Eagles under the radar: Linebacker Najee Goode


Eagles under the radar: Linebacker Najee Goode

In a five-part series from Monday to Friday, Eagles insider Geoff Mosher and columnist Reuben Frank preview five Eagles flying “under the radar” as the team heads into training camp and the 2014 season. These unsung Eagles have a chance to make a bigger impact this season than people may expect. Camp opens July 25.

Najee Goode
Position: Inside linebacker
Height/weight: 6-0/244
Acquired: Free agent (2013)

The Eagles claimed Goode, a former West Virginia standout, off waivers before the start of 2013 and after the final roster cutdown date. He played 14 games in the regular season, starting one in place of an injured Mychal Kendricks. The week before his first start, he played well after Kendricks left the game, helping to hold Green Bay to just 99 rushing yards and an average of 3.3 yards per carry in a 27-13 win at Lambeau. Goode also sacked Robert Griffin III for his first and only career sack and returned a botched long snap against the Giants for a touchdown.

Geoff's take
Fans were initially ticked off when the Eagles acquired Goode and cut Emmanuel Acho after Acho performed well in the preseason and Goode had just been let go by the Buccaneers. But the staff liked Goode’s coverage abilities and believed he offered more on special teams and in sub packages than Acho (who came back to the practice squad later in the season). Goode looked really good against the Packers, coming in after Kendricks left with a knee injury and joining a defense that held Eddie Lacy to just 73 yards. Now that he’s had a whole year and his first offseason in Chip Kelly’s program, Goode is primed for an expanded role. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis already said he’s looking to scale down snaps for DeMeco Ryans, who played the most snaps of any NFL defensive player last year. In certain nickel downs, Davis can substitute Goode for Ryans and get a little quicker and more athletic across the middle, which is where the Eagles were picked apart last year.

Roob's take
He can really run, and that’s the one edge Goode has on the Eagles' other linebackers, and that’s why Davis and Rick Minter will find ways to get Goode onto the field situationally on defense this year. Goode opened some eyes with the way he played against the Packers in his first NFL start last year, but the thing about Goode is that he wasn’t even with the Eagles during the offseason or training camp, so Davis and the other coaches expect a big jump in what will be his first full year in this defense. Goode’s dad played in the NFL in the mid-1980s -- they’re actually the first father-son combo in Eagles history -- and Najee has that intelligence and savvy of a kid who grew up around the game. Will he ever be an every-down linebacker? Tough to tell. But he’s smart, fast, physical and has good size at 6-4, 244 pounds. Ryans played more snaps than any defensive player in the NFL last year, and Davis has already promised those numbers will go down. Most of those snaps should go to Goode.

Vikings learn why Eagles are among NFL's best in red zone

Vikings learn why Eagles are among NFL's best in red zone

Three times they drove inside the 20, three times they were denied.

The Vikings opened Sunday's game against the Eagles at the Linc by driving to the 6-yard line and the 17-yard line in the first quarter and then added another drive to the 6-yard line in the fourth quarter.

Each time, the Eagles' defense stopped them.

The Vikings got the ball at the 2-yard line 5½ minutes into the game after Andrew Sendejo's interception and 16-yard return. But two plays later, Rodney McLeod picked off Sam Bradford in the end zone, ending that threat.

On the Vikings' next drive, after Carson Wentz's fumble and Anthony Barr's recovery, the Vikings had a 1st-and-10 on the Eagles' 17. But on the very next play, Connor Barwin stripped Bradford and Malcolm Jenkins recovered.

Then early in the fourth quarter, the Vikings had a 1st-and-Goal on the Eagles' 15, but the Eagles stopped the Vikings on downs, with Jordan Hicks stuffing fullback Zach Line on 3rd-and-1 from the 6 and Beau Allen stuffing Matt Asiata on 4th-and-1.

Three red-zone drives. Zero points.

"It's huge, man," McLeod said. "The past few weeks we've been giving up touchdowns, (which is) uncharacteristic of us. So we just locked in and we just played sound defense. And fundamentals and technique showed up huge. 

"The defensive line did a great job and guys in the back end covered up and we were able to make a lot of plays because of that."

Sunday marked the first time in 12 years the Eagles have held an opponent scoreless on three separate red-zone drives.

On Sept. 12, 2004 — opening day of the Super Bowl season — the Eagles beat the Giants 31-17 at the Linc, and the Giants had three late drives inside the 20 that resulted in no points:

• On a 3rd-and-Goal from the Eagles' 1-yard line late in the third quarter, quarterback Kurt Warner fumbled on an aborted play and Jevon Kearse recovered at the 4-yard-line;

• On a 4th-and-Goal from the Eagles' 5-yard line early in the fourth quarter, Warner threw incomplete to Ike Hillliard with Ike Reese in coverage;

• And at the end of the game, relief quarterback Eli Manning, playing in his first NFL game, was sacked by Jerome McDougle — the first of his three career sacks — at the Eagles' 19-yard line.

The Vikings did score in the red zone Sunday at the end of the game, but the bottom line is the Eagles allowed only seven of a possible 28 red-zone points in a game they won by 11.

"It's huge, it is huge," head coach Doug Pederson said. "Our defense — you look at Minnesota, interception, a fumble on downs, they had a touchdown late in the game. Our defense playing as well as they did down there and stopping them — again, it does start up front, and the pressure on the quarterback.

"I'll tell you what, it was fun to watch our defense (against the Vikings). That's the defense that we expect every week going forward."

The Eagles have faced 20 red-zone drives this year and allowed nine touchdowns and four field goals.

That's 3.75 points per possession, which is second-best in the NFL behind only the Seahawks (3.69 points per possession).

They're No. 1 in red-zone scoring efficiency, allowing those 13 scores on 20 drives (65 percent), and they're No. 5 in TDs allowed with nine on 20 drives (45 percent).

"First thing is stopping the run and we did a good job of that," Malcolm Jenkins said. "And then once you stop the run, you pack the middle of the field and you've got to make them throw outside and if they make a mistake you've got to come up with a turnover.

"There was the one good pressure we stopped them running it, the one I batted the ball up in the air and Rodney comes up with the pick, and the other one we get a fumble recovery. Those are all big. Those plays, you can't scheme them up, you've just got to go down there and make something happen."

The Eagles are allowing 2.4 yards per pass play in the red zone, which is sixth-best in the league this year, and they're allowing 1.0 yards per rushing play, which is — by far — best in the NFL.

Overall, they're allowing 1.81 yards per play inside the 20, second-best in the league behind the Panthers (1.77). The league average is 3.0.

There's no magic to it.

"It's just bowing up," Hicks said. "It's toughness down there. We knew they like to run the ball and we shut them down. Make them one-dimensional and force them to pass. When they did run it, we stopped them.

"Just shows the character of this defense and the toughness and mindset of this defense as well."

NFL Notes: Dez Bryant to return vs. Eagles; Geno Smith has torn ACL

NFL Notes: Dez Bryant to return vs. Eagles; Geno Smith has torn ACL

The Cowboys expect Dez Bryant to return Sunday night against the Eagles, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Bryant practiced Monday after the Cowboys' bye and "was doing everything," according to Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News.

The Cowboys have gone 3-0 since Bryant injured his knee. Wide receivers Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams have been productive in his absence, with Beasley scoring three TDs and Williams totaling 155 receiving yards in Dallas' last two games.


Jets: Torn ACL for Geno Smith
NEW YORK — New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith has a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and is seeking a second opinion on the injury that would end his season — and likely his time with the team that drafted him.

NFL Network first reported the severity of Smith's injury on Monday.

Smith, a second-round pick in 2013, injured his knee while taking a sack from Baltimore's Matt Judon in the second quarter of the Jets' 24-16 win Sunday. Smith, who got the start in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick, had an MRI on Monday.

-The Associated Press

Bears: Jay Cutler to return in Week 8
LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Bears quarterback Jay Cutler will return from a thumb injury to play against the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 31.

Cutler has been out since he suffered a thumb sprain in a Sept. 19 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Coach John Fox said Monday that Cutler has been cleared to play in the game next Monday night.

His backup, Brian Hoyer, suffered a broken left arm against Green Bay in the Bears' 26-10 defeat last Thursday. Fox says Hoyer has had surgery.

Fox says it's possible the team could pick up one more quarterback behind backup Matt Barkley, who played against the Packers after Hoyer's injury.

Chicago (1-6) is at the bottom of the NFC North division.

-The Associated Press