It turns out the Eagles’ depth chart wasn’t bad. They were just reading it upside-down.
Boston Scott, Greg Ward, and Josh Perkins each spent time on the Eagles’ practice squad this season. On Monday night they combined for 199 yards and a touchdown on 25 touches in the win over the Giants that saved the season.
On Monday night, Mack Hollins, Jordan Matthews, Alex Ellis, Darren Sproles, and Jay Ajayi combined for 5 yards on two touches, both from Ajayi, and that’s because he’s the only one among them who wasn’t injured or cut. Yet.
Letting this much talent wither on the vine while trying to squeeze the last drops of blood from worn-out players is nothing short of front-office malpractice. The coaches were derelict in their duty, too. If they knew these practice-squad alums were this good, as they now claim, then they should have stomped their feet and pounded on desks and demanded more chances for their charges.
The inability of Howie Roseman and his front office to scout themselves is utterly astonishing. You get the feeling they don’t even know sort of underwear they’ve got on. Boxers? Briefs? Commando?
Maybe from now on the players should decide who plays. Like picking teams in the playground. Spoiler alert: Hollins would have been picked last. Especially if Carson Wentz was a captain.
Scott might go first.
“Boston was on the ‘scout team’ this week and he was playing Saquon,” Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “He scored a touchdown. On me.”
Notably, Saquon Barkley did not.
Wentz, who has misfired at an alarming rate since Game 10, enjoyed instant chemistry with the three practice-squad amigos. Maybe it wasn’t so much the shooter as it was his targets.
Hollins entered the season with just 16 career catches, added 10 more by Game 4, then zero — 0 — in the next seven. Wentz didn’t even target him in three of those games. (Hollins has since continued that level of production in his game with Miami, which claimed him off waivers.)
Ward, a smallish, slowish running quarterback at the University of Houston, has been practice-squad resident since the Eagles’ 2017 Super Bowl season. So yes, the Eagles deserve credit for developing him, but, for Pete’s sake, it took forever for him to get a chance. He’s made the most of it: has 11 catches on 19 targets in the last three games. He got that chance because the Eagles finally realized that Hollins can’t play and Matthews, who once gave them two good seasons, is done, and because inconsistent veteran Nelson Agholor is injured.
Perkins is a tight end who played wide receiver in college. The Eagles signed him last season and he played in nine games before he injured a knee, but they cut him out of camp this summer, stashed him on the practice squad, then ignored him when No. 2 tight end Dallas Goedert was injured in September, instead promoting Ellis, who was cut after three games.
Perkins caught five passes for 37 yards Monday night, but he got his chances only because the Eagles dressed only three receivers and one of them — Alshon Jeffery — got hurt. Jeffery has had more than five catches in just three games this season.
Scott, whom the Eagles signed off New Orleans’ practice squad a year ago Monday, also got cut out of Eagles camp and signed with the Eagles’ practice squad. Promoted Oct. 11, he’d seen limited action, and had struggled as a kick returner, but he isn’t a kick returner. He’s a back. He had six catches Monday night, the most by any running back this season — and this, in a franchise with two running backs among their top seven all-time leading receivers. Scott also had 10 carries for 59 yards.
Offensive coordinator Mike Groh was asked Wednesday if he was surprised that Scott was so productive: "I don’t know if surprised is fair."
Really? He’d better be surprised. Sproles had 90 yards of total offense in 104 snaps. Ajayi has gained 30 yards in three games.
Scott has 227 yards on 77 snaps.
Mike Groh had better be surprised. Mike Groh had better be a-freakin-stonished.
No one expects Scott or Perkins or Ward to reach the Pro Bowl one day, but, frankly, none of the players they replaced will see a future Pro Bowl, either. It might be the case that none has a productive career: The NFL is full of flash-in-the-pan phenomena, players who produce for a game or two before the league adjusts to their abilities, and then they disappear.
But, in this moment, Scott, Ward, and Perkins were appreciably better players than Hollins, Matthews, Ellis, Ajayi, and 36-year-old Sproles, who, for the third consecutive season, is spending most of it out of commission.
It’s astounding: A former receiver turned tight end, who can play both positions; a former quarterback turned receiver, who can play in any receiver spot; and a vertically challenged former walk-on at Louisiana Tech, who are clearly better than a handful of retreads and hopefuls. And, as the team sputtered and gasped through the season, they were always right there, under the noses of the coaches and the brass, buried on the depth chart.
Then they turned the depth chart right-side up.