Eagles

Eagles Mailbag: Playing time for JJ Arcega-Whiteside, man out at CB

Eagles Mailbag: Playing time for JJ Arcega-Whiteside, man out at CB

The Eagles won’t hold their first OTAs until May 21 and we’re still over four months from the season opener, but we’re getting closer. 

This weekend, the Eagles’ rookies will be at the NovaCare Complex for the start of their three-day rookie minicamp. 

We’ll start the mailbag with a question about one of those rookies: 

This is an interesting question because if everything goes well, Arcega-Whiteside might not play much as a rookie. So for this answer, we’ll assume a healthy group of receivers and tight ends on the roster. It’s pretty hard to find playing time on offense for the rookie, but he could become an immediate contributor on special teams. 

With a much different roster in 2018, the most the Eagles’ fourth receiver (in terms of snaps) played in any game last year was 29 and that was former Pro Bowler Golden Tate. In most games, the fourth receiver played fewer than 10 snaps and that was with a less-talented top three. And this year, the Eagles want to incorporate even more two-tight end sets. That means less playing time for Nelson Agholor, so it’ll be even harder for JJAW to get on the field. 

Really, if Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Agholor stay healthy, there won’t be much playing time for Arcega-Whiteside. But he should be ready. Because Alshon has had some serious injuries in the last couple years and DeSean has played just two full seasons in 11 NFL years. Arcega-Whiteside will be the next guy up. 

I got a couple questions about the cornerback group, so I’ll just address the position here. I count seven corners on the roster, not including any rookies: Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, Sidney Jones, Avonte Maddox, Cre’Von LeBlanc and Josh Hawkins. 

I think there’s a real chance those top six make the roster. The Eagles are six deep at the position, which is why it was always hard to see them using a draft pick on a CB. 

If any of them move to safety, it would probably be Maddox, who played well there in 2018. As well as he played at safety in a pinch, he still played better at corner and is a more natural fit at corner, especially inside. But they love his versatility and his body size at safety is reminiscent of Bob Sanders. 

If one of these guys were to get traded, I could see it being Douglas. He still has two more seasons left on his rookie contract and has significant starting experience in his first two years in the league. It seems that I like Douglas a lot more than this coaching staff. At every turn, when called upon, Douglas has played well. I think he’s earned the right to compete for a starting job, but he also has the most value on the trade block right now. Because Darby and Mills are coming off injuries, I expect Douglas to be a starter at spring practices. 

Treyvon Hester, the belated hero of the double-doink, is still on the roster. The Eagles’ top three DTs seem set: Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, Tim Jernigan. After that, they have Hester, Hassan Ridgeway and Bruce Hector. If the Eagles keep five, Hester will likely stick around. If they keep four, he’ll have to compete with Ridgeway for that final spot. Ridgeway is still just 24 and has played in 34 career games in three seasons, but Hester has played in 26 during his first two seasons. This could actually be a fun training camp battle. Ridgeway came in a trade, but that shouldn’t give him an automatic roster spot. After all, if the Eagles used that seventh-round pick, there wouldn’t be any guarantee that player was going to make the roster. This should be an open competition. 

We’ll know about all the rookies later this week, but for now, Andre Dillard is 77 and Miles Sanders is 26. 

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Will Fletcher Cox be a Hall of Famer?

Will Fletcher Cox be a Hall of Famer?

This is our first in a series of stories looking at the Hall of Fame chances of current or recent Eagles who are still active in the NFL.

Today: Fletcher Cox
Saturday, July 20: Zach Ertz
Sunday, July 21: DeSean Jackson
Monday, July 22: Jason Kelce
Tuesday, July 23: LeSean McCoy
Wednesday, July 24: Jason Peters
Thursday, July 25: Darren Sproles

Numbers: Has 44 ½ sacks in 109 career games, ninth-most among active NFL defensive tackles.

Postseason numbers: Cox had one sack during the 2017 Super Bowl run but had six quarterback hits in the three playoff games.

Honors: Cox has made the Pro Bowl in each of the last four years and this past season was a first-team all-pro for the first time.

Favorite stat: Cox is only the ninth Eagle in franchise history to make four Pro Bowls before his 29th birthday and the first defensive lineman to do it since Reggie White.

Records and rankings

• Cox is sixth in franchise history in sacks. This past season he passed Andy Harmon (39 ½) for the most sacks in Eagles history by an interior lineman.

• Cox’s 10 ½ sacks last year are third-most in Eagles history by a defensive lineman, behind only Harmon in both 1993 (11 ½) and 1995 (11.0).

• This past season he became only the second player the Eagles have drafted since 1992 with double-digit sacks in a season. The other is Trent Cole.

Cox is one of only four defensive linemen to make the Pro Bowl in each of the last four seasons. The others are defensive tackles Geno Atkins of the Bengals, Jurrell Casey of the Titans and Aaron Donald of the Rams.

• Only seven Eagles in history have longer streaks of Pro Bowls than Cox: White (7), Pete Pihos (6) and Chuck Bednarik, Donovan McNabb, Tommy McDonald, Mike Quick and Troy Vincent (5 each). White is the only defensive lineman in Eagles history who was picked to more Pro Bowls.

Analysis 

Cox is at the same point now that Jason Peters was in his prime. He’s so dominating that he’s going to make the Pro Bowl every year that he’s healthy.

Cox is in his prime right now and let’s conservatively give him three more Pro Bowls. That would give him seven in his career, and taking a look at the 15 tackles in NFL history who made seven Pro Bowls, 13 of the 14 who are eligible have already been enshrined in Canton.

He’s already won a Super Bowl, made four Pro Bowls, been an all-pro and piled up 44 ½ sacks, and he’s only 28 and still getting better. And the Hall of Fame voters probably won’t consider it, but Cox is a beast against the run, as good a run stopper as we’ve seen in an Eagles uniform.

The biggest thing working against Cox is Aaron Donald, who is the best tackle in the game. Donald already has 59 ½ sacks in just five years, including 20 ½ last year. If the voters look back 10 years from now they may conclude that Donald was the elite defensive tackle of this generation and hold that against Cox.
 
But Cox is on his way to becoming an all-timer in his own right, and if he keeps stringing together Pro Bowl seasons and adds a couple more all-pro first-team honors it’s going to be impossible to keep him out of Canton.

Verdict: Will be a Hall of Famer.

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Is the 2019 Eagles roster the best we’ve seen under Doug Pederson?

Is the 2019 Eagles roster the best we’ve seen under Doug Pederson?

Over the last two years, the Eagles have been one of the top teams in the NFL, winning Super Bowl LII and then getting into the second round of the playoffs last year. They have 26 wins in the last two seasons, behind just the Patriots with 29. 

And the Eagles fully expect to compete for a championship this season. Based on the roster Howie Roseman put together, this team should be in the mix to win Super Bowl LIV in Miami. 

So before the team broke for summer, Doug Pederson was asked a pretty simple question: Is this the best roster the Eagles have had since he became head coach? 

From a talent-wise (standpoint), you know, yeah, I mean, I would say that it's pretty good. I would say that, you know, from a skill position on offense (standpoint), it's probably the best we've had going into my fourth season. 

“From a depth standpoint, as I mentioned earlier, I think it's equivalent to what we had going into the 2017 season. 

“But listen, all that can change in a heartbeat, as we know. This is a violent sport, violent game … and I'm not going to sit here and make predictions and put our team in a box that way, but we still have to go coach and play games, obviously. But on paper, it appears that way.

Pederson is right. On paper, you can certainly argue that this is the best roster he’s had. 

But he’s also right that injuries can change everything. That was the special thing about the 2017 season: despite injuries to many key players, the Eagles continued to roll. If Pederson is correct, that the depth on this roster equals the depth on the 2017 roster, that’s pretty damn important. 

Pederson also undersold how good his skill position players are this season by using the word “probably” before saying they’re the best he’s had. They are the most talented group he’s had. Period. And this collection of receivers should be the best in Eagles’ history. 

Let’s take a closer look at the top skill position players heading into all four seasons under Pederson: 

2016: Carson Wentz, Chase Daniel, Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Kenjon Barner, Wendell Smallwood, Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Josh Huff, Dorial Green-Beckham, Bryce Treggs, Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton 

2017: Wentz, Nick Foles, LeGarrette Blount, Sproles, Smallwood, Corey Clement, Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Agholor, Mack Hollins, Marcus Johnson, Shelton Gibson, Ertz, Celek, Burton 

2018: Wentz, Foles, Nate Sudfeld, Jay Ajayi, Sproles, Clement, Smallwood, Jeffery, Agholor, Wallace, Gibson, DeAndre Carter, Ertz, Goedert, Rodgers 

2019: Wentz, Sudfeld, Clayton Thorson, Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, Clement, Jeffery, Agholor, DeSean Jackson, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Ertz, Goedert, Rodgers 

I’d take the 2019 group without hesitation. 

It’s also important to note that those skill position players can only do their jobs if the offensive line in front of them is good and — more importantly for this team — healthy. The Eagles have some questions about health on their OL, but if that unit is solid, with these skill guys, this offense could be dynamic. 

Of course, talent alone doesn’t win. The Eagles know that. But talent is a pretty good place to start. And this roster is full of it.

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