Out of curiosity, I went back to see some draft reviews from 1996. The Eagles took OL Jermane Mayberry in the 1st round. They took TE Jason Dunn and Dawkins in the 2nd. QB Bobby Hoying was the team’s 3rd round selection.
As crazy as it seems now, Dawk got the least coverage of that group. Mayberry was the 1st rounder so that meant the most focus on him. Dunn was taken 7 spots ahead of Dawkins, but for some reason, there was a real fascination with him. He was big and athletic, but came from Eastern Kentucky and had off-field questions. Hoying got attention because he was the 2nd QB taken in the entire draft. He was thought to be the QB of the future, being a good player from Ohio State.
The write-ups on Dawk talk about him being a starter at FS, but also talk about the impact he would have on STs. They were positive, but short. Dawk was 5-11, 190 back then. Think about other Eagles FS from that era. Wes Hopkins was 6-1, 213. Greg Jackson was 6-1, 217. Dawk wasn’t compelling from a size perspective. Clemson wasn’t a football factory pumping out elite talent back then. There just wasn’t a reason to get excited about Dawk.
All of that changed when he hit the field. Eric Zomalt was the starting FS to begin the season, but Dawk took the job quickly and never let go of it.
There are only a couple of regrets when it comes to Brian Dawkins.
We never got to see him win a Super Bowl. He came close in 2004, but never made it back. That doesn’t diminish his career, but it would have so great to see Dawk holding the Lombardi Trophy. He gave his heart and soul to the game of football.
It also hurt that Dawk didn’t finish his career as an Eagle. He was a free agent after the 2008 season. The Eagles made an offer, but not enough. Joe Banner negotiated too aggressively and Dawk went elsewhere. Joe did a great job on most contracts, but this was one time he shouldn’t have negotiated with a win/lose mentality. Dawk is the kind of guy you want to retire an Eagle. He was a special player. Having some extra salary cap space wasn’t worth ending his time in Philly.
Let’s not pretend that having Dawk those final 3 years would have substantially changed things for the Eagles. He was a declining player. As great as he was, age gets the best of everyone. Dawkins would have made the Eagles better, but it was more important to see him finish his career in Philly. That was the right thing to do. That should have happened.
Dawkins didn’t stay away for long. He’s been involved with the Eagles in recent years and is now part of the personnel department.
But a lot of NFL scouts didn’t have a very high opinion of him. He had six interceptions his senior year and was a punishing tackler. But at just 187 pounds, he was viewed as a “tweener.” Not quite fast enough to play corner, not really big enough to play safety. In fact, many teams had Clemson’s other safety at the time, Leomont Evans, rated higher than Dawkins.
One guy who definitely wasn’t lukewarm about Dawkins was John Wooten, who was the Eagles’ director of college scouting at the time.
He really liked the kid and thought he could be an early-round steal.
“Back then, there wasn’t any social media,” Wooten said. “You could hide a guy if you didn’t tip your hand to it. That’s what we were banking on.”
Wooten asked Eagles defensive coordinator Emmitt Thomas to look at tape of Dawkins and also keep a close eye on him at the February scouting combine.
“I wanted Emmitt to take a look at him because I saw a fine leader,” Wooten said. “A guy that took charge. He had extreme ball skills, but also had great awareness as it relates to his teammates and so forth.
“I said, ‘Emmitt, take a look at him and see if you see what I see.’ I said, ‘If you don’t see what I see, then we’ll move away from him.’ “
Thomas saw what Wooten saw.
“Emmitt came back (from the combine) and loved him,” Wooten said. “He just took over the combine. You would’ve thought he was the captain of the DBs at the workout. He was ahead of everybody. He was doing everything. Which is the same thing I saw at Clemson.”
In the weeks leading up to the ’96 draft, the Eagles did their best to mute their enthusiasm for Dawkins. Both Thomas and head coach Ray Rhodes purposely stayed away from Clemson’s Pro Day.
“Ray sent another guy down to work him out and talk to him to keep other people from knowing that was the guy we wanted in the first or second round,” said Thomas.
Added Wooten: “When you’re in this business, you get paranoid. You know that other people are watching what you’re doing and trying to figure out what you’re going to do at a certain point in the draft.”
The Eagles were so high on Dawkins, they even touted him to cornerback Troy Vincent when they were recruiting Vincent in free agency. And that was nearly two months before they selected him in the draft.
“Emmitt called me and said, ‘We think we’ve identified somebody who can be real special if he learns the game and we can get him under control,” Vincent said. “They hadn’t even drafted him yet.
“Emmitt said, ‘We believe that with the three of you all’ – me, Dawk and Bobby (Taylor) – exact words – ‘we can compete with the Cowboys. We can knock the Cowboys off.’ If I recall correctly, he called Brian a juggernaut. A little juggernaut.”
He is one of those rare players that is terrific on and off the field. It is easy to get caught up in the players who struggle on the field or who can’t stay out of trouble off it, but Jenkins deserves every bit of praise he gets. I think Jenkins understands that being an NFL player does carry responsibility with it and he handles that role just brilliantly.
Stills is also interesting. He showed promise for the Saints, but they traded him to Miami a couple of years ago. You always wonder why a team would trade away a talented, cheap young player. Stills has some size at 6-1, 194. He is a good deep threat, averaging 17 yards per catch for his career. He had a nightmare drop in the season opener (wide open for long TD), but generally seemed to have good hands. He isn’t as good as Britt, but is younger. Stills won’t turn 25 until April. Howie Roseman talked of wanting to add young players that could grow with Carson Wentz.
RE: Kenny Stills — one reason i don't go hogwild on this stuff way ahead of March is that Miami wants to keep him. Could be moot discussion
This is a fair point by Les. But…Miami has a young star in Jarvis Landry and spent a Top 10 pick on Devante Parker so they might have to let Stills go. Landry will be getting a big deal soon and Parker is a guy they want to become a bigger part of the offense. I think there is a real chance that Stills does hit the market.
Stills is not a great player. He would not instantly solve the Eagles WR issues. He could be part of a good group. If you had him and Jordan Matthews plus a draft pick and possibly another free agent, you could have a good group of WRs. I hope the Eagles can find an elite talent, but that’s not always possible. Adding someone like Stills would be a positive move and a step in the right direction.
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.
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 →