A thought about Dallas Goedert and the Pro Bowl, an Eagles star who needs to get his mojo back and a midseason acquisition that’s been a disappointment.
Here’s this week’s Roob’s 10 Random Observations with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers coming to the Linc Sunday night.
1. Next time you’re in a state of panic because the Eagles didn’t overpay for a bunch of free agents in the first 72 hours of free agency, keep this in mind: AJ Brown, James Bradberry and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson – and now add Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh to the list – all became Eagles at least six weeks after the start of free agency. Howie finds guys. The offseason isn’t about who makes the first huge splash in free agency and over-pays for the biggest names and gets the biggest headlines. It’s about building your roster by making smart, cap-friendly and often unconventional acquisitions, and nobody does that better than Howie Roseman. Look at the Eagles’ No. 1 pass defense: They got Pro Bowler Darius Slay from the Lions for 3rd- and 5th-round picks, they waited two months into free agency this past spring until the Giants were forced to cut Bradberry, they claimed Marcus Epps in the middle of November 2019 after the Vikings waived him and they stole NFL interceptions leader Gardner-Johnson from the Saints for 5th- and 6th-round picks 11 days before opening day. For Howie, improving the roster isn’t limited to the draft and free agency. It’s a year-round job.
2. My first thought as soon as we learned Dallas Goedert was out for at least four games was, “What a blow to the Eagles’ offense.” My next thought was, “Dang, there go his Pro Bowl chances.” But you know what? Maybe not. Goedert still has the second-most receiving yards among NFC tight ends – two make the Pro Bowl team – and he’s 114 yards ahead of third-place Tyler Higbee of a 4-7 Rams team. If voters just look at the stats they’ll see Goedert at 60.4 yards per game, best in the NFC (by seven yards per game). Coaches and defensive players around the league know how good a receiver and blocker Goedert is, and what helps Goedert is that the voting window is already open, so although not playing for at least a month will hurt Goedert’s overall numbers, people who are voting now are just going to go by the overall stats, and Goedert is still way up the rankings – and could remain so for another couple of weeks. And he plays for a 9-1 team. Injury or not, Goedert is the best tight end in the NFC and it would be nice to see him recognized for it.
3. Miles Sanders is on pace for 1,286 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns and a 4.9 average. Nobody in franchise history has ever hit those three benchmarks in a season.
4. The Eagles need AJ Brown to get back to being AJ Brown. First seven games, Brown ranked 5th in the NFL with 94 yards per game and 12th at 16.9 yards per catch. The last three, he’s 59th with 42 yards per game and 49th at 12.6 yards per catch. Along with a bobbled deep ball that turned into an interception in the Washington game and a bad fumble in the Colts game. Even the best WRs don’t have big games every week and Brown is still having a huge year and on pace for over 1,300 yards. But especially with Goedert out for at least three more games, the Eagles need Brown to be better than he has been the last few games.
5. Jalen Hurts on Sunday became the first Eagles QB with a passing TD and a rushing TD in a 4th-quarter comeback win in 12 years. On Dec. 2, 2010, on a Thursday night at the Linc, the Texans led the Eagles 24-20 going into the fourth quarter. Michael Vick gave the Eagles the lead with a two-yard rushing TD the game with 13:04 left and then added a five-yard TD to Owen Schmitt with 4:18 left, and the Eagles won 34-24.
6. I’ve always felt like Josh Sweat has underachieved in his five seasons here. He’s got 21 sacks since becoming a defensive regular in 2019, and that ranks 31st in the league among edge rushers. He did make the Pro Bowl last year with a late flurry but even then he only had 3.0 sacks going into December. This year, Sweat got off to a fast start – 2 ½ sacks in his first three games – but only has one in seven games since. How valuable is Sweat? I turned to Pro Football Focus, which isn’t the end-all be-all but does a good job measuring things like pass pressure. And PFF ranks Sweat 10th among all edge rushers with an 84.6 overall grade and 19th specifically in terms of generating pressure. He’s also ranked 8th as a run defender with an 80.2 grade. Bottom line: You’d like to see Sweat finish a few more of his pressures with sacks, but overall he’s been very productive this year.
7. The Packers come into the Linc ranked No. 4 in the NFL in pass defense and No. 25 in rush defense. Terrific opportunity for the Eagles to really lean on the running game like they did the second half of last year, when they averaged 194 rushing yards per game. The Eagles have run it pretty well this year but they haven’t had one of those monster games where they’ve really unleashed their o-line on an opposing d-line since Jacksonville. Now, part of that is because they’ve been so efficient throwing. But I see Green Bay as the perfect opponent to really hammer the ground attack, wear down a defensive front that doesn’t have a lot of depth and take command of the game. It doesn’t mean don’t throw it. It means ride the o-line and the running backs, control the clock, beat the Packers’ d-line, keep Aaron Rodgers off the field and get out of the Linc with a win.
8. Jalen Hurts’ passing numbers this year in the fourth quarter: 28-for-38 (74 percent) for 303 yards with four TDs, one interception and a 120.8 passer rating. Only college teammate Tua Tagovailoa (123.2) is higher.
9. I know it was only one game, but if Linval Joseph can play like he did Sunday in Indy, the Eagles need to think about bringing him back for another year. He was so solid, so physical, so consistent, so dominant, and he’d presumably come cheap. I’m guessing Ndamukong Suh might call it a career after this season or at least wait until mid-year again. But Joseph is almost two years younger, hasn’t made as much money as Suh and along with TJ Edwards was one of the Eagles’ two-best defensive players Sunday. If Howie can make the numbers work, I’d love to see him back here.
10. Robert Quinn, on the other hand, yikes. Quinn has now played four games since the Eagles acquired him from the Bears and has done nothing. He’s got two tackles and no pressures to show for 59 snaps. Pro Football Focus grades him at 40.5 since joining the Eagles, which ranks him 184th out of 195 edge rushers this year. This is a guy who had 18 ½ sacks and made the Pro Bowl last year, and the Eagles gave up a 4th-round pick for him. Maybe it will all suddenly click, but so far this looks like one of those rare Roseman moves that just didn’t pan out.