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.

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Possible trouble brewing in Cowboys land with reports about RB Ezekiel Elliott possibly holding out

Possible trouble brewing in Cowboys land with reports about RB Ezekiel Elliott possibly holding out

Off the field issues aside, Ezekiel Elliott is clearly one of the top running backs in the NFL. The problem for the Cowboys is that he wants to get paid like it.

According to PFT’s Mike Florio, Elliott has “privately said that he will hold out of training camp unless he gets a new contract.”

Since the Cowboys report to training camp on July 25, this could be a problem very soon.

Meanwhile, Yahoo! reporter Charles Robinson says Elliott hasn’t made a decision about a holdout yet.

But it’s clearly on Zeke’s mind. And he clearly wants a contract extension.

For a team that still has to pay Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper — both more pressing since they’ll be free agents after the 2019 season — this could be tricky. It’s hard to imagine the Cowboys giving Zeke a big contract before figuring out Dak’s new deal.

Elliott, 23, might have a problem staying out of trouble off the field, but he creates a whole lot of trouble for opposing teams on it. There’s really no denying his talent. In his first three NFL seasons, he has rushed for over 4,000 yards and has over 5,000 in all-purpose yards. Just 11 players in NFL history have more all-purpose yards in their first three seasons.

And because of that success and because he knows the Cowboys will rely heavily on him this season and next, Elliott is trying to maximize his value. He’s trying to get some coin in his pocket now before that value potentially plummets because usage or injury. That part makes sense.

The problem for Elliott is that the Cowboys probably don’t feel highly motivated to pay him just yet. With his fourth contract year in 2019 and his fifth-year option year in 2020, the Cowboys hold his rights for the next two seasons at cap numbers of $7.9 million and $9 million over the next two seasons. Based on his rookie contract AVY, Elliott is the 10th highest-paid running back in football. That’s a steal and based on recent history, no team should be rushing to pay top-tier money for a running back.

Elliott won’t become a free agent until after the 2020 season, so I definitely get why he’s trying to secure his financial future before the Boys run him into the ground over the next two seasons. He doesn’t seem to have a ton of leverage because of how far he is from free agency — he’s not going to sit for two years — but we saw how his suspension sort of wrecked the Cowboys’ entire 2017 season. Now, the Cowboys are coming off a division title and have serious championship hopes this year; if they’re going to be a great team, they’re going to need Zeke to do it.

The Eagles don’t play the Cowboys until Oct. 20 and it would be pretty shocking if Elliott isn’t playing by then. The Birds obviously don’t have a running back as good as Elliott, but they have cost controlled options and they already figured out how to pay their franchise quarterback.

The messier this gets for Zeke and the Cowboys, the better it is for the Eagles and the rest of the NFC East.

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Eagles receive top Madden 20 team rating despite Carson Wentz snub

Eagles receive top Madden 20 team rating despite Carson Wentz snub

It’s that time of year again. 

Today, the good people of Madden released their full rankings for Madden 20, available on Aug. 2. Here are some notable items from how they see they see the Eagles looking this year.

The Best Team in the Game

That’s right, Madden believes in the Eagles. With an overall rating of 89, the Philadelphia Eagles are the highest rated team in the game. They edged out the Dallas Cowboys (88), New Orleans Saints (87), New England Patriots (87) and Green Bay Packers (87).

The lowest ranked teams in the game are the Miami Dolphins (74), followed by the New York Giants (77).

Carson Wentz Snubbed in Madden 20

Carson Wentz will begin the season as an 82 overall, dipping three points from where he was to start the year last season. The rating places Wentz tied for 13th at his position behind guys like Baker Mayfield (83) and Jared Goff (83) and tied with Deshaun Watson (82). After an incredible season last year, Patrick Mahomes (97) is the top-rated QB, followed by the ageless wonder, Tom Brady (96).

The Top Bird

It should come as no surprise that Fletcher Cox is the highest ranked Eagles player at an overall ranking of 96. His ranking makes him the 15th highest ranked player in the NFL and the top defensive tackle (Madden considers Aaron Donald an end). His combination of speed, acceleration and strength make him an unstoppable force in both the video game and in real life.

These Birds Can Fly

One of the more important aspects in Madden often times is speed and the Eagles have 13 players with a rating of 90 or higher in that category. Five players, Ronald Darby, Shelton Gibson, Josh Hawkins, DeSean Jackson and Avonte Maddox, are tied for the highest speed rating on the team at 93.

According to Madden, the fastest player in the NFL is Tyreek hill, with 99 speed and 99 acceleration, the only player with a 99 in either category.

Top of their Class

There’s a number of Eagles players that are ranked very highly at their position. 

Fletcher Cox: 96, 1st among DT

Jason Kelce: 94, tied for 1st among C

Zach Ertz: 93, 2nd among TE

Malcolm Jenkins: 92, 2nd among SS

Brandon Brooks: 90, 4th among RG

Brandon Graham: 89, 3rd among RE

Lane Johnson: 89, 2nd among RT

Lowest Rated Eagle

Sorry Rick Lovato, for the second straight year you’re the lowest rated Eagles player. Actually, Lovato’s ranking lowered from a 43 in 2019 to a 41 in 2020. Lovato, the long snapper, certainly didn’t do anything wrong from a snapping standpoint last season, but he’s listed as a TE in the game and they probably want to make him as unusable at that position as possible. 

Other notable Eagles that received poor ratings are Clayton Thorson (56), Nate Sudfeld (57) and Jordan Mailata (58). 

Click here to see the Madden ranking for the entire Eagles roster.

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