Are Eagles already better than Super Bowl version?

Are Eagles already better than Super Bowl version?

Yes, we are insanely early in the process. We’re not even in the infancy stage, more like the prenatal portion of the NFL’s 2018 league year and free agency period. So needless to say, a lot can and will be changing. So think of this more as a progress report than a final grade, but are the Eagles a better team now than the one that exited that dome in Minneapolis in a confetti-strewn, blaze of glory?

Additions (Michael Bennett, Haloti Ngata)
Let’s start with the new faces.

The Eagles added to an already deep and talented defensive line with newcomers, Bennett and Ngata. Both are past their prime, Ngata more so than Bennett. But each can still contribute at a high level.

Assuming Vinny Curry is gone, Bennett, even at 32 years old, is a clear upgrade. Over the last six seasons, Curry has 22 sacks and 95 tackles. Bennett during the same time span, 48 sacks, 165 tackles. Ngata will fill the void left by Beau Allen.

Ngata, entering his 10th season, is 34, compared to Allen, who's just 26. This one is a little more difficult to quantify considering the position they play and what they're asked to do. Allen played well last season, especially when Tim Jernigan struggled with an ankle injury. He will be missed. But Ngata impacts games. Last season with Detroit, Ngata had two sacks in five games. And with him on the field, the Lions allowed 74.6 rushing yards per game. In 11 games without him, 129.7 yards. If healthy, he can still play. Slight lean to Ngata, short term.

Subtractions (Trey Burton, Beau Allen, Brent Celek, Torrey Smith)
We addressed Allen’s departure. The loss of Burton hurts. He improved steadily each of his four seasons with the Eagles. Last year, while getting just 27 percent of the snaps, he managed 23 catches for 248 yards and five touchdowns. He was also the third leading tackler on special teams.

As for Celek, he was the definition of a winner, a warrior and a team-first player. But he's at the end of his career and his $4 million salary was too high. Burton and Celek’s losses will be addressed via free agency or the draft. Perhaps, Martellus Bennett, Michael’s brother? Mike Gesicki out of Penn State?

Smith was a good guy in the locker room and solid playoff contributor, but $5 million was too steep for just that. Mack Hollins is ready to fill those shoes. 

Staying put (Nigel Bradham, Nick Foles)
Not to be overlooked are the players who were thought to possibly be headed out the door who are staying. Many thought Bradham would be playing elsewhere next season. But as Howie Roseman always does, he came up with enough coin to re-up the linebacker. That’s a big-time re-signing when taking into account Jordan Hicks' injury history and the fact Mychal Kendricks could be dealt to create more cap space.

It'd have to be an offer too good to refuse to move Foles. And after seeing all the needy teams fill their quarterback voids, it’s looking like, barring an injury, Foles will be staying put. And that’s a good thing. Carson Wentz's return date is a huge question not to mention, we know Foles is not just a one or two game stop-gap. He can lead this team.

Overall when you compare additions versus subtractions and the fact that, at this point, the Eagles have only lost a starter. On the face, right now they are a better team.   

Malcolm Jenkins reacts to settlement in Colin Kaepernick collusion case

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Malcolm Jenkins reacts to settlement in Colin Kaepernick collusion case

In the wake of news that the NFL had settled collusion cases brought forth by Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, fellow activist and Eagle Malcolm Jenkins has weighed in. 

Despite some disagreements between the men in the past, Jenkins has always maintained that Kaepernick and Reid belonged in the league and thought NFL owners colluded to keep Kaepernick and Reid out of the NFL. 

Reid is now employed by the Carolina Panthers, but Kaepernick hasn’t played in the NFL since 2016. 

You’ll remember in October, Jenkins and Reid got into a heated exchange before the Eagles-Panthers game at the Linc. And after the game, Reid called Jenkins a sellout and a coward (see story).  

That day, Jenkins refused to get into a war of words. 

"I would never get up here and say anything bad about somebody who I know [their] intentions were about helping their communities, especially another black man," Jenkins said on Oct. 21, after the game. "I'll leave it at that."

The exchange between Jenkins and Reid that day stemmed from lingering animosity about the way the Players Coalition — led by Jenkins — brokered a $90 million deal with the NFL to help with projects dealing with racial inequality. 

On Friday afternoon, the NFL released the following statement: 

"For the past several months, counsel for Mr. Kaepernick and Mr. Reid have engaged in an ongoing dialogue with representatives of the NFL. As a result of those discussions, the parties have decided to resolve the pending grievances. The resolution of this matter is subject to a confidentiality agreement so there will be no further comment by any party."

Because of the confidentiality agreement, we don’t know how much this settlement is worth, but it’s likely to be very significant. It’s also unclear if the NFL admitted any wrongdoing in the settlement. 

The grievances began when Kaepernick and Reid claimed they had been blacklisted by the NFL for demonstrating during the national anthem. Kaepernick began those protests by sitting and then later taking a knee. 

Jenkins raised his fist during the anthem but stopped once his Players Coalition brokered that deal in 2017. Jenkins raised his fist in the Eagles’ preseason opener in 2018, but did not during the 2018 season. Jenkins has said many times he wants the focus to be on work in the community and not the demonstrations. 

A tweet earlier on Friday falls in line with that. 

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This offseason, Eagles need to finally find stability at running back

This offseason, Eagles need to finally find stability at running back

When Chip Kelly traded away LeSean McCoy nearly four years ago, he sent the Eagles down a road of complete instability at that position. In the four seasons since that move, the Eagles have had four different leading rushers. 

This offseason, it’s time for the Eagles to find a new featured back. 

There are options, of course. They can try to pick one up in free agency, they can make a trade or they can try to draft the next guy, which is probably the way I’d lean.  

I know what you’re going to say: Well, the Eagles won a Super Bowl with a running back by committee. Doug Pederson seems to prefer it.

I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. This past season, the Eagles seemed eager to find out if Josh Adams could be the lead guy. They want someone to be the starter and at least be the primary runner of the group. That guy needs to be a three-down back who can catch the ball too. 

Think about this: Before Chipper traded away McCoy, Shady led the Eagles in rushing for six straight seasons. Before then, Brian Westbrook led the team in rushing for six straight seasons. So that was 12 straight years (2003-2014) with two of the best running backs in franchise history. Before then, Duce did it in four of five seasons and, before that, Ricky Watters did it for three straight. The Eagles haven’t had this type of instability at running back since the '80s. 

Since Shady’s last season in Philly, DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, LeGarrette Blount and Adams have all had their turn as the Eagles’ leading rusher. 

And in 2014, his last season with the Eagles, McCoy rushed for 1,319 yards. In the four years since, the Eagles’ top two rushers in each season added together haven’t reached that total. The closest they came was when Murray and Mathews combined for 1,241 in 2015. 

Take a look at the last four years: 

Josh Adams: 120 carries, 511 yards, 3 TDs
Wendell Smallwood: 87 carries, 364 yards, 3 TDs
Corey Clement: 68 carries, 259 yards, 2 TDs
Jay Ajayi: 45 carries, 184 yards, 3 TDs
Darren Sproles: 29 carries, 120 yards, 1 TD

LeGarrette Blount: 173 carries, 766 yards, 2 TDs
Corey Clement: 74 carries, 321 yards, 4 TDs
Jay Ajayi: 70 carries, 408 yards, 1 TD 
Wendell Smallwood: 47 carries, 174 yards, 1 TD
Kenjon Barner: 16 carries, 57 yards, 1 TD
Darren Sproles: 15 carries, 61 yards 

Ryan Mathews: 155 carries, 661 yards, 8 TDs 
Darren Sproles: 94 carries, 438 yards, 2 TDs
Wendell Smallwood: 77 carries, 312 yards, 1 TD
Kenjon Barner: 27 carries, 129 yards, 2 TDs
Byron Marshall: 19 carries, 64 yards 
Terrell Watson: 9 carries, 28 yards, 1 TD

DeMarco Murray: 193 carries, 702 yards, 6 TDs 
Ryan Matthews: 106 carries, 539 yards, 6 TDs
Darren Sproles: 83 carries, 317 yards, 3 TDs
Kenjon Barner: 28 carries, 124 yards

In the four years since Shady has been gone, the Eagles have drafted just two running backs. They took Smallwood in the fifth round of the 2016 draft and took Donnel Pumphrey in the fourth round of the 2017 draft. Smallwood has at least developed into a serviceable backup/rotational player, but Pumphrey hasn’t played a single snap in the NFL. 

Looking at the position now, there are obvious question marks just with the guys who were on the team last year. Ajayi is coming off a torn ACL, already had knee problems and is a pending free agent. Darren Sproles is a 35-year-old pending free agent who might retire. Clement is under contract but is coming back from a season-ending knee injury of his own. Adams was the leading rusher in 2018 but was benched in the playoffs. And Smallwood is under contract but clearly isn’t going to be the No. 1. 

The Eagles haven’t drafted a running back in the first two rounds since they took Shady back in 2009, but with two second-round picks this year, maybe that changes. Either way, it’s time to finally find some stability that hasn’t been there for the last four seasons.

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