Eagles

Are Eagles fans taking Malcolm Jenkins' greatness for granted?

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AP Images

Are Eagles fans taking Malcolm Jenkins' greatness for granted?

During the offseason of 2014, the Eagles were in need of a safety. There were some quality players at that position hitting the market. The two names that were mentioned most prominently to land in Philadelphia were T.J. Ward and Jairus Byrd. Both players (who each played at Oregon) were very good and coveted by many teams around the league. They were going to get big-time dollars. 

Chip Kelly, the Eagles' coach at the time (remember him?), was at Oregon from 2007 through 2012 as an offensive coordinator and head coach, so he was familiar with both players. Many thought because of that tie, it was a foregone conclusion one of the two would end up in midnight green. But to the organization's and the coach's credit, the Birds had a different plan. So on the same day Ward and Byrd signed free-agent deals with the Broncos and Saints, respectively, the Eagles inked Malcolm Jenkins to a three-year deal.

Byrd would go on to play just 33 games in his three seasons in New Orleans and is now in Carolina after being released by the Saints. Ward played three seasons in Denver and is now a Buccaneer.

Jenkins has been one of, if not the best, free-agent signings in Eagles history. He's played in all 55 games since joining the club. He's tallied eight interceptions, returned four for touchdowns, has 225 tackles and three fumble recoveries. He was a 2015 Pro Bowl selection. And prior to the 2016 season, he signed a five year, $40.5 million extension.

Could someone as accomplished as Jenkins be taken for granted or underrated in Eagles fans' eyes? Our own Reuben Frank touched on this in his 10 Observations after the Redskins game. Perhaps because of his stance on social injustice or raised fist, some fans may either overlook or just not give Jenkins the credit he's deserved for his durability and stellar play on the field. He was dominant Monday vs. the Redskins, registering 10 tackles, a sack and the type of game-altering tackles that kill opponents' drives.

Jenkins was drafted as a cornerback and converted to safety after his rookie year in New Orleans. That experience lends to great flexibility within the Birds' scheme. With the loss of Jordan Hicks for the season, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz may utilize the Birds' "Big Nickel" package, which employs four safeties and two linebackers. Jenkins, in that package, could play in the box or closer to the line of scrimmage and be responsible for coverage of backs or tight ends in the flat. He can also be utilized as a blitzer, as he was in the Washington game.

Jenkins is the gift that keeps giving, both on and off the field.

Eagles Stay or Go — The Joneses

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Eagles Stay or Go — The Joneses

Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro continue our series examining the future of the world champion Eagles.

Donnie Jones
Roob: Jones turns 38 before camp starts and goes into his 15th NFL season out of LSU next year. Jones, who hasn't missed a game since 2004, is as reliable as ever. Including the postseason, he had 26 punts inside the 20-yard line and just six touchbacks. In five years here, he's established himself as the greatest punter in Eagles history. His 45.3 average and 40.6 this past year were very good. They'll drag a guy in to compete, but Jones is still terrific.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Jones is 37 now but he's a punter and he doesn't show any signs of slowing down. Before the 2016 season, Jones said he wasn't interested in retiring any time soon and there doesn't seem to be much of a reason to stop yet. He had another good season in 2017. Of course, the Eagles proved that no one is immune from the business of the NFL when they decided to go with Rick Lovato over Jon Dorenbos in 2017, but Jones is still a really good punter. During Super Bowl week, Jones got a kick out of hearing he was the only Eagles player who was able to have a legal drink when Tom Brady won his first Super Bowl. Jones joked that's probably what he was doing. 

Verdict: STAYS

Sidney Jones
Roob: 
It'll be fun to see what Jones can do with a full healthy offseason and training camp. Along with Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas and Ronald Darby, he's a big part of the most talented young stable of cornerbacks the Eagles have ever had. Where does everybody fit in next year? We'll see. But I expect Jones to be here and playing at a high level for years to come.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: It was probably a pretty good thing for the young corner to get some experience toward the end of his rookie season. Fans should be excited about Jones if he really is back to being the player he was before his injury. Because before he tore his Achilles at the Washington pro day, Jones might have been the very best cornerback in a deep cornerback draft. The Eagles have a little logjam at the cornerback position; what a great problem to have. 

Verdict: STAYS

Eagles Stay or Go —2 big contracts and a fringe player

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USA Today/AP Images

Eagles Stay or Go —2 big contracts and a fringe player

Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro continue our series examining the future of the world champion Eagles.

Tim Jernigan
Roob:
 Jernigan had a very good first half, an OK second half of the season and really didn't do a lot in the postseason, and there's no doubt the Eagles would like to see him maintain his level of consistency throughout the season. But he's certainly not going anywhere, not with $11 million in dead money vs. a $5 million cap hit. Jernigan's talent is undeniable. He just needs to find a way to keep it going through the year.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: I was a little surprised about how little Jernigan played in 2017. He played just 48 percent of the Eagles' snaps and in the playoffs, he played about as much as Beau Allen. Now, I know Jernigan dealt with an ankle injury throughout most of the year, so maybe that played a role. But for a guy who signed a four-year extension worth $48 million during the year, I really didn't see enough. He started off the season really strong, but then seemed to level off some. Maybe the ankle had something to do with that. In any case, he's now signed through 2021. The Eagles need more out of him. 

Verdict: STAYS

Lane Johnson 
Roob:
 We finally saw what Lane Johnson could do with a full season, and it was impressive. Johnson was named first-team All-Pro and made his first Pro Bowl team, and he deserved all of it. Johnson, suspended two of the last three seasons for testing positive for banned substances, was a beast at right tackle. He's not going anywhere for a long time.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: That was the season we've all been waiting for from Johnson. He was a dominant right tackle in 2017 and finally made it to his first Pro Bowl roster. He deserved it. For a long time, there's been a stigma about playing right tackle and that makes sense on its face. Protecting the quarterback's blindside has historically been more important, but defenses have adjusted. That's why guys like Von Miller, DeMarcus Lawrence, Justin Houston and Joey Bosa generally rush against right tackles. Johnson shut down those guys and more last season. It's a big reason why the Eagles didn't move him to left tackle when Jason Peters went down. That was the right call. 

Verdict: STAYS

Marcus Johnson
Roob: Johnson stuck on the active roster all year and got into 10 games, catching five passes for 45 yards. But wide receiver depth is certainly one area the Eagles will try to upgrade this offseason. Johnson will get a long look with the other young receivers in camp, but he faces an uphill battle. He's got good speed, size and athleticism, but can he put it all together and catch the ball consistently enough to stick around another year? We'll see.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The young wide receiver had a great spring and summer a year ago to earn his spot on the roster. He really worked his tail off to get better and the Eagles rewarded him with a roster spot. From there, he carved out a role on offense. He was the Eagles' receiver in their 13 personnel (three tight ends) package for much of the early season. But then in late November, Johnson lost his active spot to Shelton Gibson, who didn't play as big a role on offense but was a better special teamer. That was a shock to Johnson at the time. He'll have a shot to make the roster this year, but losing his job on Sundays in 2017 isn't a good sign. 

Verdict: GOES