Philadelphia Eagles

Kelly, Eagles better be right on DeSean decision

uspresswire-eagles-jackson-kelly.jpg

Kelly, Eagles better be right on DeSean decision

They better know what they’re doing here.

The Eagles just got rid of one of the NFL’s most electrifying players in the prime of his career without getting anything in return, apparently for the crime of choosing his friends incorrectly.

DeSean Jackson has never been arrested for anything more serious than marijuana possession and driving with tinted windows, according to the NJ.com report, and those charges came five years ago and were eventually dropped. He’s never tested positive for a banned substance. What’s the worst thing he’s done in six years with the Eagles? He was suspended for one game in 2011 for missing a team meeting.

What he has done is make big plays more often than anybody in the 81-year history of the franchise. Game after game, year after year.

Jackson grew up in a section of Los Angeles where he was surrounded every day by gangs and crime. He rose up above all that to become a three-time Pro Bowl receiver with a charity foundation that raises money to fight pancreatic cancer, which claimed his dad.

And so far, the worst thing I’ve learned about Jackson is that he has close friends who are active gang members. Which really means that he’s still friends with the people he grew up with in L.A.

Jackson is a young African-American man from Compton who grew up around other young African-American men from Compton, and last time I checked, that’s not a crime.

Anybody care to take a guess what percentage of professional athletes have friends or associates who have gang ties? It’s not an insignificant number. Guilt by association isn’t a reason to cut somebody.

Now, obviously there could be a lot more out there that we haven’t heard. Stuff the Eagles know that they haven’t shared. Things Chip Kelly saw that the rest of us didn’t see. Charges or allegations that haven’t been revealed yet by authorities.

But if Jackson was such a distraction, he distracted his team last year all the way to a 10-6 season, an NFC East title and a playoff berth, and he distracted himself all the way to 82 catches, 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns.

Distracted himself to a career year.

Jackson is such a bad influence on his teammates that in four of the five seasons he’s played at least 12 games, the Eagles have reached the playoffs.

So Kelly will move on without his top playmaker, and that leaves the Eagles awfully thin at wide receiver.

There’s Riley Cooper, who had a couple big games in the middle of last season, but averaged 18.6 yards the first five games of the year, 49.7 receiving yards the last seven games of the year and had 11 games with 53 or fewer yards.

There’s Jeremy Maclin, who’s been a steady contributor when healthy but doesn’t have nearly the game-breaking ability that Jackson has.

Jackson has 18 career touchdowns of 50 yards or more. Maclin has four.

And there’s … Ifeanyi Momah, B.J. Cunningham, Brad Smith, Will Murphy, Arrelious Benn, Damaris Johnson and Jeff Maehl.

In other words, there’s Maclin and Cooper.

And if you want to include hybrid running back Darren Sproles in the equation, feel free. But keep in mind that Sproles averaged 8.5 yards per catch last year, and Jackson averaged nearly twice that.

The Eagles have reminded us all offseason that this is a historic wide receiver draft, so apparently that’s where they plan to replace Jackson.

So maybe you get a stud and maybe you don’t. Maybe you get Freddie Mitchell or maybe you get Reggie Wayne. Maybe you get A.J. Jenkins or maybe you get Kendall Wright. Maybe you get Dwayne Bowe or maybe you get Craig Davis.

You don’t know. You never do. The draft is funny that way. You might think you know, but you really don’t. Not with wide receivers.

DeSean Jackson, we all know what the Eagles had. It wasn’t a projection. It wasn’t guesswork. It was documented and it was electrifying and it was a blast to watch every Sunday for six years.

Derrick Ward, who spent eight seasons in the NFL as a running back with the Giants, Buccaneers and Texans, put some perspective on all this via Twitter Friday afternoon:

“I'm born and raised in South Central LA. I have uncles who are still gang bangin’, cousins who still gang bang. But what does that have to do with someone playing football and ballin’ out for your team?”

Nothing.

Still, the Eagles had every right to do what they did, and Kelly’s credentials certainly can’t be questioned after taking a lost franchise and going 10-6 with a division title in his first year in the NFL.

Maybe this really is a case of addition by subtraction, and cutting ties with Jackson help the Eagles turn into an elite NFL team and Super Bowl contender.

But they better be right. Because outright releasing a 27-year-old three-time Pro Bowler coming off his finest NFL season just might unprecedented in NFL history.

The Eagles have had two Pro Bowl wide receivers in the last 15 years, and they’ve released both of them in their prime.

Andy Reid ultimately did the right thing with T.O., although the Eagles have won just three playoff games in nine years since he left.

Kelly better be right about this one.

Zach Ertz: Criticism of Doug Pederson's play-calling was 'definitely misconstrued'

usa-zach-ertz-eagles.png
USA Today Images

Zach Ertz: Criticism of Doug Pederson's play-calling was 'definitely misconstrued'

Eagles tight end Zach Ertz and right tackle Lane Johnson clarified comments that were interpreted as critical of coach Doug Pederson’s play-calling.

Several Eagles players lamented the lack of offensive balance following the Eagles’ 27-20 loss to the Chiefs in Week 2, with Ertz’s postgame interview in particular drawing attention (watch here). The fifth-year veteran’s statements about the lopsided run-pass ratio were viewed by many as a direct indictment of Pederson — evidence, perhaps, the head coach runs the risk of a locker-room mutiny, if he runs nothing else.

Ertz attempted to set the record straight on Wednesday.

“Those were definitely misconstrued,” Ertz said after practice. “I would never second-guess Doug’s play-calling. I’ve never been a guy to question the head coach. People kind of took it way out of context.”

While Ertz acknowledged balance was an issue in Kansas City, he explained the ratio was a symptom of the problem, for which some of the responsibility falls on the players.

“I said, ‘It started with myself in the run game. I’ve got to be better,’” Ertz said. “And I said, ‘Ideally, in a game, it would be 50-50 if the situation presents itself,’ but that game, it never presented itself to be the opportunity to run the ball because we were down. We had to throw the ball 17 straight times at the end of the game, so the numbers were very skewed.

“People took my comments way off. I was pretty disappointed with how they were perceived, but I guess it is what it is.”

Pederson’s play-calling has been closely scrutinized since last season, but the fervor over offensive balance reached new levels this week. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz dropped back to pass a whopping 56 times, compared to only 14 handoffs in the loss.

Everybody, including Ertz, seemed to recognize it’s difficult to beat an NFL opponent that way.

“You can't be throwing the ball 40 times in a game,” Ertz said Sunday postgame. “How many times did he throw today?

“That's not ideal. Low 30s is probably where you want him at. Thirty runs, 30 passes, if you're going to get 60 plays.

“We want to be a balanced offense. We’ve got the linemen to do it, we've got the running backs to do it, we've got the tight ends to block, we've got the receivers to block, we've just got to go out there and put it together.”

At the same time, the Eagles have struggled to run the football consistently in 2017, averaging only 3.5 yards per handoff. Furthermore, the passing game was working against the Chiefs, allowing Wentz to throw for 333 yards. The Eagles offense never took the field with a lead at any point during the contest, either, and therefore maintained an aggressive approach throughout.

Johnson appeared to question the run-pass ratio postgame as well, saying the Eagles have to run the ball to take pressure off of Wentz. On Wednesday, however, Johnson defended the game plan against Kansas City’s defense.

“(Pederson) felt outside on the edge that they couldn’t guard Zach, they couldn’t guard (Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery). You saw (Ertz and Jeffery) made big plays, so they really couldn’t.

“That’s what he saw, pretty much was mismatches all week. You saw Ertz with a big game. That’s why we threw the ball so much.”

Ertz also feels Pederson’s plan was appropriate plan given the circumstances.

“You’re going to put your team in the best position,” Ertz said. “Whatever he thinks the matchups are to benefit the team, whether it be in the run game or the pass game, that’s going to be the majority of the play calls.

“It’s going to differ each and every week, and that’s why you build an offense like we have, because we’re able to be so different each and every week, and it’s just going to depend on the week, on the matchup.”

There’s no denying that Ertz, Johnson and probably the rest of the roster would either agree with or wouldn’t mind a little more play-calling balance from Pederson. That’s not a sign of a head coach losing the locker room. The players are confident in Pederson to make the correct calls and right the ship – and for their part, that they will be able to execute in the run game when the time comes.

“We have a lot of great pass-catchers on this team,” Ertz said. “That’s not a knock on (our run game). I think we’re a very balanced team. Our O-line can run the ball when we establish the run game.

“We’re going to be better at it this week, the rest of the season hopefully. We have a lot to improve on as an offense. We’re not going to be where we are now in five weeks or so. We’re excited about having the opportunity to play a really great front this week, and we have to establish the run game.”

Eagles injury update: Secondary hamstrung for second straight day

injury-report-eagles.jpg
CSN

Eagles injury update: Secondary hamstrung for second straight day

It looks like all three members of the Hamstrung Trio (see story) weren't practicing again on Thursday. 

At the start of Thursday's practice, Rodney McLeod, Corey Graham and Jaylen Watkins, who suffered hamstring injuries on Sunday against the Chiefs, were not participating. This will be the second straight day all three will miss practice. 

McLeod was the only member of the trio to even make an appearance at practice before reporters were kicked out after individual drills. He walked onto the field with a compression sleeve on his right leg and began to watch.

There was, however, a new safety on the field. Newcomer Trae Elston, who was claimed off waivers from the Bills, was on the field for the first time with the Eagles. He was wearing No. 35. 

It'll be tough for the Eagles to get Elston caught up by game time on Sunday at 1 p.m. Aside from Elston, the Eagles have just Malcolm Jenkins and Chris Maragos as safeties, although linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill could be used in a pinch and Jenkins thinks a couple cornerbacks have the ability to play safety (see story)

Ronald Darby (ankle) and Destiny Vaeao (wrist) were the other two Eagles who weren't practicing on Thursday. Darby is out for at least another few weeks with his dislocated ankle. 

Vaeao missed the Chiefs game and looks to be in danger of missing another week. In his absence, rookie sixth-round pick Elijah Qualls played nine snaps and played well. Qualls could see his workload increase as the fourth DT against the Giants.