Here’s a roundup of what the national media are saying about the Eagles this week. Read more »
Now let’s look at the remaining four: Donnie Jones, Kurt Coleman, Colt Anderson and Clifton Geathers. Read more »
What we have so far is a sample size (eight games, five starts, 162 pass attempts) that ranks among the best in NFL history. Foles’ jersey from the 7-TD performance against the Raiders is in Canton. And this week, he brought home the NFC Offensive Player of the Month award.
We’ve seen what the Eagles’ offense looks like when Foles is comfortable, firing on all cylinders, throwing completion after completion and touchdown after touchdown. His toughness has never been questioned, going back to last year when Foles started six games behind a makeshift offensive line.
But after every performance, there’s a desire to see more.
How much of this is real? How long can he keep up this pace? What’s next for the second-year signal-caller? Read more »
Two punters were selected in the fifth round of last month’s draft. Brad Wing was not one of them.
The LSU product, who eventually signed on with the Eagles as an undrafted free agent, sat at home in Baton Rouge, La. with his parents, little brother and fiancee without receiving a call.
On talent alone, there’s little question about whether Wing (6-2, 205) warrants a spot in the league. But in an uncommon twist, the punter’s off-the-field transgressions are what scared teams away. According to Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Wing was told by LSU that he was no longer welcome on the team, even though he had two years of eligibility remaining.
Asked how often teams questioned him about being a distraction, Wing answered honestly, “It was a lot. That was pretty much what it was all about.”
Wing was arrested for simple battery after getting into a fight, although charges were eventually dropped. From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
In an application for a temporary restraining order filed against Wing by Chabert on July 7, Chabert said Wing entered a room where he was laying in bed and locked the door behind him. He then began questioning Chabert about his contact with an ex-girlfriend of Wing’s.
Wing then swatted a cell phone out of Chabert’s hands, threw him to the floor and began punching and kicking him, Chabert said in the application. The victim escaped and left the room before calling the police.
There’s more, too. Wing was suspended for the Tigers’ bowl game last year for reportedly failing a drug test.
“I had let people down in the past, and there’s nothing I can do about that,” Wing said. “I can just try and move forward, and I know that going into relationships now, people won’t trust me and that I will have to build trust. I know that, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes, because this is where I want to be for the next 25 years of my life. I’m willing to jump through any hoops that they want me to do. I’m just so fortunate that the Eagles here have given me a chance.”
Of course, not all teams felt Wing deserved a second chance.
“He’s a problem child,” one special-teams coach told McGinn. “I interviewed him at the combine. I think it was all con. I don’t think this guy is remorseful for any of it.
“If it was me, only way I would take him is if we didn’t have anything invested in him. First time he (expletive) up he’d be out the door. There’s too many red flags on this guy.”
The truth is, the Eagles are risking very little on Wing as an undrafted free agent. He’ll come in and have a chance to compete with Donnie Jones. If he doesn’t perform or has issues off the field, he’ll be let go.
But if he keeps his head on straight, he has upside. Wing was an All-American as a freshman, averaging 44.4 yards per punt. Only 20 of his 59 attempts were returned, and opponents totaled just 73 yards of return yardage against him all season.
The Eagles’ special teams were terrible last year, and the punt/punt return unit was especially bad, ranking dead-last in the league, according to Football Outsiders.
Wing has a connection with another former Australian punter who played in Philadelphia, calling Sav Rocca his “hero.”
“When I was growing up and he was playing Australian Rules Football for the Kangaroos, he was my favorite player,” Wing said. “I wore his jersey around, and so, once he left the AFL, I was sort of upset. I followed him closely once he was in the NFL. That’s what sort of drew me to the NFL a whole lot.”
Rocca joined the Redskins in 2011 and has carved out a six-year NFL career. If he can stay out of trouble, Wing has a chance to do the same.
78 – DeSean Jackson’s yards-per-game in eight full games with Michael Vick as his quarterback last year. Jackson had 37 catches for 624 yards with Vick. That equates to 74 catches for 1,248 yards over a 16-game season – both of which would have been career highs.
Vick got injured on Nov. 11 against the Cowboys and was replaced by Nick Foles. Jackson only played a total of eight quarters with Foles, totaling six catches for 36 yards before fracturing his ribs against the Panthers. But he still had some encouraging words for the second-year quarterback last week.
“Nick Foles is a special player. Even though he’s kind of big and lanky I still think he’s able to have mobility and sling the ball and move up in the pocket and do some things,” Jackson said. “He’s never been in an offense like this before so it’s really hard for me to say how he would fit into it. When minicamps come, maybe I’ll be able to answer your question a little better. But I think he’ll do fine. He’s a great quarterback.”
The truth is, both Vick and Foles had trouble with the deep ball last year. According to Pro Football Focus, Foles was on-target on 35.7 percent of his throws that traveled 20 yards or more downfield. Vick was almost identical at 35 percent. That put them at 24th and 26h in the league, respectively. Of course, both QBs had consistent pressure in the face, making the downfield throws even more challenging.
With Vick, there’s evidence to support the idea that last year was an anomaly in terms of his miscues downfield. In 2011, he was on-target with 51.7 percent of those throws (fifth in the NFL). And in 2010, 47.5 percent (sixth). With Foles, the issue seemed to be one of mechanics and footwork, something he’ll try to iron out this offseason.
As for Jackson, who knows how many downfield routes he’ll be running in 2013? If Oregon’s offense provides any indication, he’ll see plenty of catches on WR screens. He might be called on for some touches out of the backfield and could be used as a punt returner as well.
But Jackson’s strength is still getting behind the defense and making big plays downfield. Kelly, Pat Shurmur and company will look to find a way to help him be successful in that area, regardless of who is playing QB.
(+)21 – Oregon’s turnover margin last year. That ranked No. 1 in the nation. In fact, no team in college football in the last three years has had a better turnover margin in a single season.
But I was surprised to find how the Ducks landed at that number. Like all coaches, Kelly values taking care of the football, but Oregon turned it over 19 times, which ranked 39th in the nation. On the other side of the ball, Oregon had 40 takeaways, which ranked No. 1 in the country. In 2011, it was 29 takeaways (19th). In 2010, 37 (2nd). And in 2009, 25 (32nd).
We’ve spent plenty of time discussing the Eagles’ problems with turnovers on offense the past two years, but the defense was terrible in that area too. The Birds had 13 takeaways in 2012, tied for dead-last in the NFL with the Chiefs.
It makes sense that Kelly’s teams created a lot of turnovers. Score early, score often, and force the opponent to throw the ball and play catch-up. Of course, that formula only works if the offense is clicking, something that probably won’t happen right away with the Eagles.
0 – The number of touchdowns Oregon allowed on kickoff returns and punt returns during Kelly’s four years as head coach there. I did some digging with the help of CFBStats.com and discovered that only one other team could tout that same distinction from 2009 to 2012: Florida State.
Last year, the Ducks allowed just 55 yards (total) on 17 punt returns. That should be music to the ears of Eagles fans. As we’ve mentioned before, the Birds had the worst punt/punt coverage unit in the league last year, according to Football Outsiders’ rankings.
Mat McBriar is gone, and Donnie Jones is the new punter. The Eagles have also bolstered their special teams with free-agent signings. This unit has to be better to help the Birds win the field-position battle, something that rarely happened in 2012.
The Eagles signed punter Donnie Jones to a one-year contract Monday and released Mat McBriar.
Jones, formerly of the Texans, is a two-time All-Pro selection.
“Donnie Jones is a guy that we have admired over the last several years,” said Eagles general manager Howie Roseman. “He has one of the strongest legs in the entire NFL and we’re excited we had a chance to sign him. We watched a lot of tape on him and he’s coming off a very good season with Houston. We feel he’ll add a good element to our special teams units.”
The nine-year veteran ranks fifth in NFL history in both gross (45.6) and net punting average (39.0). In 2008 he became one of seven players in NFL history to record a 50.0 gross average in a single season.
McBriar was coming off a nerve injury in his foot when he signed on with the Eagles last season. He played in 13 games in 2012 and averaged 46.5 yards per punt. As Sheil points out, Football Outsiders had the Eagles ranked as the worst punt/punt coverage unit in the league last year.
According to Adam Caplan, McBriar was due a $50,000 roster bonus at 4 p.m. Monday.
“Mat was nothing but a consummate professional for us in 2012,” said Roseman. “He battled back from a tough injury situation to punt very well last year. We just decided to go in a different direction with Donnie and we wish Mat and his family all the best as he continues his NFL career.”
The Eagles are making a noticeable run on former Texans.
So, that’s 5 players acquired from the Texans in 12 months (Ryans, Menkin, Casey, Barwin, Jones). T-E-X-A-N-S Texans!!
— Sam Lynch (@shlynch) March 25, 2013