What They’re Saying About the Eagles

What's the ceiling and the floor for the Eagles in 2016?

Photo by Jeff Fusco.

Photo by Jeff Fusco.

With the first full-squad practice getting started later today, here’s this week’s roundup of the best Eagles links around the web.

There are plenty of holes in the Eagles, as Gabriel Baumgaertner of SI.com gives his training camp primer for the team.

The Rookie: Since Pederson has declared No. 2 pick Carson Wentz won’t sniff the starting job, let’s focus on undrafted linebacker Quentin Gause, a tackling machine who spent last year on an otherwise bad Rutgers team. Gause is a step slow, which is probably why he wasn’t drafted, but he is a sure tackler who impressed the coaching staff during OTAs. The Eagles’ linebackers lack depth and proven commodities outside of Mychal Kendricks (who had a forgettable 2015 season), and each of the starting backers (Kendricks, Nigel Bradham and Jordan Hicks) lost parts of last season to injury. Gause should see plenty of reps in the preseason, and he could play his way into a backup role.​

Position Battle Spoilers: The Eagles don’t have a left guard. Pederson said that 2015 starter Allen Barbre is “my guy” and still has a lock on this position despite struggling last year. The competition will come from Stefen Wisniewski and rookie Isaac Seumalo. The staff will likely want to let Seumalo develop, so he’s a long shot. Wisniewski has put plenty of miles on his body over his five-year career (he has accrued 77 starts in that time), but he might be the more trusty option. Whoever loses out between Barbre and Wisniewski (I’d bet the former) won’t have a job out of training camp.

The Stat: 134.6, the average rushing total the Eagles surrendered last season, good for last place in the NFL. New defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is aggressive to the point of recklessness, but stopping the run remains a glaring concern.​

Preseason Watchability Guide: Remember that leaky run defense we just discussed? It gets two staunch first-quarter tests during the first two preseason games against the Buccaneers (Doug Martin) and Steelers (Le’Veon Bell).

UDFA wide receiver Cayleb Jones pops out as a UDFA to watch, opines Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report.

One player who might help is undrafted rookie and former Arizona wideout Cayleb Jones. He possesses the size at 6’3″ and 209 pounds to be an immediate difference-maker. He also seems to be making a smooth transition into the NFL, as Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer recently explained:

“Another undrafted rookie who could push for a roster spot is receiver Cayleb Jones,” McLane wrote after the Eagles’ first day of training camp. “He was clearly the most polished of the first-year receivers during the spring and picked up where he left off with a nice sideline grab of a Wentz laser.”

Jones amassed 904 yards and five scores last season with Arizona, so he has shown that he can be a producer on the field. Now he’ll have to prove he can do it against NFL competition.

With rookie head coach Doug Pederson and a talented roster, Heath Evans of NFL.com is watching Birds Training Camp.

With first-year head coaches and talented rosters, Eagles and Dolphins catch my eye

There are two teams who stand out to me heading into training camp, both with new head coaches. I think we will gather a lot of info — good or bad — from the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins by the end of camp. It is plain and simple: We will either see players respond to what Doug Pederson or Adam Gase want to accomplish — or we won’t. The Eagles are loaded with talent and ready to put their less-than-stellar 2015 season behind them. I’m eager to see what Pederson will do with this team.

Left tackle Jason Peters is an injury question mark, according to Phil Sheridan of ESPN.com.

Left tackle Jason Peters missed two games last season and was limited in several other games because of a pinched nerve in his back that caused pain in his legs. Peters stands to benefit from new coach Doug Pederson’s approach — no more no-huddle offense, chances to rest up during the practice week — but time is not on the 34-year-old’s side. While the Eagles have their next left tackle in Lane Johnson, Peters’ absence would disrupt the line by forcing a backup to play right tackle. — Phil Sheridan

Quarterback Sam Bradford needs to improve in 2016 if he wants to possibly earn another big contract, writes Joel Corry of CBSSports.com.

The Eagles giving Bradford a two-year, $35 million contract (worth up to $40.5 million through salary escalators and incentives) with $26 million in guarantees prior to the start of free agency was a surprise to many. Despite the contract, Bradford should view the 2016 season as a league-wide audition.

The Eagles didn’t trade up to take Carson Wentz with the second-overall pick for him to sit on the bench indefinitely. Philadelphia’s cap situation will almost necessitate moving on Bradford, who has a $22.5 million 2017 cap number, before his $4 million due on the fifth day of the 2017 league year is payable early next March unless he finally lives up to being the first-overall pick of the 2010 draft.

The Eagles have a league-leading $177.91 million of 2017 salary cap commitments. $17 million of cap room would be gained by trading Bradford. It’s $13 million if he is released, because $4 million of his $13 million 2017 base salary is already fully guaranteed.

Michael Fabiano of NFL.com gives his fantasy football predictions for Ryan Mathews, which includes a near 1,000 rushing yard campaign.

Ryan Mathews:
Rush yds: 997
Rush TDs: 7
Receptions: 30
Rec yds: 253
Rec TDs: 1
Fumbles lost: 2
Fantasy points: 169.0

New coach Doug Pederson had quite a bit of success with running backs during his time as the offensive coordinator in Kansas City, producing a first- and seventh-place finish from [Jamaal] Charles (2013, 2014) based on fantasy points. Had he not been injured last season, Charles would have given Pederson three straight seasons with an elite fantasy runner. … The Eagles dealt DeMarco Murray (Titans) in the offseason, so veteran Ryan Mathews is slated to open the new campaign as the starter. In the four 2015 contests where he saw 10 or more carries, he averaged 4.5 yards per attempt and rushed for a combined 271 yards. … Darren Sproles will have a role in the passing attack and remains a PPR option.

But Mathews is near the bottom of the fantasy running back rankings, opines Gary Gramling of the MMQB.

32. Ryan Mathews, Philadelphia
He’s the top runner on Philly’s depth chart, which is a fine place to be. But Doug Pederson’s West Coast offense typically utilizes well-rounded backs with passing-game skills, which Mathews is not. I wouldn’t be surprised to see rookie Wendell Smallwood take an increasingly large workload as the season goes on.

Gramling also ranked Jordan Matthews pretty low on his list of fantasy receiver options.

33. Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia 
I dunno. Matthews is the best of a pretty crappy group of skill position guys in Philly. He fell just short of 1,000 yards last year, and I guess that sounds about right for this season.

Don Banks of SI.com gave his predictions for the Eagles’ ceiling and floor for the 2016 season on the Audibles NFL Podcast.

I’m gonna shut my eyes tight and hope for the best and come up with a 10-6 record for the Eagles that actually wins the division and gives them their first playoff birth since 2013.

How does that happen you say? I say Bradford is a man with something to prove this year. I say Jim Schwartz builds a kick ass defense with the parts that he inherited in Philadelphia. I say that team responds to the steadying presence of Doug Pederson, who’s kind of boring in my estimation, but maybe that’s exactly what they need. All of that comes together, throw them in the NFC East, where no one ever repeats, and no one’s ever any good for long, and you come up with a division title.

Now it’s time to wake up, the alarm just went off. I have the bottom, being that you’re 5-11, you’re last place in the division. There was just absolutely too much Howie Roseman change inspired this year all at once. Pederson was overmatched at times, and the quarterback issue did not resolve itself. It was a mess between Chase Daniel, Sam Bradford, and shoot, they even forced Wentz onto the field late in the year just to get him some playing time.

Can the starting quarterback, presumably Sam Bradford, play well enough to win the NFC East? Peter King of the MMQB explains.

20. PHILADELPHIA: Can someone play quarterback well enough, in a very winnable division, for the Eagles to win 11 games? Sam Bradford is over his funk, and you’d assume he’d keep the job as long as he stays upright. But that’s always an issue. This camp will be a lot about Doug Pederson showing he’s up to such a big job in such a tough town, and about whether Carson Wentz can force his way into competition for playing time with a strong summer.