The hidden value of Jason Avant, a ridiculous Kevin Curtis stat and the Cre’Von LeBlanc conundrum.
That’s just a taste of what lies ahead in this week’s Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Observations!
1. Bringing Jason Avant in as part of the NFL’s minority coaching internship program is a really under-rated move. A few people complained on Twitter that it makes no sense to bring in one of the slowest receivers to work with this group of speedy receivers. But that’s exactly why it makes sense. Because it takes a lot more than just speed to make it as a WR, and Avant is proof of that. Jason’s 40 time at the 2006 Combine was 4.62, which ranked 38th out of 41 WRs who ran that year. Yet he went on to catch 346 passes for 4,118 yards in 10 seasons and was one of the NFL’s most dependable slots for a decade. Avant is here because although you can’t teach speed, you can teach everything else: “I was a technical receiver,” Avant said on the Eagles’ web site. “I wasn't the fastest receiver. I wasn't the biggest guy. I was able to get open by getting off the line of scrimmage and being precise. That's what I hope to help teach these receivers. It's just not about speed and movement.” Great move.
2. Speaking of slow receivers at the 2006 Combine … nobody in NFL history had more 85-yard touchdown catches than Hank Baskett, who ran a 4.50 at that same 2006 Combine. Hank had two in 2006 and one in 2008. In NFL history, only Cliff Branch, Bob Hayes, John Taylor and Wesley Walker had as many 85-yard TDs as Baskett, who was undrafted. Baskett had as many TD catches of at least 85 yards from 2006 through 2008 as every other Eagle has combined over the last 30 years.
3. The last Eagles WR with consecutive 100-yard games: Jordan Matthews vs. the Cards and Redskins in 2015. Since then, 52 different NFL receivers from 29 other teams have had back-to-back 100-yard games.
4. It sure seems like Avonte Maddox will get the first crack at CB2 opposite Darius Slay, with Sidney Jones backing him up. And it sure seems like Nickell Robey-Coleman will get the first crack at the slot. If I were Jim Schwartz I’d make sure I found ways to get Cre’Von LeBlanc on the field. The guy is active, tough, smart, physical and instinctive. Good things happen when he plays. I don’t know where he fits in, but Schwartz and d-backs coach Marquand Manuel need to make sure he DOES fit in.
5. Misleading stats can be fun. Here’s one: Kevin Curtis averaged more yards per game in his Eagle career (56.3) than Harold Carmichael (49.9).
6. I wrote about 5-time Pro Bowler Jimmy Smith the other day in my piece on 10 great NFL players who began their careers in obscurity with the Eagles. How much of a difference would Smith have made if the Eagles kept him instead of Jeff Sydner at the end of 1994 training camp? From 1999 through 2005 - the seven years where Smith and Donovan McNabb were both in the league - Smith had 8,249 receiving yards. During the same span, the Eagles’ leading receiver was Todd Pinkston, with 2,816 yards. Imagine how much would have been different if Kotite had seen the greatness of Jimmy Smith staring him right in his face?
7. We talk all the time about how incredible Nick Foles was in the 2017 playoffs, but right along with his remarkable performance is the fact that he dropped back 108 times and was sacked twice - once in the Falcons game and once in the Vikings game. Foles’ 971 passing yards in the 2017 postseason are the most in NFL history by a QB who was sacked two or fewer times. Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce and Brandon Brooks were the heart of that o-line, but Big V and Stefen Wisniewski were both huge during that run as well.
8. From the Be Careful What You Wish For Department: In the summer of 1971, there was a kicking competition in Eagles training camp between incumbent Mark Moseley, who the fans were furious with after his 27-yard miss cost the Eagles a 1970 win over the Falcons, and rookie 4th-round pick Happy Feller, the overwhelming fan favorite. “‘I’ll probably go out there to kick and the fans will all want to see Happy,” Moseley told Chuck Newman in the Aug. 13, 1971, Inquirer, before the first home preseason game of 1971. “Maybe they’ll boo, but that’s their privilege. The fans have their favorites.” As it turned out, the Eagles kept Feller and released Moseley. Feller went on to go 6-for-20 on field goal attempts in 1971, and that 30 percent accuracy is the worst in the NFL in the last 50 years. Feller spent a couple years with the Saints and made 37 percent of his career field goals. Nobody else in the NFL over the last 50 years has been under 50 percent. Moseley kicked in the NFL for 17 years and was a two-time Pro Bowler.
9. Crazy that there are more assistant coaches than players still with the Eagles from the Chip Kelly Era. Six coaches, two players. And there are more players remaining that Andy Reid brought in (five) than Chip brought in (two). And there isn’t a single player from either the 2014 or 2015 drafts still in the organization.
10. Need more evidence of Duce Staley’s ability to get the most out of his players? Since 2015, the Eagles are the only NFL team that hasn’t had a running back with 200 carries in a season. During that five-year period, Duce has made do with an ever-changing rotation of DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, Josh Adams one year, Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement and Boston Scott. Yet with that unsettled group of young unproven backs and veterans at the end of their career, the Eagles are 9th in the NFL in rushing during that five-year span. Of that group, Murray, Blount, Ajayi, Sproles and Mathews are all out of the league.
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