Eagles Wake-Up Call: Grading the Offseason

NCAA Football: Louisville at Connecticut

The Eagles’ roster is unlikely to undergo any major changes between now and the Week 1 opener against the Jaguars in September.

There will be depth moves throughout the summer, but the 22 guys who will win starting jobs are likely already here.




Keeping that in mind, a five-man crew over at ESPN.com (Insider) handed out offseason grades for every NFL team. Overall, the Eagles received a B. An anonymous GM was consulted for the piece:

"They wanted [safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix] at [No. 22], but it didn't work out for them, so they took Marcus Smith, who was closer to a second-round talent and not a great scheme fit," the GM said, in reference to Clinton-Dix coming off the board at No. 21 and Philly then trading back with Cleveland to No. 26, where the Eagles took Smith.

If forced to hand out a grade, mine would be less generous, but for different reasons. Below is a quick review of what I liked and didn't like, now that we have a chance to see how it all pieces together.

What I liked...

* The draft made sense to me for the most part. Despite what the GM above said, I think Marcus Smith is a terrific scheme fit. You can argue that he was a reach or that he won't pan out, but from a skill-set standpoint, he has what the Eagles want out of their outside linebackers. Meanwhile, Jordan Matthews has a chance to be productive right away in this offense. And I love Josh Huff's toughness. No issues here with the later round picks either.

* Billy Davis has some more pieces to work with. The key word with Smith, Malcolm Jenkins and Jaylen Watkins is versatility. This still is not the most talented defense in the league, but Davis should have more scheme flexibility than he had with the parts he was handed last season.

* The offense still has a chance to be really good. The Eagles extended Jason Peters and Jason Kelce. They acquired Darren Sproles. And they re-signed Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper. There are plenty of question marks (Sproles' age, Maclin's knee, Cooper's one year of production), but given the options Chip Kelly has available to him, the offense should still be a strength.

What I didn't like...

* Safety is still a question mark. Jenkins should provide an upgrade from last year, but how much of an upgrade? I need to be convinced that he's a difference-maker. There's a chance the Eagles go into next offseason once again needing to find a way to solve their issues at this position.

* The way they handled the DeSean Jackson release. I can understand the concept of Kelly wanting to decide which 53 players he wants in his locker room. But did the Eagles do a good enough job of trying to deal Jackson before free agency when teams still had money to spend? Did they look into re-structuring Jackson's deal and making it more cap-friendly so that teams might be willing to give up compensation? I know no one wants to rehash this whole discussion, but I still question the process.

* They failed to address two important areas: offensive line depth and inside linebacker depth. This is why when we mention the Jackson release, we have to talk about opportunity cost. As I mentioned above, the offense can still be really good. But if Jackson's still around, it's unlikely they spend two of their first three picks on pass-catchers. The starting offensive line is the second-oldest in the league, and while Allen Barbre is a capable backup, the developmental options are all question marks. On defense, the Eagles finished 24th in third-down defense last year. They wanted to add a versatile inside linebacker who could cover, but that didn't happen.

Overall, some good and some bad in what the team accomplished over the last five months. If I had to pick a letter, I'd go with a C for the reasons listed above. I'm sure some of you might disagree.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Too many Ducks on the pond? T-Mac answers that question and more in his weekly mailbag.

"Everything just fell apart." Rookie RB Henry Josey looks to continue his incredible comeback.

McManus on the Eagles and the graduation storyline.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING

Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com provides an early 53-man roster projection:

McCoy and Sproles are locks, and even Chris Polk seems to have found solid standing on this team with the Eagles trading away Bryce Brown. One player to watch this camp is Matthew Tucker, who played well in camp last year. He could make the leap to the 53 man roster. Undrafted free agents Henry Josey and David Fluellen could battle for practice squad spots.

Les Bowen of the Daily News recently caught up with Lane Johnson:

"I think after, probably, Week 4-5, I started picking up the pace, and I think I played really well through the stretch . . . I think I peaked at the right time," Johnson said.

"Confidence is a big factor in it. Whenever rookies first start out, they have a bad game, your confidence gets shaken. You're not sure of yourself, your head's spinning. Then once you go out there and have a few good games, [you] notice that you can really kind of mix it up, have the skill set to do some things. I think confidence was a big factor with me developing there at the end of the year."

COMING UP

We'll come up with something.

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • trixman

    C sounds about right.

  • Will

    C is spot on…I agree the Eagles didn’t do enough at Safety or LB…If Safety was the target at #22 Deone Bucannon was still available…

    • jamesbondage

      Deone was there at #26 as well. Guess Howie thought OLB was a bigger need than a safety and I agree with him. They have to believe that Jenkins and Wolff are good enough at least for one year with Allen as primary backup… whereas the OLB spot with Cole most likely done (unless he kills it this year and signs for a cap friendly short term deal to stay in Philly) with the Eagles after this season is in a desperate need for future starter

      • Will

        I hope Marcus Smith is the answer at OLB…not impressed with Wolff yet maybe the veteran presence of Jenkins is enough…

        • Chris

          I think Wolff takes a bit step forward this year. He was coming on strong before injury, has great physical tools and by all accounts is one of the hardest working guys this offseason. Let’s hope

      • Eagles1018

        If he kills it he’s gone. They won’t pay him 10 million per year. If he doesn’t kill it he’s gone for the same reason.

  • TNA

    A C grade is appropriate if we’re looking at impact on the 2014 season. But I think the ramifications of this off-season will have a very positive impact from a multi-year perspective. Financially, ideologically, locker-room..the team really established its identity this off-season more than anything else. For that, I give a B+. Grades are relative of course, and it’s hard to compare teams that are not playing on a level playing field in terms of cap space, draft positions, looming FAs, etc. But c.p., the Rams really improved as the Insider article noted and probably made the most significant upgrades over the off-season.

    • cliff henny

      too bad they’ve hitched wagon to Bradford. see 2-4 division record at best, more likely 1-5, 4th place. best 7-9 or 8-8 team in nfl.

      • TNA

        agreed. In general, Eagles have the luxury of thinking over a longer horizon. They’re in no danger of becoming like Jacksonville and don’t have the same incentive to value more existential things like “WRs can become marketing superstars.”

      • Jerry Pomroy

        Hahaha…Bradford was the last 1st rd QB to get mega dollars before rookie wage pool. He’s also the perfect reason as to why it’s a good idea to have that rookie wage pool.

      • paul from nc

        I’m guessing the Eagles record about the same 8-8 with one game either way. But the Eagles will probably sneak into the playoffs at 9-7 because of the division, unless the Giants surprise.

  • FluxCapacitor

    I think, overall, the team is better – for that reason alone they deserve a C+. I do agree with all the positives and negatives listed above, although I’m not as worried about the OL as most. There have been some very good comments made about some of the younger guys.

  • Burberry Manning

    C is too low Desean’s situation wasn’t ideal but I’m not worried about chips offense. I don’t recall everyone being so high on Jackson before the season last year. The offensive line is a strength and was more of a question mark last year with a rookie and two starters returning from injury plus Herremans at a new position. The backups if not fully adequate can be replaced by players sure to be released during roster cuts by other teams. The defense while not loaded with household names should still be improved over last year with the familiarity with the scheme and new additions tailored for what they want to do in a 3-4 scheme not leftovers from a 4-3 scheme. It may not be complete but Rome wasn’t built in a day and the holes on this team are not as glaring as last year and that team finished with 10 wins and a playoff berth.

  • G_WallyHunter

    Fantastic write up

  • cliff henny

    Overall, off season, giving solid B.
    .
    draft, like the players and scheme fits, that part’s a B. howie’s trade values bumps grade up to B+. Brown a 4th? hang a ‘for sale’ sign on Graham
    .
    FA. little tougher grade, C+, if the philosophy is to draft stars, batting average vets, least they are being consistent. staying the course is huge. we dont have to look far, WASH and ‘AL are great examples of teams reinventing themselves every year. it doesnt work. we all wanted Ward (who just got arrested) or Byrd (56m?) but they stuck to batting average, and all the contracts are Eagles’ friendly. no major impact players here, so C average, bump to C+ for focus. i’m big on focus.
    .
    OL, i get the age issue, but are they supposed to walk away from Peters and Mathis? Herremanns is huge question mark, but Barbre looked solid. can always find another midlevel vet (Coolledge) if they start dropping like flies. like that the 7-11 or 12th guys are young athletic and getting coached up by Stout. hopefully they’ll be ready to step in, and hopefully that’s 2 or 3 yrs down the line. grade, incomplete.
    .
    Sheil, how could Eagles rework a deal? Jax wanted guaraneteed money (and got 16m), all that would be piled into ’14 dead money. Jax was released for sal cap relief as much as scheme and lockerroon fit (least to me). Reid tossed Jax a bone, that contract was the last remains of Dream Team and Fat Andy’s one last shot. No one wanted Jax the way contract was written, 12m cap hits for 3 more yrs and a player walking in complaining about money. breakups are almost always messy, Jax will be missed, but not what kelly wanted. grade…push
    .

    • anon

      on jax, how low do you think he would have gone — they didn’t even try to renegotiate. but i’m sure him talking about $$ right after skipping his exit interview didn’t go over well.

      • cliff henny

        if i were Jax, look at it as Eagles were on the hook for 6m dead, so that was basement, cap hit 12m, ceiling, so figured w Eagles 3yrs @ 8 or 9m, just like he got at Wash. who know what Eagles thought. almost have the feeling now, even at 3yrs @ 6 to 6.5mm, Kelly might have told Jax to pound sand.

      • Andy124

        Call me stubborn, but I still think his release was 80% attitude, 15% money and 5% play style, and that skipping the exit interview for all we know could have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.

        • obsolete vernacular

          I agree. If he acted like Avant, he’d still be on this roster regardless of his cap number.

      • Jerry Pomroy

        Not sure if it was true, but there were reports that DJax was unwilling to renegotiate his contract in order to appease a trade anyway. That in my eyes, if true, was the main reason we couldn’t get anything for him. Of course that could be swayed to mean that he was unwilling to just lower his cap hit because there wasn’t going to be any guaranteed money. So in essence if that is true, DJax could’ve basically forced the Eagles hand at that point to pay me more upfront money or release me & I’ll get it somewhere else & play the scorned one. That is an angle that nobody talks about but could be very realistic given DJax’s agent’s antics/tactical approach.

        • paul from nc

          What I remember is just the opposite. Jackson said he wanted to negotiate for guaranteed money and take a lower salary. Roseman said no.
          Bur either way, we all need to move on. Nobody is changing their minds at this point. You either think the Eagles did the right thing, or you think they wasted an asset.

      • Maggie

        Um. How do we know that they didn’t try to negotiate? Or when?

    • borntosuffer

      Agreed. It was a pretty solid off-season. I don’t see where the Jackson issue had an “everybody wins” scenario. After seeing this all play out, I think it was an easy decision for Chip to make based on both Jackson’s attitude and style of play. Look at the guys he added – Sproles, Mathews and Huff – extremely versatile and 2 of the 3 are more than willing to get in your face and block. Chip re-made the receiving corp. Jackson can still be deadly, assuming your QB has at least 3.5 seconds to pass the ball. I just don’t think Chip thinks that is worth the price someone else would offer him.

    • http://www.corcommunity.com/ theycallmerob

      Per usual, I agree with you good brother

      • cliff henny

        thanks, enjoy your holiday weekend. have 5 cases of beer and 4 days at the beach loaded up. plus, big bottle of Jack…I know I know…but hey, once the Dr Pepper gets poured in, it doesn’t matter all that much

    • Eagles1018

      I actually agree that on some level Jaccpot was a scheme fit issue. Not being able to beat press man coverage, attitude problems (maybe) and it was documented that CK dropped him to 2nd team offense for not getting the play book enough. I mean the fact that they seek out college grads and guys with higher academic achievements says something.

      • Andy124

        fwiw, they dropped him to 3rd team.

    • Max Lightfoot

      I agree. DJax was a loss, but also a liability, because when it really mattered (the Saints game), he disappeared. And he always wanted more money because he spends it like a drunken sailor (no offense to US Navy personnel). I don’t think Chip could stand the thought of that happening again, so he got rid of the guy.

      I think Chip looks at the loss of DJax as a short-term loss, but a long-term gain. For better or worse, Chip is gonna build his team his way (like all NFl coaches, really) – I can live with that.

  • Token

    BS

    • Andy124

      So, not a B+ or a B-, but a B Solid?

      • Token

        No the idea that Ha Ha was the target. Thats BS.

        But offseason grade…. C+

        • Always Hopeful

          Who was target? Cooks, that the Saints jumped ahead of us to get?

          • http://www.corcommunity.com/ theycallmerob

            I’d bet my bank on that. Chip had real nice things to day about him, and re: his size he called a reporter crazy for thinking that’d stop the birds from taking him. Alas….. im happy with Matthews as plan 1b. He was my fave receiver going back to last January/February.

          • Always Hopeful

            The more I see/hear about Matthews the more I like the pick. I was intrigued by Cooks. Can’t wait to see how the team develops.

          • peteike

            ya I read that SI article about Cooks and wow, hes going to be a player for sure just better hope they get a quality replacement for Brees down the road.

        • Andy124

          In that very same sentence, he calls Marcus a bad scheme fit for us. If I’m picking and choosing what part of that sentence I’m calling BS on, there it is.

          But clearly that source is a bad scheme fit for Birds24/7.

      • paul from nc

        I’d go solid C maybe C+

  • Andy124

    I’ll grade it in February.

    • Andy124

      of 2017

      • Will

        yup I agree gotta wait 3 seasons to be fair….

  • Will

    I wonder how long Geagle is banned for? He had some good write ups and a lot of spot on topics. Any ways hope the powers at large forgive him soon….up vote if you agree…

    • cliff henny

      go to igglesblitz, read yesterday’s comment section. about 100 posts, bet 50 of them were mini-novels by Johnny. you’ll get your fill in one stop.

      • Will

        lol…okay thanks…

      • Will

        Cliff do you think they banned him for being long winded? or was it something else?

        • anon

          he’s posted here — i think he could come back if he wanted question whether he could comply with the rules…

          • cliff henny

            he told me thatthey blocked his IP addresses on ipad and laptop,. ha, they were serious

          • anon

            ouch

          • Will

            yeah he was real negative about a Tim article I think that was his undoing…

          • Max Lightfoot

            I think you’re assuming Tim McManus is thin-skinned about any criticism. Most sports writer professionals I worked with possessed hides like rhinos, and rather enjoyed it when people torched them – at least they weren’t being ignored! If you think guys like Tim lose sleep over what bloggers post, you are mistaken.

            IMO, Geagle’s problems were brought on by himself: His flaming, obscene replies to any criticism, his personal attacks and his own weird brand of egoistic paranoia did him in. YMMV, but that’s how I see it.

        • cliff henny

          ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive.
          .
          no, think he went 4 for 4 often (dont count impersonators). too many people trolled him, he took the bait one to many times.

        • Chris

          Yea he’s tearing it up at IB..generally liked his input but there was a day or two where he was attacking other posters, there’s no point in doing that..this is a pretty civil message board so that’d be my guess

  • JosephR2225

    I wish there was a little more explanation from the mystery GM about Marcus Smith “not being a scheme fit.” I’m with Sheil, I think he fits exactly what they’re looking for scheme-wise.

    • John E. Zang

      I think it’s someone who was asked a question about something they really shouldn’t be commenting on. They probably thought Philly was still in the wide 9.

      • JosephR2225

        Just goes to show the value of the “national” perspective, I guess. Even guys in positions of authority can’t be watching all 32 teams THAT closely.

  • Engwrite

    Other than giving it a grade–any grade–I agree. However, I did like the maneuvers, like dropping back four spots on round 1; extra picks are extra chances to hit the jackpot.

  • SuM

    When you take a step back and look at the offseason as a whole, I think everything makes sense. People seem to take issue with the DeSean release than anything else. I tend to think differently about that than it seems 99% of people.

    If DeSean Jackson was a team leader, and one of the most prominent players on the field and in the locker room (which you can’t argue- he was) and he wasn’t on the same page as Chip with his entire program then he had to go. When you preach to your players and tell them that they need to do a very specific list of things to make themselves and the team successful, and you have a guy going to the pro bowl ignoring everything you say and staying out until 4am then getting 150 yds and a score on sunday it sends the wrong message to the rest of the team. You can’t have that. If it’s Damon Square, then fine… you can live with it. But not out of your best players.

    • Andy124

      If DeSean Jackson was a team leader, and one of the most prominent players on the field and in the locker room (which you can’t argue- he was)

      It sounds like you’re saying you can’t argue about DJ being a team leader, because he was one, and it’s not even debatable. I’m hoping what you really mean is that you can’t argue that he was a team leader, because he wasn’t one and it’s not even debatable.

      I actually agree with the gist of your post. But DeSean was not a team leader.

      • Andy124

        I supposed the contents of the paranthesis could be meant to apply to only the last half of the sentence declaring Jackson to be prominent. Just ignore my entire post if that’s the case.

      • SuM

        DeSean wasn’t the leader we wanted him to be… but when someone is an integral part of your success they’re invariably looked at as a leader by those who are marginal contributors. When you LEAD the team in Receptions, Yards, and Touchdowns… it’s hard to imagine you don’t have more clout in the locker room, than Jason Avant- the consummate team guy.

      • paul from nc

        I think that’s the way he meant it.
        My issue is that “if it was Square … you can live with it”. In my experience, a team will make allowances for a star, but if an average player does the same, he’s gone. —- unless I misread it.

  • JAMIN67

    I’d go C as well. I think we did very well in the draft, and I like the Jenkins signing (as opposed to spending $56M on Byrd) as some of the moves to shore up ST.

    What brings this offseason grade down for me is the whole DJax mess. Not that they got rid of him….just the TIMING of it. I have to wonder how things might have been different had we held onto him into the whole Josh Gordon fiasco…could we have worked something out and gotten picks this year or next? Again…I think the moving on from DJax was needed…I just hate that we lost a proven player for nothing.

    Hindsight is always a great thing.

  • joeknowsnada

    I agree that O-Line is aging, however, O-Line is also one area where a team can get old but still derive capable, even dominant performances out of veterans. I could always be wrong, however, I just don’t see Jason Peters and Evan Mathis falling off a cliff, anytime soon. Peters missed time with injury to his achilles, and Mathis, having been a journeyman, has a lot of tread left on his tires. They seem to keep themselves in excellent shape. Kelce is young, Lane J. is second-year. My one real concern is Herremans. In addition, If the O-Line were to suffer major injuries, I don’t think a rookie 7th rounder could just step in and play for them. I also wonder why they did not attempt to sign Darryn Colledge, but, maybe, he is at the end of the line, in their opinion.

    To me, their O-line depth is just okay, far from ideal. That said, I think this is one of the best staffs I have seen at coaching up their players. I have some faith in their ability to get more out of less. Having said this, every team, today, has “some” area(s) of weakness. I do agree that cutting DJax in this manner “weakened” their draft. As always, we shall see, as we go along.

    • Always Hopeful

      O-line depth is unproven, therefore an unknown. Hopecully there’s enough there to coach up, or they’ll find some guys around cut time that fit the bill.

      • ICDogg

        It is a concern, but it’s always something. You fix one thing and there is another thing still to fix. Let’s say they traded up with their 3rd and got Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Well then maybe we’re complaining that we didn’t address our pass rush at all and only got one wide receiver.

        • Always Hopeful

          This is why I’ve always enjoyed the draft and pre-season: coaches gotta max out the ability of the players the GM brings in. It’s cool seeing homegrown players develop. Can’t fill every need in the draft or via FA. Need to manufacture some decent productivity from guys at the back end of the roster.

          • ICDogg

            And sometimes you pick up a guy who’s been a journeyman for his whole career but is such a good fit that you can get good production from him.

      • Jerry Pomroy

        I think there will be a few guys that get cut as rosters get whittled down that we may have interest in if our unknowns prove unworthy.

    • paul from nc

      I hope so, but the depth isn’t there. only one decent back up and a lot of unknowns and UDFA. One major injury and it’s over.
      Without a line, all the gamebreakers won’t mean much.

  • John E. Zang

    Disagree with the grade. It depends on how you grade. Top names in free agency? They’d probably get a D. But solid scheme fits, players with upside and team friendly deals? A You can attack them about the Desean thing but the truth is they really were on a rock in a hard place. Everyone knew they were trying to unload him since last year. No way they could’ve hung onto him this late with all the media and things. You can’t fill every need in one draft unless you draft like Andy Reid did. They should have quality depth this year and no glaring needs. They got younger and freed up lots of cap. I grade them pretty high.

    • TNA

      I just imagined Howie and Chip on a rock in a hard place. Alcatraz? Devil’s Island? Apology for the snarky remark in advance.

      • John E. Zang

        No, geographically speaking, it’d probably be out in the ocean somewhere at the Jersey shore.

        • Jerry Pomroy

          LBI? Remember going there a few times as a kid and saying man this place is boring!! No boardwalk?? No crazy drunken people to laugh at??

          • peteike

            then as I got older, realized ahhh it was nice and quiet and way nicer than other beaches. Thank god my folks didnt take me to ocean s..ity or worse yet Sea Isle. Wildwood? ha I went there for my senior year spring drunken break. Hope I didnt offend anyones sensibilities but theres a reason there are drunk brawls there nightly

          • Jerry Pomroy

            Hahaha… Exactly. Hated LBI as kid, but can certainly appreciate it more now. Liked Sea Isle before it became overcrowded & like Wildwood. Live in MD now for the past 2yrs but feel about OC like I do Wildwood. Never been to Rehoboth, but might need to make a day trip to check out. Dewey is supposed to be nice as well. Need to find a good spot down this way, so if anyone has some suggestions, by all means. Would like a family oriented, with some social vibe but not completely secluded (or “dry”) beach destination. A boardwalk on par with Sea Isle’s 10-15yrs ago would be nice.

          • peteike

            right, I actually dont know too much about sea isle, just heard stories and the craziest “likes to fight” guy I ever met grew up there. Its a bit of a haul but a tad closer to MD are the outer banks in NC, awesome and worth the drive. Reasonable (or used to be) houses to rent there and beach is killer.

          • Joe from Easton

            I always suggest Myrtle Beach, well North Myrtle Beach, to anyone looking for a nice vacation spot. I love it there.

          • paul from nc

            Went there for years, golf vacations with 8-12 guys.
            Great fun and dirt cheap.

  • Eagles1018

    Great article and couldn’t agree with all your points more than I do. During the draft if anybody remembers seeing me go ape s**t about going after Jordan Tripp or a good serviceable ILB that can potentially spell D Ryans on third downs. I feel honestly that if they thought that guy was on the team he woulda played last year. And Ryans struggled enough due most likely to fatigue. So what now? Put Ryans out there again and hope for the best?

    Also, I agree that the handling of Jaccpot was bonkers. If you felt he wasn’t the guy, then you felt that for a while…not after the season was over, not AFTER free agency started. How many of us said they shoulda restructured if his contract was too high? I mean it’s not rocket surgery. It’s football. How many of US knew he was overpaid. Honestly…….

    Maybe (maybe) CK gets a flier for being sorta new and not dealing with the issues after running a program with no contracts etc. But Howie knew….

    And Safety??? Puhleez don’t get me started. I’m still upset about they handled B Dawkins contract negotiations which made him go to Denver. If they don’t wake up and make some marked improvements to the defense we will be chasing a title forever. Props to Billy Davis for making lemonade with some of the lemons he’s been given. Jenkins is an upgrade yes…but he admits that he needs to improve his tackling?! Marcus Smith it’s hard to say obviously. I’m mostly excited about Matthews and Huff because I think they’re an overall improvement over Jaccpot and Avant being the receivers we lost. Combined they are IMO. I hope the rest of these picks along with year 2 in Billy’s scheme makes it work better. I’m from the same school of defense that Geagle was/is from. We have to stop people. Period

    • Jerry Pomroy

      So let’s run down a few of your points…

      ILB – I’m pretty certain that it’s been mentioned that they just didn’t like any of the prospects here after Mosley. To be quite honest, I personally didn’t either, because I just didn’t see anyone that could be a replacement for Ryans. I liked Van Noy in the middle but still think he’s a better fit as a blitzing/coverage specialist (not a run defender) & on this team that role belongs to Kendricks. So C Jones gets passed over completely. Gotta be a reason for it & I liked him better in the same role as Van Noy. Kirskey & Tripp are not elite prospects that you’d replace a Ryans with. They just aren’t & drafting them with that notion would be a slap in the face of Ryans. Speaking of Ryans, he is still a monster run defender & leader of the defense. With the additions of Smith & Watkins to go along with Boykin, you have alternatives & a bevy of sub packages to allow you to have Meco sit on 3rd downs & in long yardage situations. This is one of the reasons versatility is a good thing.

      DJax – I don’t like to dwell on DJax release, but I personally like the receiving corps more now than last year. I see a talented, but blue collar group that is much more well rounded in their talents. Did we lose .10 – .15 speed? Yes. Did we gain size, toughness, intelligence & athletic prowess? Yes. I’ll take the latter over the former. My opinion of course. Don’t like the way it came about. But what’s done is done & I’m happy with the result so far.

      Safety – Silver lining? It’s a better and deeper unit. And a fairly young group. We don’t know for sure, but our future tandem may be on the roster in Wolff & Reynolds, might even throw Watkins name in that mix. While that’s not Ha-Ha (whom I really didn’t get giddy over) or ET, it is much more promising than some of the slop we ran out there the past few years. Especially considering that our top 3-4 are better than the starters the past 4-5 years.

      I too am a defensive junkie. I grew up in an era of Eagles football where punishing defense was the norm for a good 15yrs & I was hooked. I also have a soft spot for just tough guy players (Dawk, Keith “U Can’t Bring Me Down!” Byars, Seth Joyner, Wes Hopkins, Duce!).

      • Eagles1018

        In response. IlB’s – that’s a wash. They didn’t like em, they seemingly don’t like anyone enough on the roster to spell Meco on 3rd down. Onto the ’15 draft or any roster cuts around the league.

        WRs- Heck yes I’m happy with the way it turned out. But honestly as much as we may want to just move past it we can’t. The FO handled it poorly and we coulda got something with a restructure of his contract or even kept him.

        Safety – is my sore spot for real. Dawk was my GUY. I’m new to the eagles, I always liked Randall and Reggie White but I was niners as a kid cuz of Jerry Rice (can’t deny his talent and he happens to be the best WR ever). But when I saw Dawkins being this little guy like flattening people and flying around I fell in love. So Safety is like my spot. More emotional than anything I guess. But hey, it’s be awesome if Wolff and Reynold were the answer. Or even Watkins though I’d prefer to see him as a long term solution at CB. Speaking of in eager to see what Nolan Carroll can do also.

        • Jerry Pomroy

          Dawk is my favorite football player all time. Only threw Watkins in there because it’s a possibility. But I think he’s a future #1 CB. I just hope we don’t get too wrapped in versatility that it hurts individual positional development. Having hybrids is nice, but too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. That’s why I like versatility to mean someone who can do a lot of things well. Not necessarily just be able to play a multitude of positions.

    • Maggie

      Seems like half of you is still living in the past (and holding pointless grudges), while the other half is kind of looking to the future? Will the real Eagles1018 please stand up?

  • PaoliBulldog

    Again with the “second round” garbage about Smith. So taking him with the 26th pick is a reach, but taking him at #33 is shrewd drafting?

    Most of the mocks I saw projected Bucannon as a second round pick. He went #27. Close enough. The Eagles needed safety help too, but they felt OLB was a priority. And I doubt Roseman promised CK that Smith would still be on the board for the Eagles’ second round pick.

    • Richard Colton

      second round garbage in that everyone in America, including Smith himself, expected him to go in the 2nd round?

      Agree with Buchanan – I can’t believe these four safeties went in the 1st round. ’49ers reached for theirs as well.

      • Jerry Pomroy

        Based on the same premise I’d add.

      • PaoliBulldog

        The second round comprises picks 33-64. If you think Smith would have been on the board at, say, #60, then yes he was a reach. Ditto #50 or even #40. But if he was going to be drafted by #35, then taking him at #26 is no big reach given the uncertainty of other teams’ plans.

        Describing someone as a “second round projection” is pretty vague.

  • ICDogg

    I say B although I agree with a lot more here than I don’t.

    I see the Djax situation as a rock vs hard place dilemma. The only way to trade him was to pay him a lot of money up front to change some of the salary to bonus so that his contract was more palatable to other teams. But we still don’t get a prime pick even after doing all of that.

    • John E. Zang

      Kudos for the rock/hard place reference. I just included it my own post without having read yours.

      • ICDogg

        Yours was first, actually, though I hadn’t read it yet.

        To me the ideal outcome of all of that would have been to just keep Desean Jackson and just overpay him for the year (what he was slated to make). Would have been sort of like a franchise tag move where you know you’re only keeping him for another year, but it buys you a year to replace him.

        • John E. Zang

          Yes that sounds ideal but I don’t think they considered that because they wanted to get him out ASAP. I think their actions just show us that he wasn’t even worth the roster spot to them. He must’ve been quite the bad example to a young team. Chip strikes me as a coach who likes players who know their role and stick to it.

          • ICDogg

            Clearly, Chip didn’t want him around.

            When you release a guy, you’re making a statement about that guy, whether you say you are or not. You’re saying that you’re better off without him. Obviously his contract is a big part of that, but if that was the only thing they probably could have gotten past it.

            Chip appears to be intent on creating a culture on the team… players who are hard working and intelligent, dedicated and not full of themselves.

          • Andy124

            Stand DJ next to the current corps of receivers and sing, “Which one of these things is not like the others, which one of these things just doesn’t belong.”

            After we stop making Cooper jokes, the answer is pretty self-evident.

          • cliff henny

            yup, but darn it, I’m really going to miss that 4.2 getting loose

          • Jerry Pomroy

            Whoah ke-mo sah-bee. 4.2? He was fast, but not Flash…lol. 4.35 was his official number.

            Just for $hits and giggles, I’ll remind everyone that Matthews clocked in at 4.46 (just .11 higher). Not bad for being almost 6″ taller (6’3″ > 5’10”), about 35lbs heavier & long legs which make him a strider.

          • paul from nc

            But Coop can take them all to a Country Western concert and bond.

          • Andy124

            I would hope the rest have better taste than that.

          • paul from nc

            You mean Country Western or going with him?

  • http://batman-news.com 3rd & 1

    I give the Eagles a B+. Even though we still need depth on the o-line and inside linebacker, we greatly increased our depth in many areas:

    Free Agents
    S Malcolm Jenkins replaces Patrick Chung;
    S Chris Maragos replaces Colt Anderson;
    CB Nolan Carroll replaces Curtis Marsh;
    LB Bryan Braman replaces Casey Mathews;
    Trade
    RB Darren Sproles replaces Bryce Brown;
    Draft Picks
    Marcus Smith, LB, Round 1, eventually replaces Trent Cole
    Jordan Matthews, WR, Rd 2, replaces Jason Avant
    Josh Huff, WR, Rd 3, replaces Damaris Johnson
    Jaylen Watkins, CB, Rd 4, replaces Roc Carmichael and backs up Brandon Boykin.
    Taylor Hart, DL, Rd 5, replaces Clifton Geathers
    Ed Reynolds, S, Rd 5, replaces Kurt Coleman
    Beau Allen, DT, Rd 7, replaces Damion Square

    WR Maclin and Darren Sproles replace Djax. We will miss his elite speed, but Djax was a liability in run blocking, in the red zone, over the middle, as a hot head (fighting penalty threat) and as a hot dog (celebration penalty threat). Maclin is a better route runner and blocker, Sproles can get open anywhere and can play the slot. Both are red zone threats. Djax was a threat as a punt returner, but was often caught going backwards, trying to make a big play. Sproles is more reliable, but will no longer break the long one.

    Also, we greatly improved the team’s football intelligence and versatility.

    • John E. Zang

      Yes, yes, and yes. I applaud chips intelligence to see that he’s simply more of a liability at receiver than a positive. He can’t even win in tight coverage if he tried. He’s smaller than most punters. Why would you want that as your go-to number one receiver?

    • Jerry Pomroy

      Wasn’t there a play early on last season where DJax hot dogged it into EZ again? I can’t remember the play, but I remember him doing it and me SMH & saying to myself, “yeah that’s exactly what you want to do to get in the good graces of your new HC that was basically just handed the keys to the franchise.”

      • http://batman-news.com 3rd & 1

        I remember the play, but not when. Djax was always trying to agitate the other team, which I think made them play with more intensity. Also, there was the incident in preseason, when Djax objected to playing with the second team. He was a prima donna. He’s probably going to bite us in our two games with Washington.

        • Jerry Pomroy

          Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, it’ll be in a losing effort.

          • paul from nc

            I’m worried that we lose one of the Skins games because he’ll play lights out. And possibly, that game keeps us out of the playoffs, if the Giants go 9-7.
            Just my personal nightmare for the off season.

    • Maggie

      Great last line. Seems to have been the team’s goal all along.

  • JofreyRice

    Yep, totally agree, C for the offseason. Could have done better.

  • Joe from Easton

    First off we have to define the scale.

    A – If an average / above average team puts themselves over the hump for SB contention; If a bad team puts themselves into playoff contention
    B – If an average / above average team puts themselves in position to take the next step (win a playoff game or two) or improves continuity or areas of weakness; If a bad team puts themselves in position to add a few wins, maybe go .500
    C – Any team breaks even; maintains the status quo by replacing lost players or adding depth. This team won’t see a marked improvement, but isn’t regressing either.
    D – The team takes a step backwards by losing key players without a replacement plan; signs bad FA contracts or reaches badly in the draft for positions of need.
    F – Complete failure in any way imaginable

    By the scale above I’m giving the Eagles a B for this off-season.

    I think the signing of Jenkins and Caroll along with drafting Watkins will improve the back-end of our defense significantly. Smith will take some time, but it’s going to allow Billy to force the question of “where is the pressure coming from?” by having two OLB’s that can rush the passer and cover. Our D-Line was already decent and will improve with more rotational players such as Beau Allen keeping our starters fresh.

    I think our offense will also be improved due to more flexibility in terms of scheme. Sure we will miss Jackson to a certain extent, but I truly believe the offense will look very different this year. Sproles and Huff will add a dimension to our backfield that we didn’t have by being an actual threat to run (inside the tackles, zone read) or catch the ball over the middle (V-In routes, delayed screens in the middle of the field). Jackson’s speed was great, but out of the backfield he was either running a wheel or a toss play which are easily diagnosed. Matthews will give us a slot threat similar to Colston in NO. He will force defenses into nickel coverage and then we can run it down their throats. If they go to a regular set then they will be exploited by Ertz, Matthews, Sproles, or Shady being covered by a LB or safety. This will be a horizontal attack, not a vertical attack. It will be predicated on yards after catch by getting players in space and having blue-collar guys throwing blocks down field.

    • dnabrice

      Sucks if you won the SB…you can only get a C…..

      • Joe from Easton

        My breakdown was in a vacuum. Obviously you can make a specific case for a SB winner that you wouldn’t grade them that way, but then again does a Superbowl winner need an A or a B off-season? Probably not.

        • Jerry Pomroy

          “My breakdown was in a vacuum.”

          Dyson, Hoover, Shark?

          • Joe from Easton

            Screw you guys… I’m goin’ home.

      • Maggie

        Nah. Replace the grade with a ring.

    • Maggie

      Very good analysis. Much clearer, yet simpler, than most of the “experts”, who actually get paid. Also, no unending hang-ups about departed players. ;~)

  • mtn_green

    I remember last offseason the eagles saying that Kendricks was going to get the microphone, because he would be on the field on third downs. Then when season came it was Ryan’s with microphone. The answer might be a third safety with Kendricks on the field to give Ryan’s a breather.

    Was it Kendricks just not good enough in comparison to Ryan’s to run defense, or did eagles not have the fourth cb or third safety to run a dime package?

    • Andy124

      Davis mentioned not having enough CBs to run a Dime defense.

      • Jerry Pomroy

        Davis can’t complain now as he can run all kinds of sub packages, with an assortment of players. He’s got enough DBs to run dime all day, every Sunday. He’s also got an OLB now that could stay upright in nickel, blitz or drop & get Meco off the field. Heck in dime, you could still leave Smith in as the lone LB.

    • Warhound

      I expect to see, in some long yardage situations, 2DL, 3LBs, 3CBs and 3S.

  • Chris Glover

    What’s the point of all this grading stuff?! How about allowing a player to show you what he can do on the field first. All of this BS is noting but opinions. Especially from these so called “experts”. Opinions are like a$$holes….everyone has one. I’m tired of people grading this and that. Assuming this or that…

    • Joe from Easton

      If you’re not a fan of opinions, speculation, conjecture, or general fanatical rants regarding our beloved team then you should just be tired of this site! haha

      In all seriousness though, that sort of thing is why we come here and go back and forth with one another. If it’s not your thing then maybe you should just follow this site between September and February (hopefully) when the real football is being played because until then, this is what you’re going to get.

  • robo40

    Speaking of opportunity costs, it would certainly be fair to factor in the extra 10.5 mill they have to spend next year. I guess you could evaluate solely based on 2014, but that seems kind of silly when you evaluate a draft.

    If that 10.5 mill signs the best inside LB on the market next year, or the best o-lineman, then you have a pretty fair cost comparison to make. Seems pretty reasonable that the money could buy something close that, and you have more flexibility this way. Cutting Jackson was a good football move. He was not worth the salary.

    • ICDogg

      Fair enough.

    • Jerry Pomroy

      Obviously not a bad tactic if they go that route. But we’ve seen so far that they don’t seem interested setting the market for the top FA at their positions. Possible they do that, sure. But I don’t see them going big on the open market unless Chip clearly identifies a player he absolutely wants.

      • robo40

        Agreed, I don’t think they’ll do that. But it’s only fair that if you say losing DeSean cost them a 2nd or 3rd, then you also say that it gained them 10.5 mill to spend on a player for next year.

    • paul from nc

      But, we all know, they won’t spend it anyway. Gotta have that carryover for when global warming hits.

  • peteike

    maybe letting Jackson walk was partly because it was such a deep WR draft, that it allowed them to make those choices and not potentially miss the boat.

    Also disagree with the safety opinion, while I was wanting one of the big name FA, I think they did just fine. Looking at the position, it now has depth and Im going to assume here, some quality at least. Sure, not top shelf and that could be the complaint or problem that leads to keep looking there but I think they are way way more serviceable there than last season.

    • Kev_H

      I just shake my head with the way some people think. It’s like, step 1. “let’s get rid of that punk Jackson because he bugs us”. Step 2. “Oh crap! We need wide receivers.” Step 3. “Well I guess we have to change our draft board.”

      This is how it went down. Step 1. “We are going to have to make some tough decisions regarding McCoy, Jackson, Cole, Ryans and the salary cap.” Step 2. “According to our draft board, we should be able to draft two or more guys who could be great fits.” Step 3. “Let’s make sure we retain Maclin & Cooper on reasonable terms so we have capable vets and we can get rid of Jackson, position ourselves to take advantage of a wr heavy draft and set us up for the next five years for our young QB.”

      • Maggie

        I like it. Plan A, B, C and D were largely in place for months, I have no doubt. And pleeeease, SK. It does not MATTER WHY Jackson is gone. It does not matter why one player, out of several, was dropped. They are all gone, new players are moving in, get on with your life.

        • Kev_H

          If they are all-in with Foles as the QB for the next 999 years, a big concern has to be what they have around him when he is in his QB prime (ages 27-31?). Two years from now, the main guys the big recent Reid era fans came to know and love (Jackson and McCoy) will likely be on the downside running on fumes. You don’t waste a year or two trying to milk what is left of them and then another year or two trying to develop young skill players…by the time you do that, Foles is getting old.

  • jabostick

    It’d be interesting to see how the offseason would be if they did free agency AFTER the draft instead of the other way around…

    • peteike

      oh man, not sure fans could handle zero NFL action for that long, was hard enough waiting for draft this year.

    • Warhound

      That happened the year of the last CBA negotiation. I recall it being kinda’ weird.

  • 76mustang

    Most Eagle beat writers lauded Howie for how he managed the trades he made during the draft – it makes no sense to me to then question Howie’s “process” in handling the DJax release. Do you really think the Eagles didn’t exhaust every option prior to letting DJax walk? For the doubters, has any writer attempted contacting DJax’s agent to see if there was any attempt made in renegotiating his contract? Just a lot of assumptions where behavior doesn’t support the premise – would give Howie and Chip the benefit of the doubt on this one.

    As for the OL and ILB situation, it’s easy to see those as areas of concern, but to cite them without providing options the Eagles should have taken is pretty lame. Sheil, how about you give us the FA and/or OL and ILBs the Eagles passed on that you would view as better fits than the player(s) they chose?

  • Kev_H

    I’m not with the low grade here and the opportunity cost perspective seems backwards. You have a draft historically deep in wide receivers, and the recommendation here seems to be to not take advantage of that. SK would rather force a Barry Gardner pick and keep DeSean Jackson on a team unfriendly contract for another season. I have a feeling they’ll win many more games over the next three years because of their off-season moves than they would have with the short-term, poor cap management, reach in the draft approach proffered here. And the criticism of Jackson’s release doesn’t wash. Of course they tried to trade him and I don’t see why he would negotiate a cap friendly pay cut to facilitate the Eagles. If Eagles’ staff bothered to read this post they’d shake they’re heads and laugh.

  • William McEnroe

    I’m not worried about ILB depth. I hope they decide to use Dime more often. Even using a 3 safety and 3 CB package.

  • imnotsorryisaidthat

    I cant wait to see the numbers Kellys offense puts up year two in a system where the players no longer think but react,where Kelly is coaching his team and not some by product of Andy Reid,where even more elements of his friggin genius is exposed,this team is loaded with weapons and Jackson would have been nothing but a distraction as his touches decreased and his whining increased

  • Joe Thomas

    I must cant call Smith a reach. Maybe at 22, but not when considering we also got an extra pick(that turned into two) out of it. I hope Smith really surprises people. Also I have alot more confidence in our saftey group now.

  • Rick H

    Sheil I like your article and generally agree. I do believe there IS NOT a team in the NFL that would not want to improve their safety positions. The game is evolving quickly!
    I can easily see cornerback types playing safety. I think Watkins would e awesome and could be that guy for the Eagles eventually.
    The league has removed the big hitting enforcer safety from the game and that will not change. CONCUSSIONS!!! Therefore cover safties and good basic tacklers are the definite future. I like what the Eagles have done in the off season and draft. But what builds my confidence as an Eagles fan is the coaching staff. Not just head coach or OC or DC but the entire staff. These guys make the players better fundamentally and help them reach their ceilings.
    I also think the defense improved by 30% this off season. If I am guessing correctly that will be a huge difference to a whole team improvement. The emphasis on special teams play is an awesome focus and great line of thinking by the Eagles.
    Last I truly hope Bill Davis is the defensive Coordinator that he is now recognized throughout the league. He made me believe and I was one of his biggest critics last year. Good for him!

    • paul from nc

      He did a great job with what he had last year. You could see the improvement.
      I just hope this is the real Billy Davis, and we can build a solid, hard hitting, take away defense that can get off the field on 3rd downs.

  • Weapon Y

    The DeSean thing boils down to this: He’s a great WR and Howie/Chip let him go for nothing. That’s all there is to it. Not a smart move at all. I don’t care if they couldn’t play nice. Jimmy Johnson’s players hated him, yet they won multiple Super Bowls. I don’t want nice guys. I want great football players and they just let one walk.