Eagles

Eagles have intriguing depth at WR beyond Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor

Eagles have intriguing depth at WR beyond Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor

The Eagles have three pretty darn good wide receivers in Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Nelson Agholor.

That’s probably the best three-deep depth chart the Eagles have ever had at receiver and no doubt one of the best in the NFL.

But they’ll keep at least five. Last year, they kept six — Jeffery, Agholor, Mike Wallace, Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson and DeAndre Carter. So there’ll be a tremendous amount of competition this summer, and it’s going to be fascinating to watch.

The Eagles will probably also draft a receiver, and that could come fairly early. With the draft a week and a half away, here’s a look at what the Eagles have beyond the Big Three.

2017 draft picks

Mack Hollins

Hollins, a fourth-round pick out of North Carolina, did some good things as a rookie, with 16 catches for 226 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown against the Redskins and some excellent work on special teams.

Hollins missed all of last year with a mysterious groin injury that wasn’t considered serious during the preseason, but he’s got great size at 6-4, 220, and got a lot of good experience as a rookie, so he’s probably most likely at this point to be the fourth wideout.

Shelton Gibson

A fifth-round pick out of West Virginia, Gibson has only three catches to show for two NFL seasons. It was kind of odd last year that he caught a 48-yarder against the Vikings, then got just 12 snaps on offense the rest of the year and was never targeted again.

Gibson also played less and less on special teams as last year went on, which isn’t a good sign. 

Futures contracts

Braxton Miller

A really intriguing prospect, and the Eagles seem to like the former Ohio State quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist who converted to wideout. Miller spent all last year on the practice squad, so the Eagles know how athletic he is. 

Miller caught 34 passes in two seasons with the Texans. He’s only 26, he’s played at the highest level in college, and he knows this offense now. Keep an eye on him in camp.

Carlton Agudosi

Agudosi, a former Rutgers receiver from Franklin Township High in Somerset County, New Jersey, split the 2017 season on the Cards’ active roster and practice squad but was out of football last year.

He didn’t play a lot in college, but at 6-6, 220, he’s got unusual size and that could get him a good look this summer.

Johnny Holton

Holton played at Cincinnati before bouncing on and off the Raiders’ active roster and practice squad as both a receiver and cornerback. 

Now 27, Holton has only 11 career catches but three of them have gone for 44 or more yards, all from Derek Carr in 2017. Interesting speed prospect.

Dorren Miller

Raw prospect who played at JUCO Georgia Military College and Division II Carson-Newman, Miller ran a 4.39 coming out of school, which opened a lot of eyes. 

He was in camp last year with the Jaguars and then spent all year on the practice squad. 

Marken Michel 

Michel was in camp with the Vikings in 2016 and then spent three seasons in the CFL with the Calgary Stampeders, catching 72 passes for 1,215 yards and eight touchdowns.

His brother is Patriots running back Sony Michel.

AAF refugees

Greg Ward Jr.

Ward remains an intriguing prospect. Former Houston quarterback who led the Cougars to a Peach Bowl win over No. 9 Florida State, he’s three years into his conversion as a wide receiver.

Ward, still only 23, got a Super Bowl ring with the Eagles in 2017 as a member of the practice squad but was released after camp last year and didn’t get a job until the AAF came along. He caught 22 passes for 214 yards playing for the San Antonio Commanders before the league was disolved earlier this month.

Charles Johnson

CJ2 was a seventh-round pick of the Packers in 2013 and is 30 years old, so kind of unusual for a camp body. 

He bounced around with the Packers, Browns, Vikings, Panthers and Jets, piling up 60 catches for 834 yards and two TDs in three seasons in Minnesota.

Johnson spent this past winter with the Orlando Apollos of the AAF, where he caught 45 passes for 687 yards. In a game against the Commanders, he had seven catches for 192 yards and a touchdown from Apollos QB Garrett Gilbert.

Keep an eye on Johnson. The Eagles gave him a $25,000 workout bonus, which is a sign that they really wanted him.

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Eagles mailbag: Derek Barnett's potential breakout, Carson Wentz's durability and contract concerns

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Eagles mailbag: Derek Barnett's potential breakout, Carson Wentz's durability and contract concerns

Part 1 touched on Sidney Jones, Josh Adams and my pick for Eagles Rookie of the Year.

Part 2 answered questions about Corey Clement, UDFAs and Big V’s future as a guard.

Here’s Part 3:

I guess this answer depends on your definition of “break out year.” Barnett’s 2018 season ended prematurely with a shoulder injury that hampered him before the Eagles shut him down. But early in the year, I thought he was the best defensive end on the team (by that point Michael Bennett hadn’t played well and Brandon Graham was getting over his ankle injury). In six games, Barnett had 2 1/2 sacks. But before the shoulder injury, he had 2 1/2 in four games before he missed Week 5 with the shoulder injury that eventually ended his season. So Barnett was on pace for 10 sacks before the injury. With plenty of opportunity this season, I think Barnett can be a double-digit sack guy. Sure. That’s a good bar to set. Before Fletcher Cox did it in 2018, the last Eagle to top 10 sacks was Connor Barwin in 2014.

One thing is for sure: this is a big year for Barnett. The Eagles traded away Bennett, Chris Long just announced his retirement (see story) and the Eagles passed on taking an edge rusher early in what was supposed to be a historically deep class. Barnett needs to not just be a starter, but be extremely productive in Year 3.

This is an interesting question and there really aren’t many contracts from this offseason that even qualify. So many of these contracts done by Howie Roseman are one-year deals. The long-term ones were: DeSean Jackson, Malik Jackson, Brandon Graham, Isaac Seumalo. Seumalo’s deal is cheap enough that I won’t count him.

If I had to pick the most likely, it would be DeSean Jackson’s deal. He’s 32 and his game is predicated on speed. So even though we haven’t seen it, there’s a chance that speed disappears and the Eagles are left with a speed receiver sans speed. That’s possible. For the record, I’d be willing to take that risk, as the Eagles did, because Jackson’s speed was exactly the element the Eagles needed. I was tempted to say Graham because the Eagles did kind of overpay him, but even if he can’t get after the QB, he can at least stuff the run. If Jackson loses his speed, what good is he?

Yeah, eventually they’ll return as an alternate in my lifetime, which would make me thrilled because I could finally stop reporting on a jersey color. (Just kidding, love you guys.) The hold-up here is that the NFL has this antiquated rule that won’t allow teams to have more than one helmet for each player. It’s an old safety rule. Jeff Lurie says he wants kelly green jerseys, but they don’t want them without matching helmets. Before you bring up the Rams, they use the same helmets with different decals. The Eagles say decals aren’t an option for them. It’s alternate helmets or bust. A couple of years ago, competition committee chairman Rich McKay told me he was optimistic this rule would eventually be changed. For now, we wait.

I’ll say 14 or 15. I really don’t know. I think he’ll be healthy at the start of the season but maybe he gets hurt during the year and misses a game or two. I can’t see the future.

It’s fair to say the Eagles are in win-now mode, but none of their contracts really tie their hands long-term. That’s the interesting thing about what the Eagles have done. They have some real flexibility with their roster. They are clearly playing to win a Super Bowl this year, but they’ll have the ability to keep signing free agents and should have plenty of draft picks coming up. That’s important because they’ll need cheap talent to surround Wentz when he’s making $30+ million per year soon enough.

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Eagles defensive end Chris Long announces retirement

Eagles defensive end Chris Long announces retirement

After a few months of contemplation, Eagles defensive end Chris Long has made his decision.

He’s calling it a career.

The 34-year-old announced his official retirement from the NFL on Saturday night and he did it, of course, on Twitter.

Not long after his official announcement, the Eagles congratulated Long, who became a fan favorite in Philly during the two years he played here.

Back in 2008, Long was the Rams’ No. 2 pick in the draft out of Virginia. He played his first eight years in St. Louis, before winning a Super Bowl in 2016 with the Patriots and then winning again in 2017 with the Eagles. He reached legend status in Philly during that Super Bowl run for helping create the dog mask phenomenon and for then rocking out during the parade down Broad Street.

And it was Long who pressured Case Keenum to throw that pick-6 to Patrick Robinson in the NFC Championship Game. In two seasons in Philly, he had 11 1/2 sacks and forced six fumbles.

In his 11 years in the NFL, Long piled up a clean 70 sacks to go along with 15 forced fumbles.

The Eagles will miss Long on the field and off it. Aside from being a highly productive player in his two seasons with the Eagles, Long was also a very highly respected member of the locker room. He was a favorite among teammates and his sense of humor — he created a Nick Foles shrine last year — was infectious at the NovaCare Complex. (The funniest part of the Foles shrine was watching Long’s mischievous smile as he watched a bunch of reporters gobble it up.)

Long had a long and productive football career, but, really, his legacy will be the work he’s done off it. That work is not finished.

Long was named the 2018 Walter Payton Man of the Year for his charitable efforts through the Chris Long Foundation. He clearly deserved the honor.

He’s given away his salary, raised millions for educational initiatives in cities across the country and, through his Waterboys initiative, has provided access to clean water for communities in East Africa for years.

While his teammates and coaches will be happy for Long, his departure does leave the Eagles a little light at defensive end. To his credit, Long told the Eagles to plan as if he wouldn’t be back. Long wasn’t interested in returning for a reduced role, which the Eagles told him he would have in 2019.

Without Long, the Eagles have Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry, Josh Sweat and Shareef Miller, Daeshon Hall and Joe Ostman as their defensive ends. Malik Jackson, signed this offseason, will play on third downs as a defensive tackle, taking stress off the ends, but the Eagles will still miss Long, who had been a third-down specialist during his time with the Eagles.

Last season, the Eagles entered the year with Long and Michael Bennett as their top rotational defensive ends. That was incredible depth they won’t have this season unless they make another move.

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