Eagles

NFL draft prep: Risers and fallers

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NFL draft prep: Risers and fallers

We’re just a few weeks away from the NFL draft, and with prospects currently visiting and working out for teams, there have been some risers and fallers on my board.

Here’s a look at my current stock report:

*Denotes juniors

Risers

Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
The 6-foot-2, 214-pound Carr is one of my favorite prospects and is the most NFL-ready signal-caller in this year’s draft. He’s been extremely impressive during the draft process and has aced all of his tests.

One obstacle, however, stands in his way -- and it’s out of his control -- the perception others have about his brother David and how their careers will be intertwined. That kind of thinking is the harsh reality of this evaluation period. NFL decision makers have to do their due diligence and investigate every possible flaw that will affect their ROI (return on investment), and while the Carr brothers are similar in style (but different in makeup), the situation will determine the success of Derek -- not his bloodline.

With that said, teams will realize that, and don’t be surprised if Derek is the first quarterback selected in the draft.

*Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
At 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, Robinson has tremendous athleticism and play-making ability, but the 4.60-second 40 that he generated at the scouting combine didn’t sit well with scouts. Luckily, the combine is just one part of the draft process, and prospects have a few opportunities to showcase their skills.

Robinson redeemed himself at Penn State’s pro day, reportedly did very well during positional drills and was timed at a 4.48 and 4.50, which will dismiss any of the concerns teams had about his straight-line speed.

As we approach May 8, the talk won’t be about how far Robinson will be pushed back by the talented crop of wide receivers in this year’s class, but instead how many receivers did he surpass with his strong pro day display. Expect Robinson to be a top-40 lock.

Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
Blessed with great size, arm strength and accuracy, the 6-foot-5, 224-pound Mettenberger has future star written all over him. And just five months removed from ACL surgery, Mettenberger threw the ball for the first time since he tore the ACL in his left knee on Nov. 29 at LSU’s pro day last week.

The fact that Mettenberger was on the field and participating so soon after surgery will work in his favor on draft day. Teams in attendance were pleased with his performance, and the impression he made could ultimately propel Mettenberger to being an early Day 2 selection.

Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
In a similar position as Mettenberger health-wise, the 6-foot, 207-pound Murray, who also tore his ACL in late November, had an impressive performance at Georgia’s pro day this past Wednesday. Murray, who, like Mettenberger, is five months removed from major knee surgery, completed 48 of the 54 passes he threw in front of the assembled NFL evaluators and showed no ill effects with his knee.

Before he tore his ACL, there were mixed reviews on Murray mainly because of his size and arm strength. But as far as intelligence, competitiveness and leadership skills, he ranks off the charts. Once he returns to full health, Murray will prove to be one of the biggest steals from this class.

*Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
He’s not one of the highly touted receivers in this year’s class, but the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Latimer is quickly becoming one of the most intriguing receivers after his pro day workout.

Only able to participate in the bench press at the combine -- where he led all wide receivers with 23 reps -- due to a broken bone in his foot, Latimer had a sensational day at Indiana’s pro day and posted a 4.44 and 4.45 in the 40 and a 39-inch vertical.

Prior to his pro day performance, I had Latimer as a fifth-round prospect, but with the interest he’s currently receiving, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he were a Day 2 pick. Many teams want to take a closer look at him before the draft, and as we all know, it only takes one team to fall for a player and select him higher than expected. Latimer is one to watch.

5 previous risers still rising:
Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame
*Carl Bradford, OLB, Arizona State
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
*Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU
Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois

Fallers

*Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Has the draft process brought out the real Bridgewater? And was his play at Louisville an illusion helped by the cupcake schedule he competed against? That’s a question NFL executives are pondering.

There were many who were put off by Bridgewater’s decision not to perform at the combine, and after his disappointing showing at Louisville’s pro day, teams selecting in the top 10 and in need of a quarterback will have pause when considering the 6-foot-2, 214-pound quarterback.

It’s unclear when Bridgewater will come off the board, and it’s possible that he could experience a Geno Smith-like fall in the draft, but for this once well-thought-of prospect, nothing has seemed to go his way this offseason.

*Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
It’s been reported that the 6-foot-7, 322-pound Kouandjio has been downgraded by a handful of teams over concerns of an arthritic condition in his left knee. He had ACL surgery on the knee when he was a freshman.

Since his lackluster performance in Indianapolis, Kouandjio has steadily fallen on my board. However, he recently had a solid workout in front of a number of scouts at Alabama’s second pro day and showed improved athleticism.

If healthy, Kouandjio has a chance to be a very good tackle at the next level, but if there’s concern over the condition of his knee or uncertainty about longevity, selecting him in the early rounds is a major risk.

Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami
Certain players look like they were born to play football, and the 6-foot-7, 339-pound Henderson definitely has the size and skillset to be a dominant player.

But off the field, he’s a wild card. During his career at Miami, Henderson was an underachiever marred by disciplinary action and injuries, and while his workouts this offseason have been encouraging (5.04 in the 40, 28-inch vertical and 23 reps on the bench), the distractions he causes can’t be overlooked.

In terms of ability, Henderson could be a Day 2 selection, but for a team to invest that high of a selection in a player who lacks passion for the game is a no-win situation.

Chris Steuber has covered the NFL and NFL draft for multiple media outlets since 1999. He also served as director of player personnel for the Georgia Force of the Arena Football League from 2010-12.

Eagles Milestones: Carson Wentz chasing all kinds of feats

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Eagles Milestones: Carson Wentz chasing all kinds of feats

As we move into Week 11, the Eagles continue to chase several notable milestones, both individually and as a team.

We take a look at Carson Wentz's ongoing streaks, record-setting run defense and Jake Elliott's scoring pace in this week's edition of Eagles Milestone Watch:

• Wentz leads the NFL with 23 touchdown passes on top of the 16 he threw last year. Wentz’s 39 TD passes so far are 19th most in NFL history by a quarterback in his first two seasons but only three out of 11th place. At his current pace, he’ll have 55 career TDs by the end of the year, which would be second most in NFL history after two years behind Dan Marino’s 68.

• The Eagles Sunday night will be seeking their eighth straight game with 100 or more rushing yards gained and fewer than 100 rushing yards allowed. That would be the fourth-longest streak in NFL history and the second-longest in the last 50 years, behind only the Steelers’ 10-game streak in 2001. 

• Elliott has scored 75 points in eight games and is on pace for 140 points in just 15 games this year. The NFL rookie scoring record is 150 points, set in 2014 by Eagles kicker Cody Parkey, who's now with the Dolphins.

• The Eagles have scored 26 or more points in seven straight games. If they score 26 against the Cowboys, they would set a franchise record with eighth consecutive games with at least 26 points and share the 14th-longest streak in NFL history.

• If Wentz throws a touchdown against the Cowboys, this would be his 12th straight game with a TD pass. That would be the third-longest streak in Eagles history, behind two Randall Cunningham streaks — 18 games over the 1987 and 1988 seasons and 13 games in 1990. If Wentz throws at least one TD and one or fewer interceptions, he would have 12 straight games with at least one TD and one or no INTs, which would be the 13th-longest streak in NFL history.

Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Zach Ertz's blocking much improved

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Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Zach Ertz's blocking much improved

Zach Ertz's statistical growth is pretty easy to measure. 

In eight games this season, Ertz has 43 catches for 528 yards and six touchdowns. He leads the Eagles in every category and that's even after missing the Denver game with a hamstring injury before the bye. (He'll likely be back this week.)

It's a little harder to measure Ertz's growth as a blocker. But there has been a ton of growth since his arrival in Philadelphia in 2013. He has gone from being a liability as a blocker as a rookie to a decent blocker in a few years. 

How rare are truly complete tight ends? 

"Those guys are hard to find," Eagles tight ends coach Justin Peelle said last week. "Really, you gotta understand that tight ends, in general, are always going to give up size and strength, just because most of them are 250, 260, where most of the defensive ends they're blocking are upwards of 300 pounds. Then it comes down to technique and your strength and things like that. Those guys are really hard to find." 

Coming into the NFL, it was pretty clear Ertz had a ton of natural ability as a pass-catcher and that ability has shown itself. But as a blocker, things didn't come naturally.

It has taken years of work and emphasis from coaches and veteran Brent Celek, who is regarded as a really good blocking tight end. 

"That's always been something that's not his strength," Peele said. "He takes pride in it, he wants to be better. He doesn't want it to be a weakness but it was not a natural thing for him. We worked a lot on his technique, his hands, his understanding of the game. You have to consistently work on it and to his credit, he's embraced it and hasn't shied away from." 

Protect yourself 
The Eagles have allowed 54 quarterback hits this season, which places them 12th in the NFL. On all but one of them, Carson Wentz was the recipient. And Wentz takes some more hits out of the pocket. 

Wentz has been hit more than the Eagles have probably been comfortable with and he's been sacked 23 times. Sure, the offensive line gave up some of them, but Wentz deserves some blame too. There's a fine line between trying to gain extra yards and taking an unnecessary hit. 

Where's that line? 

"No. 1 is protect yourself, whether it's sliding, going down, getting out of bounds. That's the first thing," head coach Doug Pederson said. "I've said this before that unless it's the game-winner in the Super Bowl, protect yourself. That's the line." 

For the most part, Wentz has gotten better at protecting himself this season. There are still times, though, where he'll avoid pressure and leave his coaches and fans holding their breath. 

The conversation isn't going anywhere. 

"It's part of it. It's always a process," Wentz said. "We talk about it, shoot, it seems like every week. Just about where you can improve in every facet of the game and that comes up as well." 

North of the border 
Every once in a while, I take a look through CFL rosters just to see if there are some names I recognize. I'm aware this is unusual. 

But during my perusing, I happened to see plenty of former Eagles on CFL rosters. Some of these names you probably haven't heard for a while. 

Eskimos: Edmonton features two notable former Eagles. Yes, Aaron Grymes and Phillip Hunt are teammates. Grymes was a defensive back who was with the Eagles for the last two preseasons and came pretty close to making the team. After getting cut this year, he went back to the CFL, where he has been an All-Star. And remember Hunt? He was with the Eagles from 2011-13. He played 22 of his 24 career NFL games with the Eagles 

Blue Bombers: Chris Givens has landed with Winnipeg this season. He was Howie Roseman's cheap speed option before the 2016 season but was cut in August. He didn't have much of a role with the Blue Bombers this season, returning nine kicks for 184 yards. 

Tiger Cats: QB Everett Golson was never actually on the Eagles' roster but he did come in for a tryout with the Birds in 2016. The Notre Dame QB is a backup for Hamilton. He completed all four of his passes in 2017 for 25 yards. 

Alouettes: Montreal has a couple former Eagles receivers in T.J. Graham and B.J. Cunningham. Graham was with the Eagles in the 2016 offseason and Cunningham bounced around with the Eagles from 2012-14, playing in two games in 2013. Cunningham has actually become a really good CFL receiver. This season, he had 69 catches for 1,128 yards (8th in the CFL) and four touchdowns. 

Argonauts: Toronto is officially the old Eagles landing spot. Mitchell White, who was with the Eagles this offseason, is back in the CFL. He's there with former Eagles quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson and linebacker Akeem Jordan. Remember Jordan? He spent 2007-12 with the Eagles and played 82 games with 34 starts. Not bad for an undrafted rookie. Bethel-Thompson was actually the first QB Pederson brought in as head coach; he would later bring in one a little better. 

There are just four teams left in the CFL playoffs — the Roughriders play the Argonauts, while the Eskimos play the Stampeders. Winners go to the Grey Cup. 

Quote of the Week I: "If you want to live to see 75, you better shut your a** up." — Lane Johnson to his grandma, a Cowboys fan

Quote of the Week II: "Hey, Santander Bank? I need to make a deposit! A big deposit!" —Chris Long during Tim Jernigan's meeting with the media

Quote of the Week III: "Wentz be here early as hell. Every time I came scooting in on my scooter, Wentz ass be sittin' there in the locker. I'll be like 'damn, what time you get here?' Him and Nelson (Agholor). Nelson be here sweating, Nelson be doing JUGS and things like that." — Ronald Darby on getting to the facility at 5 a.m. to rehab

Random media guide note: Elijah Qualls was a drama major and after his football career is over, he is interested in acting or directing.