We start with special teams star Chris Maragos and we finish with Central Jersey rock band Anderson Council. In between, we've got some Nelson Agholor, some Kenjon Barner, some DeSean, some Quintin Demps and some Andy Reid.
Not to mention a little Center City exit ramp talk, some George Michael, a little bit of Josh Hart and the inevitable Yes chat.
Complete coverage of the Philadelphia Eagles and their NFL rivals from NBC Sports Philadelphia.
And tons more.
What else could it be? A belated return of Roob's 25 Random Points!
Jump in! You never know how long it will be till I come up with 25 more!
1. Chris Maragos may be the best special teams player I've ever seen. The guy makes every play in punt and kickoff coverage. It's unreal. We've seen some great ones around here over the years – Ken Rose, Quintin Mikell, Ike Reese and Colt Anderson. But Maragos is in a class of his own. This is a guy who was a walk-on wide receiver in college, went undrafted out of Wisconsin, was released three times early in his career and is now with his third NFL team. But if you were going to make a list of Eagles MVPs, he'd be right at the top. I talked to Maragos after the Giants game Thursday night about what makes him tick, and he said he draws on the challenges he's overcome to get to where he is now every time he's on the field: "I'm just trying to be relentless out there. If I'm running down the field on punt coverage, the guy blocking me might be a better athlete, bigger and stronger and faster, but I just tell myself, ‘There is no way he overcame more than I did to get where I am. There is no way he faced the challenges I faced.' I know when it's time to dig deep on that play, there is no way he's able to dig as deep as I am."
2. Here's my biggest fear regarding the Eagles. Well, one of my biggest fears: They are not a young team. They say they are rebuilding, but most of their best players are older. Malcolm Jenkins is 29. Brandon Graham turns 29 this spring. Darren Sproles will be 34 in June. Nolan Carroll turns 30 in a few weeks and Jason Peters turns 35a couple days later. Ryan Mathews is 29 and is now facing neck surgery. I tried to make a list of the Eagles' top 10 players 25 and under and the first few are easy, but then it gets challenging: 1) Carson Wentz, 2) Jordan Hicks, 3) Jordan Matthews … (now we start scrambling) … 4) Trey Burton, 5) Beau Allen, 6) Jalen Mills, 7) Wendell Smallwood … (OK, now we're really reaching) … 8) Isaac Seumalo, 9) Halapoulivaati Vaitai … (I have no idea who to make No. 10. Is Nelson Agholor ahead of Paul Turner? After the 40-yard TD Thursday night I guess he is) … 10) Nelson Agholor. Years and years of terrible drafting have left the roster dangerously lacking in young talent. How did the Eagles make their runs from 2000 through 2008? With players they drafted from 1995 through 2002 – Bobby Taylor, Jermane Mayberry, Tra Thomas, Jeremiah Trotter, Donovan McNabb, Corey Simon, Lito Sheppard, Sheldon Brown, Michael Lewis, Brian Westbrook. Until this team finds a way to draft young players AND develop them into elite players, the Eagles aren't going anywhere.
3. Pretty safe to assume Mathews has played his last snap as an Eagle. Mathews suffered a very serious injury, he'll need surgery, and we don't even know when – if ever – he'll be able to play again. The Eagles know they need to get younger and healthier at running back. Mathews certainly was not an elite back here, but he was a fascinating one. When he was healthy – every conversation about Mathews starts with "when he's healthy" – Mathews was really good. His 4.6 rushing average is third-highest in Eagles history by running backs with at least 250 carries, behind only Ernie Steele (5.2 in the 1940s) and LeSean McCoy (4.7). He had eight rushing TDs in limited action this year, and only six running backs in franchise history have had more in a season. He'll probably be remembered most for his fumble in Detroit, but Mathews leaves a curious legacy. When he got double-digit carries, the Eagles were 7-4. When he didn't, they were 6-14. Not a great back. But a curious one. You can't help wonder how good he'd be if he could ever stay healthy. But he just can't.
4. You know who's shown me a lot down the stretch? DeSean Jackson. With the Redskins scrambling for playoff position, he's finishing the season strong with 100 yards or more in each of the Redskins' last three games. Can he still run? He's averaging 18.0 yards per catch this year, which is tied for second-highest in the NFL behind Chris Hogan of the Patriots, who's at 19.2. How often does a 30-year-old catch 50 passes and average 18 yards a catch? D-Jax is only the 11th in NFL history to do that and second in the last 20 years, following Terry Glenn of the Cowboys in 2005. He can still run. He can still track a deep ball. We saw that first-hand a couple weeks ago. He can still produce consistently. Jackson is now in the top 30 in NFL history with 32 100-yard games, and his 8,796 yards are 23rd-most ever by a player in his first nine years. He can still play, and I want him back. Because I trust DeSean to produce next year more than I trust Howie Roseman's ability to find someone who can do what DeSean can do.
5. There are four safeties in the NFL who have had at least 14 interceptions over the last four years. Two of them are Kurt Coleman and Quintin Demps.
6. Forget stats for a moment. Just starting 16 games is quite an accomplishment for Carson Wentz. He'll become only the fourth Eagles quarterback to start 16 games in a season, joining Ron Jaworski (five times), Donovan McNabb (four times) and Randall Cunningham (three times). He'll also become only the 10th Eagle at any position to start 16 games as a rookie (joining Eric Allen, Bernard Williams, Tra Thomas, Corey Simon, Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, Doug Brzezinski, Barrett Brooks and Roynell Young). And he'll become only the 16th quarterback league-wide to start 16 games, with 12 of them coming since 2008. He's the first Eagle QB to start and finish (if he finishes Sunday's game vs. the Cowboys) every game since McNabb in 2003, and that alone speaks volumes. Incredibly tough kid.
7. As for Wentz's performance, it's tricky evaluating him because he had so little around him. I would have liked to see him show a little more development as the season went on. First five games he had seven TDs and one INT, the last 10 he's had seven TDs and 13 INTs. And those INTs weren't deflected passes. They were just bad decisions, most early in games. Normally, I would be discouraged by someone's decision making with those numbers, but we all saw just how frustrated Wentz grew with such a meager cast of wide receivers to throw to, an up-and-down running game and an ever-changing offensive line. I was encouraged by his development in pocket awareness and keeping plays alive and his ability to rally the offense late in games. Those are big-time qualities for a young quarterback. I think the rest will come once the Eagles surround him with more capable wide receivers. They just better do that soon.
8. How much pressure will Doug Pederson be under to win next year? Consider this: The last Eagles head coach who didn't reach the playoffs in either of his first two seasons (not counting the 1987 strike season) was Marion Campbell in 1983 and 1984. Buddy went 10-6 and won the NFC East in 1988, his second non-strike season. Richie the K went 10-6 and won a playoff game in New Orleans in his second year, 1991. Ray-Bob went 10-6 and won a playoff game in 1995, his first year. Big Red won a playoff game in his second year, 2000. And even Chip Kelly won the division and reached the playoffs in 2013, his first year. There are no five-year plans anymore. No three-year programs. You get the first year, but if Pederson doesn't get this thing pointed in the right direction next year, Jeff Lurie has to go in a different direction. It's already been eight years since the Eagles won a playoff game, three years since they even got there. I need to see significant progress in 2017, and I presume Lurie does as well.
9. Andy Reid is truly unique in NFL history. He's now reached the playoffs an astounding 12 times in the last 17 years. Only five coaches in NFL history have taken more teams to the playoffs. But he's only won one playoff game since 2008 and obviously has never won a Super Bowl. He's got the 12th-most wins as a head coach in NFL history and a .601 winning percentage. Only seven coaches have more wins and a higher winning percentage, and those seven have won a total of 27 NFL championships. But Big Red has only been to one Super Bowl and that was 12 years ago. It may be that Andy will have to outlast Belichick and Brady to even have a chance at another Super Bowl. And personally I just don't see how any team quarterbacked by Alex Smith will ever win a championship. But Reid knows how to win. He's 42-21 since arriving in Kansas City and actually has a much higher winning percentage as Chiefs coach (.667) than he did as Eagles coach (.583). He's a good guy and brought the Eagles the most success they've had in the last half century. I wish him well.
10. All that said, I did not like Big Red's decision to let Dontari Poe throw a touchdown pass Sunday night with the Chiefs already up 17 points following the two-minute warning … on Christmas Day. Very uncharacteristic. It wasn't quite Buddy doing a fake kneeldown against the Cowboys in 1987, but it was close. Gary Kubiak took it much better than I would have.
11. Hey, PennDOT … how about a ramp from Vine Street west-bound to Broad Street north-bound? Right now, you take your life in your hands taking that looping ramp to 15th Street south and then making an impossible left turn onto Vine Street east-bound (non-Expressway version) and an even more difficult left turn onto Broad Street. The problem is unless you are driving in the middle of the night, it's impossible to get into the left lane on Vine Street once you turn left off 15th Street because traffic is always backed up there. And it's a one-lane left turn. So you have to either sit there and wait for everybody to get by – and block the entire lane of people who want to go straight – or get lucky and find somebody in the left lane who'll let you in. But because of the traffic light at the corner of Broad and Vine Street west-bound (non-Expressway version), traffic heading north on Broad is often backed up into the intersection, making that left turn even more difficult. Can we get a ramp from Vine Street Expressway west-bound directly onto Broad Street north-bound? Soon? Please?
12. Also … while we're making unrealistic requests … how about a pedestrian tunnel from 30th Street Station to the adjacent Market-Frankford Line station? Is that too much to ask?
13. Lane Johnson is my Eagles MVP. He's also my Eagles Least Valuable Player. Think about it. When he plays, the Eagles are 4-1 and averaging 27.3 points per game on offense. He's been dominating in those games. When he hasn't played, they're 2-8 and averaging 18.4 points per game. Nobody's meant more to the Eagles when they've won. And you can make a case that nobody has been more responsible for their losses. So MVP and LMVP. Simultaneously. Congrats, Lane!
14. I touched on this in my 10 Instant Observations off the Giants game, but the vicious and hateful tweets and comments about Zach Ertz are repugnant, inappropriate and off-base. Why fans have picked Ertz to hurl their vitriol at is beyond me. Is he Gronk? No, he's not Gronk. Who is? But Ertz has been one of the NFL's most productive tight ends in the four years he's been in the league, and if he doesn't get enough yards after the catch for your tastes, then just say that instead of questioning his character or his effort or his manhood. All tight ends are different. Chad Lewis wasn't out there breaking tackles, but he was a very good receiving tight end. Brent Celek has always been a guy who breaks tackles and has been beloved by the fan base and rightfully so. But let's compare their first four years in the league – Celek was 161-for-1,978 with 14 touchdowns and a 12.3 average and Ertz is 234-for-2,701 with 11 TDs and an 11.6 average. That's 700 yards more than Celek in his first four years. The difference is that Ertz is a second-round pick and Celek was a fifth-round pick, and fans instantly gravitate toward the overachieving late-round guy than the second-round guy whose numbers have been up and down. Which is fine. You can cheer whoever you want and boo whoever you want. But I keep coming back to this: Ertz has the 11th-most catches and 18th-most yards ever by a tight end in his first four years, and he can move up those lists significantly with just an average game Sunday against the Cowboys. Ertz hasn't been a Pro Bowler, but he's been targeted 90 times and he has 65 catches and one drop this year. I'm sure he'd like the Vontaze Burfict play back, but Ertz is a good player on a team that doesn't have a ton of them, and Eagles fans should be glad he's here.
15. I know some people never took George Michael's career seriously because of Wham! and "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" and all that. But do me a favor. Just check out Michael singing "Somebody to Love" with Queen at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert and then get back to me. The man could flat-out sing.
16. In honor of Yes finally making the Rock ‘n' Roll Hall of Fame, here are my top-5 under-rated Yes tracks: 1. Life me Up, 2. Beyond and Before, 3. Release, Release, 4. To Be Over, 5. It Can Happen.
17. Much has been made about whether the Eagles should bring Nelson Agholor back for a third season in the hopes that things finally click for him. He is only 23 years old, and it would cost them just over $4.5 million in dead money to release him. That's a lot. And then there's the 40-yard TD Thursday night that gave some people hope. I just can't get beyond how ineffective he's been. He's been targeted 69 times and has 36 catches for 365 yards. That means he's averaging 5.3 yards per target, which is almost impossible to do. I'm just afraid that keeping Agholor will limit the ways the Eagles can replace him and rebuild this receiving crew. Josh Huff is already gone, Bryce Treggs presumably won't be back, I don't need to see any more of Dorial Green-Beckham, they don't seem very enamored of Paul Turner. But I also don't have a ton of faith in Howie to replace a bunch of wideouts. After all, this is the guy whose veteran free agent wide receiver additions this past offseason -- Rueben Randle and Chris Givens -- didn't even make it to opening day. Even so, while I fully expect Agholor to be back, I'd be fine if the Eagles kept Jordan Matthews and then started over.
18. One of the mysteries of the 2016 Eagles season to me was Pederson's steadfast insistence on not using Kenjon Barner unless he was forced to by injuries and/or circumstance. Barner finished the season with a 4.8-yard rushing average and two touchdowns on only 27 carries, 42 yards on five catches and a 30.8 kickoff return average on only nine attempts. Think about this: During the season-opening 3-0 start, Barner ran 14 times for 86 yards, a 6.1 average. Then he got just 13 carries the rest of the year. And think about this: He had a 52-yard kickoff return against the Falcons and then a 61-yarder three weeks later against the Bengals and then … was inactive for the Redskins the next week. Makes zero sense. This team didn't have enough weapons to shut down Barner for no reason. Barner this year became only the seventh player in the NFL since 1970 to average over 30 yards per kick return (minimum of five) and 4.8 yards per rush (minimum of 20). Maybe it was my imagination but it sure seemed like he made a big play whenever he touched the ball. And on a team with a limited number of playmakers, seems to me he could have helped a lot more than he was allowed to.
19. One reason to look forward to 2017: A new Spoon record.
20. As remarkably as Josh Hart performed last year for Villanova's national championship team, his evolution this year has been incredible. Now, this all comes with the caveat that Villanova is only now opening play in the Big East. But still. Hart has improved from 51 percent from the field to 56 percent, from 36 percent to 43 percent from three-point range, from 75 to 81 percent from the foul line, doubled his assists from 1.9 to 3.7 and boosted his scoring average from 15.5 to 20.1 His rebounding is down slightly (6.8 to 6.6) but his steals are up slightly (1.2 to 1.4). How rare is it to average 20 points, 6.5rebounds and 3.5 assists per year? The last to do it in any conference was C.J. McCollum of Lehigh in 2012. The last to do it in a major conference was Evan Turner of Ohio State in 2010. And the last to do it in the Big East was Kerry Kittles in 1996. Those numbers may dip as Villanova deals with the nightly rigors of the Big East. But from what I've seen so far, Hart is a legit candidate for national Player of the Year.
21. Some advice for people who walk in public: DON'T WALK THROUGH A DOORWAY OR ALONG A NARROW CONCOURSE OR HALLWAY AND THEN JUST STOP AND PONDER YOUR NEXT MOVE. DON'T DO THIS. PLEASE. THERE ARE INVARIABLY GOING TO BE PEOPLE BEHIND YOU. AND WHEN YOU STOP THEY WILL HAVE NOWHERE TO GO. AND THERE WILL BE PEOPLE BEHIND THEM. AND THEY WILL HAVE NOWHERE TO GO. AND THIS PATTERN WILL CONTINUE THROUGH FOREVER AND BEFORE LONG YOU WILL HAVE BASICALLY THIS BIG GIANT HUGE PILE OF PEOPLE WHO CAN'T MOVE AND THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE WILL BE AT A STANDSTILL. SO PROCEED THROUGH THE DOORWAY AND IF YOU REALLY ARE UNSURE ABOUT YOUR NEXT MOVE, FIND SOME OPEN SPACE A FEW FEET AWAY SO THE UNIVERSE CAN KEEP MOVING. THANKS, ROOB.
22. Another guy we never talk about who deserves some credit is Donnie Jones. At 36 years old, he's averaging 45.6 yards per punt this year, which is fourth-best in franchise history and gives him four of the top-six seasons in Eagles history (Joe Muha averaged 47.3 in 1948 and Mat McBriar 46.6 in 2012). Jones' career average with the Eagles is 45.3 and his net is 40.2, and both are franchise record by more than 2.5 yards per punt. With guys like Caleb Sturgis, Chris Maragos and Jones and then Dave Fipp running the show, the Eagles' special teams are in terrific hands.
23. Then there's this: Rams punter Johnny Hekker has 50 punts inside the 20 this year and one touchback. How is that even possible?
24. I deleted my original 24th random point, which was a list of my 250 favorite current bands from Idaho, and I'm going to replace it with one last thought on the Giants game: The more I think about it, the more I just can't believe Pederson had Wentz lead blocking six plays after being in the NFL's concussion protocol. Even without the concussion exam, it's absolute insanity putting your franchise quarterback at risk like that. With it? It honestly makes me wonder if Pederson should have been the one in concussion protocol at that point. You're 10 days from the end of the season and you're creating a very real possibility your 23-year-old quarterback could sustain a serious injury. You just don't want your quarterback's head on the ground amidst a bunch of very fast, very strong football players moving at a high rate of speed. And the thing about concussion protocol is that it's not a perfect science. Jenkins beat it last year and returned to play with what turned out to be a concussion. What if Wentz did the same thing? Pederson has done a lot of things this year that make you wonder about his ability to lead this team where it needs to go. But that was off the charts. And the more I think about it, the more I wonder just exactly what he was thinking.
25. And finally, my top 50 records of 2016:
1. Fruit Bats, Absolute Loser
2. Shearwater, Jet Plane and Oxbow
3. Hamilton Leithauser / Rostam, I've Had That Dream 1,000 Times
4. Hurry, Guided Meditation
5. Okkervil River, Away
6. Joyce Manor, Cody
7. The Pooches, the Pooches
8. Nick Piunti, Trust your Instincts
9. Slaughter Beach, Dog, Welcome
10. Nada Surf, You Know Who You Are
11. Chris Farren, Can't Die
12. Chris Harford, Horn of Plenty
13. Dr. Dog, Abandoned Mansion
14. Twin Peaks, Down in Heaven
15, Will Courtney, Planning Escapes
16. The Hotelier, Goodness
17. Geology, Healers
18. LVL UP, Return to Love
19. Dominic Angelella, Goodnight Doggies
20. Suburban Living, Almost Paradise
21. Teenage Fanclub, Here
22. Damien Jurado, Visions of us on the Land
23. Radical Face, Family Tree
24. Modern Baseball, Holy Ghost
25. Car Seat Headrest, Teens of Denial
26. Sunflower Bean, Human Ceremony
27. Bon Iver, 22 A Million
28. Goodbye Party, Silver Blues
29. Dowsing, Okay
30. Balance and Composure, Light we Made
31. Dead Tongues, Montana
32. Superweaks, Better Heavens
33. Look Park, Look Park
34. Alejandro Escovedo, Burn Something Beautiful
35. Lydia Loveless, Real
36. Tim Easton, American Fork
37. Esme Patterson, We Were Wild
38. Dylan LeBlanc, Cautionary Tale
39. Parquet Courts, Human Performance
40. Broken Beak, Some Nerve
41. Bob Mould, Patch the Sky
42. Pinegrove, Cardinal
43. Jank, Versace Summer
44. From Indian Lakes, Everything Feels Better Now
45. Martin Courtney, Many Moons
46. Hiss Golden Messenger, Lateness of Dancers
47. Heron Oblivion, self-titled
48. DIIV, Is the Is Are
49. Spelling Reform, No One's Ever Changed
50. Anderson Council, Assorted Colours