Eagles have cash but are reluctant to spend

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Eagles have cash but are reluctant to spend

At noon Saturday, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman can pick up his phone, speed dial to Jairus Byrd’s agent and start discussion about awarding the NFL’s top free-agent safety with a handsome contract to play for Chip Kelly.

All NFL teams can start negotiations with free agents at 12 p.m. Saturday. Not until 4 p.m. Tuesday can free agents officially sign on the dotted line.

Even though Roseman committed nearly $130 million in theoretical money over the past 10 days to secure several standouts from last year’s NFC East championship team, he left the cupboard full enough to dig deep for someone of Byrd’s caliber.

Are we sure of this?

“Yes,” Roseman said. Actually, he cautioned more than said. “It will affect other things going forward,” he added, “but yes.”

By “other things going forward,” Roseman dropped a big hint about the team’s free-agent strategy and revealed why the Eagles aren’t likely to land Byrd -- who’s seeking upwards of $9 million annually -- or any other free agent seeking to capitalize on Jeffrey Lurie’s prior habit of stretching the pocketbook.

Looking forward -- say, one year from now -- several pieces of the Eagles’ nucleus will be eligible for contract extensions. Among them are Nick Foles, Brandon Boykin, Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks and potentially Jeremy Maclin.

Roseman has talked all offseason about the team’s newer model of building from within, of manicuring home-grown talent, of stockpiling draft picks and farming them through the system the way Green Bay and Pittsburgh do.

Given the windfall he just lavished on Jason Peters, Jason Kelce and Riley Cooper, and the money he’ll need next season to keep the foundation intact, it becomes fairly clear why Roseman isn’t sending out strong signals that he’s about to authorize some big checks.

“It doesn’t take an expert researcher to go back and look at teams that are having success and how they’re having success,” he said. “Most of the time when guys are on the free-agent market, their teams have chosen not to sign them for one reason or another.

It may be cap room. It may be because they have a particular player at a position.

“But I don’t know that we can go back in the history of free agency and look at free agency and say, 'Well, there’s a team that built totally on free agency and it worked.' You have to draft well to the extent that you can. You have to keep your own players and you have to keep supplementing through the draft."

This doesn’t mean the Eagles won’t be active in free agency.

They have no depth at safety and they need help at outside linebacker, inside linebacker and on the defensive line. They can’t address all these needs in the draft, especially with Roseman firm on picking the best overall prospect regardless of position.

But they’re likely to repeat last year’s blueprint that netted them several mid-level free agents who didn’t break the bank but played significant roles, guys like outside linebacker Connor Barwin and corners Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher.

So maybe the Eagles decide to mortgage the house on Byrd, or maybe they go the economical route with Malcolm Jenkins or Mike Mitchell.

Only the folks at One NovaCare Way know what will happen over the next three days, but Roseman’s warnings about the perils of big free-agent spending were fairly telltale.

“It’s almost like the draft, where you don’t want to force anything,” he said. “We look at it as just try to grade players as they are, not do it because we need a particular position. We’re going to go out and try to do things that make sense for our football team.”

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.