Assessing the Roster

Posted: February 16th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 15 Comments »

One of the questions people ask me is if this is the worst Eagles roster in the last 25 years. That’s a tough question because we have to project with this roster, but we actually know what happened with previous years.

If we compare the 2021 Eagles vs the 1999 Eagles based on the rosters as of Feb 15 in each year, I’d lean toward this group being better.

QB – The returning player in ’99 was Koy Detmer. I would say Jalen Hurts has a clear advantage over him.

RB – This is tricky. The ’99 team had Duce Staley and Charlie Garner. That sounds great, but Garner was coming off a disappointing season and was cut in April. Staley moved the chains, but wasn’t much of a playmaker. He averaged 4.1 ypc and scored 6 TDs on 315 touches. Miles Sanders wasn’t as much of a workhorse, but did average 5.3 ypc and scored 6 TDs on 192 touches. Boston Scott is an effective role player. I would take Sanders over Staley. Playmakers are harder to find than workhorse runners.

WR – This is ugly no matter how you slice it. The ’99 team added Charles Johnson and Torrance Small in free agency because things were so bad. We’re not counting them since we’re focused on the roster pre-free agency. Dietrich Jells was a holdover who did bring some speed to the mix. Greg Ward, Jalen Reagor, Travis Fulgham and John Hightower somehow win this easily. Yikes.

TE – Chad Lewis only had 12 career catches at this point in ’99. The presence of Dallas Goedert gives the current team an easy win.

OL – We joke about Jamon Brown being a bad OL. The worst game I’ve seen from an interior blocker was OG Bubba Miller vs SF in 1998. The rest of the ’99 crew was Tra Thomas, Jermane Mayberry and Steve Everitt. There was no viable RT. John Welbourn was drafted to play that spot (moved to LG eventually). The current group wins this going away. There are four solid starters and Jordan Mailata showed real potential. Then you mix in Jack Driscoll and Nate Herbig. Light years better.

DE – This is interesting. The ’99 team had Hugh Douglas, Mike Mamula and Greg Jefferson. The current group of Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat and Derek Barnett is better overall, but none of them is as good as Douglas individually.

DT – Hollis Thomas and Bill Johnson were solid starters, but not nearly as good as Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave.

LB – The ’99 team had Willie T at WLB. That was the last of Gang Green. The other OLB was…James Darling. How many of you even remember him? Some young guy named Jeremiah Trotter was the returning guy with MLB potential. You would easily pick the ’99 group, but…remember, this is before Trotter did anything. The Eagles had such little faith in him that they spent pick 35 on Barry Gardner. The current group of Alex Singleton, T.J. Edwards and Davion Taylor is hardly compelling. I’ll give the advantage to ’99 based on William Thomas being the best of any LB on either roster. The ’99 group also had Mike Caldwell coming off the bench.

DB – This is a slam dunk for the ’99 team. Troy, Bobby, Al and Dawk were all above average starters. We didn’t know Dawk was on his way to a Hall of Fame career at this point, though. He didn’t become a star until Jim Johnson turned him loose in ’99. Still, this group was head and shoulders beyond Darius Slay and the current bunch.

Overall, I’m giving the advantage to the current group when we compare the rosters as of mid-February in each offseason.

The 1999 team drafted future starters Donovan McNabb, John Welbourn, Damon Moore and Cecil Martin. They added rookies Brian Finneran, Rashard Cook and Dameane Douglas. Douglas and Cook were key role players.

They added free agents Charles Johnson, Torrance Small, Paul Grasmanis, Tim Hauck, Eric Bieniemy and Doug Pederson.

The current team won’t have much money to work with so free agency will be very tricky. They have plenty of draft picks, but getting them right will be a challenge.

Please don’t read this as some kind of compliment to the current team or Howie Roseman. The 1998 Eagles went 3-13 and had one of the worst offenses I’ve seen in watching 40+ years of NFL football. That was a dreadful team. For the current roster to be a hair better than that bunch heading into the offseason is pathetic.

The ’99 team had a couple of sleeping giants in Trot and Dawk. Trot became a Pro Bowl player, Dawk a Hall of Famer. I don’t know that anyone on the current roster has that kind of potential. I don’t see it. Reagor could develop into a star receiver, but he was a first round pick. I’m looking more for guys taken after that. Dawk was the final pick of the second round and Trot was a third round pick.

I do think the new coaching staff can make a world of difference. Dawk and Trot both thrived under Jim Johnson. Jermane Mayberry played better once Andy Reid took over as head coach. Coaching matters.

Jalen Reagor has outstanding talent. He could become a very good player this year. Fulgham showed big time potential last year. I’m interested to see what he does this year. Jalen Hurts can take a big step forward in his second year. All of the young LBs have the potential to play better this year. I’m hopeful Avonte Maddox can find a home and develop into a solid starter. This team isn’t devoid of young players with potential, but they need these players to develop and become consistently good.

Like the old coach once told the college kid, “Son, your potential is going to get me fired.”

I think one of the issues with Pederson and his staff is that there were too many underachievers. Maybe the new staff can fix that.

Let’s sure hope so.

*****

Taylor played for the Colts in 2019, under Jonathan Gannon. He gives the new defensive coordinator a familiar face to work with. Taylor played in 5 games and had 7 tackles so it wasn’t as if there is some special connection.

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