Eagles

Eagles failed trying to duplicate Super Bowl blueprint

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Eagles failed trying to duplicate Super Bowl blueprint

When you look at the Eagles’ Super Bowl roster, it’s remarkable how much of an impact older veteran acquisitions made on that team.

They were Band-Aids, but they were really, really good Band-Aids who all wound up riding a float up Broad Street.

Most were only here briefly. Most were near the end of their careers. Most are out of the league already or playing minor roles with their new team.

But they contributed in a huge way to the Eagles’ first championship in 57 years.

During the three-week period from March 10 to April 4 of 2017, the Eagles acquired Nick Foles, Stefen Wisniewski, Chris Long, Torrey Smith, Patrick Robinson and Tim Jernigan. LeGarrette Blount arrived in May, Corey Graham and Ronald Darby in August, Jay Ajayi in late October.

It’s no secret the Eagles’ drafting has been uneven since 2014. And uneven is putting it nicely.

But general manager Howie Roseman and the Eagles’ pro personnel department nailed those veteran acquisitions. The impact those guys made was enormous. 

Foles was Super Bowl MVP. Wiz started at left guard. Long was one of the team’s best pass rushers and locker room leaders. Robinson held down the slot and made one of the biggest plays of the postseason. Smith gave the offense a dimension of speed and was huge in the playoffs. Blount and Ajayi led the NFL’s No. 3 rushing offense. Graham and Darby were key parts of a top-10 secondary. Jernigan was a force in the middle.

Without those guys? There is no Super Bowl. There is no 41-33. There is no parade. 

The Eagles cut ties in some way, shape or form with every one of those guys, although they did bring back three of them — two of whom are still here.

Ajayi, Blount, Graham, Long and Smith are all out of football, although Ajayi hopes to play again.

Robinson is back with the Saints but is barely playing. Foles is hurt in Jacksonville. The Eagles brought Jernigan and Darby back this offseason, but both have been hurt and neither has been productive since 2017. Wisniewski came back for a bit but was released and is now with the Chiefs.

But the poor drafting has continued. The Eagles have drafted one Pro Bowler since the Lane Johnson / Zach Ertz draft in 2013, and that’s Carson Wentz, who didn’t even play in the Super Bowl.

The Eagles this past offseason again tried to use the Super Bowl blueprint, stockpiling free agents to offset the lack of homegrown talent.

The results have been dramatically different.

Consider these names: Paul Worrilow, Malik Jackson, DeSean Jackson, Vinny Curry, Zach Brown, Blake Countess, Orlando Scandrick, Cody Kessler, Johnathan Cyprien, Charles Johnson, Andre Sendejo and L.J. Fort. Along with Wisniewski, Jernigan and Darby.

Brown, Countess, Kessler, Cyprien, Johnson, Fort, Worrilow and Wisniewski are gone. Scandrick was released, then brought back out of necessity. Malik Jackson, DeSean Jackson, Darby and Jernigan have all been hurt. Curry and Sendejo are here but haven’t exactly made a big impact.

Jordan Howard has been fine and Hassan Ridgeway is eating up a lot of snaps at defensive tackle with Jernigan and Malik Jackson out. 

You can’t totally blame the front office for injuries, but when you rely on a 32-year-old as your speed receiver and he gets hurt, or when you rely on oft-injured guys like Darby and Jernigan and they get hurt, it shouldn’t be a surprise.

Some of these failed moves didn’t cost the Eagles a penny. Most of them did.

But the bottom line is the Eagles’ pro scouting evaluations this year have been nowhere near what we saw two years ago, and it's reflected in their record.

Instead of forming the nucleus of a Super Bowl champion, this year’s crop so far has done very little on a 3-3 team struggling to find its way.

Let’s take a look at the Eagles’ Veteran Class of 2019.

Zach Brown: The Eagles paid Brown a guaranteed $1.4 million and made him a starting linebacker. He was released on Monday. The full $1.4 million counts against their cap.

Blake Countess: The Eagles claimed their former draft pick on waivers in May and released him in August. He counts $180,000 against their cap.

Vinny Curry: The Eagles’ one-time second-round pick returned after a year in Tampa. He counts $2.1875 million against this year’s cap.

Johnathan Cyprien: The Eagles signed Cyprien early in training camp and traded him to the Falcons a few weeks ago for Duke Riley. He counts $151,764 against the cap.

Ronald Darby: Darby was a free agent when the Eagles re-signed him to a one-year contract. He played two games before getting hurt again. He’s only played in 23 of a possible 43 games since coming here. He counts $2.825 million against the cap.

L.J. Fort.: The Eagles released Fort after the Packers game, and he signed with the Ravens, where he’s now starting for the NFL’s No. 6 defense. He counts $1.335 million against the cap.

DeSean Jackson: Jackson had a huge opener against the Redskins but got hurt a few snaps into the Week 2 game in Atlanta and hasn’t played since. The Eagles do expect him back soon, but he's been ruled out for Sunday. He counts $3.164 million against the cap.

Malik Jackson: Suffered a season-ending injury just 32 snaps into the season. He’s signed through 2021 but will be 30 in January coming off a season-ending foot injury. Cap figure is $2.8 million.

Tim Jernigan: Hasn’t played since the Atlanta game but is expected back at some point. Cap figure is $1.25 million, but he still also counts $6 million in dead money from when the Eagles declined his contract option in March.

Charles Johnson: CJ2 had caught 670 balls for 834 yards for the Vikings, but he ultimately made less of an impact than CJ1 and didn’t survive training camp. Minimal cap hit of $50,000 in dead money.

Cody Kessler: He was supposed to compete with Nate Sudfeld for the No. 2 QB job. Turns out he can’t throw a football. Counts $127,058 against the Eagles’ cap.

Orlando Scandrick: Eagles released the veteran cornerback as part of final cuts then re-signed him two weeks ago. He counts $787,647 against the cap. Because his initial deal didn’t have a bonus, he doesn’t have any dead money counting against the Eagles’ cap.

Andre Sendejo: The veteran safety is a favorite of the coaches, but he’s made more of an impact injuring his teammates than anywhere else. He has a $1.3 million cap hit.

Stefen Wisniewski: Wiz’s first go-around with the Eagles ended with a Super Bowl ring. His second ended with $958,334 in dead money.

Paul Worrilow: After missing all of last year, Worrilow rejoined the Eagles in January but was released in August with lingering knee issues. He did work out for the Eagles recently so he could be back. Because his 2019 contract didn’t have a signing bonus, he doesn’t count against the Eagles’ cap.

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John Clark is keeping busy with music, exercise and 'Curb'

John Clark is keeping busy with music, exercise and 'Curb'

During this time of self-quarantine, we’re checking in with those in the Philly sports world to see How They’re Keeping Busy. Next up, NBC Sports Philadelphia airport specialist, John Clark.

What are you doing to keep busy during these strange times without live sports?

I am making sure to get outside every day and get some sort of exercise like running, biking, and tennis -- keeping plenty of physical distancing. Thank goodness the weather has been pretty good here. Places like Chicago, it’s tough to get outside when it’s in the 20s and 30s.

How are you getting your sports fill?

I am getting my sports fill right now covering NFL free agency and the Eagles moves. And tracking down the new Eagles players and doing interviews with them over the zoom app. It’s really hard for me to watch old games, except for the Eagles Super Bowl win. Part of sports for me is not knowing what’s going to happen. The suspense of that is amazing. My parents tape Villanova games and other sports and watch them sometimes a day later. I just can’t do that! And I would have heard what happened before it’s too late.

Tip(s) for everyone stuck at home who may be stressed?

Listen to plenty of music, the artists and songs that make you feel good. I have also tried to reach out to one person a day that I haven’t talked to in a long time that I am friends with or used to be friends with and we’ve lost touch.

Specific content you’d recommend to others? Anything you’re binging/reading/listening to?

If you want to laugh, I would suggest Curb Your Enthusiasm. And I watch Impractical Jokers a lot and the immature silly humor makes me laugh every time. Netflix standup comedy specials can give you a good laugh too. I think it’s also cool to go back and watch some concerts you have been to on YouTube or listening to them on Sirius radio, it brings you back to such a great night. Music always makes me think of good memories.

Is there a local business or charity you’re supporting during these tough times?

I am going to pick up food a lot because I wanna support restaurants and businesses that need it right now. I have friends who are restaurant owners who have laid off a lot of their staff and been forced to close down. Times are so tough for these businesses and I feel we need to support them. And I’m trying to leave bigger tips when picking up food.

Previously:

How the lengthy delay could hurt or help Flyers, Sixers, Phillies, Eagles

How the lengthy delay could hurt or help Flyers, Sixers, Phillies, Eagles

There will be sports again. I am confident of that. When that will happen and what it will look like remains to be seen. Will we jump right to the playoffs in the NHL and NBA or will they attempt to play regular season games? How many games will MLB look to play and how far are they willing to extend the season into late fall or even winter?  

We don’t know what we don’t know. But that doesn’t mean authentic fans can’t prepare right now. And we’re here to help. Here’s a prepared excuse for each of the Philadelphia sports teams if they come up short when play resumes. We’ll also give you a denial that the break was beneficial if each team performs especially well. 
 
FLYERS 

Potential Excuse: No team was hotter than the Flyers before the NHL postponed its season. So, it goes to reason that no team was hurt more by hitting the pause button. In a traditional season, the Flyers would have steamrolled their opponents just like they were doing in January, February, and early March. But then you lose momentum and a young team has to deal with a completely unique situation. Another Cup taken from us. 
 
Argument If Things Go Well: The Flyers were already rolling before the break. It really speaks to the mindset instilled by Chuck Fletcher and Alain Vigneault that nothing could derail this juggernaut. Looks like a dynasty in the works. 
 
76ERS 

Potential Excuse: This Sixers team needs Joel Embiid going at 100 percent and it’s impossible for a man that size to be at top conditioning with that long of a break. It’s hard to think of a player in all of sports more negatively impacted by a months-long break than Embiid. It’s just not fair to the Sixers at all. 
 
Argument If Things Go Well: Everybody knew the Sixers didn’t care about the regular season this year. It was all about the playoffs. So it didn’t matter if it started in April or August, this team was going to bring it when it mattered. That’s why you sign a veteran like an Al Horford. For winning time. 
 
PHILLIES 

Potential Excuse: Starting pitching was always going to be the key. Aaron Nola was primed to win the Cy Young. Zach Wheeler was going to provide the best 1-2 punch in the National League. But a condensed schedule with a lack of training time diminished the Phillies’ greatest strength. MLB should have done a full spring training after the break and played 162 games, into the new year, if needed. 
 
Argument If Things Go Well: 2020 was always going to be better because of Joe Girardi. Gabe Kapler cost them like 20 games last season. Go back. Count them. But Girardi is a winner. He’s won everywhere he’s been. Plus, he’s Philly tough. Blue collar. 
 
EAGLES 

Potential Excuse: No team was banking on new faces and a new structure more than the Eagles. The offensive coaching staff was overhauled. They needed all of the prep time they could get. The draft wasn’t even legit this year because there weren't enough in-person meetings. Everyone knows the game tape lies. You have to get to know a guy to see how he fits, especially inPhiladelphia. It’s not even a real season if you don’t have a full mini-camp, in my opinion. 
 
Argument If It Goes Well: Football wasn’t even impacted that much. We won the division last year regardless. Then we turned the team over to Carson Wentz and made him the top leadership voice. Carson’s always been a great leader. Everybody knows that. We just had to make sure his voice and Doug’s voice were the only ones being heard. I don’t think it’s crazy to say Carson might win the next 3-5 MVPs.