Eagles

Eagles mailbag: Rookie of the year, Adams’ role, Sidney Jones

Eagles mailbag: Rookie of the year, Adams’ role, Sidney Jones

As we head into this weekend, we’re just a few days away from the start of Eagles’ OTAs in Phase 3 of the offseason program. 

Doug Pederson will have his press conference before practice on Tuesday and Carson Wentz is also scheduled to speak with reporters. 

You guys gave me so many questions that I broke this mailbag up into three parts. Part 1 is today and we’ll run the other two over the weekend. 

Let’s get to your questions: 

I’m going to play the odds here and say Miles Sanders. He’s one rookie I know will play a lot this season. Now, if Jason Peters suffers a significant injury at some point, I’d go all in on Andre Dillard. But since Peters is clearly the starting left tackle, I can’t pick Dillard … at least not now. 

Barring injury, sheer opportunity makes Sanders the easiest pick. But Sanders is going to be a damn good player. I think he’s going to play well enough this season that the Eagles don’t have to worry too much about letting Jordan Howard walk after this year. 

Since the Eagles drafted Mailata, I don’t think there’s been a time I’ve asked for questions and didn’t get one back about him. He’s an intriguing guy; I get it. And I understand why you’d look at him and think he could play on the defensive line. Still can’t see it happening. 

If the Eagles were to move Mailata now, they would have basically wasted a year of his development. Maybe if Mailata hadn’t shown incredible growth at offensive tackle, they’d think about it, but he has shown tremendous growth. Last preseason was shocking. He went from never playing football to looking like a serviceable player in a live game. It was never going to be a short-term project, so the Eagles just have to stick with him at offensive tackle. No one knows if he’s going to be a Hall of Famer or if he’ll ever play a meaningful snap. But there are plenty of reasons to be encouraged by his progress as an offensive lineman. 

Simply put: No. Adams was thrust into a lead role last year out of necessity and then was basically benched in the playoffs. And that’s not a knock on him; he should have never been in a lead role to begin with, but injuries forced the Eagles’ hand. Adams did play through an injury of his own so maybe he comes back healthy and sticks around as the fourth running back, but he doesn’t even have a roster spot locked up right now. He needs to have a good spring and summer just to make the team. Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders and even Corey Clement are firmly ahead of him. 

Got a couple questions on Sidney Jones, so I’m happy to address him here. I’ve been bullish on Jones since the Eagles drafted him and I still think he’s going to be a really good player in the NFL. Jones is about to turn 23, so the harsh criticism of him is pretty unfair. I get that he didn’t have a great season in 2018, but he was injured. Part of the impatience from Eagles fans comes from his redshirt season in 2017, but it’s unfair to hold that against him. We all knew the situation when the Eagles drafted him in the second round. They were playing the long game. You can hate the pick because there was too much risk involved, but to say Jones isn’t ever going to be good is unfair. Had he been a normal rookie last season, you’d look at it and say, “Oh well, he got hurt.” Instead, folks are holding his 2017 season against him. 

And it seems to have been forgotten, but Jones won the nickel corner job out of camp last year and was pretty good at the beginning of the season there. He shined in an unfamiliar position in the first meaningful games of his career. By the time he got to play outside, he was already dealing with that lingering hamstring injury. This is a huge year for Jones, no doubt, but I’m not ruling out big things for him. He just needs to stay healthy. 

The Eagles are in a better position with kick returners than they are with punt returners, which isn’t ideal because most kickoffs just end up as touchbacks anyway. 

At kick returner: Wendell Smallwood or Corey Clement would make sense. 

At punt returner: DeSean Jackson in small doses and then maybe a deep reserve WR (like Greg Ward or Braxton Miller) makes the team as a punt returner. Heck, maybe even Nelson Agholor or Avonte Maddox could do it. We’ll see who’s back there at OTAs and get a better idea. 

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What the Josh McCown signing means for Nate Sudfeld

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What the Josh McCown signing means for Nate Sudfeld

Let’s be clear about one thing.

Josh McCown has nothing to do with Nate Sudfeld.

The Eagles didn’t sign McCown because they don’t have faith in Sudfeld. They didn’t sign him because they’re concerned with Sudfeld’s ability to be their No. 2. They didn’t sign him in case Sudfeld doesn’t work out.

They signed him simply because Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson believe the Eagles are a better team with McCown on the roster than without him.

If anything, the move is a sign the Eagles are not too pleased with Cody Kessler, who's been uneven in practice and has done nothing in his two brief preseason appearances to inspire confidence.

Kessler has consistently shown a disturbing habit of holding onto the football too long, and that’s what got him hurt Thursday night in Jacksonville, hanging onto the ball and suffering a concussion. It was eye-opening — and out of character — to hear Doug Pederson after the game directly blame Kessler for the injury. That speaks volumes about the Eagles' confidence in the former Browns third-round pick. 

The guess here is that Kessler’s days in Philly are numbered. Has he shown you a reason to keep him? 

Think about where that would leave the Eagles at quarterback.

Sudfeld is out into the regular season with a broken left (non-throwing) wrist, and rookie Clayton Thorson has followed a poor debut with a much more impressive second game. But he’s not ready to be a No. 2. 

There’s still no guarantee he’ll make the 53, although if he follows his encouraging performance against the Jaguars with solid outings against the Ravens and Jets, it might be tough to clear him through waivers. But I doubt it.

We knew as soon as Kessler got hurt, the Eagles had to go out and get a quarterback. But it makes sense that they were interested in McCown even before that, since Kessler has struggled since camp opened.

McCown brings nearly two decades of experience playing quarterback in the NFL, and when you have 26-year-old Carson Wentz, 25-year-old Nate Sudfeld and 23-year-old Clayton Thorson in your quarterback room, there’s tremendous value in a guy who’s been around since before the Linc was built.

But the Eagles also desperately needed somebody who can be effective as soon as the opener on Sept. 8 — just 21 days away — if he has to play, and McCown fits perfectly. He played as recently as last December and has 37 TDs, 23 interceptions, 63 percent completion percentage and a respectable 85.9 passer rating over the last four years.

He’s smart, he’s athletic and most importantly he’s at a point in his career and in his life where he’s OK being a temporary No. 2 and a No. 3 for the rest of the year.

It’s not easy finding a guy who’s capable of playing in a meaningful game now but also content to be a No. 3 most of the year. The Eagles found him.

As for Sudfeld, you have to remember this is a guy who the Eagles believed in strongly enough that they went into a stretch run, a playoff run, a SUPER BOWL, with him as their No. 2. They never even thought about bringing in a veteran then with only Nick Foles and Sudfeld available.

And Suds hasn’t done anything since then to change anybody's minds.

He hasn’t played much in the regular season, but when he has? He’s been sharp — 20-for-25 for 156 yards, a TD, no interceptions and a 106.0 passer rating in parts of two games.

And then he obviously was very good in the preseason opener against the Titans before he got hurt.

There’s a reason the Eagles gave Sudfeld a second-round tender, which pays him just over $3 million this year.

Who would you rather have? Wentz, Sudfeld and Kessler or Wentz, Sudfeld and McCown?

Exactly.

This isn’t about Sudfeld at all.

It’s about being as prepared as possible for whatever happens next.

That’s what Howie does.

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Predicting Eagles’ 53-man roster after addition of Josh McCown

Predicting Eagles’ 53-man roster after addition of Josh McCown

I was ready to drop my latest 53-man roster prediction and then the Eagles signed Josh McCown.

And I don’t think they lured a 40-year-old out of retirement to cut him, so I had to re-work some stuff.

Anyway, here’s my latest 53-man roster projection after two preseason games.

QB (3): Carson Wentz, Josh McCown, Nate Sudfeld

The signing of McCown means the end for Cody Kessler in Philly. It’s a shame for him that he got a concussion so early in Thursday’s game. Perhaps if he played well this preseason, the Eagles don’t sign McCown. But now that they did, Kessler’s gone. And this also changed my view on Clayton Thorson. If I had to guess now, I think the Eagles take a chance and try to sneak the rookie fifth-rounder through to their practice squad. If he plays extremely well in the last two preseason games, maybe they have to keep him on the active roster and roll with four, but I’m not ready to burn that roster spot yet.

TE (3): Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Josh Perkins

Richard Rodgers would be the third tight end, but he hasn’t been healthy. Rodgers has a foot injury and the Eagles called him day-to-day back on Aug. 3 and he hasn’t practiced since. We’re getting close to the season and Perkins is younger and having a good camp. I’m giving him the edge right now.

WR (5): Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Mack Hollins

Fans might be over Hollins, but his ability as a special teamer keeps him around. The Eagles aren’t ready to give him up on him. The biggest question for me was to keep five or six. I wanted six, but with injuries on defense, I’m giving that side of the ball an extra player. Sorry, Greg Ward and Marken Michel.

RB (4): Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement

I guess there’s a possibility the Eagles could keep five, but it doesn’t seem worth it to me. That means Wendell Smallwood, Boston Scott and Josh Adams are cuts. Smallwood will latch on somewhere else and either Scott or Adams (maybe both) will be back on the practice squad. As long as Clement is healthy — and he appears to be — I’m going with four here.

OL (9): Jason Peters, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Andre Dillard, Jordan Mailata, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Stefen Wisniewski

I was very close to leaving Wiz off the list and that could still happen. His inability to snap the football has effectively made him a backup at left guard only. So I’m not ready to lock in his spot. For now, I have Matt Pryor off the team after five penalties in two preseason games. I know the Eagles kept him on the roster all of last season, but I think they’d be able to sneak him to the practice squad in Year 2 to keep developing him. It’s sort of what they did with Dillon Gordon a few years ago.

DE (6): Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry, Josh Sweat, Daeshon Hall, Shareef Miller

Miller is a candidate for a *wink, wink* injury, but he’s looked good in the preseason. I’ll admit six DEs is probably one too many, but Hall deserves to make the team and Sweat has looked better in practice than he has in games.

DT (5): Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, Tim Jernigan, Treyvon Hester, Hassan Ridgeway

Ridgeway has a concussion, so we need to monitor that. But if he’s healthy, he should be on the team. Perhaps the Eagles keep just four defensive tackles, but for now, I’m not cutting at a position of depth. And Hester deserves to make the roster.

LB (5): Nigel Bradham, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Zach Brown, Nathan Gerry, L.J. Fort

T.J. Edwards might not make the initial 53, but he will land on the practice squad and should stay ready. I think if he doesn’t make the team, he’ll be one of the last cuts.

CB (6): Ronald Darby, Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox, Sidney Jones, Cre’Von LeBlanc, Orlando Scandrick

The Eagles might put LeBlanc on IR, but in order for him to return from IR this season, he needs to be on the initial 53-man roster. Maybe the Eagles play the game with Scandrick where they cut him and bring him back a week later to avoid guaranteeing his salary, but going into Week 1 with four healthy corners scares me too much.

S (4): Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Johnathan Cyprien, Andre Sendejo

Blake Countess is gone and Tre Sullivan hasn’t done enough to make this roster. This is a very veteran group of safeties, but Sendejo has played well and Cyprien has done enough to make the team.

ST (3): Jake Elliott, Rick Lovato, Cameron Johnston

Go ahead and write these guys in permanent marker.

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