Philadelphia Eagles

Scouting Report: Enter Kyle Orton

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Scouting Report: Enter Kyle Orton

After allowing an unthinkable 48 points to a Vikings team that lacked Adrian Peterson and started Matt Cassel, the Eagles' defense issued its strongest response this season.

In holding Chicago’s No. 2-ranked scoring offense to 11 points, the Eagles reaffirmed faith that their nine-game streak of holding opponents under 22 points wasn’t done by smoke and mirrors.

Now come the Cowboys and another backup quarterback. With the NFC East title on the line, Dallas turns to Kyle Orton to lead the offense against the Eagles with Tony Romo sidelined until next season after undergoing back surgery Friday morning (see story).

Orton is a more-than-capable backup for any NFL team. He has 69 career starts and a 35-34 record. Jerry Jones is paying him $3 million to back up Romo, a handsome salary for a reserve. This is Orton’s second season with the Cowboys, so he has a firm grasp of the playbook.

Orton is good enough to get the ball to Jason Witten and Dez Bryant, mainly because Witten and Bryant are excellent at getting open and Orton can hit open receivers. Romo’s presence will mostly be missed in the third-down and big-play department.

The rapport Romo has developed over the years with Witten, his best friend, and more recently with slot receiver Cole Beasley can’t be duplicated by Orton with just one week of practice reps. Romo knows their routes and tendencies inside-out and had a great feel for how much time he had before he needed to get rid of the ball, especially against pressure. Romo also had tremendous pocket presence and an innate ability to dodge the pass rush with simple sidesteps.

Orton, at times in his career, has been a sack waiting to happen. In his first four years as a starter, he was sacked 120 times in 58 games, almost three times per game. In his best year, he rushed for 98 yards. Nick Foles this season has run for 226 yards.

Orton, a former Purdue standout, is tough and gritty. He has a good arm and won’t be overwhelmed by the moment. He’s beaten the Eagles once in two attempts. But he’s more suited for a prominent backup role than being a starter in today’s pass-first game. His career completion percentage (58.4) is well below today’s starting quarterback standard, as is his career passer rating (79.7).

Some telling stats: Orton has passed for 300 yards or more 11 times in his career. His teams are 4-7 in those games. He had a passer rating below 100 in seven of them. In his 12 games when he’s attempted 40 or more passes, his teams are 3-9.

If you’re relying on Orton to win a game through the air, the odds aren’t in your favor.

And don’t forget that Dallas’ offensive line isn’t exactly the “Great Wall” unit from the 90s. Left tackle Tyron Smith is long and as athletic as they come, but rookie center Travis Frederick is the second-best guy up front and he’s more of a scrappy, lunch-pail type than an athletic specimen. Right tackle Doug Free gets exposed in pass protection. Brian Waters had been a nice upgrade for Dallas at guard, but he’s on injured reserve. Left guard Ron Leary is just a guy.

The Cowboys need to run to win this game. Expect offensive coordinator Bill Callahan to throw heavy doses of DeMarco Murray at the Eagles in hopes of fielding a clock-control offense that keeps the ball out of the hands of Chip Kelly’s offense.

Murray, a strong runner with above-average speed, is finally showing his potential when healthy. Injuries have held him back throughout his career, but he’s missed just two games this season, including the Oct. 20 meeting against the Eagles at the Linc.

Murray is the NFL’s 10th-leading rusher and has the highest yards-per-carry average (5.4) among NFL running backs with at least 110 carries. His strongest points are an upfield burst and his corner-turning ability. Callahan likes to use stretch runs to get Murray getting to the edges, where he’s especially dangerous. The Cowboys are 11-0 when Murray carries the ball at least 20 times and 12-2 when Murray has at least 18 carries.

In the past three weeks, only LeSean McCoy (386) has more rushing yards than Murray (376), and that’s saying something given McCoy’s 217-yard game against Detroit and his 133-yarder against the Bears.

Murray has also become a significant piece of the passing game. His 48 receptions are seventh-most among starting NFL running backs. Last Sunday, his 10-yard touchdown catch on 4th-and-6 in the waning moments of the fourth quarter enabled Dallas' comeback win over the Redskins that set up this clash against the Eagles for the division title.

They made it here because of Murray. They’ll need a big game from him again to stand any chance of winning this game.

For more on how the Eagles' offense matches up against the Cowboys' defense, click here.

NFL Notes: Supporters hold rally for Colin Kaepernick at NFL headquarters

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NFL Notes: Supporters hold rally for Colin Kaepernick at NFL headquarters

NEW YORK -- Supporters of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who refused to stand for the national anthem to protest police brutality against blacks, showed their solidarity with him and his cause at a rally outside the headquarters of the National Football League on Wednesday.

More than 1,000 people, many wearing jerseys bearing Kaepernick's name, crowded the steps outside the NFL's midtown Manhattan offices.

Kaepernick, who once took the 49ers to the Super Bowl, opted out of his contract with the team in March and remains unsigned. Supporters say he is being blackballed for his advocacy, but some critics say he should not have sat or kneeled during the anthem or contend his lack of a job is more about his on-field talent.

Chants at the demonstration included "Boycott! Boycott!" Women's March organizer Tamika Mallory, addressing football fans, said, "I don't care how long you've been watching football, if they don't stand up for your children, turn the damn TV off."

Political commentator Symone Sanders said, "We are all standing with Kaepernick. It is time for the NFL to put up or shut up" (see full story).

Browns: Kizer to start at QB in 3rd preseason game
BEREA, Ohio -- Rookie DeShone Kizer is Cleveland's new starting quarterback.

Coach Hue Jackson has elected to go with Kizer, a second-round pick from Notre Dame, over veterans Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler. Kizer has been the most consistent of the three during training camp and led the Browns to three touchdowns during his two exhibition appearances.

Jackson said Kizer will start Saturday's exhibition in Tamp Bay and "is certainly positioning himself well to earn the starting job heading into the regular season."

The Browns open the season on Sept. 10 against Pittsburgh.

Unless he stumbles against the Buccaneers, Kizer will be the 27th different quarterback to start for the Browns since 1999. The big-armed 21-year-old has shown no signs of being intimidated by the jump to the pros after making 23 starts in two seasons for the Fighting Irish (see full story).

Raiders: Pro Bowl LT Penn ends holdout
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Pro Bowl left tackle Donald Penn has ended his holdout with the Oakland Raiders.

Penn reported for practice on Wednesday, ending his 26-day holdout. Penn was looking for an improved contract but general manager Reggie McKenzie said earlier in training camp that he would not negotiate a new deal with Penn until he arrived at camp.

The Raiders could have fined Penn $40,000 for each day of camp he missed but the team is not expected to do that.

Penn is entering the final year of an $11.9 million, two-year contract. He is scheduled to earn $5.8 million in base salary this season with another $1.3 million in incentives and bonuses (see full recap).

Steelers: Star RB Bell hints at return date
PITTSBURGH -- Steelers star Le'Veon Bell has suggested on Twitter that he will return to the team on Sept. 1, the day after Pittsburgh's final preseason game.

Bell hasn't signed his franchise tender and has been holding out through training camp. Responding to a fan Tuesday night asking when he plans to end his holdout, Bell wrote: "9-1-17" and added a wink.

The franchise tender offered Bell will guarantee him $12.1 million for the upcoming season. The two-time Pro Bowl running back has been seeking a long-term deal.

Bell rushed for 1,268 yards and seven touchdowns last season and also caught 75 passes for 616 yards and two TDs.

Redskins: Reed makes on-field debut at practice
ASHBURN, Va. -- Jordan Reed is back at practice with the Washington Redskins.

The 27-year-old tight end made his on-field debut Wednesday after missing almost the first month of practices with a toe injury. Reed missed the team's first two preseason games and was activated off the physically unable to perform list on Sunday.

Reed was examined by a foot specialist Aug. 1 and recently started using wider shoes and orthotics to help alleviate the soreness in the big toe on his left foot. Last week he said it felt better when running routes and walking around and doesn't expect the injury to affect him during the season.

One of quarterback Kirk Cousins' most consistent and effective targets, Reed had 66 catches for 686 yards and six touchdowns last season despite missing four games with injury (see full story).

Giants: OL Bowie waived after domestic charges disclosed 
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants have waived Michael Bowie days after finding out that the offensive lineman had been charged with assault and battery in Oklahoma.

The Giants announced the decision Wednesday along with three moves.

The team learned of the charges on Saturday and did not allow the 25-year-old free agent to make the trip to Cleveland for a preseason game against the Browns on Monday night.

Bowie is accused of grabbing his girlfriend by the neck during a fight at her home in Bixby, Oklahoma, then broke two televisions and punched a hole in the wall.

Court records don't list an attorney for Bowie, a Tulsa resident. His agent says Bowie is working to prove his innocence, saying there was no physical contact with the girlfriend.

New York also waived offensive linemen Corin Brooks, and waived/injured wideouts Darius Powe and Andrew Turzilli (see full story).

Former Eagles special teamer Bryan Braman heading to Saints

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Former Eagles special teamer Bryan Braman heading to Saints

Former Eagles special teamer Bryan Braman has agreed to terms to join the New Orleans Saints on a one-year deal, according to his agent Sean Stellato. 

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport first reported the deal. 

Braman, 30, spent the last three seasons with the Eagles and played a major role on Dave Fipp's unit, which has been considered one of the top in the NFL during that span. He had been a free agent throughout the spring and summer after his contract ran out with the Eagles. 

Braman came to Philadelphia as a free agent from the Texans before the 2014 season on a two-year deal and later restructured his contract to take a pay cut and give him an extra year in Philly. 

While Braman rarely made it on the field for the defense in those next three seasons, he played a total of 1,214 special teams snaps, the most of any player on the team. He played in all 48 games over the last three seasons. 

Even without Braman, the Eagles still have plenty of key special teams players like Chris Maragos, Najee Goode and Kamu Grugier-Hill.