Roob's Observations

Roob's Observations: A critical area the Eagles have dramatically improved


An area the Eagles have to improve that we never talk about, Brian Westbrook’s greatest play ever and a Roger Ruzek stat you literally will not believe.

Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Observations plows into the summer with another helping of stuff you didn’t know you needed to know.

  1. One of the Eagles’ under-rated issues last year was run defense. They allowed 4.6 yards per carry – 24th-best in the league and 5th-worst in franchise history. They allowed 5.0 yards per carry nine times in the regular season (and two more in the postseason), by far the most in franchise history. Their 11 total games allowing 5.0 yards per carry is most in NFL history. Not good. The Eagles’ best run defense was their offense. Because they often had such big leads, opposing teams gave up on the run early and ran only 26 times per game, 12th-fewest in the NFL. But when teams were able to stick with it, they did some damage. Because they were able to score so many points and force opponents to throw, the Eagles became only the ninth team in NFL history to reach a Super Bowl despite allowing at least 4.6 yards per carry. We’ve talked so much about Patrick Mahomes and how the Chiefs tore up the Eagles’ pass defense in the Super Bowl, but Vineland’s Isiah Pacheco killed the Eagles too, with 15-for-76 rushing and a touchdown. According to Pro Football Focus, one of the Eagles’ worst offenders was Javon Hargrave, whose 49.0 run defense grade last year ranked 48th out of 52 interior linemen who played at least 250 run defense snaps. Now, while the Eagles will certainly miss Hargrave’s sack production and his ability to break down the pocket from the inside, just subbing Jalen Carter for Hargrave should make a huge difference in run defense. And an increased workload for Jordan Davis will help, too. Davis’s 72.2 run defense grade was 2nd-highest last year among all Eagles’ interior linemen, behind only Milton Williams’ 73.5. I’d be surprised if that 4.6 figure doesn’t drop significantly this year.
  2. Jalen Hurts has at least 750 rushing yards, 10 rushing touchdowns and a 4.5 average or better with single-digit interceptions in each of the last two seasons. Nobody else in NFL history has had one such season.
  3. Only one linebacker has had seven interceptions in a season in the last 40 years, and that’s William Thomas in 1995. Five linebackers have had six – including Willie T. with the Raiders in 2000. Willie T. is one of only four linebackers in NFL history with two seasons with six or more INTs. The others are Lee Roy Jordan of the Cowboys in 1973 and 1975, Stan White with the Colts in 1975 and 1977 and Hall of Famer Jack Lambert of the Steelers in 1979 and 1981. Willie T. is one of only two players in NFL history with 35 sacks and 25 interceptions. The other is Ray Lewis. Willie T. was so freaking under-rated.
  4. Roger Ruzek made 84.8 percent of his field goal attempts with the Eagles in 1991. At the time that was 8th-highest single-season percentage in NFL history (minimum 30 attempts). Today it ranks 321st.
  5. Brett Toth is one of the more intriguing guys on the Eagles roster because of how far he’s come since the Eagles first signed him as an undrafted rookie in 2019. During Toth’s two years as a starting offensive lineman at Army, the Black Knights ran 1,609 running plays and 163 pass plays. He had so little pass blocking experience he wasn’t considered a serious NFL prospect. But the Eagles signed him and Jeff Stoutland went to work teaching him the NFL game, and now Toth is a legit candidate to make the team as a backup lineman. There’s a reason Toth is going into his fifth year with the Eagles (with a brief diversion with the Cards). He’s 6-foot-6, 305 pounds, smart, tough, physical, and Stout loves him. We talk so much about how far Jordan Mailata has come, but Toth is one heck of an achievement for Stout as well. Played in a college offense that was barely the same sport as the NFL. Army literally threw the ball 6.3 times per game in Toth’s two years (and ran 62 times per game). And now he’s in the mix for a backup o-line roster spot. Stoutland U. A unique bastion of higher learning.
  6. I don’t know how this is even possible, but only six head coaches in Eagles history have won 30 games.
  7. One of Brian Westbrook’s greatest moments in a career full of them was his catch-and-run that turned into a 71-yard touchdown in the Eagles’ road wild-card win over the Vikings in 2008. It wasn’t only an electrifying play, where Westbrook made something out of nothing, it was a pivotal play because it was the middle of the fourth quarter, the Eagles couldn’t get anything going on offense, they were clinging to a 16-14 lead on the road, they hadn’t scored an offensive touchdown, and they had the ball inside the Vikings’ 30-yard-line. Donovan McNabb dropped back and the screen quickly developed. His lob pass to 36 only traveled eight yards, with Westbrook catching it in traffic at the 29. The play developed almost too quickly. Right guard Nick Cole almost got in Westbrook’s way before he found about six people to block. Center Jamaal Jackson got out in the open field and demolished a Vikings defender. Jason Avant destroyed someone near the line of scrimmage. Kevin Curtis threw a key block down the field. At one point, left tackle Tra Thomas over-ran a Viking he was trying to block, reversed field and went back and splattered him. And Westbrook just weaved through defenders all the way down the field. He never had any open field, he just kept darting in and out of traffic. Westbrook ran the last 20 yards with safety Brian Sapp and Jared Allen in close proximity but unable to get close enough to stop him. That was the longest TD catch of Westbrook’s career and remains the longest offensive postseason TD by an Eagles running back. That was such an improbable postseason run by an Eagles team that needed a series of miracles just to get into the playoffs, then beat the Vikings and Giants on the road before that crushing loss to the Cards in the NFC Championship Game in Glendale. Westbrook was such a brilliant postseason performer – his 925 scrimmage yards in the decade of the 2000s were 2nd-most by any NFL running back (behind Edgerrin James). He was never better than on that play.
  8. Just a reminder that Nick Foles won as many playoff games in the 23 days from Jan. 13, 2018, through Feb. 4, 2018, as the Cowboys won in the quarter of a century from 1997 through 2021.
  9. After the Eagles lost 14-0 to the 49ers in the 1996 wild-card game at Candlestick Park, Steve Young popped in the Eagles’ locker room to visit former teammate Ricky Watters. Ricky – one of the great postseason running backs in history - had just 57 yards on 20 carries in the rain at Candlestick that day, but Young had ran 11 times for 65 yards, including a nine-yard TD in the second quarter. That remains the most rushing yards (by far) ever by a quarterback against the Eagles in a playoff game. Watters and Young shared a quick hug and then Ricky smiled and said: “Damn, Steve. You had more rushing yards than I did!.”
  10. Am I the only one who couldn’t care less about Kelly Green uniforms?
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