Eagles

Eagles' aging roster shaped Roseman's offseason approach

Eagles' aging roster shaped Roseman's offseason approach

The Eagles are old.

With an average age of 26.7 according to Spotrac, they’re the third-oldest team in the NFL based on 53-man rosters as of Monday morning.

Now, this isn’t a problem right now. In fact, the two older teams — the Patriots and Falcons — have deep playoff aspirations, just like the Eagles.

But when you look at the Eagles’ roster, you can’t help notice that their best players are well along in their careers.

Jason Peters is 37, Darren Sproles 36, DeSean Jackson 32, Jason Kelce, Malcolm Jenkins and Brandon Graham 31, Brandon Brooks 30, Lane Johnson, Alshon Jeffery, Rodney McLeod, Malik Jackson and Nigel Bradham 29, Zach Ertz and Fletcher Cox 28.

Now, nobody is thinking about retiring at 28 or 29 … well, almost nobody … but the reality is that as stocked as the Eagles roster is for 2019 and 2020, when you start looking a few years into the future — which is a big part of Howie Roseman’s job — you don’t see the proven young stars that so many other teams have.

And it’s clear now how much that reality shaped the Eagles’ offseason.

On the wall of Howie Roseman’s office there are projected depth charts for this year but also for the next few years.

And the absence of elite young talent, even while the Eagles have been winning a lot of games, has been looming.

• League-wide, there were 39 Pro Bowlers last year who were 25 or younger. None were Eagles.

• Over the last three years — since Roseman returned to power — there have been 81 Pro Bowlers 25 or younger and only one — Carson Wentz — from the Eagles.

• Wentz is the only Pro Bowler the Eagles have selected since the 2013 Lane Johnson/Zach Ertz draft, and as talented as he is, he obviously still has a ton to prove.

For the sake of comparison, the Cowboys over the last three years have had six players 25 and younger make a Pro Bowl, the Rams and Chiefs have had five, the Saints and even the Giants have had four.

Which brings us to this offseason and even final cuts this weekend.

Roseman is the best in the business and he knows that building a roster isn’t just about bringing in the 53 most talented players, it’s also about setting the team up for the future.

Even with just five draft picks, he seems to have infused the offense with potential high-level young talent in Andre Dillard, Miles Sanders and JJ Arcega-Whiteside. Jordan Howard, who came in a trade, is a former Pro Bowler who’s only 24.

But here’s where this is really interesting.

It seems like a lot of the Eagles’ weekend decisions were geared toward getting younger.

Keeping Nate Herbig instead of Stefen Wisniewski. Keeping six defensive ends because they didn’t want to part with Daeshon Hall, Josh Sweat or Shareef Miller, all young talents. Keeping undrafted rookie T.J. Edwards instead of one of the veteran linebackers in camp. Snagging 24-year-old special teams demon Rudy Ford off the waiver wire. Keeping young linemen like Matt Pryor and Jordan Mailata even though they’ve never played an NFL snap.

Roseman was asked about this Saturday, and his answer was revealing.

“We have to understand that we have to develop players,” he said. “We have to bet on our young players. We have to bet on our scouting. We have to bet on our coaching.”

In other words, it’s not enough to just gather up the 53 best players you can find. You have to do it with a constant eye on the future.

The Eagles do have some truly promising young players.

Heck, Dallas Goedert and Corey Clement are 24. Derek Barnett, Avonte Maddox, Dillard Sidney Jones are 23. Sanders and Arcega-Whiteside are only 22.

But as promising as all those guys are, as much as they all look like big pieces of the future, none has ever even been a full-time starter.

Who’s the next Fletcher? Who’s the next Malcolm? The next Nigel Bradham? The next Alshon or DeSean? The next Kelce or Peters?

Who are the stars of the future? 

Roseman’s offseason was all about not only building a team that can contend for a Super Bowl right now but to do it with an eye on the future.

Was he successful? We’ll know in about three years.

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Similarity Travis Kelce sees between Eagles' Super Bowl LII team and Chiefs' Super Bowl LIV team

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USA Today Images

Similarity Travis Kelce sees between Eagles' Super Bowl LII team and Chiefs' Super Bowl LIV team

Travis Kelce is about to play in his first Super Bowl but it’s not the first time he’s been around the biggest game in the sport. 

The Chiefs' tight end, and brother of Jason, was around the Eagles’ run to Super Bowl at the tail end of the 2017 season so he has an idea about what the week is like and what it takes to win it all. 

And Kelce, speaking to reporters in Miami, said he sees one big similarity between the Eagles in Super Bowl LII and his Chiefs that will play in Super Bowl LIV: 

I was out there in Minnesota. It was a very unique situation because I got to see it almost second hand and really kind of in the background of the Eagles, asking my brother everything that was going on that week. 

“It was unique how tight of a team they were, how their chemistry ... they just felt like a brotherhood, even from the outside. You could just tell how tight-knit that group was. With that being said, I think this team has the exact same feeling going into it. How much we appreciate each other and have fun on the field with each other and make sure we’re doing the right things so we’re accountable for each other.

There was definitely something special about that Eagles team that played in Super Bowl LII. It’s probably a bit much to call it a team of destiny, but that team had a special feel to it. And a big part of it is because of how close they were. 

In some sense, it shouldn’t be too surprising to see an Andy Reid-led team have a similar feel. The atmosphere around the 2017 Eagles was created in part by Doug Pederson and his coaching staff. Pederson wanted his guys to have fun, he wanted them to be themselves. And, of course, Pederson is a protégé of Reid. Both men are known as players coaches. 

As of early this week, Travis Kelce said he hadn’t yet asked his older brother about tips for Super Bowl week or playing in the big game. Jason was at the Pro Bowl with his family and baby daughter, so Travis wanted to give him a chance to enjoy himself. 

But Travis said he does plan on chatting with Jason soon. He wants to ask for tips about some things he might not know about playing in the big game, anything that will give him an advantage on Sunday evening. 

For now, how tight-knit the Chiefs are certainly won’t hurt. 

“Everyone is just enjoying their time, being themselves,” Kelce said. “I love this team more than any other team I’ve ever been on, man, because it’s that much more fun.”

Sound familiar? 

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Super Bowl LIV vs. XXXIX: Comparing Andy Reid’s 2 title game teams 15 years apart

Super Bowl LIV vs. XXXIX: Comparing Andy Reid’s 2 title game teams 15 years apart

Andy Reid is heading back to the Super Bowl after 15 years, but does he have a better shot to win this time? 

We all remember Super Bowl XXXIX and the way the Eagles lost to the Patriots. 

That Eagles team was 13-3 (they were 13-1 before they decided to rest starters and cruise into the playoffs) and finished in first place in the NFC East. This year’s Chiefs team, led by Reid, was 12-4 and finished in first place in the AFC West. 

Like these Chiefs, those Eagles took down their first two playoff opponents with relative ease. In 2005, the Eagles’ won their two playoff games before the Super Bowl by an average of 15 points per game; these Chiefs won their first two by an average of 15.5. 

This is just a fun exercise, but let’s go position-by-position to figure out which of Big Red’s Super Bowl teams is better. 

Quarterback

Eagles: Donovan McNabb

Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes 

No, McNabb clearly didn’t have his best performance in Super Bowl XXXIX but he was no slouch coming into that game. Remember, that 2004 season was the fifth straight Pro Bowl season for him and 2004 was his best season. He set an Eagles record with 3,875 yards and had 31 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He finally got a big-time receiver — sure, we know that didn’t end well — and had the best season of his career. 

But Mahomes is just better. He didn’t have the numbers this year that he did last year but he’s arguably the best player in the league. In the last two seasons, he’s thrown 76 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. In these playoffs, he has eight touchdowns and zero picks. 

Edge: Chiefs 

Offensive line

Eagles: Tra Thomas, Artis Hicks, Hank Fraley, Jermane Mayberry, Jon Runyan 

Chiefs: Eric Fisher, Stefen Wisniewski, Austin Reiter, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Mitchell Schwartz 

Schwartz is one of the best right tackles in the league and overall the Chiefs have a really good unit, even with Wiz filling in at left tackle. They deserve a ton of credit for their success. But the Eagles back then had their bookends in Thomas and Runyan, and Mayberry at right guard who won a Pro Bowl a couple years earlier. If Shawn Andrews was able to stay healthy that year, this would be a runaway. Still … 

Edge: Eagles 

Wide receiver

Eagles: Terrell Owens, Todd Pinkston, Greg Lewis, Freddie Mitchell 

Chiefs: Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson 

In that Super Bowl, the Eagles got one of the greatest receivers in the history of the NFL back in action and he was tremendous. After missing a month and a half with a broken leg, T.O. went for nine catches and 122 yards in that Super Bowl. And that season in 14 games, he caught 77 passes for 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns. Owens was great … but the rest of that group was average, even though Pinkston was better than you remember. 

And if you take a look at the speed the Chiefs have on offense, most of it is at receiver. These guys seem to make big play after big play. So the Eagles had the best individual receiver but they don’t have a better group. The Chiefs are four deep. 

Edge: Chiefs 

Running back 

Eagles: Brian Westbrook, Dorsey Levens, Josh Parry 

Chiefs: Damien Williams, LeSean McCoy, Darwin Thompson 

Williams is a pretty good player and he’s had two solid games in the playoffs. But Shady has played one snap in the playoffs and simply hasn’t been himself in a while. And remember, Westbrook in 2004 had his breakout season. He had over 1,500 yards from scrimmage. And in the two playoff games before the Super Bowl, Westbrook had 252 scrimmage yards and a touchdown. 

Edge: Eagles 

Tight end

Chiefs: Travis Kelce, Blake Bell 

Eagles: L.J. Smith

I always think about what a shame it was that Chad Lewis got hurt in the NFC Championship Game and couldn’t play in the Super Bowl that year. That left the Eagles with L.J. Smith, who had 377 receiving yards in 2004. Meanwhile, Kelce happens to be one of the best tight ends in the league and has been to five consecutive Pro Bowls while going over 1,000 yards in each of the last four years. This one is easy. 

Edge: Chiefs 

Defensive line

Eagles: Derrick Burgess, Corey Simon, Darwin Walker, Jevon Kearse, Hollis Thomas, Hugh Douglas, Sam Rayburn, Jerome McDougle 

Chiefs: Frank Clark, Chris Jones, Tanoh Kpassagnon, Terrell Suggs, Derrick Nnadi, Mike Pennel, Xavier Williams, Khalen Saunders 

This one was really tough to figure out and the numbers tell me the Eagles have it. They had the NFL’s 16th-best rushing defense, while the Chiefs had the NFL’s 26th-best rushing defense. And The Eagles had 47 sacks in 2004, while the Chiefs had 45 in 2019. But Kearse and Douglas weren’t the same guys they once were. Burgess hadn’t yet gone to Oakland to have his breakout seasons. Simon was solid and the Eagles had a good rotation. 

But the Chiefs have a couple of elite players in Clark and Jones. So, to me, they have the best edge player and the best interior lineman of this group. And Kpassagnon puts the group over the top after his two-sack performance in the AFC Championship Game. This one was admittedly really close and I went back and forth a few times. 

Edge: Chiefs 

Linebacker

Eagles: Jeremiah Trotter, Mark Simoneau, Keith Adams, Mark Simoneau, Dhani Jones, Ike Reese 

Chiefs: Damien Wilson, Anthony Hitchens, Reggie Ragland 

This one was really hard to judge because these are basically different positions that we’re comparing 15 years apart. The Chiefs’ linebackers wouldn’t have been very good in 2004 and the Eagles’ linebackers wouldn’t have been very good in 2019. Responsibilities of linebackers have changed so much. 

Above we looked at the Eagles’ run defense and a huge reason for their success was Trotter, who was an elite player back in 2004 once he took his starting job back. He’s the best player of the bunch and even with Adams and company with him, I’m leaning that way. 

Edge: Eagles 

Cornerback

Eagles: Lito Sheppard, Sheldon Brown, Rod Hood 

Chiefs: Charvarius Ward, Bashaud Breeland, Kendall Fuller 

Nothing wrong with Ward or Breeland, who’ve both been playing pretty well. But Lito and Sheldon were just better. Remember, Sheppard had an All-Pro season in 2004 with five interceptions and two returned for a touchdown. And Brown also had a very good season; he had 2 INTs, 16 PBUs and 3 sacks. 

Edge: Eagles 

Safety

Eagles: Brian Dawkins, Michael Lewis 

Chiefs: Tyrann Mathieu, Daniel Sorensen 

If Juan Thornhill was healthy this would be a little closer but the promising rookie has missed the playoffs with a torn ACL. And Mathieu is an undeniably great player. But Dawk is a Hall of Famer and he was right in the middle of his prime for the Super Bowl run. And Lewis that season made his only Pro Bowl. This one was pretty easy. 

Edge: Eagles 

Special teams 

Eagles: David Akers, Dirk Johnson, Rod Hood, J.R. Reed, Brian Westbrook 

Chiefs: Harrison Butker, Dustin Colquitt, Mecole Hardman 

In 2004, Akers was a Pro Bowler, making 27 of 32 field goals. But Butker has been very good in 2019, making 34 of 38 and was 3 for 6 on field goals of 50-plus. Ultimately, having Hardman’s ability to break one is a bit of an X-factor. His 58-yard return against the Texans really helped turn that game around. 

Edge: Chiefs 

Takeaways: This was really close. With the way the way I broke the categories down, it came out 5-5. But that’s not to say I couldn’t have had the secondary as one position and the DL as two. But the point of all this is that these are two different but very good teams. I think many people have forgotten just how good that 2004 Eagles team was. They were 13-1 before they rested starters in the last two games of the regular season. 

Ultimately, I’m giving the slight edge to the 2019 Chiefs for two reasons. First, I’ll ride with Mahomes. Not taking away anything from McNabb back in ’04 because he was really good that season, but Mahomes is just special. And I’ll always give a nod to the team with the better quarterback. And the other reason is Reid himself. I think he’s simply a better coach than he was 15 years ago with the Eagles. He’s learned a lot and maybe he’s still not the best game-day manager but he has been very innovative with his offense in KC and there’s a good chance he finally gets it done this year. 

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