John Hightower's secret weapon and more in Roob's random Eagles observations


John Hightower's secret weapon, a 1948 statistical absurdity and whatever happened to Juan Castillo?

That's just a small sample of the goodies awaiting you in today's Roob's Random Eagles Observations! 

1. It’s pretty wild that the Eagles have reached the playoffs the last two years despite just 10 interceptions in 2018 and 11 this past year. That made them only the second team in NFL history with back-to-back playoff seasons with 11 or fewer interceptions (along with the 2010 and 2011 Saints). Only four teams had fewer interceptions the last two years than the Eagles, and that’s a tough way to play defense. Amazing that they’ve been as good as they’ve been without those impact plays that shift field position. Darius Slay is supposed to remedy that, but although he led the NFL with eight INTs in 2017, he’s only had five the last two years — tied for 31st-most in the NFL. Now, I understand that opposing quarterbacks weren’t throwing his way that much and I understand that a big part of interceptions is pass pressure. But the Eagles haven’t had a ballhawk in the secondary since Asante Samuel a decade ago. They need interceptions from Slay. Not two or three. Lots of ‘em.

2. It’s hard to imagine Marquise Goodwin making much of an impact. He’s had one year in seven NFL seasons with more than 431 yards, and at his age — he’ll be 30 this fall — you’re almost always already who you’re going to be. He is fast when he’s healthy, but his career season averages are 20 catches for 332 yards. For the sake of comparison, Nelson Agholor’s career averages are 45-for-503. 

3. Boston Scott had the third-most catches of any NFL running back over the last four weeks of this past season with 23. Only Pro Bowlers Christian McCaffrey (41) and Tarik Cohen (25) had more. The only running back in Eagles history with more catches over the last four games of a season is Herschel Walker with 25 in 1993.

4. The Eagles think speedy rookie receiver John Hightower has a shot to develop into a player, and one impressive thing about the fifth-rounder from Boise State is his rushing number. Hightower only had 24 carries in college but averaged a ridiculous 13.2 yards with two TDs. That’s the fourth-highest rushing average in the BCS on more than 20 carries going back to 2000, which is as far back as Sports Reference tracks college stats. So even if he’s not getting a lot of playing time as a receiver, if he can get himself on the game-day roster watch out for Hightower on jet sweeps and reverses.

5. While I was researching the 10 greatest defensive performances in Eagles history, I noticed something really weird: In 1948, the Eagles won three games by identical 45-0 scores in the span of 36 days, two of them in the span of eight days. And there have only been five other 45-0 games in NFL history! No other team has won more than one game by a 45-0 score and the other five have been spread out — 1951, 1976, 1984, 1991 and 1999. But the Eagles, during an eight-game winning streak on their way to their first NFL Championship, won three games by 45-0 in the span of six weeks. So the Eagles accounted for 38 percent of the 45-0 games in NFL history in 36 days.

6. From 1993 through 2006, half of the Eagles’ first-round draft picks — 6 of 12 — started fewer than 40 games in an Eagles uniform: Lester Holmes (38), Freddie Mitchell (17), Bernard Williams (16), Jon Harris (8), Leonard Renfro (2) and Jerome McDougle (0). 

7. Correll Buckhalter is one of the most underrated and underappreciated Eagles of the last 20 years. The dude bounced back from three torn ACLs. He missed the entire 2002, 2004 and 2005 seasons — he played 15 games from the end of the 2001 season until the start of 2006. But the dude could ball. Buck averaged 4.5 yards per carry, fourth-highest in Eagles history by a running back behind LeSean McCoy (4.7), Brian Westbrook (4.6) and Charlie Garner (4.6). Pretty good company. Buck’s knees never allowed him a huge workload, but Andy Reid used him perfectly, giving him enough work to make a difference but never overusing him on those surgically repaired knees. 

8. Andy Reid and Mike Holmgren are the only coaches in NFL history to win 75 games for two teams. Reid won 130 games with the Eagles and 77 with the Chiefs. Holmgren won 75 with the Packers and 86 with the Seahawks. Reid and Holmgren are best friends and were together in Green Bay from 1992 through 1998.

9. Good to see Juan Castillo back coaching in the NFL. He was out of the league last year after 24 years in the NFL and spent the year working at Michigan as an offensive analyst under Jim Harbaugh, whose brother John he worked with on both the Eagles and Ravens. As O-line coach in Chicago, he’s reunited with Matt Nagy, who he was with in Philly. If the only Castillo you remember is from his 22-game tenure here as Reid's defensive coordinator, he’s one of the best O-line coaches in the game. 

10. There have only been five quarterbacks drafted in the first two rounds who never played a regular-season snap in the NFL:

Harry Agganis, 1952, First round, Browns: When the Red Sox outbid the Browns, Agganis decided to play pro baseball in the Red Sox organization instead of pro football.
Eddie Crowder, 1953, Second round, Giants: Because he had a nerve problem in his throwing shoulder, he joined the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers instead of signing with the Giants. He eventually played in the CFL.
Sandy Stephens, 1962, Second round, Titans: Stephens also played in the CFL before his career was cut short by a very serious car crash, the same one that ended the career of Ted Dean, who scored the winning touchdown for the Eagles in the 1960 NFL Championship Game.
Gene Bradley, 1980, Second round, Bills: Played for the New Jersey Generals of the USFL instead of signing with the Bills.
Christian Hackenberg, 2016, Second round, Jets: The only QB in NFL history drafted in the first two rounds who never played in the NFL or another major sports league.

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