Since returning to his throne earlier this year, Howie Roseman has reshaped the Eagles in his vision. His desire to build around a core group of players has been well documented, and he clearly believes the team’s current path is the one that will lead them to the organization’s first Lombardi Trophy.
But the Eagles spending a lot of money in the offseason isn’t an entirely new concept. Five years after “The Dream Team” fiasco, fans still shudder at the mere mention of Vince Young’s words. More recently, the Byron Maxwell and DeMarco Murray deals serve as cautionary tales. According to Roseman, however, there’s a key difference in the Eagles’ approach, even if they have doled out hundreds of millions of dollars in guaranteed money. Read more »
Undrafted free agents often go overlooked, especially when a team invests a lot of resources into acquiring an early pick to get a potential franchise quarterback. But they make up a large portion of NFL rosters, as more than 28 percent of the Eagles’ initial 53-man roster last year included players who weren’t drafted coming out of college.
Sometimes rookie undrafted free agents, like Denzel Rice a year ago, unexpectedly make the roster but don’t contribute much, or they can eventually turn into a starter, as Cedric Thornton did. In the rarest of examples, they can follow Jason Peters’ path and become one of the game’s all-time greats.
Because of the Eagles’ current roster configuration, multiple undrafted free agents appear to have a pretty good shot at making the 53-man roster. Let’s take a look at some players to keep an eye on when training camp finally hits. Read more »
After the Fletcher Cox contract extension and Howie Roseman’s flurry of moves this offseason, talk surrounding the Eagles has understandably shifted to the future and how the Birds shape up longterm. But with all of Roseman’s major deals done and training camp (slowly) inching closer, let’s take a look at who the most indispensable Eagles are this season.
5. Ryan Mathews — It’s tough to leave out talented players like Malcolm Jenkins, and a role as important as pass rusher that Vinny Curry fills, but if Mathews is unavailable, the Eagles have an unimpressive group of backs to carry the load. And if Sam Bradford has no running game, how much success will the Birds have as a one-dimensional offense? Mathews is on this list because of how big of a drop-off there is without him; even if he doesn’t rank second in the NFL again with more than five yards per carry, he’ll still give you good production. His talent has never been in question — it’s always been about him staying healthy. Mathews ranked eighth in the NFL last season in rushing DYAR, Football Outsiders’ metric that values performance on a play where the running back touches the ball compared to the replacement level, adjusting for situation and opponent. Mathews’ rushing DYAR was 133, while Darren Sproles’ was 80, and Kenjon Barner’s was 30. (DeMarco Murray’s, in case you were curious, was -29, sixth-worst among players with at least 100 carries.)
4. Jordan Hicks — Joe Walker. That’s who would likely be the Eagles’ middle linebacker if Hicks isn’t on the field. When you add that to the importance of this position group Hicks is expected to lead, it’s difficult to not include Hicks on here. With the defensive line free to roam around and leave gaps unattended, the linebackers will have to do a good job of cleaning up behind them and thinking on their feet to plug running lanes. It seems like the expectations for Hicks only get higher and higher, despite him starting just five games in his career, but that’s what happens when you discard Kiko Alonso and DeMeco Ryans and don’t have much depth behind your starters. Read more »
By giving away picks to trade up and acquire a quarterback who probably won’t play much this season, the Eagles diminished the impact their rookie class will have this year. But several players will likely add value as backups who could earn some playing time, so here’s a look at the role each drafted rookie could have, ranked in order of how much we think they’ll play.
RB Wendell Smallwood, Round 5 — I’m putting Smallwood at the top mostly because he’ll likely have the best opportunity to get on the field. Ryan Mathews acknowledged during OTAs that his running style “has a lot to do with” his injury prone history, while Doug Pederson said during minicamp he could envision using a running back by committee approach. If Mathews gets hurt at some point, it seems highly unlikely another running back — whether that’s Darren Sproles, Kenjon Barner or anyone else — would operate as the featured guy, opening up a window for Smallwood to contribute. Even if Mathews doesn’t battle a serious injury this season, Smallwood could see some playing time because of his pass-catching ability, which Pederson repeatedly says has impressed him.
DB Jalen Mills, Round 7 — I was tempted to rank Mills as the rookie who could get the most snaps this season, and Jordan Matthews even said he believes the defensive back is “definitely going to play a lot.” But the obstacle Mills must overcome, particularly more so than Smallwood, is the sheer number of guys in front of him. Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks, Eric Rowe and Nolan Carroll are all capable corners, and someone like JaCorey Shepherd or Denzel Rice could provide even more competition. It’s unclear what the Eagles will do with Mills in training camp, but to start OTAs, they had him work exclusively at corner. Still, even as a seventh-round pick who may not play much this season, he could end up being one of the most talented guys they drafted. Read more »
As Eric Rowe progressed through OTAs last month, he realized he had a problem. Although the second-year cornerback seems to be one of the better positioned players to win a starting job, he returned home to Houston and met up with Rischad Whitfield almost immediately.
Rowe has worked with Whitfield, better known as the “Footwork King” who boasts Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders as clients, since the week after mandatory minicamp ended, and will continue to do so multiple times per week until he leaves his hometown in July.
“The main area of concentration is breaking on the top of routes, whether it’s a curl, dig or comeback,” Rowe told Birds 24/7. “I’m trying to reduce my steps it takes me to break on the ball, because I was taking too many in the OTAs. Honestly, it really wasn’t working out, so that’s why I told him I needed help to reduce my steps and get out of my breaks quicker.” Read more »
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The Eagles are hoping Bradford starts all 16 games so they can compete for a division title and trade him for a good pick, you keep saying this, but what happens if Sam leads us to the nfc championship game, and lose but not his fault, do we still trade him? -RockyMan63
While this is an unlikely scenario, it is an interesting question to consider. You can debate whether the Eagles should’ve made the moves they did to put Sam Bradford, Chase Daniel and Carson Wentz on the roster together, but the underlying philosophy makes sense: Do whatever it takes to get a franchise quarterback.
If Bradford plays extremely well and looks like the perfect fit for Doug Pederson, they may have achieved that goal. But how do they keep Bradford? It’s hard to imagine a scenario where they’re willing to trade Wentz away and stick with an injury-prone quarterback longterm instead. Even if they only want to keep him for another season, Bradford has some leverage to get a trade worked out. Read more »
Sitting at a table full of Eagles beat reporters at the owners meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., Doug Pederson‘s voice heightened more than an hour into the session when he was asked if he’d use Zach Ertz similar to how the Chiefs deployed Travis Kelce.
“Yeah, I do. And I’m glad you brought that up, because I like our tight ends. I like our athleticism there. It’s a good group — great group,” Pederson said three months ago. “The primary tight end, Zach, is athletic [and] young. He’s like Brent [Celek] was when he first came in and a lot like Travis Kelce that way.”
When Pederson called plays for Kansas City last season, he often attempted to get Kelce the ball down the middle of the field on seam-type routes. One West Coast offense staple he liked to use was the Texas concept, which accounted for a few of the Chiefs’ big plays. Read more »
We haven’t seen the Eagles practice in pads yet, and the roster to pick from won’t be the same in September, but let’s have a little fun in these dull days until training camp starts. As the defending champion of the Eagles beat reporter roster projection pool (which I will definitely mention several more times this offseason), here’s my best guess as to how some key position battles will play out.
Quarterbacks (3): Sam Bradford, Chase Daniel, Carson Wentz.
The only certainty with this position is who will make the team, but we don’t know much else. If Sam Bradford gets hurt, how long until we see Carson Wentz? Or if he really struggles, does Doug Pederson put Chase Daniel in? The Eagles are hoping Bradford starts all 16 games so they can compete for a division title and trade him for a good pick to recoup some of the value they lost in the Wentz deal, but Bradford has played in every game just twice out of his six years in the NFL. Read more »
Stefen Wisniewski joined SiriusXM NFL radio yesterday to discuss the Eagles’ quarterback situation and how his teammates feel about Doug Pederson compared to Chip Kelly, and he said the tension Sam Bradford created by demanding a trade has since dissipated.
“I think it’s definitely blown over from the viewpoint of the other players — I think from the coaches as well,” the offensive lineman said. “(Bradford) seems to be the No. 1 quarterback. Now, is that set in stone? I don’t know for sure, but it certainly seems to be that way right now. And he’s looked good through OTAs and minicamps.”
The free-agent signing added that while he didn’t play under Kelly, his teammates are “very excited” about Pederson and the coaching change. He also raved about Carson Wentz. Read more »