NFL Nation: Donnie Jones

IRVING, Texas -- About three days into free agency and the Dallas Cowboys are not a better team today than they were on Monday.

They cut DeMarcus Ware. They cut Miles Austin. They have signed two defensive linemen in Jeremy Mincey and Terrell McClain that figure to be rotation parts, not cornerstone pieces.

Meanwhile elsewhere in the NFC East …

The Philadelphia Eagles have added Malcom Jenkins and Noland Carroll and traded for Darren Sproles. The Eagles also did some nice special teams' shopping with Chris Maragos and Bryan Braman and also re-signed their punter, Donnie Jones.

The New York Giants added a piece to their offensive line in Geoff Schwartz and brought in running back Rashad Jennings. The key move, however, was re-signing linebacker Jon Beason. They backed out of a deal with O'Brien Schofield.

The Washington Redskins have added wide receiver Andre Roberts, guard Shawn Lauvao and linebacker/special teamer Adam Hayward. Bruce Campbell is a low-risk help to the offensive line.

Too often we get caught up in the splashes in free agency only to see them not live up to the billing down the road.

Before free agency started Stephen Jones said the Cowboys would be efficient with their spending in free agency. To see them sit back and wait should not be surprising, but that doesn't mean fans can't be aggravated.

There are good players still to be had. The Cowboys could still re-sign Jason Hatcher or add Henry Melton. While they can afford both, I don't think signing both would make sense. They could keep Anthony Spencer and hope his repaired knee comes around. They could take fliers on some of the bigger names you want if those prices come down as free agency rolls along.

As maddening as the 8-8 finishes have been, the Cowboys have been the only team in the NFC East to compete for a division title the last three years. It's a hollow accomplishment for sure, especially when stacked up against the franchise's history, but spending for spending sake is not the best solution.

There is a plan and it has to be more than Mincey and McClain, right?

Top free-agent roundup: NFC East

March, 10, 2014
Here are the top 15 free agents, followed by their rankings, entering Tuesday's signing period as compiled by NFC East reporters Dan Graziano, Todd Archer, Phil Sheridan and John Keim. There are some strong options at the top, but there is not a lot of depth in the NFC East when it comes to free agency. And if Dallas' DeMarcus Ware gets released, he vaults to a top spot on this list. As always, ESPN's free-agent tracker will keep you updated during this period.

1. LB Brian Orakpo, 8.5: The Redskins used the franchise tag on him, so barring a surprise, he’ll be back. It’s a controversial move among fans, but the Redskins need his pass rush and promise to unleash him more often. His career best for a single season is 11 sacks.

2. DT Linval Joseph, 8: A very big, strong and young (25) interior run-stuffer who has also shown the ability to create pressure from the interior, Joseph could be available because of the Giants’ depth at defensive tackle and their many needs.

3. DT Jason Hatcher, 8: He is coming off an 11-sack season, but he turns 32 in July and Dallas doesn’t have much cap space.

4. LB Jon Beason, 7: The Giants are working hard to sign him before free agency opens, as his leadership and high-energy play at middle linebacker helped transform their defense during the 2013 season.

5. WR Hakeem Nicks, 7: This grade is based on talent and past accomplishments, and a feeling that he was being overly careful in 2013 in order to hit free agency healthy. Lacks his early career speed, but knows how to play the position as well as anyone.

6. WR Jason Avant, 7: For a team in need of a third-down possession guy, the sure-handed Avant will be a great value.

7. P Donnie Jones, 7: The Eagles are expected to re-sign Jones, who was an underrated contributor to their NFC East title team.

8. DE Anthony Spencer, 6: He is coming back from microfracture surgery, so the cost won’t be high.

9. LB Perry Riley, 6: The Redskins need to re-sign him because they already have a hole at inside linebacker after London Fletcher retired. But they won’t break the bank for Riley, who needs to improve in coverage.

10. DE Justin Tuck, 6: Coming off an 11-sack season that came out of nowhere after two down years, Tuck turns 31 later this month but is a locker-room leader and a 4-3 defensive end who can set the edge against the run.

11. QB Michael Vick, 6: With Nick Foles' ascension, Vick is looking for a chance to start elsewhere.

12. RB Andre Brown, 5: He played very well in his first few games back off a broken leg, but faded down the stretch and fumbled too much in the final few games. He is likely not a guy who can be relied on as a starter, but potentially a valuable piece.

13. TE Brandon Myers, 5: A huge disappointment in New York after catching 79 passes as a Raider in 2012, Myers also contributed little as a blocker. The Giants are likely to let him go. He could fit better with a different system.

14. CB Terrell Thomas, 5: He played all 16 games after missing the previous two seasons because of ACL tears in the same knee. Thomas believes he can hold up as a starter off a real offseason, and would like to cash in.

15. S Danny McCray, 5: He is a core special teamer only, so the Cowboys could find value here.

Free-agency primer: Eagles

March, 7, 2014
» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: QB Michael Vick, WR Jason Avant, S Nate Allen, P Donnie Jones, S Kurt Coleman.

Where they stand: By keeping wide receivers Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin off the market, the Eagles assured their starting offense would look very much as it did in 2013. There are no obvious positions of need on that side of the ball that would likely be addressed in free agency. The defensive side is another matter. That unit made fine progress in its first year with coordinator Bill Davis’ 3-4 scheme, but the Eagles need playmakers there, especially in the secondary. Having $20-25 million in salary-cap space gives them the flexibility to do whatever they choose.

What to expect: GM Howie Roseman has repeatedly said he does not want to overpay in free agency, but the Eagles might have to go that route with a safety like Jairus Byrd, T.J. Ward or Chris Clemons. Going for bargains at that position just has not worked, and Roseman has acknowledged he doesn’t want to get to the draft in dire need of a safety. There isn’t a lot of depth at outside linebacker -- teams do their best to hold on to effective pass-rushers -- but Roseman could look for a second-tier guy there. It would not be surprising if the Eagles re-signed Jones and added a kicker in free agency to compete with, or flat-out replace, Alex Henery. Keep an eye on a return man, perhaps Devin Hester or Dexter McCluster.

Easiest call for Eagles: sign FA Jones

February, 14, 2014
PHILADELPHIA -- Our position-by-position look at the Eagles will continue with the offense starting Monday. Today, we complete the defense/specialists portion of our assessment with a look at punter Donnie Jones.

It seems incredible to say it, but Jones may be the impending free agent the Eagles should most urgently re-sign for 2014.

You could argue in favor of a wide receiver -- Jeremy Maclin or Riley Cooper -- or safety Nate Allen and make a good case. They are or have been starters on offense and defense. But Jones, who signed a one-year deal last offseason, gave the Eagles reliability and occasional brilliance at a position almost no one notices until things go wrong.

Jones’ net average of 40.4 yards was the best in Eagles history. So were the 33 punts he placed inside the 20-yard line. Jones’ control and knack for coming up with the perfect kick when needed should not be overlooked.

One of the biggest plays of the season was Jones’ 70-yard punt against Washington. The Eagles were in the process of watching a 24-0, fourth-quarter lead disappear. A loss would have been their 11th in a row at Lincoln Financial Field.

After the offense was stopped in its own territory, Jones uncorked a punt that pinned Robert Griffin III & Co. at their own 4-yard line. The Eagles needed every yard -- Griffin drove the ball to the Eagles’ 18 before throwing a pass that was intercepted by Brandon Boykin.

Jones also placed a perfect punt against the New Orleans Saints in the playoff game at the Linc. Boykin, who specialized in getting downfield quickly, tapped it back toward teammate Roc Carmichael. Instead of downing the ball at the 1-yard line, Carmichael booted it into the end zone for a touchback.

At 33, Jones mastered the rugby style punt that he credited with improving his control and placement of the ball. He may not be the first guy you think of when considering the Eagles’ offseason priorities, but Jones’ contract should be one of the first things GM Howie Roseman checks off his to-do list before the free-agent market opens.

The next big thing: Eagles

January, 23, 2014
PHILADELPHIA -- With the draft so far off this year – May! – the next major item on the Eagles’ to-do list is deciding on a strategy for free agency, which begins March 11.

General manager Howie Roseman has repeatedly said the team will continue to avoid huge free-agent deals in favor of making a number of smaller, less risky investments on the open market. That approach brought Connor Barwin, Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher and Donnie Jones last offseason. It also brought Patrick Chung, James Casey and Kenny Phillips, moves that didn’t hamstring the franchise when performance didn’t equal compensation.

Before getting to March 11, though, the first order of business is deciding how to handle the current Eagles with expiring contracts. That group includes Michael Vick, who wants to explore opportunities to start, wide receivers Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin, and safeties Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman and Colt Anderson.

The Eagles could have extended any of those contracts before now, so they’re clearly willing to risk losing any or all of those players once the market opens. The best guess here is the team will wait and see if the market convinces Cooper, Maclin and Allen that their best option is to remain in Philadelphia on reasonable contracts. If not, then adios.

There are a handful of veteran players whose contracts could dictate some action. Will the Eagles hang on to players like Williams, Casey, Trent Cole, Brent Celek and Jason Avant?

Once those decisions are made, the Eagles can move on to the next Next Big Thing, signing free agents and preparing for the May (May!) draft.

Philadelphia Eagles season wrap-up

January, 8, 2014

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 11
Preseason Power Ranking: 25

Biggest surprise: Easy. Nick Foles. He started six games as a rookie in 2012, winning one of them and pretty much disappearing amid the debris of a 4-12 season. He seemed like a terrible fit for new coach Chip Kelly's offense, especially in contrast to the mobile Michael Vick. When Vick pulled a hamstring, Foles seized the starting job with epic numbers: 119.2 passer rating (third best all time), 27 touchdowns and two interceptions (best ratio ever). Foles won eight of his 10 starts and led the Eagles to the NFC East championship. Anyone who says they saw Foles' season coming is fibbing.

Biggest disappointment: The outcome of Saturday night's playoff game against New Orleans -- which says something about how thoroughly Kelly changed the culture here. No one expected the Eagles to win their division and reach the playoffs, but once they did, plenty of people expected them to win the first-round home game. But LeSean McCoy, the NFL's leading rusher, didn't have his best game, and the Saints caught the Eagles off guard by running the ball so much themselves. The Eagles appeared capable of beating almost anyone, including the Saints, which made the loss hard to swallow.

Biggest need: Defensive difference-makers, especially in the secondary. The cornerbacks were solid and improved steadily by season's end, but a shutdown corner or legitimate playmaking safety would help a lot. A close second would be a pass-rushing threat, preferably from the outside. Trent Cole had a good year making the transition from defensive end to linebacker, but he's not going to play forever. Funny: For the midseason version of this, I listed quarterback as the biggest need. That's how shocking Foles' performance was.

Team MVP: LeSean McCoy led the NFL in rushing and in total yards from scrimmage, setting Eagles franchise records in both categories. No one could argue with you if you named McCoy MVP of the team, or even of the NFC. But McCoy was the running back when the Eagles were 3-5 at the midway point. It wasn't until Foles took over the starting quarterback spot that the Eagles began winning games. That seems like the very definition of "most valuable." Nevertheless, the Eagles' first NFL rushing title since Steve Van Buren probably earns McCoy the team MVP award.


All-NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles

January, 2, 2014
NFC Teams: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

PHILADELPHIA -- Fittingly for the team that won the NFC East title, the Eagles were well represented on’s all-division team. Of the 26 spots, 11 went to Eagles -- including more than half the All-NFC East offense.

Nick Foles edged out Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Foles went 8-2 as a starter, threw 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions and led the NFL with a passer rating of 119.2.

NFL rushing leader LeSean McCoy and wide receiver DeSean Jackson also made the all-division team. So did three-fifths of the Eagles’ starting offensive line: left tackle Jason Peters, left guard Evan Mathis and center Jason Kelce.

Only McCoy and Peters were named to the Pro Bowl.

Four Eagles defenders made the all-division squad: linebackers Connor Barwin and DeMeco Ryans, defensive end Fletcher Cox and cornerback Brandon Boykin. Boykin is unusual in that he isn’t a starter. As the Eagles’ nickel corner, he plays only about half the defensive plays. But he had six interceptions, tied for second most in the NFL. Two of them, including the one off Kyle Orton Sunday night in Dallas, ended opponents’ comeback threats.

Punter Donnie Jones was tops in the division in net average, but his real impact was in having 35 punts downed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.

PHILADELPHIA -- The Dallas Cowboys defeated the Eagles on Oct. 20. They didn’t defeat quarterback Nick Foles.

The Cowboys dominated Foles. They knocked him out of the game with a concussion. But in Foles’ vocabulary, he would be “defeated” only if he let that one game bleed into the games after it.

[+] EnlargeNick Foles
AP Photo/Michael PerezThe Eagles, who face the Cowboys in Week 17, will continue to lean on QB Nick Foles, just as they have in seven wins out of Foles' nine starts.
In Foles' next game -- after missing a week with the concussion -- he threw for an NFL record-tying seven touchdowns in Oakland. Foles is 6-1 as a starter since that Dallas game, and he put up 30 points in his lone loss.

“You can’t let one game defeat you,” Foles said after leading the Eagles to a 54-11 blowout win against the Chicago Bears Sunday night. “If I know anything about myself, it’s that I am going to keep fighting. You learn from mistakes in games. You learn from games like that and you move forward.”

The win against the Bears set up a virtual playoff game next Sunday night. Of course, it pits Foles and the Eagles against the Cowboys again. This time, the game is in Dallas, a few hours’ drive from Foles’ hometown of Austin.

To win the game and the NFC East title, the Eagles need the Foles who has excelled in every game he has played this season with that one glaring exception.

Coach Chip Kelly said he believes that’s the Foles we’ll see.

“His confidence is a by-product of his experience,” Kelly said. “The more looks he sees, he’s a very quick study. We need to make mistakes, but you have to be able to learn from your mistakes. That’s one thing Nick does a very good job with. He’s very analytical of himself, very critical of himself in a really constructive way.

“The first part is, we don’t make excuses. If you don’t do something right, you’ve got to admit to it first before you can correct it. If you continue to make an excuse, then you’re not acknowledging that you made a mistake in the first place.”

Humility is a part of that. A big ego, whether it’s in a quarterback, a coach or any other player, can prevent the kind of self-analysis Kelly is talking about. That is not a problem with Foles.

When he tied the NFL record with those seven touchdowns in Oakland, Foles complimented his blockers and receivers. Sunday night, after completing 21 of 25 passes, Foles went out of his way to commend punter Donnie Jones for setting the franchise’s season record for punts downed inside the 20-yard line.

There are quarterbacks out there who don’t know their punter's names, let alone single them out for praise. So this is a guy who watches his own performances with eyes unclouded by ego or vanity.

“He's just really matter of fact,” Kelly said, “very on point with what he's got to do and what he's got to correct if he doesn't do it the right way.”

“Part of playing quarterback is owning up to everything, owning up to mistakes," Foles said. "Your teammates are always looking to you as a leader. If you make mistakes and you learn from them, you’re making yourself a better player and a better person instead of just blaming someone else."

It is an approach that has carried Foles through this breakout season: 25 touchdowns, two interceptions, 118.8 passer rating, a 7-2 record as a starter.

That one game against Dallas hasn't defeated him. This next one could help to define him.

Upon Further Review: Eagles Week 14

December, 9, 2013
PHILADELPHIA -- Four snowballs in the freezer from the Philadelphia Eagles' 34-20 victory over the Detroit Lions.

Celek's slide: While fantasy football owners howled, Brent Celek slid in the snow. Celek, the Eagles' veteran tight end, passed up a touchdown to hang on to the ball and allow his team to run the clock out.

"It felt real good," Celek said. "Just knowing that the game was over, it was a good feeling."

The Eagles faced a fourth-and-12 at the Detroit 37-yard line with two minutes left. With the Lions loaded up in expectation of another run by LeSean McCoy, Celek was able to slip away uncovered. Nick Foles lobbed him the ball and Celek had nothing but a field of white in front of him.

At the 10, Celek slid playfully, sending up a spray of snow. The Eagles, who had allowed two special teams touchdowns, ran out the clock.

"I knew as soon as we called that play that if I caught it, I was going down," Celek said. "Listen, I score, then we have to do a kickoff and then the defense has to go out there. Guys can get hurt. It's not a smart move for the team."

Unless your fantasy team has Celek or Foles, of course.

Late scores: Before Sunday, the Eagles couldn't score in the fourth quarter. In their four wins since a loss to the Giants on Oct. 27, the Eagles had been outscored in the fourth quarter, 33-0. Coach Chip Kelly pointed out that in two of those games, at Oakland and Green Bay, the Eagles didn't need any points.

They needed them in this fourth quarter, and they got 28 of them. If Celek had gone in, the Eagles would have tied or broken (depending on the conversion) the NFL record for fourth-quarter points. Detroit set the record at 34 in a game against Chicago in 2007.

"Today was a different type of day," Celek said.

That was an understatement.

Snow play: Lane Johnson will never forget his first snow angel.

The rookie right tackle followed LeSean McCoy into the end zone on his 57-yard touchdown run. Johnson, who grew up in Texas and played college football at Oklahoma, fell back and waved his arms and legs.

"That was stupid on my part," Johnson said ruefully. "They could have called a penalty on it. I kind of baseball slid, did it and got out of there. That's the first one I've ever done -- probably the last one, too."

Overall, Johnson enjoyed his big snow day.

"It felt like a bunch of big kids out there," Johnson said. "It was funny seeing guys slip. Bunch of big bodies out there. It was like cows on ice. This will be a game I will always remember."

Special teams abysmal: It's safe to say none of the Eagles will be NFC special teams player of the week. Punter Donnie Jones won the award for his last two performances.

Detroit return man Jeremy Ross returned a punt 58 yards for one touchdown and a kickoff 98 yards for another. On a day the Eagles' defense allowed only eight points, those breakdowns could have cost the Eagles the game.

But everything in this game has an asterisk because of the conditions. Would Ross have broken those long returns without all that snow on the ground? It's doubtful.

"We tried not to kick to him," Eagles special teamer Kurt Coleman said. "We wanted to keep it a little lower and not allow him to have an easy catch like that. We were battling a lot of elements. No excuses, he made good plays, but in that type of game, you've got to stop and start and change direction and he was able to hit the holes."

Coleman said he had to remove the visor from his helmet because it caked up with snow.

"It was backyard ball," he said. "It changed the way you had to approach the game. You had to play a little slower, more controlled and be able to front up the block instead of trying to run around it."

Upon Further Review: Redskins Week 11

November, 18, 2013
A review of four hot issues following the Washington Redskins' 24-16 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles:

Ref-gate: The NFL will look into left tackle Trent Williams' allegations that umpire Roy Ellison called him a "garbage-ass, disrepectful m-----f-----" Sunday, which teammates corroborated. If that’s indeed what Ellison said, it’s beyond uncalled for by someone in his position. But for the Redskins, the conversation should not shift away from why they’re 3-7 and where they might be headed. The problem with their season has not been officiating, it has been their own play. In fact, Washington had only four penalties Sunday compared to nine for the Eagles. And for the season, Washington is averaging 6.1 penalties per game compared to 7.2 in 2012. Some bad calls? Yes. Missed calls? Absolutely (See: Dallas). I’ve also seen David Amerson get away with what looked like holds or pass interference penalties. Williams' accusations are serious, but when adding up reasons for their bad record, officiating is far down on the list. Good teams overcome obstacles.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Michael Perez/AP PhotoRedskins QB Robert Griffin III is still maturing as a passer, even during a Week 11 loss at Philadelphia.
Return game: The Redskins used Nick Williams on punt returns Sunday and nothing changed. He muffed one punt and failed to field another that led to a 15-yard roll to the Washington 4-yard line. Williams was playing for a punt to the other side of the field, so he was aligned on his left hash (with the ball on the right hash). When the ball was snapped and as punter Donnie Jones started to angle the other way, Williams drifted to his left, anticipating a punt to that side. Williams said he handled it the right way, but it still begs the question: Would a more experienced returner have handled it differently -- not drift so soon -- and saved those 15 yards? Regardless, the return game looked a lot like it had all season. Williams will get more chances and you can't draw conclusions after his first game in the NFL; but at some point the return game needs to provide a spark.

Griffin’s passing: One week Robert Griffin III looks as if he's maturing as a passer (Chicago, San Diego, Minnesota). The next week he looks bad (Denver, Philadelphia). The reality is that Griffin is an inexperienced passer and any legitimate improvement won’t come until next season. It’s not just about making reads; it’s about going through progressions at a certain pace and maintaining your mechanics. Things that are tough to work on during the season. He was bad from the pocket Sunday and his big plays occurred when he could get outside of it -- the touchdown passes to Darrel Young and Aldrick Robinson.

Second chance: Former starters Josh Morgan and Fred Davis were inactive Sunday -- for Morgan it was the first time. Neither is happy with their situation, but both might get another opportunity because of injuries. Leonard Hankerson is undergoing an MRI Monday to determine the extent of a possible LCL injury to his left knee. If he has to miss time, then Morgan would return to the lineup at the Z position. But he needs to be a lot more productive than he had been in the first nine games (19 targets, 11 catches, 124 yards). Yes, he didn’t play as much, though he also didn’t do enough to maintain his grip on the starting job. Davis lost his job as much because of the emergence of rookie Jordan Reed as anything; a sprained ankle didn’t help, either. But Reed now has a concussion and his status for Monday’s game versus San Francisco won’t be known until later in the week. It could provide Davis an opportunity to remind everyone that only a year ago he was a good receiving tight end.

Two sacks for Cole, big punt for Jones

November, 17, 2013
PHILADELPHIA -- Nobody had to take a bigger leap of faith in Chip Kelly than Philadelphia Eagles veteran Trent Cole.

The new offensive system has generated huge numbers for the stars on that side of the ball. The new defensive system meant a humbling change of role for the team’s best-known defensive player.

Cole went to two Pro Bowls and amassed 71 career sacks as a defensive end. In new coordinator Bill Davis' 3-4 defense, he plays outside linebacker. It is a very different position with different responsibilities. Cole had just one sack going into Sunday’s 24-16 victory against Washington. He got to Robert Griffin III for two sacks.

“I know everybody is tracking Trent with his number of sacks,” Davis said, “but it’s not how we track it. We know all season that Trent has had that consistent pressure and put stress on the quarterbacks and tackles he’s going against. It’s nice to see him get rewarded with the sacks, but that’s not how we judge him.”

“Sacks are fun,” Cole said. “They’re going to come. But I just want to make sure we do our job.”

Cole left the game briefly and was evaluated for a concussion. He was cleared to play and said he felt fine afterward.

-- The Eagles were happy to end their home losing streak at 10 games. They were especially happy that they won’t have to answer any more questions about it.

“It’s good that we got that off our back,” linebacker Connor Barwin said. “It’s really good because we have three out of our next four at home.”

“It’s a weight off our shoulders,” wide receiver Riley Cooper said. “Finally get a win at home and give our fans something to cheer about.”

“We wanted to win this one badly in front of our fans,” wide receiver Jason Avant said, “which is why we came out and played the way we did. We kind of scared them [with Washington’s near comeback], but you should appreciate those types of things because it’s worth the price of admission.”

That’s one way to look at it.

-- The television broadcast caught Cooper apparently bickering with LeSean McCoy late in the game. Cooper told reporters he was actually mediating between McCoy and wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Running backs coach Duce Staley stepped in as well.

-- Punter Donnie Jones had a standout game -- a team record with a 50.7 net average -- but his 70-yard punt in the fourth quarter came at a crucial juncture.

The Eagles, who ran out the clock with a nine minute, 32 second drive last week in Green Bay, got the ball with 5:52 left and a 24-16 lead to protect. On third-and-4, quarterback Nick Foles ran to his right and was tripped up by cornerback Josh Wilson.

The officials spotted the ball, measured and award the Eagles a first down. Washington coach Mike Shanahan challenged the spot and won. The Eagles were forced to punt from their own 26. Jones boomed it over the head of return man Nick Williams and the ball rolled out of bounds at the 4.

“It was huge,” Kelly said. “To make them go that far, to get us out of that situation we were in. For our special teams to contribute like that, that’s what it takes. To win a division, you have to play well in all three phases. I thought that punt was huge for us.”

Locker Room Buzz: Philadelphia Eagles

November, 17, 2013
PHILADELPHIA -- Seen and heard in the Philadelphia Eagles' locker room after their 24-16 victory over Washington on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

Nick Foles and LeSean McCoy are OK. McCoy, the NFL's leading rusher, left the game late in the first half with a hamstring injury. He returned for the second half. McCoy said it felt like the hamstring "gave out" but after moving around a bit, it felt fine.

Foles took a hit after throwing a pass earlier on the same drive. He kept shaking out his right arm and shrugging his shoulder. He said it was a little sore, but all the gesticulating was just to keep it loose. "I thought he was trying to get the fans into the game," coach Chip Kelly said.

That's a lot of grass. That's how Buddy Ryan described Randall Cunningham's surprise quick kicks. Cunningham once punted the ball 91 yards in the Meadowlands. Donnie Jones' 70-yard punt in the fourth quarter was the Eagles' longest punt since Cunningham hit one 80 yards in 1994. It rolled out of bounds at the Washington 4-yard line.

"That was huge," linebacker Connor Barwin said. "That was like having a 12th man playing defense for us."

Cincinnati in the house. Barwin had a huge sack inside the 10-yard line, forcing Robert Griffin III to fumble. Trent Cole had two sacks. Brent Celek had a 42-yard catch to set up a touchdown. Jason Kelce anchored the offensive line. All four played at the University of Cincinnati.

"It was a great day for the Bearcats," Barwin shouted as Cole answered reporters' questions.

"Go, Bearcats," Cole responded.

So much for the Oregon East rep Kelly's team was developing.

Midseason Report: Philadelphia Eagles

November, 6, 2013

PHILADELPHIA -- The curiosity factor about Chip Kelly and the Eagles was off the charts. Would the innovative Oregon coach take the NFL by storm? Would he be another Steve Spurrier or Bobby Petrino, crashing hard at the next level? Somewhere in the middle?

We can safely rule out the first possibility. Kelly has plenty of time to be a successful NFL coach, but you only get one chance to storm the beaches, and Kelly’s moment has passed. After one heart-pounding half on "Monday Night Football" at Washington, the Eagles have been good, bad and mediocre. But a 4-5 record (0-4 at home) is, by definition, not taking the league by storm.

Forgetting the expectations and the hype, and remembering that this was a 4-12 team last year with a muddied quarterback situation, here are the midterm grades for Kelly and his Eagles.

PHILADELPHIA -- Quarterback Michael Vick was limited in practice Wednesday, according to the Eagles’ official injury report. But Vick did more than he had Tuesday, including some work in 7-on-7 drills, and told reporters his sore hamstring was “loosening” up.

Other Eagles still talked as if they expected backup Nick Foles to start in Tampa Sunday, but head coach Chip Kelly maintained that he could go with Vick at the last minute if he is cleared medically.

“We’ll see how he is and we’ll adjust accordingly,” Kelly said.

Kelly said Vick and safety Patrick Chung were “the two guys we have to keep an eye on this week,” but five other players were listed on the injury report.

Chung (shoulder), linebacker Connor Barwin (knee) and left tackle Jason Peters (finger) participated fully in practice, according to the report. Cornerback Brandon Boykin (groin), punter Donnie Jones (left foot) and running back Chris Polk (ankle) were limited.

Boykin is the most interesting name on the list. Reporters asked Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis about their inclination to get the nickel corner more playing time. Both said Boykin is thriving in his role.

It also may be that the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Boykin is already taking as much punishment as his body can absorb. Boykin was on the injury report last week with a bruised shoulder. This week, it’s a groin pull.

As for Chung, it will be interesting to see how Davis reintegrates the veteran safety. The secondary looked much better against the Giants, and players talked about the importance of improved communication and familiarity with each other. Chances are, Chung, Nate Allen and Earl Wolff will continue to rotate at safety.

Chung is also the backup nickel corner, so he could see time there if Boykin is limited or aggravates his injury.

Eight in the Box: Under the radar

April, 5, 2013
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at the top under-the-radar move made by each NFC East team thus far this offseason:

Dallas Cowboys: Cutting safety Gerald Sensabaugh.

This move was significant in a couple of ways. Its most immediate impact was that it created enough salary-cap room to allow the Cowboys, later that same day, to designate defensive end Anthony Spencer as their franchise player for the second year in a row. Spencer still stands as the team's most significant "free agent acquisition," and franchising him left the Cowboys with very little room under the cap for the ensuing few weeks. Although it helped the Cowboys cross starting defensive end off of their offseason shopping list, it left safety as a position of some concern. The projected starters right now are Barry Church, who's coming off injury, and Matt Johnson, a second-year man who didn't play at all as a rookie. They signed veteran Will Allen for depth, but it's a position they might have to address early in the draft as well.

New York Giants: Signing defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins.

Jenkins was part of the colossal disappointment that was the past two seasons in Philadelphia, but he's a veteran with something left who should make a contribution in New York in a few ways. He has experience at defensive end as well as tackle, so he'll fit in when the Giants decide to use those packages that load up the line with pass-rushers. The Giants like to lean on high-character veterans to help develop young players, and Jenkins can fill that role for someone like Marvin Austin. And with the way the Giants rotate linemen, they should be able to keep Jenkins fresh. After cutting Chris Canty, the Giants needed to add depth on the defensive line, and Jenkins was a smart pickup after the Eagles cut him just before free agency opened.

Philadelphia Eagles: Trading for wide receiver Arrelious Benn.

I have no idea whether Benn will make an impact for the Eagles as a wide receiver. Injury problems his first three years in the league led Tampa Bay to give up on him and deal him to the Eagles for basically nothing. And he's behind starters DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, among others, on the depth chart. But he's also just 24 years old and was a second-round draft pick only three years ago, so there is some untapped potential there. If he can get on the field in the offense, he's got enough size to offer something the Eagles' starting wideouts don't. Regardless, the move was significant as a part of a clear mission by new coach Chip Kelly and GM Howie Roseman to improve the Eagles' disappointing special teams units. Benn has experience as a return man and in kick coverage, and should help there right away. Along with the signing of linebacker Jason Phillips and punter Donnie Jones, and the re-signing of Colt Anderson, Benn is part of a special teams overhaul.

Washington Redskins: Re-signing fullback Darrel Young

Except on the rare occasions when he catches a pass or powers into the end zone for a short touchdown, Young doesn't get noticed much, but he's a critical part of a Redskins' running game that ranked No. 1 in the league in 2012. That run game is likely to be even more important than it was last season while starting quarterback Robert Griffin III recovers from offseason knee surgery, and the Redskins' ability to retain Young and keep their offensive line intact will benefit tailback Alfred Morris greatly in his second season.



Sunday, 1/25