Miles Sanders’ future, T.J. Edwards’ performance and the biggest snub in Eagles history.
It’s a short week and Nick Sirianni didn’t want us to over-do it with the postseason coming up, so we only have six observations today!
No, just kidding! Here’s this weekend’s Eagles 10 Random Observations!
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1. Chatting with Miles Sanders Thursday at his locker room he spoke at length about how determined he was to have a career year this year, and he certainly delivered, with 1,100 yards, a 5.2 average and 11 touchdowns going into Dallas and his first Pro Bowl selection. Sanders, like half the roster, isn’t signed beyond this year, and he’s declined to speak about his contract situation all year, choosing instead to focus on trying to help this team get to another Super Bowl. Sanders did say one thing that Thursday that stood out when asked about Eagles GM Howie Roseman and his future: “He knows I would like to be an Eagle forever.” Sanders wears his heart on his sleeve, and his agent probably wouldn’t want him saying stuff like that because maybe you lose a little leverage. But it was so heartfelt and so genuine you couldn’t help think maybe they’ll get something done. But Roseman is smart enough not to let emotion guide him in contract talks, and although running backs don’t get very big contracts, some team is going to pay Sanders somewhere between $6 ½ and $7 ½ million per year. It’s hard to imagine anyone in Philly that doesn’t want that team to be the Eagles. Sanders clearly included.
2. T.J. Edwards was never going to make the Pro Bowl. It can be tough for unheralded, undrafted players to get that sort of recognition unless they put up ridiculous numbers. But what a season he’s having. He’s the only NFC linebacker with two or more sacks, 120 tackles and eight tackles for loss, and he’s just been a force all year in coverage, against the run and pressuring. Incredibly smart, versatile and consistent. Everything you want in an inside linebacker. Very well could be the Eagles’ defensive MVP when all is said and done. Pro Football Focus rates him as the No. 3 linebacker in the NFL (behind Bobby Wagner and Dre Greenlaw, two other Pro Bowl snubs). Hell of a year.
3. The Eagles picked off 12 passes in their first eight games but they have just three in the last six – and none in their last three. A big part of that is the absence of injured Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, who still shares the NFL interception lead despite missing three games now. But Darius Slay and James Bradberry, who had a combined six INTs after eight games, have none in the last six. The first eight weeks of the season the Eagles led the NFL with 12 INTs and 18 takeaways, not to mention plus-15 in turnover margin. The last six games, they’re 19th in interceptions, 12th in takeaways and 23rd in turnover margin (minus three). All of this makes the Eagles’ top-ranked pass defense and No. 2-ranked overall defense even more impressive. They’re still shutting people down without interceptions. During these last six games, they’re still the 5th-ranked defense despite only a handful of takeaways. This is an elite defense any way you measure it. And part of this is that teams just don’t throw very much against the Eagles – just 166 times these last six games, 3rd-fewest in the league – because they want to avoid the Eagles’ ferocious pass rush. But the Eagles are making life a lot harder on themselves by not taking advantage of the takeaway opportunities when they’ve had them. And against really good teams – like the Cowboys or whoever they face in the postseason – they’re going to need those big plays to win.
4. A.J. Brown has a shot at the franchise record for receptions in a season by a wide receiver. He’s got 74, and the record is 88 by Irving Fryar in 1996. We don’t know how many more games Brown will play, but he’s averaging 5.3 catches per game and is 14 behind Fryar. And he has 21 receptions in his last three games. What a year he’s having.
5. Crazy that Donovan McNabb and Nick Foles are responsible for 13 of the Eagles’ 16 postseason wins over the last 40 years. And Randall Cunningham, Rodney Peete and Jeff Garcia with one apiece.
6. It’s so hard to win on the road in the NFL, but the Eagles are 7-0 away from the Linc this year, and their nine-game road winning streak – which dates back to Gardner Minshew’s win over the Jets last Decemver - is awfully impressive. It matches the longest in franchise history – the Eagles won nine road games in a row twice under Andy Reid, over the 2000 and 2001 seasons and the 2003 and 2004 seasons. There have only been 15 road winning streaks in NFL history of 10 games or more 100-133. League-wide every other team has a .412 winning percentage on the road this year, and every other team has at least two road losses. Says a lot about this team’s ability to focus in difficult circumstances and be at their best when faced with adversity.
7. No Eagles quarterback has ever beaten the Cowboys twice in a season in a year the Cowboys had a winning record. Sonny Jurgensen beat them twice in 1961, Randall Cunningham in 1988, 1989 and 2000, Donovan McNabb in 2000, 2001 and 2004 and Michael Vick in 2011. Each year, Dallas had a losing record.
8. The biggest Pro Bowl snub I ever saw was Clyde Simmons in 1989. Clyde had 15 ½ sacks – and a 60-yard INT return for a touchdown – that year and was second among NFC defensive ends in sacks. But since he was a 9th-round pick who played across from Reggie White, the Pro Bowl voters ignored him. The reality was Simmons was a tremendous player in his own right, and we saw that when he had more than 50 sacks late in his career when he wasn’t playing with Reggie. Not only was Clyde a monster pass rusher, he was as good a run stopper as you’ll ever see from an edge rusher. And did you know Clyde never missed a game in 15 years? Played 236 of a possible 236 games, missing only the three replacement games in 1987 when nobody on the Eagles crossed the picket line. Clyde finally made his first of two Pro Bowls in 1991, and Jerome Brown was so happy for him he punched a hole in a wall in the Eagles’ locker room at the Vet.
9. A sign of just how consistent the Eagles’ pass rushers have been: The Eagles have three or more sacks in eight straight games, which matches the longest streak in the NFL since the Seahawks had a nine-game streak in 2005. If they record three sacks Saturday night in Dallas – and the Cowboys are No. 1 in the NFL in fewest sacks allowed – they would match the 4th-longest streak in history with nine straight games of three or more sacks. They’ve already tied the NFL record with six sacks in three straight games going into Dallas.
10. It speaks volumes about how beloved Jason Kelce, Jordan Mailata and Lane Johnson are around here that their Christmas album has already raised over a quarter of a million dollars for the Children’s Crisis Treatment Center. That’s incredible. These guys are all so connected with the Philadelphia community and so devoted to causes that are important to all of us. Kelce is from Ohio, Johnson from Texas, Mailata from Australia. But it’s hard to imagine anybody being more Philly than they are.