There was a lot of talk about the Eagles roster and age back in early September. Let’s take an updated look at that situation.
33 – M Vick, D Jones, J Dorenbos
32 – I Sopoaga
31 – T Cole, T Herremans, E Mathis, J Peters
30 – J Avant
29 – A Barbre, J Casey, D Ryans
28 – B Celek, C Williams
Aside from the OL, I don’t see any players that are critical to the Eagles from a long term standpoint.
DeMeco Ryans is a solid ILB, but isn’t a guy that is so good he can’t be replaced. We’ll talk about his future after the season when we know just how well he played for the whole year.
Trent Cole just isn’t a disruptive pass rusher on a consistent basis. I think he’s gone in the offseason. This could easily be Celek’s last year, but he could also stick around because he’s a pretty good blocker.
Keep in mind that guys like Mathis, Barbre, Casey, and Williams might have extra tread on the tire since they haven’t been starters since age 23 or 24. Those guys were late bloomers. That might change their career clock. Might.
It is easy to beg the Eagles to cut some of these guys now to get playing time to younger guys, but there is some value to keeping these players around. Isaac Sopoaga is a marginal player, but what if he is able to help guys like Bennie Logan, Clifton Geathers and Damion Square develop? He can teach them how to train, practice and play.
The same is true for Cole with some of the DE/LBs. Guys like Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Travis Long and Joe Kruger can all learn from Trent. Just watching how hard he works 24/7 is a good lesson for them.
Just putting young players on the field can be dangerous. You don’t want to let them develop or keep bad habits. Coaches need to work with them. Veteran players also need to be there, as coaches and examples. Cole made the transition to OLB quicker than Graham this summer. Trent isn’t substantially more athletic. He embraced it more and sold out to do whatever the coaches wanted.
You can also bet the coaches got on Curry and his 2-gap struggles. They had to point to Cole who is doing some 2-gapping when he moves to DE in certain Nickel sets. Cole isn’t thrilled, but he does his absolute best to execute the defensive scheme as the coaches have it designed. Curry’s first instinct is to do what he did in college…attack. Cole might lack the burst to win off the edge on a regular basis, but he’ll do what the coaches ask of him. And he’ll do it as best he can.
Curry needs to learn from Cole. You must adjust to the scheme. You must do what the coaches want. That’s how you get playing time. That’s also how the scheme works. If you freelance, that can ruin the effort of the other 10 defenders.
When Joe Mays was a UDFA playing 3rd string MLB, he made a ton of tackles in the preseason. The media wrote good things about him. So did I. His teammates weren’t so thrilled. Joe didn’t stay in his gap. He just ran to the ball. That worked in July, but he was awful when he got on the field in real games. Players must function within the scheme.
I’m encouraged by the Eagles young talent. Cox and Thornton could be very good DEs. Logan has the potential to be a solid NT. Mychal Kendricks is still too erratic, but there is no denying his talent. Connor Barwin is 27 and can start for another couple of years. Earl Wolff looks good. Brandon Fletcher is 27 and could be a starting CB for a few years. Brandon Boykin is a good young player.
The offense has Shady, DJax, Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, Bryce Brown, and some OL who might be okay. You can also say Foles and Barkley are at least solid backup QBs if you don’t think they have starting potential.
The Eagles are not an old team like the Giants. The foundation pieces of that team are aging away.
The Eagles still have a mix of young and old. The older players can be phased out without killing the team. The only area that is vulnerable right now is the OL and the Eagles do have Kecle and Johnson as key pieces to build around.
As younger players like Ertz, Curry and Graham get more comfortable with the scheme and what the coaches expect of them, their playing time will increase. There really is a lot of logic to doing things this way. Just putting guys out there and say “Go play” sounds better in theory than it works. The point is to gain the right kind of experience so the players can develop and become key guys when the team has big time potential.