What They’re Saying About the Eagles

Photo courtesy of USA Today

Photo courtesy of USA Today

Here is a rundown of what the national media are saying about the Eagles this week.

ESPN.com teamed up with Pro Football Focus to figure out how close each team is to competing in the Super Bowl. Despite the Eagles missing the playoffs, the analysis suggested the team is just two players away from getting to the title game. Phil Sheridan notes the positions the Eagles could improve heading into next season:

Secondary: The Eagles’ pass defense truly broke down in the last month of the season. Opposing quarterbacks completed 61 percent of their passes for 1,177 yards and six touchdowns in December. During the three-game losing streak that knocked Philly out of the playoffs, the Eagles allowed 14 pass plays of more than 20 yards, the second-most in the league. Half the secondary starters — CB Bradley Fletcher and S Nate Allen — are scheduled to become free agents. A third, cornerback Cary Williams, could be on his way out, thanks to his $8.1 million cap number. Whether it’s through free agency or the draft, this beleaguered unit is in need of a major overhaul. Seattle’s Byron Maxwell would be worth a look.

Linebacker: With DeMeco Ryans coming back from a second Achilles tear, the Eagles need depth and talent at inside linebacker. The guys on the outside are far from settled, either. Trent Cole is 33 and comes with an $11.6 million cap number, and Brandon Graham is hitting free agency after a solid year. Miami’s Denzel Perryman and UCLA’s Eric Kendricks (Mychal’s brother) could be had in the draft.

Matt Williamson of ESPN.com ranked all 32 NFL teams by their under-25 talent. He has the Eagles at No. 16:

Fletcher Cox, DE (24): Cox is very effective as a defensive end in the Eagles’ 3-4 scheme, but with his upfield explosiveness, his best role could actually be as a 3-technique DT in a 4-3. He is a very good interior pass-rusher, but doesn’t compromise at all against the run and is a superb tackler for the position.

Lane Johnson, OT (24): It isn’t a coincidence that the Eagles’ running game got back on track this season after Johnson returned from suspension. He could stand to add strength and bulk, but he is simply an outstanding foot athlete, which is exactly what Chip Kelly wants from his linemen.

Mychal Kendricks, LB (24): Kendricks is a very active and versatile every-down linebacker. He excels as a blitzer, as a run-and-chase run defender and can cover the elite tight ends in this league.

Zach Ertz, TE (24): Ertz can line up all over the formation and is a mismatch for nearly every type of cover man he faces. It is surprising that he hasn’t been featured more yet in this offense, and he needs to play more snaps.

Brandon Boykin, CB (24): Boykin is on the shorter side, but he is ideal as a slot cornerback, which now should be considered a starting position in the NFL. He is good in run support and as a blitzer as well.

Draft analyst Matt Waldman compares Penn State tight end Jesse James to Brent Celek:

Seeking a tight end with hand-eye coordination, focus, and toughness? James is your man in a similar way that Celek has been for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Speed might be the missing ingredient in James’ potential NFL career. If his workouts display much better speed than the tape there may be reason for hope that his ceiling is much higher than what I’ve seen thus far.

Patrick Daugherty of Rotoworld ranks 21st century Super Bowls. He’s got the Eagles-Patriots game at No. 7:

When it comes to the history books, Super Bowl XXXIX isn’t so much about the game that was played — good one though it was — but the legacies that were cemented. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady as the coach and quarterback of their era. Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb as the runners up of their era. Terrell Owens as a freak of nature. Adam Vinatieri as some sort of humanoid incapable of feeling pressure. Not that Super Bowl XXXIX lacked memorable moments, the most indelible being what didn’t happen. Trailing 24-14, the Eagles got the ball back with 5:40 remaining. Not a lot of time, but definitely enough to turn the tables of impending history. Instead, they operated with shockingly little urgency, huddling up and taking 3:52 to score an ultimately futile touchdown. If this game cemented Reid and McNabb as the prime No. 2s of the 2000s, it also cemented the reason — witless game management. (10 years on, Reid still hasn’t learned.) When the dust settled, Owens had nine catches for 122 yards despite breaking his leg just 49 days prior, while Vinatieri provided the difference for the third time in as many Super Bowls. The result was not a surprise. As history has proven, neither was the process.

Elliot Harrison and Gil Brandt of NFL.com ranked all the Super Bowls. They’ve got Eagles-Raiders at No. 33:

Oakland Raiders linebacker Rod Martin intercepted the ball three times. It’s hard to win when the other team’s LB gets three picks. This 27-10 ballgame was mostly a snoozer, although Philadelphia was in the game up until the Raiders dominated the fourth quarter.

Eagles-Patriots, meanwhile, comes in at No. 20:

Donovan McNabb’s puking habits became all the rage in the media after Terrell Owens let the world in on his interpretation of why Philadelphia failed late: McNabb’s conditioning program could use a NordicTrack. Watch this game again, if you happened to DVR it back in February of 2005. The Eagles looked awfully lethargic getting in and out of the huddle, despite trailing 24-14 with five minutes left.

Marcus Mariota is unsure whether he’ll throw at the combine, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser:

Marcus Mariota said he is undecided on whether he’ll throw at the upcoming NFL Combine as he waits for an injury from the final game of his college career to heal.

“Right now we’re still making that decision, whether to throw at the Combine. I had to kinda rest about a week-and-a-half,” Mariota said, speaking at a press conference Saturday in Laie, where he was being honored as the first Polynesian College Football Player of the Year. “I sprained the AC joint (in his right, throwing, shoulder). But now, I’m able to throw. Feels good.”

If Jeremy Maclin reaches free agency, things could get interesting:

Tucker Bagley is a Temple student and an intern at Birds 24/7.
Sheil Kapadia also contributed to this article.