Eagles

2017 NFL draft: National Championship Game prospects for the Eagles

2017 NFL draft: National Championship Game prospects for the Eagles

Hard to believe the college football season ends Monday night.

No. 1 Alabama takes on No. 2 Clemson in the CFP National Championship Game at 8 p.m. (ESPN). It's a rematch of last year's championship, which was an all-time great game. 

And just like last season, the game will be littered with NFL talent.

Here are some prospects for Eagles fans to keep an eye on Monday night:

Mike Williams, WR, Clemson, redshirt junior, 6-3/225
I've seen negative reports on Williams recently, citing that he's not the "focal point" of Clemson's offense. That somehow means he's not an elite prospect? That makes little sense to me. He's been plenty productive (90 catches, 1,267 yards, 10 TDs) and is Deshaun Watson's go-to receiver. Corey Davis may be an incredibly close second, but Williams is still the best receiver prospect in this draft. His physicality and ball skills are unmatched. Remember, Williams didn't play against Alabama last year. Could he be the X-factor?

Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama, redshirt sophomore, 6-1/196
The matchup of Humphrey vs. Williams should be a lot of fun to watch. Humphrey has the size and physical style to compete with Williams. He also has world-class speed so Williams isn't running by him. Humphrey is one of, if not the top corner in the draft. Could he be available at No. 14 or 15? Not likely but not impossible.

Wayne Gallman, RB, Clemson, junior, 6-0/210
I'm out on a limb with my assessment on Gallman but I just love his game. The footwork and quickness jumping in and out of holes are so impressive. His toughness is off the charts. He carries the load for Clemson (497 carries in the last two seasons) and is also a lead blocker for Watson on many running plays. Throw in his 62 catches during his college career and you've got a complete back. If he slips out of the second round, he's a steal. He's going to help an NFL offense.

Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama, junior, 6-6/310
You can look at the Eagles' offensive line and consider it a relative strength when compared to some other positions. But all you have to do is look at what the Cowboys have done in building their offensive line to see that the strategy works. Robinson might be the only true "elite" offensive line prospect in this draft. If you keep Jason Peters, you can slide Robinson in at left guard and have him learn from a future HOFer. It may not be the sexiest pick, but it could go a long way in developing Carson Wentz and the offense as a whole.

Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson, senior, 6-1/200
Tankersley isn't the greatest athlete, but he's physical and solid in both man and zone coverage. He also has decent ball skills (nine INTs the last two seasons). He's more likely part of the second tier in the draft, but he should be a decent NFL corner. He's also proven to be a strong leader for Clemson's defense. The matchup between Tankersley and Alabama sophomore receiver Calvin Ridley should be intriguing.

 

Also worth watching

Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson, senior, 6-3/305

With Bennie Logan's contract status uncertain, the Eagles may need to draft his replacement. You could argue that Watkins would be an upgrade with his ability to rush the passer (10½ sacks this season).

Dalvin Tomlinson, DT, Alabama, redshirt senior, 6-3/305
See above about Logan. Tomlinson is part of the NFL prospect assembly line along the Crimson Tide's D-line.

Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama, senior, 6-1/236
Can't imagine a scenario where Foster falls all the way down to the Eagles but crazier things have happened. Foster has been compared to Luke Kuechly. And those comparisons are more than fair.

Tyrone Crawford, G, Clemson, redshirt junior, 6-2/340
Crawford is massive and a bully in the run game. Another player that could help bolster the Eagles' line immediately. 

Artavis Scott, WR, Clemson, junior, 5-10/190
It would behoove the Eagles to draft more than one receiver. Scott is more of a slot receiver with versatility. He's a great athlete that Clemson just looks to get the ball to in any way possible.

Nelson Agholor focused simply on having fun in midst of turnaround season

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Nelson Agholor focused simply on having fun in midst of turnaround season

Don't talk to Nelson Agholor about his stats. Don't even try.

He doesn't want to hear about it.

Here we are in Week 7, and Agholor needs 45 yards Monday night against the Redskins for a career receiving high. For a full season.

His four touchdowns are already more than his combined career total of three from his first two years. His 16.1 yards per catch is 10th-best in the NFL and light years above his career high of 11.0 coming into the season.

Impressed?

“Not really," Agholor said. "I just look at how much fun I’m having and team success, and that’s the best part about this situation.

"If somebody came in and told me all my numbers and statistics, all that type of stuff? The best part of it is we’re winning a lot of football games right now and we’re having a whole lot of fun doing it."

Six games into the season, Agholor has 20 catches for 321 yards.

Compare that with the last seven weeks of last year, when a disappointing career turned into a disaster and he caught just 11 catches for just 108 yards.

Agholor just shrugs.

“That’s a great thing," he said. "I’m having so much more fun this year, so that’s the best part. I’m having more fun than my first two years in the league.

"They go hand in hand. The more fun you have, because winning is fun, making plays is fun, but there’s just a feeling about stepping on the field and enjoying the moment and enjoying the opportunity."

In his first two years, Agholor's best games went for 57, 62 and 64 yards. Already this year, he's had games with 55, 58, 86 and 93 yards.

So in just six weeks, he's produced four of his seven-best games as a pro.

We heard about it all spring, and we heard about it all summer, and Agholor has backed up all the talk about becoming a different guy with production.

He really has become a different guy.

Head coach Doug Pederson noticed it the first day of OTAs.

"Part of my message to him, specifically to Nelson, after the season, was just get away," Pederson said. "Get away, clear your mind, clear everything, and when he came back in the spring for OTAs, he was a changed football player. He was a changed person. His confidence level was higher. 

"I would say it wasn't like through the roof as it is now, but it was beginning to build at that point of the spring, and each day that he got a little more comfortable in his new role of playing in the slot helped that. And I think, too, the addition of Torrey (Smith) and Alshon (Jeffery) on the perimeter also took a little of the pressure off of him and diverted it to all three of them."

The move to the slot gave Agholor ownership of a specific position and created matchup problems for defenses that just don't have the speed to cover Jeffery and Smith outside and Agholor inside.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to just run different routes and give a different look," Agholor said. "I like playing outside, inside, wherever. I just like being a guy that you can get the football to, so I want to know as much as I can in terms of the route tree to help myself be a better football player, and Doug decided this was a great place for me to get those targets, and I’m very appreciative."

This time last year, Wentz wasn't even looking Agholor's way. Now, other than tight end Zach Ertz, he's become his favorite receiver.

"A guy like that, I’m just so happy for him," Carson Wentz said. "He’s one of the hardest-working guys I’ve ever been around. And so to see him kind of take that step? And really the biggest thing I think we’ve all seen is just his confidence is just through the roof, and that’s really been exciting for him, exciting for this team, exciting for this whole city."

One of the biggest differences in Agholor this year is his ability to make plays after the catch.

With his new-found confidence, he actually looks faster. Through six games, Agholor has 143 yards after the catch, or 7.2 yards per reception. He had 113 YACs all last year, just 3.1 yards per catch.

“It’s a want-to thing," he said. "First is securing the catch and then just the want-to after that.

"I’ve just been in position. Been in position to catch the ball and then grass in front of me and making plays. I just hope to be in position or often."

Here we are six games into the season, and Agholor and not Jeffery or Smith leads all Eagles wide receivers in yards so far this year.

And Agholor and Tyreek Hill of the Chiefs are the only NFL receivers with more than one 50-yard touchdown catch. Agholor had a 58-yarder on opening day against the Redskins and a 72-yarder against the Cards.

None of this surprises Agholor.
 
"I expected to keep on trusting the process and keep on getting better each day and then letting opportunity meet preparation," Agholor said. "And for me, I think like I have a lot more to do and I want to keep on getting better as a football player."

5 key matchups Eagles need to win to beat Redskins again

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5 key matchups Eagles need to win to beat Redskins again

The Eagles finally snapped the five-game losing streak to Washington in the season opener on Sept. 10. 

Now they have a chance to start a streak of their own. 

Both teams have found success after that 30-17 Eagles win in the opener. The Eagles are 5-1 with the best record in the NFC, while Washington is 3-2 and second in the NFC East. 

With a win on Monday night at the Linc, the Eagles would be 6-1 and would put another game between them and their closest division opponent. So it could be a big boost (see story)

But remember, these division games aren't normally easy and until this season's opener, Washington had their number. 

Here are five matchups to watch on Monday night: 

Zach Ertz vs. Washington's safeties 
Washington hasn't been able to stop Ertz yet, so this is still a huge matchup problem. In the opener, he caught eight passes for 93 yards. That game kicked off what has already been an incredible season for the tight end. 

In nine career games against the division foe, Ertz has 54 catches for 531 yards. Ertz likes playing against Washington and it's not just his crazy numbers (see story)

And it's not just Ertz. Washington has struggled against tight ends all season. They lead the league in yards surrendered to opposing tight ends with 407 on 29 catches, with two touchdowns. 

Brandon Scherff vs. Fletcher Cox
Washington coach Jay Gruden admitted his team was beaten physically in the first meeting between these two. That started with Cox, who had a huge strip sack on Kirk Cousins in the first quarter. Because Scherff is a Pro Bowl guard, there's a good chance Cox will actually see plenty of 1-on-1 against him on Monday. He'll need to beat Scherff again. 

Scherff has been really good since Washington used the fifth overall pick on him in 2015, but this is his biggest test. And he'll get it twice per season in the next few years. 

"I think the Redskins have a fine offensive line," Eagles DC Jim Schwartz said. "It's going to be one of our biggest challenges." 

Morgan Moses vs. Brandon Graham 
For what it's worth, Moses is ProFootballFocus' 17th ranked offensive guard. That's not great but he's not usually a liability and he's not a bad right tackle. But Graham absolutely spanked him the first time these two teams met. 

In that game, Graham had two sacks, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble. If he has this kind of impact again, it's going to be a long day for Moses. 

LeGarrette Blount vs. Redskins' run D
Blount had just 46 yards on 14 carries in the first meeting but since then, he's really come on and Doug Pederson has shown a devotion to finding balance in his offense. 

Washington has been pretty good against the run, giving up 88 yards per game (eighth in the league). But they'll be without first-round pick Jonathan Allen, one of their top defensive linemen. 

Eagles' WRs vs. Washington's banged up corners
If Blount isn't heavily involved in the game plan on Monday it might be because Pederson sees opportunity in the passing game. Washington's starting cornerbacks Josh Norman (rib fracture) has been ruled out and Bashaud Breeland (knee) is questionable. 

Even if Breeland plays, he won't be 100 percent and they'll definitely miss Norman. Even though the backups have played pretty well, Carson Wentz will probably test this banged up Washington secondary early and often. 

If Washington is without both of their starting corners — or even if Breeland plays — expect Pederson to attack their backups. It could be a big day for the Eagles' passing game.