Which Eagles Free Agents Will Be Back?

Philadelphia Eagles LB Akeem JordanWe’ve started to preview free agency in the past few days with breakdowns of the cornerbacks and the safeties.

And we’ll continue to look at other positions the rest of the week. But for now, here’s a peek at the Eagles’ own pending free agents, with some thoughts on who could be back.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – As you know by now, the Eagles chose to not franchise Rodgers-Cromartie. He has size, speed and a Pro Bowl under his belt, yet Rodgers-Cromartie seems destined to be on his third team in four years. Given the cornerback depth in free agency, it’ll be interesting to see what the demand is like for DRC. There could be a slim chance that the Eagles consider a short-term deal after letting him test the market. But more likely, another team will see his age and talent and take a shot on him.

Jake Scott – He was out of the league until the Eagles’ ninth game of the season in 2012. But Scott got seven starts at right guard, taking over for Danny Watkins. While he wouldn’t be a bad option for depth/competition, my guess is the Eagles will go with a younger option. Scott turns 32 next month.

Derek Landri - He was really good in 2011, but that production did not carry over to last season. Landri was part of the defensive tackle rotation (46.1 percent of the snaps, per Pro Football Focus), but didn’t have a sack all year. Even though he had seven tackles for loss, Landri struggled against the run also. I would be surprised if the Eagles brought the 29-year-old back.

King Dunlap – I’ve seen arguments by people who think he deserves a legitimate shot to start somewhere, and I have to disagree. Dunlap, a seventh-round pick in 2008, deserves credit for having stayed in the league this long. He’s a complete non-factor as a run blocker and had nine penalties, tied for the most among Eagles offensive players. Dunlap demonstrated competency as a pass blocker on occasion, but it’s highly unlikely that his body could hold up as a 16-game starter. The 27-year-old will look to find a roster spot elsewhere.

Akeem Jordan – It seems like the Eagles try to get rid of him every year, and he just keeps finding his way back on to the 53-man roster at the end of training camp. Jordan has played in 82 games the past six seasons for the Eagles. Last year, he ranked third in special-teams points and led the Birds with 15 special-teams tackles. Jordan played 36.6 percent of the team’s defensive snaps last year, per PFF. Even though it feels like Jordan has been around for awhile, he’s only 27. Right now, the Eagles only have two linebacker spots nailed down with DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks. The likelihood is that Jordan will be gone, but depending on what the Eagles do in free agency and the draft, perhaps he could get another look as a depth/special teams option.

Darryl Tapp – I think we can safely say the Seahawks got the better of this trade. The Eagles sent Chris Clemons and a fourth-round pick to Seattle for Tapp back in 2010. Tapp has had six sacks in 39 games with the Eagles as a rotational defensive end. Clemons has 33.5 sacks in 48 games as a key member of the Seahawks’ defense. Tapp played 28.5 percent of the Eagles’ snaps, per PFF, but managed just half-a-sack and eight hurries. At 28, he’ll try to catch on elsewhere.

Jon Dorenbos – I’ll admit to not knowing the intricacies of the long-snapper market these days. Dorenbos turns 33 in July and has appeared in 101 games in seven years for the Eagles.

Colt Anderson – He’s the only restricted free agent in this group, meaning the Eagles can match other teams’ offers. Of the eight players listed, Anderson is the most likely to be back. He battled back from a torn ACL, led the team in special teams points and was OK in four starts at safety towards the end of the year. If Chip Kelly is making special teams a priority, he’ll hold on to Anderson as the team’s fourth safety.

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Offseason Primer: Eagles Offensive Line

In the next couple of weeks, we’ll take a position-by-position, player-by-player look at the Eagles’ roster. Today, we break down the offensive line. If you missed yesterday’s post on the wide receivers, click here.

YEAR IN REVIEW

Jason Kelce – Coming off a promising rookie campaign, Kelce suffered a knee injury in the second game of the season against the Ravens. Considering his game is based on his athleticism, we’ll have to monitor his rehab progress in the spring and summer. But barring any major setbacks, pencil Kelce in as the starting center in 2013.

Evan Mathis – He didn’t make the Pro Bowl, but the veteran left guard turned in the best season of his career. That’s impressive, considering he was playing with a rotating cast of characters next to him at center and left tackle. Mathis was the only Eagles offensive lineman to start every game last season. He played at a high level and will continue to provide stability next season.

Danny Watkins – Things went from bad to worse for Watkins in his second season. He started six games before being sidelined with what Andy Reid called a “chronic” ankle injury. Even when Watkins got healthy, he was kept off the field in favor of journeyman Jake Scott. According to EaglesCap.com, the Eagles would be on the hook for $2.15M if they cut Watkins before next season. The question is no longer: Will he live up to the expectations of a first-round pick? It is now: What role can he play on your roster? Perhaps Chip Kelly thinks Watkins is still salvageable. Maybe he’ll peg him as a backup. Or maybe he’ll get rid of him altogether.

Jason Peters -He first underwent surgery in April, but Peters re-injured his Achilles in May and had to have a second surgery. In 2011, Peters was sensational. Even if he gets back to 75 percent of the player he was, you probably have yourself an above-average left tackle.

Todd Herremans – His injury occurred on November 5. Herremans sustained a dislocated bone, some fractures and torn ligaments in his right foot. Back in December, he said he doesn’t anticipate missing OTAs or mini-camps. Herremans’ 24 starts the last two seasons have come at right tackle. But the truth is, he was not playing well at that spot last year before getting injured. There’s a possibility he gets moved back inside to guard (more on that below).

Dallas Reynolds – Like the rest of the backup offensive linemen, he got his chance and struggled. Reynolds was out of practice-squad chances and ended up starting 14 games. You can’t fault his effort, but the Eagles will likely look to upgrade its offensive line depth before 2013.

King Dunlap – He started 13 games last year and was up-and-down. Dunlap certainly had his share of issues, but he’s a career backup so any assessment has to be based on a fair set of expectations. Going forward, the guess is that the Eagles will sign or draft someone with higher upside. Dunlap is a free agent. Remember, the Eagles showed no interest in signing him last year until Peters went down in the spring.

Jake Scott – He’s also a free agent. Scott started seven games and played OK. He’ll turn 32 in April and started 112 straight games from 2005 to 2011. If I’m the Eagles, I’d at least explore the possibility of bringing him back as a reserve. In the end, though, they might just opt for someone younger who can be developed.

Dennis Kelly – Initially thought of as a project, Kelly ended up starting 10 games as a rookie. The fifth-round pick saw action at guard and tackle, performing better at the latter. He had some good moments sprinkled in, but struggled quite a bit. Perhaps that was to be expected. Kelly will have to compete for a roster spot as a backup this offseason.

Demetress Bell – The Eagles were aggressive in signing Bell after the Peters injury, but he turned out to be a disaster, starting just four games all season. His days in Philadelphia are over.

Other guys who are on the roster but didn’t see significant action last year: Matt Kopa, Nate Menkin, Matt Reynolds, Matt Tennant, Julian Vandervelde.

LOOKING AHEAD

On paper, this unit actually has a chance to once again be a strength if Peters, Herremans and Kelce all come back healthy.

Tim wrote recently about what Kelly is looking for out of his offensive linemen. I recently spoke to Kelce, who said he’s had numerous conversations with the Eagles’ new head coach and likes what he’s hearing.

“I’m pretty excited about the whole situation in general because I’m very familiar with the spread style of offense I think he’s probably going to institute,” Kelce said. “I did a lot of that in college. Basically, in my opinion, it makes an offensive line’s job just so much easier. I’m excited about everything, and once they get a coach in here, I’ll be excited to see what he says.”

There are still a lot of unknowns about what Kelly is going to do offensively. And he’s yet to name an offensive line coach. If he plans on bringing his up-tempo attack to the NFL, the offensive linemen will have to be in great shape. That’s especially important this year with three of the five starters potentially coming off of injuries.

From a personnel standpoint, the key question is: Where will Herremans play? I touched on this above, and some have pointed out previously that Herremans is making tackle money. But he’s due to make $4.3M next season, according to EaglesCap.com. That doesn’t seem to be an unreasonable amount for an above-average guard. Mathis is scheduled to make $4M. And Ben Grubbs has a base salary of $5.2M.

In other words, I don’t think this will be a financially-based decision. There are some highly-rated tackles in April’s draft, such as Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel, Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher and Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson. All are expected to be first-round picks. If Howie Roseman deems one of them the best player available when the Eagles pick, he shouldn’t hesitate with his choice.

As for free agency, there are some intriguing names out there like Denver’s Ryan Clady and Cincinnati’s Andre Smith. But both players are expected to stay put. Other free-agent options include Chiefs tackle Branden Albert, Dolphins tackle Jake Long and Bills guard Andy Levitre.

While I’m sure the Eagles will explore all their options, I’d be surprised if they made a huge splash on the offensive line in free agency. That could change if one of the injured players suffers a setback in their rehab, but otherwise, the plan will likely be to add a veteran or two for depth and build through the draft.

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Business Decision Coming For Jake Scott

Jake Scott is a football player. And as he demonstrated earlier this offseason, he is also a businessman.

Scott reportedly turned down several offers this offseason because the price wasn’t right. His streak of 121 straight starts went up in smoke, and the 31-year-old was without a team for more than half the year before ultimately signing a one-year deal with the Eagles. After all that, he’s on the verge of hitting free agency again.

“Just kind of wait and see what happens after the season — that was kind of the deal coming in,” said Scott. “Just come in and play and have some fun with it and let’s see what happens this offseason. I think that is the only way it could have worked. They obviously weren’t going to pay me a significant amount of money to just come in for seven weeks, and I probably wouldn’t have signed for anything more than a one-year deal. It’s just how it worked.”

Why did you only want to go one year?

“Well it wouldn’t make sense. I didn’t have the leverage to get a good enough deal to sign for more than one year. There’s no leverage, so why do it?” he explained.

Scott has a little bit better leverage now, it would seem.

Speaking both to Scott’s ability and the wobbly state of the offensive line, the former Titan and Colt was signed on November 12 and was starting in place of Danny Watkins at right guard six days later. Though far from perfect, he has proven to be an upgrade over Watkins. Scott has allowed two sacks and one quarterback hit, according to Pro Football Focus. All of that damage (plus five QB hurries) came against the Bucs. In all, he has committed six penalties and yielded 11 QB hurries in five starts for the Eagles.

“I’ve enjoyed myself. It’s been disappointing that we haven’t won more games but it’s fun to be back playing football, it’s fun to be part of a group where on offense I think we have improved every week and we’re playing better,” he said. “We’re still making mistakes but it’s been fun to be a part of that.

“It’s a good place to be, good people to be around, good coaching staff. The organization has been great to me so I have enjoyed that.”

There is a good chance the coaching staff won’t be here next year. Scott was asked how that will play into his decision-making.

“Until something actually happens it doesn’t affect me at all,” he said. “I’m not going to have a say in that so I’ll have to wait and see what happens, if anything happens, and go from there.”

If we’ve learned nothing else, it’s that Scott will weigh his options.

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Eagles OL Review: Mathis, Scott Get Tested

Here’s a player-by-player review of how the Eagles’ offensive line performed against the Bengals, after having re-watched Thursday night’s game.

King Dunlap – The veteran held up well in pass protection. I didn’t see him give up any hits on Nick Foles. Dunlap did a nice job pass-blocking on the 17-yard completion to Jeremy Maclin in the third. He rarely gives you much in the run game and was up and down in that aspect. But Dunlap did a nice job on Bryce Brown’s 6-yard run in the third and again on his 8-yard run. He got pushed into the backfield on Brown’s run that lost 2 yards in the second.

Evan Mathis – He’s had a great season and was battling an ankle injury, but Mathis was up-and-down in this one, going up against some talented defensive linemen like Geno Atkins. Let’s start with the good. He did a nice job on Brown’s 6-yard run in the red zone. And Mathis got his hands on Vontaze Burfict on Brown’s 6-yard run in the third. He held up well in pass protection on Foles’ 17-yard completion to Maclin in the third. Now, the issues. Mathis whiffed on his block against Pat Sims, leading to the Foles/Brown fumble and the Bengals’ defensive touchdown. He was driven into the backfield by Atkins on a Brown run that was stopped after 1 yard in the fourth. Mathis had some trouble with Atkins in the first, but Foles stepped up and found Jason Avant for 25 yards. He gave up a sack in the third as Wallace Gilberry came Mathis’ way on a stunt. But to be fair, Foles held on to the ball for awhile on the play.

Dallas Reynolds – He had ups and downs as well. Good block on the screen to Brown that picked up 11 in the second. And nice job pulling on the 6-yard Brown carry in the red zone. But he couldn’t hold his block on the linebacker on Brown’s 3-yard carry in the second. And Reynolds had a costly illegal snap when the offense had a 1st-and-goal from the 2 late in the first half. They ended up settling for a field goal. Burfict went right around him and dropped Dion Lewis for a 4-yard loss on a screen in the third.

Jake Scott – He did not play particularly well. Scott was called for an illegal block in the back on the screen to Maclin where he fumbled. Atkins shoved him deep into the backfield, disrupting a Brown run that lost a yard in the first. He let Domata Peko get past him on Brown’s 3-yard run in the second. Scott got abused by Atkins in the third and was called for holding. And he was shoved into the backfield by Atkins on a Brown run that lost 2 yards in the third. The good moments? He did a nice job out in front of the screen to Brown that picked up 11 yards. And Scott blocked Burfict on Brown’s 6-yard run in the red zone.

Dennis Kelly – He also had his share of issues. Kelly gave up a hit on Foles in the second on the play where the QB was called for intentional grounding. He did a poor job of handling a stunt in the second, allowing pressure on Foles. It looked like Carlos Dunlap tossed him to the side on a Brown run that lost a yard in the third.

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Eagles OL Review: Identifying the Issues Vs. Tampa

Philadelphia Eagles left guard Evan Mathis.Below is a player-by-player review of how the Eagles’ offensive line performed in Sunday’s 23-21 win over the Bucs after having re-watched the game.

King Dunlap – A very up-and-down performance from the left tackle. He could not get to Michael Bennett on an early stretch play that lost 4 yards. Dunlap hit Ronde Barber, but barely moved him on an early Bryce Brown run that was stopped for no gain. He was beaten badly off the edge on a first-quarter sack and later had trouble with the defensive end, who rushed off the edge and forced Nick Foles out of the pocket. Daniel Te’o-Nesheim went right past him and sacked Foles in the second. Dunlap was pushed deep into the backfield on a Brown run that lost 7 yards in the second. He and Dennis Kelly both were beaten on a second-quarter play where Foles stepped up and found Jason Avant deep downfield. The good: Dunlap did a nice job on Brown’s 11-yard run in the second. He put a good block on the defensive back on the screen to Jeremy Maclin that picked up 24. And he did a nice job one-on-one in pass protection, giving Foles time to find Jeremy Maclin for 22 yards on 3rd-and-10 in the fourth.

Evan Mathis – This very well could be the best stretch of football we’ve seen out of Mathis. With the pieces around him all struggling on Sunday, Mathis again delivered a strong effort. He drove Te’o-Nesheim to the ground on Foles’ 14-yard pass to Damaris Johnson in the second. Great effort finishing the play on Foles’ 14-yard scramble in the third. Often times, when a QB takes off to run, offensive linemen will just stop. Mathis not only picked up Gerald McCoy on a stunt, but drove him downfield until the whistle blew. Later, Mathis did an excellent job on the defensive back on the Maclin screen that picked up 24. It’s possible I missed one, but I didn’t notice a single breakdown in protection from him.

Dallas Reynolds – Not a good showing. Reynolds couldn’t hold his block on McCoy on an early stunt that resulted in a sack. It didn’t look like Reynolds was trying to pass the DT off to Mathis either (to be fair, Foles had more than three seconds to get rid of the ball on the play). Later, he got pushed into the backfield by Te’o-Nesheim on a Brown run that was stopped for no gain. Reynolds stayed with the double-team and failed to pick up linebacker Lavonte David, who was coming on a blitz and hit Foles. It’s possible Reynolds thought Brown was picking up David on the play. He and Jake Scott did a poor job handling a stunt in the first as Foles was sacked. Defensive tackle Gary Gibson got past him and pressured Foles into throwing the ball away in the red zone in the second. Reynolds later let Gibson through again, but Foles stepped up and found Avant in the third. McCoy went right past him and dragged Dion Lewis down for a loss of 4 in the fourth. One of the few bright spots came when Reynolds switched off to the blitzer on Foles’ 11-yard completion to Clay Harbor late in the first half.

Jake Scott – He had been playing well, but struggled in this one. Scott was a little slow to pick up Da’Quan Bowers on a stunt on the early 6-yard completion to Johnson. McCoy went around him on third down in the first quarter. Scott did a poor job of handling a first-quarter stunt as Bennett sacked Foles. He got abused one-on-one against McCoy, giving up a sack in the third, and got pushed back by Te’o-Nesheim on the two-point try, allowing a hit on Foles. Scott had a nice block on the defensive back on the screen to Avant that picked up 10 in the third.

Dennis Kelly – Yikes. Perhaps a year from now, Kelly will remember this as a learning moment. But he struggled big-time on Sunday. Poor job on Bennett on a stretch play that lost 4 yards in the first. He couldn’t get in front of McCoy on a Brown run that picked up 1 yard in the first. Kelly did a poor job with his block on a Brown run in the second that was stopped for no gain. He was beaten badly on Brown’s red-zone run that lost a yard in the second. And Kelly was beaten off the edge on the play where Foles stepped up and found Avant deep downfield. He had trouble with Bennett in the third, but McCoy sacked Foles first. Kelly got pushed into the backfield by Bennett on Brown’s third-quarter run that lost a yard. He was beaten badly on third down in the third, forcing Foles to move out of the pocket and throw incomplete. Kelly missed his block on the WR screen to Maclin in the fourth that picked up 4 yards. On the very next play, he gave up a sack to Bennett. And he had trouble with Bennett on the play after that, but Foles stepped up and hit Maclin for a first down. Much to improve on after this outing for Kelly.

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Scott’s Play Keeps Watkins On Sideline

Jake Scott doesn’t have some dramatic tale to tell about how he spent time preparing for his return to the NFL.

“Worked out four times a week at Vanderbilt,” Scott said. “Stay in shape. Do what I needed to do to be ready.”

That was it. An unsigned free agent for the first 10 weeks of the season, Scott did some work in the weight room. Some conditioning. Maybe a session on the field. Usually no more than 90 minutes per day.

“You play professional football,” Scott said. “If they call you up and say come play, you’ve got to be ready to come play.  You don’t go in and say ‘Well, I’ll be ready three weeks from now.’ You signed me to play this week. I’ll be ready to play this week.”

Scott has come in and played well, starting the last three games at right guard. Nick Foles has been sacked just twice in the last two games, and Bryce Brown has averaged an absurd 8.1 yards per carry on 43 attempts.

Scott and rookie Dennis Kelly have played surprisingly well together on the right side. Kelly, a rookie fifth-round pick, has started the last three games at right tackle.I asked him how playing alongside a veteran like Scott, who has 124 starts under his belt, has helped him.

“Just kind of little tidbits here and there to try and improve something that might not be broken, but maybe a little different approach might give you an extra 5 yards, that extra hole that Bryce has been able to find lately,” Kelly said. “So his experience is definitely something that has helped this line tremendously.”

Of course, Scott’s play has kept Danny Watkins on the sideline. The former first-round pick had been battling an ankle injury, but make no mistake about it. His health has very little or nothing to do with the fact that he’s being replaced by Scott.

“He’s right about there, and he worked in a little bit at the left guard last week when we had people banged-up just a little bit,” Reid said. “I think the group that’s playing right now is a positive. I’m sticking with that group as we speak. They’re playing well together.”

Watkins started the first six games, then sat out for three weeks and has played a reserve role in the last three. While Watkins wasn’t in the locker room before today’s practice, veteran Evan Mathis said he can relate to what the second-year player is going through.

“I told Danny in my third year, I played two snaps of football,” Mathis said. “Your future is in your own hands, and it’s still early for him. He still has a bright future ahead of him.”

But is it hard to stay positive?

“It’s really hard. I’ve been there. It’s really hard to stay positive. That’s why I try to tell him those kinds of things. Keep your head up. Keep working. Take every day as an opportunity to work to get better.”

Watkins will continue to try and do that in practice, while Scott will likely finish out the season on the field.

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All-22: Brown, O-Line Clicking On All Cylinders

Here’s an All-22 look at Bryce Brown’s 24-carry, 169-yard performance Sunday night against the Cowboys.

Play 1: Big runs require several different elements to come together within a matter of seconds. For example, on this first-quarter play, it initially looks like the linebacker is going to meet Brown after a short gain.


You’ll also notice Jake Scott and Dennis Kelly are double-teaming the nose tackle. But Scott comes off the double-team and blocks the linebacker.


Suddenly, Brown’s got a running lane. And he’s shown in the past couple of weeks that when he’s one-on-one with a defensive back, he’s winning more often than not. Ok, forget that. He’s winning every time. Brown first breaks the tackle of safety Danny McCray, and then, the other safety, Gerald Sensabaugh, takes a shot.


Looks like he’s got him, right?


Wrong. Brown once again shows excellent lower-body strength, shakes free and is eventually pushed out of bounds after a 24-yard run.

Play 2: I thought Marty Mornhinweg and Andy Reid did an outstanding job with their game-plan of neutralizing DeMarcus Ware. Here, in the red zone, the Eagles line up in shotgun with three wide receivers. They get Ware going upfield, creating a huge running lane for Brown.


Evan Mathis (highlighted in yellow to your right) throws the key block. And Dallas Reynolds takes care of the linebacker. Another key aspect of the play design iss Riley Cooper going inside. The Cowboys initially have two defensive backs to that side of the field, but Cooper takes them with him. And Brown has nothing but open field in front of him.

Play 3: Nice job here by Scott, who has to get outside the defensive lineman to execute his block.


He does so flawlessly. Brent Celek and Dennis Kelly also get the job done, allowing Brown to get outside.


Once Brown gets into the open field, McCray once again has a shot at him.


But Brown once again shakes him off and picks up 39 yards.


Play 4: On the second touchdown run, you really can’t execute a double-team better than Celek and Kelly do here.


Reynolds also gets the job done on the linebacker. And Jason Avant deserves credit for busting it to get to the safety.


That’s your weekly reminder of the importance of wide receivers blocking in the run game.

Play 5: The draw on the Eagles’ final possession of the first half was set up perfectly. Look at the blocking.


Mathis and Scott pin defenders to the inside. Reynolds sets up on the linebacker. Avant is on the defensive back. And Dunlap is out in front.

We’ve picked on Reynolds plenty in this space, so it’s only fair to give him credit here. He sticks with the linebacker 15 yards downfield. And keep in mind, this is a player who was questionable going into the game because of an ankle injury. Great effort.

Obviously, Brown had the fumble in the fourth (his third in two games). He’s got to do a better job of taking care of the football. And the Cowboys were without Jay Ratliff, Sean Lee and Bruce Carter. But as you can see, even with the makeshift offensive line, the Eagles’ running game is clicking on all cylinders right now.

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OL Review: Scott Still In For Watkins

It’s probably too little, too late, but the Eagles’ offensive line turned in one of its best performances of the season Sunday night against the Cowboys.

Sure, it helped that Dallas was without Jay Ratliff, Sean Lee and Bruce Carter, but the offense scored points on six of 10 offensive possessions. Nick Foles was sacked just once and had a comfortable pocket for most of the game. On the ground, the Eagles averaged 7.0 yards per carry, which help neutralize DeMarcus Ware. The Eagles often ran play-fakes right at Ware to slow him down.

Below is the player-by-player breakdown:

King Dunlap – He had some issues, but overall, did a respectable job against Ware, especially considering Dunlap was playing through a knee injury. In pass protection, he allowed Ware to get some pressure on Foles as he dumped it off to Clay Harbor for 3 yards in the third. Ware got past Dunlap in the fourth, but Foles escaped and threw complete to Jason Avant. Dunlap allowed the team’s only sack, as Victor Butler went right around him, one-on-one, and stripped Foles in the fourth. He did a poor job on Jason Hatcher on Bryce Brown’s run that lost 6 yards in the first. On the flip side, Dunlap got out in front and blocked the linebacker on Dion Lewis’ 11-yard run in the third. He helped shove Ware upfield on Brown’s 13-yard run in the fourth.

Evan Mathis – He’s really playing well right now. Mathis did a nice job on the linebacker on the 13-yard screen to Damaris Johnson in the first. He threw the key block on Brown’s 10-yard touchdown in the first. And Mathis got to the linebacker on Brown’s second touchdown run. He pinned Hatcher on Brown’s 20-yard run in the second and did a good job on Josh Brent on Lewis’ 11-yard run in the third. Mathis blocked Hatcher and helped create a lane for Brown on his 13-yard run in the fourth. Strong overall game.

Dallas Reynolds – I thought he also delivered a pretty good performance, especially considering he was dealing with an ankle injury and listed as questionable on Friday. Let’s start with the good. Reynolds did an excellent job getting to linebackers on the second level all game long. Examples: Brown’s first touchdown run, Brown’s 20-yard run in the second, Brown’s 13-yard run in the fourth. He and Dennis Kelly had a nice double-team on Brown’s 39-yard run in the second. And Reynolds had an excellent block on Marcus Spears on Brown’s second touchdown run. The issues? Brent got past him and pressured Foles, forcing him to throw it away in the fourth. And Reynolds failed to switch off his man and pick up Ernie Sims on the first play from scrimmage.

Jake Scott - By all accounts I’ve heard, Danny Watkins was healthy last week and ready to start at left guard if Mathis had to play center. Yet Scott still started at right guard in his place. And Scott played pretty well too. It’s now officially fair to question why the Eagles didn’t sign him earlier in the season. Scott sealed the edge and allowed Brown to turn the corner on his 39-yard run in the second. He did a nice job of switching off his man on a stunt in the second, giving Foles time to hit Avant for 29 yards. When the Eagles needed a first down on 3rd-and-2 in the third, they ran Brown right behind Scott and picked it up. He did a nice job on Sims on Brown’s 17-yard run in the third. And Scott got to Dan Connor on the shovel pass to Brown that picked up 7. He did a good job on the linebacker on Brown’s 2nd-and-2 carry that picked up 6 yards. Most of the Eagles’ issues in pass protection came late when Dallas knew they had to throw the ball (and perhaps the linemen were fatigued). Spears beat him badly in the fourth, forcing Foles to scramble and throw the ball away.

Dennis Kelly – He has issues here and there, but overall, Kelly looks like a pretty competent right tackle. He did a nice job on Spears on Brown’s 5-yard run in the first. He handled Anthony Spencer one-on-one on an 8-yard completion to Brown in the first. Kelly threw a key block on Brown’s 24-yard run in the first. Perfectly-executed double team by him and Brent Celek on Brown’s second touchdown run. Nice job switching off his man and handling a stunt on a 29-yard completion to Avant. Good block on Sean Lissemore, creating a running lane for Brown on his 17-yard carry in the third. Kelly got out in front of the screen to Avant and blocked Ware. He had some trouble with Spencer on Foles’ incompletion to Riley Cooper in the third. And Kelly got beaten by Spencer in the fourth, but the Cowboys linebacker was called for roughing the passer on the play.

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Cheat Sheet: Eagles’ Offense Vs. Cowboys’ Defense

Here are 10 things to know about how the Eagles’ offense matches up with the Cowboys’ defense:

1. There was a time when a Sunday night game in early December against the Cowboys would have generated a playoff-type buzz around these parts. Instead, we’re left with this.

“I think one thing in coaching, and I’ve been in this thing a little while now, is that motivation aspect,” said offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. “It’s key and it’s every day with the motivation aspect of it. Now, we certainly are in a spoiler type role here and that can be very rewarding. So, we have discussed that and it’s very rewarding that way.”

We’ll find out just how rewarding the Eagles find that spoiler role in the final five games.

2. The Eagles’ offense is averaging just 16.7 points per game, which ranks 30th, ahead of only the Cardinals and the Chiefs. Football Outsiders has the offense ranked 27th – 26th in passing and 25th in rushing. The Cowboys are 20th in scoring defense, allowing 23.8 points per game. Football Outsiders has them ranked 19th – 22nd against the pass and 11th against the run. Dallas is coming off a Thanksgiving performance in which Robert Griffin III completed 19 of 27 passes for 304 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. The Cowboys didn’t get it done against the run either, allowing Alfred Morris to run 24 times for 113 yards (4.7 YPC). The Eagles scored 22 points against Carolina Monday night in their seventh straight loss.

3. In that game, the Birds relied on rookie running back Bryce Brown, who carried 19 times for 178 yards. As I detailed in the All-22 breakdown, Brown impressed with his ability to get around the edge and kick it into a special gear. Most of his success on the season has come out of spread formations. Brown’s run 27 times for 235 yards (8.7 YPC) out of 3-WR and 4-WR sets, according to STATS, Inc. He’s averaging 4.1 yards per carry on 10 attempts out of two-back sets and 6.9 yards per carry on 40 attempts out of single-back sets. The Cowboys will be without some of their key cogs on defense. Linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter are out for the season. And nose tackle Jay Ratliff is doubtful with a groin injury. The Cowboys are allowing 4.1 yards per carry on the season (tied for 11th).

4. Nick Foles gets his third straight start in place of an injured Michael Vick. He went 16-for-21 for 119 yards last week against Carolina. Mornhinweg was asked this week about Foles’ progression.

“It certainly will be an evaluation,” Mornhinweg said. “Now, you have to take all different things into account… Young quarterbacks tend to play a little bit better when they are on an excellent team that is fully funded and everyone is on board playing and all of those things.”

Mornhinweg was pointing out that Foles hasn’t been operating with an ideal set of circumstances, considering the offensive line injuries (and the loss of DeSean Jackson). With young players, it’s not always about what they show, but how they project. No one’s expecting consistency at this point in his career, but Foles needs to show flashes of what he could be capable of in the future.

5. Up front, Dallas Reynolds participated in Friday’s practice and is listed as questionable. If he plays, the Eagles offensive line will likely be: King Dunlap (LT), Evan Mathis (LG), Reynolds (center), Jake Scott (RG), Dennis Kelly (RT). If Reynolds can’t go, Mathis is expected to move to center, and Danny Watkins would take his place at left guard. There’s been a lot of talk about whether Scott replacing Watkins has had more to do with the former first-round pick’s injury or his performance.

“Danny is there,” Mornhinweg said this week about Watkins’ ankle. “Danny is really close to being there.”

If Watkins is healthy, you’d think he’d return to the starting lineup one way or another (replacing Scott at RG if Reynolds plays). We’ll keep an eye on how things shake out tonight.

6. For the Cowboys, the player to watch is always DeMarcus Ware. Ware’s tied for fourth in the league with 10 sacks. Dunlap, who had a disastrous stretch in the last game where he failed to go out with the field-goal team and cost the Eagles a timeout, will see plenty of Ware. Anthony Spencer has 6.5 sacks. As a team, the Cowboys have 23 sacks (tied for 20th). The Eagles have allowed 34, tied for fourth-most.

7. When doing your draft research over the next several months, don’t rule out offensive tackle for the Eagles. Jason Peters and Todd Herremans both suffered season-ending injuries. Herremans turned 30 in October, and Peters turns 31 in January. The Eagles could always spend an early pick on a tackle and move Herremans inside. Or they could have the draft pick start inside before eventually moving to tackle. Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel (6-6, 310) and Michigan’s Taylor Lewan (6-8, 302) are names to be aware of. Oh, and one more: Jake Matthews. The cousin of Casey plays right tackle for Texas A&M and is expected to be a first-round pick.

8. The Eagles continue to turn the ball over at a disastrous rate. They are second in the NFL (behind only the Chiefs) with 24 turnovers. According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles have turned it over on 20 percent of their offensive drives, which is astounding. Last week, Brown fumbled twice. You can be sure that Cowboys defenders will go after the ball when trying to bring him down. Dallas, however, has just 12 takeaways on the season – second-fewest in the NFC (ahead of only the Eagles, who have 10).

9. At wide receiver, Jason Avant is expected to return from a hamstring injury. Riley Cooper and Damaris Johnson will see more action with Jackson out of the lineup. Eagles receivers will match up against cornerbacks Brandon Carr and first-round pick Morris Claiborne. Opponents are completing 62.5 percent of their passes against Dallas (tied for 18th) and averaging 7.7 yards per attempt (26th).

10. The Eagles are 30th in red-zone offense, scoring touchdowns just 39.4 percent of the time. The Cowboys are 12th in red-zone defense, allowing TDs 50 percent of the time. …The Eagles are 17th in third-down offense, converting 37.9 percent of the time. Dallas is ninth, allowing conversions 36 percent of the time. …The Eagles continue to boast one of the worst special-teams units in the league. Football Outsiders has Bobby April’s group ranked 25th. Dwayne Harris returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown in the first meeting between the teams. Per FO, the Eagles’ punt/punt coverage unit ranks second-to-last in the NFL.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Scott Supplants Watkins At Right Guard

Philadelphia Eagles right guard Danny Watkins.It took just six days from being signed off the street for Jake Scott to surge to the top of the depth chart at right guard. Now it looks like he might not give that spot up.

Andy Reid said on Wednesday that Scott is the starter for now ahead of Danny Watkins, who has been nursing a high ankle sprain for the last several weeks. The former first-round pick was healthy enough to be activated Sunday against the Panthers, but the decision was made to hold Watkins back.  The 28-year-old explained that this is a different injury than the one he sustained in college, where “a little bone flake came off.”

“The docs were watching film from Pittsburgh and New York. When we were running those quarterback draws, Mike [Vick] kept rolling up into the back of my knees,” Watkins said. ”It’s just one of those things that’s just kind of nagging, and I didn’t realize how far it put me back.”

So is Watkins down because of injury, or is it a flat demotion? Reid was a little vague.

“Well, on the high ankle you have the tweaks and all that,” said Reid.”This guy’s healthy, he understands the offense. He did a nice job after he got over the two penalties early there. He played good football, has a lot of experience.”

Scott graded out fairly well against Washington, particularly considering he was signed to a contract that Monday and hadn’t played a snap of football all season.

“Throw on a a helmet and some cleats and go do it,” Scott said, on how he was able to come in cold and play effectively. “It’s about as simple as that.

“[My performance] was alright. I  felt like I had a pretty good grasp of the offense, I knew what to do most of the time. It wasn’t as crisp as it could be. Everything was OK.”

A lot of fans have been asking the question: Given the issues along the offensive front, why wasn’t this guy signed until now? Scott was asked just that following Wednesday’s walkthrough.

“You’re asking the wrong guy that question,” said Scott.

“There had been some contact in the offseason [with the Eagles] but they went other routes, and that’s fine.”

The Eagles have been decimated by injury along the offensive line, prompting the team to circle back to the Scott camp. He was signed,  he was inserted into the line, and he performed. And now you have to wonder where Watkins fits into the equation.

Is it his job when he gets fully healthy?

“I hope so,” said Watkins. “That’s something you always worry about when you get injured. [Scott] has come in and played well. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?”

“I’ve been disappointed since I got injured. The team is not doing very well, you want to be out there helping the guys. We’re just not getting the wins and quarterbacks are getting pressured and hit so yeah, it’s frustrating. You can’t be out there helping and you want to be contributing and doing something. You just want to pull your hair out. There’s nothing you can do right now, so I’m working hard, getting ready to get  back out there.”

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