What’s Up at WR?

Posted: March 25th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

The Eagles didn’t go after free agent Amari Cooper. They didn’t trade for DeAndre Hopkins or Stefon Diggs. That made sense, as long as the team was targeting a mid-level free agent.

The receiver market was slow the first week, but that changed on Tuesday. Receivers started signing left and right.

Breshad Perriman went to the Jets on a cheap deal.

Robby Anderson, formerly of the Jets, went to Carolina on a mid-level deal.

Devin Funchess went to the Packers.

Phillip Dorsett signed with Seattle.

Travis Benjamin went to the Niners.

Laquon Treadwell signed with Atlanta.

All those mediocre receivers and the Eagles didn’t sign any of them. Or even try to, from what we’ve heard.

I’ll have to admit, I’m surprised. I knew the Eagles would focus on the draft, but I did figure they would sign a veteran to help offset the loss of Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor.

The offseason has barely started so there is still plenty of time for the team to add a veteran. And there are still some players on the market who could be of interest.

Demarcus Robinson
Tajae Sharpe
Rashard Higgins
Geronimo Allison
Demaryius Thomas

Those are some names that could make sense. The Eagles are obviously being picky. I don’t mean that as an insult. Teams are wise to be picky when it comes to free agency. Don’t just sign names. Find players that fit you, on and off the field.

At the same time, it is fair to question just how picky the Eagles should be.

DeSean Jackson
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside
Greg Ward

When healthy, Jackson is still a difference-maker. JJAW is a mystery at this point. Ward looked good down the stretch, but he’s still a #3 or #4 receiver. Adding a couple of talented rookies will help in a big way, but is that enough for 2020. Can you count on all the young receivers producing?

The Eagles could be looking at this a couple of ways.

First, they could have their eye on someone. This could be someone still on the market or possibly a player that they are hoping to trade for. Forget about big names, though. I think those deals are done. Why the delay? The Eagles could be trying to drive the price down.

There is also the possibility the Eagles don’t like the WR market at all. If so, don’t make a move now. Wait. See what happens after the draft. We know some veterans will be cut or put on the trade block.

There is risk no matter what the Eagles do. We all liked the thought of Perriman, but he was coming off his third team in four years. And beware the player who has a career year in a contract year. History is filled with guys who did that and then struggled after getting a deal. I know Perriman signed pretty cheap, but it is possible the Eagles just didn’t like him. It wasn’t as if the other 31 teams were throwing money at the guy.

The best organizations are the ones who have the discipline to be patient. Ravens. Patriots. They are not afraid to sit back and watch the market. They acknowledge the possibility that they might not find the guy they want. They may have to rely on who they already have or roll the dice on a player with issues, but they would rather take those risks than sign players they don’t like.

I’m certainly not thrilled with the current WR situation, but I can live with it if Howie has a plan. If he’s just sitting back and hoping the draft fixes things. that would scare the heck out of me.

We don’t know Howie’s plan, but this might be by design.

Does that mean Howie has something up his sleeve?

Stay tuned.

*****

The end of an era.

*****

Could the Eagles still be looking at CB?

Interesting.

We’ll see if they really liked Harris or if they are still looking for help.

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Assessing the Secondary

Posted: March 22nd, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

 

We are a week into the NFL offseason and that has already brought a lot of change to the Eagles secondary. They are now younger, faster and have better cover skills, at least on paper. We need to see them in action before we know anything definitively, but I like what they’ve done so far.

I spent some time in the last couple of days re-watching Eagles games from late in the 2019 season. I wanted to take another look at what happened now that we’re not in the moment. I also wanted to watch players and imagine them in different roles.

Think about the Seattle game. The outside corners were Jalen Mills and Avonte Maddox. Neither of them was a good size/speed matchup for D.K. Metcalf. With the current group, you would have Darius Slay on him for most of the game. Maddox would play the other side. You would tell the deep safety to be especially careful when Maddox was on Metcalf. I think you would have a much better shot at handling that passing game.

Let’s start with Maddox. Right now he would seem to be the #2 CB. I wasn’t too keen on this idea before I started watching, but I became more comfortable with the idea as I watched more tape. Maddox is very good in the short passing game. His weakness is on downfield throws. That is something he has to work on, but he can also look for help from the deep safety.

Rodney McLeod was the deep safety the vast majority of 2019. He no longer excels in that role. McLeod can still be effective, but you don’t want him back there 40 to 50 snaps a game. Mills will be the other starting safety and he has a chance to be good in that role. The problem he had at CB was looking into the backfield while trying to stay with a receiver going deep.

If Mills is 15 yards deep at the snap and can work back while watching the QB, that gives him a much better chance of being in the right spot. He can use his instincts and ball skills to hopefully make some plays.

Will Parks is a major upgrade at the #3 safety. Last year that role was split between Andrew Sendejo and Marcus Epps. Neither had the speed to do much in that role. Epps is worth bringing back to see if he has improved. Sendejo was just signed by the Browns. Parks has the skills and athleticism to play in the box, in the slot or back deep. He gives Jim Schwartz the chance to be creative with his DBs.

Last year Malcolm Jenkins was in the box the vast majority of the time. That limited what McLeod and the #3 safety could do.

Schwartz has a legitimate #1 corner in Slay. He has three safeties that can all run and can switch positions. I don’t think we’ll need to come up with a nickname for this secondary anytime soon, but they have the potential to be a solid group.

I feel better about Maddox playing outside, but there are concerns. Deep speed is one, but durability might be the biggest issue. He’s gotten hurt in each of his first two seasons. Nothing structural, but he has missed time. Maddox throws his body around and that leads to some tough hits and landings.

One thing really jumped out when I re-watched the games…Cre’Von LeBlanc. He just makes things happen. I want him on the field. LeBlanc plays with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. I think that has an effect on his teammates.

Sidney Jones would be the top backup CB right now. He can play inside or outside. Maybe having a corner like Slay around him will help bring out the best in Sidney. I know Jenkins tried, but maybe Slay can connect better with him.

What about Rasul Douglas?

This makes sense. Douglas was benched for the playoff game last year. He just doesn’t have the long speed to go against explosive receivers.

Douglas does have his moments. There are times when he looks good. They just don’t happen consistently enough.

Because of his size and ball skills, there should be a market for Douglas. Some teams covet big CBs. The Eagles aren’t getting great compensation for him so keep your expectations realistic. Maybe you trade Douglas to move up in a round. Or maybe you get an underachiever from someone.

The Eagles still need to add more pieces as well. I expect them to draft a CB and a safety. I don’t think they’ll look for more free agency answers, but never say never. You never know who might get cut.

I think the secondary is headed in the right direction. Then again, I’ve said that before and been wrong. We won’t know for sure until we see this group in action in September (fingers crossed).

*****

The Colts cut Pierre Desir yesterday. He’s already off the market.

So much for that idea.

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Two In, One Out

Posted: March 21st, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

The Eagles came alive on Saturday, making moves to improve the talent and depth of the defense. They didn’t add household names or make sexy moves, but these are the kind of acquisitions that can really pay off for a team.

First up, a LB.

Brown played for the Chargers from 2016-2019. He started 23 of 56 games in that stretch, although he was primarily a special teams player last season. Brown is 5-11, 221 and is a natural at WLB.

For now, the Eagles could go with Nate Gerry at SAM, T.J. Edwards in the middle and Brown on the weak side. I know a lot of people think the team would be nuts to rely too much on Gerry and Edwards. The Eagles are going to have to go cheap somewhere. LB will be that spot.

The Brown signing feels familiar, like Corey Nelson in 2018 and L.J. Fort in 2019. Nelson was terrible and got cut. Fort was terrific in the summer, but then Jim Schwartz buried him on the depth chart and Fort was cut during the season. I still don’t fully understand the disconnect on Fort. I thought he should have been playing.

Back to Brown. I liked him quite a bit coming out of college. I put him on my team of favorite non-first round players.

WR Pharoh Cooper – South Carolina
WR Malcolm Mitchell – Georgia
WR Leonte Caroo – Rutgers
QB Vernon Adams – Oregon
RB Kenneth Dixon – La Tech
TE Beau Sandland – Montana State
OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai – TCU
OG Christian Westerman – Arizona State
OC Nick Martin – Notre Dame
OG Jordan Walsh – Iowa
OT Joe Gore – Clemson

DE Ronald Blair – Appalachian State
DT Trevon Coley – Florida Atlantic
DT Javon Hargrave – SC State
DE Tyrone Holmes – Montana
LB Jatavis Brown – Akron
ILB Steven Daniels – Boston College
LB Brandon Chubb – Wake Forest
S Kevin Byard – MTSU
S Tyvis Powell – Ohio State
CB Eric Murray – Minnesota
CB Sean Davis – Maryland

You might notice a couple of other interesting names in there. Big V had caught my eye as a late round OL target. And DT Javon Hargrave was a player I liked quite a bit. Who doesn’t love 1-gap DTs that blow up plays?

Brown can be a terrific STs player. He can compete for a role on defense. Brown is young and runs well. He’s the kind of LB you want to bring in. We’ll have to wait and see where he fits on the defense, but he at least offers some depth. He could play MLB and would be fine as one of the nickel LBs.

The Eagles also signed Will Parks, a S/CB from the Broncos.

The 25-year old Parks has started 15 of 62 career games. He can play SS, FS or in the slot. Parks is at his best in the box. Strong, forceful tackler. He shows okay man cover skills. I don’t think you want him starting at CB, but he can go out wide if a team goes with an empty set. Denver didn’t use him deep very often, but he did show potential when playing back there.

Parks is here to take on the role that Corey Graham had in 2017-18 and Andrew Sendejo had last year. The Eagles love to use 3-safety sets. Jalen Mills and Rodney McLeod project as the starters. Parks gives them a third player for those sets.

And I’m sure the Eagles told Parks he will have a chance to earn a starting role. The Eagles need players competing for jobs in the secondary. Only Darius Slay has earned one.

The Eagles accomplished their goal of getting younger and faster at safety. Last year McLeod was the youngest of the safeties at age 29. This year he’s the oldest at 30. We’ll have to wait and see how the moves pan out, but I do like the thinking behind the moves.

Mike Kaye has a few more thoughts on Parks.

The Eagles are taking a chance on Brown and Parks. Those players are taking a gamble on themselves, hoping they can shine with a new team and then earn a long-term contract in 2021.

I like the moves. The Eagles added young, athletic players who offer depth and STs ability. And they were cheap.

The team will draft a LB and still could add someone else in free agency.

My guess is that the team is done shopping at safety, but will certainly add one in the draft.

*****

Agholor helped the Eagles win a Super Bowl. For that, thank you. We should always be grateful.

Agholor was also one of the most frustrating Eagles of the last 20 years. He could look so good at times and so dreadful at others. The drop against the Falcons will be a lasting memory for most of us.

I wonder if an abrasive, demanding coach like Jon Gruden will bring out the best in Agholor or turn him into a complete basket case.

*****

I need to do some tape study to see if the Eagles should be interested. Desir will turn 30 in September. I’d rather the team focus on youth, but CB has been such a weakness that I wouldn’t rule anything out.

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A Legit Corner

Posted: March 20th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 3 Comments »

The Eagles finally brought in outside help for the secondary. They traded third and fifth round picks to Detroit to acquire CB Darius Slay. The Eagles gave Slay a contract extension of 3 years and $50M.

This was not a move that everyone loved. Slay is 29 and coming off a less than great season. The Eagles gave up two picks and then had to pay Slay big bucks. Why not just pay more to Byron Jones and keep the draft picks?

The Eagles like Slay. They tried to trade for him last October, but couldn’t work anything out. As I wrote yesterday, the best teams target specific players. Pay big bucks to guys that you like, on and off the field.

Slay is a talented cover corner. He also is a playmaker. Slay has 13 interceptions over the past three years. He has at least 13 passes defensed in every year as a full-time starter. Jim Schwartz prefers corners that can play the ball. He covets takeaways. That’s one area where Slay is a clear upgrade over Jones.

We can debate how good Slay is. We can argue whether the team should have gone harder after Jones instead of ending up with Slay. At the end of the day, Slay is a better CB than the Eagles have had in a while and he makes the team better.

Howie Roseman didn’t make this move lightly. I think he knows that he had to find an impact player for the secondary. Howie has been looking for several years and hasn’t had much luck. If this move fails, someone else could be looking for the next CB in a few years.

Howie obviously thinks Slay can be the guy the Eagles need. Schwartz is a believer as well.

The team will still take a CB in the draft. This secondary needs more than one player to get better. Slay gives them a foundational player to build around. That’s critical in the current NFL, where passing is king.

It probably doesn’t hurt that Slay fares well against Amari Cooper.

https://twitter.com/SharpFootball/status/1240499435425222656

It is going to be fun to finally watch a corner that can really cover. And make plays.

https://twitter.com/AdamLefkoe/status/1240492680234360832

*****

This was the only move today, but there were lots of rumors.

Interesting. The team has Rodney McLeod and Jalen Mills at safety for now. Schwartz likes to use 3-safety sets so he could ask for another starting caliber player. This could be a cheap veteran to add to the mix. Or the Eagles could add a talented safety and project McLeod or Mills to the #3 role. There are still good options on the market. It will be interesting to see what kind of player the team goes after.

*****

There was a lot of talk today about the Eagles making a move for DE Yannick Ngakoue. This is one heck of a talented DE.

https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1239982331861127168

I find it hard to believe the Eagles would be able to pull that off. The Jaguars will want at least a first round pick for him. Maybe Howie dangles the 2021 first rounder and some other compensation.

Ngakoue is partially to blame for all the talk. Is he just stirring the pot? Is he genuinely interested in coming to Philly?

This feels like a long shot, but he is a dynamic pass rusher and  the Eagles do covet DL. Stay tuned on this one.

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Assessing the Start

Posted: March 19th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on Assessing the Start

The Eagles are not setting the world on fire and that has more than a few people upset. The team added Javon Hargrave on Monday. They re-signed a few players on Tuesday. On Wednesday? Crickets.

The lack of moves has fans upset. And the news got worse.

That’s a lot to unpack.

We’ll start with Hopkins. There is no question that he would have been a huge addition to the passing game. No one questions his talent. Was he the right fit?

The Eagles decided he wasn’t.

It is easy to rip the team for not going after him. We don’t know what the cost would have been, but the actual deal with the Cardinals tells you the price was cheaper than it should have been.

Hopkins is about to turn 28. He wants a new deal that is going to pay him $18M to $20M per season. That is a fair price for such an elite receiver, but the Eagles obviously didn’t want to sink that much money into one receiver. They didn’t go after Amari Cooper, who is younger and wouldn’t have required any trade compensation.

This tells me the Eagles are more focused on building a WR corps than having one elite player. I have no problem with that philosophy, but it does require the team to draft well. The Eagles have struggled with drafting WRs for most of the last decade. That must change this year.

It is still possible the team could add a veteran in free agency, but multiple reporters indicated that the team isn’t focusing on veterans right now. They prefer to add multiple players in the draft. I would be shocked if the team doesn’t add a veteran at some point.

As to Jenkins, he left for a deal that isn’t much different than the money he was set to get. Many are taking that and coming to the conclusion that he simply wanted out of Philly.

Maybe.

It sure looks like the Eagles were focused on getting younger at safety and simply let Jenkins walk. Rodney McLeod is no spring chicken, but he’s two-and-a-half years younger and was also cheaper. I think he’s also better in coverage.

Jim Schwartz said when he came to Philly he wanted interchangeable safeties. That was no longer possible with Jenkins. He needed to be in the box the vast majority of the time. With McLeod and Jalen Mills, the Eagles can vary their coverages more than they could the last couple of years.

I know a lot of people are upset with Jenkins leaving. He was a great leader and still a good player, but I’m not going to get upset with the Eagles for letting an older player leave when that’s what I’ve been calling for them to do. Find younger talent.

We have no idea if the Eagles had any interest in Trufant. We assume they do because new DBs coach Marquand Manuel worked with Trufant in Atlanta. We don’t know if pro personnel scouts and other coaches liked Trufant.

There is no question that we’re all frustrated by the lack of action at WR and CB. I hate to sound like a broken record, but be patient. The league year technically started at 4pm on Wednesday.

The worst thing the team could do is sign players they don’t believe in. You and I make lists of players we like. When the guy at the top goes, we move down to the next one. That’s not exactly how it really works. Teams are picky about who they will commit millions of dollars to. They have detailed reports on age, character and health.

I’m okay with the Eagles deliberate approach as long as it is by design. If they are staying true to their rankings and being disciplined, that is a good thing. You spend months putting together specific lists of free agent targets. Just because a couple of guys sign elsewhere, you don’t panic and start throwing money at other players.

You need to be patient and be smart about your options.

Maybe Slay is a guy the Eagles really want and they’re waiting for the Lions price to come down. There are still other guys on the market. We don’t know the Eagles plan right now so that makes it frustrating. All we can do is sit around and guess.

The team still has plenty of cap room and there are still plenty of good players available. There are still moves to be made.

The Eagles will add some players. I just can’t tell you when.

UPDATE

Stay tuned. That would be a big move for the secondary.

*****

There has been a bigger trade market this year than I anticipated. We’ll see if that continues.

The Eagles could have their eyes on some players who we don’t even know are available.

I was shocked to see DT Jurrell Casey traded for a 7th round pick. That is incredibly cheap.

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