10 Things We Learned From the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4
The Philadelphia Eagles are 3-1. Granted, they might be one of the sloppiest 3-1 teams in recent memory, but they still have three wins in four games, one of them against the defending Super Bowl champions and another against one of the AFC's best teams last season. All three games have come courtesy of late drives scores on offense and a big stop on defense. On the six most important drives of the season, the Eagles are six for six, and that's the difference between this team being 3-1 and 0-4.
The win against the New York Giants wasn't easy, just like the other two wins this season. The Eagles scored just 19 points, one of their lowest offensive totals of the Vick era, but a solid defensive performance from all three units paved the way for a much-needed victory to secure sole possession of first place in the highly competitive NFC East.
The next few games are crucial for the Eagles, who have a relatively easy closing schedule. It's time for the Eagles to prove that they can continue to win close games against good teams. Scores don't matter. A win is a win in the National Football League, and it doesn't matter if it comes by 27 points or just one point.
With that being said, here are ten things we learned about the Eagles from their week four victory against the Giants. I've managed to make this list without any repeats, unlike week three. Read and enjoy.
1. Stanley Havili was well worth his roster spot.
He might be the least talked about player on the 53-man roster. Many didn't predict him to make the initial roster, me included, and were annoyed when he did make it, me included. But the 24-year old has proven his worth as a powerful run blocker. He's seen his playing time increase, with 28 snaps against the Giants in week four. And he's really helping the Eagles with the absence of Jason Peters and Jason Kelce.
2. The Brian Rolle disaster is finished.
Brian Rolle became the fourth Eagles draft pick from the 2011 class to get cut, joining safety Jaiquawn Jarrett, guard Julian Vandervelde, and linebacker Greg Lloyd Jr. He started 13 games last season but lost his starting job at weakside linebacker during the preseason and played in just 18 defensive snaps in four games before he was cut in favor of training camp linebacker Adrian Moten.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is the best cornerback on the team.
Nnamdi Asomugha has the reputation as the best cornerback on the team, but Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has clearly outplayed him so far this season, enough for me to consider him clearly the best corner on the team. The stats against DRC this season are beyond ridiculous: 8-20, 34 yards, 3 INT, 25.4 passer rating. There's really not a lot more you can ask for from a cornerback. Expect him to receive a contract extension either during the season or after it ends.
4. Fletcher Cox is the best defensive lineman on the team.
The Eagles have some ridiculously good defensive linemen on the team. Defensive ends Trent Cole and Jason Babin are both Pro Bowl-caliber players, and former first round pick Brandon Graham has been incredible in his limited playing time. Don't forget about veteran Derek Landri, who has been dominant as a run stopper and a pass rusher. But the best linemen on the team has been rookie Fletcher Cox, whose presence has gone far past the stat sheets. He does have a sack, two hits, three hurries, a batted pass, and nine tackles, but he also earned the right to play in the most snaps of any defensive tackle so far this season.
5. Brandon Hughes is well ahead of Curtis Marsh.
If you had told me that Asomugha would leave the Giants game with an injury, I would have predicted 2011 third round draft pick Curtis Marsh to replace him on the field. Instead, it was Brandon Hughes, who I did not even predict to make the final roster. Hughes played extremely well and was a major contributor on the game-winning drive.
6. LeSean McCoy is the key to the Eagles' offense.
There's absolutely no doubt that LeSean McCoy, not Michael Vick, is the key to the offense for the Eagles. Vick played very well on Sunday, but he was more of a game manager. And that's the role he should be playing. McCoy took over the game in the second half, rushing 17 times for 121 yards. Those are incredible numbers, and he proved once again that he is the key to beating the Giants.
7. Three-fifths of the offensive line is playing very well.
The talk about the offensive line for the Eagles has been about the struggles for veterans Demetress Bell and King Dunlap at left tackle, and Dallas Reynolds at center. But Evan Mathis, Danny Watkins, and Todd Herremans have been having exceptional seasons. Mathis is on pace to earn his first Pro Bowl season, Watkins is finally playing like the Eagles expected when they took him in the first round, and Herremans is his usual consistent self.
8. Bobby April's special teams are a total disaster.
I'm not just talking about the kick return coverage, which allowed four returns of more than 35 yards on Sunday. I'm talking about the kick return unit, which hasn't returned a kick for more than 35 yards in the last 29 games. The punt coverage is brutal. The punt returning is a nightmare. The punter has already been replaced this year. And the kicker has been accurate, but most still wouldn't trust him on a game-winning field goal attempt.
9. This team knows how to finish games.
Last year, the Eagles found every way possible to lose close games, both with offensive failures and defensive failures. This year, they're doing the exact opposite. They've scored 17 points on the three most important offensive drives of the season, and they've allowed 0 points on the three most important defensive drives of the season. That alone means a whole lot more than the overall -17 point differential.
10. The Eagles are a real threat in the NFL.
I wouldn't call the Eagles one of the best teams in the league, but I do think they will be a contender and are a threat to beat anybody. They fell flat against the Cleveland Browns in week one, but still pulled out a win. That's what champions do. They beat the powerful Baltimore Ravens, suffered a letdown against the undefeated Arizona Cardinals, and took down the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Good teams know how to win games close and late. The Eagles have been doing that.