Let’s Be Negative

Posted: March 17th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 3 Comments »

I think the Eagles are off to a good start with their offseason moves. At the same time, I tend to be a positive person. I see the glass as half-full.

I thought it might be interesting to examine the moves with a negative slant. We know not everything is going to work as expected. Just look at last year. Corey Nelson was thought to be the starting WLB. He didn’t even make the final cut. Mike Wallace was supposed to be the team’s deep threat. He got hurt and missed most of the season. Even when he did play, Wallace didn’t have a catch. Signing veterans like Haloti Ngata, Darren Sproles and Corey Graham didn’t work out as hoped. I thought those were good moves at the time. I was wrong.

So let’s take another look at the moves so far, but focusing on the downside of them.

Malik Jackson – The Eagles signed a productive, disruptive DT to pair with Fletcher Cox. That’s one way to look at this. The other is that Jackson was just benched by a team that went 5-11. He was told that he didn’t play good enough run defense. Jackson disputed that notion, but run defense is not his strength.

Jackson is 29. He makes plays based on athleticism. If he gets banged up or age finally starts to catch up with him, Jackson will be less effective. He must be a playmaker. Jackson isn’t a guy who can do the dirty work like Tim Jernigan or Bennie Logan.

DeSean Jackson – What is the downside of trading for one of the most explosive receivers in the league? There is no doubt that Jackson remains one of the fastest players in the league. And the Eagles do need speed. But Jackson does have some baggage. One of the reasons Tampa let him go is that Jackson didn’t get along with QB Jameis Winston. It always makes you nervous when a receiver feuds with a QB. Is that a one-time deal or could that be an issue that will travel with the receiver?

Jackson can be a handful for a coaching staff to deal with. During the Doug Pederson era, players have generally responded well to tough coaching. We’ll have to see if there are any issues.

Jackson isn’t the most durable player. He hasn’t played in 16 games since 2013. He was on the field for 452 snaps in 2018, fewer than Dallas Goedert played for the Eagles. The Eagles haven’t exactly had great luck with older players staying healthy the last couple of years.

Jason Peters – Who wouldn’t want to bring back the best LT in Eagles history (apologies to Tra Thomas)? There is no question that Peters is still an above average LT. The only real downside to this is one we’ve already covered…durability. Peters managed to start all 16 games last year, but only played in 79.49 percent of offensive snaps. Continuity is critical to good OL play. Peters leaving games on a regular basis is less than ideal. Is a 37-year old LT going to stay healthy this year when he didn’t the previous two years?

Ronald Darby – The Eagles re-signed their best cover corner and didn’t have to pay mega-bucks. Sounds good, right? Maybe. Darby is coming off a torn ACL. He’s hoping to be ready for the season opener, but there are no guarantees, as we saw with Carson Wentz last year. The Eagles had a group of cheap, young CBs already in place. You can argue that the team should have let the young guys play instead of bringing back an injured player. The Eagles could have used the money they spent on Darby to upgrade some other area. Or they could have saved that cap space for a move this summer or during the season.

L.J. Fort – What is the harm in bringing in a LB who can cover and is good on STs? The Eagles already have Paul Worrilow, Kamu Grugier-Hill and Nathan Gerry, all guys who fit that description. The Eagles could use a LB who can play the run. Maybe they’ll add someone in free agency or the draft, but Fort just seems a bit redundant.

RB – The Eagles haven’t made a move to fill the biggest hole on the team. Not ideal.

QB – Who is the backup? The Eagles say a lot of good things about Nate Sudfeld, but do they really think he’s ready to be The Guy if needed?

As a reminder, I like the moves the Eagles have made. I’m just trying to look at them from a different perspective to see the downside of the moves.

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Do you need something to bring you joy today?

Possibly Mr. Bama’s finest work (admittedly that is setting the bar pretty low).

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Darby Sticks Around

Posted: March 15th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

Most people rated Ronald Darby as the top CB available in free agency. Unfortunately for Darby, that perception didn’t become reality. Coming off a torn ACL, there was only a soft market for his services. That may have become good news for the Eagles.

That certainly isn’t what Darby was looking for as a free agent. But this isn’t a bad compromise. He sticks with his current team, playing on a good defense and in a scheme he knows. Darby has earned a little more than $3.7M so far in his career. Getting $8.5M for 2019 is a pretty nice consolation prize.

Darby is betting on himself. He is expecting to get healthy, have a good year and hit free agency a year from now. If that happens, Darby will be getting a mega-deal from some team.

The Eagles now have a deep group of CBs.

Ronald Darby
Jalen Mills
Sidney Jones
Rasul Douglas
Cre’Von LeBlanc

All of those players have started multiple games for the Eagles. All are young and could be a big part of the future. My guess is that the team will basically have an open competition. The best players will get the jobs.

Keeping Darby does buy the Eagles some time to figure out the CB situation.

Jalen Mills struggled in 2018. Is he going to bounce back from that? Can Sidney Jones stay healthy? Can he play well? Rasul Douglas finished 2018 hot. Can he continue to play like that? And what about Cre’Von LeBlanc? He looked terrific down the stretch. If he can play at that level, he’s your nickel corner for the next five years.

Not all of those questions are going to get favorable answers, but some will.

I left one player out of the discussion so far, Avonte Maddox. He needs to be on the field somewhere. With a deep group at CB, I’m thinking the Eagles will move Maddox to being the #3 safety. And should either Malcolm Jenkins or Rodney McLeod get hurt, Maddox could step in and start for them.

The Eagles have a lot of depth in the secondary now. The challenge is for some CBs to step up and play well.

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Cool. That means Chris Long is definitely coming back.

Oops.

I’m guessing the Eagles expect him to come back, but there are no guarantees. Long is a guy who loves football, but also understands there is a lot more to the world than just that. He’s made plenty of money in his career so he’ll only stick around if he genuinely wants to.

Ideally, you would have Long for one more year. Much like CB, that would give the Eagles time to figure some things out. How good can Derek Barnett be? Can Josh Sweat develop into a good pass rusher at the NFL level?

One interesting angle. Could this make the Eagles more likely to go DE early? Jim Schwartz’s scheme requires multiple good pass rushers. Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett give them good starters. Long is the top backup. Take him out and you’re relying on Sweat and Daeshon Hall.

The Eagles could sign a cheap veteran to add to the mix. Someone like Derrick Morgan could come in to compete for a job. He’s coming off a bad season and is 30, but that’s the kind of guy you get to come in for a cheap deal.

The key here is that the Eagles have options. Still, let’s hope Long decides to play one more year.

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Another Interesting Day

Posted: March 15th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

Another day of action, with guys coming and going.

Fort is coming to Philly to compete for a LB spot and play STs. The Eagles tried this last year with Corey Nelson. You may recall that didn’t go so well. The Eagles got good STs play from LBs D.J. Alexander and LaRoy Reynolds. Neither one of those guys was much of a defensive player, though.

I haven’t had a chance to study Fort as a STer. I tend to trust Dave Fipp when it comes to finding STs talent.

As a LB, Fort doesn’t do a lot for me. He does have solid cover skills and that gives him value in today’s NFL. He was mostly a role player with the Steelers last year. He didn’t show great instincts, which is something I really value in a LB. He also wasn’t as physical as I like. He tends to be a drag-down tackler. I like LBs who put runners/receivers down forcefully.

Fort is 29 and has played in 61 NFL games. He’s only started three of them, though. Fort has one career INT. That came against Michael Vick and the Eagles in the 2012 season opener.

Let’s look at the Eagles LB depth chart for now.

SAM … Nigel Bradham ……… Nate Gerry
MLB … Paul Worrilow ………. Alex Singleton
WLB … Kamu Grugier-Hill … L.J. Fort … B.J.Bello … Asantay Brown

The Eagles have a bunch of 230-pound guys with some athletic ability who can run and play in space.

What they don’t really have is a true MLB. They could add someone through free agency or the draft. It is possible they see Fort playing on the inside. I have my doubts about that. I just don’t know that he can shed blocks consistently and be a run-stuffer when needed.

Gerry could play MLB. I listed him at SAM for now, but that’s more a guess than anything else.

The Eagles aren’t done at LB. We’ll just have to wait and see what the next move is.

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DeSean Jackson met the media. Not overly compelling, but the DeSean fans will enjoy it.

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Great news. This should help the Eagles get a 4th round comp pick in 2020.

As for the Giants…what a strange offseason. They’re trying to spin to the media that they are rebuilding. Okay, but you don’t have Eli at QB and sign Golden Tate if you’re rebuilding. What a bizarre offseason.

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Good news. Losing Matthews cancels out signing Fort. That means the Eagles should get a 5th round comp pick (maybe a 4th) for losing Jordan Hicks.

As for Matthews, hopefully he can play well and get his career back on track.

I’m sure the door is always open for another return to Philly.

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No news on the RB front.

Be patient.

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More on Malik, RB and A Wrong to be Righted

Posted: March 13th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

The Eagles moves became officially official on Wednesday.

Let’s talk more about Malik Jackson.

The Eagles added a disruptive interior force in Jackson. He can explode off the ball and get into the backfield. Jackson also has outstanding lateral quickness, allowing him to get around blockers and into gaps. He knows how to use his hands to beat blocks. All DL get blocked. The really good ones don’t stay blocked.

Fran Duffy put together some great examples of Jackson’s ability.

Jackson has averaged six sacks and nine TFLs over the past three seasons (his time in JAX). Not only is he disruptive, but Jackson knows how to finish plays. Some DTs can get into the backfield, but struggle to finish.

Jim Schwartz’s scheme is built on negative plays. He doesn’t focus on confusing offenses so much as getting them in predictable situations and then attacking the QB. Jackson’s ability to come up with TFLs and sacks makes him an ideal fit for the Eagles defense.

The only issue I had when watching tape of Jackson was how he was used. I studied multiple games from the 2018 season and he played the 3-technique on every single play. Most DTs move from NT to 3-tech, depending on the situation and who they’re on the field with. Jackson was always the 3-tech.

Fletcher Cox plays the 3-tech a lot for the Eagles. He’s obviously able to play the NT as well, but he’s easier to double-team at that spot. In his press conference today, Jackson said he was willing to play anywhere the Eagles asked him. He will need to move between NT and 3-tech so the Eagles can keep offense off-balance. That will make it more challenging for OL to block him and Cox.

Jackson said he was benched at midseason last year because the coaches didn’t like his run defense. The Jaguars gave up 109 or more rushing yards in 10 games last year. Clearly Jackson wasn’t solely to blame for that, but the coaches obviously wanted to try something else. Jackson isn’t a guy who is going to eat up blocks. He is at his best attacking up the field. The Jags went 5-11 last year. That meant the opponent played with the lead more often and could run the ball. Jackson isn’t a guy you want on the field for a ton of run plays.

I do think the Eagles should still spend a high pick on a DT. If anything happened to Cox, Jackson would be reliable as a pass rusher, but he would need a good run defender to play beside him.

Playing alongside Cox should help Jackson and vice-versa. Both guys are athletic enough to beat single-blocks and blow up plays. One of the other benefits here is that the Eagles can rest Cox more. Put him on the bench in some pass rush sets and let Jackson and Brandon Graham be the DTs. Tim Jernigan wasn’t a guy you wanted on the field in the nickel or dime. Jackson is.

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DeSean Jackson will meet the media on Thursday morning. I’m sure that will be an interesting press conference.

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Agholor is sticking around. For now.

If feels like the Eagles are feeding this to Schefter so he’ll let it out there that the team likes Agholor. If some other team is interested in a trade, they’ll have to pay a reasonable price. The minute you let other teams know a player is available, their value drops. You have to make it seem like the player is safe as is.

It is also possible the Eagles genuinely want Agholor for this year. He is good in the slot and gives them insurance on the outside. They are paying a lot to someone who will be behind Jeffery, DeSean, Ertz and maybe Goedert as a passing target. We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out.

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We don’t know what the Eagles plan at RB is, but we know one move that won’t be made.

What the Funyuns???

That’s cheap. And the Eagles didn’t match or beat that deal? I was shocked.

Some people are really upset by this. Okay, I get that to a certain extent. But let’s wait and see what does happen.

Howie Roseman has a plan at RB. We don’t know what it is yet, but free agency isn’t even 24 hours old right now. There are plenty of players left to sign. There are guys to be traded for. And we still have the draft.

I expect the Eagles to add one pro RB and one in the draft. Maybe they add a couple of lower level free agents and a draft pick. We have to wait and see what happens.

It is way early in the process. Be patient.

The Eagles know they need to add serious talent at RB. For whatever reason, they didn’t feel Tevin Coleman was the answer, reasonable price or not.

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Potential good news on the comp pick front.

The Eagles do have interest in keeping Darby. They’re talking to him. I think the price is going to be the big issue. If some other team is willing to overpay, Darby is gone. If the market is softer than he expects, maybe the Eagles work something out.

KC is talking to other CBs so this isn’t a done deal.

As to Ajayi, he would be reunited with Frank Reich in Indy so that makes sense.

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My all time favorite draft prospect.

I would love to see the Eagles bring him to Philly to be part of the safety group. Berry has only played in three games over the past two seasons so he can’t be counted on as a starter, but I would absolutely roll the dice on him as the #3 safety.

Here is something I posted on the EMB in the spring of 2009, heading into Berry’s final college season.

For those of you not aware, the greatest human on the planet happens to be a Junior Safety named Eric Berry.  He plays for the Tennessee Vols.  He will be eligible for the 2010 draft and it is my moral imperative to make sure he’s drafted by the Eagles.

To ensure this happens, I’ve kidnapped one million people and put them inside an active volcano in rural Delaware.  When Berry is selected next April, those people will go free.

I’m sad to report those people are still waiting to be release.

I’m happy to report that Howie Roseman can free them if he does the right thing.

Tick tock, Howie…

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Quiet Day

Posted: March 12th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

There were fireworks on Monday. Things quieted down on Tuesday, but there were still some notable moves.

First up…Jordan Hicks is headed to the desert.

No shocker here. LBs are getting big money. The Eagles knew someone was going to overpay for Hicks services.

Hicks was terrific in his first two seasons, especially as a playmaker.

7 INTs
1 FF
4 FRs
7 TFLs
14 PDs
2 sacks

In the last two years, the plays went away.

0 INTs
0 FFs
2 FRs
5 TFLs
5 PDs
3 sacks

Hicks is not a run-stuffer. He is not a tackling machine. He is an athletic LB who can cover. The Cardinals are hoping he can get back to being a playmaker. That’s why they are risking big money on a player who has only played in 43 of 64 possible career games.

I think the Eagles were smart to move on. The risk just wasn’t worth it.

Losing Hicks means the Eagles will likely get a fifth round comp pick in 2020 (based on his contract).

How do the Eagles replace him? Let’s start with the players already in place.

Paul Worrilow is back after missing all of 2018 with a torn ACL. He has started 52 games between 2013-2017. Worrilow can compete for a starting job, but he’s not a guy you just give the job to. Nate Gerry got some looks at MLB last year and showed potential. He’s another player who can compete for the job, but you don’t give it to him.

Nigel Bradham can slide inside in some sets. Still, you need someone who can be a full-time MLB if needed.

The Eagles could target someone in the draft. This isn’t a great LB class, but the Eagles could have a couple of prospects they think highly of.

There are pro players they could pursue.

I think Josh Bynes would make a lot of sense. He would be a cheap veteran, but can still play. Brandon Marshall is another veteran who could make some sense. There were reports that the Skins could be shopping Mason Foster and/or Zach Brown. Foster is more physical. Brown is the better athlete and more versatile player. The Skins could also cut one or both of the LBs. The Eagles might be smart to sit tight and just see what happens with them.

Brown would be a real interesting addition.

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Any other moves to be made?

Jones has played C and G. He has started 17 games in three years. Jones is a backup and spot-starter. He would come cheap.

Joe Douglas knows Gino Gradkowski from their time together with the Ravens. Gradkowski has started 20 games over the years and can play G or C.

Max Garcia has started 41 games and is only 27 years old. He would be an interesting possibility.

These are not exactly sexy names, but finding a good backup for G/C is important. Stefen Wisniewski turned out to be a key player in 2017.

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The Eagles could still make moves at QB, DE, RB and S.

The moves at QB and DE would be for veteran competition and would likely be low-level targets.

S is hard to get a feel for. If the Eagles move Avonte Maddox to S, they don’t need to sign anyone. Still, there are some good safeties on the market. The Eagles may see if anyone is available cheap.

RB is the spot where the Eagles could still make an aggressive move. Le’Veon Bell is still out there. That tells you he’s probably not getting the offers he was hoping for. I’m sure Howie Roseman is staying in touch with his agent to see if Bell is open to a short or cheaper deal. That seems very unlikely, but it can’t hurt to ask.

Veterans like Tevin Coleman, T.J. Yeldon and Spencer Ware are still available. Jordan Howard could be cut or traded. No word on his situation today.

One player who does fascinate me is Corey Grant of the Jaguars. He’s only 5-9, 201, but has legit 4.3 speed. He averages 5.6 yards per carry for his career. Grant is a guy with limited production, but good upside. It feels like the Jags have wasted his talent. Creative offensive coaches like the Eagles staff could have some real fun with a weapon like him.

That’s legit speed.

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