Eagles

Are 2019 Eagles better or worse at wide receiver?

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Are 2019 Eagles better or worse at wide receiver?

The Eagles’ top three additions at wide receiver from a year ago are all gone, yet there’s a lot of enthusiasm surrounding a returning star and a fresh face. Is this group of pass catchers poised for a better or worse season in 2019?

Key additions: DeSean Jackson (trade, Buccaneers), J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (draft, second round) 

Key departures: Golden Tate (free agent, Giants), Jordan Matthews (free agent, 49ers), Mike Wallace (free agent) 

Why they could be better: DeSean Jackson

The Eagles had the right idea attempting to pair Alshon Jeffery with a speed receiver on the outside the last two years, though it hasn’t worked entirely to plan. Torrey Smith was a serviceable deep threat in 2017, but a bit of a one-trick pony who would vanish from the offense for weeks at a time, and Mike Wallace wound up injured after two games and zero catches in 2018.

Jackson represents an upgrade over both players. Even at 32, he remains one of the NFL’s preeminent vertical threats. No receiver with at least 40 catches finished with a higher yards per reception (18.9) last season, and the three-time Pro Bowler is tied with Josh Gordon for the highest average among active players – their 17.4 more than a full yard better than Smith. Jackson can be a weapon in the intermediate passing game as well, something the Eagles experimented with a lot during OTAs. This is precisely the type of dynamic skill set that can elevate an offense.

Why they could be worse: Health concerns

Jeffery has played 16 games just once in the last four seasons, and he somehow did that with a torn rotator cuff in ’17. (It should be noted his four-game absence in 2016 was a suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy, which can still be construed as a “health concern” of sorts.) Jackson has missed at least one game every year dating back to 2014. They’re 29 and 32 respectively, so the likelihood of more injuries has only increased with the passage of time.

Great as this duo looks on paper, the Eagles are a couple of mishaps away from fielding a receiving corps of Nelson Agholor, rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Mack Hollins, who has injury issues of his own after sitting out all of ’18 with a sports hernia. In fact, this was an issue early on last season when Jeffery, Wallace and Hollins were out, forcing the club to sign Jordan Matthews off the street. The offense looks a little better prepared were similarly bad luck to strike again, though there may not be an available replacement who can step in so seamlessly next time around if necessary.

The X-factor: What can Arcega-Whiteside bring to the table?

This is essentially a more interesting way of asking who will serve as the Eagles’ fourth receiver — not an unimportant job. Last season, Matthews caught 21 passes in that role. A year earlier, Hollins reeled in 17 as a rookie. And there are always injuries, so we’re also talking about the next man off the bench here.

Arcega-Whiteside has the inside track, and at 6-foot-2, 223 pounds with a 34-inch vertical, it’s not difficult to envision him becoming an instant weapon in the red zone. The Stanford product grabbed 14 touchdowns as a senior and 28 in a three-year college career. However, Hollins showed promise started practicing at the end of OTAs, so the Eagles could have another option if Arcega-Whiteside is slow to develop. Perennial camp favorite Greg Ward is in the mix for a role as well. So it becomes a matter of how much the new guy can pick up in a short amount of time.

Are the Eagles’ wide receivers better or worse?

On paper, there’s no question this is a better group with Jackson taking the place of Wallace or Golden Tate. And in Arcega-Whiteside, there appears to have a prospect who can potentially step into Jackson’s or Jeffery’s shoes in the event of an injury. The Eagles felt inclined to make mid-season moves at receiver in ’18, signing Matthews and trading for Golden Tate. If the absences mount again this year, the offense should be able to get by.

BETTER

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Does anybody want this Eagles' offensive coordinator job?

Does anybody want this Eagles' offensive coordinator job?

It’s been nearly two weeks now, and the Eagles still don’t have an offensive coordinator, and we’re getting to the point where everybody’s wondering what the heck is going on.

Does anybody want this job?

The Eagles targeted Graham Harrell, but he opted to remain offensive coordinator at USC.

They targeted James Urban, but he opted to remain quarterbacks coach of the Ravens.

They targeted Mike Kafka, but he opted to remain quarterbacks coach of the Chiefs.

Those are three names we know, and there’s no way yet to gauge exactly how badly the Eagles wanted each of them, we do know they interviewed Harrell, they spoke with Urban and they had interest in Kafka.

Other teams are snapping up qualified candidates. Many of the top guys are no longer available.

The Dolphins hired Chan Gailey one day after they fired Chad O’Shea. The Redskins hired Scott Turner as soon as Ron Rivera got the job. The Broncos hired Pat Shurmur immediately after firing Rich Scangarello.

Highly sought-after LSU passing game coordinator Joe Brady left for the Panthers a day after LSU beat Clemson.

John DeFilippo, the Eagles’ QBs coach during the 2017 Super Bowl season, accepted the same job with the Bears after getting fired by the Jaguars.

Joe Moorhead, who worked wonders at Penn State in 2016 and 2017 and was fired recently as head coach at Mississippi State, was hired Tuesday as offensive coordinator at Oregon.

Seven of the 10 teams that had offensive coordinator openings have filled them. Only the Eagles, Vikings and Jaguars haven’t filled theirs yet.

It was 13 days ago that Doug Pederson announced Mike Groh would return in 2020 as offensive coordinator. The next day, Groh was fired, and fair or not, there’s certainly a perception that the Eagles are scrambling right now.

Why don’t they have an offensive coordinator yet? Why does it seem like people don’t want the job?

Obviously, Doug Pederson calls the plays here, and Doug isn’t giving that up to whoever takes this job. It’s definitely an easier path to a head coaching job for an offensive coordinator who calls the plays.

But Frank Reich got the Colts’ head coaching job, and he never called plays here. Pederson only called plays occasionally under Andy Reid in Kansas City.

It’s also possible that up-and-coming coaches are wary of joining a staff where the head coach gave the offensive coordinator (and receivers coach) a vote of confidence one day and then fired them the next day. That wasn’t a good look.

There could be a growing perception of instability on Pederson’s coaching staff. He’s fired seven coaches since January of 2017, including three who were on the Super Bowl staff.

Whether or not it’s accurate, that sort of perception can cloud candidates’ decision making. Nobody wants to come into an unstable situation.

It’s also possible the Eagles have had their eye on one person all along and are simply waiting to name him. Sometimes the perception doesn’t match up to the reality. And when a team plays things very close to the vest, like the Eagles have been, it can create a false sense that they’re struggling to find the right guy.

There are still some interesting candidates out there.

Former Redskins head coach Jay Gruden is still out there. Former Dolphins QBs coach and Colts head coach Jim Caldwell is out there. Marty Mornhinweg is out there. Mike LaFleur, the 49ers’ passing game coordinator, is out there. ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky, who played in the NFL for 11 years, is suddenly a hot name.

And then there’s Duce Staley and Press Taylor, the two internal candidates, who’ve been there in the building all along.

There’s no deadline for this sort of thing, although the sooner someone is in place the better. Obviously the Eagles need an offensive coordinator by the NFL Scouting Combine, which starts Feb. 23 in Indianapolis.

And with each passing day more and more qualified candidates are coming off the board.

The Eagles also have openings for a secondary coach, a defensive line coach and a wide receivers coach, so there are a lot of moving parts here.

And a dwindling talent pool to choose from.

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Eagle Eye podcast: The best offensive coordinator candidates left

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Eagle Eye podcast: The best offensive coordinator candidates left

On the latest Eagle Eye podcast, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro go over the latest news from the Eagles’ offensive coordinator search. 

The best candidates left. Taking a guess at the hire. Also, Andy Reid is heading to the Super Bowl … and so is Raheem Mostert. 

That and more on the latest Eagle Eye podcast: 

• Updating the Eagles’ search 
• Who are the top candidates left?
• Figuring out if Duce Staley makes sense  
• Each guy takes a guess at the next OC 
• Big Red is back in the Super Bowl 
• Stealing one player from each team 
• Raheem Mostert’s rise to stardom 

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More on the Eagles