Welcome to yet another edition of Roob's 25 Random Points. Dive in!
1. Unlike his predecessor, Doug Pederson is very sensitive to the needs of his older players, making sure to give them time off from practice during training camp when they need it. Whether it's Torrey Smith, Alshon Jeffery, Chris Long or some other veteran, we've seen guys throughout camp get a personal day here and there to help them get through the grind of camp. Then there's Jason Peters and Darren Sproles, the two oldest position players on the roster. Peters is a future Hall of Famer, and Sproles is a two-time Pro Bowler. One of the biggest Eagles and one of the smallest. Peters is 35, Sproles is 34. Total combined days Peters and Sproles have missed through the first two weeks of camp? Zero. When I think about leadership, I don't think about rah-rah speeches and all that. I think about the two oldest guys on the team going out there every day — Peters is in his 14th training camp, Sproles is in his 13th — and going full-bore on these steamy hot days and 2½-hour practices without wanting or taking a day off. When the young guys — and even the older guys — see these two legends out there every day without a break, that's inspirational. That's leadership.
2. I didn’t understand the Greg Lewis hiring when it happened and I still don't understand it. The Eagles didn't have very good receivers last year, but I don't think to have a novice NFL position coach for an unproven group made any sense. Now Lewis is gone — he's wide receivers coach for Andy Reid these days in Kansas City, believe it or not — and Mike Groh appears to be a huge upgrade. I was kind of surprised Pederson admitted as much the other day when he was asked if the improvement we've all seen in the Eagles' wide receivers can be attributed to the coaching change. "Yeah, I would say so," he responded. Obviously, they have more talent at wideout now, but they also seem to have somebody coaching these guys who can get the most out of them.
3. We've talked all summer about Smith and Jeffery, but I've been really impressed with the depth the Eagles have at wideout. Last year, you would probably rank the Eagles' receivers like this: 1) Jordan Matthews, 2) Dorial Green-Beckham, 3) Nelson Agholor, 4) Paul Turner, 5) Bryce Treggs, 6) Josh Huff. This year, it's probably something like 1) Jeffery, 2) Matthews, 3) Agholor, 4) Smith, 5) Mack Hollins, 6) Marcus Johnson, 7) Greg Ward, 8) Treggs, 9) David Watford, 10) Turner, 11) Shelton Gibson. Guys who played last year — DGB, Treggs, Turner and, of course, Huff — aren't even going to make the team this year. Those four combined for 1,056 offensive snaps last year! Close to 70 per game! None of them will even be on the team this year.
4. And as Eliot Shorr-Parks points out, there's actually a good chance none of them will even be in the league this year.
5. I feel like we're living in Backwards World sometimes. All of a sudden, everybody loves Agholor, whose career has been a colossal disappointment so far, and everybody can't wait to get rid of Matthews, who has done nothing other than delivering consistently solid production over the last three years. Maybe Agholor will build off his impressive training camp and have a fantastic season. He really does look terrific. But so far it's just a projection. It's just practice. Nobody knows what he's going to do on Sunday afternoons. Matthews, on the other hand, you can pretty much put down for 75 catches, 900 yards and six touchdowns — his NFL averages — every year. He's not a superstar, but that's OK. He's pretty good. Only six other guys — Randy Moss, Odell Beckham, A.J. Green, Mike Evans, DeAndre Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald — have had 225 catches, 2,500 yards and 19 TDs in their first three seasons. Maybe 900 yards doesn't seem like very much … until you're trying to replace them. Here's the thing: You're allowed to root for Agholor and Matthews. They're both Eagles. They'll both be Eagles this year. I would think real Eagles fans aren't playing this ridiculous game of Agholor vs. Matthews.
6. It's often faster to reach the sports complex area by taking I-95 to the Betsy Ross Bridge then zipping down Rte. 130 to the Walt Whitman Bridge and heading back across the river. It's just that you have to pay $5 for the convenience. There should be a rule that if you're in New Jersey for less than 30 minutes you don't have to pay the bridge toll. Kind of like when you're in a parking garage for under 10 minutes you don't have to pay?
7. If you take Zach Ertz's production over the last 11 games of last year, once he began recovering from that displaced rib cartilage injury and project it over a full season you get 100 catches for 1,048 yards. So that's my Ertz prediction for 2017.
8. Jason Witten's first four seasons: 252 catches, 2,538 yards, 14 TDs. Zach Ertz's first four seasons: 247 catches, 2,840 yards, 13 TDs. Just sayin'.
9. Always cracks me up when a waiter asks me, "Have you dined with us before?" Who freaking cares if I dined there before? Why does it matter? No, I haven't "dined" here before, but I am aware how the general concept of restaurants work.
10. Back to Matthews for a minute. It's been fascinating watching the Jordan Matthews backlash this summer. All of a sudden fans can't stand him, want him gone, traded, unloaded, not re-signed, etc. Not sure how we got to this point. What's his crime? A sore knee that he's practiced through all of training camp without missing a single rep? Not being DeSean Jackson? Six drops targets last year? He's not a superstar, but every team has about 50 guys who aren't superstars. He's a second-round pick who's been a consistent, steady, durable, productive receiver on a team where for at least the last two years he's been miscast as the No. 1 guy. Only nine wide receivers in history have more catches three years into their NFL career. Matthews has 85 more catches after three seasons than Mike Quick. He has 993 more yards after three seasons than Harold Carmichael. He even has three more TD catches after three seasons than DeSean Jackson. Did he drop a few more passes than he should have last year? Yeah. But he did rank 75th in the NFL with six drops in 117 targets. And a year earlier, he had one drop. This is a locker room leader, a solid citizen, a hard worker, a quality guy. He's exactly the kind of guy Philly usually embraces. Eagles fans were furious when Chip Kelly let Jeremy Maclin leave for the Chiefs. Maclin has averaged 59 catches, 799 yards and 5.8 touchdowns per year since entering the NFL. Matthews has averaged 75 catches, 891 yards and 6.3 TDs per year since entering the NFL. I don't get it. Every successful team has guys like Matthews, complementary pieces, guys who quietly and professionally do their job every day, guys with no ego, guys who go about their business without complaining, guys who unfailingly put team goals ahead of individual goals. If Matthews were on the Jaguars or Chargers, Eagles fans would be dying for a guy like him. But since he's already here, somehow his production is devalued. Classic grass-is-always-greener effect. Jordan Matthews is the least of the Eagles' problems.
11. There's a Philly band — and I swear I'm not making this up — called Lito and the Shepperds, and they played Kung Fu Necktie Saturday night. I listened to their stuff on their Bandcamp page … they're not bad! Kind of heavy bluesy rock. Made me wonder what other former Eagles would make good band names. Roderick and the Hoods? Woody and the Peoples? Jeremy and the Blooms? Ryan and the Moats? Casey and the Well-Dones?
12. Hey, do you guys think Brent Celek will ever be added to the Eagles Hall of Fame? I've been thinking a lot about this since chatting with him the other day about his career and his future. Celek will go down as one of the top five pass catchers at any position in Eagles history and if he stays healthy this year — and he's missed only one game since the start of high school — he'll be top five in franchise history in games played. There's a good chance he'll finish his career having played the second-most games in franchise history among those who've spent their whole career here. You can argue that he's the greatest tight end in Eagles history. But … he's never made a Pro Bowl, he's never had a 1,000-yard season — although he came within 29 yards once — and he's played on only one team in 10 seasons that's won a playoff game. But he's really been a solid Eagle for a long time, and I think his omnipresent team-first attitude, his gritty, physical style of play and his longevity push him over the top. Interesting call.
13. Speaking of tight ends … Trey Burton caught 23 passes the last six games of last season (he had 17 in his previous 40 NFL games). He actually had the seventh-most catches of any NFL tight end the last six weeks of last year (Zach Ertz was second with 43). At that pace, Burton would catch 61 passes in a season. He won't catch 61 with all the other weapons on this team, but I wouldn't be shocked if he catches 40 to 45. We don't talk about him too much, but the kid is such a tremendous athlete and has fantastic hands.
14. When have the Eagles had these many weapons on offense? They legit go four deep at wide receiver, assuming Agholor contributes the way I expect him to, with two very capable receiving tight ends plus a trio of running backs who all have a different skill set. And that doesn't even include people like Mack Hollins, Donnel Pumphrey and Marcus Johnson if the Eagles keep a sixth wideout. Put one of the NFL's most promising young quarterbacks behind center with those weapons? Honestly, I don't know how this offense won't score 25 points per game.
15. Only four shortstops in Phillies history have more RBIs than Freddy Galvis — and two of them played before 1930. Jimmy Rollins obviously leads the pack with 887, followed by Mickey Doolin, the Phils' shortstop from 1905 through 1913 (445); Larry Bowa (421); Heinie Sand, who played here from 1923 through 1928 (251); and then Galvis with 219. Don't think he'll catch Jimmy, though. At his current pace, he'd get there in 2028.
16. One of my favorite moments in open practice at the Linc Sunday was rookie Shelton Gibson's tumbling catch of a deep ball from Matt McGloin with Tra Sullivan in coverage, then crawling the last few yards into the end zone for a touchdown. Gibson had such a nightmarish first couple weeks of practicing, dropping just about everything that's come his way. So to see him make that play in front of that crowd was definitely encouraging. He followed that up with another encouraging day Monday. Give the kid credit for battling.
17. While his teammates were out on the field practicing Sunday at the Linc, Jon Dorenbos was on the sidelines signing autographs for everybody he could find. He even did a few impromptu magic tricks for kids and fans on the sideline. The guy is remarkable. I have never seen him turn down an autograph, but he doesn't just sign for people, he engages them, talks to them, jokes with them. And he's been doing this for 12 years now, since joining the Eagles in 2006. I don't think there's an Eagles fan in the city who doesn't have a Jon Dorenbos autograph. The guy is a treasure.
18. Ever drive around the Navy Yard? I'm always blown away by the ship sitting there. And the sheer size of the pieces of the ship they work on in the repair shops is mind-blowing. You'll see a section of hull off some massive ship propped up so workers can work on it, and it's up there for months and months. And that's just one section. The size of these vessels is hard to fathom, but if just one section takes months to become seaworthy, how long does it take to fix up an entire ship? It's insane just how enormous these things are. If you enter the Navy Yard off 26th Street and then wind around down Kitty Hawk and back to Broad Street, you can get a great view of the work they do. And, of course, the old moth-balled Navy ships, including the legendary aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy, can be seen right from Broad Street just south of the Schuylkill Expressway. Tons of history in that Navy Yard.
19. Hey, remember that time Nick Foles and Matt McGloin combined for seven touchdowns in an Eagles-Raiders game?
20. Why won't the Eagles trade Matthews for a cornerback? A few reasons. Remember when Howie Roseman said this: "You look at the cornerback position, and what we’ve done at the cornerback position is put band-aids on things.” In other words, instead of building through the draft at corner, the Eagles acquired veteran free agents such as Nnamdi Asomugha, Ellis Hobbs, Bradley Fletcher, Cary Williams, Nolan Carroll and Leodis McKelvin. We all know how that went. The Eagles haven't won a playoff game since Lito and Sheldon were starting, and Howie isn't going to change his philosophy now. The Eagles have a truckload of young, largely homegrown corners, and this year is about figuring out which ones — if any — can play. If you're going to get beat, you may as well get beat with young corners who have upside instead of those tired veteran additions. Secondly, teams are simply not giving away cornerbacks. It's a lot harder finding good corners than good receivers. Nobody's got extra corners. And thirdly, Matthews is a good player. It's easy to say, "Trade Matthews," but if you do, you've got to find a way to replace 75 catches for 900 yards, and that's tougher than it sounds. He's not going anywhere.
21. Jason Isbell has never written a bad song.
22. A couple young corners who've impressed me this summer are Aaron Grymes and C.J. Smith. Grymes, who spent three years in the CFL (and won a Grey Cup in 2015 with the Edmonton Eskimos), is actually 26 and shuttled between the Eagles' practice squad and 53-man roster last year. The 24-year-old Smith, Carson Wentz's former North Dakota State teammate, might be the Eagles' most improved corner this summer. Both have good size and are smart. Just a matter of being more consistent in their technique and putting it all together. But keep an eye on No. 38 (Grymes) and No. 37 (Smith) in the preseason opener Thursday night at Lambeau. In this wide-open cornerback competition, both have shown positive signs.
23. Here's a list of the most receptions in NFL history after four seasons by tight ends drafted in the second round: Zach Ertz (247), Rob Gronkowski (226), Zach Miller (226), Freddie Jones (225), Dan Ross (215).
24. Hey Sirius XMU — You actually went nine minutes without playing Sylvan Esso. Is everything OK?????
25. My XPoNential Festival Top 10: 1) Spoon, 2) Wilco, 3) Conor Oberst, 4) David Bromberg, 5) Foxygen, 6) Dave Hause, 7) Hardwork Movement, 8) Strand of Oaks, 9) Cliff Hillis, 10) Angel Olsen.