Eagles

Are 2019 Eagles better or worse at quarterback?

Are 2019 Eagles better or worse at quarterback?

The franchise quarterback returns, while a Philadelphia legend departs. Will the Eagles be better or worse under center in 2019?

Key addition: Clayton Thorson (draft, fifth round) 
Key departure: Nick Foles (free agent, Jaguars)

Why they could be better: Carson Wentz is finally healthy

Wentz’s struggles in 2018 – as much as a 69.6 completion percentage, 7.7 yards per pass attempt and 3:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio can be described as struggling – were easy to see coming. He was a third-year quarterback only nine months removed from a torn ACL and spent the majority of the offseason rehabbing rather than working on his timing in the offense and building a rapport with receivers. No doubt he was putting unrealistic pressure on himself, too.

The injury is finally behind Wentz though, as is the broken back bone that shelved him in December. He’s entering his fourth season, so his comfort level in the offense should be nearing its peak, and he has all spring and summer to get on the same page with his numerous weapons. With his health and contract situations resolved, all Wentz needs to worry about now is playing football – which, as you might recall, he’s pretty good at.

Why they could be worse: Unproven backup

The Eagles really like Nate Sudfeld. They promoted him from the practice squad to the 53-man roster during the 2017 season to prevent another team from signing him. They let him serve as the backup quarterback in the Super Bowl. And they tendered him at a second-round level as a restricted free agent this offseason, effectively ensuring his return while paying him over $3 million.

This will be Sudfeld’s third year in the system, so he should know what he’s doing at least. Yet, the fact is he’s attempted just 25 passes in the NFL. There’s simply no telling how good he is. It’s nothing like bringing Nick Foles off the bench. He had won 24 games, threw 66 touchdown passes and went to a Pro Bowl before adding Super Bowl MVP to his resume. Sudfeld has talent and familiarity with the offense, plus a quality supporting cast. He probably wouldn’t be a disaster, but could he save the Eagles’ season if called upon? Impossible to say.

The X-factor: Can Wentz stay healthy for 16-plus games?

People are quick to throw around the injury prone label, often unfairly, but Wentz has been seriously hurt in each of his last four seasons going back to college. He broke a bone in his throwing wrist at North Dakota State, suffered a hairline rib fracture in preseason during his rookie year (though he played all 16 regular season games), then had the ACL and the back. Injury prone or not, that’s an alarming trend.

These are unrelated injuries, so it’s possible Wentz has been unlucky. It’s also very likely the Eagles’ fortunes this season are hinging on this hope. Wentz could help himself by getting rid of the ball quicker on occasion or giving up on a few more plays. Then again, he’s the quarterback. He’s going to get hit sometimes. All anybody can do is wait and see if he keeps getting up.

Are the Eagles’ quarterbacks better or worse?

The overall talent in the room undeniably dips with Foles’ departure. Yet, ideally, Wentz is the only signal caller taking meaningful snaps for the Eagles, and he should take another step forward in 2019 provided he can stay on the field. This is a matter of perspective, but to me, having an MVP-caliber quarterback at 100 percent is far more important than the guys sitting on the bench. 

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Tim Jernigan loves Philly but at peace with whatever free agency brings

Tim Jernigan loves Philly but at peace with whatever free agency brings

For the last month of the 2019, the Eagles finally saw how much a healthy Tim Jernigan can help their defensive line. 

Will that be enough reason to bring him back? 

That’s a question the Eagles will have to ask themselves this offseason as Jernigan is set to become a free agent. On one hand, when Jernigan is healthy, he’s been pretty good and Jim Schwartz has previously said Jernigan “means something to our spirit.” And he’s still just 27. 

On the other hand, Jernigan has struggled to stay healthy the last few years and the Eagles might not be able to rely on him. 

An emotional Jernigan spoke to our Derrick Gunn just after the playoff loss earlier this month and was well aware his future is up in the air. 

It hit different when you’re a free agent because you don’t know what’s going to happen with you. At the end of the day, man, as long as my teammates know that I gave everything I had on Sunday, when those lights turned on, I gave y’all everything I had. I’m at peace with that. 

“However it turns out with me in this free agency thing, I’m at peace with that. As long as y’all boys know I gave y’all everything I had. The city knows I gave them everything I had. It’s always love from here, from me there’s always love.

As of earlier this month, Jernigan said he and the Eagles hadn’t had any discussions about a possible contract. That doesn’t mean they won’t. 

Remember, the Eagles traded for Jernigan before the 2017 and he played really well that season before an ankle injury began to limit him. Still, he started 15 regular season games that year and all three in the playoffs, including Super Bowl LII. 

He played well enough that during the 2017 season, the Eagles gave him a four-year extension worth up to $48 million. 

But then Jernigan hit some hard times. He suffered a mysterious back injury in the offseason and needed surgery. Jernigan still hasn’t said publicly how he suffered the injury. He and the team renegotiated the deal and Jernigan played just three regular season games in 2018, but then played in the playoffs. He fought his way back. 

Last offseason, the Eagles unsurprisingly declined the option on his renegotiated contract but still signed him to a one-year deal worth up to $2 million for the 2019 season. Jernigan hurt his foot early in the season in 2019 but returned to play 10 games and eventually played at a pretty high level. 

So, yeah, there have been some ups and downs. 

“I’ve been through a lot the last two years,” Jernigan said. “I’ve had my highs and lows, I’ve had my times where I didn’t know if I was gonna make it. I went through every emotion but I made it. That’s definitely a positive to take from the season. I was able to finish this thing the right way.” 

The Eagles know they’ll have Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson at defensive tackle in 2020. It would seem like Jernigan would be an obvious choice to be the third guy in the rotation but Hassan Ridgeway is also going to be a free agent and is two years younger. 

But Ridgeway hasn’t been able to stay healthy either. He’s actually played one fewer game than Jernigan over the last two seasons and he hasn’t had the highs, especially not in this city. 

There’s a decent chance the Eagles try to bring Jernigan back for another season. But if it doesn’t happen, there won’t be hard feelings on Jernigan’s side. 

“Either way it go, whether I’m with the Eagles next year or I’m not,” Jernigan said, “I can promise you, I am one of those people, I’ll always be around this city, you know what I’m saying? I’m gonna always be around this city, even a long time from now. I met people away from football that I found love for. It’s love from me. 

“If I ain’t here, then y’all know what it is, man. I’m six years into my career, 27 years old, I can always end up back here. It ain’t over till it’s over, man.”

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Eagles Stay or Go 2020: Is it time to move on from a legend?

Eagles Stay or Go 2020: Is it time to move on from a legend?

Reuben Frank, Dave Zangaro and Andrew Kulp bring back Stay or Go with the 2020 version, trying to figure out the future of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Today, we’ll look at offensive tackles: 

Jason Peters 

Roob: It’s time. He’s one of the greatest Eagles of all-time, but it’s time. Peters is still a pretty good left tackle, but he’s not what he used to be, Andre Dillard is here for a reason, he looks ready, and at some point you just have to make the decision to move on. It’s going to be weird seeing an Eagles team without J.P. He’s been here so long he blocked for Vince Young. But it’s time to turn the page, and I think the Eagles understand that now.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: It was a great run for Peters, who arrived in 2009 thanks to what was probably the best trade in franchise history. Peters had years of dominance, making seven of his nine Pro Bowls with the Eagles. But he’s turning 38 later this month and even though he played fairly well in 2019, the Eagles drafted Andre Dillard for a reason. Peters is a free agent and as tough as it might be for the organization, it’s time for them to let him leave. I just wouldn’t want to be the one who has to tell him. 

Verdict: Goes 

Kulp: After seven Pro Bowls, two first-team All-Pro selections and 11 seasons with the Eagles, it's easy to get sentimental about a player. Peters is a surefire Hall of Famer. Hell, he's still probably better than at least half the left tackles in the league. Unfortunately, he may not be better than the left tackle the club drafted last April. We won't know until the change is made, but it's time to find out rather than pin the hopes on a 38-year-old oft-injured free agent-to-be. 

Verdict: Goes

Lane Johnson 

Roob: It was a tough year for Johnson, who missed the first Seahawks game with a concussion and then missed the last four games of the season with a knee injury. It was the first time in Johnson’s seven-year career he’s missed multiple games because of injury. Johnson turns 30 this spring, and he’s still an elite right tackle when he’s healthy, and there’s no reason to expect anything less from him. The Eagles really need him to stay healthy.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: The Eagles missed Johnson down the stretch of last season. Simply put: They’re a much better team with him on the field. The Eagles think he’s the best right tackle in the NFL and gave him a huge contract extension during the season to keep him in Philly through the 2025 season. He’s the only player on the roster signed through 2025. He’s not going anywhere for a while. 

Verdict: Stays 

Kulp: There's nothing not to like about Johnson. He'll be 30, still in the meat of an offensive lineman's prime. He's arguably the best right tackle in the NFL and a leader. His brand new contract extension does squeeze the Eagles for a cap hit just south of $16 million in 2020, but when healthy, the two-time Pro Bowler is worth every penny. Plus, if the Eagles win another Super Bowl, he'll probably get everybody beer again. 

Verdict: Stays

Andre Dillard 

Roob: It’s kind of weird that Dillard was so bad at right tackle after holding his own at left tackle. He didn’t seem to have a great attitude about trying to play on the right side – it’s like trying to write with your left hand and all that – and that’s a concern. You want a guy to embrace any challenge and dive in head-first. Dillard has the physical tools in the world, he’s still got to prove he can handle the mental challenges that come with the job. 

Verdict: Stays

Dave: The rookie started three games at left tackle and acquitted himself quite well. Playing on the right side was a disaster and wasn’t a good sign, but that’s not why they drafted him. I expect him to be the starter at left tackle in 2020. He still has to answer plenty of questions but he’ll have to do it on game days. He needs to play in 2020. If he works out, the Eagles could have three waves of incredible stability at left tackle with Tra Thomas, Peters and then Dillard.  

Verdict: Stays 

Kulp: The kid took some lumps, especially in his lone start at right tackle, where he was benched at halftime. Dillard showed promise at his natural position on the left though, and the only way he's ever going to take the next step is to play. They're literally going to give Peters the boot for this kid, so yeah, he'll be here for a little while. 

Verdict: Stays

Halapoulivaati Vaitai 

Roob: Big V is an unrestricted free agent, and while he’s never been a full-time starter in his four years here he’s really been a valuable sixth o-lineman who could back up both guard and tackle spots. Vaitai started 20 games at various spots here and was the Super Bowl left tackle, so he’s got a decent body of work after an inauspicious start back in 2016. The Eagles would love to have him back, but somebody is going to give Big V a lot of money.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: As a fifth-round pick back in 2016, the Eagles got a lot of use out of Big V in the last four years. He played in 52 games with 20 starts and started four more games in the playoffs, including at left tackle in Super Bowl LII. He’s not a top-tier guy but he’s solid and versatile and he’s been a solid player for the Eagles. They’d probably like to have him back. But even average tackles get paid in this league and he might get near-starter money elsewhere. 

Verdict: Goes 

Kulp: Big V is a largely competent swing tackle who's at his best when given a full week to prepare to play rather than coming off the bench cold, and even then he's is good for one or two massive blunders per game. And in the NFL, where tackles are at a premium, that's probably good enough to get paid this offseason. Vaitai is a free agent and could very well be starting somewhere in 2020 – it just won't be here. 

Verdict: Goes

Jordan Mailata 

Roob: Assuming Big V and Peters leave via free agency, Mailata could very well become the backup at both tackle spots. Mailata will be going into his third year, and that’s about when you expect to see results from this sort of long-term project. He’s still young. At 22, he’s two years younger than Dillard but this will be a big training camp for him. He’s still never played in a regular-season NFL game, but he should be in the mix for a role this coming season.

Verdict: Stays 

Dave: This is tough because we’re two years into the Mailata experiment and he still hasn’t played in a game that counts. But I haven’t seen anything to change my opinion that he can play the game and the Eagles always knew this was a long-term project. And, by the way, he’s still just 22. The Eagles might try to bring Big V back or sign a different veteran; if not, Mailata could be the swing tackle next season. 

Verdict: Stays 

Kulp: Two years into the rugby-player-turned-American-footballer experiment, we're no closer to knowing whether Mailata belongs on an NFL field. That was likely the plan all along, though looking at this list of players, he currently projects as not just the top backup – he's the only backup on the roster. The 6-foot-8, 346-pound Australian showed there's a lot of pure physical ability to work with in preseason action, and he's only 22 and on a cheap rookie deal, so the Eagles probably owe it to themselves to see this thing through now. But, man, it's a little scary to think he might be one injury away from starting in 2020. 

Verdict: Stays

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