Patrick Johnson’s eyes lit up when he realized he was being asked about Josh Jobe.
“Oh, the Wild Stallion!?” Johnson said. “He’s a beast out there, man. He’s a mad man, he’s physical, runs fast. Does it all for us.”
The Wild Stallion?
Stay in the game with the latest updates on your beloved Philadelphia sports teams! Sign up here for our All Access Daily newsletter.
Yup, Jobe has been given a nickname this season by special teams coordinator Michael Clay. It’s a representation of the way he’s played on special teams all year. Jobe, 25, has been a big reason for the Eagles’ turnaround in the third phase of the game in 2023.
Jobe has earned that moniker.
“[Clay] gave me that nickname,” Jobe said. “It’s a special nickname.”
Jobe’s teammates agreed that the Wild Stallion nickname is a perfect fit for Jobe’s play style on special teams.
But what does it mean to Jobe?
“Wild. A wild guy,” he said. “Just going out there and playing like a wild man.”
While the second-year undrafted cornerback out of Alabama is the Eagles’ top backup behind Darius Slay and James Bradberry, his playing time has been pretty limited on defense this season, especially the last six weeks as the starters have been healthy.
After playing 214 defensive snaps in the first six games of the season, Jobe has played a grand total of five defensive snaps in the last six games.
But on special teams, Jobe has played the third-most snaps on the team (212) behind just recently-released Christian Elliss (238) and rookie Kelee Ringo (225). And Jobe is tied for the team lead in special teams tackles with five.
Jobe is also the Eagles’ representative as a specialist on the Pro Bowl ballot in 2023.
The Eagles’ special teams unit wasn’t very good last season. The third phase of the game was certainly the weakest. And when the Eagles lost key contributors Zech McPhearson and Shaun Bradley to Achilles tears during the preseason, it was fair to wonder if special teams would tumble even further.
The opposite has happened. Clay’s unit has been one of the best in the NFL all season and players like Jobe are a big reason why.
“When you lose a bunch of guys like Zech McPhearson, Shaun Bradley, you always gotta have guys step up,” Johnson said. “And I feel like he’s one of those guys on special teams. He’s really embraced his role. He’s done really well on defense and then on special teams, he’s a Wild Stallion. He’s done everything he’s needed to do and more for us. He just keeps getting better and better.”
Jobe has also been a good example for rookie fourth-round pick Ringo, who has learned a lot from Jobe this season.
Ringo said the Wild Stallion nickname “most definitely” suits Jobe because of his play style.
“Man, how aggressive he is. He’s ready to go get it,” Ringo said. “I feel like the more I learn about the techniques and everything, the more I was able to play that way. Because you’re not thinking as much and your instincts take over.”
Getting closer in run game?
The “run the ball” debate has been ongoing in Philadelphia for decades and got a boost this week thanks to a couple of fellas holding a sign outside the NovaCare Complex on Wednesday.
The Eagles would probably run the ball more if it was more effective. That’s the bigger issue. The run game has been a bit up and down all season. While the Eagles are fifth in rushing attempts this season, they’re just 19th in yards per attempt. While the QB runs obviously play a role, the Eagles simply haven’t been as dominant running the ball as we’re used to.
While many focused on the nine attempts for running backs against San Francisco, it was clear the run wasn’t working. Those backs averaged 2.2 yards per attempt.
Are they close to getting the run game humming again?
“I mean, I think we’re very close,” center Jason Kelce said. “I think the plays that are being called a lot of times are there. We had a toss-crack if I don’t get undercut by the safety, that’s a huge play. I think certain games it’s been there. The second half of the Buffalo game went really, really well. Early in the season, it was certainly clicking. At times against Kansas City. This last week was a really rough one. But I do think it’s close, for sure.”
Situational defense remains a problem
Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni always stresses the importance of situational football and his defense has been glaringly deficient in two key areas: Third downs and red zone.
Entering Week 14, the Eagles have the worst third-down defense in the NFL, giving up conversions 47.3% of the time. The weird thing is that they’re not good in 3-and-long situations either. They give up first downs on 29.3% of those plays. And their 29 first-downs surrendered on 3rd-and-7 are the most in the NFL. They’re getting teams into the right spots and can’t get off the field.
The red zone is a problem too. The Eagles are 29th in red zone defense, allowing touchdowns on 68.3% of drives that get inside their 20.
If you put these two situations together, the numbers aren’t shocking. It’s bad. The Eagles are the second-worst team in the NFL on third downs in the red zone, giving up conversions on 57.7% of those plays (15 of 26). Those 15 conversions include 11 touchdowns. The only team worse in the league is Chicago; the Bears are allowing conversions on an astounding 77.8% of third downs in the red zone.
Eagles ready to respond
The Eagles are coming off an embarrassing performance against the 49ers last week. So the big question is about how they’re going to respond.
This was an interesting and extremely confident answer from A.J. Brown about that upcoming response:
Most Eagles this week haven’t shown any panic. This team is 10-2 and knows it needs to improve. The locker room this week was still very loose. Didn’t feel it tightening up after a rough loss.
When asked about the panic outside the building, Brown had a simple answer: “That’s Philly.”
We’ll see pretty soon how the Eagles respond.
Blankenship to the Pro Bowl?
The first round of fan voting for this year’s Pro Bowl was announced this week and two Eagles led their respective positions in the NFC. One wasn’t a surprise: Jason Kelce at center. The other was: Reed Blankenship at strong safety.
While we can certainly question why the NFL is listing free safety and strong safety separately these days, it shows how far Blankenship has come in his young NFL career. This is a second-year UDFA who had to fight his way onto the team last year. Even if he’s not truly playing at a Pro Bowl level in 2023, he’s been extremely consistent and has proven he can play at this level.
“That's exciting for the team because the team is doing well and then obviously for those guys,” Sirianni said. “You want guys to be recognized on your team for the things they've done.
“And so, Reed has done a nice job of filling in last year and stepping into a starting role this year. What you always notice about Reed is how physical of a player he is, how good he is coming up and making tackles and making timely plays on the ball. So, that's exciting. That's going to be exciting for any of our guys that get post-season awards, or Pro Bowl awards or anything like that. I think that's really exciting for our guys.
“Again, you see it all the time. It's like teams that have the better records are usually the ones getting six, seven, eight [players] in the Pro Bowl, or whatever it is. That's good for the team, that’s good for the guys.”
Fan voting is just one-third of the vote that will determine this year’s Pro Bowlers. Players and coaches will also cast their votes on Friday, Dec. 29 to round out the other two-thirds of the vote.