The Washington Redskins haven’t solved their quarterback problem, even if it appeared they had done so two years ago. One quarterback said he could be the answer to their woes: Michael Vick.

It’s considered home -- and there is a certain player on their roster he has had success with in the past.

Vick is on a one-year contract with the New York Jets. And there is little reason to believe the Redskins would want to sign him at this point. He’s 34, hasn’t started more than 13 games since 2011, and hasn’t been his team’s primary starter since 2012. Besides, they have two quarterbacks under contract for next season, Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins, and they also like Colt McCoy, who is a pending free agent.

The Redskins still appear committed to Griffin, despite a rocky season and an apparent clashing of what he can do vs. what the coaches want to run. So any talk of a Vick stop in Washington is way premature and most likely a stretch.

But Kimberly Martin of New York Newsday reported that Vick beamed "like a child" when during an interview she raised the idea of playing in Washington. Vick is a Virginia Beach native.

"I'm open to playing for anybody that wants to win," Vick said. "But obviously, going back home, I mean, that'll be a dream come true ... But I would hate to get my hopes up for something that wouldn't happen. So I can't even think about it right now."

Part of the lure would be would reuniting with former Philadelphia Eagles teammate DeSean Jackson. According to ESPN Stats & Information, in their 42 games together, they connected for 152 receptions and 13 touchdowns. Vick averaged 10.70 yards per pass attempt to Jackson and had a 101.5 passer rating when throwing to him. They connected for 18 passes of at least 40 yards.

Jackson signed with Washington in the offseason. He has caught 50 passes and averaged 19.1 yards per catch with five touchdowns. Vick said they talked about playing together.

"I know his speed, I know his acceleration path, I know when he's coming out of his breaks," Vick said. "There's nobody that knows DeSean Jackson better than me."
PHILADELPHIA -- Eagles coach Chip Kelly has been talking about reducing the number of turnovers committed by his team all season. This is not what he had in mind.

Elias changed the scoring from Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys, taking away one of the Eagles’ turnovers. The opening kickoff, which took an odd bounce and was recovered by the Cowboys, has been scored officially as an onside kick. It was originally ruled a fumble lost by the Eagles.

The Eagles still lead the NFL with 33 turnovers this season. As bad as that sounds (and is), there is one simple conclusion to be drawn. The Eagles’ quarterbacks have turned the ball over way too much this year.

[+] EnlargeMark Sanchez
AP Photo/John F. RhodesIn the seven games Mark Sanchez has played in since taking over for Nick Foles, he has 11 turnovers (9 picks and 2 fumbles).
Nick Foles, who started the first eight games, committed a total of 13 turnovers. Foles was on a pace to give the ball away 26 times all by himself over the full season. That number is especially jarring because Foles was so good at taking care of the ball last season. He threw 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

This year, Foles threw 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Mark Sanchez took over for Foles in the Eagles’ Week 8 game in Houston and has started the six games since then. Sanchez has a total of 11 turnovers -- nine interceptions and two lost fumbles.

Add them up and the two quarterbacks are responsible for 24 of the Eagles’ 33 turnovers.

Last season, the Eagles turned the ball over a total of 19 times. Quarterbacks were responsible for 14 of those turnovers, nine interceptions and five fumbles. Foles, with two interceptions and two fumbles, was responsible for just four turnovers. Michael Vick (two fumbles, three interceptions) committed five turnovers. So did Matt Barkley, with four picks and one lost fumble.

The rest of the Eagles’ roster committed just five turnovers last season. It has committed nine this season. That’s obviously more, but it is not the huge leap made by the quarterbacks. If Sanchez commits two more turnovers in each of the remaining games, Eagles quarterbacks will have double the amount of turnovers they committed in 2013.

That begs the question: Why? Is there something about Kelly’s offensive system that makes quarterbacks more prone to committing turnovers? Foles’ numbers from last season make a pretty compelling case that it has nothing to do with the system.

Pressure on quarterbacks is the No. 1 cause of turnovers. For most of the first half of the season, the Eagles were juggling offensive linemen because of injuries.

As the line returned to its current state of health-related stability, Sanchez replaced Foles. Considering Sanchez had thrown 69 interceptions and 68 touchdown passes in his first four seasons combined, his turnover rate is hardly surprising.

The good news is Elias took one of the turnovers off the Eagles’ ledger. The bad news is they aren’t about to turn any of those interceptions into touchdowns.
PHILADELPHIA -- The last 20 yards of a scoring drive are tough, as the Philadelphia Eagles' red zone problems have demonstrated all season.

The first 10 yards are no picnic, either, except when they are. It has been feast or famine for the Eagles all season. In some games, they get off to a quick start with successful drives right from the beginning. In other games, the Eagles seem unable to generate a first down for the entire first quarter.

The Eagles' past two games, losses to Seattle and Dallas, were examples of the latter.

[+] EnlargeMark Sanchez
AP Photo/Michael PerezThis season, the first few possessions of a game have been a good indicator of what to expect from Mark Sanchez and the Philadelphia offense.
"We have to execute better," coach Chip Kelly said. "We need to stay on the field on third down and convert those third downs into first downs. Usually with this offense, once we get one first down, we're in pretty good shape. But we have got to get that first first down. That's the key for us in terms of being successful on the offensive side of the ball."

Against Dallas on Sunday, the Eagles lost the ball when the opening kickoff fell shorter than they were prepared to handle. The Cowboys scored a touchdown. On the Eagles’ first two possessions, they went three-and-out. They punted twice and the Cowboys drove down and scored two more touchdowns. It was 21-0 before the Eagles got a single first down.

It was a similar story the week before against Seattle. The Eagles threw three incomplete passes and punted the ball away. After a defensive stop, the Eagles got the ball back when Seattle’s punter mishandled the snap. They converted that opportunity into a touchdown, but were unable to get a sustained drive going until Seattle regrouped and took the lead.

Earlier in the season, when the Eagles lost in San Francisco and Arizona, they had trouble keeping drives going. They got one first down on their opening drive against the 49ers, but had to punt quickly. In that game, the offense had trouble getting into a rhythm for other reasons, too. The Eagles scored three first-half touchdowns on a blocked punt recovery, an interception return and a punt return. Their offense never got going and didn't score the entire game.

In Arizona, the Eagles started with three incomplete passes and a punt. They did sustain a drive for a touchdown later in the first quarter. Two second-quarter drives were ended by turnovers -- another problem that has plagued the Eagles all season.

But when the offense is really clicking, it tends to do so from the start.

Against the Giants, the Eagles' first two drives lasted 10 plays each. One produced a field goal, the second a touchdown. The Eagles went on to rout New York 27-0.

In the first Dallas game, the Eagles went 80 yards in nine plays on their first possession. Mark Sanchez's 2-yard touchdown run ended that drive. His 15-yard touchdown pass to Zach Ertz ended their second possession, a 10-play, 81-yard drive.

So the Eagles experienced both extremes against the Cowboys. They came out and moved the ball with ease in Dallas. They couldn’t move the chains at all in Philadelphia.

"They didn't do anything we didn't expect," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "There were a few new things, but nothing drastic. It was the total opposite of the first time we played them where we jumped up by two scores. We just got behind. So we didn't execute as well in the first couple series. We got it rolling. Then that's when we scored what amounted to be 24 straight points. It just comes back to execution."

Mark Sanchez's career rebound

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19

Mark Sanchez was the only one who removed his shoes.

On a crisp, sunny Monday, about 15 hours after a devastating home loss to Dallas significantly dimmed Philadelphia's playoff chances, Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez, dressed in a green and gray ugly Christmas sweater, stood on a stoop in South Philadelphia for the dedication of Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia's 179th new home. After a few short speeches, a lovely gospel song and the presentation of a new flat-screen TV by the Eagles' Connor Barwin (Habitat is one of the team's many Eagles Care charity partners) the teary-eyed new homeowner cut the red ribbon on her front door and invited everyone in for a look at her dream home. Neighbors, kids, politicians, even rude media types like myself, we all traipsed right onto her new immaculate hardwood floors without a second thought.

But not Sanchez.

Before helping to decorate the Christmas tree inside (and answering to Philly fans about the loss to Dallas and the Eagles' playoff plans), he kicked off his gray Nike Air Force 1's, placed them just inside the front door and entered, respectfully, in his stocking feet.

Sanchez, you see, has a soft spot for reclamation projects.

Six months ago, this Habitat home was a wrecked, abandoned, trash-filled waste of space that the world had all but given up on. And today, it's a completely rebuilt, sturdy, impressive looking structure that's once again full of hope and promise -- much like Sanchez.

(Read full post)

PHILADELPHIA -- Zach Ertz has long been a fan of Andrew Luck. At Stanford, Ertz spent two seasons catching passes from Luck. Now, Ertz’s chances of returning to the NFL playoffs are tied to Luck.

Luck and the Indianapolis Colts travel to Dallas to play the NFC East-leading Cowboys Sunday afternoon. The Cowboys are 3-4 at AT&T Stadium, and may be without running back DeMarco Murray. If Murray plays, the broken hand he sustained in Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles is bound to affect his performance.

“Obviously, I’m a big Andrew Luck fan and a Colts fan when we’re not playing them,” Ertz said. “This week, I’ll be even more of a Colts fan.”

After Dallas beat the Eagles, 38-27, Sunday, there was a feeling in Philadelphia that the Eagles’ playoff chances were lost, as well. But it’s hardly far-fetched that the Colts will win in Dallas. Luck and his team are 10-4 and riding a four-game winning streak. They have clinched a playoff berth, but are still alive for a first-round bye. That is plenty of incentive for the Colts to play their best against the Cowboys.

The Eagles play Saturday, so they won’t know the outcome of the Colts-Cowboys game before they take the field in Washington.

“This game, we have everything to play for,” Ertz said. “We’re looking at it as a playoff game. If we don’t win this game, we have very, very little chance of going to the playoffs.”

Last year, the Eagles went 7-1 in the second half of the season. They seemed to get better as the postseason approached. This year, they lost two games in December that really hurt their postseason chances. But those games were against Seattle and Dallas, two teams also vying for the postseason.

The Eagles finish with Washington and the New York Giants, two teams that are just finishing the season and thinking about next year. The Eagles have already beaten both teams. They came back and edged Washington, 37-34, despite injuries along their offensive line. They crushed the Giants, 27-0, for their first shutout since 1996.

“We need wins,” running back LeSean McCoy said. “They’re just trying to finish the season up. I’ve been there. I’ve been in that type of role. You play hard, but they’ve probably got their flights all scheduled. We’re fighting for something. It’s a little different situation.”

The Eagles need help, but thanks to Luck and the Colts, there is still real hope.


Inside Edge: Eagles-Redskins

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18


Mike Sando delivers some stats to help you make a pick for Philadelphia at Washington.
PHILADELPHIA -- Nick Foles wore a helmet and threw a football Wednesday. It may turn out the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback was practicing for nothing, but there he was.

Foles was ruled out for last Sunday’s game against Dallas after doctors examined his collarbone. The Eagles play Washington Saturday and Foles will not be ready to play in that game, either.

After that, there is just one regular-season game left, at the New York Giants on Dec. 28. It is unclear whether Foles will be examined next week.

“I don't know when the next follow up is,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said before Wednesday’s practice. “We didn't throw at all [Tuesday]. It was kind of a walk-through. So we’ll see him throw the ball around a little bit today.”

Foles’ collarbone is healing normally, according to Kelly. But the doctors have not cleared Foles for contact. Obviously, that prevents him from playing football.

“Still, the bone is not healed,” Kelly said. “The biggest thing is, I think Nick can throw -- I don't think you're going to see anything different from him throwing -- but he can't have any contact because if he gets hit, he can reinjure it. That's the biggest concern right now.”

If the Eagles make the playoffs, Kelly will have a tough decision to make. Does he put Foles back into the lineup after an eight-week interruption, or stay with Mark Sanchez? The Eagles are 3-3 in the games Sanchez has started. He has at least one and probably two more starts to make a stronger case for himself.

If the Eagles do not make the playoffs, things are really murky. Sanchez is playing on a one-year deal, so he will become a free agent.

Foles is still under contract, but he will have missed half a season. That followed the first half of the season, in which Foles completed 186 of 311 passes (59.8 percent) for 2,163 yards and 13 touchdowns. Foles also threw 10 interceptions and finished with a quarterback rating of 81.4.

At the very least, the Eagles will have to find another veteran backup to replace Sanchez, unless they decide to go with Matt Barkley in that role. At the other extreme, the Eagles could decide they want to find a new starting quarterback to replace Foles.

Those are big decisions. It would help to see Foles play more this season, but time is running low.
PHILADELPHIA -- It will go down in Philadelphia Eagles sports annals as one of many unanswerable questions and unsolved mysteries.

How good could Chip Kelly’s offense have been with both Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson playing wide receiver at the same time?

The question was put to LeSean McCoy Wednesday. Before he remembered that Jackson is persona non grata inside the NovaCare Complex, McCoy’s eyes widened and he smiled.

“Just a lot of big plays,” McCoy said. “A lot of space, a lot of yards. That’s what I would think. But you never know.”

Those last four words were thrown in after McCoy stopped dreaming about what might have been and recalled that Jackson is he whose name shall not be uttered since his release from the team in March.

Kelly has explained that Jackson just didn’t fit what he wants from wide receivers in the Eagles’ scheme. He prefers bigger bodies and better blockers, which has been borne out in his apparent infatuation with Riley Cooper and the drafting of Jordan Matthews.

Asked Wednesday how Maclin, Cooper and Matthews have done in the wake of Jackson’s release, Kelly held his ground.

“If you look at our catches, those three receivers already have more catches, from what I've been told, than last year,” Kelly said. “I think our receiving corps has done a really good job -- all three of those guys.”

Last season, Jackson, Cooper and Jason Avant caught 167 passes in 16 games. In 14 games this year, Maclin, Cooper and Matthews have caught 182 passes.

Last season's trio amassed 2,614 yards and 19 touchdowns. This season's group has 2,403 yards and 18 touchdowns.

But that really answers the wrong question. Last season, the Eagles lost Maclin when he tore his ACL during training camp. Cooper moved up to the starting lineup and Avant was the veteran slot receiver. So they did well, but it was not the result of any kind of plan.

This season's group reflects Kelly’s preferences. He trusted Maclin to replace Jackson's production. Kelly also chose to give Cooper a new contract and draft Matthews.

Last season, Cooper caught 47 passes for 835 yards and eight touchdowns. This season, Cooper has 48 catches for 487 yards and one touchdown. The catches are similar, but the yardage and touchdowns are way down.

Matthews, who has 56 receptions for 709 yards and seven TDs, has more or less duplicated Cooper’s production from last season, with Cooper sliding down to Avant’s numbers.

But the real question is how the Eagles would have looked with Jackson and Maclin both on the field. How much strain would that have placed on opposing defenses? In the match-ups in which defenses were able to contain the Eagles’ passing game, would that extra bit of speed from Jackson have made a difference?

We’ll never know for sure.

This season in Washington, Jackson has 50 catches for 957 yards and five touchdowns. He has been limited by the team's revolving door at quarterback. On the other hand, Jackson has characteristically had extremely good days and fairly mediocre days. He leads the NFL with an average of 19.14 yards per reception. But he’s had three games where his total yards were below that average. Jackson has four games over 100 yards receiving and six games under 50 yards. He can be controlled by certain cornerbacks.

Would he have done better in Philadelphia? Probably. Jackson had career highs in catches (82), yards (1,332) and touchdowns (9, matching his best season). He did that with Cooper on the other side, just as Maclin has compiled his best numbers this season.

Would Maclin and Jackson both have put up similar numbers playing on the same field? No one can say, although McCoy’s smile spoke volumes.

Redskins vs. Eagles preview

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
video When: 4:30 p.m. ET, Saturday Where: FedEx Field, Landover, Maryland TV: NFLN

The Washington Redskins left Philadelphia in an upbeat mood, despite a loss. Their offense had scored 34 points, and while they blew a lead in this Week 3 game, there were issues they felt were fixable. Needless to say, their performance since that game hasn't gone the way they had hoped.

And while the Philadelphia Eagles are in better position than Washington, they've put themselves in a must-win situation. At 9-5, the Eagles will need help to make the postseason, and a loss could end their chances. The teams have combined to lose eight straight games, though six of those belong to the Redskins. Eagles reporter Phil Sheridan and Redskins reporter John Keim look ahead to Saturday's game:

Keim: It looked like the Eagles were starting to roll and then they lost two straight, albeit to two good teams. Is it just a matter of losing to good teams, or is there something else at play here?

Sheridan: Well, losing to good teams has been a theme of this whole season. The Eagles' first loss was at San Francisco, their second at Arizona. The 49ers have dropped off a bit, but at the time, they were among the teams you'd consider among the elite in the NFC. The Cardinals are obviously poised to win the NFC West. The Eagles' next loss was to the Green Bay Packers, by a 53-20 score. That one really raised eyebrows.

But the Eagles got to 9-3 before these last two losses. The Seattle game was disappointing, but they are the defending champions. Not too much to read into that. The loss Sunday to Dallas was something else. It's a team the Eagles beat in the season finale to win the division last year and beat 33-10 in Dallas just two weeks earlier. To get manhandled like that at home felt like a major step backward.

The Eagles now have five losses, all to NFC teams that are (or were) playoff contenders. So what's going on seems to be that the Eagles are hitting their heads on the doorway to the elite level. And the biggest reason for that, it seems to me, is their lack of a franchise quarterback. Nick Foles didn't look like one before he got hurt, and Mark Sanchez hasn't looked like one since.

Bottom line: The Eagles are going to have as many urgent questions going into this offseason as they've had in the last few years.

Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said this week that, on tape, it looked like Robert Griffin III was regaining his "swagger" and that maybe the time off helped him. Does that line up with what you're seeing from the quarterback? Where is his head these days?

Keim: Yes, it looked like Griffin played with more confidence Sunday. He was not always perfect and there were issues in the pocket -- not all of his own doing, either. But he did not look like the confused lost quarterback we saw against Tampa Bay and San Francisco. There was still hesitation in the pocket, but there were other plays Griffin made that resulted from a more confident quarterback. Some of his runs showed more of the explosion of the past -- haven't seen that a lot at all lately. When he had time in the pocket, he made some nice throws. Griffin seems to be in a better place mentally these days. He looked more relaxed during practice last week, more himself. I don't care what his issues are, it has to be difficult maintaining your own confidence if you keep hearing the head coach has no confidence in your game.

How would you rate Mark Sanchez's play lately (and that of the offense)? Seemed like the offense was humming along before hitting Seattle and Dallas -- the time of possession disadvantage in those games was unreal.

Sheridan: Sanchez is exactly who he's always been, a guy who will throw roughly about as many interceptions as touchdown passes. He has looked good against Carolina and Tennessee and not so good against Green Bay and Seattle. He is a quarterback who can win you games, but he is not going to elevate your franchise to a higher level and keep it there.

The offense, especially the running game, looked quite good in the win at Dallas. But it was 1-for-5 in the red zone, and a lot of that falls on the quarterback and the play calling. You're right about the time of possession, which was in the 40-minute-to-20-minute range in those two losses. It's a stat Chip Kelly dismisses, but it represents opportunities your opponent has to score and time your defense spends working to prevent that. There's a reason other coaches do care about time of possession, and before it's all said and done, Kelly may come to care as well.

It seems like a lifetime ago that these teams played. In that game, the Eagles were dealing with injuries along the offensive line and couldn't really get LeSean McCoy going. Brian Orakpo was a factor. How is the Washington defense holding up through all this losing, and will Jim Haslett set the dogs on Mark Sanchez?

Keim: Not sure how much he'll blitz. They blitzed on 15 of 43 dropbacks in the first meeting and were not hurt a lot by that tactic. Sanchez seems to be OK against the blitz (87.0 passer rating; 5 TDs, 3 INTs). Haslett will blitz early and if he sees struggles, he'll call for more. The defense gives up a lot of big plays in large part because of coverage breakdowns in the secondary. Sometimes it's a basic coverage that is somehow botched or a defender's eyes are focused on the wrong area. It leads to issues -- and wide-open targets. The front seven has issues because of injuries to linebacker Keenan Robinson and end Jason Hatcher (not sure if either will play). They've done well at times and they're clearly not the only reason this team is 3-11. Their defense gets put in a lot of bad spots because of the offensive turnovers and poor special teams play. But they also hurt themselves with mistakes and while they don't always give up a lot of yards (10th in NFL), they do give up points (27th).

How will the loss of Trent Cole impact the defense? Along those lines, I liked Marcus Smith's athleticism a lot in college, but he's done nothing and I'm curious as to why.

Sheridan: We're all a bit curious why, but I'd say we're more curious why the Eagles drafted the outside linebacker from Louisville when there were a handful of defensive backs available when they were on the clock. The Eagles said then that the premium on edge rushers made Smith worth taking a little high. Then they moved him to inside linebacker, where he has failed to get on the field for more than a few snaps all season.

With the Cole injury, Smith is working on the outside again. It will be interesting to see if he can give the Eagles anything before his rookie season ends. But Brandon Graham, another dubious first-round pick, will get the first shot at replacing Cole.

Cole is a tough player for the Eagles to lose. He's relentless, whether he's playing the run or rushing the quarterback, and apparently tireless. His 6.5 sacks this year don't tell the full story. Cole was a Pro Bowl end in the Eagles' 4-3 scheme and made a relatively seamless transition to 3-4 outside linebacker. His energy level will be the hardest thing for Graham and Smith to replace.

Have to ask about him: Has the perception about DeSean Jackson changed down there? The rumblings about his lack of enthusiasm for blocking and not playing with apparently minor injuries sound very much like what was said about him inside the Eagles' facility after he was released.

Keim: When he came here, I expected a receiver who made big plays and who did not like to block and who probably wouldn't play unless he was at or near 100 percent. That's pretty much what the Redskins have gotten this season. I don't hear coaches complaining about his blocking because, again, it was obvious before he came here. It took them a while to quit putting him in position to be a key blocker (on some receiver screens, for example.) And I don't think anyone could have expected any different given the perception. So I don't see how it's changed. Nobody should be surprised by any aspect of his game because it's pretty much what he had put on film in Philadelphia. There were instances last week he took a long time getting back to the huddle after a deeper route. But he makes big plays and that's what they wanted -- he's been open for more, too.


The NFL Live crew make their picks for Philadelphia at Washington.
PHILADELPHIA – The question of whether the Philadelphia Eagles made progress in Chip Kelly’s second season as head coach will be hard to answer definitively.

If they beat Washington on Saturday and the New York Giants in the season finale Dec. 28, the Eagles will finish 11-5. That will be one victory better than last season's 10-6 team. But the 2013 team won the NFC East title and earned a home playoff game. If the Dallas Cowboys win out, the Eagles could find themselves missing the playoffs all together.

Is that progress or a step back? Kelly didn’t really answer the question, but he made something of a case for the view that missing the playoffs is all that really counts.

“Right now, we’ve only got nine wins,” Kelly said Wednesday. “I mean, for us to think of questions like that, that doesn't help us beat Washington. So I don't really think about it. If we win 11 games and it's not good enough to get in, shame on us because we didn't win the right games. That’s the bottom line. That's what this whole deal is all about and we know it going in.”

That’s undeniable. The Eagles are 9-5. All five losses are to NFC teams that are, or were at the time of the game, in the NFC playoff field. In short, the Eagles lost to the teams they would have possibly faced in the postseason. That doesn’t support the argument that they should be outraged if they go 11-5 and somehow miss the postseason.

“All we can do is get to 11-5 and believe that somehow, some way, that will be enough to get us into the playoffs,” tight end Zach Ertz said.

So there is little reason to believe the Eagles will take Washington (3-11) lightly when they play Saturday. The Eagles beat their NFC rival back in September, but it was 37-34. It was not an easy victory.

“Right now, there is no such thing as struggling to get up for a game,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “We need to win. Bad. So it won’t take much motivation. It’s not like we have our playoff seed locked in and we’re the No. 1 seed and we’re resting starters. We’re fighting for everything we’ve got right now.”

It sounds like Kelly’s message for the week has gotten through.

“What we can do is control how we prepare for Washington and that's what we're going to do,” Kelly said. “They [the players] were great yesterday; they came in here ready to play. That's what I know about this group. They love playing football, they love training for it and they were fantastic yesterday and they’re going to be the same today.”

If they’re fantastic Saturday, that will be even better.
PHILADELPHIA -- Two years ago, the future looked grim for the Philadelphia Eagles. Andy Reid's team was in the middle of a 4-12 meltdown of a season. The NFC East looked to be in other hands.

The New York Giants were the defending Super Bowl champions for the second time in five years.

And in Washington, a rookie quarterback named Robert Griffin III was taking his team to an NFC East title and what appeared to be supremacy in the division for years to come.

Two years later, the Eagles are the defending NFC East champions. They will face Griffin Saturday, but only because Colt McCoy was injured Sunday.

Nevertheless, they know Griffin is a quarterback capable of beating them and putting an end to their postseason hopes.

"Last week, he was playing a lot more confident and loose than he had earlier in the year," Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "It looks like the time off has done his legs good. He's moving pretty well. A lot more confidence in his throws, a lot more decisive. The pressure's off him. He looks a lot better than he did earlier in the year."

The Eagles played Washington way back in Week 3. Kirk Cousins was the starting quarterback for Washington in that game. Cousins completed 30 of 48 passes for 427 yards and three touchdowns. He also threw one interception, to Jenkins.

Cousins played well, but the Eagles won that game, 37-34. This time, they run into a Washington team that is playing out the string. All except for Griffin, who appears to be playing for his future, whether that is in Washington or elsewhere.

"We expect to get his best," Jenkins said. "This is his opportunity at the end of the year to put some good tape out there."

A week ago, a mobile quarterback named Russell Wilson tore the Eagles' defense up. Griffin is capable of doing the same kinds of things, even if his team hasn't built its offense around his abilities.

"If you sleep on that guy? Trust me," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. "You guys will be sitting there after the game going, 'He ran for 100 yards against you. How'd that happen?' That kid's athletic as heck. He can really run. We have to understand where he is on every single play.

"RG III can really hurt you with his legs and with his arm. We have to be really sharp. He's a different element than we've seen -- except for Russell Wilson, and you saw what happened. We did a really good job at times defending Seattle and all of a sudden, Russell just extended plays."

The Eagles' defense struggled with Cousins in the first game. Griffin is a very different player, but he presents even more of a challenge.

"He's still a dynamic player," Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. "He really looked like he benefited from a little bit of perspective in taking a step back and looking at it. He came out there with a little more confidence and that old swagger you saw. He ran the ball more aggressively, he put the ball on the money, he threw the ball a little more accurately, and it looked like he had a better understanding. So, I think he has gained a little bit of perspective from sitting back and watching for a little bit."

Eagles RB LeSean McCoy imitates former teammate DeSean Jackson ahead of Philadelphia's game against the Washington Redskins.

Trent Cole undergoes hand surgery

December, 17, 2014
Dec 17
[+] EnlargeTrent Cole
Al Bello/Getty ImagesTrent Cole had surgery Wednesday for a broken bone in his hand and is out Saturday.

PHILADELPHIA -- Eagles linebacker Trent Cole had surgery Wednesday for a broken bone in his hand.

Cole, who will not be available for Saturday's game against the Redskins, had a plate inserted into the hand, Eagles coach Chip Kelly said.

Kelly said it was unknown whether Cole would have a chance to play in the season finale against the Giants.

"All I know is he's getting a plate in and he's out this week," Kelly said.

Brandon Graham, the Eagles' 2010 first-round draft choice, will start at Cole's outside linebacker spot.

"I think [Graham] has really picked up what we're trying to do," Kelly said. "The transition [from defensive end] to outside linebacker, you're not going to pick it up in one second. There's a lot of nuances to it.

"Brandon can set an edge, Brandon can rush a quarterback. He's doing a better job in pass coverage. We've been really happy with him."

(Read full post)

IRVING, Texas -- Brett Favre played for the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings after building a Hall of Fame career with the Green Bay Packers. Peyton Manning is in his third season with the Denver Broncos after building his Hall of Fame career with the Indianapolis Colts.

[+] EnlargeTroy Aikman
Mitchell Reibel/Getty ImagesAndy Reid, then the head coach at Philadelphia, inquired with Troy Aikman to join the Eagles in 2002.
What would you have thought if Troy Aikman, winner of three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys, played for the Philadelphia Eagles?

According to Aikman, it could have happened in 2002. Aikman had last played in the NFL during the 2000 season, logging 11 games for the Cowboys.

Then, Eagles coach Andy Reid called up Aikman to see if he would be interested in playing again after Donovan McNabb broke an ankle. Aikman was actually at halftime of a game he was calling at Qualcomm Stadium for Fox when a producer told him to make a phone call.

He said, 'Hey, did you hear what happened?' I said, 'Yeah, we did a game break.' He said, 'Well I want to talk to you about coming to Philadelphia,'" Aikman told The Afternoon Show with Tim Cowlishaw and Matt Mosley on ESPN Radio 103.3 FM in Dallas on Monday. "I said, 'Andy, we're in the middle of a broadcast. It's halftime right now.' He said, 'I know, I'm watching the game.' So I said, 'OK, I'll call you after the game.'"

After the game Aikman talked to his Fox producer and made a phone call to Norv Turner, his former offensive coordinator with the Dallas Cowboys and confidante. It didn't help Reid's cause that Aikman was at the home he had in Santa Barbara, California, as he pondered a return to the game.

"This was around November or whenever it was, and I woke up and I'm thinking, I can either enjoy the next couple of days in Santa Barbara, California, it's about 65, 70 degrees, or I'm going to be on a plane flying to Philadelphia and probably going to be playing on Monday night against the 49ers,'" Aikman said. "I called Andy and I said, 'Hey, I'm honored that you've called me, but I'm going to stay put.'"

For the Eagles, it worked out OK. A.J. Feeley went 4-1 as McNabb's replacement. McNabb was able to return for the playoffs and Philadelphia made it to the NFC Championship Game that year.