Eagles

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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Are the 2019 Eagles better or worse at linebacker?

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Are the 2019 Eagles better or worse at linebacker?

The Eagles let a promising-yet-oft-injured potential star walk in the offseason, though the team was not idle, adding two quality players to mix. Will the linebackers be better off as a result in 2019?

Key additions: L.J. Fort (free agent, Steelers), Zach Brown (free agent, Redskins) 

Key departures: Jordan Hicks (free agent, Cardinals)

Why they could be better: Depth

Last summer, the battle for the Eagles’ third linebacker job was between Kamu Grugier-Hill and Nate Gerry, neither of whom played much up to that point, and Corey Nelson, who didn’t even make the team. Grugier-Hill and Gerry are still in the mix here, though the competition for spots two through seven behind Nigel Bradham will be much stiffer.

Jordan Hicks’ departure does create another hole in the starting lineup, one likely to be filled by either L.J. Fort, Zach Brown or Grugier-Hill. But that trio all bring experience to the table — Brown has been to a Pro Bowl — plus Paul Worrilow returns from a torn ACL, offering another veteran presence. Gerry got some opportunities last year, and even he’ll be pushed by CFL star Alex Singleton and undrafted rookie/ All-American T.J. Edwards. How much deeper is this group? In 2018, the guys behind LB4 Gerry were all exclusively special teamers.

Why they could be worse: Down a playmaker

How much will the Eagles miss Hicks? Hard to say. They won a Super Bowl without him in 2017, and after missing more time last season, he eventually returned to find Bradham had taken over as the defense’s No. 1 linebacker. Can’t blame the club for its unwillingness to match $36 million over four years for somebody who’s injured so frequently.

That being said, there’s no denying Hicks seemingly has a nose for the football. He played only 43 games over four seasons, yet managed to amass 19 pass breakups, 7 interceptions, 5.0 sacks, 1 forced fumble, six fumble recoveries and 12 tackles for loss. Only a small handful of players even come close to matching that big play production during the same span – none with at least as many of each, and all in at least 10 more games. When he’s on the field, Hicks is a difference-maker, an ability as difficult to replace as it can be to quantify.

The X-factor: Who takes Hicks’ spot?

It was kind of surprising Brown was still on the street in May. Sure, he turns 30 this year, coming off a season in which he lost his starting job in Washington and is nowhere near the impact player he was earlier in his career. He still posted over 200 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 22 tackles for loss over the last two years.

Brown may be best suited for LB3 snaps in the Eagles’ defense. There’s not a lot of blitzing, minimizing one of his best attributes of rushing the passer, and as he’s aged, his coverage ability has seemingly diminished. Yet, he’s still stout against the run, and who else is it going to be? This could wind up becoming more of a platoon role, with Brown seeing first- and second-down snaps, then either Fort or Grugier-Hill in the nickel. There’s potential in such an arrangement. The question is whether opponents will be able to attack the shortcomings of Hicks’ part-time replacements.

Are the Eagles’ linebackers better or worse?

There’s a chance the Eagles let a special one go in Hicks, but the bottom line is he’s seldom available anyway — an issue that issue dates back to college, by the way. On paper, you probably take Hicks over the field, including Bradham. However, in reality, having a bunch of competent, experienced players who will actually be in uniform might be the safer route at this point. BETTER

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The real reason this Kansas City radio host's attack on Andy Reid was out of line

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The real reason this Kansas City radio host's attack on Andy Reid was out of line

I get why people are so outraged by the comments made Monday by a Kansas City radio host who linked Tyreek Hill’s off-the-field issues with the death seven years ago of Andy Reid’s son Garrett.

The guy tried to make a case that Big Red’s inability to be a strict disciplinarian as both a parent and a coach was responsible for both. 

“It did not work out particularly well in his family life,“ is what Kevin Kietzman of Sports Radio 810 WHB said. “He’s had a lot of things go bad on him, family and players. He is not good at fixing people. He is not good at discipline.”

Of course, these sort of remarks are irresponsible, hurtful and off-base. But you consider the source and they're probably not all that surprising.

And let's be honest. We all understand you don’t record the eighth-most wins of any NFL head coach in history and the seventh-most playoff wins without being able to discipline players when it’s necessary. We’ve all seen coaches who truly are bad at this stuff, and they don’t have three losing seasons in 20 years. They don’t last three years.

So yeah, this isn’t about that. Andy doesn’t need to be defended. Not about this.

And outrage distracts us from the real point. The real shame of Kietzman’s comments is that he connects a lack of discipline with heroin addiction.

Garrett Reid, Andy’s oldest son, died during training camp in Bethlehem seven years ago from a heroin overdose after a long battle with addiction, and the notion that his death somehow was the result of his father not disciplining him enough shows such a lack of understanding of addiction and substance abuse.

Addiction is a mental health disorder. It’s a disease.

It’s not a weakness. It’s not a character flaw. It’s not a lack of discipline.

Treatment can help, but it’s a long and difficult process. The changes substance abuse cause in a person’s brain, the addictive traits of heroin and other opioids, make recovery difficult and in some cases impossible.

Garrett was a good kid, a smart kid, and he and his family battled his addiction for years.

Here’s part of Andy’s statement the evening Garrett died:

“We understood that Garrett's long-standing battle with addiction was going to be difficult. He will, however, always have our family's love and respect for the courage he showed in trying to overcome it.”

This guy doesn’t know Andy and the battle he and his family fought to try and help Garrett through that battle.

Addiction and substance abuse have become such an epidemic in our communities. Big city. Small town. Everywhere. All of us know someone who’s lost a family member. All of us have either directly or indirectly felt that pain.

What Kietzman said is wrong in so many ways, but worst of all is how he trivializes addiction by implying that a little parental discipline would have saved Garrett Reid’s life.

This was a horrible thing to say for a lot of reasons, and it’s been nice to see so many of Andy’s former players rallying behind him on social media.

No parents should have to go through what Andy and his family went through seven summers ago at Lehigh. No parents should have to go through this either.

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