Eagles

5 reasons Eagles don't need to draft a linebacker first

5 reasons Eagles don't need to draft a linebacker first

It should come as no surprise there’s quite a bit of support among Eagles fans for the team to go linebacker with its first pick in the NFL draft. The only two positions people around here appreciate more are wide receivers and backup quarterbacks.

The Eagles also lost Jordan Hicks in free agency and traded Mychal Kendricks the previous offseason, leaving Nigel Bradham as the only recognizable name left in the unit. Sure, Kamu Grugier-Hill flashed potential in 2018 and the club signed L.J. Fort away from the Steelers, but these are guys better known for their special teams prowess.

Clearly, a case can be made the Eagles need another linebacker with some pedigree, somebody who brings the “thump.”

That doesn’t mean it’s necessary. While the Eagles’ base defense employs three linebackers, the reality is only two are on the field the overwhelming majority of the time, and by the end of last season, Bradham was often alone out there.

In this day and age, NFL teams really need one good every-down linebacker – Bradham – and two competent players to mix and match situationally. The Eagles appear to have the latter as well in Grugier-Hill and Fort.

It might not be sexy, and to be clear, this is not to advocate the Eagles pass on a linebacker if he’s the best player available. It’s just one of several reasons Howie Roseman won’t be forced to target the position at any point during draft weekend.

Nigel Bradham 
Bradham’s cap number more than doubles beginning in 2020, ballooning to nearly $9.8 million, yet the fact is he’s under contract through the next four seasons. As long as he plays like he did in 2017 and the second half of ’19, there’s no reason the Eagles can’t pay that. The contract is favorable for restructuring, and remember, they let Hicks go in part because Bradham took his job. He does turn 30 in September, which is a concern, but this front office hasn’t shied away from older players.

Different options 
The Eagles already have plenty of options to pair with Bradham. Grugier-Hill played less than one-third of defensive snaps in ‘18 and recorded a sack, an interception and a forced fumble, plus finished sixth on the team with five tackles for loss. Fort was obviously brought in to compete, and Nathan Gerry showed enough that he’s still worth a look.

Watch special teams
A closer inspection at how the Eagles use their linebackers suggests this aspect of the roster is built largely with special teams in mind. Of the seven who took snaps in ’18, five saw more work in the kicking game than with the defense – and three of those guys were pretty much exclusively special teams. For pretty much anybody other than Bradham and Hicks, special teams wasn’t part of the job. It was the job.

There are bigger needs
The Eagles face questions of depth this year or have potential holes on the horizon at running back, receiver, offensive line, defensive line and cornerback. Meanwhile, Bradham, Fort and Gerry are all under contract for at least the next two seasons. Linebacker only looks like a hole because people are conditioned to think a defense needs two or three good ones, when truth be told, the position has really been devalued in pass-first NFL.

If the Eagles grab a linebacker early in the draft, great, but it’s really not an area anybody should be sweating.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

Thoughts on newest Eagles coach Marquand Manuel, LeSean McCoy's Hall of Fame case, more in Roob's 10 observations

Thoughts on newest Eagles coach Marquand Manuel, LeSean McCoy's Hall of Fame case, more in Roob's 10 observations

Thoughts on the Eagles’ new secondary coach, LeSean McCoy’s Hall of Fame case and an unbelievable stat about Lito Sheppard and Michael Lewis.

All that and so much more in this weekend’s edition of Roob’s random offseason Eagles observations! 

1. OK, it’s been 18 days since the Eagles fired Mike Groh, and they still don’t have an offensive coordinator. Senior Bowl week is over, the combine is only a few weeks away and free agency starts in less than two months. Of the 10 teams with an OC vacancy, the Eagles are the only one that hasn’t hired anybody. A couple thoughts: 1) Maybe the guy Doug Pederson is going to hire is already in place. Internal candidates Duce Staley and Press Taylor were both at the Senior Bowl practices. Maybe the Eagles are just waiting until the entire staff is complete to announce everything. I doubt it, but it’s possible. 2) Maybe Doug has decided not to hire an offensive coordinator and just do the job himself with his position coaches. I doubt that too, but it’s possible. 3) Otherwise, it has to be Jim Caldwell, right? As long as he’s healthy. By far the most impressive remaining outside candidate. Caldwell was QBs coach of the Colts when they won the Super Bowl and offensive coordinator of the Ravens when they won the Super Bowl. If Doug wants a veteran QB guru for the job, this is a no-brainer. Get it done.

2. I do like the Marquand Manuel hire. I like that he’s been a defensive coordinator on the NFL level, I like that he’s coached in a Super Bowl, I like that he played in the NFL for eight years and I like that he’s got a little background with Jim Schwartz — he played for Schwartz in Detroit in 2009 — but still brings a fresh voice to the coach’s room. He’s got his work cut out for him. Getting Sidney Jones on track is priority No. 1. But the Eagles’ secondary as a whole is going to look very different in 2020, and the Eagles needed a capable veteran voice to bring it all together and make it work. He looks like the guy to do it.

3. The last Eagles defensive players to make a Pro Bowl before their 25th birthday were Lewis and Sheppard in 2004. Since then, 94 defensive players league-wide have made a Pro Bowl before they turned 25. 

4. How many QBs would you rather have right now than Carson Wentz? First I’m going to eliminate anybody in their 30s — Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, all those guys. Who does that leave? You’d rather have Pat Mahomes than anybody, but beyond that? Lamar Jackson? Brilliant talent but I wonder how sustainable his style of play is. Dak Prescott? No thanks. Jimmy Garoppolo? Nope. Deshaun Watson? You can make a case, but I’d take Wentz. Jared Goff? Kyler Murray? Daniel Jones? Nah. The injuries are frustrating but no doubt in my mind that despite everything the Eagles have the right QB to build around. 

5. I wonder if the Super Bowl will be McCoy’s final game. He had a nice first half of the season and showed he has something left, but since Damien Williams’ emergence, he’s barely played and doesn’t even have a carry since mid-December. Shady’s a free agent after the Super Bowl and turns 32 this summer, an age where few running backs are still going. Shady’s the only player in NFL history with 11,000 rushing yards, a 4.5 rushing average and 500 catches. Hall of Famer if he retires now? Probably not quite. But one hell of a career.

6. Curious note about McCoy: He’s never had a carry in a postseason victory. The Eagles were 0-3 in the playoffs with McCoy in uniform and the Bills were 0-1. He didn’t have a carry in the Chiefs’ win over the Texans and was inactive for the win over the Titans. 

7. In Eagles history, Jordan Matthews has the most receiving yards after three seasons and Shady has the most rushing yards after three seasons. One of them will win a Super Bowl ring next Sunday. Both will probably be inactive.

8. Chiefs GM Brett Veach is a remarkable story. He grew up in Mt. Carmel, between Harrisburg and Wilkes-Barre, starred at Mt. Carmel High School, played with Matt Nagy at Delaware and was on track to work in Delaware’s athletic department after college when he landed an internship with the Eagles in the summer of 2004. With his work ethic and uncanny eye for talent, he worked his way up the ladder. When Andy Reid asked him to find a wide receiver the Eagles could take in the second round in 2008, Veach recommended DeSean Jackson, even though he was coming off a poor season. When Reid was hired by the Chiefs in 2013, he brought Veach with him. In 2015, Veach was watching film of Texas Tech offensive lineman Le’Raven Clark and Tech’s unheralded QB kept jumping out at him, and Veach knew even then Mahomes was something special, and in 2017 they traded up for him. Mahomes is now the best QB in the NFL, an MVP and one win from a Super Bowl. In span of 10 years, Veach went from interning in the Eagles’ scouting office to drafting Pat Mahomes.  

9. This is kind of a strange one, but Boston Scott this year became only the seventh player in NFL history with 85 or fewer touches but at least five rushing TDs and 20 catches. The dude definitely made the most of his limited workload.

10. I used to think Harold Carmichael’s franchise record of 589 catches was untouchable. Only seven Eagles even reached 300 during the 30-year period from 1985 through 2015, and only Brian Westbrook got over 400. But Zach Ertz will go into 2020 just 64 catches behind Harold, and at his rate of 5.8 catches per game over the last five years he’ll pass him somewhere around Week 12 if he stays healthy. Harold will go into the Hall of Fame in September and have his most hallowed record broken in November. And knowing Harold, nobody will be happier for Ertz.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

Eagles have reportedly hired Marquand Manuel as the new secondary coach

Eagles have reportedly hired Marquand Manuel as the new secondary coach

Marquand Manuel is the Eagles’ new secondary coach, according to a tweet by Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.

The 40-year-old Manuel replaces Cory Undlin, who had served in that role since 2015, first under Chip Kelly and the last four years under Doug Pederson. Undlin was named Lions defensive coordinator two weeks ago.

Manuel and Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz go back a ways. Manuel played for the Lions in 2009 when Schwartz was their head coach.

Manuel was not in the NFL this past year. He spent the previous four years under Dan Quinn with the Falcons, two years as secondary coach and two years as defensive coordinator before getting fired following the 2018 season.

The Falcons reached the Super Bowl in his second year in Atlanta, losing to the Patriots in Houston.

Before Atlanta, Manuel spent three years working under Quinn with the Seahawks, holding a variety of titles on the defensive staff.

Manuel, who played for Steve Spurrier at Florida, was the Bengals’ 6th-round pick in 2002 and spent eight years as a safety in the NFL with six different teams — the Bengals, Seahawks, Packers, Panthers, Broncos and Lions.

He played in 116 games, starting 58, with two interceptions and a pick-6 while he was with the Packers in 2006 off Jon Kitna of the Lions.

The Eagles also reportedly interviewed Browns defensive backs coach DeWayne Walker for the position.

The Eagles already have a safeties coach on the staff, former Eagle Tim Hauck. He was Pederson's teammate with the Eagles in 1999 and has been on Pederson's staff since 2016.

Quinn had this to say about Manuel on the Falcons’ web site back in 2018:

From the time I've met him from now, one thing that's cool to see that has stayed consistent is the energy and enthusiasm he has for players. He made the transition from player to coach really seamlessly because he knew the boundaries of coach, but he also stepped across to say, I can push you. That's not easy to do. He's always had mental quickness of a quarterback or someone who gets concepts really quickly. That transferred into this coaching fast. He can communicate concepts and ideas quickly to people on the run, in the moment, that's a really valuable asset as a coach.

The Eagles still have openings to replace the three assistant coaches Doug Pederson fired: offensive coordinator Mike Groh, wide receivers coach Carson Walch and defensive line coach Phillip Daniels.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles