Roob's Observations

In Roob's Bonus Eagles Observations: Is it time to bench James Bradberry?

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Desperate times call for desperate measures, so in the wake of three straight brutal losses, we’ve got an unprecedented mid-week Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Observations. This is a historic occasion.

A bonus Eagles Obs to help get you through to Christmas Day and the Giants.

They can’t lose to the Giants, right? Right? Anybody? Hello???

OK, here we go:

1. Is it time to bench James Bradberry? You can sure make a case for it. Bradberry isn’t remotely the same player he was last year, and his struggles on that last drive Monday night really crystallized what a tough time he’s been having. It’s not easy benching a guy who was a 2nd-team all-pro last year, but last year is ancient history, cornerbacks can lose it fast and quarterbacks are attacking Bradberry week after week. Bradberry’s defensive passer rating the last three weeks: 149.3 vs. the 49ers, 139.1 vs. the Cowboys and a maximum 158.3 Monday night in Seattle. QBs in those three games were 15-for-17 for 230 yards with three TDs and no INTs when targeting Bradberry. His opposing passer rating for the season is now up to 117.7, 5th-worst in the league among 58 cornerbacks who’ve faced 50 or more targets. He’s allowed 11 passing TDs, most on record since Stathead began tracking cornerback coverage stats in 2018. Conventional wisdom says if the Eagles are going to make a change at corner they’d have to wait until Darius Slay returns after getting his knee scoped. But honestly, I’m close to the point where I’d rather take my chances with Kelee Ringo and Eli Ricks, two young guys who are lacking in experience but are fast, have good size and don’t seem to shy away from those big moments that decide games. For the record, Ringo on Monday night didn’t allow a completion on two targets in his first NFL start and Ricks didn’t allow a completion on three targets. It may be time.

2. Take your pick of Eagles defensive deficiencies, and there are plenty to choose from, but the 3rd-down numbers are staggering. The Seahawks on Monday night converted 42.9 percent of their third downs, making this the seventh consecutive game the Eagles have allowed at least 40 percent conversion percentage. The NFL has been tracking 3rd-down conversion stats since 1991, and this is the first time the Eagles have ever allowed 40 percent conversion in seven straight games. They had streaks of six straight games in 1997, 2018 and 2021. Overall, the Eagles are last in the NFL at 47.7 percent, which would be by far the worst in franchise history. But in these last seven games, they’re even worse, allowing conversions on 53.3 percent of third downs – the worst seven-game stretch in franchise history. 

3. The Eagles’ giveaway-takeaway stats are simply impossible to believe. They were plus-4 through four games but since Week 5 they’re minus-10 – worst in the league. This is the first time they’ve been minus-10 in any 10-game span since 2012. For the season, they’re minus-6 and only five teams are worse. They have just 15 takeaways all year – only four teams have fewer. The Eagles forced eight turnovers in their first three games but only seven in the last 11. That’s the 2nd-fewest takeaways in franchise history in an 11-game span. They don’t have an interception in their last three games and they have just four in their last 11 games. This is only the third time in franchise history they’ve had an 11-game stretch with four or fewer interceptions. Overall, they’ve gone 23 straight games without picking off two passes in a game – the 9th-longest streak in NFL history and the longest ever by the Eagles. The last time the Eagles had two interceptions in a game was last November, when Reed Blankenship and Josiah Scott each had their first career INT vs. Aaron Rodgers in the Eagles’ win over the Packers. 

4. Pete Carroll was saying after the game Monday night that Geno Smith was begging him to play, but not long before kickoff – after putting Smith through a very tough workout on the field – Carroll just made up his mind that Smith’s groin injury hadn’t healed quite enough to let him play, so he went with backup Drew Lock: “We were battling. We were battling. But he understood. … I thought we made a hard decision but a good decision.” Maybe a lesson there for Nick Sirianni. Sometimes you have to protect your quarterback from himself. Jalen Hurts wanted to play, just like Geno. Jalen Hurts wanted to go out there at less than 100 percent and lead his team, just like Geno. Jalen Hurts wanted to be the hero, just like Geno. But Carroll knew that Lock at 100 percent just made more sense than Smith at wherever he was – maybe 70 percent? And maybe Hurts was 70 percent when the game began, but by early in the second half you could tell he just didn’t have it. As crazy as it sounds, by the middle of the third quarter, the Eagles’ best chance to win the game was with Marcus Mariota playing and Hurts on the bench. Hurts just didn’t seem to have any strength throwing the ball, and he was missing badly on throws he normally makes with ease. I admire the guy for trying to fight through whatever he was going through. But sometimes the right decision really is the hard decision.

5. Since the middle of last November, Quez Watkins had a horrible fumble after a long catch vs. the Commanders, helped turn two Gardner Minshew passes in Dallas into interceptions, committed an unthinkable drop in the Super Bowl and helped turn a Jalen Hurts deep ball into another interception Monday night in Seattle. Five deep balls to Watkins, five disasters. During the same stretch – since the middle of last November – Watkins has made one big play, and that was a 30-yard TD catch just before halftime on a Sunday night last year in a win over the Packers. When the ball goes his way, the odds are slim that anything good will happen, yet Nick Sirianni continues to trot Watkins out there snap after snap in high-leverage situations, hoping he can recall his form of 2021, when he caught 43 passes for 647 yards. But here’s the reality: In his last 17 games, Watkins has played 674 snaps and has 210 yards and one catch over 25 yards. Throwing deep to Watkins in a critical situation is a disaster waiting to happen. He shouldn’t be on the field. He shouldn’t be on this team. 

6. The Eagles are only the seventh team in NFL history to allow 30 or more touchdown passes while intercepting six or fewer passes through 14 games. They’re the only one of the seven to win more than five of those 14 games. 

7. The Eagles have blown double-digit leads in four of their last seven losses. They led the Cowboys 27-17 midway through the third quarter in Dallas last Christmas Eve behind Minshew, they led the Chiefs 24-14 at halftime of the Super Bowl, they led the Jets 14-3 in the second quarter in October and they led the Seahawks 10-0 in the second quarter. Lost ‘em all.

8. Jalen Hurts lost as many games in 15 days as he did in the previous 733 days.

9. The Eagles had eight offensive plays of at least 40 yards in their first 10 games. They don’t have any in their last four games.

10. One thing I did not expect this year was for Josh Sweat to suddenly stop getting sacks. Sweat, coming off a Pro Bowl season in 2021 and a career-high 11 sacks last year, got off to a hot start, with 5 ½ sacks and 14 QB hits through seven games. In seven games since he has one sack and eight QB hits. Could it be related to his playing time? Sweat played 62 percent of the snaps in 2021 and 56 percent last year and that left him strong and fresh late in both seasons. This year, he’s way up at 76 percent. Five of the seven-highest snap counts of his six-year career have been in the last seven games. He hasn’t been awful, but he sure hasn’t been the pass-rush terror he was early in the year.

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