Several Eagles could reach milestones in Week 17 vs. Cowboys

Several Eagles could reach milestones in Week 17 vs. Cowboys

Carson Wentz has one more game before the book closes on his rookie year. He's already among the most accomplished rookie quarterbacks in NFL history, and he has several milestones within reach when the Eagles finish the 2016 season with a New Year's Day game Sunday against the Cowboys at the Linc. 

Let's take a look at where Wentz fits in among the top rookie quarterbacks in NFL history and a few other milestones that Eagles players are chasing Sunday:

• Wentz’s 564 pass attempts are already fifth-most in NFL history by a rookie. The record of 627 by Andrew Luck in 2012 is probably out of reach (although you never know with Doug Pederson calling plays), but Wentz can move as high as second with 36 passes.

• Wentz’s 3,537 passing yards are already seventh-most by a rookie. He can realistically move as high as fourth. With 203, he would reach 3,740, which would trail only Luck (4,374), Cam Newton (4,051) and Jameis Winston (4,042) in NFL history.

• Wentz needs only three pass completions to break the NFL rookie record of 354, set in 2010 by former teammate Sam Bradford of the Rams.

• Wentz already holds the franchise record of 352 completions. With eight pass attempts, Wentz will break Donovan McNabb’s franchise record of 571, set in 2008.

• Donovan McNabb’s Eagles record of 3,916 passing yards in a season was set in 2008. It would take 380 yards to break that, which is a longshot, but Wentz would move as high as third in franchise history with 272 yards or fourth with 189.

• On the negative side, one more interception would give Wentz 15 this year. That would be the most since Randall Cunningham had 15 in 1989 and match the most since Ron Jaworski threw 20 in 1985.

• With 37 attempts, Wentz will become the 22nd quarterback in history with 600 attempts in a season.

• At his current pace of 23 completions per game, Wentz is on target for 375. He would become the 22nd QB in history with 375 completions in a season.

• Wentz’s 62.5 percent completion percentage is on track for the sixth-highest in NFL history by a rookie with at least 200 pass attempts.

• Even with nine interceptions in his last six games, Wentz’s interception percentage (2.45 every 100 attempts) is sixth-best ever by a rookie with at least 200 pass attempts. Mike Glennon (2.16) is pretty much locked into the No. 5 spot.

• Caleb Sturgis has made 33 field goals and is tied with David Akers in 2008 for most in franchise history. With a big game Sunday, he can move pretty high up the all-time NFL list for most field goals in a season. Two more would give him 35 (tied for 23rd), three more would leave him tied for 10th-most and four more would be tied for seventh-most in NFL history.

• At 86.8 percent, Sturgis is on target for the second-most accurate kicking season in Eagles history. But Cody Parkey’s 88.9 percent in 2014 is out of reach. 

• Jordan Matthews has 225 receptions, which is already 11th-most in NFL history by a player in his first three seasons. If Matthews' ankle injury allows him to play, one catch against Dallas would move him up to ninth, five moves him to eighth and eight moves him up to seventh.

• Zach Ertz’s 234 catches are 11th-most ever by a tight end in his first four seasons. But he would need eight receptions to catch former Eagle Keith Jackson and move into the top 10.

• Barring an almost impossibly huge game from one of the receivers, the Eagles will become the first team in NFL history with more than four players in the same season with 30 or more catches and a per-catch average of 11 yards or less. They will also become the first team in NFL history with more than five such players. Matthews (11.0), Dorial Green-Beckham (10.8), Ertz (10.4), Nelson Agholor (10.1), Trey Burton (9.0) and Darren Sproles (8.6) all have at least 30 receptions and an average of 11 or less.

Eagles-Falcons: Roob's 10 observations

Eagles-Falcons: Roob's 10 observations

BOX SCORE

Good luck trying to figure this team out. The Eagles are now 4-0 at home, 1-4 on the road with four straight road losses, but 5-4 overall after an excruciatingly tense but ultimately impressive 24-15 win over the Falcons and their world-class offense at the Linc (see Instant Replay).

There's an awful lot to like off this one. The defense was phenomenal. Carson Wentz was efficient (see breakdown). The running game dominated. 

Yes, for only the second time since the bye week, we have a happy Roob's 10 Observations.  

1. This was one awfully impressive win, and it was sure encouraging to see the Eagles win a close game for the first time all year, come back in the fourth quarter for the first time all year, run the ball consistently for the first time all year and, more than anything, shut down the high-flying Falcons, who brought one of the highest-scoring offenses in NFL history into the Linc. Team win. Wentz was outstanding. The offensive line dominated. The defensive line wore down the Falcons. The defensive backs hung in there under the Julio Jones onslaught. And special teams contributed as always, with a bunch of long kick returns by Kenjon Barner and an enormous clutch 48-yard fourth-quarter field goal by Caleb Sturgis. To me, this was the Eagles’ best win this year because they when they were challenged, when they faced adversity, they fought back. After the Falcons took the lead, the Eagles held them to just 43 net yards on four drives. If the Eagles could just take some of this home magic and make it work on the road, they would be a very dangerous football team.

2. Remember back when people criticized Wentz because he had never rallied the Eagles back in the fourth quarter? As ridiculous as that complaint was, Wentz on Sunday made sure it’s obsolete as well. Wentz was masterful Sunday, and he managed the offense beautifully during a 76-yard fourth-quarter drive that turned a 15-13 deficit into a 21-15 lead. Really, Wentz was brilliant all day and didn’t get much help from his receivers. He finished 25 for 36 for 231 yards and gets credit for his first fourth-quarter rally.

3. You sure can’t ask anything more from the Eagles’ defense, especially considering it played most of the game without its only proven cornerback, Nolan Carroll. The defensive front shut down the run, got tremendous pressure most of the game and was physical with Matt Ryan. The secondary gave up a bunch of yards to Jones, but at the end of the game, they got stops when they had to. The Falcons were 2 for 11 on third down (and 0 for 1 on fourth down) and managed a season-low 11 first downs. The Eagles held the Falcons — who are on pace for the 16th-most points in NFL history — to one touchdown and just 15 points — fewer than half their average. Great game plan by Jim Schwartz, superb execution. This defense has taken some hits these last five games, but this was one heck of a performance.

4. I never write about officiating, but the non-call on Falcons safety Keanu Neal’s helmet-to-helmet hit on Jordan Matthews in the fourth quarter was just preposterous. The NFL makes a big deal talking all the time about protecting players, and then they let that go? Not to mention it would have given the Eagles a 1st-and-10 inside the Falcons’ 25-yard line down two points. That’s just unconscionable. How do you miss that? If you’re an official, how on earth do you miss a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit that leaves the Eagles’ only serviceable wide receiver lying motionless on the field and bleeding from his face? Forget the game. I’m sure the NFL will fine Neal, but these refs simply can’t miss those.

5. Man, I loved the way Ryan Mathews ran Sunday. He’s a guy that has to get double digit carries to get into a groove, and we saw it against the Falcons. He ran tough, he ran physical, he ran hungry. Mathews became the first Eagles' back since LeSean McCoy in 2013 with 100 rushing yards and two rushing TDs in the same game. Been a tough year for Mathews. Cost the Eagles a win in Detroit with that late fumble. Saw his playing time curtailed. Bounced back in a big way.

6. As much as I love Darren Sproles and the way he plays and what he means to this team, I just think the Eagles are a much stronger team when Mathews and Wendell Smallwood (and Barner) are the primary ball carriers and Sproles is a change-of-pace guy. Since Sproles is always going to be on a pitch count, you never really get to establish a commanding running game when he’s the lead ball carrier. I think Pederson finally realized that this week, and the Eagles finally got rolling in the running game and controlled the game with Mathews and Smallwood, two guys who you don’t have to worry about getting too many carries. This was the first time the Eagles have come close to running the ball with authority all year. The final numbers are overwhelming — Mathews came out of cobwebs to run 19 times for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Smallwood ran 13 times for 70 yards. Overall, the Eagles ran for 208 yards, their biggest rushing performance since late in the 2014 season. Pederson's been talking about balance all year. Was good to see him finally run the ball instead of just talking about it.

7. Sturgis did miss a 44-yarder earlier, but that 48-yard field goal he made with 1:57 left in the game to make this a two-possession game was flat-out money. I was terrified Pederson was actually going to go for it on 4th-and-2, but you have to trust your kicker there, and Sturgis has been very good all year. That is such a pressure kick. Those are the kinds of kicks you always knew David Akers was going to make, even if he had missed a kick earlier. Great stuff from Sturgis.

8. Then there’s Nelson Agholor. He had two catches for seven yards Sunday and it would have been one catch for three yards if not for a successful Eagles' challenge. Let’s look at his first nine games this year: He’s averaged 29 yards per game with two catches over 20 yards (the 35-yard TD on opening day vs. the Browns and a 23-yarder last week against the Giants) and just six catches over 12 yards. This is a first-round pick. Of 48 receivers who are full-time starters, only Torrey Smith of the 49ers has worst numbers (217 yards going into Sunday). Going back to last year, Agholor has 544 yards in 21 games, or about 26 yards per game. He has three career receptions over 21 yards. I think the kid wants to succeed, I see him putting in the work, I think he’s determined. It’s just not happening for him and we’re now well into his second NFL season. I just don’t see this changing. Since opening day of last year, no NFL receiver who’s been a full-time starter has fewer yards. What else is there to say about Agholor? The Eagles need to start thinking about trying someone else. Whether that means increased reps for Bryce Treggs or getting Paul Turner going or signing the top guy your pro personnel guys have identified on another team’s practice squad, I don’t know. But it’s getting to the point where the Eagles have to do something. You can’t go through an entire season with one wide receiver.

9. What makes Wentz’s season more remarkable is that he’s doing it with virtually one wide receiver. Matthews had six catches for 73 yards Sunday and the other wideouts combined had seven yards. This is two weeks in a row with zero contribution from Dorial Green-Beckham, and speedy Treggs didn’t play much of a role Sunday in a game where the Eagles focused on short pass plays and the running attack. Imagine if Wentz had Dak Prescott’s weapons?

10. Let me touch on Jalen Mills real quick, too. I know people are going to criticize him for giving up a couple big plays to Jones, but I’m telling you this kid is going to be a solid cornerback in this league. He’s tough, physical, aggressive and he never loses his confidence after giving up a big play. And you see that late in games. He makes plays. This is a rookie seventh-round pick forced into a ton of playing time probably before it’s ideal. But he just goes out there and battles. He’s been matched up against some of the NFL’s best wide receivers this year, and he’s going to give up some catches, but I think he’s going to settle into a very good career for this team before all is said and done.

Eagles-Cowboys: Roob's 10 observations

Eagles-Cowboys: Roob's 10 observations

BOX SCORE

ARLINGTON, Texas — This game had Josh Huff throwing the longest pass of the night by an Eagle, it had the refs calling a holding penalty on Chase Daniel, it had Caleb Sturgis becoming the most accurate kicker in Eagles history and it had the Eagles going overtime at AT&T Stadium for the second time in 11½ months.

And in the end, it had the Cowboys beating the Eagles 29-23 in overtime in a battle for first place in the NFC East (see Instant Replay).

Some good, some bad. Some very bad.

So if you’re still awake ... here’s tonight’s (this morning’s) 10 Instant Observations:

1. It’s astonishing to me what Carson Wentz is able to do without an impact wide receiver, without an effective tight end of late, with a patchwork offensive line and with a running back who turns 34 next summer. Imagine if Wentz had Dak Prescott’s weapons? Wentz is so ridiculously good he transcends the mediocrity around him. After seeing Prescott in person, I don’t think there’s any question who the better rookie is. It’s not even close. Wentz can do so much more with so much less. He completed 74 percent of his passes Sunday night (32 for 43) for 202 yards, a TD and no interceptions. And at least five of the nine incompletions were drops. Imagine if Wentz had just average wide receivers? The kid is special, and once the Eagles surround him with some talent, he’s going to be unstoppable.  

2. The Eagles’ desperate need for a playmaker has never been so glaring as it was Sunday night in Dallas. Wentz can throw the ball down the field, he just has nobody who can get open. And when they do get open, they drop the ball. I’m not big on giving up a draft pick for a guy who might help you for half a dozen games by the time he gets here and learns the playbook, but the Eagles have to consider everything at this point. A trade, Bryce Treggs, re-signing T.O. ... everything. You just can’t play an entire season without throwing the ball down the field.

3. The Eagles had plenty of chances to put this game away, but their play-calling and execution on 2nd-and-short and 3rd-and-short was bad (see Standout Plays). Those are plays you just have to convert, and the Eagles didn’t have the juice to get it done on the handful of key plays that they needed to put Dallas away. This wasn’t Doug Pederson’s finest day as a play-caller. Too much horizontal, not enough vertical. This was a winnable game, but too many mistakes once they took that 10-point lead caught up with them in the second half and overtime. They had chances. A 3rd-and-2 early in the third quarter where they lost two yards. A 3rd-and-2 late in the fourth quarter where they lost two yards. A 3rd-and-4 where they dropped a pass. You can’t give the Cowboys that many chances, especially here, and the Cowboys showed why they haven’t lost since opening day. They took advantage of the opportunity the Eagles gave them and it got them to 6-1.

4. Caleb Sturgis was not a good kicker in Miami. Made 77.5 percent of his field goals in 2013 and 2014 with the Dolphins, which ranked him 31st of 34 kickers in the NFL who attempted at least 25 field goals during that two-year span. He was also 6-for-13 from 50-plus yards. So Cody Parkey gets hurt early last year, there’s nobody else on the street, and the Eagles sign Sturgis. He misses a 33-yarder on opening day, Chip Kelly decides to keep him around another week, and he goes 4-for-4 the next week against the Saints and winds up 18-for-22. He beats out Parkey this summer and all he’s done this year — after once again missing his first attempt of the season — is go 17-for-17 with three straight 50-yard makes, including Sunday's clutch 55-yarder to give the Eagles the lead just before halftime. Sturgis made 78 percent of his kicks with the Dolphins but is at 87.5 percent with the Eagles, including 5-for-7 from 50 yards and out. Chip could have easily cut Sturgis after that terrible 33-yard miss. But he kept him around, and Sturgis right now is absolute money. Sometimes you just never know.

5. Darren Sproles was nothing less than brilliant Sunday as the surprise lead ball carrier. His 86 rushing yards on 15 carries were the fourth-most in his career and his most in five years, since he had 88 as a Saint against the Colts on Oct. 23, 2011. With fumble-prone Ryan Mathews in mothballs most of the night (4-for-10), Sproles had his second-most carries as an Eagle and fourth-most in his 10-year career. Here’s the thing: I still think 14 carries every week is too much for Sproles. Sproles at 33 is still faster than most backs 10 years younger. He’s such a great Eagle. Just this little guy with so much heart. I just hope the Eagles don’t over use him. The reality is the Eagles don’t have a running back right now under 33 years old that they trust, and that’s not good.

6. I really believe Jordan Hicks is right on the brink of becoming a Pro Bowl-caliber middle linebacker. The ball just seems to find him. Now, you can say his interception was just a terrible pass by Prescott, but he makes the plays when they’re there and that’s all you can ask. Hicks has now jammed three interceptions, four pass knockdowns, four fumble recoveries, a forced fumble, five tackles for loss and a sack into 15 career games. The Eagles haven’t had a big-time middle linebacker since Trott, and Hicks is there right now.

7. I don’t care how many catches Huff does or doesn’t have, he has become such a weapon returning kicks that it doesn’t even matter. Huff followed his huge kickoff return TD last week that jumpstarted the Eagles when the offense was doing nothing against the Vikings with an electrifying 63-yarder against the Cowboys Sunday night. He now has his average up to 28.4 yards per kick return, which is eighth-highest in NFL history among returners with 40 or more career returns. This offense has so little firepower that a kick returner who can gobble up so many yards is huge.

8. Ezekiel Elliott’s final numbers were 22-for-96 (with a 72-yard run called back because of holding), so he didn’t get his fifth consecutive 130-yard game, but against this defense, that was a monumental game for him. I thought the Eagles to a great extent slowed him down, tackled well, were gap-sound, and he still ran for 96 yards. He’s a special player the Eagles are going to have to contend with him for a long, long time.

9. This was the third time in their last four games the Eagles didn’t have an offensive play of 30 yards or more. Their only offensive play longer than 30 yards since Sproles' 73-yard TD catch against the Steelers is Jordan Matthews’ 53-yard catch in the Redskins game. That’s almost impossible to do. The Eagles’ lack of firepower is shocking. They have one play of 30 yards or more in their last 242 offensive snaps. Think about that for a moment. That’s impossible to do. Tough to win when you can’t make a play down the field.

10. How about some props for Halapoulivaati Vaitai? Big V has gotten better in each of his three starts and really hung in there pretty well Sunday night in Dallas. It’s encouraging that he’s progressed each week from that disastrous start in Washington to a functional game against the Vikings and some more good stuff Sunday night. Seven more games for Lane Johnson, and let’s be clear — Vaitai is nowhere close to where Lane was when his suspension finally came down. But Big V has been solid, and he deserves credit for the steady improvement he’s made.

Bonus observation. Prescott’s numbers were ugly, but I was impressed. He was under siege most of the night but rallied the Cowboys back from 10 points down in the fourth quarter and made some big throws in overtime. Prescott was 14-for-34 for 231 yards in regulation but 5-for-5 for 56 yards and the TD to Jason Witten in overtime. He also ran for 38 yards. I’ll take Wentz any day of the week. But Prescott is impressive.