Eagles news and notes for 12/17
It’s that time of year, when reporters covering the Eagles suddenly find themselves standing in front of locker stalls they’ve spent most of the season striding past en route to more pressing destinations.
Turns out, rookie running back Byron Marshall dresses right next to Wendell Smallwood, with just a pillar separating them. We probably stood in Marshall’s space a few times while talking to Smallwood and didn’t even realize it. Isaac Seumalo is on the other side of the room, not in the corner with the starting offensive linemen, but up from that row, among the O-line subs and practice squad guys.
With three games left in the season, Marshall is scheduled to make his NFL debut Sunday at Baltimore. Though by all accounts Marshall (5-9, 201) has performed well on the practice squad, he is now on the 53-man roster and should play at least a little because Smallwood is on IR after suffering an MCL sprain last Sunday against Washington, and Darren Sproles remains in the concussion protocol after taking a vicious hit from Deshazor Everett in that same game. The league fined Everett more than $48,000 for penalized hits on Sproles and Brent Celek, who has recovered from a stinger suffered on the play.
“I know they’ve got some plays for me. I think how the game goes” will determine whether those plays are used, Marshall said. “I’m able to make cuts, get reads, catch the ball well for a back.”
Kenjon Barner, who will return punts in Sproles’ absence, was a senior at Oregon when Marshall was a freshman.
“He’s versatile, man,” Barner said. “He can catch a ball out of the backfield. A lot of people wouldn’t think he’s shifty, but he’s extremely shifty.”
From 2010-2016, Mathews has appeared on the injury report 56 times. In 2016, Mathews has "only" missed two games, which is better than normal.
On the field, Mathews is a hard runner who has played well at times, and has decent numbers. On the season, Mathews has rushed 117 times for 487 yards and 7 TDs. Unfortunately, his fumble against the Detroit Lions arguably cost the Eagles a game. Two weeks later he fumbled in clock-killing time once again against the Minnesota Vikings. That damaged the Eagles' trust in Mathews, as he carried the ball just nine times over the next two games. In 2015, Mathews lost three fumbles on 106 carries.
In 2017, Mathews will count for $5 million against the salary cap, $4 million of which the Eagles can save if they trade or cut him. For a guy who is always injured and has ball security issues, it feels like a no-brainer to move on.
Offensive lineman Allen Barbre did not practice for the third consecutive day because of a hamstring injury, making it likely that rookie Isaac Seumalo will start at right tackle. Barbre is officially listed as questionable, but Seumalo took the first-team snaps all week. He would be the fourth starter and fifth player at that position this season. Seumalo was supposed to be an interior linemen, but injuries and suspension left the Eagles with no better option.
At running back, Darren Sproles has still not been cleared to return from a concussion suffered on a brutal hit he took while trying to field a punt last weekend. Wendell Smallwood is already out for the season, leaving the Eagles with Ryan Mathews and Kenjon Barner at running back and Byron Marshall promoted from the practice squad to be the third-stringer.
The Eagles have not scored more than two touchdowns in a game since Week 2, and they're now limited on the offensive line and in the running game against the NFL's fourth-ranked defense. That could put a strain on rookie quarterback Carson Wentz.
"As the play-caller, I have to make sure that I'm doing Isaac justice by helping him if I can and when I can," coach Doug Pederson said. "You are aware as a quarterback. Your rhythm and timing have to be just at the utmost high, just get the ball out of your hand."
When the Eagles drafted Seumalo in the third round, they liked his versatility. But even Pederson admitted they didn't view him as a tackle. A tackle is "on an island" more than a guard, Pederson said, and has more one-on-one blocks. They also face edge rushers. On Sunday, it will be Baltimore's five-time Pro Bowler, Elvis Dumervil. Pederson said Seumalo "is very capable of handling" the position and has had a good week of practice.
BLG: Ravens 17, Eagles 10
The Eagles are 5-2 in games with 100-plus rushing yards this season. One of those losses includes the Lions game, which Philadelphia would have won if not for Ryan Mathews‘ fumble.
So how about those games where the Eagles rush for less than 100 yards? Yeah, Philadelphia is 0-6 in those ones. And it’s no coincidence the Eagles’ worst rushing performances of the year line up with their worst losses of the season (Packers, Bengals, first Washington game)
The Ravens’ run defense is going to shut down the Eagles’ run game, which will force Wentz to throw a lot more than he ideally should be. Wentz won’t be able to carry the Eagles’ offense alone.
The feeling here is this game won’t be a blowout because Baltimore’s offense isn’t very good. Rather, the expectation is that this will be an ugly defensive struggle that ultimately features the Ravens coming out on top.
It’s only fitting that the Eagles will lose yet again on the road in their last away game of the 2016 schedule.
Simply put, this organization needs the stability right now.
The Eagles can't handle another year like the last two. The revolving door at the two top positions has been followed by a remarkable amount of turnover on the roster, which frankly it's no wonder things haven't improved. Within the last two years, the title of GM has been volleyed back and forth between Roseman and Chip Kelly, and the latter was fired and replaced by Pederson and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz — and just look at all of the change that's followed.
In 2015, Kelly jettisoned LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Nick Foles, Evan Mathis, Todd Herremans, Trent Cole, Nate Allen and Cary Williams. In their place, he brought in Sam Bradford, DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Hicks, Eric Rowe, Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell.
In 2016, Roseman ripped it down and rebuilt again. He sent Bradford, Murray, Rowe, Alonso and Maxwell all packing along with DeMeco Ryans, Cedric Thornton and Riley Cooper, and in their place went out and got Carson Wentz, Dorial Green-Beckham, Brandon Brooks, Nigel Bradham, Leodis McKelvin and Rodney McLeod.
A new GM and/or a new coach just means more new players, and while this team could obviously benefit from a few of those, when is it time to finally sit back and allow somebody's vision have time to come to fruition? The fact of the matter is you can only overhaul the roster so many times before the question turns from whether the plan was working to whether the plan ever had a chance to come together, whether the players had a chance to jell in a certain system or come together as a unit.
Isaac Seumalo learned the NFL's No. 1 rule almost instantly after the Eagles selected him in the third round of April's NFL Draft. It dawned on him right away that to make it in the league you have to be ready for anything. Truth.
Here is Seumalo late in the week, a couple of days before the Eagles are scheduled to play the Ravens in Baltimore and he's taking reps as the right tackle on this offensive line. If it transpires that Allen Barbre, who has not practiced all week after suffering a hamstring injury on Sunday against Washington, is out then Seumalo will start at right tackle for the first time since 2013 when he was a sophomore at Oregon State.
"I'm not going to complain," he said. "There's nothing I can do except be ready when called to play, no matter where it is."
The Eagles used the 16th pick in the third round (79th overall) to draft Seumalo, and they lauded his versatility at the time. "He can play all five positions," Howie Roseman said the second night of the draft. "The tape separated him for us."
OK, great stuff. The challenge for Seumalo was that after the brief introduction to the offense and a handful of practices at the NovaCare Complex, he was forced, by NCAA rules, to sit out the team's three rounds of Organized Team Activities as well as a mandatory minicamp waiting for his Oregon State class to graduate. How do you make up for that lost time? You don't.
Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland did what he could with Seumalo, engaging in Skype video sessions, working on the grease board with Seumalo on concepts, but nothing could replace the on-field activities. By the time Seumalo reported to Training Camp, he was behind. Way, way behind.