Eagles

Eagles 2019 training camp battles: Are Eagles deep enough at DE?

Eagles 2019 training camp battles: Are Eagles deep enough at DE?

As we near the start of the Eagles’ 2019 training camp, we’re taking a closer look at some key position battles to watch this summer. We already looked at cornerback, running back and linebacker.            

Up today: Defensive end 

Names to know 

Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry, Josh Sweat, Shareef Miller, Daeshon Hall, Joe Ostman 

What to watch 

While the Eagles have much more depth at defensive tackle heading into the 2019 season, there’s some reason to worry about their depth at defensive end. Last year, they began the season with the same starters but had Michael Bennett and Chris Long as rotational players. This year, they’re not that deep. 

The starters are the same this season: Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett. Even though he’s over 30 now, we all know what kind of player Graham has been and will be in 2019. He was hobbled by a lingering ankle injury early last season but was back to himself later. Barnett got off to a quick start in 2018, but then hurt his shoulder and eventually needed surgery. He wasn’t a full participant in OTAs this spring, but should be ready for the start of the season. Those two are set and should be pretty good. 

After the starters? That’s where some questions start to form. Curry is back on a much cheaper deal than the one he made it through just one year of in Tampa Bay. Curry is a solid player, but he’s 31 now and since he had 9 sacks in 2014, he hasn’t gone over 3 1/2 in the four years since. In an injury-shortened season in Tampa Bay, he had 2 1/2 sacks in 2018. And now, he’s the Eagles’ top rotational end. 

But at least Curry has proven to be an adequate player in the NFL. Sweat, Miller, Hall and Ostman haven’t proven much in their short careers. Sweat certainly looks the part and will get a chance to be a part of the rotation, but last year’s fourth-rounder played just 68 snaps last season. Miller was the last pick of the fourth round this year, so it would be unfair to have immediately high expectations of him. Hall was a third-round pick in 2017, but didn’t last in Carolina and has struggled to find a home in the NFL. Ostman is a hard-worker whom the Eagles love, but is he really the answer? 

Perhaps the Eagles bring in a veteran — Connor Barwin would like to come back — to fill out the rotation, but if they don’t, we’ll need to watch Sweat, Miller, Hall and Ostman closely this summer. One or two of them will likely make the roster and then fight for playing time. Because Malik Jackson will probably stay on the field for third downs, the depth at defensive end isn’t as important, but the Eagles are one injury away from one of those guys playing a significant role in 2019. 

Prediction 

Graham and Barnett start and Curry is the first guy off the bench. Sweat will be the team’s fourth option, but will have to earn playing time. I don’t think Miller is ready to be a significant contributor as a rookie. Keep an eye on Hall, who is a dark horse candidate to make the team.

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Eagles release veterans Orlando Scandrick and Akeem Spence

Eagles release veterans Orlando Scandrick and Akeem Spence

The Eagles on Monday released two more veteran defensive players who had been playing major roles. 

Last week, they cut linebacker Zach Brown the day after the loss to the Vikings. 

This week, the Eagles cut veteran CB Orlando Scandrick and veteran DT Akeem Spence the day after their 37-10 loss to the Cowboys. Both were added to the roster during September following injuries and both played a lot on Sunday night. 

The Eagles on Monday also brought back DT Anthony Rush from the Raiders’ practice squad. Rush was with the Eagles during training camp. They are also signing DT Albert Huggins from Houston's practice squad. 

While Scandrick, 32, certainly didn’t play well against the Cowboys, he did start and played 51 percent (36 snaps) of their defensive snaps. 

Spence, 27, played 47 snaps against the Cowboys on Sunday. 

And this comes a week after Brown was cut the day after he played 58 snaps against the Vikings. 

After two back-to-back blowout losses, the Eagles are not hesitating to send messages and get rid of dead weight. 

Still, it’s not a great sign that the Eagles have cut three veteran defensive players the day after blowout losses in consecutive weeks. It’s an even worse sign that they were all playing a significant roles. 

The Scandrick move is curious because it’s not like the Eagles are flush with cornerback talent. Now, their two corners with the most experience at the nickel corner spot are Avonte Maddox and Sidney Jones. 

Jones on Sunday was healthy but the Eagles played Craig James ahead of him, which was the plan, according to Doug Pederson. Jones, the former second-round pick, has struggled mightily this season. And Maddox is still in the concussion protocol from a friendly fire hit from Andrew Sendejo in the Green Bay game on Sept. 26. That injury is what led to the Eagles’ signing Scandrick in the first place. So the fact that they were willing to release Scandrick before Maddox is back is strange. 

Last year’s nickel cornerback, Cre’Von LeBlanc (foot), could be nearing a return from IR, but he still won’t be eligible to return until Week 9 against Chicago. That doesn’t help this week against Buffalo. 

The highlight of Scandrick’s short stint in Philadelphia was his performance against the Jets and Luke Falk back on Oct. 6. In his first game off his couch, Scandrick had two sacks, two forced fumbles and returned one of them 44 yards for a touchdown. Now, it seems like he’ll be a mere footnote from this season. 

The timing of the Spence move is interesting too. Hassan Ridgeway suffered what sounds like a serious ankle injury against the Cowboys and the Eagles are really light at defensive tackle, especially because Tim Jernigan (foot) is still out. Without Spence, they’re down to Fletcher Cox and Rush, whom the Eagles just signed on Monday.  

You can add Scandrick and Spence to the long list of veteran acquisitions who didn’t work out for Howie Roseman in the last couple of years. The Band-Aids aren’t working. 

 

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Howard Eskin outing Alshon Jeffery led to bizarre press conference moment with Doug Pederson

Howard Eskin outing Alshon Jeffery led to bizarre press conference moment with Doug Pederson

Signs of dysfunction in the Philadelphia Eagles locker room began to show late last week when ESPN’s Josina Anderson quoted an anonymous Eagles player criticizing Carson Wentz and the Birds' offense.

Head coach Doug Pederson wasn’t thrilled about it when asked prior to the Dallas Cowboys game, then the team went out and played a total dud. 

A new page in the drama was written this morning when WIP’s Howard Eskin reported on the air that he knew the identity of the anonymous player — Alshon Jeffrey.

Not only did Eskin name Alshon, he also called him “foolish and stupid.” Eskin also criticized Anderson, “She’ll bait a guy and then the guy gets trapped into saying things and he says them.”

Here’s the full quote as transcribed by Crossing Broad:

Eskin: Yeah why not. Alshon Jeffery.

Cataldi: It is?

Eskin: Yes. The thing is, here’s why he’s foolish and stupid – He knows that she’s not out to have his back. The problem is, as a reporter, I’ve seen her do this. She’ll bait a guy and then the guy gets trapped into saying things and he says them. It’s just foolish and stupid. We all understand it’s not productive. But what benefit was there to say that? And the reality is, why would he worry about a defensive player (Jalen Ramsey) not being traded for? And when he talks about checking down, sometimes the back you check down to is blocked. Or he’s blocking and then can’t get off the block. That’s one of your checkdowns. So the whole thing was just stupid. But it’s not being productive for somebody like that.

This is interesting in part because Alshon denied being the source last week, Josina defended her source from Eskin — “He has zero knowledge of who I spoke to. #Zero” —  and also because Eskin appears on the Eagles radio broadcasts on game days, travels on the team plane, and even received his own Super Bowl ring. So the Inquirer’s Eagles beat writer Jeff McLane took all of that info to Pederson’s press conference on Monday, which led to a fascinating exchange.

“There was a report that Alshon Jeffrey was the anonymous player who was giving quotes to ESPN," McLane began. "Is that true? And also, the person who reported it doesn’t technically work for the Eagles but he’s on the sideline with the Eagles, he flies [on the Eagles plane], he wears a Super Bowl ring given to him by the Eagles. Are we to assume just because he reported it, that the Eagles want it out there?”

Pederson appeared somewhat dumbfounded but didn’t “want to go there.”

“That has nothing to do with the Buffalo Bills or the Dallas Cowboys," Pederson said.

So pretty much a non-answer. But the interesting exchanges didn’t stop there.

Once the press conference ended, Eskin had some choice words for McLane who reportedly took the high road and avoided a confrontation, according to people in the room.

So maybe Alshon was the anonymous player, maybe not. It'll be curious to see how Alshon responds to the latest reports here. He had some unusually high praise for Carson Wentz in the locker room following the game last night.

"I still believe in each and every one of the guys in here," Jeffery said. "Carson is our guy. Everybody on our team, we’re together. On offense, Carson, O-line, me, Nelson, receivers, the skill group, we all have to be held accountable. I mean, that was unacceptable. That was embarrassing today.”

All we know for sure is there is plenty of drama surrounding the Eagles these days. That never bodes well.

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