In Roob's 10 Observations: An Eagles criticism that doesn't add up

In Roob's 10 Observations: An Eagles criticism that doesn't add up originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Too emotional or not emotional enough? The remarkable Correll Buckhalter story. And a look at potential massive roster turnover on defense.

Here’s this week’s Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Offseason Observations. Is it too emotional? Not emotional enough?

1. Some of the biggest complaints we’ve heard about the Eagles since the season ended are that Nick Sirianni is too emotional, A.J. Brown is too emotional and Jalen Hurts isn’t emotional enough. You know what? The Eagles went to a Super Bowl a year ago with Sirianni just as emotional as this year, Brown just as emotional as this year and Hurts exactly the same as this year. Nobody was complaining about it then. In fact, we celebrated how colorful Sirianni was on the sideline, how Brown wore his heart on his sleeve, how calm Hurts was in the face of chaos on the field. Now the Eagles lose a bunch of games and all of a sudden the exact same qualities we praised them for during a Super Bowl run are suddenly problems? I’m not buying it. I get that everybody is searching for answers after a historic collapse, and I do believe there's room for everybody to improve themselves in many ways. But the Eagles didn’t lose six of their last seven games because anybody was too emotional or not emotional enough. They lost because they didn’t have enough good players or coaches. We can’t keep moving the goalposts here. The last thing you want anybody to do is try and become something they’re not. Because the people around them will see right through it. What worked in 2022 will work in 2024 if the Eagles have the right people in the building.

2. With Britain Covey averaging 14.4 yards and Braden Mann 49.8 yards, the Eagles this year became the first team in 75 years with a punter averaging at least 49 yards per punt and a returner averaging at least 14 yards per return. In 1948, the Los Angeles Dons had that special teams double, with Glenn Dobbs averaging 49.1 yards on 68 punts and Herm Wedemeyer 16.0 yards per return. (The Dons played from 1946 through 1949 in the old AAFC, whose records and stats were absorbed by the NFL when the AAFC and NFL merged in 1950).

3. The only quarterback in Eagles history to win at least 20 games under two head coaches is Randall Cunningham, who won 39 playing for Buddy Ryan between 1986 and 1990 and 22 under Rich Kotite from 1991 through1995. He also won one under Marion Campbell in 1985 and one under Ray Rhodes in 1995. Cunningham is also the only quarterback in Eagles history to win games under four head coaches.

4. Nick Foles’ TD pass to Golden Tate with 61 seconds left in the Eagles’ wild-card win over the Bears in 2018 is the latest go-ahead game-winning 4th-down touchdown pass in a playoff game in the NFL in at least 42 years. Unfortunately, NFL game books before 1982 aren’t available, but since 1982 Foles is the only QB to throw a game-winning TD on fourth down in the final 61 seconds of a playoff game

5. The Correll Buckhalter story seems even more remarkable today than it seemed nearly two decades ago. After breaking Keith Byars’ franchise record for rookie rushing yards in 2001, he missed all of 2002 with a torn ACL and then after an eight-TD 2003 season he missed all of 2004 and 2005 after undergoing two more knee surgeries. So he missed three of four years in his prime, and going into 2006, he was 28 years old, he had played just 30 games in five NFL seasons, and he was coming off three knee surgeries. He hadn’t played in 966 days. Then he goes out on knees held together with duct tape and picks up right where he left off. From 2006 through 2009 – after missing three of the last four seasons - he averaged 4.9 yards per carry, 8th-highest in the NFL among backs with at least 300 carries and he wound up with a 10-year career, missing just seven games his last five seasons. The thing about Buck is that through all those injuries, all those rehabs, all that time on the sideline, he always had a smile on his face, always had a positive attitude. The only running backs in Eagles history with a higher career average (minimum 300 carries) are Miles Sanders, LeSean McCoy, Brian Westbrook and Charlie Garner. If not for the knee injuries, I’m convinced Buckhalter would have been a Pro Bowl running back. He was that talented. Big, strong, tough, elusive, instinctive. Interesting that he finished his career in 2009 and 2010 with the Broncos, where one of his teammates was Brian Dawkins. You can’t find two more inspiring Eagles than those two guys.

6. As a rookie in 2018, Saquon Barkley averaged 116 rushing yards per game and 8.9 yards per carry against the Eagles. In eight games since he’s averaged 56 yards per game and 3.7 yards per carry.

7. The draft is still two months away, but Howie Roseman has already added five draft picks to the roster since last season ended. An interesting trend has seen Roseman add five former draft picks – and some pretty high ones – who for whatever reason failed elsewhere. Edge rusher Julian Okwara, running back Tyrion Davis-Price and linebacker Terell Lewis were all 3rd-round picks – Okwara with the Lions in 2020, Davis-Price with the 49ers in 2022 and Lewis with the Rams in 2020. Receiver Jacob Harris was the Rams’ 4th-round pick in 2019, and offensive lineman Darian Kinnard was the Chiefs’ 5th-round pick in 2022. Add those guys to mid-season practice squad acquisitions linebacker Brandon Smith (Packers’ 4th-round pick in 2022), running back Lew Nichols (Packers’ 7th-round pick in 2023) and offensive lineman Lecitus Smith (Cards’ 6th-round pick in 2022), and that’s eight former draft picks that Roseman has picked up either late last season or in the past few weeks who’ll be at OTAs getting a second – or in some cases third or fourth – chance. All these guys were cheap and all were once highly regarded enough to be drafted. They’re also all longshots. But they’re all also no-risk high-reward longshots. Most guys you pick up off the street are undrafted small-school guys who have no real chance. This group is interesting because at one point they were all pretty highly regarded. Nothing to lose.

8. Twenty-five Eagles started at least one game this past year and only nine of those 25 are locks to be here in 2024: Darius Slay, Josh Sweat, Jordan Davis, Jalen Carter, Kelee Ringo, Milton Williams, Nakobe Dean, Sydney Brown and Reed Blankenship. What about the 17 others? Three are already gone: Terrell Edmunds, Christian Ellis and Kentavius Street. Six were one-year stop-gaps who are now free agents (or about to be): Kevin Byard, Zach Cunningham, Nicholas Morrow, Bradley Roby, Justin Evans and Shaq Leonard were all one-year fill-ins in 2023 and shouldn't be back. Then there’s Fletcher Cox, who could be back but certainly no guarantee. There’s no reason to keep James Bradberry, Haason Reddick could be traded and the Eagles need to do something about Avonte Maddox’s unwieldy contract. Young DB’s Mario Goodrich and Josh Jobe and linebacker Ben VanSumeren will have to earn roster spots in camp. Usually, this sort of turnover is bad. In this case, it’s necessary.

9. The 1991 Eagles allowed 221.8 yards per game, fewest ever in a 16-game season and fewest by any team in any season since the 1974 Steelers allowed 219.6 yards per game. Bud Carson was defensive coordinator for both teams.

10. My favorite part of A.J. Brown’s conversation with the WIP mid-day show Friday was the Terrell Owens stuff. First, he said he knows T.O. and added, “He’s a great person.” Then he pointed out that he’s nothing like T.O.: “I don’t move like that. I don’t do none of that stuff.” And he really is nothing like T.O., other than they’re two of the best WRs we’ve ever seen around here. Owens was all about himself, and when he didn’t get the contract extension he wanted after the 2004 season he set about methodically tearing down the franchise. And it worked. Brown wants to win as much as anybody in that locker room, and if he wants the ball it’s because he knows the Eagles have a better chance to win football games when he's involved. T.O. wanted the ball because of T.O. A.J. wants the ball because he wants to win. When he has 60 yards, the Eagles are 20-5. When he doesn’t they’re 5-4. When he catches a TD they’re 12-1. When he doesn’t they’re 13-8. And so on. The tragedy of T.O. is that he could have made a run at some of Jerry Rice’s records if he just found a way to be a team player. He had 983 yards and nine TDs in 14 games in 2010 at 37 for the Bengals and never played again. He ran out of teams before he ran out of ability. Brown is every bit as talented as T.O. But he’s devoted to helping the Eagles win, not lose.

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