A Jerome Brown story, the Eagles' pass rush, a vastly underrated Eagles defense and - of course - a Nick Foles stat you won't believe!
It's all right here in our last 10 random Eagles observations before training camp opens!
See you all at Lehigh (I wish)!
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1. One of the biggest challenges for the 2018 Eagles will be how seamlessly the offense can move on from offensive coordinator Frank Reich and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo to offensive coordinator Mike Groh and QBs coach Press Taylor. My hunch is they'll be fine. We all saw what happened to the Eagles when Andy Reid began losing quality assistant coaches and failed to adequately replace them. The whole thing fell to pieces. Everything I've seen and heard about Groh and Taylor is overwhelmingly positive, but these are huge changes. What helps tremendously is that Groh and Taylor were both here in 2017, and they already speak the same language as Carson Wentz, Foles and teammates. There's a familiarity already in place that will serve everyone well. Groh and Taylor know Doug Pederson's system, they know the personnel, they have strong existing relationships with their players and they're well respected. The Eagles' offense was a machine last year. I don't expect that to change.
2. The Eagles went from Miles Austin to Super Bowl champs in two years.
3. I saw some poll of "NFL insiders" ranked Wentz as the eighth-best quarterback in the NFL. I guess the experts are concerned about his ability to come back from his injury because if we're just going on ability, that's too low. You have to put him behind Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers and probably behind Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees, although all those guys are in their mid-30s or older with their best years behind them. Roethlisberger and Brees in particular. To me, the next group is Wentz, Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan (also in his mid-30s) and Russell Wilson. I'll put Wilson fifth and Wentz sixth, followed by Ryan and Luck (who's 10-13 since losing the 2014 AFC Championship Game). That's probably fair based on career accomplishments, but I'd actually be shocked if guys like Roethlisberger and Brees have better seasons in 2018 than Wentz. Honestly, I expect Wentz to be the best QB in the NFL this year.
4. Wentz's 123.7 third-down passer rating last year was seventh best in the NFL in the last 20 years.
5. One area I'd like to see the Eagles improve this year is finishing off quarterbacks when they get their hands on them. The Eagles were 16th in the NFL with 38 sacks last year, middle of the pack, and had just five in the postseason, although Brandon Graham's strip-sack on Brady was one of the biggest plays in franchise history. In two years under Jim Schwartz, the Eagles are 19th in the NFL with 72 sacks. I was really rooting for Vinny Curry because he's such a great dude. On paper, Michael Bennett is an upgrade, but he turns 33 this fall, so the jury is out. Chris Long is also 33. Graham will do his thing, and Fletcher Cox will get half a dozen sacks just based on sheer effort and power. I expect big things from Derek Barnett in Year 2. I know QBs love getting rid of the ball quickly these days, but that 38 should go up. By 10 at least.
6. Foles has had three career playoff games completing 69 percent of his passes with no interceptions. Only Peyton Manning, Joe Montana and Ryan have had more. Ever.
7. I've decided that the most underrated defense in Eagles history was the 1974 group. That wasn't a very good team - it finished 7-7 and had to win its last three games just to reach .500. But that defense was spectacular. The Eagles allowed 217 points in 14 games, but that includes four return touchdowns, so the defense allowed just 189 points, or 13.5 per game. In the 67 years since 1951, only Jim Johnson's 2001 unit (13.0 ppg) allowed fewer points per game than that 1974 team. The ‘74 Eagles held 10 of their 14 opponents to 14 or fewer offensive points and three others to 19 or less. Only the Cowboys scored more than 19 points against that group, led by Bill Bergey, Bill Bradley, John Bunting, Joe Lavender and Randy Logan. The Eagles at one point that year lost six straight games, but the defense allowed just 15.8 points per game the last five games of that streak. That will never get recognized as a great team. But it was by any measure a tremendous defense.
8. Nobody on the Eagles' roster has ever had a postseason interception in an Eagles uniform.
9. Don't be shocked if Joe Callahan beats out Nate Sudfeld for the No. 3 quarterback spot.
10. My favorite West Chester memory: On reporting day probably in 1989, Brown screeches to a halt in his jeep in front of Smith Hall, the West Chester University dorm that used to house the Eagles players, and parks sideways blocking traffic. He walks inside carrying nothing but a drum set and a briefcase. A moment later, a window on the fourth floor opens and there's Brown screaming, "Bleeeeeeeeeeeep West Chester!" for the whole world to hear. Nobody like Jerome Brown.