Eagles news and notes for 11/1
Time is running out if the Eagles hope to upgrade at wide receiver, otherwise it's Nelson Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham and Josh Huff on the outside for the rest of the season.
So unless Howie Roseman emerges from his hole and sees his shadow, expect a Groundhog Day-like repeat of dropped passes, poorly-run routes and penalties for the next nine games.
The NFL trade deadline is 4 p.m. Tuesday and while there have been reports linking the Eagles to the 49ers' Torrey Smith and the Bears' Alshon Jeffery, coach Doug Pederson continued to insist that his team wasn't likely to make a deal for a receiver.
"As far as I know, we're not making any moves," Pederson said Monday. "The guys we have are the guys we have. We're going to continue to work and get better at that position."
Pederson left some wiggle room. As far as I know leaves the door open for a trade because the coach technically might not know what Roseman is working on behind the scenes. However unlikely that may be, Pederson has an out in case the Eagles executive is able to swing a trade.
Roseman is likely having conversations with a host of teams for any number of players and positions, but the Eagles have no greater need than at receiver. The 29-23 overtime loss to the Cowboys on Sunday night only hammered that season-long point home.
The Eagles’ defense allowed 10 points in the Cowboys first three drives, but in the following five possessions, Dallas put only three more points on the board. For the first time all season, the Cowboys were held to just 13 points in the first three quarters of a game.
Jim Schwartz’s unit tightened up by giving Ezekiel Elliott little running room and Dak Prescott nowhere to throw the ball. At one point in the second half, Prescott’s passer rating was only 6.6 points better than Cole Beasley’s, whose only pass attempt in the game was an incompletion.
“We thought we were going to win,” Rodney McLeod said. “We were in good position.”
But then the Cowboys scored two touchdowns in their final four drives of the game, and the Eagles’ defense suddenly went from the reason the Birds were in position to win to why the team traveled back to Philadelphia with a loss. During Dallas’ game-winning touchdown pass, Prescott escaped the pocket and rolled to his left before he found a wide open Jason Witten for the five-yard score.
“The quarterback started getting out of the pocket. That’s pretty much it,” Nigel Bradham said. “He scrambled, used his feet and created time. That’s all it was, really. We got to do a better job of staying in coverage longer and do a better job of keeping the quarterback in the pocket.”
Doug Pederson said Monday he’s considering replacing Ryan Mathews with 33-year-old Darren Sproles as the Eagles’ primary running back.
Pederson said he's evaluating how to proceed at the running back spot, which has been somewhat muddled for the Eagles this year.
Asked whether Sproles will be the Eagles’ featured back moving forward, Pederson sure sounded like he was leaning that way. Or at least seriously considering it.
“I can't say that 100 percent,” he said. “It's something we'll evaluate in these next couple of days and make that determination.
“But until then, it's still Ryan Mathews and then Darren in those situations. And then we've got to get Wendell [Smallwood] and Kenjon [Barner] going a little bit, too.”
Mathews, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher and a Pro Bowler in 2011, leads the Eagles with 71 carries and 272 rushing yards but got only four carries on eight snaps in the loss to Dallas on Sunday night.
THE PASS DEFENSE
Even with Prescott’s ability to extend plays, the Eagles did a good job of shutting down the Cowboys’ passing game for much of the game.
Dallas had 11 possessions. On nine of those, Prescott looked like, well, a fourth-round rookie quarterback.
The Eagles held him to nine completions in 26 attempts on those nine possessions. Linebacker Jordan Hicks intercepted a Prescott pass in the end zone in the second quarter to foil a potential scoring drive.
But then there were the other two drives. The 11-play, 90-yard touchdown march late in the fourth quarter that tied the game. And the 12-play, 75-yard touchdown series in overtime to win it for the Cowboys.
Prescott completed 10 of 13 passes for 135 yards on those two drives. Hit Bryant with a 22-yard touchdown pass to tie the game with 3:04 left. Connected with Witten on a five-yard, game-winning touchdown pass in overtime.
Where to begin? Let's start on the offensive side of the football, where the Eagles managed 291 total yards of offense at Dallas. There were some impressive drives - 10 plays, 45 yards to open the game and score a field goal; nine plays, 46 yards for a touchdown; eight plays, 43 yards to end the first half with a field goal; 12 plays, 64 yards for a touchdown - but at the end of the night the Eagles managed only 21 first downs and 23 points. Not enough.
What can the Eagles do? Some thoughts ...
- They've got to get more "chunk" plays from the offense. Quarterback Carson Wentz completed 32 passes against Dallas and gained only 202 yards. The offense was much more horizontal than vertical as the Eagles looked to attack the flanks of the Cowboys' defense. Wentz's long completion was for 14 yards to Dorial Green-Beckham. According to STATS LLC, the Eagles ranked 21st in the league heading into Week 8 with 724 YAC yards (yards after catch). The numbers were very, very limited on Sunday night, so that ranking is not going to improve when the new statistics come out this week. How do the Eagles get more YAC? They've got to take some shots and trust their receivers. They have to find some players in space. They have to block better on plays like the one they ran for Darren Sproles on Sunday night when he was tackled for a 6-yard loss on a third-and-8 play, a mishap that cost the Eagles a chance at a field goal opportunity and a 10-point advantage.
- On third downs on Sunday night, the Eagles converted 6-of-15, an improved performance from the previous six games. But they still rank 28th in the league, with an efficiency of 34.8 percent. That's got to improve, and it has to get better on first and second downs to make for more attainable third-and-short opportunities.