5 key Eagles' matchups vs. Raiders

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5 key Eagles' matchups vs. Raiders

There's a perfectly good chance the Eagles won't have much to play for on Monday night against the Raiders. 

If the Vikings lose to the Packers on Saturday night, the Eagles clinch homefield advantage, which would make the last two games pretty meaningless. 

But they've spent all week getting their starters ready to face the Raiders and Nick Foles definitely needs the work. Backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld could also use some reps. His next NFL snap will be his first. 

Forget all that for a second. Doug Pederson and the Eagles have prepared all week to beat the Raiders. Here are the matchups they'll need to win to make that happen: 

Lane Johnson vs. Khalil Mack 
Mack is just the latest on the murderers' row of pass-rushers this season. Johnson has already seen Von Miller, Demarcus Lawrence and Chandler Jones and held them in check. It's a big part of the reason Johnson is heading to his first Pro Bowl. 

While offensive coordinator Frank Reich said Mack has been moving around a little more this season, Mack's most comfortable lining up against right tackles. Mack, along with those other guys we mentioned, is a reason why Johnson didn't move to left tackle after Jason Peters went down. 

This season, Miller has 10 1/2 sacks. It's his third consecutive double-digit sack season. Since the start of 2015, only Jones has more sacks. Another big test Monday night for Johnson.  

Jared Cook vs. Malcolm Jenkins 
If Patrick Robinson (concussion) is able to play Monday night, it'll make a big difference, because then Jenkins can focus on Cook. 

Cook never became a super top-tier tight end like some expected, but he's still dangerous. This year, he has 50 catches for 638 yards and two touchdowns. He has some huge games and then some nothing games. The Eagles have to try to make this a nothing game. 

The Birds are around the top of the middle when it comes to defending tight ends. Thirteen teams have given up fewer yards to tight ends. 

Kelechi Osemele vs. Tim Jernigan 
This one will be fun because Osemele and Jernigan were teammates in Baltimore in 2014 and 2015. Osemele, the Pro Bowl left guard, will definitely be matched up 1-on-1 against Jernigan, which is probably an advantage for the Raiders. But at least Jernigan knows he won't have to deal with any double teams. 

Things might be different for the guy next to him. Fletcher Cox will line up against Gabe Jackson, who isn't anywhere near Osemele. Expect to see the Raiders try to help Jackson throughout the afternoon. 

David Sharpe vs. Vinny Curry 
The Raiders lost two-time Pro Bowler Donald Penn for the rest of the season, so there's a good chance they'll start a rookie in his place at left tackle. Sharpe, a fourth-round pick from Florida, has played in just three games this season. 

Curry hasn't had a flashy season. He has just three sacks. But he's been really solid. So he and Derek Barnett — who also lines up on the left tackle — should be able to get some pass-rush pressure on Derek Carr in this game. 

Marshawn Lynch vs. Eagles' run D
Lynch isn't the same guy who terrorized defenses while he was in Seattle, but he can still do some damage. Lynch is averaging 74.4 yards per game and 4.83 yards per attempt over his last five games. 

But the Eagles are the best rushing defense in the NFL. They have given up just 71.5 yards per game. The next closest team is Minnesota, which has given up 85.3 yards per game. 

Through 14 games, the Eagles have given up 1,001 rushing yards. That's the best in the league since 2014 (Lions, 893) and the best for the franchise since the 1991 team (977). 

As Bradham re-signs, he lauds a teammate no longer here

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As Bradham re-signs, he lauds a teammate no longer here

After getting the opportunity to stay with the Super Bowl champions, Nigel Bradham spoke at length and quite passionately about someone who didn’t get the same opportunity.
Brent Celek.
Bradham, the veteran linebacker, spent the last two years with Celek, who the Eagles released earlier this week after 11 seasons.
“That’s obviously devastating, man,” Bradham said. “Taking about a guy who was here his whole career and the way he came every day and his character every day.
“He really … me and a lot of guys on our team what it takes to win a Super Bowl, and he let us know it doesn’t come easy, it takes work, and he came in and worked every day. Like no other.”
Celek was due to earn $5 million in 2018 but is counting only $1 million in dead money against the 2018 cap, so the Eagles gained $4 million under the cap by releasing him.
That cap space certainly helped them find room to re-sign Bradham, who enjoyed a career-best season in 2017 for the Super Bowl champs.
But Bradham was effusive in his praise for the veteran tight end, who has played the fourth-most games in Eagles history.
“You would never know he was (11) years in because of the way he worked,” Bradham said. “So when you lose a guy like that it obviously takes a toll on your team.
“You hate to lose guys like that that meant so much and impacted this team so much. His leadership was on another level. He went over and beyond the things he could have done as a leader. Obviously, wish he could be here still.”

Should the Eagles take a RB at 32?

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Should the Eagles take a RB at 32?

The Eagles on Friday reportedly hosted a formal visit with LSU running back Derrius Guice.

If the Eagles have real interest in Guice, they know he won’t be there beyond pick 32. He might not even be there at pick 32. So would the Eagles seriously consider taking a running back with their first-round pick?

The Eagles’ running back situation is murky going forward. LeGarrette Blount has found a new home. Jay Ajayi will have an enormous role in this offense, but is only signed through 2018. Corey Clement will likely take on a bigger role after he proved himself as a pass catcher and, more importantly, a pass protector. Kenjon Barner’s value is strictly as a returner, a need the Eagles may look to address elsewhere. Then there’s former mid-round picks Wendell Smallwood and Donnel Pumphrey who I mention in this space simply because they have roster spots as of today. And don’t forget about Darren Sproles, who’s still lingering in free agency.

The free agent market is less than inspiring. Adrian Peterson is out there but he’s not going to play for free. Do you want to bring back former Eagle DeMarco Murray or (almost former Eagle) Frank Gore? Didn’t think so. You could take a chance on an Eddie Lacy or a Matt Jones, guys who showed promise but lost their way. But, again … meh.

Last year’s running back draft class was crazy deep and talented. So much so that the Eagles were able to pick up Clement off the street after he didn’t get selected. This year’s class isn’t far behind it.

There’s an obvious RB1: Penn State’s Saquon Barkley. No, Eagles fans. It’s not happening. You’re only setting yourself up for disappointment. Instead, focus on the guys the Eagles have an actual shot at getting. Guice, for one, would be an excellent addition as a lead back. There’s also USC’s Ronald Jones, a Jamaal Charles clone that would fit like a glove in this offense. Then there’s Georgia’s dynamic duo of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Chubb is more of a bell cow while Michel is more dynamic.

The history of the Eagles drafting running backs high is not illustrious. Since they made one of the worst decisions in franchise history by selecting Michael Haddix No. 8 overall in the loaded 1983 draft, it’s been a somewhat mixed bag. They took Keith Byars No. 10 overall and Anthony Toney in the second round in 1986. Byars was OK, but Toney was a bust. They took Siran Stacy in the second (48th overall) in 1992 who never logged a single NFL carry. They did better in 1994, selecting Charlie Garner in the second round (42nd overall), and hit it out of the park in 2009, selecting their all-time leading rusher LeSean McCoy at pick 53.

The Eagles clearly have running backs on their radar in this draft. Though their history isn’t great with drafting them high, this would be the year to do it.