Good morning, Eagles fans. On most Fridays, the Eagles would hold their final practice of the week. But today’s schedule resembles a typical Thursday schedule because the Eagles play on Monday against the Washington Redskins, so they pushed the weekly schedule back a day. This is Early Birds, the newsletter breaking down the Eagles. It’s free to sign up here to receive in your inbox every Monday and Friday. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ZBerm. Thank you for reading.
— Zach Berman
Who remains on the Eagles’ schedule in their quest to return to the playoffs?
The Eagles have the best record in the NFC through six games and are the last one-loss team in the NFL, so naturally Philadelphia is thinking playoffs. In Monday’s Early Birds, I will give you what to watch in the Eagles-Redskins game. But in this morning’s Early Birds, let’s look at the big picture.
The Eagles are in good position, although they still have a lot of work to do during these next 10 games. The last time they started 5-1, they failed to make the playoffs at 10-6. Usually, 10 wins gets you playing a 17th game. But for the sake of argument at this point of the year, let’s say the Eagles need 11 wins to feel comfortable and 12 wins for a first-round bye. That means they must go 6-4 or 7-3 during the final 10 games. Here’s what’s in their way:
Oct. 23 vs. Washington: The 3-2 Redskins lost to the NFL’s two five-win teams: the Eagles and the Chiefs. They’re coming off a Week 6 win over San Francisco, although they’ll play without first-round pick Jonathan Allen and could be without star cornerback Josh Norman.
Oct. 29 vs. San Francisco: The winless 49ers made a quarterback change this week, going with third-round pick C.J. Beathard. He’ll make his first start in Kyle Shanahan‘s offense on Sunday against the Cowboys.
Nov. 5 vs. Denver: The 3-2 Broncos gave the Giants their first win last week and visit Philadelphia on a short week after playing the previous Monday night in Kansas City.
Nov. 19 at Dallas: The Eagles have extra time to rest and prepare for the Cowboys, who are 2-3. Running back Ezekiel Elliott has not yet served his suspension. It’s unknown whether he’ll be available for this game.
Nov. 26 vs. Chicago: Alshon Jeffery vs. his former team. The 2-4 Bears recently turned to No. 2 overall pick Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback after opening the season with Mike Glennon.
Dec. 3 at Seattle: The Eagles might not be underdogs again until visiting Seattle, which proved to be a tough place for the Eagles to play last season. The Seahawks are 3-2, but often save their best football for December, when they’ve been 20-6 since 2011.
Dec. 10 at L.A. Rams: The Rams are also among the NFC’s biggest surprises at 4-2. The travel won’t be as tough for the Eagles as a typical West Coast game because they’re staying in California all week leading up to this game.
Dec. 17 at New York Giants: The 1-5 Giants lost in Philadelphia in Week 3. They could be out of contention but this point in the season, and they’re playing without star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
Dec. 25 vs. Oakland: A dramatic victory on Thursday night improved the Raiders to 3-4. The Black Hole can offer an intimidating home-field advantage, but what will the Raiders think about Lincoln Financial Field on Christmas?
Dec. 31 vs. Dallas: The Cowboys ended the regular season in Philadelphia last year having already clinched the NFC East. Could the Eagles be in position this year? They’re playing on a short week and Dallas is coming off a Christmas Eve game against Seattle.
What you need to know about the Eagles
- Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby returned to practice Thursday for the first time since his Week 1 injury. It’s unknown whether he’ll play Monday. The defense has survived without Darby, but he’ll be their No. 1 cornerback when he’s back in the lineup. Right tackle Lane Johnson and running back Wendell Smallwood returned to practice Tuesday after missing time. Johnson sat one game and will start on Monday, although his absence brought back bad memories for him, Les Bowen writes. Smallwood missed two games and is on track to play Monday.
- The injury news wasn’t good for special teams ace Chris Maragos, who was placed on injured reserve. Bowen shows how special teams will be affected.
- The effect of the Jordan Matthews trade has been more space for Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz, Jeff McLane writes. Also in Jeff’s notes: Jim Schwartz‘s third-and-long defense.
- Chris Long is playing all 16 games for charity after his foundation announced that he will donate his final 10 game checks to organizations supporting educational equity. Long explains why in this Paul Domowitch story.
- The Eagles have the best record in the NFC, and oddsmakers have made them NFC East favorites. Fans are excited. What do the players think? Marcus Hayes writes that they learned from last year.
- Why is the Eagles’ run defense playing so well? McLane breaks down the film.
- “Wide-9” used to be a four-letter word in Philadelphia. But the way it’s used in Schwartz’s system is different, Bowen explains.
- How do you defend the Eagles? That’s the question Bowen explored in his story. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich compared the Eagles to a basketball team with multiple players who score, but not that one 30-point scorer. Read Les’ story for more.
- I’ve written multiple times that Patrick Robinson has been the biggest surprise contributor this season. He’s beginning to get more credit, with Mike Sielski writing this column on what’s different from Robinson now compared to early in his career.
- Domo offers his Eagles-Redskins scouting report.
- The Eagles-Redskins game is another chapter in a good rivalry. Bob Brookover looks at some of the players who have seen both sides of the rivalry — including DeSean Jackson. Brookover also remembers some great moments from the Eagles-Redskins games.
- The NFL held a meeting in New York Tuesday with owners and select players. Malcolm Jenkins and Chris Long were player representatives for the Eagles. Owner Jeffrey Lurie was present, too. Domo was there chronicling the event for us.
- The NFL Draft will be in Dallas — not Philadelphia — in 2018. Ed Barkowitz also reports from what the NFL owners had to say in New York about President Trump’s comments.
- An online petition to ban NFL referee Pete Morelli is growing, Rob Tornoe writes.
3 Questions With | Linebacker Mychal Kendricks
Zach Berman: What’s the biggest difference between you now and 2012 when you first came to Philadelphia?
Mychal Kendricks: “I’m way more blunt than I ever have been. …When I was younger, I was really quiet, really passive. Getting older, not really caring what other people think, it happens when you get older. …You are who you are. And being in Philly, for sure. I definitely have seen another side to the way people handle each other. The aggressive nature of the people in Philly is definitely a culture shock coming from California. And I think I’ve adopted some of those traits.”
Zach Berman: What’s the biggest difference between Philly and the West Coast?
Mychal Kendricks: “The people. …An insult here is a compliment. …[Insulting] here goes a long way. It’s a positive. The tougher you are here, the better. You get positive results. That’s a good way to put it. In California, you do that, you’re not going anywhere. It’s like smiles and sunshine and [stuff]. Then again, you get compliments out there, it doesn’t really mean anything. You know what I mean? It can be fake.”
Zach Berman: It’s said that you can’t live without Oreos. What’s the most you’ve done to eat one?
Mychal Kendricks: “I can give you a scenario where I came home and I expected my Oreos to be where they were supposed to be. And my mom, she had eaten them. It was [when I was] growing up. And she left two. Now this is my mom. She holds all authority over us. But for a quick second, I think I was grown, and I was a sliver away from cussing her out. …I specifically had those in mind coming home, wherever I was coming home from, and I went straight for them. And they were gone. I flipped. …We got into a pretty good fight over some Oreos.”
Elsewhere in the NFL
- The Redskins will play the Eagles without first-round pick Jonathan Allen. How will the defensive line look? [Washington Post]
- The Giants changed playcallers and it resulted in their first win. [New York Daily News]
- Ezekiel Elliott is motivated to clear his name. [Dallas Morning News]
- The Packers are turning to Brett Hundley to replace Aaron Rodgers. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]
- Here’s why Adrian Peterson fits in Arizona. [Sports Illustrated]
- Raiders RB Marshawn Lynch was ejected from Thursday’s game against the Chiefs for contact with an official. [San Jose Mercury News]
From the mailbag
Why don't they utilize Blount more in 1st and 2nd downs?
— Patrick Lowe (@patricklowe_wf) October 17, 2017
The Eagles do utilize LeGarrette Blount on first and second downs. He has 45 first-down carries and 19 second-down carries. I assume you want Blount to carry the ball more on those downs. That could be a valid argument; he’s averaging 5.4 yards on first downs and 6.5 yards on second downs. But my guess is the Eagles think he’s most effective in the 12-16-carry range — not 20+ carries. I don’t think the Eagles want him near 300 carries this season. He’d be more effective in the 175-225-carry range. That’s where the Eagles will keep him, hoping he’s still productive come December.
Will the Eagles buy into their own hype? #letdown
— cj hood (@therealcjhood) October 17, 2017
I don’t think they will, CJ. What’s struck me about this team is how many veteran role players they have. The Eagles have a strong locker room, in part because they added a lot of veterans. That was an under-the-radar part of the offseason changes. Usually, reserve spots go to younger players. Whether it’s Chris Long, Corey Graham, or Patrick Robinson, the Eagles invested in experienced players to fill those spots. I think that’s helped the locker room. They also have a lot of players who’ve been in this position. Long, Graham, Blount, and Torrey Smith all joined the team with Super Bowl rings.
Plus, I think games are ultimately won by talent and scheme. Factors such as “buying into hype” make for good discussion points, but those intangibles are usually on the margins.
Weakest spot on team?
— Jason 🚶🏽 (@phillyeagles520) October 19, 2017
Tough question, because there aren’t many weaknesses so far on a 5-1 team. I guess I’m still going with running back. I know the Eagles have had success with Blount and rank fifth in the NFL in rushing offense, but I looked around the NFL last week and saw so many productive running backs. What backfield do you think is worse than the Eagles’ backfield? I’d go Baltimore, both New York teams, Minnesota without Dalvin Cook, and maybe Detroit and Green Bay. You can argue Arizona without David Johnson, although Adrian Peterson looked like the Peterson of old last week. I’ll listen if you want to discuss Washington, Oakland, Cleveland, and Seattle. But even if the Eagles are better than all of these teams, they’re in the bottom half of the NFL. The only other position I’d say is in the bottom half is cornerback. Between cornerback and running back, I think running back is weaker. But this argument could also be interpreted as a credit to the rest of the roster.