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Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On January 8

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We’ve had one week to digest the end of the Eagles’ season. Quite frankly, I’ve got indigestion.

Winning the final two games is better than losing the final two games, especially when you don’t have your own first-round draft pick, but there shouldn’t be much significance attached to those victories. I understand that the players and coaches have to speak about two wins over NFC East opponents building momentum going into the offseason, but the truth is the only impact those two victories could have on the offseason is if they somehow convince executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman that the Eagles are better than they truly are.

Head coach Doug Pederson spoke of all of the close losses the Eagles sustained this season. Unless he’s saying that as a self-criticism – his late-game decisions were costly in several losses – he’s grasping at straws. There are a lot of close games in the NFL every season. Good teams win those games. Bad teams lose them.

Pederson said the Eagles are “extremely close” to contending in the NFC East and for a playoff berth. Roseman, when he wasn’t taking veiled shots at Chip Kelly, seemed to take more of a long-range view when he spoke with the media this past week.

The difference in perspective reflects the difference in perspective during the season – and during the previous offseason. Were the Eagles rebuilding or trying to contend? Different moves indicated different philosophies.

On the one hand, Roseman’s long-range plan makes sense. Carson Wentz appears to be a franchise quarterback. The Eagles need to build around him.

On the other hand, the window for many of the Eagles’ best players won’t remain open much longer. Darren Sproles has said 2017 may be his final season. Safety Malcolm Jenkins is entering his ninth season and will turn 30 during the season. Defensive end Brandon Graham, who had a breakout season, will turn 29 this year. Defensive end Connor Barwin, who may not return next season, is 30.

Defensive end isn’t the only area in which the starters might not have many productive years remaining. Let’s examine the offensive line. Center Jason Kelce will turn 30 during the 2017 season. Left tackle Jason Peters turns 35 later this month. Left guard Allen Barbre will turn 33 in June. As for the right side of the line, right guard Brandon Brooks is battling severe anxiety, which caused him to miss two games, and right tackle Lane Johnson is one more positive test for performance-enhancing drugs from having his suspension measured in years rather than games. The Eagles need more than Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Isaac Seumalo to make Wentz feel secure two or three years down the road.

The Eagles aren’t a young team. More specifically, they’re not a good young team. With the exception of Wentz, their best players aren’t young.

Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and tight end Zach Ertz are notable exceptions. For the most part, however, the Eagles’ younger players are unproven (see running backs and offensive line) or disappointments (see receivers, backup defensive ends).

With the possibility of Barwin not returning, is anyone satisfied that Vinny Curry and Marcus Smith, both of whom finished the season with 2½ sacks, as a suitable replacement? Veteran cornerback Leodis McKelvin and Nelson Carroll gave up numerous big plays, but is anyone all right with Jalen Mills and C.J. Smith being the starters next season?

Roseman has his work cut out for him during this offseason. The challenge will be to build for the long-range future around Wentz while trying to contend for a playoff berth, which both Roseman and Pederson may feel pressure to do next season.


SCOUTING SCHEDULE: Another impediment to the Eagles improving from their 7-9 record next season may be their schedule. It’s too early to predict wins and losses, but we can draw some conclusions from the Eagles’ slate of opponents next season.

The Eagles will face the AFC West, the best division in football this season, instead of the AFC North. They host the Raiders and Broncos and visit the Chiefs and Chargers. They also play the Seahawks in Seattle for the second straight season. On the positive side, the Eagles get home games against the Bears and 49ers.

In addition to their home-and-home series with NFC East opponents and the opponents already mentioned, the Eagles will also host the Cardinals and play road games against the Panthers and Rams.


SAFETY SECOND: If not for injuries, Saturday’s playoff game between the Texans and Raiders may have featured former Eagles Nate Allen (Raiders) and Quintin Demps (Texans) starting at safety.


EVEN THE LOSERS: Saturday’s wild card-round games featured losses by two of the NFL franchises with the longest streaks without winning a playoff game. The Raiders, making their first playoff appearance since 2002, lost to the Texans while starting third-string quarterback Connor Cook, a rookie making his first NFL start. The Raiders’ last playoff victory was in the AFC Championship Game in the 2002 season.

The Lions’ loss to the Seahawks was their ninth straight playoff defeat, with their last postseason victory coming during the 1991 season. The only team with a longer victory drought in the postseason is Cincinnati, which has gone 26 seasons without a playoff victory. The Lions have won just one playoff game since 1957. That’s unbelievable!

Before Eagles fans get too smug about these droughts, the Eagles are 12th on the list of teams with the longest time since their last playoff victory, with their last postseason win coming during the 2008 season. And they would move up one spot if the Dolphins beat the Steelers in the wild card round.


ROSEY FUTURE: The Rose Bowl was an instant classic. Penn State battled back from a huge deficit to take a 14-point lead, only to see USC score 17 unanswered points during the fourth quarter to pull out a 52-49 victory.

At one point during the game, the Nittany Lions’ explosive offense scored touchdowns on four consecutive offensive plays. Stop. Read that again. They scored touchdowns on four consecutive offensive plays.

Turnovers by quarterback Trace McSorley, including two first-quarter interceptions and a costly one that set up the Trojans’ winning field goal as time expired, and overly conservative fourth-quarter play-calling damaged Penn State’s chances. But it’s unfair to assign too much blame to McSorley and head coach James Franklin, who brought so much of the positive energy that helped lift the Nittany Lions to an 11-3 record after a 2-2 start.

The Lions may have overachieved this season, but, with the return of McSorely and running back Saquon Barkley, the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, Penn State’s future looks bright.


REMATCH: Alabama and Clemson will square off for the national championship Monday after overwhelming Washington and Ohio State in the semifinals. There can be arguments that other teams, such as Penn State, should have been involved in the playoffs, but there is little doubt that the nation’s two best teams are in the championship game.


SEEKING FAME: Former Eagles Terrell Owens and Brian Dawkins were selected as finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A maximum of five of the 15 finalist can be inducted.

If I had a ballot – and I don’t – mine would include running back LaDainian Tomlinson, quarterback Kurt Warner, guard Alan Faneca, Owens and, in a bit of a hometown vote, Dawkins. For all of his issues, Owens deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. He’s second in NFHL history in receiving yards and third in receiving touchdowns. He should have been inducted last year in his first year of eligibility. Dawkins should eventually get in the Hall, but I don’t think it will be this year. However, I would induct Dawkins ahead of safety John Lynch, who I’m not even sure is better than one or two safeties who didn’t make the list of finalists.

Judging offensive linemen is difficult. But I felt that Faneca was the best guard in the NFL for a few years and was among the best during his entire career. That gives him a slight nod over tackles Joe Jacoby and Tony Boselli, both of whom should eventually be inducted.


END OF AN ERA: I know some people are tired of him, but I’m going to miss Chris Berman hosting NFL shows on ESPN.


SHOWN THE DOOR: Veteran broadcaster Ron Burke’s dismissal by Comcast SportsNet bothers me for several reasons. The first is that Burke is one of the station’s best hosts, combining knowledge and humor without making himself the center of attention. He was my favorite host for Sportsrise – and the competition wasn’t even close. This class act deserves better treatment.

The second reason this move upsets me is that it seems to be part of Comcast SportsNet’s move away from doing news. Sportsrise has been cut in half, running in 15-minute segments rather than a full 30 minutes. I don’t even know if there is still an evening news and highlight show, but I know it’s not on the schedule on a daily basis.

Reports indicate that Comcast SportsNet is going to feature more shows with people debating sports issues and focus less on news and highlight shows. In other words, the station will feature more opinion and less reporting. Given that we have two all-sports radio stations, that’s not exactly what sports fans in the Delaware Valley need.

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