Andrew Kulp

Let the Cowboys have their little Thanksgiving game

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Let the Cowboys have their little Thanksgiving game

The Eagles proposed a rule change that would have stripped the Cowboys or Lions of their annual Thanksgiving home games, only to withdraw the proposal presumably because it received about as much support as Donovan McNabb for the Hall of Fame.

The proposal, which would’ve allowed the Cowboys and Lions to continue playing in their holiday slots as long as one of them goes on the road, wasn’t intended as an inconsequential dig at a loathsome NFC East rival and a conference foe. Each year, the NFL gifts a legitimate scheduling advantage to the Cowboys and Lions, forcing their opponents to travel to Dallas or Detroit on a short week — a hardship they are almost never asked to endure themselves — all because tradition.

It’s not fair. Since 2006, the Eagles have played five Thursday away games on short rest, while the Cowboys have played zero. Nobody cares about the Lions.

Based on the Eagles’ withdrawal, nobody really cares about this inequity, either — mildly surprising given the sometimes painstaking lengths the NFL continually goes to balance the schedule.

Then again, I also don’t care. In fact, I’m actively hoping it never changes.

Has anybody truly considered the can of worms this rule would open? As the tradition stands now, the league cycles different teams through Dallas and Detroit to maintain some semblance of fairness. The Eagles have played only two Thanksgiving afternoon games since 1989, which for any human being with responsibilities beyond watching football, is kind of nice. But if any team can suddenly host an afternoon game on Thanksgiving, the Eagles’ chances of interrupting dinner skyrockets.

The Eagles, as an organization, love playing on holidays because of the extra attention. I, on the other hand, personally appreciate the fact that the Cowboys and Lions play on Thanksgiving because, frankly, they’re usually irrelevant teams and I don’t feel the need to catch every second of the games. Football is great, and I watch as much as I can, just in between stuffing my face and spending time with loved ones.

For many Cowboys fans — and maybe Lions fans, too, I guess — Thanksgiving has become their Super Bowl, since the team doesn’t play in the actual big game anymore. They plan their entire get-togethers around watching Dallas with that insufferable grandpop who’s responsible for the family’s misplaced fandom.

It’s a tradition I’m all too happy not to share in on a regular basis. (And won’t somebody please think of the sportswriters who have to work that day?!)

As I get older, I’ve increasingly learned to accept the rules of the game are whatever they are at a given time. They’re constantly changing, and maybe they don’t always make the most sense or aren’t the most just, but teams must find a way to win within the parameters — and they do, all the time.

There’s no doubt the rules are tilted ever-so-slightly in favor of the Cowboys and the Lions in this case, and the Eagles aren’t wrong to mention it. But I’m glad they lost this battle and I hope they continue to do so, because I don’t need any more Eagles games on the holidays than there already are.

Besides, it’s not like the Thanksgiving games have really been hugely beneficial to the Cowboys in recent years, or the Lions ever.

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With few options at RB, Eagles might have to get creative

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With few options at RB, Eagles might have to get creative

Maybe hold off on declaring the Eagles “winners” after the NFL’s initial free agent rush, unless you’re comfortable with the idea of Wendell Smallwood as the team’s lead ball carrier.

Running back was arguably the Eagles’ biggest need entering the offseason, yet so far the front office has come up empty-handed here. Worse still, there appear to be few great options remaining on the market, which means executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman may need to get creative.

You can understand why the Eagles might avoid a volatile, high-priced Le’Veon Bell type or somebody with Kareem Hunt’s baggage. More unclear is why the club wasn’t in on an established back like Mark Ingram or high-upside prospect Tevin Coleman, both at affordable prices.

Regardless, the top free-agent runners are spoken for, and the Eagles likely must look elsewhere to obtain a true feature back.

Is a trade on the horizon?

I wouldn’t be too quick to criticize the front office quite yet. The appearance the Eagles weren’t serious players for any of the big names on the market may be a sign Roseman has something — or somebody — else in mind.

For example, the Eagles have been linked to Bears running back Jordan Howard since before last season’s trade deadline. I’m not sure why another team is itching to get rid of a 24-year-old averaging 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns rushing in his first three seasons, but Howard would certainly fill the void here.

There are no official reports confirming the Eagles’ interest in Howard. However, if he is available, one can surmise Roseman has been on the phone.

Arizona’s David Johnson and Jacksonville’s Leonard Fournette were also mentioned as potential Eagles targets in the past six months, though both backs are currently believed to be staying put.

Perhaps there is a deal out there that’s not yet been rumored or even imagined in the sports media landscape. Nothing seems impossible with Roseman at the helm.

Looking to the draft?

The Eagles are almost certainly going to take a running back at some point in April’s draft, and with three picks in the first two rounds, it could happen early. But while nobody would balk at the idea, that doesn’t necessarily solve the problem.

It’s always a leap to assume a rookie will immediately fill a feature role in an NFL offense, which is what the Eagles need. Furthermore, the cupboard is bare in the backfield, with only Smallwood, Corey Clement — who ended last season on injured reserve — Jamal Adams and Boston Scott under contract. One new body may not be enough.

So while this draft could contain the Eagles’ running back of the future, it shouldn’t be treated as a given, either.

Another year of running back by committee?

If Roseman doesn’t have a trade up his sleeve, it’s looking like the Eagles will be back to relying on a committee in 2019.

There are some borderline lead backs on the market, granted in short supply. Were the Eagles to pair the likes of Isaiah Crowell, C.J. Anderson or Spencer Ware with a promising rookie, such a tandem might not electrify the fan base, but it would create some semblance of stability at the position.

The Eagles could even re-sign Jay Ajayi, provided he’ll be healthy. Were it not for a torn ACL, Ajayi probably would’ve been one of the top runners on the market, even with a chronic knee issue.

Free agent T.J. Yeldon and Browns running back Duke Johnson have also been mentioned as possibilities, but more as potential replacements for Darren Sproles.

Any of these additions is a strong indication the Eagles will once again go without a feature back, an all-too-familiar situation for the offense since LeSean McCoy’s departure in 2015. If that turns out to be the case, it makes you wonder what Roseman was thinking when the top free agents all chose to sign elsewhere.

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DeSean Jackson might reportedly be on move, wants Philly

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DeSean Jackson might reportedly be on move, wants Philly

A long-discussed reunion between the Eagles and DeSean Jackson could finally come to fruition this offseason.

According to ESPN’s Jenna Laine and Tim McManus, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are actively trying to shop Jackson and the Eagles are “a preferred destination” for the wide receiver.

Per the report, Jackson has told people of his desire to return to Philadelphia, where he played his first six seasons in the NFL. For the Eagles’ part, the club is “expected to have mutual interest.”

The Buccaneers could also choose to release Jackson if no trade is reached.

This is not the first time talk of Jackson getting back in an Eagles uniform has surfaced. The team was rumored to be in on the three-time Pro Bowl selection as a free agent in 2017, when he ultimately chose to sign with the Bucs.

Much like then, a reunion might make sense in 2019.

The Eagles are thought to be seeking a vertical threat opposite Alshon Jeffery, and even at 32, Jackson can still take the top off a defense. Last season, he averaged 18.9 yards per reception — by far the highest of any player with his 41 catches — plus missed four games and still tied with four players for seventh with five grabs of 40 yards or more.

Money is the issue here. Jackson is due to earn $10 million in ’19 even though his production dropped off some and he dealt with injuries over the last four seasons — two in Tampa Bay, two in Washington. No doubt the Bucs are practically giving him away, but who’s going to pay that salary?

If Jackson is truly motivated to return to the Eagles, he may be willing to take a pay cut, or there’s a very good chance he’s released and hits the open market. Whatever happens, the contract stuff should sort itself out.

Don’t expect hard feelings to get in the way of a deal, either. Jackson told reporters in 2016 he moved on from his release from the Eagles two years earlier, acknowledging the person most responsible for the decision — Chip Kelly — is no longer with the organization.

Assuming the price is right, Jackson looks like a good fit. He's familiar with the Eagles’ offense, the city, even a few of the guys inside the locker room, and Carson Wentz has the arm to get the most out of his speed.

There are some concerns with Jackson, who’s appeared in 16 games just twice in his career and hasn’t posted Pro Bowl-caliber numbers since 2014, his first season with Washington following his Eagles release.

Yet, Jackson can certainly still fill that Torrey Smith-Mike Wallace deep threat role the Eagles planned for the previous two seasons. And with a better quarterback throwing him the football in Wentz, he would have the potential to enjoy a resurgent season of sorts.

The Eagles aren’t likely to get into a bidding war over Jackson, but a reunion seems plausible. His speed fills a void — and a little nostalgia wouldn't hurt, too.

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