As we get closer to training camp, I’m starting to get very excited. I hope you guys are getting geared up for a new season too.
This is the second installment of this week’s mailbag. We answered the first round of your questions here, including ones about John Hightower, DeVonta Smith and a couple worrisome positions.
Let’s get to the next round today:
In case you missed it, the Eagles are holding joint practices with the Patriots and Jets this summer. They’ll host the Patriots Aug. 16-17 and will travel to north Jersey to practice with the Jets Aug. 24-25.
As for the question, I totally get your point. It does seem noteworthy that the Eagles will play the Jets in December and I’m sure both teams will be mindful of that as they practice together that week. As these two teams prepare to play each other later in the year, they’ll certainly try to glean any information they can from these two joint practices. But I wouldn’t be too worried about that.
While it’s not necessarily ideal to practice and play a preseason game against a team you’re going to play during the regular season, there’s still a lot to be gained from these sessions. Sure, when these two teams go into 11-on-11 situations, they’re going to keep it very vanilla and not give away any secrets. But that work is still valuable, too, because they’re still going near full speed against a different opponent.
And so much of practice isn’t 11-on-11 drills. There are many ways these joint practices are competitive and worthwhile without having to divulge any play calling secrets. Heck, just think about the work the Eagles’ interior will get going against Quinnen Williams. Or the work Derek Barnett will get facing a giant like Mekhi Becton.
A side note on these joint practices: Many coaches actually prefer them to preseason games when it comes to evaluating their players. That’s not to say preseason games are meaningless, but in practices, coaches can control the situation. You want to see red zone work, put them in the red zone. You don’t have to wait for situations like in a game.
If nothing else, it also breaks up the monotony of training camp. Camps are long and exhausting, even in the modern NFL without two-a-days. So just the chance to break that up and pump some excitement into the long summer is worth it. And for a coach like Nick Sirianni who values competition over almost everything, getting to face guys in a different jersey was an obvious move.
It’s an interesting question and I guess a lot of it really hinges on what you consider elite to be. How many elite quarterbacks are there in the NFL? Five? Six? If I had to list the elite quarterbacks in the league right now, I’d go with Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson. (I’d like to see at least one more year from Josh Allen before I put him in that group.)
I’d rather have an elite quarterback even if it costs a ton. I think having a guy like Mahomes, Brady, Wilson or Rodgers — even at a higher price — ultimately gives you the best chance of winning a Super Bowl. It’s also important to remember that even above-average quarterbacks make really good money. Jared Goff? $33.5M per year. Kirk Cousins? $33M per year. Matt Ryan? $30M per year. I’d rather pay Wilson $35M, Watson $39M or even Mahomes $45M per season.
Last season, the final four quarterbacks left in the playoffs were Brady ($25M per season), Mahomes ($45M per season), Rodgers ($33.5M per season) and Allen ($5.3M). Obviously, Allen right now is the biggest bargain of the bunch. And trying to win a Super Bowl with a really good, young and cheap quarterback is a great option. It’s how the Seahawks won with Wilson and it was the template for the Eagles with Wentz in 2017. But if the options are the two you’re giving me, I’ll absolutely take a high-paid elite QB.
For some context, the Eagles signed Patrick Robinson before the 2017 season and during that training camp, he was awful, at least early on. He did get better as camp went on but it was bad at first. The big change for Robinson came when the Eagles acquired Ronald Darby in a trade. That forced Robinson out of one of the starter jobs and with Ron Brooks out with injury, the Eagles put Robinson at the nickel and he ended up being a huge reason the Eagles won the Super Bowl. He had been playing out of position and once he was at the nickel, he was all of a sudden a very good player.
So a few candidates for that kind of story — which is kind of rare — for this season:
Avonte Maddox: I could see a very similar situation to the one with Robinson. If the Eagles show up to training camp with their current roster, Maddox will be the Eagles’ CB2. I think he’s clearly out of position as an outside corner. We’ve seen him line up as an outside CB, nickel CB and a safety in the NFL. I’d firmly put outside CB as his worst position. But the Eagles haven’t adequately addressed the position, so they might be forced to play him there for now. But if Howie Roseman goes out and brings in a cornerback during camp, that would allow Maddox to slide inside, which would help him and the team out a ton.
Milton Williams: Part of what makes it hard to come up with names is that the player has to be secure enough to potentially struggle during training camp and still make the roster. So Williams comes to mind. He’s a third-round pick with great athleticism, but he’s coming from a smaller program and learning a new defense. So maybe there’s a chance his head will be swimming too much early to allow his raw athleticism to shine. But he’s also a third-round pick so he’s not in danger of losing his job. In this hypothetical situation, I could see the game finally slowing down for him during the season, which would allow him to use his very obvious athletic tools.
Jalen Hurts: The note about joint practices got me thinking about something. When the Eagles hosted the Ravens before the 2019 season, I came away from those sessions pretty unimpressed by Lamar Jackson. Then he went out and won the MVP that season. What I realized was that so much of Jackson’s game is running or creating with his legs and he wasn’t able to truly put that on display in a practice setting. I’m wondering if it will be the same for Hurts this year. The practice setting might not truly allow him to display his athletic gifts.
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