Eagles Notebook: Eagles' new red-zone weapon

Posted: October 17, 2013

DeSEAN JACKSON says he has worked hard to become a red-zone weapon, so let's not give Nick Foles all the credit just yet.

"In past years, they used to take me out, use two tight ends and things like that," Jackson said yesterday. He has caught three touchdown passes from Foles in the past two games, two of them in the red zone. Jackson, who has five TD catches this season, caught 11 over the previous 3 years. "I think Chip [Kelly] does a great job of putting me in positions to be successful in the red zone, so that's an addition to my game . . . It was something I just kept working with. I figured sooner or later, there'd be a point where I got some opportunities."

The red-zone debate is a hot one when it comes to whether you think Michael Vick ought to still be the starting quarterback, when he's ready, or the Eagles should go with Foles. Foles managed touchdowns on his first two red-zone trips in Tampa, against a vaunted red-zone defense. The Eagles settled for a field goal near the end of the game, when that was the safest path to gaining an 11-point margin. Foles also produced a red-zone touchdown (on a pass to Jackson) after taking over for Vick the previous week against the Giants, a game in which three early Vick drives ended in field goals. And Foles threw a red-zone TD pass the week before that, in mopup work at the end of the Denver blowout.

Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur yesterday tried to combat the perception that Foles is better than Vick inside the opponent's 20 - without really addressing contentions that Foles makes quicker decisions, fits the ball into tighter windows.

"We'd have played the game exactly the same way" had Vick been quarterbacking in Tampa, Shurmur said. "The passes that we threw in the red zone Sunday, we would have called the exact same passes if Mike was the quarterback."

Of course, Shurmur can't guarantee they would have been completed.

"Down there it's windows," Foles said, responding to a question about how Jackson is more effective now in the red zone. "A window can be open for a split second, that's when you've got to hit it. Sometimes as a quarterback you have to make a window with a little pump fake and then try to open it up for him. He's just doing a really good job of staying on his route and finding the windows."

Left guard Evan Mathis agreed with Shurmur, that the difference isn't as simple as Foles vs. Vick.

"I think the struggles early on led us to put a lot of emphasis on it," Mathis said. "The coaches have done a good job, we've just been working on it . . . converting those situations into points."

Birdseed

The Jets signed wide receiver Greg Salas off the Eagles' practice squad yesterday. That opens a spot for tight end Emil Igwenagu, released from the 53-man roster on Monday, should the Eagles want to keep him around . . . Bill Davis said safety Patrick Chung's shoulder injury is a nerve problem . . . LeSean McCoy's NFL-high 630 rushing yards are the most through six games of any back in Eagles history . . . Michael Vick said he changed his stretching routine before the Giants game in which he injured his left hamstring, and was overstriding when he suffered the injury, running out of bounds . . . Riley Cooper's four-catch, 120-yard day Sunday a half-hour from his home turf in Clearwater, Fla., was witnessed by his parents and many other relatives and friends, Cooper said yesterday, but he regrets his sister Lindsey, a soccer player at Florida, had a game at Missouri and had to miss it . . . Davis seconded Chip Kelly's Monday assertion that defensive lineman Fletcher Cox played his best game of the season in Tampa. "A lot of those holding calls [occurred] where they couldn't block Fletch," Davis said.


On Twitter: @LesBowen

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian

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