Weekend Reading: Mathews Gets Praise

Plus: Where does the offensive line rank amongst the rest of the league?

Ryan Mathews. (Jeff Fusco)

Ryan Mathews. (Jeff Fusco)

Here’s this weekend’s roundup of the national stories about the Eagles:

Ryan Mathews received high praise from Michael Fabiano, David Carr, and current Giants running back Rashad Jennings on NFL HQ.

Jennings: “I like him. I liked him even when he was in San Diego. Watching him play, I respect his game. He can play all three downs, he’s a physical runner, he’s a bruiser, he’s fast, he’s consistent. I’ve always appreciated his game.”

Carr: “You look at what Doug Pederson did when they were in Kansas City, how they utilized those running backs catching the football in the backfield, I think they’re gonna do a lot of that in Philly with Ryan, and he’s definitely talented enough to do it.

Fabiano: “Took the words right out of my mouth. And who’s not there anymore? DeMarco Murray. They’ve got Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood in the backfield too…but Mathews looks like he’s gonna be at least the closest thing to a feature back Philadelphia has, and you mentioned [Doug] Pederson likes to use the running backs, give them the football, look at Jamaal Charles there in his time in Kansas City. And Mathews averaged five yards a carry last season. His issue was always been durability, and if he can stay healthy, RB2 value right there for Ryan Mathews.

Zach Ertz is one of the league’s ten best tight ends, opines Melissa Jacobs of SI.com.

10. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles

Ertz is one of the most potential-laden tight ends in the league, not that his first three years have been shabby. His yardage totals have risen each year, topping out at 853 yards in 2015. These numbers could have been even loftier had Ertz not lost out on a lot of snaps to Brent Celek, who is a much better blocker. Still, Ertz is clearly the star of this passing game, and the Eagles invested in his future with a lucrative six-year contract extension in January. Look for new tight end-friendly head coach Doug Pederson to place even more emphasis on Ertz moving forward.

Quarterback Sam Bradford is on the hot seat in the NFC East, according to Dan Graziano and Todd Archer of ESPN.com.

Dan Graziano, New York Giants reporter: Sam Bradford’s seat isn’t just hot — it has an actual expiration date. After the Eagles moved up in the draft and took Carson Wentz with the No. 2 pick, Bradford knew his days were numbered. No matter how he performs, he’s ultimately going to lose the job to Wentz. That could be this year, could be next year, but the date is coming soon.

Todd Archer, Dallas Cowboys reporter: Since there are two new head coaches in Ben McAdoo and Doug Pederson, and Jay Gruden is coming off a division title, it comes down to three people: Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford and Giants general manager Jerry Reese. New York ownership made their feelings clear that the departure of Tom Coughlin wasn’t so much about the coach but about the lack of talent added to the roster in recent years. Reese is responsible for that, and you saw his reaction this offseason by going on a spending spree in free agency (Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins, Damon Harrison). In the draft, Eli Apple was something of a curious pick but Sterling Shepard seems like a nice addition. Garrett is the longest-tenured coach in the division and has a .500 record over his five years with one playoff appearance. Jerry Jones is not known for patience but he has been patient with Garrett. He is in the second year of a five-year deal, so Jones might be willing to be more patient even if the fan base isn’t. To me, Bradford is the answer. He signed a two-year deal and the Eagles drafted Carson Wentz in the first round. If you think Bradford will be booed in the first quarter of the first game of the season, take the under.

NFL Network’s Mike Mayock was a guest on Sportsradio 94 WIP Thursday and said that Carson Wentz has to play this season.

The way I look at it is this: As soon as Carson Wentz is ready to play—and whether it’s Week 1, Week 5, Week 11 or next year—I think he’s going to play. I think it’s important that he gets some snaps this year. I’m bullish on this kid. But he only threw the ball 612 times, if I remember correctly, in his career. The kid from Cal [Jared Goff] threw it 1,000 more times. The kid from Cal has 1,000 more live reps at a higher level, so you kind of put that in perspective a little bit. But I think when Carson Wentz is ready to play, they’ve got to play him.

If he gets some reps this year … they’ve got to protect him. When I say protect… I’m not talking—not just the offensive line, pass protection—I’m talking about the run game and I’m talking defense. If you look at Joe Flacco, who only threw the ball about the same amount of times at the same level. He came into Baltimore and they had a run game and defense and he started all 16 games. I think that’s healthy. But until they can protect him with a run game and defense, I don’t think you can throw him in there. I think the franchise itself—it starts with Doug Pederson—has to have a plan. Regardless of the hell that goes on in the city the next day, they have to stick to the plan.

The Eagles have the seventh best offensive line, according to Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus.

7. Philadelphia Eagles

Projected starters: LT Jason Peters, LG Allen Barbre, C Jason Kelce, RG Brandon Brooks, RT Lane Johnson

Roster depth:Stefen Wisniewski, Matt Tobin, Dennis Kelly

Key stat: Jason Peters earned the fifth-best run-blocking grade among NFL OTs last season.

The Eagles own a line that is likely to improve over last year due to upgrades among both their starters and backups. Philadelphia’s two lowest-graded linemen from last season, Matt Tobin and Dennis Kelly, played a combined 1,400 snaps, which should only happen again if there are multiple injuries along the line. They added Brandon Brooks (Texans), who has improved his pass-blocking each year, and at his best, is among the better run-blocking guards in the league. Wisniewski has graded well in the past, and will compete for a starting job—or at the very least, be the team’s top backup.

Howie Roseman is dead last in Sporting News’ Vinnie Iyer’s NFL GM rankings.
32. Howie Roseman, Eagles
Roseman returns to the roost after being displaced by Chip Kelly, and the pressure to come though was immediately back. He spent much of the offseason trying to clean up Kelly’s messes but created a different one at QB, spending too much money on Sam Bradford and too many draft picks on Carson Wentz.
Last year’s ranking: NA

The Eagles were one of the top leaders in using the ‘Y-Iso’ last season, writes Robert Klemko of the MMQB.

The origin story is elusive, but the appeal is readily apparent from a quarterback’s perspective.

“If a team played man, your tight end is gonna get a safety or a linebacker on him and all the corners are gonna go over there and match up on the receivers,” Smith explains. “The tight end has to be talented enough to win that. That has to be a match up you want, depending on the team you’re playing. There’s probably not many of those match-ups that we don’t look at as favorable with [Travis] Kelce. He’s that kind of player.”

The teams that do it best are those with the sort of pass-catching tight ends who run precise routes and create size/speed mismatches on a regular basis, so you can probably guess which teams use the formation most frequently. The leading Y-ISO users in 2015, in order of snaps:

TeamSnaps in Y-ISO (2015)
San Diego181
Kansas City164

The departure of Bears coordinator Adam Gase for Miami and tight end Martellus Bennett to New England is expected to knock Chicago off this list and elevate both the Dolphins and Pats; Seattle thrived in the set even after losing Jimmy Graham to a season-ending knee injury, and figures to remain atop this list with his healthy return. Carolina, despite not making the Top 5, is viewed as an industry leader with Greg Olsen; Cincinnati was deadly in the red zone when using the formation with Tyler Eifert, and Cleveland found success doing the same with Gary Barnidge; and Kansas City figures to use Y-ISO even more heavily as Kelce hits his professional prime.

As [Alex] Smith enters his 12th season in the NFL and fourth with the Chiefs, he and Kelce spent time in minicamp expanding their list of go-to route audibles for the ISO, this time without a traditional offensive coordinator (Brad Childress and Matt Nagy will serve as co-coordinators after Doug Pederson’s hiring in Philadelphia).

Detroit Lions guard Geoff Schwartz takes a looks at Fletcher Cox for the team’s summer film sessions:

ESPN’s Insider ($) roundtable discussed several topics, including which coach hired this offseason will be looked at as the best hire five years from now.
Clayton: San Francisco’s Chip Kelly. No coach is covered as well as Chip. If it doesn’t work out with the 49ers, he could go back to college and make more than $7 million a year.

Sando: Philadelphia’s Doug Pederson might have the best combination of owner, roster, cap situation, promising quarterback and general manager invested in his success.

Schatz: [Hue] Jackson will be so well-respected that Madden will have to include the Emory and Henry formation in the Cleveland playbook. (That last part may be wishcasting on my part because the Emory and Henry formation is awesome.)

Yates: Kelly. He’s still a gifted offensive coach and should have time working on his side in San Francisco. If the organization is willing to be patient — and this roster isn’t ready to win right now — Kelly can help architect a turnaround.
Reggie White was the greatest defender Gil Brandt of NFL.com has ever seen.

1) Reggie White, defensive lineman

Philadelphia Eagles, 1985-1992; Green Bay Packers, 1993-98; Carolina Panthers, 2000.

White used his famous hump move to get off blockers and sack quarterbacks. Like Bob Lilly, he was just a naturally strong guy. He had great quickness off the ball, and his speed helped him make many plays on quarterbacks trying to escape. He never slowed down in his play. When I was with the Cowboys, we played his Eagles teams six times — and lost all six. (I don’t think we blocked him very well.) I remember meeting with him at a hotel in Los Angeles and attempting to convince him — in vain — not to sign with the USFL coming out of college, but he spent two years with the Memphis Showboats. Despite losing years to the USFL, White still finished with 198.0 career sacks. And, of course, he famously boosted the Packers’ defense as a free agent in 1993, somehow elevating his play even higher in the postseason.