Eagles Wake-Up Call: Grading the Offseason
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.
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.”
We’ll come up with something.