Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles Observations: A Shocking Pro Bowl Drought and More

The Eagles' shocking Pro Bowl drought in Roob's 10 observations originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

A huge area of improvement for Jalen Hurts, a defensive player I’d like to see more of and why the Eagles had to draft DeVonta Smith.

The Eagles might be on a three-game losing streak going into Carolina, but Roob’s 10 random Eagles observations remains unbeaten!

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1. The Eagles don’t have a position player on the roster in his 20s that’s ever been to a Pro Bowl. That has never happened before since the inception of the Pro Bowl after the 1951 season. How crazy is that? Javon Hargrave is only 28 so the way he’s going he should be a Pro Bowler this year. Maybe Smith makes it. Or Hurts.

But it’s just another way of putting into perspective just how poorly Howie Roseman and his staff have drafted over the years, especially on the defensive side of the football. The only former Pro Bowlers on the roster are that older nucleus: Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Brandon Brooks, Zach Ertz, Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson (and long snapper Rick Lovato).

When your best players are your oldest players, that’s a risky way to survive in the NFL. Because as Roseman always says, older players are more susceptible to injury and you never know when that inevitable decline is going to start. We’re seeing both of those things right now.

There’s nothing wrong with having some key older veterans on the roster. But if you’re unable to draft and develop their replacements, it’s a scary place for a franchise to be.

2. One area where Hurts has made huge strides since last year is third down. Last year, he completed 40 percent of his passes on third down (16 for 40) for 135 yards with two TDs and three INTs, a 53.6 passer rating and a 30 percent conversion rate. This year, he’s completing 60 percent of his passes (18 for 30) for 240 yards with two TDs and no INTs and a 107.6 passer rating on third down and a 43 percent conversion rate.

Overall, the Eagles are 10th in the NFL on third down with that same 43 percent rate. That’s all decision making, pocket awareness and seeing the field. If he can do those things consistently on third down, he’s going to be tough to slow down.

3. There are 31 defensive linemen in the NFL who were drafted in the first round and have started four games this year. Only 10 of them don’t have any sacks. Two of those 10 are Derek Barnett and Cox.

4. The Eagles’ first 10 opponents up through the Broncos are currently 23-17, a .575 winning percentage. Only two of those seven teams — the Falcons and Lions — have a losing record. The Eagles’ last seven opponents are currently 12-17, a .414 winning percentage. Only one of those seven currently has a winning record (the Cowboys).

As bad as things might look a few weeks from now — 1-6 is a real possibility — that Saints-Giants-Jets-Washington-Giants-Washington stretch should give the Eagles at least a chance to be competitive. If they’re still losing at that point ... 

5. There’s been a lot of talk this week about whether the Eagles should have drafted Micah Parsons instead of Smith at No. 10. Parsons looks like an exceptional talent, but the plan for this offseason had to be to surround Hurts with as much talent as possible to give him every opportunity to maximize his ability and give the Eagles the best possible picture of who he is as a quarterback.

The Eagles will have a critical decision to make about the QB position this offseason, and without Smith on the field with him, it would be a lot harder to evaluate him. That said, next offseason has to be about rebuilding the defense. Has to be.

6. It’s very early, but Kenny Gainwell is on pace to catch 55 passes this year. The last NFL running back drafted in the fifth round or later to catch 50 passes as a rookie? That was Sid Blanks of the Oilers, a fifth-round pick who had 56 receptions as a rookie in 1964. 

7. Smith’s 237 yards are second-most ever by an Eagles rookie in his first four career games. DeSean Jackson (who else?) had 327 yards through four games in 2008. But D-Jack had only eight yards in Week 5, so Smith needs only 78 yards against the Panthers to pass Jackson for the most yards in Eagles history through five games.

8. Jonathan Gannon’s belief that keeping two safeties deep and sacrificing a bit in the run game does actually make schematic sense. And the Eagles really aren’t getting beat deep. The problem is the Eagles have been so bad against the run that opposing offenses have been able to put together long TD drives without many deep shots.

One thing that might help is more T.J. Edwards and less Eric Wilson. Edwards is the Eagles’ best linebacker against the run but is averaging only 25 snaps per game and on Sunday was only on the field for 17 plays. Wilson does have the Eagles’ only INT this year, but his weakness against the run is glaring.

You can’t stop everything, but I’d like to see more Edwards and less Wilson on likely running downs. The Eagles are allowing 150 rushing yards per game, the most they’ve given up through four games since 1986. Something has to change. 

9. Along those lines, it’s fascinating to me that as bad as the Eagles’ defense has been the last two weeks, the Eagles are still 10th in what I think is one of the more important defensive categories — yards allowed per play. They’re allowing just 5.33 yards per play, their best since 2017.

How do you explain that? Pretty easily. The Eagles are 27th on third down at 48 percent. So opposing offenses aren’t gaining yards in big clumps, but they’re moving the chains consistently. The Eagles have allowed 11 scoring drives of at least 70 yards, third-most in the league (second-most if you omit the Seahawks, who’ve played five games).

They have to get better on third down or it’s going to be tough for them to stop anybody.

10. With his 68-yard catch-and-run from Matt Stafford Thursday night, Jackson now has 26 receptions of at least 60 yards since he entered the NFL in 2008. Only two other players — Jordy Nelson and T.Y. Hilton — have half as many during that span, Nelson with 16 and Hilton with 14. 

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