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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7 reasons to be pessimistic about the Eagles' chances

7 reasons to be pessimistic about the Eagles' chances

The ability to look at the glass half full is great. For Eagles fans, perhaps it’s also necessary to enjoy the remainder of this season, because while the team has a 5-4 record and there are reasons to be hopeful a playoff run is still in order, there are also quite a few issues you need to overlook. 

Hey, the term Negadelphia exists for a reason. 

In all honesty, I probably fall slightly more on the optimistic side myself, for many of the same reasons you can read here. However, as somebody who entered the season with high expectations for the Eagles, there are some serious flaws nine weeks into the season that I haven’t been able to ignore. 

In other words, while the Eagles could get hot, reach the postseason, maybe even make it all the way to the Super Bowl, there’s also strong evidence to support the contrary. 

UNREMARKABLE WINS: You can only beat the teams on the schedule, yet the simple fact of the matter is the Eagles have beaten one truly quality opponent this season: the Packers. Washington and the Jets are abysmal, while the Bills (don’t care what their record is, they stink) and Bears don’t have NFL offenses. Meanwhile, the Eagles lost to the pitiful Falcons and mediocre Lions, not to mention were blown out by the Vikings and Cowboys. 

Sure, the schedule eases up in a couple weeks, but what about their record so far has anybody convinced they wouldn’t drop a game to, say, Miami, or the Giants, much less come away with wins against the few respectable opponents remaining? 

THE NEXT TWO GAMES: Speaking of which, things could get worse before they get better. There’s a very real chance the Eagles will dip below .500 again with back-to-back games coming against the Patriots and Seahawks. It wouldn’t necessarily be the end of the world, but 5-6 doesn’t leave a lot of room for error, either. 

THE LINEBACKERS: To be fair, linebacker isn’t a terribly important position in today’s NFL. It’s sort of like having an elite running back — never a bad thing, but competence is good enough to win. 

Do the Eagles even have competent linebackers? OK, Nigel Bradham hasn’t been healthy, though he isn’t exactly a model of consistency anyway. Otherwise, Nathan Gerry has been the defense’s best linebacker this season, tackling issues be damned. For all the attention the poor cornerback play was getting earlier in the season, you better believe offenses have been taking advantage of the middle of the field, too.

JORDAN MATTHEWS: I like Jordan Matthews! I liked him during his first tenure with the Eagles, I liked him during his second tenure, and I suggested the club re-sign him a couple weeks ago, so I like him on this squad, too. But Jordan Matthews as the offense’s No. 1 receiver in 2019 is not ideal! And that’s exactly what he’s going to become if Alshon Jeffery misses time with an injury — maybe even if he doesn’t. 

All of this is really a way of saying that listing Matthews as one of the reasons to be optimistic about the Eagles is actually highlighting what a disaster the wide receiver position is, because while he can certainly help, you prefer the guy who was on the street in November isn’t instantly the best option.

THE COWBOYS: Again, it might be a stretch to look at Dallas and suggest it’s a reason to feel confident in the Eagles. Not to argue the Cowboys are some formidable opponent, either, but the harsh reality is they’ve owned the Eagles recently, to the tune of three straight wins, not mention kicked their tails a mere month ago. The Cowboys also have a few things the Eagles don’t — namely, receivers and linebackers — so you could argue they’re a more complete team. 

The one thing the Eagles have going for them here is Dallas plays a tougher schedule, but if they lose to the Cowboys again in December, it probably won’t matter. Right this moment, I don’t know how you can feel good about that matchup. 

DIVISION CHAMPS OR BUST: And here’s the kicker. The Eagles more than likely need to beat Dallas. A lot can happen between now and Week 17, though as the playoff race stands now, the Eagles are essentially three games out of a wild-card spot, considering the Vikings would own the head-to-head tiebreaker. Crazier things have happened, but at the very least, it’s not something anybody should count on happening. 

Which means the only path to the postseason would be to win the NFC East, which probably means a) beating Dallas, which they haven’t done, b) winning at least three additional games, which based on the results is far from guaranteed, and c) doing it with replacement-level talent at wide receiver and linebacker. 

WHO’S STEPPING UP? If the Eagles are to have any chance of overcoming this mess, it’s going to take some star-caliber performances. But who on this team is playing at a truly elite level? 

Right now, the Eagles can hang their hat on the running game, solid offensive line and run defense. The pass rush appears to be trending in the right direction (who knows based on the competition they faced), and Carson Wentz has been very good but probably short of great. Is that enough talent to win in the NFL? 

The Eagles need more from Zach Ertz, but he’s the focal point of defensive game plans because Jeffery and Nelson Agholor aren’t threats. They need Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod to stop blowing assignments, because Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby are going to get beat from time to time. They need Fletcher Cox to be dominant, because it makes the other 10 guys on defense that much better. 

The list goes on. The Eagles need a lot of guys to play a lot better, which unfortunately may be too much to ask.

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Week 11 NFL power rankings: A shakeup at the top of the NFC

Week 11 NFL power rankings: A shakeup at the top of the NFC

The Eagles (5-4) got to watch football last Sunday on their bye week, but they come back with seven games left and a good shot to make it to the playoffs. 

Let’s take a look at the latest NFC power rankings, which includes a shakeup at the top: 

1. Seahawks (8-2) Last week: 3
A new No. 1! In a really fun game on Monday night, the Seahawks handed the 49ers their first loss of the season. Seattle kicked a 42-yard field goal as time expired in overtime to pick up a 27-24 win over their divisional foe. That means the Seahawks have won both of their last two games in overtime. Their only losses this season are to the Saints and Ravens. 

2. 49ers (8-1) Last week: 1
I admire the 49ers’ aggressiveness, but they probably should have played for a tie late in that overtime. That would have kept more distance between them and the Seahawks in the NFC West. Anyway, they have just one loss and it came in overtime to a good team. After a game against the Cardinals, the Niners have three tough ones in a row, against the Packers, Ravens and Saints. 

3. Packers (8-2) Last week: 4
Even though the Packers let the Panthers stick around late, they got another win over a quality opponent, beating Carolina 24-16. They bounce back after that bad loss to the Chargers and have a bye week before traveling to San Francisco in Week 12. 

4. Saints (7-2) Last week: 2
Coming off the bye week, the Saints laid an egg against the Falcons, losing 26-9. That’s a bad loss. 

5. Vikings (7-3) Last week: 5
Nice 28-24 win over the Cowboys for the Vikings, but there’s no room for them to go up. I don’t think they’re better than any of the teams listed above them. Still, they’re just one game behind Green Bay in the NFC North and face the Broncos before their Week 12 bye. 

6. Cowboys (5-4) Last week: 7 
The Cowboys should have beaten the Vikings late in that game but a few questionable play calls killed them. Dallas is a talented team, but I question their coaching staff. 

7. Eagles (5-4) Last week: 8 
The Eagles rested on their bye week, but came out of it in a much better spot than they went in, largely because of the Cowboys’ loss. I couldn’t put them ahead of Dallas thanks to their head-to-head game a few weeks ago, but they have better playoff chances right now. 

8. Rams (5-4) Last week: 6
The Rams' offense looks broken, but at least Sean McVay remembers what he had for lunch 12 years ago. 

9. Panthers (5-4) Last week: 9
I won’t kill the Packers for losing to the Packers. They’re not on that level, but the Panthers were two yards away from possibly tying the game when a Christian McCaffrey run from the 2 fell short and time ran out on Carolina in a 24-16 loss. The Panthers had five plays inside the 10-yard line and couldn't score. 

10. Bears (4-5) Last week: 12
After losing four straight games, the Bears got a 20-13 win over the Lions, who were without Matthew Stafford. Remember, the Bears were 3-1 at one point earlier this season. 

11. Lions (3-5-1) Last week: 11
Without Matthew Stafford, the Lions lost to the reeling Bears, 20-13. It’s their second-straight loss and their fourth in five games since their early bye. So much for the Lions being contenders. 

12. Buccaneers (3-6) Last week: 13
After four-straight losses, the Bucs got a 30-27 win over the Cardinals last week to stop the bleeding. 

13. Cardinals (3-6-1) Last week: 10 
A three-point loss to the Bucs drops the Cards down three spots. 

14. Falcons (2-7) Last week: 15
Where did that come from? The Falcons went to New Orleans last week and beat the Saints, 26-9. Their two wins this season are over the Eagles (5-4) and the Saints (7-2). This is a weird league. 

15. Giants (2-8) Last week: 14
They lost to the Jets and now have to think about what they’ve done over the bye week. 

16. Redskins (1-8) Last week: 16 
Washington will face the Jets coming off their bye week for a rare chance to get a win. Good for them, deciding to go with Dwayne Haskins the rest of the way. 

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