instant Replay).

Some good, some bad. Some very bad.

So if you’re still awake ... here’s tonight’s (this morning’s) 10 Instant Observations:

1. It’s astonishing to me what Carson Wentz is able to do without an impact wide receiver, without an effective tight end of late, with a patchwork offensive line and with a running back who turns 34 next summer. Imagine if Wentz had Dak Prescott’s weapons? Wentz is so ridiculously good he transcends the mediocrity around him. After seeing Prescott in person, I don’t think there’s any question who the better rookie is. It’s not even close. Wentz can do so much more with so much less. He completed 74 percent of his passes Sunday night (32 for 43) for 202 yards, a TD and no interceptions. And at least five of the nine incompletions were drops. Imagine if Wentz had just average wide receivers? The kid is special, and once the Eagles surround him with some talent, he’s going to be unstoppable.  

2. The Eagles’ desperate need for a playmaker has never been so glaring as it was Sunday night in Dallas. Wentz can throw the ball down the field, he just has nobody who can get open. And when they do get open, they drop the ball. I’m not big on giving up a draft pick for a guy who might help you for half a dozen games by the time he gets here and learns the playbook, but the Eagles have to consider everything at this point. A trade, Bryce Treggs, re-signing T.O. ... everything. You just can’t play an entire season without throwing the ball down the field.

3. The Eagles had plenty of chances to put this game away, but their play-calling and execution on 2nd-and-short and 3rd-and-short was bad (see Standout Plays). Those are plays you just have to convert, and the Eagles didn’t have the juice to get it done on the handful of key plays that they needed to put Dallas away. This wasn’t Doug Pederson’s finest day as a play-caller. Too much horizontal, not enough vertical. This was a winnable game, but too many mistakes once they took that 10-point lead caught up with them in the second half and overtime. They had chances. A 3rd-and-2 early in the third quarter where they lost two yards. A 3rd-and-2 late in the fourth quarter where they lost two yards. A 3rd-and-4 where they dropped a pass. You can’t give the Cowboys that many chances, especially here, and the Cowboys showed why they haven’t lost since opening day. They took advantage of the opportunity the Eagles gave them and it got them to 6-1.

4. Caleb Sturgis was not a good kicker in Miami. Made 77.5 percent of his field goals in 2013 and 2014 with the Dolphins, which ranked him 31st of 34 kickers in the NFL who attempted at least 25 field goals during that two-year span. He was also 6-for-13 from 50-plus yards. So Cody Parkey gets hurt early last year, there’s nobody else on the street, and the Eagles sign Sturgis. He misses a 33-yarder on opening day, Chip Kelly decides to keep him around another week, and he goes 4-for-4 the next week against the Saints and winds up 18-for-22. He beats out Parkey this summer and all he’s done this year — after once again missing his first attempt of the season — is go 17-for-17 with three straight 50-yard makes, including Sunday's clutch 55-yarder to give the Eagles the lead just before halftime. Sturgis made 78 percent of his kicks with the Dolphins but is at 87.5 percent with the Eagles, including 5-for-7 from 50 yards and out. Chip could have easily cut Sturgis after that terrible 33-yard miss. But he kept him around, and Sturgis right now is absolute money. Sometimes you just never know.

5. Darren Sproles was nothing less than brilliant Sunday as the surprise lead ball carrier. His 86 rushing yards on 15 carries were the fourth-most in his career and his most in five years, since he had 88 as a Saint against the Colts on Oct. 23, 2011. With fumble-prone Ryan Mathews in mothballs most of the night (4-for-10), Sproles had his second-most carries as an Eagle and fourth-most in his 10-year career. Here’s the thing: I still think 14 carries every week is too much for Sproles. Sproles at 33 is still faster than most backs 10 years younger. He’s such a great Eagle. Just this little guy with so much heart. I just hope the Eagles don’t over use him. The reality is the Eagles don’t have a running back right now under 33 years old that they trust, and that’s not good.

6. I really believe Jordan Hicks is right on the brink of becoming a Pro Bowl-caliber middle linebacker. The ball just seems to find him. Now, you can say his interception was just a terrible pass by Prescott, but he makes the plays when they’re there and that’s all you can ask. Hicks has now jammed three interceptions, four pass knockdowns, four fumble recoveries, a forced fumble, five tackles for loss and a sack into 15 career games. The Eagles haven’t had a big-time middle linebacker since Trott, and Hicks is there right now.

7. I don’t care how many catches Huff does or doesn’t have, he has become such a weapon returning kicks that it doesn’t even matter. Huff followed his huge kickoff return TD last week that jumpstarted the Eagles when the offense was doing nothing against the Vikings with an electrifying 63-yarder against the Cowboys Sunday night. He now has his average up to 28.4 yards per kick return, which is eighth-highest in NFL history among returners with 40 or more career returns. This offense has so little firepower that a kick returner who can gobble up so many yards is huge.

8. Ezekiel Elliott’s final numbers were 22-for-96 (with a 72-yard run called back because of holding), so he didn’t get his fifth consecutive 130-yard game, but against this defense, that was a monumental game for him. I thought the Eagles to a great extent slowed him down, tackled well, were gap-sound, and he still ran for 96 yards. He’s a special player the Eagles are going to have to contend with him for a long, long time.

9. This was the third time in their last four games the Eagles didn’t have an offensive play of 30 yards or more. Their only offensive play longer than 30 yards since Sproles' 73-yard TD catch against the Steelers is Jordan Matthews’ 53-yard catch in the Redskins game. That’s almost impossible to do. The Eagles’ lack of firepower is shocking. They have one play of 30 yards or more in their last 242 offensive snaps. Think about that for a moment. That’s impossible to do. Tough to win when you can’t make a play down the field.

10. How about some props for Halapoulivaati Vaitai? Big V has gotten better in each of his three starts and really hung in there pretty well Sunday night in Dallas. It’s encouraging that he’s progressed each week from that disastrous start in Washington to a functional game against the Vikings and some more good stuff Sunday night. Seven more games for Lane Johnson, and let’s be clear — Vaitai is nowhere close to where Lane was when his suspension finally came down. But Big V has been solid, and he deserves credit for the steady improvement he’s made.

Bonus observation. Prescott’s numbers were ugly, but I was impressed. He was under siege most of the night but rallied the Cowboys back from 10 points down in the fourth quarter and made some big throws in overtime. Prescott was 14-for-34 for 231 yards in regulation but 5-for-5 for 56 yards and the TD to Jason Witten in overtime. He also ran for 38 yards. I’ll take Wentz any day of the week. But Prescott is impressive.

NFL Notes: NFL looking to speed up games via officiating and breaks

NFL Notes: NFL looking to speed up games via officiating and breaks

NEW YORK -- The NFL is making plans to speed up the pace of games, including changing how video replays are handled and using a time clock for extra points.

The league also is discussing with the TV networks how to make commercial breaks less intrusive.

For officiating replays, the referee no longer would go under a hood to watch a play. Instead, a tablet will be brought to him on the field and he will consult with league headquarters in New York. The final call will be made in New York.

Support by 75 percent of the 32 team owners would be needed at next week's annual meetings for passage of the proposal.

In addition to a time clock for PATs when there is no TV break, the league is considering instituting a play clock after a touchdown.

Also, to improve the flow of games on the field and for television audiences, commercial breaks would be reduced from 21 per game to 16, although each would last 30 seconds longer.

Giants: RB Shaun Draughn signs
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants have signed veteran running back Shaun Draughn.

The Giants announced the signing Wednesday, a little more than a month after releasing veteran Rashad Jennings in a salary cap move.

Draughn has played for six teams in six years, most recently the San Francisco 49ers. He has played in 57 games with seven starts. His career totals include 225 carries for 723 yards and seven touchdowns, plus 80 receptions for 597 yards and two scores. He also has 17 special teams tackles.

Draughn says the Giants were interested in his versatility. He says: "I don't know exactly how they'll use me. I'm sure they'll use me to the strengths that I have."

Draughn played in all 16 games last season with one start for the 49ers. He scored a career-high four touchdowns while rushing for 194 yards on 74 carries. Draughn also had career-best totals of 29 catches for 263 yards and two touchdowns.

He joins a backfield that includes second-year pro Paul Perkins, the team's top returning rusher, Orleans Darkwa and Shane Vereen.

Bengals: 'Pacman' Jones faces misdemeanor charges
CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones faces three misdemeanor charges, including assault, but no longer is charged with a felony.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters (DEE'-turs) announced Wednesday that a felony charge of harassment with a bodily substance was dismissed at the prosecuting attorney's request.

Deters said the misdemeanors also include disorderly conduct and obstructing official business.

The 33-year-old veteran whose career has been marked by off-the-field legal issues was jailed Jan. 3 after a confrontation with a hotel security employee was followed by a struggle with Cincinnati police and a sheriff's office report Jones spit on a nurse's hand.

Deters says the criminal charge won't be pursued, given that the nurse has been pursuing a possible civil remedy.

A Bengals spokesman said the team has no comment.

Two Eagles question why Colin Kaepernick remains unsigned

Two Eagles question why Colin Kaepernick remains unsigned

Two weeks into NFL free agency and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick remains available. He decided to test the market in free agency after not picking up the player option on his contract.

While there's still a chance Kaepernick gets signed, a couple of Eagles players are pointing out that some of the quarterbacks to get contracts recently aren't as good.   

On Monday, Geno Smith signed with the Giants, Josh McCown signed with the Jets and E.J. Manuel signed with the Raiders.

Kaepernick has a better record and completion percentage than those three quarterbacks. He's also second in touchdown passes, trailing only McCown by seven, 79-72, despite playing nine fewer seasons.

So, why aren't teams giving the quarterback who nearly won the Super Bowl against the Ravens in 2013 a chance?

It could be because of his protest of the national anthem last season.

According to Bleacher Report, about 20 percent of teams around the league believe he can play, but the others are simply using showing no interest as punishment for his protest:

"He can still play at a high level," one AFC general manager said. "The problem is three things are happening with him.

"First, some teams genuinely believe that he can't play. They think he's shot. I'd put that number around 20 percent.

"Second, some teams fear the backlash from fans after getting him. They think there might be protests or [President Donald] Trump will tweet about the team. I'd say that number is around 10 percent. Then there's another 10 percent that has a mix of those feelings.

"Third, the rest genuinely hate him and can't stand what he did [kneeling for the national anthem]. They want nothing to do with him. They won't move on. They think showing no interest is a form of punishment. I think some teams also want to use Kaepernick as a cautionary tale to stop other players in the future from doing what he did."

And of course, President Donald Trump chimed in on Kaepernick's status in free agency.

Last year, Trump commented on Kaepernick's decision not to stand for the national anthem saying, ​"maybe he should find a country that works better for him."