What They’re Saying About the Eagles

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Here’s another roundup of what the national media are saying about the Eagles.

Bucky Brooks of NFL.com gives the Eagles a B for their draft:

The Philadelphia Eagles captured the NFC East in Kelly’s first season, driven by an explosive collection of offensive talent on the perimeter. Of course, while the Eagles’ high-powered offense can win them a ton of regular-season games, the team needed to bring in some defensive playmakers to become legitimate NFC contenders. Thus, Kelly made it a point to add pass rushers (Smith and fifth-round pick Taylor Hart) while also snagging a couple of back-end defenders (fourth-rounder Jaylen Watkins and fifth-round choice Ed Reynolds) to upgrade a leaky secondary. On offense, Kelly drafted a pair of sure-handed pass catchers in Jordan Matthews (Round 2) and Josh Huff (Round 3), both of whom have the size and strength to play in the slot or on the perimeter in spread formations. Overall, the Eagles used their seven picks to address their key needs and upgrade their talent base, which is the goal of every decision-maker on draft day.

Gregg Easterbrook of ESPN.com thought the Eagles got snookered in the Isaac Sopoaga trade back in November. But he senses Kelly is starting to catch on:

The Nesharim gave a fifth-round choice for Darren Sproles, who was expected to get the carries that last season went to Bryce Brown. Then Philadelphia got at least a fourth-round pick from Buffalo for Brown. Since Sproles is a better player than Brown, the series of transactions raises the question, Why didn’t Buffalo just trade for Sproles? The Bills may have wanted Brown’s rookie contract, which is a league-minimum agreement with two years remaining. Regardless, the deals show Kelly and his staff are catching on to how to get the best of other teams in trades.

Todd McShay of ESPN.com has a 2015 mock out. He’s got the Eagles picking 27th and taking Mississippi State linebacker Benardrick McKinney:

McKinney possesses very good length for the linebacker position (he measures in at 6-5, 235), and he had a strong 2013 campaign (including a 1.5-sack game against Texas A&M and a 10-tackle game against Kentucky).

Andy Benoit of The MMQB offers his take on the Eagles’ draft:

It’s hard to see where Marcus Smith fits up front. Yes, soon-to-be 32-year-old Trent Cole might play fewer snaps going forward, but that’s where former first-rounder Brandon Graham comes in. And, though he’s more of a down lineman, 2012 second-rounder Vinny Curry has the explosive first step to be a part-time standup rusher. Smith’s role this fall could be to back up Connor Barwin, which means the Eagles would be getting less than 10 meaningful snaps per game from their first-rounder.

For the record, I disagree with a couple of Benoit’s points here. The organization has shown little confidence in Graham, and Curry put on weight last season, playing exclusively as a down lineman. The guess here is that Smith’s most significant snaps will come rotating with Cole at ROLB. We’ll obviously have more on his role in the coming weeks.

Chris Burke of SI.com handicaps the Defensive Rookie Of the Year race:

The strongest candidate from the remaining names has to be Marcus Smith. The Eagles took a gamble on him earlier than most people expected. But if Smith fits into the 3-4 attack the way the team hopes, double-digit sack production certainly is possible.

In his 2015 mock, Burke has the Eagles selecting Florida State DE Mario Edwards:

Especially stout against the run, Edwards finished last season with 9.5 tackles-for-loss and 3.5 sacks despite missing time with a hand injury. He’s really hard to move when teams want to head his direction. Edwards now stands at around 280 pounds (and 6-3), though he was above 300 before getting to Florida State. His NFL future may be as a 3-4 lineman.

Elliot Harrison of NFL.com has the Eagles ninth in his power rankings:

For who? For what? That was the feeling at Radio City Music Hall when outside linebacker Marcus Smith’s name was called as the Eagles’ pick at No. 26. No one anticipates him alligator-arming on his pass rush, and perhaps Trent Cole will be on a pitch count this year, but Marcus Smith in the first round? On another note, I spoke with receiver Jordan Matthews after Philly grabbed him in the second round. He’s ready to get to work and totally stoked to tee it up for coach Chip Kelly.

SI.com’s Doug Farrar identifies impact players for each NFC team. He singles out WR Jordan Matthews for the Eagles:

First-round pick Marcus Smith was a surprise as a pass-rusher, but when the Eagles selected Vanderbilt standout Jordan Matthews in the second round, it made all the sense in the world. Chip Kelly wants receivers who can beat man coverage in many different ways, and one of those ways is with screen passes . The Eagles led the NFL with 569 screen pass yards in 2013 per ESPN, and 44 of Matthews’ 112 catches in 2013 were screens. That tied with Sammy Watkins for the top spot. Kelly will use Matthews in the slot, which bends to another NFL trend of using larger targets (Matthews is 6-3, 212) as inside receivers. With DeSean Jackson out the door, Matthews should get a lot of targets wherever he lines up.

Mike Tanier of Sports On Earth assesses the Eagles’ draft:

Proficient. The quiet key to this class may be Watkins. He could develop rapidly into a quality starting cornerback, making him an exceptional fourth-round value. Otherwise, Smith and Matthews are safe selections, Sproles provides a short-term boost and the Eagles did roughly what they had to do to prevent a Chip Kelly “the league has figured me out” sophomore swoon.

The latest on the Eagles’ O-Line situation:

SI.com’s Don Banks hands out offseason awards. He recognizes the Eagles and DeSean Jackson as the messiest break-up:

It wasn’t quite the NFL’s version of “conscious uncoupling,” but the separation of the year definitely took place in Philadelphia, when second-year head coach Chip Kelly decided he could live without Jackson, the team’s star receiver. There were a lot of layers to the story, but on the surface it’s not every day that a defending division champion releases a 27-year-old, three-time Pro Bowl selection just months after his career-year (82 receptions, 1,332 yards, nine touchdowns). And especially given that Jackson’s skillset seemed a perfect match for Kelly’s brand of fast-break football.

Greg Gabriel of the National Football Post weighs in on the Eagles’ draft:

In 2013, offense was not a problem for Philly, stopping the opponent’s offense was. In free agency the Eagles looked to upgrade their defense and also with their first round pick. Louisville’s Marcus Smith played defensive end in college, he will convert to outside linebacker in the NFL. He has ideal size and athleticism for that slot. Smith is primarily a pass rusher, he had 14.5 sacks in 2013. While many, including myself, thought that the first round was a little high for Smith, if he can provide a pass rush for the Eagles, he was worth the pick.

The Eagles are ninth in ESPN.com’s power rankings:

The offense is looking pretty good, but is drafting fourth-rounder Jaylen Watkins enough to improve the pass defense? Philly allowed a league-worst 289.8 pass yards per game last year.

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