Eagles

Maybe, just maybe, Eagles cornerbacks can survive without Ronald Darby

Maybe, just maybe, Eagles cornerbacks can survive without Ronald Darby

When Ronald Darby went down less than a half into his Eagles career, many fans saw their playoff hopes being carted off with him.

However, the club received surprisingly good news on Darby’s health. The diagnosis is a dislocated ankle. Although it may be erring on the conservative side, he reportedly may miss just four to six weeks. So that was the best-case scenario after the frightening scene Sunday.

And that wasn’t the only good news for the Eagles. Maybe, just maybe, they found out they can survive for a stretch without Darby. Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson and Jaylen Watkins all acquitted themselves well against Washington. Granted, it was only two-plus quarters, and the Redskins helped out with some drops. Still, the secondary appeared much improved from last season’s whiplashed mess.

What Mills lacks in foot speed he appears to have made up for with experience and anticipation. He’s never lacked for confidence, and now, he appears more poised to back up the finger-wagging.

Robinson was a full-fledged mess early in camp, but he looks much more comfortable in the slot than the outside. Despite him playing OK on the outside when pressed into duty for Darby, Robinson should stay inside. Rookie third-round pick Rasul Douglas should get the start outside.

The corners don’t stand alone in the receiving line of praise. Mills' interception was a direct result of the pressure the Birds' defensive line put on Kirk Cousins. The Eagles' front was relentless all afternoon, and coordinator Jim Schwartz’s blitz timing was spot on. They sacked Cousins four times and harassed him throughout the game. Not to mention, stuffing the run game.

If the Birds can continue to get that kind of consistency and disruption from their line, it could make up for a lot of sins and inexperience on the back end.

That said, this is by no means a declaration that all is well. Howie Roseman gave up a healthy sum for Darby and brought in Dexter McDougle late in the preseason. You’re not making those kinds of moves that close to the regular season unless there are issues. Douglas and McDougle were inactive last week.

And the next test will be a big step up in class.

In dropping 42 points on the champs, the Kansas City Chiefs had eight different players catch balls and piled up 537 total yards en route to a stunning road beatdown of the New England Patriots in Week 1. Rookie third-round pick Kareem Hunt amassed 246 total yards and three touchdowns. The Chiefs also have perhaps the fastest player in the NFL in Tyreek Hill and a top-three tight end in Travis Kelce.

Much will be written and spoken regarding Doug Pederson and Andy Reid’s relationship, which dates back to their time in Green Bay — Pederson as a backup quarterback and Reid as the offensive line/quarterbacks coach.

Where does the advantage lie: mentor or pupil? The question will be moot if the Birds' corners revert to last year’s form.

Stay or Go — Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles

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USA Today Images

Stay or Go — Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles

As we continue our offseason series examining the future of the world champion Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro try to figure out who will be on the roster in 2018. 

We go alphabetically — Part 1 was Nelson Agholor to Derek Barnett, Part 2 was De'Vante Bausby to Brandon Brooks, Part 3 was Billy Brown to Vinny Curry, Part 4 was Ronald Darby to Zach Ertz. Today is Nick Foles to Corey Graham. 

Nick Foles
Roob: Fascinating one right off the bat. I don't think the Eagles can afford to trade Foles until they have some assurances that Carson Wentz will be 100 percent healthy and ready to go by opening day, and it's still too early for that. Unless they get bowled over with an offer — say a first-round pick and a third-round pick — they need to keep him around for one more year. It's tough to imagine the Super Bowl MVP starting the season running scout team with Greg Ward, Shelton Gibson and Marcus Johnson, but that's the reality. Foles will hit free agency in a year and pick his next stop. But for now, the smartest route is to keep him around another year.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: What should the Eagles do with Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles? It still seems crazy to type that. Well, there are probably a lot of fans who want the Eagles to trade Foles now when his value couldn't possibly be any higher. That's not a crazy idea. The possibility to get a high draft pick back and save over $5 million is definitely appealing. The problem, of course, is that Wentz is coming off an ACL and LCL tear and, even though his goal is Week 1, no one knows when he'll be ready. Having the Super Bowl MVP is a helluva insurance policy. It seems pretty clear the Eagles have the ability to win another Super Bowl with either quarterback. They can't be in a situation where they don't have either of them starting. 

Verdict: STAYS

Nathan Gerry
Roob: Gerry, a fifth-round pick last year, seems to be a decent prospect as a young late-round linebacker. He was a core special teamer — his 180 snaps were sixth-most on the team — and on a roster where the linebackers are generally older guys (with the exception of oft-injured Jordan Hicks), Gerry is in a position where a roster spot will be there for the taking if he has a good training camp. I figure Gerry is here at least one more year just as a special teamer, especially with Trey Burton likely to leave and Corey Clement likely to play less on special teams next year as his role on the offense grows.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: As a rookie, Gerry switched from safety to linebacker but didn't get a chance to play much on defense as a rookie. That's still a work in progress. But on special teams, Gerry found his role. He played in 10 regular-season games and then played in every game in the playoffs, including Super Bowl LII. For now, he's just a special teams player, but that's good enough. 

Verdict: STAYS

Shelton Gibson
Roob: Gibson, a fifth-round pick last year, got only 17 snaps on offense all year after a mostly disappointing training camp, and he caught just two passes for 11 yards all year. His lack of impact on special teams along with the Eagles' young depth puts his roster spot in jeopardy. Gibson will certainly be invited back to training camp, but for once, the Eagles have depth at wide receiver, and young guys like Mack Hollins and Johnson are well ahead of Gibson in the Eagles' eyes. Even if Torrey Smith doesn't return, Nelson Agholor, Alshon Jeffery and Hollins have spots locked up in 2018, and Gibson will be fighting an uphill battle.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: After a really terrible training camp, Gibson began to pick it up enough late in the summer and made the team. He was inactive for the first 10 games of the 2017 season before he began to play a small role on special teams down the stretch. His special teams ability was what gave him the eventual edge over Johnson to be active down the stretch. He still hasn't shown his potential as a fifth-round speed receiver, but he'll get another chance. 

Verdict: STAYS

Najee Goode
Roob: Goode was one of those underrated pieces that every Super Bowl team seems to have but nobody ever talks about. He's a terrific special teamer — he was third behind Kamu Grugier-Hill and Burton with 294 special teams snaps — and also got 200 snaps at linebacker and held his own defensively. Goode is a free agent, but he's been around since 2013, and you can probably keep him at minimum wage. There's tremendous value in that as well.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: It's pretty wild to think that Goode has been with the Eagles since 2013 and has appeared in 61 games with them. He isn't the best linebacker, but he's still a solid special teamer. He was on a one-year deal in 2017 so he's an unrestricted free agent-to-be. Goode is a 28-year-old who isn't a viable option on defense, but I never thought he'd be here this long and here we are. 

Verdict: STAYS

Brandon Graham
Roob: Next year, this could become a very interesting situation. Graham has developed into one of the NFL's top outside pass rushers and had a career-high 9½ sacks this year and made his first Pro Bowl. But he turns 30 this spring, and the Eagles have Derek Barnett under contract with modest cap figures through 2020. It's clear the Eagles can't afford to keep both Vinny Curry and Graham, and Graham is obviously the superior player, but how much money is he looking for and how difficult will it be for the Eagles to keep him? I expect Graham to look for a long-term deal in the $12-13 million per year range. He'll get it. I'm just not sure where.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: The Eagles didn't give Graham a new contract last offseason but they did make a showing of good faith when they added some incentives to the last two years of his contract. But it's not a new contract yet. He's still their most disruptive pass rusher. His strip sack on Tom Brady in Super Bowl LII was the biggest play of the game. The Eagles are going to have to figure out if they're going to break the bank to keep Graham around for another contract. For now, though, he'll be a huge part of the 2018 season in a contract year. 

Verdict: STAYS

Corey Graham
Roob: Corey Graham is another one of those one-year contract veterans who made a big impact this past season both on defense and special teams. He will turn 33 before camp opens, but he's in tremendous shape and takes great care of himself. He's played in 171 of a possible 176 games in his 11-year career and shows no sign of dropping off. Graham is also a terrific natural leader who was extremely vocal during the Super Bowl run. The Eagles don't really have any young safeties knocking on the door, so as long as Graham is willing to accept another cap-friendly contract, I don't see a reason not to re-sign him.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Signing Graham was one of the best moves Howie Roseman pulled off last summer. It was a pretty low-key move, but the team brought in a veteran safety who was great in the locker room and offered them a quality third safety. That allowed Malcolm Jenkins to slide into the slot when needed and allowed the Eagles to go with a smaller lineup in their dime package when necessary. That doesn't sound like a big deal, but without a ton of great linebackers, having the flexibility to go small was huge. Graham is a free agent again and the Eagles might try to go younger, but they should at least think about bringing Graham back. 

Verdict: STAYS

Rick Lovato explains why he got a huge Lombardi Trophy tattoo

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Rick Lovato

Rick Lovato explains why he got a huge Lombardi Trophy tattoo

After the Eagles beat the Patriots, 41-33, in Super Bowl LII, there will be a Vince Lombardi Trophy living in Philadelphia permanently. 

There will also be one on Rick Lovato forever. 

On Wednesday, the Eagles' long snapper tweeted out a photo of some new ink, a huge Lombardi Trophy on the left side of his torso. Lovato isn't the only Eagles player or fan to get a tattoo after the Super Bowl, but it looks like his tattoo might be one of the biggest. 

On Thursday, Lovato went back on Twitter to explain why he decided to get the trophy tattooed on himself. 

Two years ago, in April of 2016, Lovato visited the grave of Vince Lombardi, which happens to be in his hometown of Middletown, N.J. He said that's also where his grandfather is buried. 

"I still pray and thank Coach Lombardi to this day because of how my life has changed since the day I visited his grave," Lovato explained in his tweet. 

A couple months before Lovato's visit, MMQB's Jenny Vrentas took a trip to Mount Olivet Cemetery to learn a little bit about the legendary coach's unassuming grave.

When Lovato visited Lombardi's final resting place, the long snapper was still playing for the Packers. After a college career at Old Dominion, Lovato spent that first summer with the Bears but didn't make the team and wasn't signed by the Packers until December of 2015 when their long-snapper suffered an injury. 

Lovato spent the rest of the season with the Packers and was with them for the next whole spring and summer. But just a few months after his visit to the cemetery, he was released. 

During the 2016 season, he was signed by Washington to fill in for 10 days before he was again cut. Lovato was back working at his family's restaurant, "Joyce's Subs and Pizza" in Lincroft, N.J. after that, but Jon Dorenbos got hurt and the Eagles needed a replacement. Lovato did a good enough job at the end of last season to warrant a position battle this past summer. He won the competition and was the Eagles' long snapper in their Super Bowl season. 

It seems like the tattoo is a reward for finally making it to the pinnacle. 

Here's Lovato's full explanation of his new ink and what it means to him: 

"For those who want some more background on my tattoo, 2 years ago I visited Vince Lombardi's grave in my hometown of Middletown, NJ where my grandfather is buried. Not having a full time job in the NFL yet and not knowing where this career would take me, I trusted my passion and faith to keep reaching my dreams. Since then I was cut two more times and could've given up on those dreams, but it made me want it more than ever. After a heated battle with my friend Jon Dorenbos in training camp I had finally found my place in this league. Through the ups and the downs of my first full season in the NFL, I have fulfilled my dream of playing and winning the Super Bowl. It has brought me more joy in my life than I could've ever imagined. I still pray and thank Coach Lombardi to this day because of how my life has changed since the day I visited his grave. This tattoo means much more than just winning a Super Bowl. It represents my journey, everyone who's supported me and my faith in God."