LAST week’s narrow loss to the Jets, saw our starters basically put us up 14 – 0; before calling it a night, in the second quarter. Don’t expect to see starters at all in this one. Instead, get ready to find out which Eagles back-ups are ready to break through, and put the world on notice.
While the wins and losses mean nothing to us fans, they mean a great deal to the lower draft picks, the undrafted, and aging back-ups. Understand this, almost no one who plays in this game, is guaranteed a roster spot. You will see players this Sunday, who will be gone next Sunday.
The point of Four Things isn’t to predict a winner, it’s to discuss which tactics would give our Eagles the best chance to win this game. So here are the Four Things that we need to focus on this week versus: the Browns
1) Don’t Get Gashed: Given the players that we have at DT, we have no business giving up a ton of rushing yards up the middle. It’s preseason ball, so there’s bound to be some miscues. So a long run broken to the outside, isn’t a big deal, right now. It’s all the routine runs.
Setting aside any 30 yard runs (Pitches, Tosses, Sweeps) directly to the outside, keeping the Browns under 80 rushing yards and 4.0 yards per carry, is a decent goal for back-ups.
2) Cut the Engine: Wrap the thighs, to kill forward progress at the point of the tackle. That’s the tackle technique I’m looking to see. Hard to get helmet to helmet penalties when a player is aiming for thighs
3) Clean Interior Pocket:Guard, Center, Guard. They have to keep defenders out of the gaps and away from the passer. The QB needs to be able to step into his throws, and those three players especially, make that happen. Also, when a defender jumps to bat down a ball, that interior pocket (G-C-G), needs to make his landing a rough one.
4) Solid Team Culture: Every player you see out there, is likely playing for his football life. Despite the inherent competition for survival, it will be interesting to see which players offer each other encouragement, and cheer for their competitors. We will get a taste of just how strong the team culture, really is.
If the Eagles do these Four Things, then we’ll be virtually impossible to beat. That being said…
The win or loss only means something to players. Some of whom will suit up for the last time on Sunday. For the rest of us, it’s being billed as lesser than the joint practices, which the teams conducted this week. Let me tell you what it really is.
2010: Rookie, 7th round, S Kurt Coleman enters game four of the preseason as a player “On The Bubble”. This is a do-or-die game. Not for the team, but for Kurt. His dream is on life-support. During the game he recovers not one, but two fumbles, and he returns them both for scores.
The Eagle lose the game, but Kurt makes the team. He goes from 7th rounder with barely a chance in 2010, to being a starter in 2011. He plays 10 seasons. Intercepts 7 balls in 2015 (the NFL leader had 8). And all of it hinged… on a single game like this. If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll see the next Kurt Coleman in this game.
Prediction: EAGLES 17 – Browns 13
WARNING: I don’t have the faintest clue as to what a point spread is, and I know even less about how it works. I know football and that’s IT. If you use Four Things as a gambling tool, you are trying to lose your money, and will deserve it when you do.
Check back in a couple of days for Four Things Reviewed, and we’ll discuss how this game went.
I’M not going to keep you in suspense. It’s QB Jalen Hurts. All the beat reporters in Philadelphia don’t have the balls to do what I’m going to do here. Let me put it plain language, so that no one can be confused by it, and so I can’t back away from it in January.
QUALIFIER: If Hurts isn’t mentally sharper in 2022, the Eagles won’t win 9 games. However, if he is better at seeing passing lanes and getting the ball out on time, the entire NFC, not just the East, is on notice. This 2022 Eagles team will be competing for a first round bye, in the playoffs.
Am I getting ahead of myself? Nope. Not at all. You saw my qualifier. I didn’t say it was an automatic. I clearly stated the one thing, and ONLY one thing, that has to happen to trigger this team’s ascension.
I hear you ask “But BEAST, what about injuries?” We will have some, and some of them will be more damaging than others. Of course if the team is decimated by injury, even with a better Hurts, we’re probably screwed. That however, won’t need to be said to smart people. (So anyone who ignores parts of article, to focus on other parts, will be removing themselves form the ‘Smart’ category.)
As for a normal amount of injuries, what sets the Eagles apart, is that everywhere that we’re strong, we’re also deep. Let’s go position by position.
QB – Hurts and Gardner Minshew. No back-ups here, just two starters.
WR – Devonta Smith, A.J. Brown, Quez Watkins, Zach Pascal. Our top four WR’s have all been starters, who have posted at least one 600 yard season. There are no untested kids here.
OT – Lane Johnson, Jordan Mialata, Andre Dillard. Dillard doesn’t start because of how good the guys in front of him are, and teams have inquired about trading for him.
C – Jason Kelceis a Hall of Famer in-waiting, backed up by an heir (Cam “Beef” Jurgens) that Kelce hand-picked, as well as a couple of guys (Jack Driscoll and Isaac Seumalo) who have been plug and play at this position.
DT – Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Milton Williamsand Jordan Davis. There are teams that don’t have one guy of this caliber at DT, and we have FOUR. (FYI: If they can get Renell Wren going, they’ll have to change the scheme to get any three of these guys out there at once.)
LB – Kyzir White, Hassan Reddick, T.J. Edwards, Nakobe Dean. Anyone who expects Dean to walk away with the starting job in camp, wasn’t paying attention to Edwards, once the team gave him over 50% of the snaps in a game. Go and look at Weeks 8 – 16. Go look.
CB – Darius Slay, James Bradberry, Avonte Maddox, and Zech McPhearson. Maddox is strictly a slot guy, but he’s Top 10 (#9) at it. McPhearson is a pup, but he’s got dawg in him.
Those are positions of outright strength for the team. Next we have some positions that aren’t deep with game-changers, but have plenty of options if the starters go down.
RB – Miles Sanders is our guy. Behind him are Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott. Neither is spectacular, but in Sander’s absence, they’ve already shown that as a duo, they can keep the Offense running.
G – Landon Dickerson is a star. Isaac Suemalo (the other starter), isn’t a star. Young Jack Driscoll has made a strong case for Suemalo’s spot, and if Driscoll wasn’t coming back from his own injury, the job might already be his. So there’s one star, and two starters battling for a job. So we’re solid.
DE – Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat. Graham is not a sack artist, but he generates hurries, and contains the run extremely well. Conversely, Josh Sweat is pass rusher more than a solid End. Derek Barnett never became the sack artist he was drafted to be, but he’s low-key pretty good vs the run. There are no stars here, but no weak links either.
Right now S has too many question marks to say that it’s an asset yet. There is also almost no depth at TE. This is why I wrote earlier that the Eagles need the experiment of moving J.J. Arcega-Whitesidefrom WR to TE, to be a success story.
Since this article was written (originally on July 16th), Training Camp has begun, and USA Today has picked us to go 11 – 6, and win the NFC East. So far so good, everything looks like it should, right about now.
I do have some concerns about Hurts though. And I’m not alone. Some guy named Brian Westbrookalso used “concerned” to describe his feelings about the team “When I’m hearing our quarterback is struggling early on in the preseason, early on in the camp, I’m absolutely concerned because I absolutely know that our quarterback has to carry us for a certain part of the season. We have to find a way to make sure Jalen Hurts is the guy and right now, based on some of the reports that are coming out of camp, he hasn’t done too well.“
It’s not just me. It’s not just BWest. As he said, reports coming out of camp. This is internal stuff, folks. Even Head Coach Nick Sirianniused the ‘C’ word. “Would you want to eliminate a couple of the turnovers? Absolutely. There’s a couple too many turnovers in there. That’s where my biggest concern is.”
So this is not me picking on Hurts. Fan, former player, and Head Coach are all concerned. So this can just be dismissed. I want to believe the kid can do it, but he’s running out of time and wasting opportunities. Game One is closer than it appears.
Do you want to know what my nightmare is? Watching Hurts be outplayed twice this year, by QB Carson Wentz. Are you up for that? Hurts has started two games against the Cowboys, and been blown out both times. Are you up for that again? Last year, Hurts (QB rating 17.5) was massively outplayed by QB Daniel Jones (QB rating 94.0), in a 7 – 13 Eagles loss. Are you up for that again? If you aren’t up for this stuff, then you need to be concerned.
LAST year the giants finished an ugly 4 – 13, and dead last in the NFC East. As a result, EVERYBODY was fired. The General Manager, the Head Coach, Gus the shoe shine guy… Everybody. The giants owner needed to find the right men to lead his organization. So he journeyed from New York, alllll the way to Buffalo and signed, it doesn’t matter. If the players are trash, the team won’t win. But are they still trash, or has there been improvement?
In any case, this is where the giants roster stands just 16 days before the 2022 NFL Draft:
QB: Let’s start with Daniel “Danny Dimes” Jones (4 – 7, 64.3%, 10/7). First the good news. Last season he threw just 7 interceptions, and his interceptions have gone from 11, to 10, to just 7 during his three year career. His fumbles have also gone down. From 19, to 10, to 7. He was third on the team in rushing yards (298), and tied for the lead in rushing touchdowns (2).
Now the bad news. His passing touchdowns have gone from 24, to 12, to 10. The team was 4 – 7 with him as the starter, marking a third straight year of being nowhere near .500 with him. He’s 12 – 25 as a starter. You know. On account of him being trash.
So the giants had to bring in somebody. Enter Tyrod Taylor (2 – 4, 60.7%, 5/5). Great move! Right away he’s the giants best player at this position. Yet he’s going to be their back-up, because starting him Week One, would be too much like making sense. If this team had a starter, they’d have excellent depth. (-)
RB: Coming back from his ACL injury, Saquon Barkley (593/3.7/2) led the team in rushing. Well he tired for the lead. Sorry, did I say tired instead of tied? I must have been thinking about the way Barkley looked in that game. Which game? Pick one. While I wouldn’t say that he’s washed up, he clearly doesn’t care about being a giant anymore.
Devontae Booker (593/4.1/2) had just as many rushing yards, and they released him. Which is hilarious. Both Booker and Barkley ran for 593 and 2 scores, but only only one them kept a job. They did add Matt Breida (125/4.8/1), who has demonstrated explosive speed in the past, but not really in the last two years. Their next most experienced player here is Gary Brightwell. He has 1 rush for 4 yards, and 8 career tackles. (-)
WR: Kenny Golladay (37/521/14.1/0) escaped Detroit, only to sign with a worse team.
He started 14 games, had a team-high 521 yards, and for the first time in his career, scored 0 touchdowns. Rookie Kadarius Toney (39/420/10.8/0) also scored zee-ro touchdowns. He also was in and out of the line-up, being inactive or just not playing for seven games.
Sterling Shepard (36/366/10.2/1) played just 7 games, intermittently throughout last season. He also took a pay cut in March to stay with the giants. Darius Slayton (26/339/13.0/2) spent two years looking like a solid #2, then absolutely cratered in 2021. Part of it can be attributed to the giants new look at the position, but part of it was Slayton just not converting opportunities (44.8% catch rate).
Robert Foster had a great 2018 season. Since then he’s been on five practice squads, including Washington (cut), and Dallas (cut). Now he’s in New York, and Philadelphia is waiting for it’s turn to cut him. Is there talent here? Yes. Is there enough talent to offset the deeper issues with this offense? No. Not remotely. (-)
TE: Ricky Seals-Jones totaled 90 catches, 1044 yards, and 10 scores. That wasn’t his 2021 season. That was his entire six year career. He’s on his fifth team in five years. He has all of fifteen career starts, and he’s a guy that the giants prioritized early in free agency? Either their front office is high, or I am. They have back-ups, but I’m not even wasting the keystrokes. (-)
OT: Andrew Thomas has been up and down during his two years in the league, but he’s more recently been up. Unfortunately, for a second consecutive year he’s needed surgery on his left ankle. Matt Peart is returning from an ACL tear that put him on I.R. He will be the starting RT, despite having never been a regular starter before.
Depth looks like well-traveled, career bench-warmer Korey Cunningham, as well as Matt Gono who warmed a bench for two years, then was out of football since 2020. This is the depth here and that’s it. No, I’m serious. This is all there is. This is everything they have here. (-)
G: New addition Mark Glowinski helped pave the way for the Colts run game for the last three years. Indy’s loss is the giants… gain? Shane Lemieux was the 2021 starter at LG, but he was lost for the year in Week One. He’ll likely reprise that role. Jamil Douglas and Ben Bredeson will keep the bench nice and toasty. (-)
C: Nick Gates was lost for year in Week Two. Gates himself said earlier this year, that he has no idea when he’ll be back. That, is likely why free agent John Feliciano was added. Though he’s been a G for seven seasons, there is talk of him moving to the pivot for New Yawk. It’s a plan that already reeks of desperation, and we haven’t even hit OTA’s yet. (-)
In A Nutshell: The new GM entered the building hitting walls with a sledghammer. Folks, this is what a rebuild looks like! Better yet, this is what a total teardown looks like. All of it. Just ripping it out. Quarterback, receivers, line, the hotdog vendor. Just all of it. So yeah, giants gon’ suck for a while. (-)
DE: Leonard Williams had 11.5 sacks in 2020, but came back down to Earth with 6.5 in 2021. In fairness he also plays the run pretty damned well. Sacks aren’t everything, but for an “Edge” player, it’s almost everything. It’s the reason Oshane Ximines was a third round pick in 2019. He had 4.5 sacks that year and not one since. He’s spent most of the last two years either on I.R. or being inactive.
Trent Harris has played fewer downs for the giants with every passing year. Enter Raymond Johnson, stage left. Maybe he steps into the vacated by free agent Lorenzo Carter. Playing a false 3 – 4 front, with nebulous designations is hurting the giants on the field, and likely keeping away defensive line free agents who could help them. (-)
(CORRECTION: The Washington QB is not named Bud Weiser. It’s Taylor Heiniken. Heinicke! Taylor Heinicke. Taylor?? Who names a boy “Taylor”?)
DT: Losing Austin Johnson was seismic. However, adding Justin Ellis was literally massive. Dexter Lawrence has been 3 sacks, 50 tackles, and 10 QB hits per year. Paired with a space eater like Ellis, that interior is going to make like hard on average run games. David Moa rounds out the depth at this position. (+)
OLB: Azeez Ojulari had 13 starts and led the team with 8 sacks, but produced just 49 tackles. Quincy Roche offers a pass rush option, to give Ojulari a breather here and there. Oshane Ximines (Edge) I suppose also fits here.
The problem here is, that the pass rushers are pass rushers only. They also have a handful of tweener players who really don’t excel in space. So they’re less like linebacker depth, and more like extra ends who can’t shed blocks. (-)
ILB: Blake Martinez is the genuine article. That said, he’s coming off of an ACL tear that cost him practically all of last year. Rookie Tae Crowder started every game, and racked up 130 stops, but he doesn’t seem like much of play-maker. Especially given that he played every defensive snap from Week Four until he cleaned out his locker. There is no depth. (-)
S: Xavier McKinney had 5 picks in his first year as a full-time starter. Julian Love is a part-timer here. This is it. The giants roster list only two players at this position and no one with a “DB” designation. That means any help/depth will be either rookie(s) or free agents found after the Draft. This team will probably lead the NFL in big plays surrendered. (-)
CB: James Bradberry gave up almost 300 more passing yards than in 2020. He was also targeted more, indicating that teams have found something on tape that they can exploit. Adoree Jackson recorded just the third interception of his 5 year career last year. To his credit, he only allowed 52% of passes thrown his way to be completed, and surrendered 50+ yards just once in his twelve starts.
While the giants would like Darnay Holmes to be a factor, he’s ended both of his seasons being injured. Which led to Aaron Robinson and Jarren Williams each getting two starts in the absence of Jackson. Both players ended up back on the bench, without being a serious part of a rotation. The starters are shaky, and the depth is a problem. (-)
In A Nutshell: Last year saw pass rushers hampered by the scheme, and a soft secondary victimized because of it. So they hired a new defensive coordinator in Don Martindale, formerly of Baltimore. Great. Problem is, he doesn’t have any tools to build with. Even worse, the new GM seems to be building with the old one’s blueprint. (-)
K: Graham Gano saw his field goal accuracy dip (29/33/87.9%), but this year he didn’t miss any extra points. Of course he only attempted 17 in 17 games. From 50+ he was 7/10, which is nothing to sneeze at. (+)
P: Ladies and gentlemen, for your viewing pleasure! Coming to the Big Apple by way of Cleveland, Ohio. Put your hands together for Jamie “The Scottish Hammer” Gillan! He enters this phase of his career with a 44.9 yard average per boot. That said, his average has dropped for two straight years (46.2, to 44.0, to 43.9). (-)
In A Nutshell: Given the slapdash approach this front office is so far showing the defense, it’s not a wonder that special teams also seems to be getting a shrug. (-)
BOTTOM LINE: The giants cleaned house at GM and head coach. They brought in Joe Schoen (from Buffalo) to be the GM, and he turned around and hired Brian Daboll (form Buffalo), who has been failing upward for almost two decades in the NFL.
Then they brought in a few former Buffalo players, but none of the good ones. And who cares?! None of this matters if Danny “March of Dimes” is still going to start eight or more games. Call it 6 – 11, with Tyrod Taylor winning four of those.
GOING 4 – 11 – 1 means STFU. Whether it’s players hyping the leadership of a 1 – 3 QB, or a second year WR, calling out my fellow fans. All the talk needs to stop. Last year the Eagles fell halfway short of even going .500. That means there’s a ton of stuff to fix, and nobody who was on the roster when we posted that record, has time to run their mouth.
I’m a devoted fan, but I’m not delusional. We still haven’t addressed our weakness at CB. We still don’t know if our top FS will be ready by Week One. What will our TE depth look like when TE Zach Ertz is moved? Who is our starting LT? If you project 1 – 3 over 17 weeks, it comes out to roughly 5 – 12. Is QB Jalen Hurts better than that finish? What system will he even be running?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad for the enthusiasm that players have had for mini-camp. Unfortunately, I don’t sense a “hardhat mentality” when these guys speak to the media. I’m seeing big smiles, lots of teeth, and eyes crinkled at the corners. I’m seeing comfortable guys, mostly confident in their roles. Calm as Hindu cows.
And it makes me sick.
With all the upheaval this offseason, no one should feel like a sacred cow. But there it is. Right on the player’s faces. The fact that you see that, says that the players aren’t really buying into the ideas that “Everyone has to compete” and that “Nothing is will be handed to you”. And why should they?
Show of hands if you think that RT Lane Johnson has to earn his spot. How about RG Brandon Brooks? C Jason Kelce? LGIssac Seumalo? Seems to me that 80% of the Offensive Line from 2017 will still be starting in 2021. And that’s with a new coaching staff in place!
Let me add RB Miles Sanders and TEDallas Goedert, to Hurts and the O-Line. Rookie WRDevonta Smith will start on the outside, and WR Jalen Reagor will start in the Slot. That’s 9 of 11, right there. The spots up for competition: LT and WR#2.
How about DE Brandon Graham, DTFletcher Cox, DT Javon Hargrave, and DEDerek Barnett? How many of those guys ride pine without an injury? What about CB Darius Slay, OLBEric Wilson, LB Alex Singleton, or S Anthony Harris?
That’s 8 of 11 guys that we know are Week One starters already. If SRodney McLeod’s leg lets him, that’s 9 of 11. This drops the real competition for availability of spots to just MLB and CB. Feel free to point out where I’m wrong. Go ahead. I’ll wait…
So yeah. That’s it. We have LT, WR #2, MLB, and CB. That’s all the real competition on this team for starting spots. There will be fierce competition for back-up roles. But the starters?! When 18 of 22 spots are a virtual lock, the sacred cows on this roster have no reason to do anything but smile and talk right now. No reason except 4 – 11 – 1.
LAST year the giants finished 6 – 10 overall, and 4 – 2 in the division. They went out whining. Crying like entitled toddlers because the Eagles, in their final game (against Washington) tanked for better Draft position. This gave Washington the division, whereas an Eagles win would have given the division to New York. (And lowered the Eagles Draft position in every round.) Pointing the finger at Philadelphia, instead of their own 6 – 10 record, isn’t a sign of a team that holds itself accountable. Which sort of explains the 6 – 10 record.
In any case, this is where the giants roster currently stands in the week prior to the 2021 NFL Draft.
QB: Daniel Jones has lost 9 games in each of his two pro seasons, for a career mark of 8 – 18. In 2020, his 10 interceptions were 2 fewer than in his rookie year. Unfortunately, his 11 TD’s were less than half his rookie year’s (24). While many things worked to trip him up last year,
he’s probably run out of benefit of the doubt, and has to produce 9 wins to remain the starter in 2022. Mike Glennon is the back-up. Over his 7 year career, he’s been on 5 teams, and when he plays, he’s been the human equivalent to waving a white flag. (-)
RB:Saquon Barkley is back from the torn ACL that ended a 2020 season that was already pretty bad for him. Prior to his injury, in two starts, he’d racked up 34 yards on 19 carries for a 1.8 yard per carry average. Everyone who filled in last year, is gone. The back-up this year is Devontae Booker. He’s a sneaky-smart addition who could be a problem for opponents as part of a 1 – 2 punch, or a credible first option, if Barkley has setbacks. Even with all the turnover at this position in 2020, Elijhaa Penny was trusted with just 6 carries.
Jordan Chunn is also on the roster. In any case, Barkley struggled even before being hurt, so this group gets a side-eye until they show better. (-)
WR: Darius Slayton is a solid number two, pushed into being a low-end one. Though he’s good for 745 yards per season, and 15 yards per catch, he adds more value than that. He has speed to threaten deep, and helps by opening things up behind him. Sterling Shepard is a possession receiver. He’s FAR better suited to the Slot than the outside, but until the giants can find someone for that other end, Shepard will keep being lined up out there. Which is likey why they added free agent, Kenny Golladay. He’s made some circus grabs over the years, but he’s going to find that landing on New Yorks cold ground is different than the controlled 70 degree dome in Detroit. He also doesn’t have Matt Stafford throwing to him anymore. Also added was John Ross, who is touted as having speed to burn. That said, he’s played in only 27 of a possible 64 career games, meaning he’s missed 37. That includes 13 missed games in 2020. All in all, the talent is credible here. (+)
TE: Remember when everyone was certain that Evan Engram would be the next Tony Gonzalez? Just in case you missed it, he posted a 57% catch rate last year. Newly added Kyle Rudolph’s blocking should help the run game. He also should add some value as a red zone threat. Due to volume of targets, Engram will produce numbers. However, there’s a real question now, of whether his targets would be better spent elsewhere. Put another way, folks are actively starting to wonder if he’s holding the offense back. (-)
OT:Nate Solder and Andrew Thomas comprise the bookends. Solder sat out 2020. Thomas was a 16 game starter as a rookie, playing 95% of the offensive snaps. Matt Peart is waiting in the wings, drafted as a project. However, this off-season’s re-signing of Solder to a 4 year deal, doesn’t indicate that Peart has captured the confidence of the coaching staff. After a bad 2020, this position has a lot to prove. (-)
G: As a rookie, Shane Lemieux started 9 games to finish the season. The question now is, with the release of Kevin Zeitler, does Lemieux stay at LG or slide to RG? Will Hernandez has seen his star dim recently, but a chance to play could brighten it up again. Zeitler’s departure all but guarantees Hernandez a role as a starter if he stays healthy. The question is, does he go back to LG, or is he a RG? Former Texan, Zach Fulton comes over to provide veteran depth, but given how often his last QB had to save himself from his protection, it’s shallow depth indeed. Especially since there no solid answer for who plays where. (-)
C:Nick Gates started 16 games at the pivot in 2020, and was the only lineman to play 100% of the 2020 season’s snaps. Also on the roster is recently signed, seasoned veteran Jonotthan Harrison. (+)
IN A NUTSHELL: Not all the pieces to this puzzle were ever meant to go together. That’s why over the years it keeps not fitting. Drafting a TE who doesn’t block, was a mistake. Drafting a big back who doesn’t run big, without giving him a dominant blocker at TE or a FB, was a mistake. Drafting QB because of personal history, was a mistake. The giants front office has been stacking unforced errors for nearly half a decade now. Now there’s going to be a shuffle in the protection directly in front of the QB. So much of this unit is broken at the conceptual level. That’s why it keeps failing. And it’s also why no draft pick can save this mess. (-)
DE:Leonard Williams racked up career highs of 11.5 sacks and 30 QB hits last year while notching 57 tackles. Dexter Lawrence isn’t a pass rusher, but at 342 he’s a big’un, and he’s too quick for opponents to get cute with their blocking assignments. To bolster the pass rush, the giants signed Ifeadi Odenigbo. At 258 Odenigbo may not line up at this position since they bill themselves as “Multiple”, but favored a 3-4 alignment last year. B.J. Hill is a big (311), veteran rotational player. He’s not top-tier talent, but he plays assignment sound football. (+)
NT: With the loss of Dalvin Tomlinson to Minnesota, Austin Johnson becomes the new man in the middle with Danny Shelton backing him up. While New York may pick up teaspoon of interior pass rush, they just lost a cup of run support. (-)
OLB:Kyler Fackrell is a situational player who saw too much playing time last year. He started off very hot for about 6 weeks. After which he got exposed, and then got injured. Lorenzo Carter played 5 games last year and then tore his Achilles tendon. He wasn’t exactly a star before his injury. Oshane Ximines started 3 games, played 110 snaps, and recorded a total of 5 tackles. Even if Ifeadi Odenigbo moves out here, the giants still lack a single player who can play backwards, not just forward. That means RB’s and TE’s are going to tear this team up. (-)
ILB: I still can’t figure out how Blake Martinez was allowed to leave Green Bay. This guy is the genuine article. Starts every game, makes tackles (151), adds pass rush (3 sacks), and is equally adept in zone coverage (5 passes defensed). Tae Crowder had an up and down rookie season, but that’s what a rookie season is for. While Devante Downs started the season as the starter, Crowder finished with the role. During a (failed) playoff push. This tells you who the organization is pulling for. Newly signed Reggie Ragland adds size to the second level and will help push Crowder. In any case, young guys who know the system, competing at a position, that usually helps sharpen the hell out of it. (+)
S:Jabrill Peppers recorded the 4th interception of his four year career last year. He also forced a fumble. Because he’s, you know…a difference maker. Logan Ryan made the switch from Corner to Free last year, and he pulled it off without a hitch success. In many ways 2020 was one of his worst as a pro. But it’s keeping him paid! So there’s that. Xavier McKinney started the last 4 games of 2020, playing an increasing percentage of the defense’s downs in every single game. He’s the reason one of the aforementioned players will be riding pine in 2021. Julian Love is a tweener who managed 6 starts in 2020. Expect solid run support from this group. You can also expect them to get routinely cornholed on intermediate routes over the middle. (-)
CB:James Bradberry earned himself a Pro Bowl nod, after having a career year, during his first as a giant. Isaac Yiadom started 10 games last year, and allowed QB’s a 120 passer rating when throwing his way. That’s 40 points higher than the 80 passer rating allowed by Bradberry. And so the giants added Adoree Jackson to shore up the other side. Whether that works out depends on with version of him they get. Since 2019, Jackson has been on Injured Reserve or deactivated 17 times in his last 25 possible games. Buyer beware. Julian Love is the top back-up here. At spots 5 and 6 are maybe Sam Beal and Darnay Holmes, both drafted by the team. That said, their spots are far from safe. They have a good one, but it’s just one. (-)
IN A NUTSHELL: Expect this team to be tough to run on, but to also hemorrhage passing yardage. The OLB’s are pass rushers (won’t have to cover), and the Safeties have trouble with speed. With passing on this team being so easy, opponents may not even opt to run the ball much vs the giants. That will artificially drive up the ranking on their rushing yards allowed, but it will be hollow, since they won’t face as many attempts. The flaws on this unit are glaring, and aside from possibly drafting a savior at CB or FS, this unit will regress in 2021. (-)
K:Graham Gano connected on 31/32 GF (96.8%) including 5/6 from 50 or longer. He did however, miss on two extra point conversions (21/23), and of his 73 kickoffs, only 30 were downed in the end zone. That means opponents attempted returns, nearly 60% of the time. (+)
P:Riley Dixon averaged a career-low 44.8 yard per punt, with a career-low 39.4 yards net. Though only 25 of his 65 punts were returned, the 232 return yards (9.2 avg) indicates that he’s giving return men time and room to pick their spots. (-)
IN A NUTSHELL: Gano is a liability to the Defense, but he was reliable as a point scorer. That’s no easy feat in Rutherford, New Jersey once the weather turns. Dixon is costing the giants the hidden yardage/field position battle. Neither his distance nor his hang-time are helping his coverage unit. As a result, whenever the ball is kicked to the opponent, the giants are doing worse than average. (-)
BOTTOM LINE: Head Coach Joe Judge has focused on coaching work ethic in his players. From a mental standpoint, the giants are clearly better as a team than they were at the end of 2019. So their front office, got the right man.
The problem is that, that same front office, hasn’t changed the method of how they build a roster. They have players who’s style and talent runs counter to other players on the very same unit. In short, this team is not complementary. It’s awkward. It’s misshapen. Grotesque.
Between a QB who hasn’t mastered throwing, and Safeties who cover more like Linebackers, the whole damned thing is a head scratcher. Before they can beat other teams to win the division, they’ll have to stop beating themselves. Otherwise, they’ll have to keep hoping for rivals to send them to the playoffs.
SEASON Reviews are usually done at the end of the season. A few are also done at the halfway mark. Starting in 2017, Eaglemaniacal.com began treating the season like a game, and breaking it into four quarters. Since football is a hard sport, we’ll take a hard look at where our team currently stands, in relation to where it started. Then we can discuss where it needs to go next.
STATUS: 4 – 11 – 1, 4th in the NFC East
W New Orleans Saints 12 – 4
L Arizona Cardinals 8 – 8
L Dallas Cowboys 6 – 10
L Washington Uhhh… 7 – 9
Due to events in, and inside ofour Nation’s Capitol last week, I delayed putting this article out. I imagined that you’d be too preoccupied with the real world, to give much of a damn about a report like this. That is the ONLY reason that I was able to get on here and make some edits, after learning about the firing of Head Coach Doug Pederson today.
Initially I was going to put a positive spin on missing the playoffs, and getting such a high draft pick. I wasn’t going to bullshit you, just make sure that we didn’t overlook the opportunity that being in this position affords us.
Then the firing happened.
Pederson during his tenure here, has a 42 – 37 – 1 record.
He also has a Super Bowl win, chased by three years of injuries being the excuse for diminishing results. Put another way, taking out this last season (his worst), and the SB season (his best), Pederson is 25 – 23 (.520) as a head coach. For perspective, lets look at Andy Reid’ first 5 years here.
Take out Reid’s best and worst year and you still end up with a 34 – 14 (.708) head coach. So it’s not hard to see why instead of giving Pederson the increased control that he sought, Eagles owner Jeffery Lurie, would want to opt out of the partnership.
QB – (D): This quarter Jalen Hurtshas produced 8 TD’s and 5 turnovers. If you can get him outside the pocket and moving to his right, he’s dangerous. In any other instance, he becomes a liability. What’s worse, teams seem to have already figured this out. His season finale against Washington featured him running for 2 scores, but passing 7/20 (35%), 72 yards and a pick. Nate Sudfeld saw the field for a 18 snaps in Week 17, and he looked like a guy who’d seen no snaps until Week 17.
RB – (D): In the last four games of the season, Miles Sanders’ rushing yards have gone from 115, to 64, to 57, to 0. To be fair, he was benched for the last game (Tankgate). Still, it doesn’t look good that his production has declined steadily, since Cars… Never mind. Hey, how about Boston Scott? What can I say? He started Week 17, and now we’re picking 6th overall. Well alriiiiiiight!
WR – (D): During this 4 week stretch, DeSean Jacksongraced Eagles fans with an 81 yard curtain call against Dallas. On 5 targets, 4 catches, 100 yards and TD, Alshon Jeffery showed he can still do, what it is we brought him here to do in the first place. Both will be gone next season. On the other hand, none of the young guys has emerged as a future go-to guy. Jalen Reagor hasn’t seen a 50 yard day since Week 11. Greg Ward is averaging 7.9 yards per catch, and Travis Fulgham has been on a milk carton since the Week 9 Bye.
TE – (D): The Eagles have spent the season trying to sell us Dallas Goedert as a #1, but he lacks the explosiveness or dynamism for the role. He’s Robin, not Batman. He’s like a bigger, stronger Jay Novacek. Zack Ertz had a miserable final quarter, catching 10 of 23 targets (43%) for 126 yards. In fact, his season ends with him posting a 50% catch rate for the year, and seeing his targets drop from 135 in 2019, to 72 in 2020. (But we all know what that was about.) Still, his numbers won’t make it easy for him to find a team looking pay big money to a 30 year old who’s been nicked up lately.
OT – (C): Jordan Mailata has been receiving high praise these last few weeks at LT. Some are saying that he’s the future of the spot. (I guess folks have forgotten about Andre Dillard?) Matt Pryor is trash on the edge. He’s serviceable when moved inside, but outside, pure garbage. Jack Driscollwasn’t great either, but he was a rookie, and we lost him for the year, so why sweat it?
G – (D): Isaac Seumalohas consistently lined up on the left for seven straight weeks. Hasn’t meant much, but during this quarter, he did finally play in his only win of the season. That’s 1 win in 9 starts this year. I’m just gonna leave that right there. Nate Herbighas been serviceable on the right side. (He looked better on the left though.)
C – (B): Jason Kelce kept the line together as best he could.
DE – (B): Brandon Graham despite playing an increased percentage of the snaps in the last two games, still fell short of his goal of 10 sacks this season. He got one vs Dallas, but otherwise, he really seemed to wear down as the season went on. Derek Barnett missed the last two games and didn’t impose himself in the last tow that he played. Josh Sweat had two sacks and FF vs New Orleans, was hurt early the next week, and then was injured for the final two games of the quarter. Vinny Curry started the final two games and had his strongest quarter of the season. This position did a decent job of bringing pressure, but with lax coverage behind them, they couldn’t translate into sacks and three and outs. Genard Avery played in the last three games as a rotation player, but the Eagles still don’t have a plan for him.
DT – (B): Fletcher Cox was Fletcher Cox, until a stinger vs Dallas shut his season down. Javon Hargrave stepped up in Cox’s absence and seemed to be a lot more disruptive than in the prior three quarters. He seemed more comfortable. I hope to see he and Cox return in 2021. Malik Jackson put up 12 tackles and a sack, during this quarter. That’s despite only starting one of the games. Undrafted rookie Raequan Williams made his presence felt, in very limited action. T.Y. McGill got a lot of snaps in the last two weeks, but will probably be best remembered for jumping offsides on 4th and 1, with 2:00 to go, vs Washington in a 20 – 14 loss. (But let’s put all the blame on the QB situation!)
OLB – (C): Alex Singleton recorded double digit tackles in three of four games, plus a sack and a FR. He’s much improved at reading angles and getting off blocks. More than that, he brought energy to the defense. Duke Riley missed the last two games, but had an interception vs New Orleans.
ILB – (C): T.J. Edwards has been serviceable in the middle of this defense. He arrived here with the label “athletic limitations”. Being put into this system didn’t do him any favors, in terms of developing his strong-suit. If he has one. Which was not made evident this last quarter.
S – (D): Jalen Mills is a good soldier, but he’s not special as a player. This was once again put on display this quarter. He plays sound team concept ball, helps corral ball-carriers, swarms the football, yadda yadda. He just doesn’t affect the outcome of games. Marcus Eppsstarted three of these four games, and turned it into a team-leading (how sad) two interceptions. Rookie K’Von Wallace got two starts, but it was too soon, in the wrong situation, with no teachers. Rudy Ford was unimpressive. If not for Epps, this position wouldn’t qualify for a grade.
CB – (F): Darius Slayplayed in three of these four games and finally snagged a pick, vs Dallas of all teams. Nickell Robey-Coleman continued to be a non-factor vs the pass. Michael Jacquetplayed in two of the four games and was utterly victimized vs Dallas. Grayland Arnoldplayed a lot vs Dallas, and he got the Week 17 start.
LS – (A): Rick Lovato added one more tackle to his impressive resume.
P – (D): Cam Johnston saw two games this quarter where he averaged less than 40 yards per boot. His 16 punts for 664 yards put him at 41.5 per swing of the leg, and he even had one blocked for the first time this season. It’s hard to say whether his leg wore out or whether he was affected by the air getting denser as the weather grew cooler. Either way, he was less effective.
K – (B): Jake Elliott was perfect on extra point kicks (when allowed to attempt them), and 2/3 on FG attempts. FOR THIS QUARTER! He had all of three tries, this quarter. I had no idea of that until I just looked it up! (Dear Doug, it’s decisions like this that get people FIRED! What, too soon?) Jake also stepped up and handled a couple of punts for us when injury struck at Arizona. That sort of
SINCE LAST QUARTER:
Entering the quarter with control of our own destiny, it largely felt like neither the Head Coach, General Manager, or Owner wanted to step up and declare a direction. As a result, the whole thing has been a rudderless mess. Did Lurie even want the Eagles to make the playoffs? Where does he stand on the tanking? What are his thoughts on Jalen Hurts? We have no clue about any of this.
MISSION FOR THIS QUARTER:
Without a Head Coach, I have no idea what the vision for the future is. That means I can’t even try to forecast it. What I can do is take a moment to indulge my vanity, and write about what I HOPE the mission is for this offseason. Who do I hope is the next Head Coach?
Duce Staley becomes the Head Coach. Not just because he’s an Eagles lifer. Not just because he’s been patient as promotions to Offensive Coordinator have twice passed him by.
Duce should be the coach because Carson Wentz at his best, had a VERY strong run game behind him. Duce believes in running the ball. Duce’s approach can win us another Super Bowl.
Duce should be the coach because he has gotten productivity from every RB that has been brought in here. He has found a way to reach and develop players. This has been a sore spot for the Eagles for too long. Duce can fix that.
Duce should be the coach because he (like Doug when he got here), understands where he is. He understands the nature of the media that will attack him from Day One. He already gets how the fans demand so much in terms of effort, and that you will earn our hearts forever when you deliver.
And then there’s the Rooney Rule. Wouldn’t it be nice to ignore it? To not have needed it. To see critics go
Especially in this racial/political/social climate. ESPECIALLY for a guy who deserves it, and that it’s damned well overdue for?
I want the arrogance of saying to our rivals: That the Eagles were socially progressive only by happenstance. That we were doing what we wanted to do, and being forward thinking is a side effect of just being fucking better than you. I want that.
So I hope that Duce becomes our next Head Coach. That’s our Mission For This Quarter.
WE’RE not a good team right now. To not even be .500 this deep into the season, is a solid indicator that we probably aren’t getting home-field throughout. Understand, the Eagles are a bad team in 2020, but they are not a bad organization. So fixing this will be a lot easier than you might think. In fact, I wrote about that, this February in THE 12.
Before I launch into it, let me hit the qualifiers, just to get them out of the way:
YES, we are still at the head of the division.
YES, it’s likely that with an infusion of talented veterans, this team will improve at least a little.
YES, if this team hits the postseason, it’s possible that we could get hot.
So, by no means am I throwing in the towel. I plan to be here, loud and obnoxious, every damned week with a smile. Truth is, I’ll take a bad Eagles season over no season at all. It sure beats having to endure yet another loss of something we all enjoy. Even in a bad season, I’m glad I get to root for my Eagles.
So how can I say that this will be easy to fix? First let’s identify the problem. Remember going into this season, we saw a silver lining to our constant injury situation. That silver lining was how much experience our deep bench, and Practice Squad were getting. Lots of experience up and own the roster. In small doses, that IS a great thing.
The issue is how often those players get extended snaps, and even starts. That’s what been necessary for the Eagles. On no other team would CB Avonte Maddox be a starter. Or LB’s Alex Singleton or Duke Riley. Or G’s Sua Opetaand Nate Herbig. Or T’s Jack Driscoll and Matt Pryor. That’s not to say that all of those players are trash, but none of them was penciled in start here, prior to an injury.
You wouldn’t permanently hold a metal bolt with a plastic nut. You wouldn’t long-term drive your car on a doughnut.
Yet this is what the Eagles have had to do for years now. While mixing high quality with lesser quality may buy you a little time, done over a long period, things break down much faster than if you’d mixed good with good.
People don’t compare this 2020 Eagles team against 2019’s or 2018’s. People keep comparing this Eagles team against the 2017 edition. Especially QB Carson Wentz. Given the amount of erosion that has occurred all over this team, the O-Line, RB’s, coaching staff, that’s hardly fair. It also explains what you’re seeing out there.
Now let’s start talking how to fix this. You’ve heard that iron sharpens iron. Imagine if you’re WR Jalen Reagor trying to nail down a starting spot in Training Camp, and your competition is J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Remember how Ron Jaworski said that Reagor isn’t a disciplined route runner? Didn’t TE Dallas Clark seem to play better, when he was trying to get snaps from TEZach Ertz?
The solution is simple. Establish a primary back-up, and play favorites. Don’t split snaps evenly behind the starters. Nix heavy rotation at CB, LB, WR. Starve them for snaps.Make the back-ups fight for snaps.
Again, I said all this back in February, in the article ‘STARVE THE KIDS’ . Understand, there is little chance that this can be successfully implemented during the 2020 season. And that’s fine. A bad year fits the Eagles salary cap plans better, anyway.
For example, if WR’s DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery utterly ball-out during the playoffs; or LT Jason Peters makes a few blocks that get him on Sports Center, fans will revolt when they get cut. Especially if we get hot and win the Super Bowl. So this year being a train-wreck is right on schedule.
If Head Coach Doug Pederson wants to see more passion from this team. If he wants to see more of a sense of urgency. If he wants a greater sense of focus. Then he needs to breed a sense of competition, and foster an atmosphere of hunger that drives his roster. That said, Starving The Kids is an easy fix to improve the quality of the 2021 roster. Not just that, but it can be done for free.
SEASON Reviews are usually done at the end of the season. A few are also done at the halfway mark. Starting in 2017, Eaglemaniacal.combegan treating the season like a game, and breaking it into four quarters. Since football is a hard sport, we’ll take a hard look at where our team currently stands, in relation to where it started. Then we can discuss where it needs to go next.
STATUS: 1 – 2 – 1 / 1st place in the NFC East / 21.0 points per game vs. 29.2 points allowed
(L) Washington 1 – 3
(L) Los Angeles Rams 3 – 1
(T) Cincinnati 1 – 2 – 1
( W) San Francisco 2 – 2
IT’S been a shit-show. Injuries (more than anything else), have derailed any sense of rhythm this team was supposed to have coming out of the gate. On Offense it’s led to inconsistencies, which have led to turnovers, which have left points on the field. On Defense it’s led to communications errors, magnified by gaps in talent, which have translated into points for the opponent.
QB (D): Why not an F for Carson Wentz? Because of context. Context means you look at the WHOLE picture, not just the stat-line. Washington was going well, until the sacks started piling up. He was bad in the Rams game. In the last two games however, Carson has put this team on his shoulders. Despite protection issues, and a lack of weapons, he’s figuring out how to keep us in games. Still, he has to get the turnovers under control. Jalen Hurtshas played 10 snaps and still has two fumbles (Neither was lost.)
RB (C ): Miles Sanders has been effective running the ball, but far from dangerous. He hasn’t established himself as a tier of the Offense, merely as an option in it. The short passing game won’t pop until that happens. Boston Scott is not a true runner and it shows, in how easy it is to stop his forward progress. Corey Clement is scarcely being utilized.
TE (C ): Seems like a high grade until you realize that the production is off, because shorter routes are being emphasized for this position. The team is scheming away fromZach Ertzin order as they audition replacements. That was going fine until Dallas Goedertended up on IR. Now the Eagles are standing in the rain, on the doorstep of the girl they just dumped, horny and somewhat humbled. “Looking for a little romance. Given half a chance.”
WR (D): The inability to stay healthy is bad enough, but the “next man up” needs to do a better job of trying to crack the starting line-up. As a group, so far they’ve caught 43 of 70 targets for 478 yards (11.1 ypc) and just 2 touchdowns. Greg Ward is the leader at this position, but he doesn’t even average 9 yards per catch. Taking what the defense gives you is one thing. Letting them dictate to you all game long, is quite another. These guys have to do a better job of getting open on intermediate and deep routes
T (D): Neither Jason Peters nor Lane Johnson has looked quite like themselves this season. With JP it’s a toe injury that put him on IR for a few games. With Johnson it’s offseason ankle surgery, that isn’t back to 100% yet. Rookie Jack Driscoll has played quite a bit of football this year, but he looks like a rookie. Three year project Jordan Mailata got his first start in the Eagles lone win. He wasn’t amazing, but there was definite promise there. Still this position has been too inconsistent to grade it highly.
G (C ): Matt Pryor and Nate Herbig won’t be mistaken for Pro Bowlers, but we haven’t lost a game since they became our starting tandem, two games ago. They aren’t the best pass blockers, but that has the upside of “encouraging” bootlegs and getting the ball out earlier.
C (D): Jason Kelcestill understands leverage and landmarks, but his ability to win at the point of attack seems greatly diminished. Also he could do a better job of shielding the scramble lane. The good news is we’ve already seen the first of his annual two wild snaps. Kelce still is a wily vet, and he can get by on that. The question is: “Can the Eagles?”
DE (C): The sack production is there, with 10 in the first 4 games. Brandon Graham is on pace for a 12 sack season. So is Josh Sweat. Derek Barnettis on pace for 10. However, the backside run stopping is dangerously lax. Regardless of who lines up there (usually Barnett or Sweat), our RDE often doesn’t set the edge. Instead, they flatten to run down it. Without second level containment on that side, the Eagles fall frequent victim to reverses or stretch runs. FYI: It happens enough for opponents to be able to scheme for and target.
DT (A): This position is the engine that drives the Defense. It is the source of our power. They are the primary reason why we are giving up just 3.8 yards per rush. They also provide the pressure that has us leading the NFL in sacks. Fletcher Coxis Fletcher Cox of course, but Malik Jackson? Him?? As a group, all four players have 14 QB hits through 4 games. Jackson owns 9 of them. As an interior lineman!
OLB (D): Opponents now know that Nate Gerry has neither the speed to cover anyone, nor the strength to take on blockers. As a Nicklebacker (ugh!) playing ZONE, he provides a level of shift-on-the-fly flexibility that’s hard to match. However, as an every down ‘backer, he’s more like shit-under-flies. On the other hand, we haven’t lost since Duke Riley became a starter. Riley has also been lackluster, to put it kindly. The only splash play made by this group was Alex Singleton’s 30 yard game sealing pic-six vs the 49ers.
MLB (C ): T.J. Edwards wasn’t setting the world on fire, but we were getting some decent football out of him inside the Tackle box. But he’s on IR now, so…(nodding) ya know… In the meantime, getting a good look at rookie Shaun Bradley can only help his development. No one said they would, but at this point, they should.
S (C): FS Rodney McLeod has been targeted 13 times for 6 completions, just 68 yards, 0 TD’s, and a red zone interception. He’s been a low-key brightspot in the Secondary this season. Jalen Mills has been a bit of a disaster at SS. Targeted 7 times for 7 completions and a TD. Plus the soft tackling. His move back outside for WK4, was a godsend. During WK4, rookie Kavon Wallace got the start, while veteran Marcus Epps got most of the snaps. They weren’t All Pro, but they showed actual promise. The grade for next quarter should be higher. Provided that Mills stays outside.
CB (C): Darius Slay is the story here. He has no picks, and is allowing completions at a rate of 66%. However, he’s also only allowed 180 yards through 4 games, and his deflection in our lone victory, stopped George Kittle from stealing it from us, in the closing seconds of the game. Jalen Mills in that game was targeted 7 times, allowing just 2 completions for all of 6 yards. Never move him to Safety again. (Love him at N/CB though.) When we stopped playing Nickell Robey-Coleman 60% of the time, we started winning, and allowing 32 points per game. That, coincided with playing Cre’Von LeBlanc a lot more. So it feels like the Eagles are finding a rhythm at the position. A per game grade would look like D, F, C, B.
LS (A): The fact that you can’t recall mentioning Rick Lovato, is always a good thing.
P (A): Cameron Johnston is out there MURDERING IT so far. He’s averaging 51.6 yards per punt, 12 of which have been returned for an average of just 5.6 yards.
K (A): Jake Elliott is 7 of 7 on extra points and 6 of 7 from the field, with his only miss being from 50+ yards.
SINCE LAST QUARTER:
We ended 2019 on a 4 – 0 tear, vs admittedly garbage ((cough) division), lever competition. We tweaked the Offense by moving around some coaches, and added a ton of speed. Injuries however, have reared their ugly heads, yet again. The difference is, now we’re so used to it, that we know how to take it in stride.
MISSION FOR THIS QUARTER:
Getting the Offensive Line and the Secondary to gel, should be the focus of these next few games. We need to be able to solidly separate ourselves from the bottom of the division. While 4 – 0 would be great and should always be the goal, coming out of these next 4 (Pittsburgh, Baltimore, New York giants, Dallas) at 2 – 2 seems more realistic.
THERE were a few names among the cuts that I was not happy with: DT Anthony Rush, CB Rasul Douglas, and DE Shareef Miller specifically. That said, I wouldn’t rule out seeing one or two of those guys added to the Practice Squad in the next couple of days.
The key to this roster is not to over-react to it. With no preseason there may be a guy or two who made the team, simply because the coaching staff felt that they needed a look at him during live fire, before shipping him out. Cutting “just a guy” in order to make sure that you don’t pass on a diamond in the rough, is a hard thing to argue against.
Here’s my take on the Eagles roster as it stands now. We’ll keep it simple: GREEN (Ready to roll) / YELLOW (Serviceable, but needs bolstering) / RED (This can’t be the best we can do)
QB: Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld, Jalen Hurts – I have no worries here. Wentz is a top ten starter, Sudfeld has never been “WOW!”, but he’s never sucked either. Hurts is a rookie with a lot of talent, but he’s 100% untested at this level. GREEN
RB: Miles Sanders,Corey Clement, Boston Scott – This is a good group. Good. Not great. Everyone here can catch the ball and is dangerous as hell in the Screen game. What’s missing is a 3rd and 2 banger. A back to wear down the defense, eat clock, and quiet the crowd for road games like Week 10 (giants), Week 11 (Browns), and Week 13 (Packers). (YES! We drew away games at Lambeau TWO years in a row! Total bullshit.) GREEN
WR: Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson,Greg Ward, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Jalen Reagor, John Hightower, Quez Watkins – Seven. I thought the team might keep six, but I guess with Jeffery not being back from injury yet, Watkins is getting an opportunity. Numbers aside, I’ve been an Eagles fan since 1989, and I have never seen our team assemble a receiver corps this dangerous. Jackson, Hightower and Watkins can all fly. Jeffery is open even when he’s covered. (And here’s a link for those who forgot that.) Greg Ward has a knack for uncovering early in his route, which gives the QB an almost instant place to go with the ball. Reagor and Whiteside have reportedly looked very promising in camp. This group is very fast, and diverse, so they can be schemed to exploit a new weakness every week. GREEN
TE: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert – This is likely the best TE 1-2 punch in football. The problem is that there is no depth here. While on most teams, a second TE would be depth, our team plays them both so much, that an injury to one totally disrupts our base offensive concept. This is one of the positions that either requires and add, or for a lineman to switch position. (Now who might be athletic enough to handle such a switch…?) However, as long as these two are healthy, opposing defensive coordinators can kiss a week of sleep, goodbye. GREEN
C: Jason Kelce – Good solid player. GREEN
G: Isaac Seumalo, Jason Peters, Nate Herbig – This is a solid bunch, though I still think that if Peters is playing the position, he should be on the Left, not the Right. YELLOW
T: Lane Johnson, Matt Pryor, Jordan Mailata, Jack Driscoll – Johnson is a perennial Pro-Bowl type of player at RT. Everyone else is a a crapshoot. With the season ending injury to Andre Dillard, Jason Peters should be at LT. Instead, we’re out here holding tryouts a week before the season starts. RED
DE: Brandon Graham,Vinny Curry, Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat, Genard Avery,Casey Toohill – Both Graham and Curry play the run well and get plenty of heat on the QB. (Though neither is a sack machine.) Barnett has yet to put it all together, and has been average at best to this point in his career. Sweat showed flashes last year, and may be nipping at Barnett’s heels for his starting spot in 2021. Avery is an OLB/DE tweener who relies on explosive brute force to get to the passer. We saw a tiny sample of that in 2019, but there’s a lot of buzz about him from coaches this year. Toohill is still here because a 250 pound DE, who runs a 4.62 forty, is a nice thing to have on Special Teams. This isn’t a flashy position, but there are at least 4 players here who are NFL caliber starters. GREEN
DT: Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, Hasaan Ridgeway, Javon Hargrave– Three of these four demand frequent double-teams. That alone will to open up many, many one-on-one opportunities for edge rushers this season. And what’s scarier: All the players at this position are all finishers. GREEN
OLB: Nate Gerry, Duke Riley, Alex Singleton, Davion Taylor, Shaun Bradley – Gerry is going to start. Beyond that, everything is a question or just speculation. As if to further fuel that very thing, the Eagles have taken down the depth chart section of their website. There’s a lot of speed here, but Gerry is the only one with significant experience playing NFL defense. Bradley and Taylor are both rookies. Singleton and Riley are career Special Teamers. Communication breakdowns are going to be a regular occurrence here. RED
MLB: T.J. Edwards– The Eagles don’t make a distinction between OLB and MLB. At least on paper they don’t. Fact is, with Edwards’s limited speed and range, he has to play the MIKE if he wants to play in this league. YELLOW
S: Rodney McLeod, Jalen Mills, Rudy Ford, Marcus Epps, Will Parks, K’Von Wallace – While I’m still peeved over letting Malcolm Jenkins walk, Mills will provide a little more speed. That means it won’t require McLeod to over-extend himself in deep coverage. Ford and Epps were here in 2019 and they combined for 17 games and 11 tackles. No passes defensed or nothing. Parks was brought in and moved into third on the depth chart, but he’s injured, and it remains to be seen how he bounces back. Wallace is a rookie. YELLOW
CB: Avonte Maddox, Cre’Von LeBlanc, Craig James, Darius Slay, Nickell Robey-Coleman – Slay isn’t quite “shutdown” level, but he’s the next best thing. Or at least he has been so far in his career. Maddox seems to be the second starter. He’s feisty and will gamble for the ball, but his stature (5’9”, 183) could become an issue. With Robey-Coleman being brought in to play the Nickle, it raises some serious questions about the role (and future) of LeBlanc. James just got a one year contract extension. YELLOW
K: Jake Elliott– Has been on a two year slide since 2017, and no one was brought in to challenge him. YELLOW
P: Cam Johnston – Needs to give his coverage time to get to the returner. YELLOW
LS: Rick Lovato – Must be awesome. You never hear his name. GREEN
Again, this is just the first edition of the roster. So there’s no need to freak out, and no reason to reserve Super Bowl tick- oh right. Covid.
APPARENTLY the preseason is no longer a period for Starters to knock off rust and sharpen edges. That leaves as it’s only function, to serve as an elimination chamber for the bottom 24.6% of the roster.
Seriously, of the 53 man roster to assemble, 40 of them (75.4%) started OTA’s as locks to make the team. That means only 13 spots were EVER up in the air. Six of those now look to have been locked down by, WRJ.J. Arcega-Whiteside, T Halapoulivaati Vaitai, G/C Stefen Wisniewski, DE’s Daeshon Hall and Shareef Miller, and LB L.J. Fort.
So over these next two weeks, this team will play two games, to decide on 7 players. Most of whom will spend much of the season not being among the 46 who actually dress.
These next two games basically seem like “Change my mind” games for players like RB’s Wendell Smallwood and Josh Adams; WR’s Marken Micheland Mack Hollins; OL Matt Pryor and Jordan Mailata; DLJosh Sweat andTreyvon Hester; LB T.J. Edwards; SS’s Andrew Sendejo, and Johnathan Cyprien. (I think we all have always known who our 6 CB’s will be.) Basically this is the week that Special Teams gets built.
Those players need a strong showing over these next two weeks, to create a numbers crunch on another part of the roster.
So let’s talk about the Four Things we need to focus on this week versus the Ravens:
1) Root for your guy: If you have a pet long-shot that you’ve been rooting for, now is your time to shine baby! Send some psychic vibes out, and if your guy gets makes the cut, you can claim credit for helping. My pet long-shot: WR Greg Ward. It would have been TE Will Tye, but with TE Richard Rodgers missing so much time, and Tye playing well, it’s unlikely that Tye needs any help.
2) Hassan Chop:The Eagles coveted DTHassan Ridgeway for years, and so traded for him during the 2019 Draft. He suffered a concussion in our first preseason game and missed the second. He’s back at practice so, it’s likely he’ll play. The question is can he legit beat out Hester? He needs to show up here.
Never thought I’d use THIS card again. Wow. You can even see LB Mychal Kendricks in the background there.
3) Starter Watch: Last week, a handful of starter level players (SS Malcolm Jenkins, DE’s Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry) asked Head Coach Doug Pederson if they could play at least a little. It will be interesting to see if those same players play a little this week, or if more players decide to join them.
4) Staying focused: At this point, unless you’re rooting for a guy, there are no stakes. It will be hard not to channel surf, but try not to in the first half at least. That feels weird to say, because this used to be the game where Starters played an entire half, and you got a good feel for what they were trying to hang their hat on.
If we do all these things, we’re just about guaranteed to win. Now that we’ve covered what should happen, let’s get into what likely will happen:
The Eagles are just killing time during some league mandated games. So QB Josh McCown should make his Eagles debut, despite not really knowing the playbook yet. It’d be weird to see him start the first half, but to see him start the second half seems apropos.
Beyond that, who really knows. Expect a lot of flags as players desperate to get into the “maybe” conversation, play too aggressively or carelessly due to adrenaline and emotion. Players like: DE Eli Harold, CB Orlando Scandrick, and RB Donnel Pumphrey.
Baltimore has played their Starters in both games so far, suggesting that they follow the traditional preseason model, not the new one that we’re on. Odds are that both from a talent standpoint and a polish standpoint, they will eat us alive if we spend another game serving sheep to lion.