Eagles' early signings fit Howie Roseman's plan

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Eagles' early signings fit Howie Roseman's plan

Howie Roseman told the truth. He cautioned about expecting the Eagles to splurge on Jairus Byrd or T.J. Ward. He insisted free agency would be a patch-filling tool, not a foundation-building mechanism. He spoke on the virtues of rewarding those from within the NovaCare as opposed to outside.

His moves so far reflected those tenets.

Roseman, the Eagles’ general manager, continued the refurbishing of the 2014 Eagles on Tuesday by landing the proven safety they desperately needed in Malcolm Jenkins and re-signing punter Donnie Jones. On Wednesday morning, he added safety/special teams maven Chris Maragos.

Jenkins fills an immediate void and will start right away. Jones was a key component of last year’s worst-to-first team under coach Chip Kelly. Maragos can replace Colt Anderson and has upside the team likes.

None of the additions were considered premier players at their position on the open market, and the Eagles didn’t have to stretch their wallet to haul them in. Jenkins signed a three-year deal worth $16.5 million, with $8.5 guaranteed. Jones is back on a three-year deal worth $5.5 million. Maragos’ three-year deal can max out at $5.3 million.

It used to be an annual occurrence on the first day of free agency, the Eagles' making a big announcement about a major free-agent haul, from Jevon Kearse to Asante Samuel to Nnamdi Asomugha. But for the past two seasons Roseman has let other teams win the first-day free agency championship. 

The Bucs and Bears made big splashes within minutes of the 4 p.m. start of the league year and the Saints gave a stunning $54 million to Byrd, but the Eagles had already made their most significant transactions in the preceding 10 days, when they extended the contracts of center Jason Kelce and left tackle Jason Peters and re-signing potential free agents Riley Cooper, Jeremy Maclin and Cedric Thornton.

By not blowing a cash cow on Day 1, as Roseman hinted that he wouldn’t do, the Eagles have enough funds to continue upgrading as free agency goes on, when the market settles and bloated price tags lose some weight.

And that’s good, because Roseman still has some work that remains.

Upgrades to the pass rush and kicking game can also come at the right price, much like Connor Barwin joined last offseason after the first-day signing flurry had subsided. If they’re seeking a mid-level receiver to replace Jason Avant, the Birds will have plenty to choose from. 

And, of course, there’s Darrelle Revis, the All-Pro cornerback whom the Eagles were connected to in an ESPN report Tuesday morning. Revis is expected to be released Wednesday if the Bucs can’t trade him.

It just doesn’t seem like the Eagles are done.

There wasn’t much buzz Tuesday around Mike Neal, the versatile outside linebacker from Green Bay whom the Birds could use, or around Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka, another potential upgrade over what the Eagles currently have.

Whatever sculpting remains for Roseman in the coming days, he has the cap flexibility to chisel away judiciously after passing on the market’s top commodities and going the economical route that he believes is the best formula for building an annual contender.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Jenkins isn’t a franchise-changing safety and doesn’t come off an overly thrilling 2013, but he’s an upgrade for an Eagles defense that sorely lacked durable, consistent safety play last year.

Jenkins can slide right into the starting spot next to second-year pro Earl Wolff, and his contract is structured in a way that won’t preclude Roseman from drafting another safety early if he’s the best player available when they pick.

It would have been hard for Roseman to make more enhancements for this year and have an eye on extensions for Nick Foles, Brandon Boykin, Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks next offseason if he had succumbed to the temptations of Byrd, who claimed $54 million from the Saints, with a staggering $28 million guaranteed.

Maybe Jenkins didn’t produce that statistics that warranted his 14th overall selection in 2009, but the market this year went batty compared to last year’s modest free-agent opener, so Jenkins probably would have commanded way more coin if he had anywhere near the 22 interceptions Byrd has since 2009.

Donte Whitner, another former Ohio State safety, went home to Cleveland for $7 million per year. Perhaps the Browns misread his birth date and thought he was 18, not 28. Denver gave Ward  just under $6 million per year and one-year Panthers wonder Mike Mitchell secured a five-year $25 million contract from the Steelers.

The thriftier spending on Jenkins falls in line with Roseman’s belief that winning free agency doesn’t equate to winning Super Bowls.

Time will tell if he’s right.

Eagles repeating pattern of digging first-quarter hole in defeats

Eagles repeating pattern of digging first-quarter hole in defeats

It’s a pattern that keeps repeating itself. And it’s not a winning pattern.

Week after week, the Eagles are digging themselves a first-quarter hole. And week after week, they’re too far behind to catch up.

They trailed the Lions 14-0 in the first quarter. They trailed the Redskins 14-0 a minute into the second quarter. They fell behind the Cowboys 10-3 early in the second. The Giants jumped up on them 14-0 just six minutes in. And on Sunday, the Bengals led 10-0 before the first quarter was over.

If football games began at the start of the second quarter? This would be a different season. The Eagles would be 7-4-1.

The Eagles has actually outscored their opponents in the second, third and fourth quarters.

But the first quarter has been fatal.

The Eagles have been outscored by 32 points in the first quarter – 65 to 33. That’s their fourth-worst first-quarter scoring margin in the last 25 years, behind only three other nightmarish seasons – 1998 (minus-52), 2005 (minus-51) and 2012 (minus-75).

It’s also fourth-worst of any NFL team this year, ahead of only the Jets (minus-36), Broncos (minus-37) and Dolphins (minus-56).

Some teams – like the Broncos and Dolphins – have enough firepower to fight from behind.

The Eagles don’t.

They’re 4-0 when leading after the first quarter, 1-1 when tied after the first quarter and 0-6 when trailing after the first quarter.

At 0-6, they share the second-worst record in the NFL when trailing after 15 minutes with the Jaguars and 49ers. The Browns are 0-8 when trailing after the first quarter.

Last time the Eagles didn’t win a game all year when trailing after the first quarter was 1998. Before that 1977.

“It’s tough, especially in this league, to dig yourself a hole,” Carson Wentz said. “Whether the defense is struggling or the offense giving them points with turnovers and different things, it’s been a variation of a lot of those things. 

“It’s tough to dig yourself a hole against anybody, especially against good teams. So we’ve got to avoid that and we’ve got to come out swinging a little better early in games.”

The last time the Eagles won after trailing following the first quarter was the Dallas game last year, when they trailed 7-0 and won 33-27 in overtime.

What does it say about a team when it’s allowed twice as many points as it’s scored in the first quarter?

It sure seems like the Eagles several times this year simply haven’t been ready to play.

“The start to games, it's a mindset,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “It's truly a mindset. It's one of those things where as a team you want to come out and you want to kind of make the first punch, so to speak, or swing first. 

“We did it against Green Bay. We went down and scored, we matched touchdown for touchdown there. And we've done it throughout the course of the season. We've got to be a little more consistent offensively, too. That can also help. And then defensively it's just a matter of working to get off the field.

“It kind of sets the tone for the rest of the game if you can do that early in a football game.”

The Eagles have scored just three first-quarter touchdowns all year (only the Broncos have fewer) and haven’t scored more than seven points in any of their 12 first quarters.

They’ve allowed nine first-quarter touchdowns, and only one team has allowed more – the Dolphins with 10.

Wentz has completed 67 percent of his first-quarter passes but with just one TD pass and four interceptions.

Incredibly, the Eagles have only five plays all year of more than 20 yards in the first quarter – just one in the last four games. Only the Saints, Jaguars and Broncos have fewer.

Why are the Eagles so bad early in games?

“There is no other answer than to execute one play at a time,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “There's no magic formula. I think we've had good energy at practice. I like the way we practice. I feel like we are putting together good plans.

“We're showing flashes of being a good football team. We need to be more consistent. We need to make more big plays. It's hard to sustain 14-play drives. We've missed a few plays here and there. We just all – coaches, players together – need to make it work one play at a time.”

The only teams to outscore the Eagles in the second half are the Cowboys (13-10), Seahawks (10-8) and Packers (13-3).

When a team has outscored its opponents by 61 points in the second, third and fourth quarters combined and it’s 5-7, the focus has to be on the first quarter.

That means preparation. That means being mentally and physically ready. 

“Yeah, I do look at all of that, and that's part of my job is the (pregame) schedule and all,” Pederson said. “But these guys are in a great frame of mind on game day. They're loose; they're energetic; they're ready to go. They're focused. 

“You see it in pregame. It's been unfortunate, but it's something we've got to focus in on a little bit more … and try to strike first.”

The Eagles will try to end their three-game losing streak at 1 p.m. Sunday when they face the Redskins at the Linc.

The Redskins, 6-5-1 but with a two-game losing streak, beat the Eagles 27-20 in Landover, Md., in October.

“I think it just comes down to being focus and locking in,” Wentz said. “You’ve seen us. There’ve been games where we’ve come out and we’re rolling right away.

"We just have to find a way to maintain that and be consistent with that. The goal is to come out swinging right away.”

Eagles Injury Update: Jordan Matthews back at practice again

Eagles Injury Update: Jordan Matthews back at practice again

Jordan Matthews, the Eagles' best receiver, was back at practice again on Thursday. 

Matthews was a full participant on Thursday after being limited on Wednesday, which is a very good sign for the Eagles. Last week, he returned on Thursday, but then had to sit out Friday and missed Sunday's game. 

It was the first game Matthews had ever missed in his career. Even with the missed game, Matthews still leads the Eagles in receptions (57), receiving yards (686) and receiving touchdowns (3). 

Fellow receiver Dorial Green-Beckham (abdomen) was on the practice field early but left as the Eagles began to stretch. He did not practice for the second straight day. 

Without Green-Beckham and with Matthews hobbled, the Eagles are light at receiver, with just Nelson Agholor, Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner. Head coach Doug Pederson said the Eagles want to keep Turner involved in the game plan even with the return of Matthews. 

Ryan Mathews (knee) was on the practice field again on Thursday, while Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee) is still out. It looks like Vaitai will miss his third straight game this weekend.