Monthly Archives: October 2017

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Philadelphia Eagles starting middle linebacker Jordan Hicks suffered an ankle injury in the first half and was later ruled out for the remainder of Thursday night’s 28-23 win over the Carolina Panthers.

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Hicks remained in the locker room after halftime and was replaced in the lineup by second-year player Joe Walker.

An ankle injury also knocked Hicks out of the Eagles’ Week 3 game against New York Giants, but he returned to play in the following game against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Hicks, a third-year player out of Texas, is one of the key players on the Eagles’ defense. He has 28 tackles and a fumble recovery this season.

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Philadelphia Eagles rookie wide receiver Mack Hollins called himself just a “Padawan” when it comes to his touchdown dance, so he was hesitant to put himself too high on the list of top Eagles celebrations this year.

“I mean the home run one, any time we hit a deep ball we’ll do the home run one,” said Hollins, beginning his rankings. “I saw an edit of Nelson [Agholor] when he fell back and they turned [the end zone] into a ball pit; that was pretty cool.”

“I could put myself up there, but I could be better. You can always grow,” he joked.

The Yoda of “The Backpack” — the dance Hollins broke out following a 64-yard touchdown pass from Carson Wentz on Monday Night Football against the Washington Redskins — is 15-year-old Russell Horning from Georgia, an internet sensation who gained attention when he stole the show during an appearance on “Saturday Night Live” with Katy Perry. Hollins and Horning connected after Hollins did his rendition of the dance.

“He’s way more famous than me or viral than me,” Hollins said. “Hopefully we can get him to a game. We’ve talked and we’ve exchanged words. Maybe we can get him to a game and we can make a video together.”
Eagles rookie Mack Hollins broke out “The Backpack” after scoring his first NFL touchdown on Monday night. James Lang/USA TODAY Sports
Hollins is starting to get his own following. The long touchdown and ensuing celebration in front of a national audience didn’t hurt. Nor did the fact that he was spotted riding his bike to Lincoln Financial Field on the day of the game, pedaling past fans largely unnoticed.

“No,” he responded when asked if he gets recognized, “but I’m sure they will now.”

Hollins said he doesn’t have a car yet — “just gotta find the right deal, I guess” — and lives pretty close to the sports complex, so he opts for the 15-minute bike ride over taking an Uber. He rode a motorcycle when he attended North Carolina, “but they’re not too fond of motorcycles in the NFL. So that’s sitting at home,” he said.
His work performance isn’t hurting any. Hollins hasn’t been used a lot, but has fully maximized his opportunities to this point. Wentz has targeted him six times, and he has converted each into a catch for a total of 134 yards (22.3-yard average), with three first downs and a TD.

“Every time he is in there, it seems like he just makes plays,” said Wentz of Rollins, a fourth-round pick. “He finds a way to get open and he is effective. And I don’t think a lot of teams really respect that or know that about him. So he is just a big weapon for us when we need a guy.”

Having caught the attention of his teammates and coaches, it’s likely Hollins will have a bigger role moving forward, which should mean more chances to up his TD celebration game.

“It’s only been a couple days,” said Hollins, when asked if he knows what he’ll do next. “I’ve got to wash the mind and get some new material.”

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Philadelphia Eagles running back LeGarrette Blount put on his sunglasses as he rose from his locker stall seat and faced the large media gathering, properly prepared for the bright lights he knew would be shining on him.

One question after another came about his lack of involvement in a 27-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs — his lone carry on the day was negated by a penalty — but Blount did not let whatever frustration he felt show through.

“That’s just how the game went,” Blount said. “The game wasn’t going the way we wanted it to so we had to make some changes … It’s more the flow of the game. You’ve just got to ride the wave, and whenever your number is called, it’s called.”

Even if the style of play was a factor, the decision to feature Blount less, and others more, appeared to be by design. He did not get the start — Wendell Smallwood did — and was on the field for one snap on the opening series. Despite the fact that the game was close until late in the fourth quarter, coach Doug Pederson opted to lean mostly on Darren Sproles (10 carries, 48 yards) in the too few moments when he dialed up a run play.
LeGarrette Blount wasn’t a part of the Eagles’ game plan on Sunday against the Chiefs. Peter Aiken/Getty Images
The reality is Blount had a sluggish summer and didn’t show much burst in the opener at the Washington Redskins (14 carries, 46 yards). Pederson decided to give Smallwood and Sproles the bulk of the opportunities this time around.

While that’s his prerogative, the Eagles aren’t in a position where they can simply move away from Blount. They signed him to a one-year, $1.25 million deal in May with the thought that he could be the lead guy in a running-back-by-committee approach. They weren’t necessarily expecting a repeat of 2016, when he set career highs in carries (299), yards (1,161) and touchdowns (his 18 scored led the league), but the hope was he would help provide some much-needed balance to an Eagles attack that asked quarterback Carson Wentz to drop back a franchise-high 607 times as a rookie.

The early returns have not been good, but where can they turn if they turn away from Blount? Sproles is 34 and cannot be used as a workhorse at this stage of his career, Smallwood has not shown himself to be a reliable option to this point and undrafted rookie Corey Clement is no sure bet. Start cutting Blount out, and you run the risk of alienating a veteran presence in the room without a sound Plan B.

The Eagles are in this bind largely because of the front office’s inability to hit on running backs in recent years. The disastrous decision to trade away LeSean McCoy falls on former coach Chip Kelly, as well as owner Jeffrey Lurie for allowing him to do it, but executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman has had a couple of offseasons to try and build the position back up.

The team’s draft record with running backs since Roseman first became general manager has contributed to the issue:

Eagles drafted running backs since 2010

2017 — Donnel Pumphrey, fourth round

2016 — Wendell Smallwood, fifth round

2012 — Bryce Brown, seventh round

2011 — Dion Lewis, 5th round; Stanley Havili, seventh round

2010 — Charles Scott, sixth round

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This year’s pick, Pumphrey, was in jeopardy of being cut out of training camp and is on injured reserve after tearing a hamstring in practice. Meanwhile, rookie backs are running wild across the league.

Despite Pederson’s pass-happy approach through two games — the Eagles have thrown it 85 times compared to 41 rushes — he seems to be aware that the ratio can’t remain out of whack.

“That is not a balance for success,” he said of Sunday’s disparity. “By no means do you want to do that at all.”

The Eagles turn their attention to Sunday’s home opener against the New York Giants determined to fix the ground game. They have little choice but to try and make Blount a part of the solution.

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Here’s how some of the top rookies fared Sunday in Week 3: Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson Round: 1 Statistics: 22-of-33, 301 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions Deshaun Watson threw for a career-high 301 yards on Sunday to go with 41 yards rushing. EPA/CJ GUNTHER Analysis: Watson took a huge step forward in Sunday’s loss to the Patriots, with his performance through the air a dramatic difference from his first two NFL games. Both touchdown passes were impressive throws — one a 29-yard pass to wide receiver Bruce Ellington in tight coverage, and the other a 12-yard pass to tight end Ryan Griffin. Texans coach Bill O’Brien said that while Watson still has a long way to go, like all rookies, “You’re always in the game with him, because he can make plays on his own.” Watson continued to show off his athleticism and ability to escape the pocket against the Patriots, and he was 6-of-9 for 112 passing yards outside the pocket. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, that is the second-most such yards in a game by any quarterback since Russell Wilson threw for 121 in Week 14 of 2016. – Sarah Barshop Jacksonville Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette Round: 1 Statistics: 17 carries, 59 yards, TD; three receptions, 21 yards Analysis: Fournette averaged 3.5 yards per carry but was more effective than that, because he had runs of 10 and 19 yards called back because of penalties. It’s going to be tough going for Fournette, because teams are loading the box and making stopping the run their first priority. Still, he got critical yards when the Jaguars needed it. He gained 6 yards on a fourth-and-1 carry to keep a drive alive that ended with a field goal, which gave the Jaguars a 13-0 lead early in the second quarter. – Michael DiRocco Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey Round: 1 Statistics: Four rushes, 16 yards; nine receptions, 101 yards Analysis: McCaffrey finally showed his explosiveness in a regular-season game. The best evidence was a 37-yard reception down the left sideline on which the eighth pick of the draft stretched his 5-foot-11 frame out for the catch. Quarterback Cam Newton came right back to McCaffrey two plays later for an 11-yard pickup to the 3-yard line on which McCaffrey juked the first defender to pick up an additional 5 yards. The former Stanford star had by far his most productive day, accounting for more than 100 yards of total offense. The Panthers were intent on getting McCaffrey the ball from the start, as evidenced by the running back catching two passes for 9 yards and gaining another 7 yards on a reverse. – David Newton Cleveland Browns QB Deshone Kizer Stretching the Field DeShone Kizer was 4-of-17 Sunday with three interceptions (and a TD) when passing more than 10 yards downfield. Kizer’s downfield passing has been a weakness this season. He’s 13-of-42 (31 percent) with one TD and five interceptions when passing more than 10 yards downfield this season. Round: 2 Statistics: 22-of-47, 242 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions Analysis: Kizer would have had a much better day if his receivers had caught the ball. Eight of his passes were dropped, and there were four offensive pass interference calls, two of which wiped out big gains. Despite that, Kizer played fairly well. The one negative were the turnovers, although one of those picks came on the last play of the game and the other two were as much the responsibility of his receivers as the rookie quarterback. – Pat McManamon Indianapolis Colts S Malik Hooker Round: 1 Statistics: Three tackles, one pass defended, interception Analysis: Two starts and two interceptions for the former Ohio State Buckeye. Hooker, who had an interception in Week 2 against Arizona, sealed Sunday’s game and helped the Colts avoid a collapse after leading by 21 points when he intercepted Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer as time expired in their 31-28 victory. Hooker is tied with Rashaan Melvin for the team lead in interceptions with two apiece. Hooker moved into the starting lineup when Darius Butler missed their game against the Cardinals with a hamstring injury. Hooker likely will keep the starting job because of his ability to roam the middle of the field and display his ball instincts, which is why he had seven interceptions last season at Ohio State. – Mike Wells Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin Cook Round: 2 Statistics: 27 carries, 97 yards, TD; five receptions, 72 yards Analysis: Minnesota’s star rookie wants to prove he can do it all: pass protection, catch throws and run the football. He excelled in all three areas in Week 3, while continuing to make history as the first Vikings rookie to notch 288 rushing yards over his first three games. Cook’s first NFL touchdown was set up by a 16-yard pass that he caught two plays earlier, a role of his that is increasing week-to-week. Adding Cook as a wrinkle in the passing game gives Case Keenum a threat that forces teams to play Cook outside, an area where the running back can excel with his speed. And did you see how it took two, three or even four defenders to tackle him? Cook racked up 84 yards after contact on his runs and receptions, according to ESPN Stats & Information data. – Courtney Cronin What you need to know in the NFL • Statistics • Scoreboard • 2017 schedule, results • Standings Cincinnati Bengals RB Joe Mixon Round: 2 Statistics: 18 carries, 62 yards; three receptions, 39 yards. Analysis: The Bengals finally decided to make Mixon their workhorse after two games of a three-way rotation between running backs. Mixon responded by giving the Bengals several key plays, including a 20-yard run on third-and-4 that set up a touchdown on the first drive. Mixon also gained 9 yards on second-and-10 late in the game as the Bengals tried to extend a 24-17 lead. However, he slipped when trying to take a handoff from Andy Dalton on the next play, forcing the Bengals to try for a field goal, instead. A touchdown for Cincinnati there ultimately could have been the difference in the game. “On that third-and-1, Joe just slipped,” said Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green. “It is just little things like that you can’t control.” The Bengals likely will utilize Mixon going forward. His 18 carries were by far the biggest workload he has had to date and more than his amount of carries combined from the first two games. – Katherine Terrell Fast Start Through his first three career games, Kareem Hunt has totaled 538 scrimmage yards, which is second most in NFL history. YEAR PLAYER YARDS 1980 Billy Sims 562 2017 Kareem Hunt 538 1964 Sid Blanks 452 1934 Beattie Feathers 435 Source: ESPN Stats & Information Kansas City Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt Round: 3 Statistics: 17 carries, 172 yards, TD; one reception, 11 yards Analysis: About the only thing Hunt did wrong on Sunday against the Chargers was not give himself up before reaching the end zone on his 69-yard touchdown run with 1:49 left in the game, as he was supposed to do. But the Chiefs won’t be too tough on Hunt for scoring the final touchdown of their 24-10 win. It’s not surprising he could bust a long run, with the Chargers selling out to make the stop, but Hunt proved all game that he’s tough to knock off his feet. He was averaging more than 6 yards per carry even before his touchdown run. That put him over 10 yards per carry. – Adam Teicher Philadelphia Eagles CB Rasul Douglas Round: 3 Statistics: Interception, four tackles Analysis: With Ronald Darby and Jaylen Watkins both sidelined with injuries, Douglas stepped into the starting role and recorded his first career interception, blanketing veteran receiver Brandon Marshall deep down the left side to come up with the interception of Eli Manning. The secondary started leaking late against the Giants, and Douglas played a part in that, but he’s showing promise. Douglas is flashing the instincts and ability that helped him lead the NCAA in interceptions last season. – Tim McManus Chicago Bears RB Tarik Cohen Round: 4 Statistics: 12 carries, 78 yards; four receptions, 24 yards Analysis: Cohen is Chicago’s most exciting player on offense, and he proved it again on Sunday. His 36-yard run in overtime — Cohen stepped out of bounds on the play; otherwise, he would have scored the game-winning touchdown — was the most memorable play of the game. Pittsburgh loaded up the box to stop Cohen, and he still got loose. Cohen really is the perfect complement to Jordan Howard. Every time Cohen touches the ball, he’s a threat to score. Cohen has the uncanny knack of making defenders miss in the open field. He’s averaging 6.5 yards per carry on the year. Look for Chicago to keep giving Cohen 15-plus touches per week on offense and special teams. – Jeff Dickerson Philadelphia Eagles K Jake Elliott Round: 5 Statistics: 2 for 3 FGs, including game winner from 61 yards; 3 for 3 XPs Analysis: Elliott was carried off the field on his teammates’ shoulders after his 61-yard field goal as time expired toppled the Giants. That kick could go a long way in cementing his spot in the league. He was cut by the Bengals out of training camp and had a shaky start to his time in Philadelphia after the Eagles signed him off their practice squad, missing attempts against the Chiefs and Giants. He showed off his big leg and poise late on Sunday, though — two traits valued highly in the NFL. – Tim McManus ESPN Stats & Information Detroit Lions DE Jeremiah Valoaga Round: Undrafted free agent Statistics: One tackle, one sack Analysis: This wasn’t a big game for any Detroit rookie, with first-round pick Jarrad Davis and second-round pick Teez Tabor both inactive. But Valoaga picked up his first career sack and was part of a Detroit defensive line that got good pressure on Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan throughout Sunday’s loss. Valoaga has the body type and the speed that Detroit likes in its de

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PHILADELPHIA — The Eagles medical staff went beyond just cornerbacks, and even football players, when researching the recovery rate for athletes who rupture their Achilles tendon.

Executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said the study included “guys playing explosive positions, quick-twitch positions” in a variety of sports to see how they bounced back. The results were encouraging, which is part of the reason they felt comfortable drafting Washington cornerback Sidney Jones in the second round of the NFL draft with the 43rd overall pick.

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“Because of his age (20 years old), it’s a very, very high percentage. Coming back to 100 percent is an extremely high percentage,” said Roseman, “and that’s why we made the pick. For us, it had to be a very, very good chance that he would be exactly what he was before the injury. There’s no insurance that will happen, but we feel very confident based on all the studies we’ve done, all the research we’ve done and the MRIs that have come back to us, that that’s going to happen with him.”

Jones was a favorite to be chosen by the Eagles at No. 14 overall before he tore his left Achilles tendon at his pro day in March. The injury sent him tumbling down draft boards and scared off some evaluators. A handwritten letter from Eagles senior director of college scouting Anthony Patch, who was in attendance the day Jones got hurt, offered the cornerback some assurance that at least one team was still very much in play.

“It was a heartfelt letter. I immediately replied when I got it. I thought that was very awesome. Just from there, I knew that they still had interest,” Jones said. “I had a feeling deep down. … I just had a feeling it would be Philly if I was still there.”
Sidney Jones was the top cornerback for a Washington defense that led the Pac-12 with just 17.7 points per game allowed. Jesse Beals/Icon Sportswire
According to a league source, the Eagles were the team that “put the most time into him” during the pre-draft process.
Now that they have him, they’ll have to show some patience. Speaking to ESPN’s Matt Bowen in April, Jones said he would be back on the field in six months, as doctors told his camp that he’ll be able to play “by the end of October at the latest.” The message coming out of the Eagles’ NovaCare Complex headquarters on Friday, however, was that the team would take a conservative approach.

“We don’t know that timetable, and to be fair, we just want to make sure that he’s healthy and ready to go,” said Roseman.

Jones (6-foot, 186 pounds) was a first-team All-Pac 12 selection last season. He posted eight interceptions and 21 passes defensed in his three years with the Huskies. He was considered one of the top corners in a loaded class before getting hurt, and believes he’ll regain that form before long.

“I don’t believe I should have any problem with coming back” he said. “It’s just a roadblock, and it’s going to be a good story at the end of my career, and I’ll look back at it as a positive. So that’s how I’m viewing everything.”