Eagles Wake-Up Call: Most Indispensable Players

Ryan Mathews and Sam Bradford. (USA Today Sports)

Ryan Mathews and Sam Bradford. (USA Today Sports)

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 »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Grading the Roster

Jeffrey Lurie (Photo by: Jeff Fusco)

Jeffrey Lurie (Photo by: Jeff Fusco)

While the Eagles’ undrafted free agents haven’t been announced yet, we have a pretty good idea of what their roster will look like this season with the draft and free agency frenzy behind us. Let’s break the team down position by position on offense and defense, considering only where they stand for 2016. Read more »

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Potential Cap Casualties

Sam Bradford and Ryan Mathews. (Jeff Fusco)

Sam Bradford and Ryan Mathews. (Jeff Fusco)

To submit your mailbag question, fill out the form at the bottom of this post or email us.

Looking at the Eagles’ 2017 salary cap, they are last in the league with only $5 million available. Is this fallout from the Kelly era, or are these Roseman contracts? What should we expect to see next year, cuts (Peters, Barwin, etc) or restructures (Bradford, etc)? — Shawn

This is why I think the phrase “contract year” is funny.

You often hear it when a player is on the last year of his contract and he’s set to be a free agent, but the reality of the NFL is many players are in “contract years,” even if they have multiple seasons left on their deal. That’s because they can be cut to save money if they don’t appear to be worth their future cap commitment, which is why I think Shawn’s question is intriguing to consider. Even though many Eagles still have multiple years left on their contracts, several of them could be playing for their futures in Philadelphia this year as they try to avoid being cap casualties in 2017. Read more »

Pederson On Kelce’s Step Back, the Offensive Line

Jason Kelce. (Jeff Fusco)

Jason Kelce. (Jeff Fusco)

Throughout last season, several theories floated around about why Jason Kelce took a step back from his previous Pro Bowl-caliber seasons.

Perhaps an injury was holding him back, or maybe he just benefited from battling defenses in those first two Chip Kelly years that struggled to adjust to the Eagles’ scheme and tempo.

Doug Pederson, however, subscribes to a different theory. Read more »

What They’re Saying About the Eagles

Robert Griffin III. (USA Today Sports Images)

Robert Griffin III. (USA Today Sports Images)

Here’s what the media are saying as the combine continues and free agency speculation heats up.

Malcolm Jenkins told SiriusXM that the Eagles were “focused on all the wrong things” last season, per Matt Lombardo of NJ.com.

“I think our team was focused on all the wrong things,” Jenkins said during a radio interview on SiriusXM. “I think when you get so caught up sometimes in X’s and O’s, the tempo of your day and getting to all of this stuff, a lot of times you don’t just stop and pay attention to the small things; like, how tight is your locker room?

“I know on defense we were pretty tight. We’d go out every Thursday night for dinner and have fellowship. Our offense wasn’t quite the same. Those things, though, are important. They may sound very, very minute but those are the things you brush over if you’re going through the speed of the season and your routine, you forget about those things.”

Read more »

What the Future Holds For the Eagles’ O-line

Jason Kelce and Jason Peters. (Jeff Fusco)

Jason Kelce and Jason Peters. (Jeff Fusco)

With a decade in the NFL already under his belt, Barrett Brooks could feel his career winding down in Pittsburgh. He played in nearly 100 games in his first six seasons alone, and he didn’t have much left in the tank.

But then Bill Cowher started giving Brooks “maintenance days,” which Brooks says extended his career by two or three seasons. The former offensive lineman expects Doug Pederson to do the same for Jason Peters, which is why he thinks Peters will still be productive.

“[Pederson] knows how to give guys days off, and that’s going to be huge,” Brooks said. “He’s going to give them days and allow them to sit down to rest. Chip [Kelly] wasn’t having that. Chip still made him practice. You can’t have a guy like that.” Read more »

Lane Johnson: ‘I Want To Be Here the Rest Of My Career’

Photo by: Jeff Fusco

Photo by: Jeff Fusco

In 2008, Lane Johnson was playing quarterback at Kilgore College. In 2010, he was working at tight end and then defensive line for Oklahoma. This time three years ago, he was considered a raw projection pick.  And now, he’s the fourth-highest paid tackle in the NFL.

“It’s sinking in now,” said Johnson after signing a five-year contract extension Friday. “I’m very fortunate to be drafted to a great place where I was able to develop and get better every year, and have the right coaches help me with that…I’m fortunate where I’m at and owe a lot of thanks to the people that have helped me along the way.”

Johnson’s new deal contains $35.5 million in guarantees (including a $10 million signing bonus) and is worth up to $63-plus million. The 25-year old believes the Eagles drafted him to eventually play left tackle and feels the contract accounts for that. But there is no rush. Signs are pointing to Jason Peters being back with the club in 2016, which seems to be just fine by Johnson. Read more »

Eagles, Lane Johnson Agree To Deal

Photo by: Jeff Fusco

Photo by: Jeff Fusco

The Eagles have agreed to a new six-year contract with Lane Johnson, the team announced.

It contains $35.5 million in guarantees and is worth up to $63 million. (Mike Garafolo had the details first.) The deal factors in Johnson’s eventual move to left tackle.

How soon that move comes depends on how the Eagles proceed with Jason Peters.

“I do,” said Doug Pederson, when asked if he thinks Peters can still be a starting left tackle. “I think JP’s got several good years left in him. I think that he does the right things in the offseason to get himself ready to go for another year, and really looking forward to visiting with him, sitting down and talking with him, and number one seeing where he’s at and then motivating him for the future.” Read more »

Jason Peters Talks Chip, Next Head Coach

Photo by: Jeff Fusco

Photo by: Jeff Fusco

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — Asked what he wants in his next head coach, Jason Peters evoked the name of Andy Reid.

“He’s like a father figure to all the players. You just kind of didn’t want to let him down so you always played hard for the guy,” he said. “Somebody like him.”

Questions were raised down the stretch this season whether Peters felt inspired to “play hard” for the man who was just shown the door, Chip Kelly. He exited the game against Washington last week once the outcome was decided. Reports surfaced that he pulled himself because he didn’t want to risk further injury for a team not going to the playoffs. Read more »

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