One of the questions some people have asked me is whether the Eagles could be interested in a TE with their 1st round pick. The focus is Alabama star O.J. Howard, the 6-5, 249 prospect who comes up so big in national title games. Would Howard make sense for the Eagles?
Howard has a good frame. He runs well. He shows potential as a blocker. He is a good receiver who can make athletic plays. Every team in the NFL would love to have a guy like that. The question is whether TE is worth a pick that high for a team that already has a solid group in Zach Ertz, Brent Celek and Trey Burton.
The obvious answer is that if the Eagles have Howard rated highly enough, they take him. After all, we preach that you don’t draft for positions and that you trust your draft board. That said, when you make your draft board you do stack the order with position in mind when players have the same or very similar grades.
The Eagles could carry 4 TEs. They would all play some on STs so that makes it possible to go heavy at that spot.
Howard would be an interesting player to add to the mix because of his size and speed. Doug Pederson used multiple TEs effectively in 2016, but the pairings were less than ideal. Ertz is a good receiver and can be an effective blocker. Celek is a good blocker, but has athletic limitations as a receiver. Burton lacks ideal size, but is a good athlete. That helps him as a receiver, but hurts him as a blocker. If you put Howard and Ertz on the field at the same time, you would have 2 TEs that defenses would have to see as complete players. That play could be a run or a pass.
If you really want an offensive weapon, Miami TE David Njoku would be another possibility in the 1st round.
Njoku isn’t as big as Howard. He isn’t as good a blocker. But Njoku is a special athlete who looks like a big WR at times. He is only a Redshirt Sophomore, but scored more TDs in 2016 than Howard did in his career at Bama. That should give you an idea just how much of a playmaker Njoku was.
Njoku has a chance to be a better version of Jared Cook. You might remember him.
If the Eagles love either of these guys, adding them does make some sense. Njoku can be an offensive weapon. I’m not sure if Howard fits that description, but he’s probably close. Carson Wentz needs weapons.
The flip side to this is that you can find good TEs outside the 1st round. Celek was a late round pick. Cook was a mid-round pick. Gronk and Jimmy Graham went outside the 1st.
There is no right or wrong answer, as long as the Eagles are able to find guys that can catch the football and make plays.
Are the Eagles trying to put the best possible team on the field in 2017?
Yes. And no.
You always want a balance of youth and experience. This isn’t baseball, where a collection of free agents can come together quickly and play at a high level. Football is the ultimate team sport. Team chemistry is a real thing, and it is critical to winning. You must draft and develop talent so you have a core of players at the heart of your team. You can then add outside talent.
The need for the mixture of young and old talent means you won’t always have the best team on the field. You have to take a chance on young players. There is also the reality of the salary cap. You can’t pay big money to everyone.
I mentioned in the piece on WRs that the Eagles would prefer to add young talent. Some of you said the Eagles should forget about age and just sign the best players. I think the Eagles would be wise to focus on youth. The point in having a talented young QB is to build around him. You want Carson Wentz to spend several seasons playing with his receivers.
The Saints signed Drew Brees in 2006. He had third year WR Devery Henderson to stretch the field and 7th round rookie Marques Colston as his workhorse. Veteran Joe Horn was part of the mix, as well as third year player Terrance Copper. Rookie Lance Moore barely played. That was Horn’s last season with the Saints. Henderson, Colston, Moore and Copper were there for a few years. The Saints mixed in cheap veterans as role players when needed.
Peyton Manning had Marvin Harrison from Day One. The Colts drafted Jerome Pathon that year as well. The next season they added Terrence Wilkins. In 2001 they drafted some guy named Reggie Wayne and Manning finally had a dynamic set of WRs. Pathon and Wilkins weren’t great, but they were effective role players. Harrison and Wayne were huge stars.
Seattle drafted Russell Wilson in 2012. Doug Baldwin was in his second year. The team signed UDFA Jermaine Kearse that season. Seattle spent a 2nd round pick on Paul Richardson in 2014 and a 3rd round pick on Tyler Lockett in 2015. They have now given Wilson a good corps of WRs.
The Eagles could try to draft and develop WRs this year, but it feels like the organization wants to add young players with some experience. That means going into free agency, but being choosy shoppers. Don’t go for names or reputations. Find young players that can help Wentz right away, but also can grow with him over the course of the next 3 to 4 years. Don’t fall into the trap of obsessing on 2017. Think big picture.
Some of you will go running for the hills, screaming about 5-year plans. No one is trying to put things off into the distant future. Jeffrey Lurie wants to win. Doug Pederson wants to win. Carson Wentz wants to win. Are the 2017 Eagles going to win the Super Bowl? It doesn’t seem likely. Hopefully they will move another step closer, but young QBs tend to need a few years to develop.
There is nothing wrong with adding an older player, but you don’t want to spend much money on that guy. Make him a role player, someone that can help the young QB develop. I always thought the presence of Antonio Freeman in 2002 helped Donovan McNabb become a better QB. He suddenly had a slot receiver that knew how to work the middle of the field and get open.
I would love to see the Eagles add a pair of free agent receivers and then draft one in the middle rounds as well. This isn’t about one guy, but rather building a WR corps. You already have a solid player in Jordan Matthews. You have to look at the rest of the current group as JAGs (just a guy) until they prove otherwise. Add in a couple of free agents and a solid rookie and you suddenly have a group with some potential.
Try to bring in young talent so Wentz can play with them for a while and build the kind of WR-QB chemistry that makes good offenses so tough to stop.
During the 2016 season, Doug Pederson made it clear that he wants a fullback on his roster.
“Down the road, as we go, if we can develop a fullback at some point, we will do that,” he said. “We’re constantly looking at that position, not only around the National Football League, but on our roster.”
Last time around, we profiled Ravens FB Kyle Juszczyk. DiMarco isn’t the receiving threat that Juszczyk is. Over the last two seasons, Juszczyk has 78 catches for 587 yards and 4 TDs. DiMarco has just 20 receptions for 162 yards and 3 TDs over that same span. However, DiMarco is good run blocker, opening up holes for Davonte Freeman and Tevin Coleman, who combined to average 4.63 rushing yards this season.
DiMarco will be 28 in April.
Jimmy really thinks Pederson wants a FB. I think he would love that, but in the same sense that I would love to date a woman who appreciates the music of Jan Hammer. It is way, way, way down the list in terms of priorities.
My guess at Doug’s list:
Jan Hammer CDs
Goofy blue shirts
Paul Turner football cards
Going for it on 4th downs
I spent Sunday watching a lot of NFL tape to take a look at pending free agents. You have to be careful about focusing too much on stats and public reputations. They can be very misleading. After all, we are trying to find the right players for the 2017 Eagles
I focused on WR and CB, since I see those as the key FA targets. The Eagles can certainly look to add players in other areas, but those are the two that need the most help.
I split the FAs into tiers.
Alshon Jeffrey Terrelle Pryor
The top WRs who can hit the market. Jeffrey is one of the best receivers in the league. He doesn’t have elite speed, but uses his size and length to deliver big plays. The concern with Jeffrey is that he was suspended for 4 games in 2016. As we saw with Lane Johnson, suspensions can be devastating to a team. Pryor also comes with risk he is a 1-year wonder…because he has only been a full time WR for a year. But Pryor is a great athlete and showed the potential to be a special player. There are potential character concerns with him. Multiple opponents went out of their way to talk about how much they hated Pryor. That’s a bit unusual. Both players could be tagged or re-signed as both offenses need all the help they can get.
I think everyone has an idea how good Jeffrey is. Pryor has an even higher ceiling. He’s still learning how to play WR and will make some mistakes, but his combination of size, speed and agility is special. He could become a real weapon if he played with a good QB and had talented teammates around him.
Kenny Britt Kenny Stills
Britt was once an erratic player that got in trouble. He hasn’t been arrested since 2012 and has become more consistent on the field. I watched several games of his. Britt is 6-3, 215. He runs well enough to be a deep threat. He is also good on slants and underneath routes. He plays to his size. Britt is a hands-catcher and I didn’t see any drops. He has good RAC ability and could help in the Red Zone. His numbers aren’t great, but he’s played in an awful offense. If anything, that’s good. It keeps his price down somewhat. The idea of signing Britt has grown on me quite a bit.
Remember when Carson Wentz tried to hit Nelson Agholor with a deep ball against Darius Slay? The result was a tad different than below.
Going to the Senior Bowl every year is a great experience. You get to see the players practice. You get to be around them and see some of their personalities. You also get to be around NFL people…coaches, scouts and media types. There really is a lot to take in.
I can’t share every nugget I get down there. I’ll offer hints as best I can, but some stories I’m just not allowed to outright share. With that in mind…
I came away feeling better about Doug Pederson. He’s overly positive in his press conferences, but that’s a public face. He’s realistic about who can play and who can’t.
The Eagles key free agent is DT Bennie Logan. Nobody has a good feel for his future. The Eagles obviously want him back, but can they afford him? I have seen a few free agent lists compiled by smart media types and Bennie hasn’t been a Top 40 free agent on them. Maybe that means he will have a realistic price tag and the Eagles can keep him. You don’t want to develop good young talent and let those guys walk if you can help it.
There is no consensus on whether Alshon Jeffrey will hit free agency or whether the Eagles will pursue him. Really good player, but he’s got a couple of issues and you wonder if he’s worth elite money.
Non-Eagles people think highly of Carson Wentz. He’s got issues to work through, but they love his potential and see him as a franchise QB.
It isn’t lost on people that the Eagles went 5-1 with Lane Johnson, who was the team’s best OL when he played. Having him for a full season will make a big difference.
You can have a depressing debate on who was worse down the stretch, Leodis McKelvin or Nolan Carroll.
The Eagles must figure out slot corner. Malcolm Jenkins needs to stay back at Safety the whole year. Who knew losing Ron Brooks would hurt the defense?
The feeling is that DeSean Jackson won’t get big money as a free agent. Whether that could cause the Eagles to go after him is still unknown.
Dalvin Cook would be a great fit in the Eagles offense, but there are on and off-field concerns with him that could hurt his value.
No one has a clue what the Eagles are going to do for a #3 QB. They could draft one, but this is a weak QB class.
The feeling is that Wiz won’t be returning to the Eagles.
The Eagles need to find 2 starting WRs. You just can’t count on Nelson Agholor or DGB to play substantially better in 2017.
Scott McCloughan, the Skins GM, sat in the stand near me and Jimmy Bama on Thursday. Most coaches and GMs go to the other side, which is only for NFL people. McCloughan is a different kind of guy. He struck up a conversation with a family in front of him. That happened to be the parents of WR Trent Taylor. McCloughan was just trying to be a nice guy.
Later a middle school football team came and sat in the stands. They walked in front of us. McCloughan said hello to the kids and was just trying to be friendly. It was cool to see an NFL executive just being a normal guy.
Kiko Alonso is even weirder and dumber than you think.
I sat behind Jay Glazer on one of the flights down. He believes in reclining for the whole trip. Love Glaze as a reporter, but you don’t want to sit behind that guy in an airplane.
There was a lot of talk about how the coaches ran the practices. I wasn’t a huge fan of the CLE staff, but the Bears were far worse. Chip Kelly would have had a heart attack if he watched all the wasted time by that staff. Terrible.
I spent more time watching CBs and WRs than ever before. That meant less time on OL, DL, RB and LB.
The Brick Pit remains the best barbecue joint in Mobile, if not all of Alabama. My BBQ rankings for the week:
Nick Foles posted one of the highest QB ratings in NFL history back in 2013. There were a lot of factors, but the work of QB coach Bill Lazor certainly was one of the things that helped Foles. Lazor was hired by the Dolphins to be their offensive coordinator so Foles got a new QB coach for 2014, Bill Musgrave. Foles didn’t play as well. OL injuries and inconsistent WR play were bigger factors than the coaching, but it probably didn’t help to have a new coach. That was Foles third season in the NFL and he had a different positional coach each year. Stability can be key for the development of young players.
I don’t think that lesson was lost on Jeffrey Lurie.
Earlier this month, the New York Jets asked to interview DeFilippo for that very job. Pederson and Roseman, true to their word, signed off on the request. NFL teams can’t block assistants from auditioning for head coaching vacancies, but they can prevent them from interviewing for coordinator positions.
It’s unclear whether DeFilippo would have gotten the Jets job or even wanted it, but he never got an opportunity to toss his hat in the ring. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie stepped in and rescinded the original consent, according to four independent NFL sources.
Lurie’s obstruction was first reported by ESPN, but Inquirer sources provided more detail of how the Eagles owner stepped in, and more important, why he pulled rank, as he had never done before.
While the why is obvious (Carson Wentz, duh), Lurie’s blocking of DeFilippo represents his passion – some called it his “obsession” – with making sure the young quarterback has all the tools necessary to thrive. That meant retaining the assistant who played a significant role in Wentz’s rookie season, and that means acquiring skill position talent this offseason.
I have mixed feelings on this. Assistant coaches have to strike while the iron is hot, so to speak. When they have a strong reputation and other teams are showing interest, I don’t blame them for looking at promotions.
At the same time, an owner has to answer to his fans. Carson Wentz is the future of the Eagles. If Lurie wants him to succeed, he needs to do everything he can to help Wentz out. Stability on the coaching staff is a big part of that.
McLane brings up the point about Lurie’s move possibly undermining Doug Pederson. It is possible that future coaching candidates will think twice before taking a job with the Eagles. If the Eagles pay well, have a competitive team and coaching stability, I don’t see this being a huge issue. There are only 32 teams. Jobs are hard to come by.
If Lurie is weighing the importance of developing a franchise QB versus possibly losing a positional assistant in the future, I’d say he made the right choice.
McLane also had this note in the piece.
Lurie, per sources familiar with his thinking, is prepared to give Wentz the skill-position players he lacks. It’s little surprise that the Eagles know they need to upgrade at receiver and running back. Roseman and vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas said as much here. The question is to what lengths will they go?
Does that mean going after Alshon Jeffrey?
I’m still not sold that going after him is the wisest move. Jeffrey is very good, but is he worth huge money?
One of the names mentioned in Mobile was Kenny Britt. He was an inconsistent, trouble player early in his career, but seems to have settled down off the field and gotten better on the field. He just had his best season ever, 68-1002-5. Britt is not a great receiver and wouldn’t cost huge money. He would be a major upgrade on the current receivers in place.
You could also then consider adding a young, mid-level player like Robert Woods, Markus Wheaton or Marquise Goodwin as well. Draft a WR in the middle rounds and you’ve got a serious talent infusion at wideout.
No matter what the Eagles do, the key is to not count on one player to fix the situation. The Eagles need multiple pieces at WR. The only reliable player they have right now is Jordan Matthews.
Several WRs played well in the Senior Bowl on Saturday.
Zay Jones was outstanding. He got open, caught the ball really well and made plays. He had 2 TDs taken away, but still finished 6-68-1.
Josh Reynolds also played really well. He was 6-96 and hauled in a long TD.
For the many one or two Eagles fans that still like hearing about Mike Kafka, here you go. Former #NFL QB Mike Kafka is joining #Chiefs as an offensive quality control coach, source said. — Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) February 7, … Continue reading →
Jimmy Bama isn’t RB Ryan Mathews biggest fan, as you can see. After fumbling in an inexcusable situation for the second time in three weeks, I'm told the Eagles have fired Ryan Mathews into the sun. pic.twitter.com/3apbNCla0u — Jimmy Kempski … Continue reading →
CB Ron Brooks got hurt in the win over the Vikings. Doesn’t sound good. I understand #Eagles' Ron Brooks actually ruptured a quad tendon, which does not sound like fun. — Les Bowen (@LesBowen) October 23, 2016 That's a season-ender … Continue reading →
Rookie RB Wendell Smallwood has the only KOR TD in the NFL so far this season. The @Eagles needed something big, so Wendell Smallwood took a kickoff 86 yards to the house. Wow.#PHIvsWAShttps://t.co/912Fnz8qyY — NFL Network (@nflnetwork) October 16, 2016 … Continue reading →
Practice Squad Update: LB Don Cherry has been added to the practice squad and G Darrell Greene has been released from the practice squad. — Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) October 18, 2016 The Eagles are manipulating the PS rules to keep … Continue reading →