More WR Talk

Posted: March 31st, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

When it comes to the Eagles and wide receivers, all we can do is guess. Howie Roseman has talked to the media. He’s offered some thoughts on the situation from a variety of different angles. But the offseason isn’t over yet. Howie can’t be completely honest. He can’t give away his gameplan for fixing the receiver position.

Let’s talk about a few things.

Sheil Kapadia wrote a piece on the Eagles and covered a few subjects, but hit on WR a lot. He had an interesting note toward the end of the piece.

With Wentz, Pederson and Schwartz, the Eagles have a high floor and will be in the mix for the NFC East title. But my big-picture outlook is that they will not be legit Super Bowl contenders next season unless they upgrade at wide receiver beyond the guys on the roster and whomever they draft. It’s possible that Jackson stays healthy for 16 games and doesn’t lose a step or that the light comes on for Arcega-Whiteside or that the Eagles draft the next Michael Thomas. But those are all gambles — and strange ones to take given how last season played out.

How last season played out…

I thought about that for a bit. Rewind to last August. More than a few NFL analysts thought the Eagles had the best WR corps in the entire league. Alshon Jeffery was the big physical receiver and outstanding red zone threat. DeSean gave the team an explosive element. Nelson Agholor was the slot receiver with some playmaking ability. Rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside gave the team another big guy with good hands. Mack Hollins was finally on the mend and offered a big guy who could run well.

One site had the Eagles 6th in the NFL. They also had:

28 – SF
29 – SEA
30 – NYG
31 – BAL
32 – WAS

You notice anything there?

28 – SF – Rookie Deebo Samuel became a star
29 – SEA – Rookie D.K. Metcalf had an excellent rookie season
30 – NYG – Rookie Darius Slayton had an excellent rookie season
31 – BAL – Rookie Miles Boykin showed promise
32 – WAS – Terry McLaurin had a fantastic rookie season

Perception and reality were very different. Those teams ended up much better than where people had them pegged. The site had the Patriots with the #5 set of receivers. And that might be the only group that ended up worse than the Eagles.

Did Howie and the Eagles learn a lesson?

Football is constantly evolving. Maybe this is the time to embrace rookies. Maybe this is an over-correction by the Eagles. They have been skeptical of rookie receivers for about a decade. Maybe they are going too far in the other direction.

I do think it is important to also address intangibles here. Last year Jeffery was dealing with some baggage. We don’t know exactly what, but something was up. DeSean was coming home and his presence may have had some type of effect on chemistry. DeSean isn’t the shy guy who just tries to fit in. Agholor was on a one-year deal and likely was trying to impress the Eagles and other teams to earn a contract for the future.

If you find rookies that come in hungry and with a chip on their shoulder, you have a different vibe.

I’m not trying to sit here and tell you that focusing on rookies is absolutely the smart way to go. I’m trying to figure out what Howie and the Eagles are thinking. They’ve got to have a plan. This can’t be bad luck or something like that. The plan might be bad. The plan might not work.

But there has to be a plan.

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One of the topics that Sheil touched on was DeAndre Hopkins. One thing I would love to know is just how interested the Eagles were. I wonder if Hopkins was a great fit for the Eagles.

Before you think I’m nuts, Hopkins is a great receiver and would be a ton of fun to watch. But he is a volume receiver. You build the passing game around him and feed him the ball. In the last three years, Hopkins has 315 catches. In the last three years, Alshon Jeffery has 165 catches. That is a phenomenal difference.

When the Eagles offense was a juggernaut in 2017, they spread the ball around. Zach Ertz led the team with 74 catches. Agholor led the WRs with 62 catches. Carson Wentz spread the ball to WRs, TEs and RBs. He found the open guy and got him the ball.

Do the coaches want that kind of an offense or would they rather feed the ball to a star receiver? My guess is that they would rather spread it around, but I don’t have definitive proof. That is just a guess based on the way they have tried to build the offense the last few years.

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Back to the subject of adding a veteran receiver. I’m just like everyone else. I fully expected the Eagles to make a move.

At the same time, this was a terrible group of free agents. Terrible.

We talked ourselves into loving Breshad Perriman off his breakout season of 36-645-6. Back in 2003, Todd Pinkston went 36-575-2 and people wanted him shipped to the ice caverns of Fridgia.

Devin Funchess was a mediocre receiver coming off injury and the Colts showed no interest in keeping him.

Robby Anderson didn’t have nearly the demand for his services that he expected. There is just something odd about him. Why didn’t the Jets make a stronger push to keep him?

Nelson Agholor was one of the 10 best receivers on the market. That alone should tell you how bad the market was.

Someone hit me up on Twitter wanting to know why the Eagles weren’t going after Rashard Higgins or Taylor Gabriel. My response…they are JAGs (just a guy) with some kind of track record. People want the Eagles to make a move so they’ll have an answer at WR and see something concrete.

Higgins breakout year was 2018, when he went 39-572-4. Last year he got in the coaches doghouse and barely played. Gabriel showed speed and playmaking ability in 2016. Since then he’s been a possession receiver and has scored 7 TDs. Oh, and he’s 5-7, 168. Higgins has potential. Gabriel would be a waste of time.

The Eagles would rather give snaps to JJAW than bring in a mediocre veteran. You can hate that thinking all you want. And the Eagles might be wrong to think that way, but most of the guys we’re talking about are not compelling and have been more disappointing than not in their careers. Are those the guys you really want to bank on?

*****

I will get back to writing about draft prospects. Free agency and pro moves have been the dominant topics for a couple of weeks, but it is time to get back to obsessing on who the Eagles should pick in the draft in a few weeks.

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Still Looking?

Posted: March 30th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

The Eagles haven’t signed any wide receivers. Howie Roseman recently explained that the free agent market hadn’t played out as expected. He talked about how the Eagles like their current receivers more than most understand. He sounded like a man focused on the draft and not finding veteran help.

Was that legit?

Let’s talk about some things.

The Chiefs have $177.00 of cap space. That is crazy. Clearly the Chiefs have to make some moves or some contract adjustments.

One way they could free up some money is to move on from WR Sammy Watkins. He is on the cap for $21M this year. KC could save $14M by letting him go, either by cut or trade. With Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman newly re-signed Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle, KC has a solid group of receivers. Is Watkins a necessity or a luxury they can no longer afford?

Howie knows Chiefs GM Brett Veach very well from their time together with the Eagles. Maybe they can work something out. Maybe Howie is waiting to see if KC will flat out release Watkins. That would be a dangerous game to play, but it just might happen.

Watkins hasn’t put up big numbers since he was with Buffalo in 2015, but he came up big in the playoffs last year and helped KC win the Super Bowl. Watkins is about to turn 27 and he still has plenty of talent.

Maybe the Chiefs have a plan to re-do some deals and to keep Watkins (at a lower rate, of course). This is something to keep an eye on.

Watkins isn’t be the only veteran who could be of interest.

WR Brandin Cooks seems to want out of LA.

Or maybe that just means he wants out of his house. For now, I’m guessing it has to do with his team.

Would the Eagles make sense for him? Some think so.

Cooks is young, explosive and productive. This would seem to be a no-brainer, but there is an issue.

Concussions. Cooks had five in six years, including a pair last season. You might remember Malcolm Jenkins crushing Cooks in the Super Bowl and knocking him out of that game with a concussion.

Do you take that chance?

If the price is low enough, you do. Peter King predicted the Eagles would use a second-round pick to deal for Cooks. That is just a prediction. This is not a rumor, but more of an educated guess.

I would be willing to deal a mid-round pick for Cooks, but a second would be too much because of the concussions. That is a legit concern.

This is all speculation. Nothing may come of it.

Maybe Howie Roseman really does like the thought of building a WR corps for Carson Wentz to grow with. Ward is young. JJAW is young. Throw in a pair of rookies and you could have a group play together for a while.

Still, I can’t help but think Howie is keeping his eye on the other 31 teams and moves they might make. Some interesting players might be available.

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Embracing Risk

Posted: March 28th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

I thought one of the themes for the 2020 offseason needed to be “embrace risk”. The Eagles had gotten into a habit of keeping older players around and also loading up on veteran additions. That had to change. At some point you must take a chance on younger players.

The younger guys have less of a track record, but they usually have more upside. There is risk in bringing them in. But there is risk in going with the older players, as the Eagles learned in 2018 and 2019. Injuries and inconsistent play proved to be major problems.

The Eagles were the second oldest roster in the league at the beginning of the 2019 season. That had to change. And all the Eagles needed to do was look at some of the young players that had taken the field for them.

Avonte Maddox, Josh Adams, Treyvon Hester, Cre’Von LeBlanc, Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Greg Ward and T.J. Edwards all came through for the Eagles in the past two years. That’s a mixture of draft picks, UDFAs and low-level free agents. The Eagles didn’t always go with those players willingly, but they performed well.

The need for change isn’t all about age. Part of the problem was coaches wanting “their guys” kept around. Instead of finding the right guys, coaches wanted players they were comfortable with.

I’m happy to say the offseason has broken away from those trends.

The Eagles seem to be embracing Andre Dillard as the LT and they are letting Jason Peters shop his services.

Darren Sproles is retired. The team saw enough from Boston Scott to know they should stick with the young RB.

The Eagles let Malcolm Jenkins walk, keeping his younger, cheaper counterpart, Rodney McLeod.

The Eagles haven’t shown any interest in bringing back Jim Schwartz favorite Tim Jernigan. The team went for younger players like Javon Hargrave and Hassan Ridgeway.

The last three years the Eagles had veterans in the #3 safety role. Corey Graham and Andrew Sendejo were those guys. This year the team is going with Will Parks, someone who still runs well and has upside.

Nigel Bradham, another Schwartz favorite, is gone. The Eagles are relying on young LBs already in place in Nate Gerry and T.J. Edwards. They also signed Jatavis Brown, another young guy who can run.

The Eagles are embracing risk. They are taking chances.

Maybe that is the mentality at WR as well. Earlier today, Demarcus Robinson re-signed with the Chiefs. Cheap. It appears the Eagles had no interest in him. They passed on a handful of other receivers who came at a cheap price. The Eagles weren’t linked to any of them.

The Eagles are taking a chance that a healthy DeSean Jackson will once again be a difference-maker. He barely played in 2019, but in the season opener he showed that he can still be a dynamic deep threat.

They are taking a chance that Greg Ward will build off his 2019 performance. Ward showed the ability to get open and he showed good hands. He also had a knack for making crucial plays.

The Eagles are betting that J.J. Arcega-Whiteside can go from minimal impact as a rookie to a regular contributor in 2020.

The Eagles are also betting that they can find a couple of rookies who can come in and help the team right away. In recent years, the Eagles have had low expectations for rookie receivers. Howie Roseman has talked about how studies have shown that position struggles in the first year.

The game of football is always evolving. 2019 was the year of the rookie receiver. Deebo Samuel and Mecole Hardman helped their teams  get to the Super Bowl. I think the Eagles have changed their mindset on rookie receivers. After getting burned by Terry McLaurin, Darius Slayton, D.K. Metcalf and a handful of others, the Eagles know first-hand that rookies can get the job done.

I expect the Eagles to embrace their rookie receivers. The scouts have to find the right guys. The coaches have to get the best out of them. And of course, Carson Wentz has to develop immediate chemistry with them.

Wentz was able to make plays with Robert Davis and Deontay Burnett last year. He showed the ability to make things work with new guys. I would expect Wentz to do everything he can to get the rookies up to speed.

All of this might have been moot if there were better options on the free agent market, but this was an incredibly weak class. Rather than spending money on players they didn’t believe in, the Eagles are rolling the dice on the guys already in place and then finding help in the draft.

They can continue looking for veteran help through the spring and summer.

I don’t necessarily agree with all the moves that have been made or not made, but I do like the overall mentality.

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Howie Speaks

Posted: March 27th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

The Eagles have had a strange offseason. Plenty of fans are disappointed. I’m okay with most of the moves and I’m more interested than anything. We finally got to hear Howie Roseman share some thoughts on the Eagles moves and non-moves.

He had an interview with Dave Spadaro and a conference call with reporters.

I took in all of this and here are some of my thoughts.

WR

This is a complex subject. First, it doesn’t sound like the Eagles were all that high on any of the targets. The team put together a plan of how to spend their money and they went away from WR.

Howie mentioned prices dropping and talked about how that caught them a bit by surprise. This was odd. They still have space and could have made a move on a receiver this week based on what we know, but Howie really pushed the narrative that the plans had already been made and money accounted for.

He was pushing the idea of not wanting to tie up every dollar this year and mentioned the need to have the cap also work in 2021, 2022 and the coming years. Maybe there are some contract extensions on the way.

Howie explained that the Eagles don’t feel desperate at WR. He knows the team must add talent, but talked about how the team is higher on the returning guys (DeSean, JJAW, Ward) than outsiders are.

Howie also talked about Alshon, as if he might be coming back. That caught me off guard. Is this legit or is there an agenda?

If Howie wants to trade Alshon, he’s got to make it sound like the Eagles still value him. This could simply be Howie trying to create any kind of a trade market for his veteran receiver. That would be smart business.

CB

You really got the feel that fixing the secondary was the primary focus off the offseason, specifically CB. The Eagles want guys that can cover, but also guys that can make plays. Howie mentioned multiple times that Darius Slay is a guy who can get the ball back for the offense.

Howie had strong praise for Avonte Maddox. The Eagles expect him to be the team’s #2 CB and to start across from Slay.

The team still has hope for Sidney Jones, but this is his time to “prove it”. Howie didn’t say anything bad about Rasul Douglas, but also didn’t make a strong case for him. It sure sounds like he is the odd man out.

DL

The Eagles really wanted Javon Hargrave. They wanted to improve the DL play and felt he was a great fit for the scheme. Hargrave gives them flexibility and depth. The Eagles now have three good interior rushers in Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson and Hargrave, not to mention the ability to move Brandon Graham inside when they want. Jackson is athletic enough to play DE.

Howie talked about how good QBs are at getting the ball out and the best way to affect them is with pressure up the middle. The Eagles should be able to do that.

MISC

The Eagles are excited to have Nate Sudfeld back. He is the backup QB.

Jatavis Brown is an explosive player and should help the defense and STs.

Howie talked about how Jim Schwartz likes to play 3-safety sets and Will Parks is a key addition because of that.

OVERALL

Howie seemed pleased with the offseason. He said the team is better, faster and younger. Those were three key goals for the offseason.

He also stressed that the offseason isn’t over. The draft is less than a month away, but pro moves will continue to be made right up to the trade deadline. The Eagles are keeping their eyes and ears open.

Howie said the team still needs to get better. There is plenty of work left to be done.

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Eagles Add Another DB

Posted: March 26th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

I got an alert on my phone today. It said “Eagles add free agent” and cut off right after that. I wondered if they finally decided to go for a WR. Or maybe they added another LB. Who would it be?

I did not expect this.

Interesting.

Robey-Coleman is a terrific slot corner. I’ve been a fan of his for years. From that perspective, this is a smart addition, especially since the Eagles got him cheap.

Robey-Coleman played for the Bills in 2014, when Jim Schwartz was the defensive coordinator. Robey-Coleman will know the scheme and have an idea of what’s expected of him.

He is absolutely the kind of DB Schwartz loves. Robey-Coleman is undersized, aggressive and plays with attitude.

Here is what we’re looking at for the Eagles secondary.

CB Darius Slay
CB Avonte Maddox
NB Nickell Robey-Coleman

SS Jalen Mills
FS Rodney McLeod
NS Will Parks

You have Cre’Von LeBlanc and Sidney Jones as the backup corners. Marcus Epps and Rudy Ford are the backup safeties.

The Eagles now have a #1 CB in Slay and a proven NB in Robey-Coleman. Maddox is the mystery man. Can he get the job done as a full-time starter on the outside? The Eagles are betting that he can.

My only complaint is that I want LeBlanc on the field. I hoped the team was going to have him as the NB. The Eagles seem reluctant to rely on someone who played in four games last year. I do understand that side of things.

LeBlanc seems to have the right attitude.

LeBlanc isn’t going to give up the NB role without a fight. That is exactly the attitude you want.

I think competition should be a major theme for the secondary. Let them all battle for jobs.

*****

Still no update on Rasul Douglas being traded. There are some rumors out there, but nothing from a credible source that I know of.

You can bet Howie is working the phones and trying to pull something off.

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Jalen Mills says he will take over the Malcolm Jenkins role.

I was hoping McLeod would spend more time in the box.

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It will be interesting to see if this can make a difference.

Jones has legit talent. He’s got to be more confident and aggressive. If this trainer can get Jones into the right mindset, that would be huge. Jones will have a chance to compete for the #2 job, but he would have to earn it.

*****

If there was any concern about the Eagles overpaying Slay, that’s not the case. The deal is pretty team friendly.

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