Eagles

Eagles Mailbag: Jeffery's next contract, Robinson's future, Embiid in football

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Eagles Mailbag: Jeffery's next contract, Robinson's future, Embiid in football

With the bye week, it seems like the Eagles haven't played football in a few months, but they'll finally get a chance to take the field on Sunday Night in North Texas. 

During the bye week, they watched all three division teams fall, but also watched a few teams other top teams in the NFC get wins. 

A win Sunday over Dallas could pretty much make the division title a lock and then the Eagles can try to lock up one of the top two seeds in the conference to get a first-round bye. 

This has been a fun season so far, huh? 

To your questions: 

Yeah, I'd expect something similar. Lawrence has been just as disruptive as Miller this season. He already has 11 1/2 sacks to lead the NFL. It seemed like the Eagles had a really good game plan for Miller. They did a few different things to neutralize him during the game. 

At times, they offered Lane Johnson some help. At other times, they let Johnson go 1-on-1 against Miller. And they also schemed some plays to take Miller out of the game in more unique ways. One particular naked play to the right sticks out. On the Alshon Jeffery touchdown, the Eagles ran a zone-read play that eventually left Miller with a straight path to Carson Wentz, but Wentz was able to stand in and deliver the throw before Miller got there. 

The Eagles will get creative, but, for the most part, they need to let Johnson take on Lawrence. Johnson has been playing at a Pro Bowl level — let him earn his trip to Hawaii or wherever the hell they play that game these days! After all, this matchup is one of the reasons they kept him at right tackle when Jason Peters went down. Let him take on another top pass-rusher. 

I think this job will belong to Patrick Robinson on Sunday. With Ronald Darby's return, the Eagles can have him and Jalen Mills outside and let Robinson focus on playing in the slot, where he has been outstanding this season. 

I don't think it makes much sense for Malcolm Jenkins to cover Beasley. Remember the game a few years ago, when Beasley went over 100 yards with two touchdowns against the Eagles? Yeah, Jenkins was on him. When Jenkins is at his best in the slot, he's going against tight ends or bigger slot receivers. Beasley is way shiftier, so Robinson makes sense. 

Robinson has been the single biggest surprise of the Eagles' season. He's been an even bigger surprise than Nelson Agholor. At least Agholor looked good during the summer. Robinson looked awful until the team moved him into the slot. Since then, though, he's been incredible. 

Here's the problem: the Eagles are going to have a logjam at corner. So would they want to bring back Robinson, who came here on a one-year deal? Well, look at who will still be on the roster. They'll still have Darby, Mills, Rasul Douglas and (presumably) Sidney Jones. All four of those guys are 23 or younger, while Robinson is 30 and probably doesn't fit into their future. If he gets a decent offer elsewhere, he's probably gone. 

Nice to see you're taking advantage of the 280 character limit, Drew. I wasn't very surprised the Eagles didn't make a move to bring in a starting tackle. There aren't a ton of those guys available. No left tackle tree in sight. You could argue Duane Brown was that guy this season and the Seahawks got him. Should the Eagles have looked into that? Yeah, probably. 

But Halapoulivaati Vaitai has played well. No, he's not Jason Peters, but there's a reason his name hasn't come up much over the last few weeks. Vaitai has been described to me as a player who just needed confidence. That's why in some games you've seen him start slow but get better as the game goes on. The Eagles think he can play and he has been proving them right so far this season. 

As far as the NFC being wide open this year? Yup. It is. And you're right, there's a chance a few of those teams will bounce back stronger next year. I don't look at the Eagles' not making a move for a starting tackle as them not going for it this year. They're going for it. They just think Big V will hold up. 

I'm going to be pretty boring here. Sorry. I think Mills will end the year with the team lead in interceptions and Brandon Graham will lead the team in sacks. 

Right now, Mills is tied with Robinson — each has three picks. But with the return of Darby, I expect Mills to have plenty of opportunities the rest of the way. 

Graham leads the team in sacks with five, a half sack more than Fletcher Cox. Graham will finish more because it's just easier for defensive ends to get sacks than interior rushers. And Graham just happens to be the Eagles' best pass-rusher. 

This is an interesting question for this reason: Jeffery hasn't put up big numbers this season. He has just 34 catches for 500 yards and five touchdowns. Not terrible, but not WR1-type production. 

A big reason for that is because of how smoothly the Eagles' offense has been running. Wentz is comfortable spreading the ball to all of his receivers, which means none of them have put up great numbers. The problem for Jeffery is that numbers come up in negotiations. This negotiation will be an interesting one. The Eagles' coaches clearly value Jeffery, but it might not be easy to find the right number. 

Spotrac has a pretty cool feature that looks at market values of a player. According to that tool, Jeffery's market value would be around $10.2 million per year, which could come out to be a five-year deal worth a little over $51 million. That would be a higher annual value than his one-year, $9.5 million deal in 2017. 

You have to remember, though, NFL contracts are never as they seem. A five-year contract worth $51 million isn't actually worth $51 million. The Eagles could backload a deal and find something to make it work. If there's one thing Howie Roseman is good at, it's this stuff. 

The biggest unknown is Jeffery. I think the Eagles would like to re-sign him. If they don't, they'll need to either sign another big-time free agent or draft a receiver high. It would make more sense to sign one in free agency because it's hard to know what to expect from rookie receivers. The Eagles could keep Torrey Smith for $5 million, but they shouldn't. The production just isn't there. And Mack Hollins has been taking on a more significant role throughout the season. He's the next guy up. Nelson Agholor can play outside but he's clearly found a home inside. But he could play outside in 12 personnel. So some combination of Jeffery/free agent, Hollins and Agholor would be my guess. 

At running back, Jay Ajayi will be the guy. LeGarrette Blount's one-year deal will be up and the Eagles won't need him back. Corey Clement might have a role. Wendell Smallwood is interesting because he's the odd man out now, but who knows next season. His issue has been staying healthy. When he's on the field, he can play a little. 

This is fun. Here's the thing we sometimes forget about NBA players because they're always surrounded by other NBA players. They're enormous. They're basically like modern-day dinosaurs. I once met Yao Ming and he could have picked me up, put me in his shirt pocket and walked away without anyone noticing. 

We'll start with Embiid, who is listed at 7-foot, 250 pounds. He would end up being tied for the tallest player in NFL history. Richard Sligh was a 7-footer who played one season in 1967. Heck, Embiid would be three inches taller than Ed "Too Tall" Jones. 

The tallest player on the Eagles' roster is 6-6. They have five guys that tall and three of them are offensive tackles. Embiid is so tall that defensive ends would be able to use their leverage to beat him. But King Dunlap was about 6-10 and that prehistoric creature ended up having a decent NFL career. Embiid is an offensive tackle, but he'd have to bulk up. 

OK, now to Simmons. He's listed at 6-10, 230. He's just too thin to play on the offensive line. I'm putting Simmons at tight end. That's the position everyone seems to think LeBron would play, so why not Simmons too? Imagine throwing the ball up to him in the end zone!

Jay Ajayi no longer a secret weapon

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USA Today Images

Jay Ajayi no longer a secret weapon

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — It's not much of a secret anymore. 

Jay Ajayi is the Eagles' top running back. 

And in Sunday's 34-29 win over the Giants, he began to separate himself even more. He had 89 total yards on 14 touches and was a threat on the ground and through the air.

"Yeah, I definitely feel that I was getting some good runs out there," Ajayi said. "Obviously, I would have loved to do a lot more on the ground, but what I was able to get, I think I was running pretty hard today."

Ajayi's numbers weren't staggering Sunday, but he was the best of the Eagles' four-man running back rotation. He had 49 yards on 12 carries and had two catches for 40 yards. The other three running backs combined had the same number of touches. 

For the past few weeks, Ajayi's role in the offense has grown and that doesn't look like it's slowing down anytime soon. By the time the playoffs get here, the Eagles' midseason acquisition should be really hitting his stride in his new offense. For as good as LeGarrette Blount has been, at times this season, he just doesn't seem to have the explosiveness the 24-year-old Pro Bowler does. 

Ajayi's playmaking ability really took center stage in the third quarter, when he ran for 22 yards and then caught a screen pass for 32 yards on the very next play. That set up a touchdown to put the Eagles up 31-23 a few plays later.

"I definitely feel on plays like that, it's good to feel like I'm doing good for the offense, getting in a rhythm," Ajayi said. "Obviously, I would have loved to finish in the end zone. So I just have to make sure I end in the end zone so I can put some points on the board in the RB room and get us some stats."

If Ajayi's looking for stats, how about these: He already has four runs of 20-plus yards this season. Blount, who has been with the team all year, has just seven. 

And in six games with the Eagles, Ajayi has 356 yards on 56 carries for an average of 6.4 yards. Ajayi's overall numbers aren't that good because of his time in Miami, but if only his Philly stats counted, he'd be among pretty exclusive company. There's only one running back in the league (Alvin Kamara) to average over 6.0 yards per carry with at least 50 attempts. 

Aside from his running ability, Ajayi enjoys the receiving aspect of playing in this offense. He might not be the most natural pass-catcher, but his 40 yards receiving was the second-highest total of his career. He'll get even more chances to catch the ball this season, especially if he's on the field for an increasing number of third downs.

Really, getting on the field on third down is all about trust from the coaching staff.

"Yeah, I've shown them that I'm keyed in on my protections and it's just about knowing what you're doing on third down," he said. "And that's what I've been trying to do throughout this time."

Ajayi prides himself on his physical condition. Even when he was the feature back in Miami, he prided himself on being fresh late in games and late in the season. He claims he would be fresh even if that was the case.

But the Eagles haven't asked him to carry the ball 20-plus times at all since he's been in Philly. After carrying the ball 260 times last year, he has just 194 carries this season and just 56 of those have come since the trade. Even if the Eagles ride him hard over the last two games of the season — which seems unlikely — he's going to have way fewer touches this year. 

"I feel good," Ajayi said. "I'm very diligent in my preparation, so whether I was getting a lot or a little, I would still feel good. But right now, I feel good."

Facing misconduct investigation, Panthers owner selling team

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Facing misconduct investigation, Panthers owner selling team

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Facing a growing investigation that accuses him of sexual misconduct and using racist language at work, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson announced Sunday that he will sell the NFL team after the season.

The team announced on Twitter that Richardson is selling the team, linking to a five-paragraph letter by the franchise's only owner.

"I believe it is time to turn the franchise over to new ownership," Richardson wrote, saying he wouldn't begin discussions until after the season. The Panthers, who lost in the Super Bowl in 2016, are in playoff position again.

"I hope everyone in the organization, both on and off the field, will be firmly focused on one mission: to play and win the Super Bowl," said Richardson, 81.

The NFL awarded Richardson, a former player with the Baltimore Colts, an expansion franchise in 1993, and he has been the team's only owner.

Richardson's letter did not directly address the investigation.

"There has been no greater mission or purpose in my life than to have brought and NFL franchise to Charlotte," Richardson wrote. "The obstacles back then were significant and some even questioned whether or community could or would support professional football. But I always knew that if given the chance the Carolina would rise to the occasion. And you have. The team has become an integral part of the community. The stadium is in its best condition since the day it opened."

Richardson attended the game Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers at Bank of America Stadium and was photographed sitting beside his wife Rosalind in his luxury box.

He did not speak to reporters.

"While I will no longer be the team owner, I will always be the Panthers Number One fan," Richardson's letter said.

The Panthers are tied to Charlotte through June of 2019.

The city of Charlotte and the Panthers reached agreement on improvements for the team's stadium in 2013. The plan called for the city to contribute about $87 million for renovations to Bank of America Stadium in exchange for a six-year deal to keep the Panthers in Charlotte.

The money is less than what the team was seeking for improvements of the stadium, which opened in 1996. Forbes estimates the Panthers worth at $2.3 billion.

Richardson's announcement comes after a Sports Illustrated report that cited unnamed sources who said Richardson made sexually suggestive comments to women and on at least one occasion directed a racial slur at an African-American Panthers scout. The report states that the settlements came with non-disclosure requirements forbidding the parties from discussing the details.

The NFL on Sunday said it has taken over the investigation of allegations of workplace misconduct. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league had no comment on the report.

Panthers spokesman Steven Drummond said Sunday the team requested the league take over the investigation.

"We thought it would be best for transparency reasons," Drummond told The Associated Press.

The investigation was originally going to be led by the law firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, LLP, and overseen by Erskine Bowles, a minority owner with the Panthers.

Drummond said in a release that the Panthers take these allegations very seriously and are committed to a full investigation.

"The entire organization is fully committed to ensuring a safe, comfortable and diverse work environment where all individuals, regardless of sex, race, color, religion, gender, or sexual identity or orientation, are treated fairly and equally," Drummond said.

The Panthers began play in 1995 but have never delivered on Richardson's promise of winning a Super Bowl. They lost after the 2003 and 2015 seasons.

The Panthers are 10-4 entering the final two weeks of the regular season and well positioned for a playoff run.

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, like most of the team's players, hadn't read the details of the report that came out just as the Panthers were preparing to play the Green Bay Packers.

Newton said Richardson has served in a "father-like role" for him since his arrival in Carolina seven years ago.

"For me I hope things don't alter my thinking of Mr. Richardson," Newton said. "But I do know that he has given me some things that I will forever be appreciative of."

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said after the game it is important to let the process play out, but vouched for Richardson's character.

"The only thing I can speak on is for what he has been to me as far as I'm concerned," Rivera said. "A lot of you know I had a house fire and he was there for (my wife) Stephanie and I. He was tremendous in supporting us. My brother passed and Mr. Richardson was there and helped me get to the funeral and back. I can't speak to anything other than that."

It has been a whirlwind year for the Panthers organization.

Team president Danny Morrison abruptly resigned in February. Richardson then fired general manager Dave Gettleman on the eve of training camp and replaced him with former general manager Marty Hurney on an interim basis. It was a surprising move considering Carolina made the playoffs three times in four seasons under Gettleman.