In Roob's Observations: Sydney Brown injury complicates 2024 safety plan

In Roob's Observations: Sydney Brown injury complicates 2024 safety plan originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

It’s a long week and I didn’t want anybody going eight days with a healthy dose of 10 Random Eagles Observations, so we figured today was a good day for a batch of bonus obs.

As the Eagles stumble their way to the playoffs, here’s a bonus edition of Roob’s Random Eagles Observations.

1. It’s a little early to be thinking about next year, but Sydney Brown’s torn ACL does complicate matters not only in the defensive rotation for the postseason but also when it comes to projecting the 2024 starting defense. Brown wasn’t perfect after entering the defensive rotation the second half of the year, but he showed a lot of promise with his energy, physicality and playmaking and would have been a frontrunner for a starting safety job next year. But this is generally a nine-month injury and that takes us into next October. The Eagles don’t have any other safety prospects. Kevin Byard won’t be back, which leaves just Reed Blankenship under contract for next year – and he hasn’t had a good second half. Practice squad guys like Tristin McCollum and Mekhi Garner have played a bit, and they’ll get a look in camp, but you can hardly count on them. Howie Roseman could scrounge up another veteran that nobody else wants, but it’s not like him to spend big money on a safety. The Eagles could draft another Day 2 safety but who knows when he’d be ready or if he’d even pan out. They could go the Terrell Edmunds / Justin Evans / K’Von Wallace route, but that’s not ideal either. Eventually Brown will be healthy and hopefully that’s sooner or later, but he’ll miss OTAs and training camp and the start of the season and even with a quick recovery he’ll likely miss regular-season time as well. the Eagles will miss him Sunday in Tampa and they’ll miss him at the start of next year as well.

2. The Buccaneers have played 23 postseason games in their history and the three-longest rushing touchdowns they’ve allowed have all been scored by Eagles. Boston Scott’s 34-yarder late in the Eagles’ wild-card loss in Tampa in 2021 is the longest rushing TD the Bucs have ever allowed in a playoff game. Next-longest is Correll Buckhalter’s 25-yarder in the Eagles’ 31-9 wild-card win at the Vet in 2001 and 3rd-longest is Duce Staley’s 20-yarder that gave the Eagles a 7-0 lead 52 seconds into the 2002 NFC Championship Game at the Vet – a game the Bucs went on to win 27-10. The longest rushing TD the Bucs have ever allowed in a postseason game to a non-Eagle was an 8-yarder by Giants running back Brandon Jacobs in a wild-card game at Raymond James in 2007.

3. The first eight games of the season, Jalen Carter and Jordan Davis combined for 6 sacks, 7 tackles for loss, 11 QB hits and 3 forced fumbles. The last nine, they combined for 2 ½ sacks, 3 tackles for loss, 3 QB hits and no forced fumbles. Davis’s decline was more pronounced but both regressed, and the Eagles have to figure out why and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

4. Two things the Bucs are not good at: Running the ball and pass defense. They’re last in the NFL in rushing offense (89 yards per game, 3.4 per carry) and 29th in pass defense (268 yards per game), and those are two areas the Eagles should have a big advantage. If they can slow down Rachaad White and that Tampa running game, they can get the Bucs in 3rd-and-long and maybe get some pressure on Baker Mayfield and create some havoc in pass defense for the first time in a while. And if Jalen Hurts, A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith are all relatively healthy, they should be able to attack Tampa’s defense down the field. The Bucs allow 6.93 yards per pass play, 25th worse in the league. Maybe I’m delusional, but there do appear to be some matchups that really favor the Eagles.

5. No Eagles quarterback has had a passer rating of at least 100 in a road playoff game in 76 years. The last 11 times an Eagles QB had a passer rating of 100 or higher were either in a home game or at a neutral site, in the case of Nick Foles and Jalen Hurts. The only passer rating of 100 in a road playoff game in franchise history was a 127.3 recorded by Tommy Thompson in the 1947 NFL semifinal, a 21-0 win over the Steelers at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh (and the first postseason game in Eagles history). Thompson completed 11 of 17 passes for 131 yards with TD passes to Steve Van Buren and Jack Ferrante and no interceptions as the Eagles advanced to their first of three consecutive NFL Championship Games. Thompson’s 127.3 stood as the NFL record for highest passer rating in a road playoff game for 20 years, until Bart Starr had a 143.5 mark in the Packers’ 34-27 win over the Cowboys in the 1966 NFL Championship Game at the Cotton Bowl.

6. The Eagles are already the only team in NFL history to play three road Monday night games in a season (Buccaneers, Chiefs, Seahawks). They’re about to become the first to play four. They’re also about to become the first team to play five road prime-time games in a season. With their seventh prime-time game overall, they’ll tie the record for most prime-time games in a season shared by 10 teams, including the Bills already this year.

7. After watching Nolan Smith every day in training camp, there was no doubt in my mind he was going to make a significant impact as a rookie. He had that explosive first step, that ability to turn the corner quickly, that knack for finishing. But he started the season glued to the bench – just 61 snaps through 10 games – and even when his playing time started to increase – 117 snaps the last seven games – the production wasn’t there. He had a sack vs. the Dolphins when he wasn’t blocked, but other than that one hurry in 91 pass rush snaps. Pro Football Focus graded him 133rd of 146 edge rushers who played at least 100 snaps. Some 25 rookies had more sacks this year than Smith, including 10 who were drafted in the fourth round or later or were undrafted. Smith was a 1st-round pick. He’s only 22 and he seems to have a good attitude and work habits. The balky shoulder is a concern. But with Josh Sweat sackless the second half of the season, Haason Reddick limited to 2 ½ sacks the last seven games after recording 28 sacks in his first 30 games as an Eagle and B.G. a 35-year-old role player getting limited snaps, the Eagles really needed more out of Smith than what they got. Disappointing season.

8. Over the last 20 seasons, only one quarterback who’s not a Hall of Fame lock has beaten the Eagles in a playoff game. The Eagles’ postseason losses since 2004 have been to Drew Brees (three times), Tom Brady (twice) and Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Kurt Warner and Russell Wilson once apiece. The only non-Hall of Famer to beat the Eagles during that span is Tony Romo in 2009.

9. Monday night will be the fourth wild-card game between the Eagles and Bucs. No two other NFL teams have ever met more than three times in the wild-card round. The only other teams that have faced each other three times in the wild-card round: The 49ers and Packers, Bills and Dolphins and Giants and Vikings.

10. One of the wildest comebacks in Eagles history came in an Eagles-Saints wild-card game at the Superdome in 1992. Four minutes into the fourth quarter, the Saints led 20-10 and appeared on their way to an easy home win. But the Eagles proceeded to score 26 unanswered points and won 36-20. Randall Cunningham’s 35-yard TD pass to Fred Barnett, Heath Sherman’s 6-yard TD run, a Reggie White sack of Bobby Hebert in the end zone, a Roger Ruzek field goal and Eric Allen’s 18-yard pick-6 gave the Eagles 26 points in 8 minutes, 20 seconds. During that 26-0 swing, the Eagles outgained the Saints 139 yards to minus-10 yards. The Eagles’ 26 points is the most by any team in a postseason fourth quarter in the last 88 years (the Giants scored 27 vs. the Bears in 1934) and the 26-point scoring margin is the 6th-largest in any quarter in playoff history (but not the largest in Eagles postseason history – they outscored the Lions 31-0 in the second quarter of their 1995 wild-card game at the Vet). The Eagles’ 16-point margin of victory is the 2nd-largest in NFL history – regular season or postseason – by a team that trailed by 10 or more points going into the fourth quarter. Those 1934 Giants trailed the Bears 13-3 at the Polo Grounds before winning 30-13.

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