Eagles Observations doesn’t take weeks off.
We go year round. Rain or shine. No bye weeks for us.
And in this bye-week edition of Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Observations: A long-time Eagles fixture’s future, something Gardner Minshew did that I’d like to see Jalen Hurts do, a 2022 prediction and tons more.
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1. It was kind of jarring seeing Rodney McLeod on the bench Sunday. Healthy. From his first year here in 2016 through last year, in games when he was healthy, McLeod played 3,816 of 3,834 snaps -- that’s 99.5 percent of the defensive snaps over a five-year period. Even this year coming off knee surgery, McLeod played 501 of 593 snaps in his first nine games. That’s still 85 percent. But in the Jets game, McLeod was only out there for 38 of 59 snaps, and that 64 percent figure is his lowest in six years as an Eagle. Jonathan Gannon went with a three-safety rotation, with Anthony Harris playing 48 of 59 snaps and Marcus Epps 34 of 59. McLeod has been such an important player here over the years. Just solid all the time playing most of his Eagles career opposite Malcolm Jenkins. And his two open-field tackles of Gronk in the Super Bowl both saved touchdowns and probably saved the game. But McLeod is 31 now, has suffered two torn ACLs in the last four years and just isn’t moving and running the way he used to. He’s just not the same guy. McLeod will be a free agent this spring (as will Harris), Epps has played well and K’Von Wallace is waiting in the wings and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the Eagles take a safety somewhere early in the draft. It all means McLeod is most likely playing his final few games in an Eagles uniform. The only defensive backs to start more games for the Eagles over the last 20 years are Sheldon Brown, Dawk and Jenkins. Good company. But he’s just not the same player anymore, and it’s not easy to say that because McLeod has been so consistent, and he’s such a class act. Will be tough to see him go, but it’s probably time.
2. Justin Jefferson had more yards this week  than Jalen Reagor has this year .
3. In franchise history, the Eagles have drafted four offensive linemen who’ve made at least six Pro Bowls. And three of them never played a snap for the Eagles. They drafted Lou Creekmur in the 26th round out of William & Mary in 1948, but he returned to college instead of turning pro and wound up spending his entire 10-year career with the Lions. He was a six-time 1st-team all-pro and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996. In 1963, they drafted Ed Budde in the 1st round out of Michigan State, but he signed instead with the Chiefs of the AFL and spent his entire 14-year career with Kansas City, making seven Pro Bowls. And then in 1969 they drafted Bob Kuechenberg in the 4th round out of Notre Dame. They traded him before the season to the Falcons, he eventually resurfaced in 1970 with the Dolphins and went on to make six Pro Bowls in a 14-year career and should be in the Hall of Fame. The only six-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman the Eagles drafted who played here is Hall of Famer Bob Brown. But he was only here for five of his 10 seasons. So you can make a case that the four greatest offensive linemen the Eagles ever drafted – at least in terms of Pro Bowls – played only five of their combined 48 NFL seasons years in an Eagles uniform.
4. One thing Gardner Minshew did Sunday that I liked is throw to the backs. Kenny Gainwell and Miles Sanders combined for eight catches for 55 yards in the win over the Jets. In Hurts’ 12 starts, the running backs have averaged about half that - 4 catches for 31 yards. The Eagles have three backs that are terrific receivers in Sanders, Gainwell and Boston Scott. These are easy, high-percentage, low-risk throws that are almost always going to pick up seven or eight yards. Would like to see Hurts incorporate more of those throws into his game.
5. Don’t look now, but Taylor Heinicke has the 3rd-highest passer rating in the NFL over the past five weeks at 110.0. That’s 77 percent accuracy, 7 TDs, 2 INTs and 220 yards per game going into the Cowboys game. If the Eagles are going to be a playoff team, they’re going to need to figure out how to slow him down not once, but twice in the next three weeks. The Eagles have beaten five mediocre or worse QBs this year – Matt Ryan, Sam Darnold, Jared Goff, Teddy Bridgewater, Trevor Siemian and Zach Wilson. Heinicke right now looks above average. Can the Eagles slow him down? Can they pressure him? Can they cover Terry McLaurin? This Eagles defense – and pass defense in particular – has been better lately. And it’s not like Washington is an offensive powerhouse. McLaurin is their only decent receiver, and Antonio Gibson runs hard but is only averaging 3.9 yards per carry. Washington is 20th in scoring and 19th in yards per game. But until the Eagles beat an above average QB, we’ll all be wondering if they can do it.
6. Remember how the Eagles were on pace to allow the highest completion percentage in NFL history through nine games? Opposing QBs were completing 75.5 percent of their passes through the Vegas game, which is insane to even think about, especially considering the record is 72.7 percent by the 2016 Lions. But over the last four weeks, the Eagles have held quarterbacks to a 59.7 percent completion percentage, which is 8th-best in the league. A lot of it is the QBs the Eagles have faced, but a lot is also Gannon growing more comfortable with his personnel and more aggressive in his play calling. The Eagles have pressured better and definitely covered better. And, voila, the Eagles are no longer on an NFL-record-worst pace. They’re not even last in the league anymore. That 75.5 percent figure has dropped to 70.4 percent, which is still ugly but a pretty huge improvement.
7. Quez Watkins’ 491 yards this year are only 48 shy of the Eagles’ record for most receiving yards in a season by a 6th-round pick. Who holds the record? Watkins’ former teammate, Travis Fulgham, last year. Fulgham, who’s been on the Dolphins’ practice squad all year, is four weeks from becoming the first healthy player in 40 years with 500 yards for the Eagles in one season and no receiving yards the next. Charlie Smith had 564 yards for the Eagles in 1981 before leaving for the USFL in 1982. He never played again in the NFL. Todd Pinkston 676 yards in 2004 in his final season before tearing his Achilles the next summer. He never played again.
8. At his current rate, Jalen Reagor will finish this season with 277 receiving yards. The only 1st-round WR in the last 10 years to start 12 or more games and have fewer than 300 yards is Nelson Agholor as a rookie in 2015.
9. He’ll be 34, coming off major Achilles surgery and beginning his 13th season. I don’t care. I’ll bet Brandon Graham is the Eagles’ best pass rusher next year.
10. With six more points, Jake Elliott will become the third player in Eagles history to score 500 career points. David Akers scored 1,323 during his 12 years here, and Bobby Walston scored 881 during his 12-year career with the Eagles from 1951 through 1962. At his current pace of 6.5 points per game, Elliott would catch Akers early in the 2029 season.