Eagles

10 non-rookies with something to prove at Eagles OTAs

10 non-rookies with something to prove at Eagles OTAs

These practices don’t have pads or hitting or even anything that really resembles real football.

It’s still a chance for players with plenty to prove.

The Eagles kick off OTAs this week and we already know the rookie class will want to prove they belong in the NFL, so we’re taking them out of our thought process for a moment. Because OTAs can also be a proving ground for guys who have already been in the league.

Here are 10 on the Eagles’ roster:

Nate Sudfeld
The Eagles brought in Cody Kessler to compete with Sudfeld, but Sudfeld is entering his third season with the Eagles, while this will be Kessler’s third team in three years. The Eagles already paid Sudfeld $3 million for this season, so they have a vested interest in his winning the backup job. And Sudfeld should have an advantage based on his familiarity with the offense. He should come out in these OTAs and be wayyyy ahead of Kessler, building a lead that can’t be overcome.

Tre Sullivan
The Eagles signed Andrew Sendejo and claimed Blake Countess, but Tre Sullivan still has a chance to win the Eagles’ pretty important third safety job. Undrafted out of Shepard in 2017, Sullivan played important snaps late in 2018 and might have more room to grow. Sendejo isn’t a lock for the team and Countess hasn’t played a ton on defense in the league.

Cre’Von LeBlanc
One of the big revelations of last season was LeBlanc, whom the Eagles claimed off waivers in November. He shored up the nickel cornerback spot and now "Strap" has a chance to win a job again this season, but there’s some competition. LeBlanc needs to prove last year wasn’t a fluke.

Mack Hollins
After a decent rookie season for a fourth-rounder, Hollins lost his 2017 season in mysterious fashion. A few days after he said he was healthy, the Eagles put him on IR and we haven’t seen him since. He’s presumably healthy now and he needs to prove it.

Braxton Miller
He came aboard during last season as a practice squad player but might still have upside. The former third-round pick is 26 but is relatively new to the receiver position. Doug Pederson has talked up Miller this offseason, so maybe he could find a role as a gadget player/return man on the roster.

Treyvon Hester
The Eagles added Hassan Ridgeway in a trade but Hester can still fight for playing time, which will be somewhat limited behind Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson and Tim Jernigan. Hester should have an advantage because he’s been in the defense for a while and already gave the Eagles solid snaps last season.

Josh Sweat
It was a disappointing rookie season for Sweat, who played just 68 snaps with four tackles before ending the year on IR with an ankle injury in December. But he certainly looks the part and important spring and summer camps await him as he battles for a roster spot. 

Greg Ward
After a brief stint in the short-lived AAF, Ward has another shot at an NFL roster. The former college QB is another one like Miller who could become a gadgety/return man in the NFL, but his chances are running out.

Nathan Gerry
A fifth-round pick in 2017, Gerry hasn’t gotten many opportunities on defense, but he did play 134 snaps last season. He’ll be fighting for a roster spot with Paul Worrilow, T.J. Edwards and B.J. Bello. The thing to remember about Gerry is that he’s making a position switch from college safety and is more athletic than those guys. I still like his chances.

Blake Countess
The Eagles claimed Countess and then extended him for a year but that extension also included a pay cut for 2019. So how much do they really like him? We’ll start to see that pretty soon. First, Countess will need to show he’s learned a thing or two in his years away from the Eagles. Like Tre Sullivan, he will be fighting for playing time this year if he makes the team.

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Are the 2019 Eagles better or worse at linebacker?

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Are the 2019 Eagles better or worse at linebacker?

The Eagles let a promising-yet-oft-injured potential star walk in the offseason, though the team was not idle, adding two quality players to mix. Will the linebackers be better off as a result in 2019?

Key additions: L.J. Fort (free agent, Steelers), Zach Brown (free agent, Redskins) 

Key departures: Jordan Hicks (free agent, Cardinals)

Why they could be better: Depth

Last summer, the battle for the Eagles’ third linebacker job was between Kamu Grugier-Hill and Nate Gerry, neither of whom played much up to that point, and Corey Nelson, who didn’t even make the team. Grugier-Hill and Gerry are still in the mix here, though the competition for spots two through seven behind Nigel Bradham will be much stiffer.

Jordan Hicks’ departure does create another hole in the starting lineup, one likely to be filled by either L.J. Fort, Zach Brown or Grugier-Hill. But that trio all bring experience to the table — Brown has been to a Pro Bowl — plus Paul Worrilow returns from a torn ACL, offering another veteran presence. Gerry got some opportunities last year, and even he’ll be pushed by CFL star Alex Singleton and undrafted rookie/ All-American T.J. Edwards. How much deeper is this group? In 2018, the guys behind LB4 Gerry were all exclusively special teamers.

Why they could be worse: Down a playmaker

How much will the Eagles miss Hicks? Hard to say. They won a Super Bowl without him in 2017, and after missing more time last season, he eventually returned to find Bradham had taken over as the defense’s No. 1 linebacker. Can’t blame the club for its unwillingness to match $36 million over four years for somebody who’s injured so frequently.

That being said, there’s no denying Hicks seemingly has a nose for the football. He played only 43 games over four seasons, yet managed to amass 19 pass breakups, 7 interceptions, 5.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble, six fumble recoveries and 12 tackles for loss. Only a small handful of players even come close to matching that big play production during the same span – none with at least as many of each, and all in at least 10 more games. When he’s on the field, Hicks is a difference-maker, an ability as difficult to replace as it can be to quantify.

The X-factor: Who takes Hicks’ spot?

It was kind of surprising Brown was still on the street in May. Sure, he turns 30 this year, coming off a season in which he lost his starting job in Washington and is nowhere near the impact player he was earlier in his career. He still posted over 200 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 22 tackles for loss over the last two years.

Brown may be best suited for LB3 snaps in the Eagles’ defense. There’s not a lot of blitzing, minimizing one of his best attributes of rushing the passer, and as he’s aged, his coverage ability has seemingly diminished. Yet, he’s still stout against the run, and who else is it going to be? This could wind up becoming more of a platoon role, with Brown seeing first- and second-down snaps, then either Fort or Grugier-Hill in the nickel. There’s potential in such an arrangement. The question is whether opponents will be able to attack the shortcomings of Hicks’ part-time replacements.

Are the Eagles’ linebackers better or worse?

There’s a chance the Eagles let a special one go in Hicks, but the bottom line is he’s seldom available anyway — an issue that issue dates back to college, by the way. On paper, you probably take Hicks over the field, including Bradham. However, in reality, having a bunch of competent, experienced players who will actually be in uniform might be the safer route at this point. BETTER

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The real reason this Kansas City radio host's attack on Andy Reid was out of line

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The real reason this Kansas City radio host's attack on Andy Reid was out of line

I get why people are so outraged by the comments made Monday by a Kansas City radio host who linked Tyreek Hill’s off-the-field issues with the death seven years ago of Andy Reid’s son Garrett.

The guy tried to make a case that Big Red’s inability to be a strict disciplinarian as both a parent and a coach was responsible for both. 

“It did not work out particularly well in his family life,“ is what Kevin Kietzman of Sports Radio 810 WHB said. “He’s had a lot of things go bad on him, family and players. He is not good at fixing people. He is not good at discipline.”

Of course, these sort of remarks are irresponsible, hurtful and off-base. But you consider the source and they're probably not all that surprising.

And let's be honest. We all understand you don’t record the eighth-most wins of any NFL head coach in history and the seventh-most playoff wins without being able to discipline players when it’s necessary. We’ve all seen coaches who truly are bad at this stuff, and they don’t have three losing seasons in 20 years. They don’t last three years.

So yeah, this isn’t about that. Andy doesn’t need to be defended. Not about this.

And outrage distracts us from the real point. The real shame of Kietzman’s comments is that he connects a lack of discipline with heroin addiction.

Garrett Reid, Andy’s oldest son, died during training camp in Bethlehem seven years ago from a heroin overdose after a long battle with addiction, and the notion that his death somehow was the result of his father not disciplining him enough shows such a lack of understanding of addiction and substance abuse.

Addiction is a mental health disorder. It’s a disease.

It’s not a weakness. It’s not a character flaw. It’s not a lack of discipline.

Treatment can help, but it’s a long and difficult process. The changes substance abuse cause in a person’s brain, the addictive traits of heroin and other opioids, make recovery difficult and in some cases impossible.

Garrett was a good kid, a smart kid, and he and his family battled his addiction for years.

Here’s part of Andy’s statement the evening Garrett died:

“We understood that Garrett's long-standing battle with addiction was going to be difficult. He will, however, always have our family's love and respect for the courage he showed in trying to overcome it.”

This guy doesn’t know Andy and the battle he and his family fought to try and help Garrett through that battle.

Addiction and substance abuse have become such an epidemic in our communities. Big city. Small town. Everywhere. All of us know someone who’s lost a family member. All of us have either directly or indirectly felt that pain.

What Kietzman said is wrong in so many ways, but worst of all is how he trivializes addiction by implying that a little parental discipline would have saved Garrett Reid’s life.

This was a horrible thing to say for a lot of reasons, and it’s been nice to see so many of Andy’s former players rallying behind him on social media.

No parents should have to go through what Andy and his family went through seven summers ago at Lehigh. No parents should have to go through this either.

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