Reasons to be encouraged about Jalen Reagor, reaction to the Steve Nelson signing and a hilarious Buddy Ryan quote.
All that and much more in our final installment of Roob’s Random Eagles Offseason Observations – soon to lose the “offseason” tag!
1. One reason to be encouraged about Jalen Reagor – and there are a few – is how much more comfortable he looked with Jalen Hurts than with his predecessor. Reagor played nearly twice as many snaps with the guy in Indy (334 to 177), but he had only 48 fewer yards with Hurts (222 to 174) and nine of his 18 catches of at least 10 yards (and three of four of 20 yards) came with Hurts at QB. Pro-rating his time with both quarterbacks, Reagor averaged 44 yards per game and 14.5 yards per catch with Hurts and 34 yards per game and 11.7 yards per catch with the previous quarterback. At that pace, over a full season he would have been 53-for-704 with Hurts. That’s a big leap, but it just shows how much more of a connection Reagor had with Hurts. There are other reasons to be optimistic. Reagor won’t be facing No. 1 corners this year, he’ll presumably be healthy and have a full camp, and he’ll be playing in an offense that should play to his strengths. Reagor may never be Justin Jefferson, but with DeVonta Smith in the fold, he really just needs to be a consistent, productive No. 2 receiver. Kind of like what Jeremy Maclin was to DeSean Jackson in their four years together. Can he do it? I don’t know. But I do know he’ll have a much better chance this year than last year.
2. Surprised how many Eagles fans are down on the Steve Nelson signing. He may not be Troy Vincent, but he’s not Avonte Maddox either. And for a team with lingering cap issues to add an solid pro like Nelson two days before training camp is big. You’re not going to find an affordable Pro Bowler on the street a month before the season. Nelson solidifies a CB2 position that was by far the Eagles’ biggest remaining question mark. And his presence allows the Eagles to move Maddox back into the slot, thereby upgrading two positions. Nelson isn’t a superstar, but he’s way better than anybody else they had.
3. In 1986, the Eagles drafted Florida punter Ray Criswell in the 5th round, the highest they’ve ever taken a punter. But Criswell held out of camp and reported late, infuriating 1st-year coach Buddy Ryan. A few days after Criswell finally showed up, Buddy was asked if reporting late might hurt Criswell’s chances to make the roster. Ryan’s legendary response: “I think the fact that he can’t punt might hurt his chances.” The Eagles did wind up cutting Criswell, who played briefly for the Bucs in 1987 and 1988 but was out of the league at 25.
4. Miles Sanders caught 50 passes for over 500 yards as a rookie in 2019. Kerryon Johnson caught 32 passes in just 10 games as a rookie for the Lions in 2018. Boston Scott is one of only two Eagles in history (along with LeSean McCoy) with at least 24 catches for over 200 yards in each of his first two seasons as an offensive player. Kenny Gainwell caught 51 passes for over 600 yards at Memphis last year. I like this group of backs, but I especially like the fact that all of them (except Jordan Howard) are excellent receivers. Nick Sirianni has spoken a lot about getting the ball in the hands of receivers quickly with high-percentage throws and letting them make plays, and throwing to the backs is a good way to do that. Using the backs in the passing game will be a big part of the Eagles’ offense this year.
5. Jalen Hurts Stat of the Week (h/t to Mike Holt on Twitter for this one): Randall Cunningham holds the Eagles’ record for most combined passing and rushing touchdowns by an Eagles quarterback with 35 in 1990 (30 passing, 5 rushing). Hurts had nine TDs in his four starts last year (6 passing, 3 rushing), which put him on pace for a club-record 36 over a full 16-game season.
Here are the all-time Eagles single-season combined TD leaders:
- 35 … Randall, 1990 [30-5]
- 34 … Donovan, 2004 [31-3]
- 33 … Guy in Indy, 2017 [33-0]
- 32 … Sonny Jurgensen, 1961 [32-0]
- 31 … Snead, 1967 [29-2]
- 30 … Randall, 1988 [24-6]
- 30 … Vick, 2010 [21-9]
- 30 … Foles, 2013 [27-3]
- 28 … Jaws, 1980 [27-1]
- 28 … Guy in Indy, 2019 [27-1]
6. Here’s a good Training Camp Darling candidate: Jhamon Ausbon. He played three years at Texas A&M, catching 147 passes for 1,818 yards. He opted out last year, but in 2019 he was 7th in the SEC with 66 catches (two behind DeVonta Smith) and 6th with 872 receiving yards (126 more than Henry Ruggs III) despite mediocre QB play. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Ausbon went undrafted after running a plodding 4.71 at his pro day. But he’s a tough, physical, smart player who runs good routes and knows how to high-point the ball. He’s not going to run away from anybody, but he’s the kind of kid who could open some eyes in camp if he catches the ball consistently and is able to use his strength and toughness to break some tackles.
7. Even including the postseason, Nick Foles had a higher completion percentage as a Jaguar [65.8], Chief [65.5] and Bear [64.7] than as an Eagle [63.7]. He was 3-9 as a Jaguar, Chief and Bear and 25-12 with a SB as an Eagle.
8. It’s been 16 years and still people are blaming Joe Banner for not caving in to Terrell Owens and giving him a new contract during his celebrated 2005 holdout. But the Eagles had just given T.O. a new contract. Just 16 months earlier, in April of 2004, they gave him a seven-year, $49 million deal that made him the 3rd-highest-paid WR in NFL history, behind only Randy Moss and Marvin Harrison. A year later he demanded another new deal. Has anybody in NFL history ever signed a deal like T.O.’s and then gotten a renegotiation a year later? Nope. Banner is an easy target, but the reality is the Eagles treated T.O. fairly, making him one of the highest-paid WRs in history, and he responded by holding out, starting trouble with Donovan McNabb and other teammates, back-stabbing his coaches and really doing everything he could to sabotage the 2005 season. Not only that, the Eagles were actually amenable to sitting down with T.O. and his agent after the 2005 season and listening to what they had to say, but it never came to that because of T.O.’s antisocial behavior and their desire to negotiate with threats and accusations instead of quietly and professionally at the bargaining table. It’s easy to say, “The Eagles should have restructured T.O.,” but looking back, they couldn’t have.
9. Convincing Jeff Stoutland to remain as offensive line coach might be the most important thing Nick Sirianni has done since being named head coach.
10. Brian Westbrook is one of only three players in NFL history with three offensive postseason touchdowns of at least 49 yards. B-Dub had rushing TDs of 49 yards against the Giants and 62 yards against the Saints in 2006 and a 71-yard catch-and-run from Donovan McNabb in 2008 against the Vikings. The other two players with three or more are Hall of Famers John Stallworth (four) and Moss (three). Nobody else in Eagles history has had more than one offensive postseason TD of 49 yards or more. Seven players had one (Pat McHugh, Billy Campfield, Fred Barnett, Donte’ Stallworth, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Alshon Jeffery).
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