A Big Difference

Posted: February 23rd, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 4 Comments »

Andy Reid took over a team that had gone 3-13 and in his second season Big Red had the Eagles at 11-5 and in the playoffs. Doug Pederson took over a 7-9 team and in his second season the Eagles won the Super Bowl.

Can Nick Sirianni get the Eagles turned around and winning big in just two years?

There is a big difference this time around. There is a lack of young talent.

1999

Troy Vincent
Bobby Taylor
Al Harris
Brian Dawkins
Jeremiah Trotter
Hugh Douglas
Tra Thomas
Donovan McNabb
Duce Staley
John Welbourn

2016

Fletcher Cox
Brandon Graham
Jordan Hicks
Vinny Curry
Carson Wentz
Jason Kelce
Lane Johnson
Isaac Seumalo
Zach Ertz

There are multiple Pro Bowl talents in each of those groups.

There is young talent on the current roster, but I just don’t think it comes anywhere close to those groups. These players have potential, but have not proven to be consistently outstanding players.

Jalen Hurts
Miles Sanders
Jalen Reagor
Dallas Goedert
Jordan Mailata
Isaac Seumalo
Travis Fulgham
Derek Barnett
Javon Hargrave
Josh Sweat
Avonte Maddox

Time will tell who in this group develops, but there is no player that has the talent of Troy Vincent or Fletcher Cox. These guys have upside, but they haven’t shown anything like that. To be fair, I did include draft picks in the other lists, but I have the benefit of hindsight and knowing how they worked out. We’ll have to see how the 2021 draft goes.

I do think Sirianni can get the Eagles turned around, but this won’t be easy. He and his staff will need to do a good job of coaching. Howie Roseman and his staff will need to start finding young talent for the roster. This isn’t a one player, one position or one year fix.

The Eagles need a lot of work.

Having a healthy O-line in 2021 will make a big difference, but there are still other issues on offense. As for the defense, the secondary needs a ton of help. LB is a mystery position. The Eagles might be better there than some think. “Might” being the key word.

The focus of this piece is young talent. The Eagles still have guys like Cox, Kelce, Johnson, Graham and Slay, but we have no idea if they’ll be here in 2022. Heck, we have to be open to the idea of some of them being question marks for 2021.

Age matters. The Eagles must focus on young players.

*****

The Eagles have made some moves already, but there is a lot more to do to get under the cap. Brandon Gowton wrote a good piece for BGN on what has happened and what is likely to happen.

BG doesn’t have anything in his piece about what the Eagles need to do to get Deshaun Watson, JJ Watt and Allen Robinson. I assume that’s an oversight that will be fixed.

*****

Jimmy Bama put up a terrific piece on Jalen Hurts. It is so hard to review his play because he was part of such an overall bad offense. You see some good traits, but lots of issues as well.

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The Eagles QB Situation

Posted: February 21st, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 4 Comments »

Carson Wentz is now a chapter in Eagles history. That leaves the quarterback job open and means there will be a lot of intrigue as we head into what should be a very interesting offseason.

Who will be the Eagles QB in 2021?

The options are giving the job to Jalen Hurts, drafting someone or acquiring a veteran. Before we get into the options, we have to talk about the great unknown…the new coaching staff. We don’t know what Nick Sirianni wants, in terms of type of QB or in terms of experience.

Sirianni has worked withe these QBs in recent years.

2020 – Philip Rivers
2019 – Jacoby Brissett
2018 – Andrew Luck
2013-17 – Philip Rivers

All three of those guys are big pocket passers. Sirianni didn’t hand pick any of them, though. Is that what he wants?

The other question is whether Sirianni wants to groom a young QB or if he’s open to a veteran. I’m sure he would love a rookie QB to develop, but you can’t force that issue. Andy Reid had pick number two and wanted Donovan McNabb. Doug Pederson had pick number two and wanted Carson Wentz. The Eagles are at pick six and we don’t know what Sirianni thinks of the draft prospects. The worst thing Sirianni could do is settle on a player. If the Eagles are going to draft a QB, they need to find someone Sirianni genuinely believes in.

Could that be Hurts?

I just don’t think we have enough information on Hurts to make any kind of definitive conclusion. He started four games, playing on a bad team and in a highly dysfunctional season. There were moments when Hurts looked like the real deal, but he struggled in the second half of the games he played. Once teams adjusted to him, Hurts didn’t handle it well.

There are real questions about his arm strength. QBs can overcome that, but they need to anticipate really well. If you wait for someone to come open, you’re going to need more velocity to get the ball there. I don’t think we saw enough of Hurts to know if his arm limits him to being a backup.

There is an argument to be made that the Eagles should go with Hurts in 2021. He’s cheap. He has upside and did show potential. If it is going to be a rebuilding year, see what you’ve got with the young QB already on the roster. That would allow you to spend draft resources on other areas that need to be addressed.

If the Eagles go the draft route, there are five QBs to focus on.

Trevor Lawrence – Clemson
Zach Wilson – BYU
Justin Fields – Ohio State
Trey Lance – North Dakota State
Mac Jones – Alabama

Lawrence is a virtual lock to go first to the Jags. Right now, most people expect Wilson to be next. He could go as early as second to the Jets. There are reportedly some teams who prefer Wilson to Lawrence.

Fields is the player that generates the most discussion. Some think he’s the second best QB, while some others think he should go later on in the first round. No one questions his physical gifts. Fields is big and strong. He is a gifted runner. He’s got a strong arm and makes some terrific throws. The questions involve his ability to make quick reads and quick decisions. Fields tends to lock on to his first receiver too much. He also will hold the ball too long at times. These are fixable issues, but they are issues.

Lance is another big, strong QB with a live arm and outstanding mobility. He played at a lower level of competition and only got to play in one game in 2020, but he is a legit prospect. There are some who like him more than Fields.

There are no guarantees that any of the top four QBs will make it to pick six. That would leave Jones.

Jones is the outsider. He is a pure pocket passer. Jones had an amazing season in 2020, leading Alabama to another national title. There is a question of whether he’ll go in the Top 20 or could slide into the second round. Most top QB prospects these days have good mobility and can make off-schedule plays. Jones is limited in both areas. Not all teams will want a pocket passer.

Sirianni spent multiple years with Philip Rivers, one of the least mobile QBs in recent memory. That tells you Sirianni knows you can have success with a pocket passer. It doesn’t tell us if Sirianni wants that. He might prefer a QB who can run and make things happen.

The Eagles will add a veteran QB. We just don’t know if that will be someone as a backup or if the team will go after a veteran starter. Jacoby Brissett is a free agent and Sirianni knows him well. Tyrod Taylor might make some sense. The Eagles can’t spend much so this would have to be the right QB at the right price.

There is the possibility of trading for Sam Darnold. He’s only 23 years old, but already has three years experience. Darnold didn’t have good coaching or a strong supporting cast with the Jets. He’s talented, but also has plenty of questions. I have no idea if the Eagles would have any interest in him.

The key to all of this is for Sirianni to decide what he wants and then to communicate that to Howie Roseman and the personnel department. They all need to be on the same page moving forward. That’s the only way this thing can work.

If Sirianni doesn’t find a QB he truly believes in, the Eagles should put off finding a long term answer for a year. They don’t have to get the QB right away. The Chiefs built up their team over time before getting Patrick Mahomes. Buffalo didn’t get Josh Allen until Sean McDermott’s second year. Bill Belichick has been the Patriots coach for more than 20 years and is still looking for a decent QB.

This topic will be debated heavily for the next couple of months. There is no perfect answer and that will make this both fun and incredibly annoying.

*****

What do I want?

I haven’t made up my mind yet. I find Fields incredibly fascinating, but watch the Indiana game or Big Ten Championship and you see real issues.

Jones also fascinates me. He was the best deep passer in college football last year. There is real value in that. The lack of mobility doesn’t eliminate him for me. I need to study him more closely.

*****

Other hacks on the QB situation.

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DeGone

Posted: February 19th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 14 Comments »

With the Carson Wentz situation now settled, the Eagles can turn their attention to slashing payroll. This team is way over the cap and that means a lot of players will go and a lot of contracts will be re-worked.

The moves started on Friday.

Per Jimmy Bama, this will save the Eagles $4.85M off the 2021 salary cap.

Eagles fans were excited when Jackson re-signed with the team in 2019, but he just couldn’t stay healthy. Here is the breakdown from Mr. Bama.

His second stint with the team was forgettable. Over the last two years, Jackson had 23 catches for 395 yards and 3 TDs in just eight games, two of which he played 10 or fewer snaps. For that production, the Eagles paid him $17,675,000, or $768,478 per reception.

Yikes.

With the Eagles now in rebuilding mode, Jackson no longer fits. The Eagles are interested in young, cheap players. Jackson is neither.

Jackson says he wants to continue playing. If he can stay healthy, he can be an important role player for some team. I don’t think anyone can count on him as a starter, but he remains a lethal deep threat when he’s on the field.

DeSean’s release was no surprise and it won’t be the last one, as Bo so subtly points out.

*****

I hope the Eagles are able to deal Ertz. He’s had a great career in Philly, but it is time to focus on young talent. If the Eagles can move him and get a pick in return, it will help with the rebuild.

I had doubts that there would be much of a market for Ertz. He’s on the wrong side of 30 and coming off a bad year. Ertz does have a great track record and a title contender may feel it is worth taking a chance on him. He’s always been valuable on third downs and in the Red Zone. Those are critical situations that can mean the difference in winning and losing.

*****

Avery has an explosive burst and would seem to be a better fit at DE because of that, but he also has outstanding movement skills. Maybe getting him on the move is the better way to go.

Look at the way he fights through traffic to make the play.

And here you see Avery with effective coverage on the wheel route.

Obviously things weren’t working out at DE so I’m glad the new staff is trying something else. Avery is a gifted athlete. He’s got potential. It would be great if the Eagles could find a way to turn him into a good role player.

That may not happen, but it is certainly worth trying.

SAM – Alex Singleton – Genard Avery
MLB – T.J. Edwards – Shaun Bradley – Joe Bachie
WLB – Davion Taylor – Rashad Smith

The Eagles are looking for young talent. That’s a young group. The question is just how talented they are. There isn’t one sure thing in that bunch of players.

Singleton was terrific in 2020, but counting on him as the foundation of your LB corps is not ideal.

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Carson Went

Posted: February 18th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 8 Comments »

Our long national nightmare is over. After an endless number of insider reports, bogus rumors and lots of random speculation, Carson Wentz has a new home.

Okay, now that’s out of the way. There is a lot for us to discuss.

Let’s start with the return. Howie Roseman wanted more than this. He worked hard to get more than this, leaking rumors at a record setting pace. In the end, he got solid return. Nothing to jump up and down about, but under the circumstances, this is fine.

The Eagles are rebuilding. They need young talent and that means they need draft picks. The 2022 pick can be a first rounder if Wentz plays 75 percent of the snaps this year or if he plays 70 percent and the Colts make the playoffs. Wentz has started 68 of 80 possible games in his career (85 percent). That makes it feel like the Eagles have a good chance to get the first next year.

Now let’s talk about why this was necessary.

A lot of people refer to this situation as an organizational failure. That is fair. The Eagles did a great job in acquiring Wentz and getting him off to a strong start in his first two years. After that, things fell apart for a number of reasons.

There is a lot of blame to go around. Howie Roseman gets a lot of it. Jeff Lurie has his share as well. Doug Pederson is part of this mess. We can’t absolve Wentz, though. He also played a key role in things falling apart. You can play the blame game and focus on who is most at fault, but that seems like a waste of time to me. This situation is a big shit sandwich and there were a lot of people helping to make it.

I think one key factor gets overlooked in all of this…bad luck.

Wentz was forever affected by the Eagles winning the Super Bowl with Nick Foles. Wentz was on his way to winning MVP. His team was 11-2 and the best in the league. He tore his ACL and then had to watch as his teammates went on a magical run and won the big game. Talk about your mixed emotions. Wentz got to see the joy that brought everyone, but he was an outsider. That’s not something you overcome easily.

Wentz missed a couple of 2018 starts early before taking back the reins of his team. He then got hurt in December and missed the rest of that season. The Eagles had another playoff run under Foles.

Foles then left in the 2019 offseason. This was completely Wentz’s team. He started all 16 games and led the Eagles to the NFC East title. Things seemed to be heading in the right direction. And then Jadeveon Clowney landed a cheap shot by hitting Wentz in the back of the head. That gave Wentz a concussion and took him out of his only playoff start after just a few snaps.

Ugh.

Roseman saw the need for a better backup QB and rolled the dice by taking Jalen Hurts in the second round. Roseman, who is incredibly thin-skinned and always looking over his shoulder, somehow didn’t think spending a high pick on a backup QB would affect his starter.

Ugh.

Obviously the 2020 season then became a disaster for Wentz and the team.

There is one more piece of misfortune that played a role…Josh McDaniels. He agreed to become the Colts coach in early 2018. At the last minute, McDaniels backed out. The Colts ended up hiring Frank Reich. If Reich had stayed in place, there would still have been issues to deal with, but I’m guessing Wentz and the Eagles would have handled them better.

Instead, Reich took off for Indy and now will have Wentz join him.

This is a favorable situation for Wentz. He joins a team with a terrific OL, some talented skill players and a good defense. They also have a good coach and a good GM.

Before we start nominating Wentz for Comeback Player of the Year let’s remember just how bad he was in 2020.

No one questions Wentz’s raw talent. He still has a great arm. He can make brilliant throws at times. He is mobile for a bigger guy and he’s tough as nails. He could bounce back and be a star QB again.

But there are no guarantees. We have never seen a player regress like he did at his age. Most guys fall apart in their 30’s when they hit “the wall”. Age catches up to them.

The mistakes he made in 2020 were more mental than anything. Once a player gets like that, it is tough to come back. Coaches can fix a lot of things, but getting a player right between the ears is the biggest challenge of all.

I know some Wentz fans will wonder if he can ever get back to 2017 form. I think the answer is “no”. This isn’t me hating on Wentz, as some would say. Things happened in that season that just weren’t sustainable.

https://twitter.com/ClevTA/status/1362483406060343296

Some critics will tell you Wentz is a mediocre QB outside of 2017. I think that’s going too far. He had a weak supporting cast in 2018 and 2019 and still posted solid overall numbers. I think he can be a solid QB.

2017 was an illusion. Forget about Reich or the OL or receivers, I just don’t think Wentz will get back to that level. That was lightning in a bottle.

Was the Wentz era worth it? Hell yes. The Eagles won Super Bowl LII. That doesn’t happen without Wentz.

Anyone who analyzes things and tries to tell  you that Cleveland won the initial Wentz trade is nuts. That team has one wildcard win since 2016. The Eagles have a Super Bowl, four playoff wins and two division titles. I don’t know how you can side with the Browns on that.

RGIII looked like a revelation in 2012. Washington got one good year out of him.

Jared Goff gave the Rams five pretty good years.

The Bears have one division title in Mitch Trubisky’s four years.

Jameis Winston flamed out in Tampa.

Derek Carr has played pretty well for the Raiders, but his job isn’t safe.

Having a young QB play well for a year or two guarantees nothing. Heck, the player can look great and that still doesn’t mean you will have long term stability. Even those teams who do get stability don’t always get what they really want.

Would you rather have 10 years of Donovan McNabb as a starter and no title?

Matt Ryan has given Atlanta great stability at QB since they drafted him in 2008. No title.

Philip Rivers was Mr. Charger for years. No title.

This is a bad situation and I wouldn’t pretend otherwise, but the Eagles got a Super Bowl out of it. Don’t ever lose sight of that.

As I’ve said before the only people I feel bad for are the kids. They see sports as this magical endeavor with bigger than life heroes. Plenty of kids love Carson Wentz. Adults know sports is a billion dollar business. We know the Eagles had to trade Wentz to get his salary off the books. We know Wentz was focused on getting out of Philly and finding the best landing spot for himself. This was business for everyone involved, except the kids.

The Wentz era has officially ended, but this has been a slow, ugly mess for a while. You can argue that it started in April when Hurts was drafted. Things got ramped up in the season opener when Wentz just fell apart against WFT. He looked so good for most of the first half and then it all went away. There was the benching in Green Bay.

And now he’s gone.

*****

Now the focus goes to Jalen Hurts and the future at QB. What will the Eagles do?

We’ll talk about that for the next few months, maybe the next year.

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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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