DJax to the Rescue?

Posted: December 27th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 429 Comments »

There has been a lot of talk recently about the return of DeSean Jackson to the Eagles in 2017. Brandon Lee Gowton has an update.

According to NFL Network host Dan Hellie, LeSean McCoy recently said in an Instagram Live video that Jackson told him he was going back to Philly. Current Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham then had an interesting response to McCoy’s comments during a Tuesday morning appearance on The Comcast Network’s Breakfast on Broad.

“I’m excited,” Graham said. “He never should have left. Everybody knows that, DeSean, yes, things was happening while he was here, but he’s a good guy. I used to be with him all the time. I know his family very well. I’m just happy because I kind of knew already.”

“I talked to him when Doug [Pederson] got hired,” Graham continued. “He was like ‘Tell coach [to] come get me.’ That type of stuff. We had fun during the season. He was like ‘BG, I’ll be back.’ Just a little fun. But now that it’s official, as far as the season about to be over, I think you’ll be hearing a lot of noise about it […] It’s an exciting feeling to get an Eagle back.”

Earlier this season, Jackson did not rule out a return to Philadelphia. He also praised Eagles head coach Doug Pederson along with rookie quarterback Carson Wentz.

““I’m happy to see Doug there, man,” said Jackson. “I respect him when he was there with Coach [Andy] Reid. I congratulate him on getting the job I think he deserves. He’s done some good things when he left and went to Kansas City, and now he’s back in Philadelphia. So I definitely have a respect for Doug. A good relationship with him as well, too.”

The Eagles are slightly less than awesome at WR (sorry for using such a complex scouting phrase). DJax would offer speed and big play ability that has been lacking the last couple of years. To most people this is a slam dunk move. Bring back the guy who never should have been let go.

There is a great moment in Jurrasic Park when Dr. Malcolm points out that the scientists were so busy focusing on if they could bring back dinosaurs that they failed to ask if they should bring back dinosaurs.

The Eagles could bring DJax back. Should they?

Jackson just turned 30. Speedy players don’t always age well. He missed 6 games last year, but only one this season. He has been slowed at times by nagging injuries. In the last 3 seasons, Jackson has 14 TD catches, hardly a compelling total. He did average 19 yards per catch, which is outstanding. It is also hard to quantify the impact he has on defenses just by his presence on the field. You have to play DBs way back against him and you are taking chances if you single cover him. He is one of the most dangerous home run threats in the game.

There is an argument to be made for both sides. One of the keys to this even being a possibility is price. Jackson is making $6.75M this season. That’s a very reasonable price for his production. In the previous few years he was up over $10M. I don’t think he’s worth that kind of money anymore. Jackson had some financial issues in the past. Is he better now? Will he be looking for mega-bucks? The Eagles won’t have a ton of cap space. They have to be smart shoppers. Other teams will have plenty of room. If Jackson wants every last cent, it won’t be coming from the Eagles.

On a personal level, I have mixed feelings. The Eagles absolutely need WR help. Jackson remains explosive and it would be fun to watch Carson Wentz throwing deep balls to him. It would also be nice for the team to add someone who could play with Wentz for several years. Is Jackson going to be a key receiver for the Eagles 3 years down the road? Maybe. He is a freak. You never know when he’ll hit the wall. The goal as I see it is to build a team that can compete for the Super Bowl. Jackson makes you immediately better, but does he get you closer to being a title team over the next few years?

We know Doug Pederson likes big WRs, but he knows that he needs playmakers for this offense. It will be interesting to see if the Eagles go after DJax, and if they do, how hard they pursue him.

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Trade Market

Posted: December 26th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 203 Comments »

The 2017 offseason is going to be interesting, possibly a lot of fun. The Eagles have plenty of draft picks. They should have enough cap room to make a move or two in free agency. And we all know Howie Roseman loves to make trades.

But you need to have something that somebody wants to make a trade work. Who might the Eagles have that could be of interest?

LB Mychal Kendricks – He hasn’t played much this year for the Eagles so why would anyone want him? Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham are the guys on the field the majority of the time and both are playing very well. Kendricks struggled early, but has since played well. The Eagles, like many teams, just don’t play that much base defense anymore. Kendricks is in the prime of his career and he can be a playmaker. You would think the teams at the bottom of the league defensively might be interested. The Browns, Colts and Skins could all make some sense. The tricky part is the contract. Kendricks isn’t cheap. Does a team roll the dice on his contract to get a young, talented player?

C Jason Kelce – It is possible that Doug Pederson wants a bigger, more physical player at C. Pederson has talked about how he loves tough, nasty O-linemen. You don’t have to be big to fit those qualifications, but it can help. Kelce is as smart and athletic as any OL in the league. He has played well in the West Coast Offense, Chip Kelly’s no-huddle attack and Pederson’s offense. Kelce is a declining player, but could be of interest to a team in need of a veteran for the middle of their OL. The Bengals could use C help. The Vikings line has struggled all year.

DE Connor Barwin – There is no question that Barwin has had a disappointing season. He’s also older and not cheap. But Barwin could still interest 3-4 teams. He isn’t explosive off the edge, but he is versatile and has the kind of size 3-4 teams love in an OLB. Barwin is also a very high character guy. Teams needing some leadership for the defense, or whole team, would also love that quality.

T Jason Peters – I just don’t see this happening, but it is possible. Peters is a good LT, but he’s older and pricey. If the Eagles got the right offer, they could deal him and then move Lane Johnson to LT.

Keep a couple of things in mind. First, none of these are players that it feels like other teams are going to aggressively go after. I’m certainly not trying to tell you the Eagles have great trade ammo. That said, Howie Roseman was able to deal players last offseason that the Eagles didn’t want and who had some issues. Roseman is outstanding when it comes to making trades.

A factor that could help the Eagles is that the players dealt away last year generally performed well for their new teams (insert Chip Kelly insult here). At the time, it seemed like Roseman was getting rid of dead weight. That turned out not to be the case. This is actually a good thing. You want teams to want to make deals with you. It helps if the players you send out don’t turn out to be complete busts. In a way, DeMarco Murray and Kiko Alonso did the Eagles a favor by remembering how to play this year.

The Eagles would not be getting anything substantial in return for the players above. If they could land a mid to late-round pick or simply move up in the draft, that would be good return. One of the benefits to dealing these players is to gain some cap relief. Kelce could be back next year, but it isn’t a lock. Barwin and Kendricks seem like locks to be gone. Teams could simply wait for the Eagles to cut these players.

If anyone can find a suitor for these guys, it’s Roseman.

We’ll see what happens.

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Presents

Posted: December 24th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 257 Comments »

It is Christmas Eve and I’m about to hit the road to go visit family and see what gifts Santa brings my nephew Jason…and the rest of us, assuming we haven’t committed any unsportsmanlike penalties or wiped out TD passes due to not being on the line of scrimmage. In the spirit of Christmas, let’s talk about some presents we’ve gotten.

First, and foremost, is Carson Wentz. I know he has some doubters, but I think anyone who has watched this young man all year with a clear mind can see he is very talented and has all the intangibles to be a championship QB. He’s got a lot of issues to work on, but they are things that can be coached. The things he does have for sure are things that can’t be coached. He’s big and athletic. He’s tough. He’s unselfish. His teammates love him. He is hard-working and committed to the game of football.

The win over the Giants. Losing destroys your soul, one week at a time. You begin to expect it. Ambivalence sets in, which is the worst kind of sports fan to be. You don’t care if the team wins or loses. It was important for the team to win for their own reasons, but it also is good for those following the team. An Iggles Blitz reader pointed out in the comments section that sports is all about hope. Only one team wins it all in a year. The other teams hope to be that team in the future. Too much losing kills hope. A “meaningless” win against the Giants helps to restore hope. Plus we got sad Eli face for a whole week. Thanks Eli.

Lane Johnson’s return. We’re all upset with him for the suspension, but at the end of the day, this team wasn’t winning the Super Bowl this year, with or without him. Hopefully Johnson learned a huge lesson and he can become a rock on the O-line for the foreseeable future. We all wondered how he would play in his return, especially in a short week. Johnson had a good game and reminded us all how valuable he is. The Eagles are 4-1 with him on the field this year. That makes me feel even better about the future.

A season finale with Dallas. We get to care about the final game. No one wants to get swept by Dallas. The Eagles have a chance to beat the Boys at the Linc, something that hasn’t happened much in recent years. It would feel really good to head into the offseason with wins over the Giants and Cowboys.

Sam Bradford. The Vikings are getting beaten by the Packers as I type this. A loss would help to improve the draft pick the Eagles got from Minnesota in exchange for Bradford. The Eagles paid a steep price for Wentz, but dealing Bradford for what will be at least a mid-1st rounder makes that deal feel so much better.

Malcolm Jenkins. The Eagles secondary needs work. No one would dispute that. Jenkins is the guy you build the secondary around. He can play short or deep. He can man the slot. He can play man or zone. He can hit and tackle. He can blitz. He’s a team leader and does good work in the community. Thank god the Saints were dumb enough to let this guy hit free agency. I love having Jenkins as part of the Eagles family.

Brandon Graham. I feel so happy for Graham, who had some terrible luck early on. He played well as a rookie and then hurt his knee. That made his second year almost completely a wash. The next year he was a role player on a defense that was awful. He showed signs of getting back to his previous form. Then Chip Kelly got hired and Graham was moved to OLB. He struggled there for a year, but made big progress and became a regular player in 2014. He started at LB in 2015 and had a good year. This season he was rewarded with a move back to 4-3 DE and Graham has played lights out. His whole career he’s had to hear about Earl Thomas and JPP. Graham is a good enough player that those questions are gone and we can talk about whether he’s getting enough national recognition or not. No one questions the fact he’s a terrific pass rusher.

Fran Duffy. I’ve not been able to put out my game reviews much in the last couple of months. Work and family issues have been overwhelming to my schedule. Fran does brilliant work for PE.com. He cheats by getting the All-22 before anyone else, but we’ll forgive him for that because he’s so awesome at what he does. If you don’t read his pieces every week, you should.

Happy Holidays everyone.

*****

Personal note…A few of you asked about the lack of posts this week. My grandmother died on Monday and we had a gathering on Thursday and then the funeral on Friday. That limited my ability to post stuff.

No reason to be sad, though. Granny Pat was 97. She got her money’s worth out of life and then some. She was the best grandmother anyone could ever want and helped make me the person I am today.

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A Giant Win

Posted: December 23rd, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 126 Comments »

How can something be ugly and beautiful at the same time? That’s the way I felt after watching the Eagles 24-19 win over the Giants. The Eagles were great early, going up 21-6. They had to hang on for dear life to win the game.

It was beautiful to see the guys finally break through and win a close game. The Eagles made just enough plays to keep the Giants at arm’s length. They let the G-men get close, closer and really friggin’ close, but never gave up the lead. They kept the pressure on the Giants all night long.

The game was ugly because the Eagles couldn’t make the plays to put the Giants away. The Giants were 10 for 22 on 3rd downs. They kept sustaining drives. But the Giants were also just 1 for 5 in the Red Zone. Those drives ended in a lot of FGs. Ultimately, that proved to be the major difference in the game.

Eli Manning threw 68 passes and wasn’t sacked once. That might look bad on the stat sheet, but anyone who watched the game saw Eagles rushers getting pressure on Eli over and over and over. Brandon Graham should have to pay them rent for the amount of time he spent in the backfield. I thought Beau Allen had a really nice game off the bench. He was disruptive.

The star of the game is Malcolm Jenkins. He picked off 2 passes and covered well all night long. He had 5 solo tackles, broke up another pass and was a regular pain in the butt for Eli and the Giants offense. Terrence Brooks sealed the win with a late INT. That’s 3 INTs for the Eagles Safeties, once of which Jenkins returned for a score.

The defense gave up yards, but stiffened when they had to. They were clutch. The starting CBs combined to break up 4 passes, including some key ones. This is the kind of performance Jim Schwartz has wanted for a while.

The Eagles offense was effective, but won’t win many style points. RT Lane Johnson played well in his return and helped the offense get off to a fast start. Carson Wentz hit…Nelson Agholor…for a 40-yard TD to get the lead to 21-6. I didn’t see that coming.

Wentz was up and down, but made just enough plays for his team to win. He got hit really hard in the 2nd half and had to leave the game for a bit to be checked for a concussion. Wentz returned to the game and actually threw a good block on an end around by Agholor. The play gained 5 yards, but you know teammates loved seeing their leader putting it all on the line.

Doug Pederson had another game where he made aggressive calls. He went for a TD on 4th and goal, but that play was stuffed. Late in the game, the Eagles were all set to run on 3rd/5 so the Giants would have to burn their final timeout. Pederson gave Wentz the option to switch to a pass play if he got the right look.

The Giants put single coverage on Jordan Matthews so Wentz tried to hit him down the left sideline. The Giants DB pinned Matthews inner arm so he could only get one hand on the ball and he wasn’t able to make the grab.

You can disagree with the call, but give Doug credit for sticking to his guns. He has been aggressive all year. The players don’t see his calls as panic or gambling. They know Pederson wants to be aggressive, as he has all year. That makes the plays feel less desperate and more daring. That may not sound like a big deal, but psyche is important when trying to make plays at crucial moments.

This win didn’t mean anything in the standings (for the Eagles, I mean), but it was great to see the Eagles break their losing streak. They can now go into Christmas with a smile on their face, feeling good after a game for the first time in a while.

Ugly but beautiful.

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The Emmitt Effect

Posted: December 21st, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 583 Comments »

Nate Newton made his NFL debut in 1986. He started 11 games the next year and then was a full time starter the rest of his career. Newton ended up going to 6 Pro Bowls in his career, the first coming in 1992.

Newton joked with the media that he was the same blocker from before 1992 as that year, but Emmitt Smith changed everything. 1992 was the season when Emmitt was dominant and carried Dallas to the Super Bowl. Playing for a winner and blocking for a star changed the perception of him from when he blocked for some awful Dallas teams.

Brian Dawkins became a starter early in his rookie season 1996. He started the next couple of years as well and looked like a player on the rise, but he wasn’t anything special. Then in 1999 Andy Reid became the head coach of the Eagles and Jim Johnson became the defensive coordinator. That changed everything. JJ knew just how to use Dawkins and let his young pupil become a star player. Dawkins made the Pro Bowl in 1999 and for most of the rest of his career.

Not all players are stars right away. Some can take years to develop. Some need the right teammate. Some need the right coach.

I mention this because too often when we discuss the Eagles roster, there is a complete focus on what we know now. That’s critical of course, but you also have to consider the potential the players have. Fletcher Cox and Jason Peters were voted to the Pro Bowl. Both are outstanding players. You can argue whether they deserved it this year, but they made it.

If you look just at that, it seems like the Eagles roster is in bad shape.

But there is hope.

Brandon Graham could be a future Pro Bowl’er. I know he’s going to be 29 next year, but Graham should have plenty of tread left on the tire because he was a role player for so much of 2011-2014.  This isn’t a guy who’s played a ton of snaps and is clearly wearing down.

Malcolm Jenkins seemed like he was headed for the Pro Bowl earlier this season. He is a really good player.

Rodney McLeod has been erratic recently, but still is very talented. He could make it in the future.

Jordan Hicks could be a star in the future. Playmaking MLBs aren’t easy to find.

Lane Johnson can be a Pro Bowl player in the future. He was off to a great start this year before the suspension, which makes his long absence all the more frustrating. Losing a starter hurts. Losing a very good starter really hurts.

Zach Ertz could be a Pro Bowl TE. He’s played better since the non-block controversy, but still has lots of room to improve. There isn’t great chemistry between he and Wentz right now.

Wentz could be a star in the next few years. He’s got a very high ceiling.

Isaac Seumalo could be a really good G or C in the future.

As much as I like Jordan Matthews, I’m afraid he might not be dynamic enough to be a Pro Bowl WR. He’s really good, but there are some freaks at that position and he’s simply not on that level. Matthews is a very good young player. DGB is more naturally gifted and is bigger, but he’s not even a consistently good player. We need to get him to that level before considering anything beyond that.

Bennie Logan and Vinny Curry are talented, young DL. Logan is a free agent so we’ll have to wait and see what his future holds. Curry has been a major disappointment this year, but I wonder if nagging injuries haven’t been a major issue for him. He just hasn’t looked like his old self on a regular basis this year. He was very disruptive for the previous few years so I tend to think he can get back to being that kind of player.

The point of this isn’t to try to convince you the Eagles are loaded with talent. Heck, they aren’t even loaded with potential. But there are some guys who do have good potential and could become key players in the future. If this team is going to take a step forward, they do need some of these players to take the next step forward and become Pro Bowl’ers, stars or whatever you want to call them. Not all answers and upgrades are going to come from the outside.

*****

Speaking of Bennie Logan, Domo wrote a real good piece recently on the challenge of trying to keep him.

In less than three months, and possibly sooner, Bennie Logan is going to become a very rich man.

The Eagles’ defensive tackle hardly is living paycheck to paycheck now. He’s in the final year of a rookie deal that will earn him $1.6 million this year.

But that’s small potatoes compared to what he’s going to make from either his second contract with the Eagles or from another NFL team if/when he becomes an unrestricted free agent on March 9.

Logan will be a highly coveted player on the free-agent market if the Eagles don’t re-sign him by the start of free agency. He’s not going to match the six-year, $102.6 million contract that his buddy Fletcher Cox got from the Eagles last summer. But a $10 million-a-year deal is well within his grasp.

If you doubt that, check out the extension Aaron Donald’s interior-line sidekick, Michael Brockers, got from the Rams in September – three years, $33.2 million, with $18.1 million fully guaranteed.

Until March 9, the ball is in the Eagles’ court. If there wasn’t a salary cap, this would be a no-brainer. Logan and Cox are one of the best defensive tackle tandems in the league. Letting Bennie get away wouldn’t be an option.

But there is a cap. It’s probably going to increase another $13 million or so in 2017, which certainly helps if the Eagles want to re-sign Logan. That said, they need to decide what percentage of their cap they’re willing to dedicate to the defensive line in general and the defensive tackle position specifically.

Cox’s 2017 cap number is going to be $9.4 million. The cap numbers for defensive ends Vinny Curry, Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham total nearly $25 million in ’17. And the Eagles are expected to pursue another edge-rusher in free agency, given the way Curry and Barwin have underperformed this season.

The Eagles can keep Logan.

Should they?

Will they?

These are tough questions and there are not easy answers. He’s good and young, so I’d prefer to keep Logan around. But the money has to work. If some other team offers him a buttload, the Eagles might lose him.

It will be very interesting to see how this plays out.

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