New Eyes

Posted: April 3rd, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 4 Comments »

The Eagles front office thought enough of Jeremiah Trotter to spend a third round pick on him back in 1998. Head coach Ray Rhodes and defensive coordinator Emmitt Thomas didn’t play Trotter much at all as a rookie. The Eagles were an awful team, but Trotter couldn’t get on the field. He played in eight games and was credited with three tackles.

That changed when Andy Reid and Jim Johnson took over in 1999. They gave Trotter a chance to earn a starting job, which he did. Trotter then became a Pro Bowl linebacker. Reid knew how to coach him and Johnson knew how to use him. Trotter thrived under them.

Coaching changes can have a huge impact on players.

Jermane Mayberry was seen as an underachiever after the first three years of his career. He bounced between guard and tackle. He bounced between the left and right sides. The Eagles finally put him at RG in 2000. Mayberry started 47 of 48 games, helped the team get to the playoffs each of those years and he went to his first Pro Bowl in 2002.

Brian Dawkins was a good player from 1996-1998. He was an up ‘n coming DB. No one talked about him as a Hall of Fame talent, though. Jim Johnson got creative with Dawkins and turned him into Weapon X. The rest is football history.

Doug Pederson and his staff weren’t able to get Nelson Agholor turned around in their first season together. Pederson then hired Mike Groh as WRs coach and Agholor had his breakout season.

Trey Burton was a STs ace when Pederson arrived. Burton became a good role player at TE and eventually was signed away in free agency as a starting TE.

It will be interesting to see if Nick Sirianni and his staff can come into Philly and have a major impact on some players. Let’s take a look at some candidates who could breakout under the new staff.

DB Avonte Maddox – Like Mayberry above, Maddox has been held back due to position changes and injuries. If the new coaching staff can let Maddox settle into one role and he can stay healthy, he could become an above average starter. I think this is possible in the slot or at free safety.

LB Davion Taylor – You can see a comparison between Taylor and Trotter. Both were third round picks who struggled to get on the field as rookies. The big difference is that Taylor is more of a raw talent because he played so little football before college. He’s still got a lot to learn. Taylor is a good athlete and should be a good fit for the modern game, where playing in space is so critical. Having a full offseason should be a huge help in his development.

WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside – The new Eagles staff has done good things with wide receivers at previous stops. This might be their biggest challenge. JJAW has shown next to nothing in his NFL career so far. The coaches need to see if they can turn him into an effective role player. The Colts had success with bigger receivers in the slot. Maybe JJAW can find a home on the inside. He needs to show something somewhere. If not, his time in Philly will be coming to an end.

SS K’Von Wallace – New DC Jonathan Gannon helped develop good safeties in both Minnesota and Indy. Wallace got on the field a little bit as a rookie, but not nearly as much as everyone hoped. If anyone can get the best out of Wallace, it should be Gannon. The hope is that Wallace can become a solid starter. Please forget the comparisons to Dawkins. Let Wallace be Wallace.

RB Jason Huntley – Sirianni had success in Indy with RB Nyheim Hines (5-9, 196). Huntley is 5-9, 193. Both are athletic runners and good receivers. Huntley has yet to show anything beyond flashes in the NFL. The coaches know how to use a player with his build and skill set so he should have a chance to succeed, if he can put it all together.

LB Genard Avery – With all the talk of positionless football, Avery is proof you still have to line up somewhere. The Browns and Eagles tried him at DE. Avery showed flashes of real talent, but couldn’t do anything with consistency. The Eagles are moving him to LB, hoping they can find a role for the talented player. The 2019 mid-season trade for him looks awful right now. We’ll see if the new coaches can change that. Playing in a scheme where the LBs blitz more could be a good fit for him.

TE Hakeem Butler – There was a time when Butler was thought to be a potential first round pick as a WR. He fell to the fourth round and never got on the field for the Cardinals. The Eagles picked him up and moved him to TE. Butler was a big, physical receiver so the transition to TE makes sense. He was 6-5, 227 at the Combine. Butler has big hands and 35-inch arms. He can add bulk and carry it well. Can he learn to play in traffic in the middle of the field? Can he become an effective blocker? Butler is an interesting project.

TE Tyree Jackson – TEs come from all kinds of places. Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham were basketball players. The Cardinals spent a fourth-round pick on QB Logan Thomas. That didn’t pan out for them, but Thomas converted to TE and had a breakout year for Washington last year. Jackson will try to follow in his footsteps. Jackson has the size (6-7, 249) and athleticism (4.59 in the 40) to make the conversion. He has to learn how to catch passes and block. It could take a while for him to develop those skills, but Jackson does have potential and is worth working with.

Any time  you make a list like this, most of the guys are going to fail. That’s not a knock on these players or the team. It’s simply the reality of life in the NFL. Most guys don’t pan out.

If the coaches can one or two of these guys to develop as hoped, it would help the Eagles efforts to bounce back. You can’t rely on just outsiders. You need current underachievers or nobodies to turn into something if you want to turn a team around.

*****

Some of you are really into numbers. If so, check out the players who are changing numbers and enjoy.

*****

Matt Alkire wrote a good post on some late round targets for the Eagles.

Let’s hope Howie and the scouts can find some late round gems. This team needs to hit on as many picks as possible.

_