5 plays were the difference between 7-9 and 12-4 for Eagles in 2016

5 plays were the difference between 7-9 and 12-4 for Eagles in 2016

Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells once stated, “You are what your record says you are,” and he was absolutely right. The Eagles finished 7-9 last season, demonstrating all the hallmarks of a 7-9 team along the way – inconsistency, inexperience, one or two crippling weaknesses and an inability to finish games. They deserved to go 7-9.

Yet, if we revisit how the 2016 campaign played out for the Eagles, it offers more reason for hope than that record suggests. That’s because five of those losses hinged on one play, which is to say if you could change the outcome of one snap, just one bounce of the ball, in theory, the Eagles could have won five more games.

Basically, five plays were the difference between 7-9 and 12-4.

Coulda, shoulda, woulda – right? Totally agree. Again, the Eagles deserved to go 7-9 last year, and nobody is trying to tell you any different.

However, what might those five plays be able to tell us about 2017? Because there doesn’t seem to be any question the Eagles are improved, either. Maybe not five games better, but if they even convert just two or three, that just might be enough to put this team in playoff contention.

Week 4 at Detroit – 24-23

On 3rd-and-2 with 2:41 remaining and a 23-21 lead, Ryan Mathews fumbles at the Eagles’ 45-yard line – short of the first down anyway, but worse still, giving the Lions the ball just outside of field-goal range. Sure enough, Detroit moves into range quickly and kicks the eventual game winner. Immediately after, a Carson Wentz interception seals the Eagles’ fate.

What might be different in 2017: The Eagles signed LeGarrette Blount, one of the best short-yardage backs in the game, making the offense more likely to convert. Even if the run is stuffed, Blount is less prone to fumble than Mathews, potentially giving the Eagles a chance to punt and make the opponent drive the length of the field for the kick.

Week 8 at Dallas – 29-23, OT

Faced with 4th-and-14 at the Dallas 36-yard-line and clinging to a 23-16 lead, Doug Pederson opts to punt rather than attempt a 54-yard field goal with 6:34 remaining, after Caleb Sturgis nailed a 55-yard try earlier. Donnie Jones’ kick pins the Cowboys at the 10, yet they proceed to march down the field anyway, tying the game at 23 apiece with 3:11 left. The stalemate drags into overtime, where Dallas gets the ball first and goes right down the field again.

What might be different in 2017: Pederson was a first-year head coach whose judgment was questionable on occasion. One would hope he improves with time. Here, a field goal would’ve left the Eagles some breathing room, so that even if the defense bends, they would own a late lead and could attempt to ice the game. Maybe Sturgis misses, and the Cowboys score anyway, although that result would’ve left more time on the clock, too. Either way, attempting the field goal increases the Eagles’ odds of winning.

Week 9 at New York Giants – 28-23

With the Eagles already trailing, a Jordan Hicks interception gave them life with 1:48 remaining. In need of a touchdown, the offense stalls at New York’s 17-yard line, and it’s 4th-and-10. Wentz’s pass to Jordan Matthews is high and wide, but the ball glances off the receiver’s outstretched fingers and falls harmlessly to the turf to end the comeback bid.

What might be different in 2017: Matthews is no longer the only playmaker the Eagles have at receiver, as the Eagles added Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency. Jeffery in particular has a knack for making circus catches, and even though the pass was slightly off target, is more likely to make the grab and win the game here.

Week 14 vs. Washington – 27-22

The Eagles lead 22-21 with 2:59 remaining in the fourth quarter and need a stop. Washington has driven down to the Eagles’ 35-yard line, but it’s 4th-and-1 and not quite in field-goal range. Kirk Cousins drops back to pass and hits Pierre Garcon, who beats Leodis McKelvin for a six-yard gain and a first down to extend the drive. Two plays later, Washington scores a touchdown, while the Eagles’ last gasp comes up short again.

What might be different in 2017: The secondary is still a concern for the Eagles, although it’s hard to do worse than McKelvin, who ranked 75th out of 79 qualifying corners in opponents’ passer rating, according to Pro Football Focus. In 2017, that could be Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson or Rasul Douglas on Garcon – maybe even Sidney Jones this late in the year. Ryan Kerrigan also beats Matt Tobin at right tackle to sack Wentz and halt the Eagles’ potential go-ahead drive, a scenario that’s unlikely to unfold this season given the improved depth along the offensive line.

Week 15 at Baltimore – 27-26

The Eagles finally complete a late scoring drive with four seconds remaining and have an opportunity to take the game to overtime. Rather than kick the extra point to tie the score, Pederson opts to go for two with the playoffs already off the table. Wentz’s pass intended for Matthews is tipped at the line of scrimmage and falls incomplete, crushing yet another comeback attempt.

What might be different in 2017: A tipped ball is a little unlucky, so maybe nothing would’ve been different. Then again, the Eagles have more depth up front, so maybe there would be less pressure in Wentz’s face. They have more weapons in the passing attack, so maybe they throw the fade to Jeffery. They have Blount, so maybe they go heavy and pound the ball into the end zone, or go play-action pass.

Maybe the Eagles have already won a few more games along the way and are playing for overtime instead.

Any way you look at it, the Eagles are better prepared for every one of these situations in 2017 than they were last season. In theory, that should result in more wins.

6 cornerbacks Eagles could trade for before training camp ends

6 cornerbacks Eagles could trade for before training camp ends

Eagles coach Doug Pederson opened the door on Monday to speculation the club could add another cornerback to the mix before the preseason comes to a close.

“It's a position that we continue to look even outside, as we do every position,” Pederson said following the first practice of training camp. “And as you know, we're going to continue to look and try to bring in guys if we can and just create as much competition at that spot.”

On its face, Pederson’s statement is innocuous enough. NFL teams are constantly evaluating their options. Players will come and go, especially as the league whittles its rosters down from 90 to 53, and even as the season progresses. There will even be a handful of trades.

Yet, given the track record of Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman for wheeling and dealing, Pederson’s words can be construed as more than a throwaway line. The Eagles are actively searching for talent, and cornerback is an area where it’s sorely needed.

Roseman likes a good bargain, too. With that in mind, we’ve scoured depth charts around the league for the type of young prospects who may be had in a trade for relatively cheap, but possibly reward the Eagles with high-quality play.

The Eagles could also wait to see what cut-down day produces, too, and no doubt will. But waiting usually isn’t Roseman’s style.

Bears CB Kyle Fuller
Pulling off a swap for Fuller is not an original thought. Best I can tell, it was first pitched by USA Today’s Turron Davenport in March (with the Eagles sending linebacker Mychal Kendricks), and continued to gain some traction until about a month after the draft.

That’s because it makes sense, perhaps more than any other idea I will pitch. A first-round draft pick in 2014, and a player the Eagles were rumored to covet, Fuller has fallen out of favor in Chicago and far from a lock to make the team. He missed the entire 2016 campaign with a knee injury, and was inconsistent his first two seasons, but is only 25 and flashed potential as a playmaker with 6 interceptions and 3 forced fumbles in 32 NFL games.

Eagles vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas served as the Bears’ director of college scouting in 2015. He has access to inside information on Fuller, and ties to the organization that may help facilitate a trade. Some type of exchange certainly seems plausible.

Bengals CB Darqueze Dennard
Like Fuller, the Eagles were believed to be interested in Dennard in the first round of the 2014 draft. And like Fuller, Dennard might be on the trade block in Cincinnati.

Dennard has remained stuck firmly behind Bengals cornerbacks Adam Joes and Dre Kirkpatrick on the depth chart, starting just four games in three seasons. Josh Shaw, a fourth-round pick in 2015, surpassed Dennard last season as well. The Bengals also spent a first-round pick on William Jackson last year, though he missed his rookie season with a torn pec. Clearly, there is a ton of competition there.

Less clear is whether the Eagles would be interested in a deal. Dennard hasn’t been elevated to starter for a reason. And the Eagles could have chosen Dennard in ’14, opting to trade down instead. Meanwhile, the Bengals picked up the fifth-year option on Dennard’s contract, and while the $8.5 million he’s owed for 2018 is only guaranteed for injury, that could impact any decision.

Steelers CBs Ross Cockrell or Senquez Golson
Cornerback was an area of concern in Pittsburgh last season. Now the Steelers might have too many bodies. The club used third- and fifth-round picks on Cameron Sutton and Brian Allen in April, creating a log jam of sorts on the back end of the depth chart.

Depending on the outcome of job competitions at training camp, either Cockrell or Golson might be available. Cockrell, 26 in August, started all 16 games for the Steelers last season, but the Steelers were dangling him for the low price of a fourth-round pick as a restricted free agent this offseason. A second-round pick in 2015, Golson missed both of his first two NFL seasons with a shoulder and foot injuries, and may have missed his shot with the team as a result.

Then again, William Gay is 32, and the Steelers could just as easily decide to move on and keep both Cockrell and Golson. With Sutton and Allen on their heels, even Gay’s departure could leave the door open for moves.

Dolphins CBs Tony Lippett or Bobby McCain
Oddly enough, Miami was rumored in February to have interest in trading for a veteran starting cornerback to pair with Byron Maxwell. Odd, because the defense already has a nice mix of experienced players and intriguing prospects.

It looks like 2016 second-round pick Xavien Howard will start opposite Maxwell, and third-round rookie Cordrea Tankersley is good for a roster spot at least. If Tankersley can contribute right away, either Lippett or McCain – a pair of fifth-rounders in ’15 – might be expendable. Lippett actually outplayed Howard by some measures in his 13 starts last season. McCain has been a little shaky at times, but only turns 24 in August and has 12 career starts under his belt.

The Dolphins have shown a willingness to work with the Eagles in recent years. Should either Lippett or McCain become available, Roseman could be among the first to receive a phone call.

Phils fan double fists way through rain-delayed blowout loss to Astros

Phils fan double fists way through rain-delayed blowout loss to Astros

Thunder may only happen when it rains and Philly fans may only love these Phillies players when they're... drinking.

At least that was the case last night when the Phils got their butts whooped by the Houston Astros, 13-4, after a lengthy one hour and 52 minute rain delay.

There was one fan who had some pretty great seats for the loss who was there pretty much the entire night with two beers in hand. 

Here he is in the fourth inning (two beers):

And later in the seventh: 

Not only is the man double fisting, but he's also rocking a pretty sweet Hawaiian shirt, elevating his legend even higher. 

He wasn't the only standout from the stands last night. Check out this sweet one-handed grab in the second level.

Phils fans are the real MVP for sitting through this season.