Eagles

Eagles Stay or Go 2020: Figuring out a crowded DE group

Eagles Stay or Go 2020: Figuring out a crowded DE group

Reuben Frank, Dave Zangaro and Andrew Kulp bring back Stay or Go with the 2020 version, trying to figure out the future of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Today, we’ll look at defensive ends: 

Brandon Graham 

Roob: The Eagles are fortunate Graham, now 31 and 10 years into his career, is still playing at a high level. There were a few points in his career where it looked like B.G.’s days here were numbered, but he was the Eagles’ most consistent pass rusher this year and his 8 ½ sacks were the second-most of his career. He’s signed for a couple more years and if he keeps playing the way he did this year he’ll be here for both of them.

Verdict: Stays 

Dave: Another solid year for Graham in 2019. He’s over 30 now but is entering the second year of a three-year deal he signed last offseason. He’s never been a Pro Bowler and might never get there but he’s been consistently good and was good again last season. He’ll be back in 2020 and starting at LDE again. 

Verdict: Stays 

Kulp: After a disappointing 2018, awarding Graham a big extension at 31 seemed like a questionable decision. He bounced back though, registering 8.5 sacks and finishing tied for ninth in the NFL with 15 tackles for loss. The new deal makes him difficult to move, but seeing as he's the club's best defensive end... 

Verdict: Stays

Derek Barnett

Roob: Three years in, we still don’t know exactly what we have in Derek Barnett. He had a career-high 6 ½ sacks and has 14 in three seasons. Not terrible production. Plays very hard. Great effort. Injured too often. Way too many penalties. Not a bad player but also not what you expect from the 14th pick in the draft. Barnett has been good and the Eagles need him to be better

Verdict: Stays

Dave: While Barnett had his best season in 2019, he hasn’t really lived up to being a first-round pick. He had an ankle injury that kept him out two games but managed to start 14 and had 6 1/2 sacks. He’s a tough player with a high motor who shows flashes of being a really good pass rusher. But the Eagles need more from him entering Year 4. 

Verdict: Stays

Kulp: Some will say Barnett isn't living up to his status as the 14th-overall pick in 2017, and a penchant for dumb penalties isn't doing him any favors with fans. In reality though, he was off to a fast start in '18 with 2.5 sacks in four games prior to injury, and this season his 22 quarterback hits tied for 14th in the NFL to go with a respectable 6.5 sacks considering he missed two more games. Keep in mind, he only turns 24 this year, so if he can just stay healthy, there's a lot to build on here. 

Verdict: Stays

Vinny Curry 

Roob: Curry came out of nowhere to record four sacks the last month of the season and 5.0 overall, second-most of his career. He was really good down the stretch. He’s a free agent and not looking for a ton of money, he likes it here, and he’s played alongside B.G. and Fletcher Cox for most of the last decade. His future will depend on what the Eagles think of their younger pass rushers, like Shareef Miller, Josh Sweat, Genard Avery and Joe Ostman, along with Daeshon Hall, who tore his ACL late in the season. I’d keep him, but not sure there’s going to be room.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: I give a ton of credit to Curry for finishing the season as strong as he did. He had four sacks down the stretch and five on the season. He played a lot better than I ever expected, so maybe the Eagles try to bring him back. But if Howie Roseman is serious about getting younger and not hanging on to players for sentimental reasons, this would be an easy area to prove it. 

Verdict: Goes

Kulp: Curry's return to Philly got off to a slow start, but he turned it on late with 4.0 sacks in the final six games. A free agent, he would probably prefer to stick around -- the problem is he'll be 32 and the Eagles have quite a bit of young talent to work into the lineup. Not a fun decision for the front office, but an easy one.

Verdict: Goes

Josh Sweat 

Roob: Sweat was a decent rotational player and playing on a rookie 4th-round deal he’s cheap. Is he ready to be that 3rd DE behind Barnett and Graham? He played fewer snaps than Curry and by the end of the year he was playing significantly fewer snaps than Curry. Is he ready to become a more consistent, productive player? 

Verdict: Stays

Dave: We saw really good flashes from Sweat in Year 2 and I think the Eagles might actually have something there. He played in all 16 games and had 4.0 sacks and 10 QB hits. There’s a chance the Eagles could draft a defensive end but if they don’t, Sweat could be the third guy in the rotation next year. 

Verdict: Stays

Kulp: Sweat's numbers -- 4.0 sacks, 10 quarterback hits, 7 tackles for loss -- were quite comparable to Curry's -- 5.0 sacks, 12 quarterback hits, 5 tackles for loss. The difference is Sweat is nine years younger and played almost twice as many snaps on special teams. Plus, he's still on his rookie contract. 

Verdict: Stays

Shareef Miller 

Roob: Miller never got on the field this year as a rookie 4th-round pick, and it’s tough to figure out where he fits in moving forward behind all the more experienced pass rushers on the roster. I don’t think he has a roster spot locked up. It’s going to be a big training camp for the Philly native.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: It was a redshirt rookie season for Miller. It wasn’t what he expected but I think the Eagles always had a minimal role in mind for him in his first season. Thinking back to training camp, there were some glimpses that he could be a good pass rusher. This will obviously be a big spring and summer for Miller but they invested in him and I think he sticks around. 

Verdict: Stays

Kulp: Typically, it's a bad sign when a fourth-round pick can't get on the field at all -- Miller played two snaps all season. In this case, the redshirt year was expected. This can go one of two ways now. Maybe he can't play at all and gets cut out of training camp. If the Eagles' plan comes to fruition though, he may just crack the rotation in 2020. 

Verdict: Stays

Genard Avery

Roob: The Eagles brought Avery in for a reason, but he only played 33 snaps in nine games and didn’t even dress out for the Seahawks game. Avery does have two years left on his contract, and the Eagles gave up a 4th-round pick for him, so he’s not going anywhere. It’s just tough to figure out what his role is going to be.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: Early returns on giving up a fourth-round pick for Avery weren’t good. He was even a healthy scratch in the playoff game. But he has two years left under contract and I can’t imagine the Eagles would give up on him so soon after parting with a draft pick to get him. And, like Roseman, I’m interested to see what he looks like with an offseason. 

Verdict: Stays

Kulp: Avery was only on the field for 32 snaps after arriving from Cleveland, but Howie Roseman swears the trade was made for the future. Considering the kid basically had to learn to play a brand new position, the story checks out. He's 25 with sub-4.6 speed, so he's going to get a long look this offseason at the very least. 

Verdict: Stays

Daeshon Hall 

Roob: Hall had a big preseason and made the roster, then played sparingly – just 51 snaps on defense and 71 more on special teams. Then he tore his ACL on the last play of the regular season, so who knows when he’ll even be healthy. Considering the injury and all the other DEs on the roster I don’t see how he stays.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: It was tough to see Hall tear his ACL on the last play of the Giants game. He now faces a lengthy rehab with an uncertain future. He didn’t play very much this season after having a great preseason, so it’s hard to see the Eagles sticking with him. 

Verdict: Goes 

Kulp: Like many Eagles preseason darlings before, Hall couldn't convert August production into regular season playing time. Then tore his ACL in late December, making it unlikely he'll even be able to compete for a job. Of course, if he winds up on PUP to start 2020, he becomes an afterthought until November anyway. Here, but probably never reaches the field. 

Verdict: Stays

Joe Ostman 

Roob: Another tricky one. Ostman was having a strong preseason and looked like he had a shot at the 53 before he suffered a torn ACL during the open practice at the Linc. He’s got some skill, and his rehab seems to be going great, but is there a spot for him in this crowded group? You know what? I love Ostman’s effort and what he brings to the table so much I’m keeping him.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: The Eagles love Ostman and he was looking really good this summer before he tore his ACL. I think there’s a good chance the Eagles keep him around on the practice squad, but I’m not buying his chances to crack the 53-man roster just yet. 

Verdict: Goes 

Kulp: Ostman was making so much noise in OTAs and training camp, many observers believed he had a legit shot to crack the 53-man roster. Then he tore his ACL, ending his season. Undersized and not especially athletic to begin with (compared to his peers anyway), it's hard to envision his cracking a crowded field, one the Eagles may even add to in the draft. Practice squad material, maybe, but again, there are a lot of bodies here. 

Verdict: Goes

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How Combine might have changed Eagles' WR plans

How Combine might have changed Eagles' WR plans

The 2020 wide receiver draft picture got a lot more interesting Thursday night.

Alabama’s Henry Ruggs did his thing and ran 4.28 when the receivers ran their 40's at the Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. He didn't break John Ross's record of 4.22, but he certainly did nothing to hurt his draft status. 

Neither did his college teammate, Jerry Jeudy, or Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb. They remain the consensus top three receivers in the draft, and the Eagles, who have the 21st pick in the first round, would likely have to trade up to draft any of them.

But a few receivers helped themselves with their performances in Indy and a few may have hurt their stock as well, and it all could definitely affect the receiver-starved Eagles’ strategy in April.

HELPED THEMSELVES

JUSTIN JEFFERSON,  LSU: Joe Burrow’s favorite target ran much faster than expected with a 4.43. We already know he’s productive - he caught a ridiculous 111 passes for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns - and he backed that up with a faster 40 time than Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy. How much that helps him remains to be seen, but he definitely helped himself.

CHASE CLAYPOOL, NOTRE DAME: There’s been talk about the 6-4, 240-pound Claypool moving to tight end, but then he went out and ran 4.42, which according to the Next Gen Stats twitter feed makes him the first receiver over 230 pounds to run sub-4.45 since Calvin Johnson in 2007. He also caught the ball well and performed well in the other drills. 

DENZEL MIMS, BAYLOR: Mims opened a lot of eyes with a 4.38 Thursday night to cap an overall excellent performance. Only Ruggs and Southern Mississippi’s Quez Watkins ran faster. Mims was generally considered a second-round talent before the Combine but running 4.38 at 6-3, 210 pounds could push him into the first round. 

HURT THEMSELVES

JALEN REAGOR, TEXAS CHRISTIAN: Reagor, whose father Montae played for the Eagles in 2007, said he planned to run faster than Ruggs: “That’s my plan. He runs after me. I’m going to set the bar for him.”  He also said he expected to run “high 4.2, low 4.3.”  Then he ran 4.47, a full fifth of a second slower than Ruggs. He followed that with a 4.50. How much that hurts him remains to be seen, but it wasn’t what anybody was expecting. 

TEE HIGGINS, CLEMSON: Higgins told reporters at the Combine that he was planning to prove a lot of people wrong with his 40:  “My goal is to hit a 4.4. A lot of guys think I’m gonna run a 4.5 or 4.6, but I’m excited to change people’s minds.” Then without explanation he didn’t run or participate in any drills Thursday night. Not good. 

LAVISKA SHENAULT JR., COLORADO: After a slower-than-expected 4.58 on his first try, Shenault skipped his second 40 and didn’t participate in the other drills, presumably because of the core muscle injury that cost him a couple games during the season. Shenault was considered a late first-round or early second-rounder. He’ll have a chance to bounce back at his pro day, but he didn’t help himself Thursday.

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Temple LBs and roommates in heated competition for combine supremacy

Temple LBs and roommates in heated competition for combine supremacy

Temple linebackers Shaun Bradley and Chapelle Russell know they will have a ton on the line Saturday when their position group gets on the field for drills at the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. 

Their football careers hang in the balance. 

Not to mention bragging rights. 

Throughout the last few months, the two close friends have been in a heated competition and back-and-forth trash talk battle. Bradley was training with EXOS in Phoenix; Russell was training with EXOS in San Diego. The whole time, they kept texting each other performance numbers and egging each other on. 

That competition reached a new level this week when the two found out they were rooming together in Indianapolis. 

“That’s all we do. We sit in the room and talk about who’s going to win the 40, who’s going to have the fastest (time),” Bradley said. “We do it all day. It’s nonstop. We’ll joke, we’ll talk about it. As soon as one thing hits, he’s like, ‘I’m about to run a faster 40 than you.’ ‘No you’re not.’ Back and forth, back and forth.”

At Temple, the pair of starting linebackers lived together in a house on campus, so it’s a familiar feeling to be together this week at the combine. And in such a high-pressure situation, with so much on the line, it’s comforting for both to go through it all with a close friend. 

Bradley and Russell will be rooting for each other on Saturday but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to outperform each other.  

“It’s been cool,” Russell said. “We always talk trash with each other about who’s faster, who’s going to do this, who’s going to do that. The competition between us two has been intense so I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like when we get out there Saturday.” 

There are plenty of similarities between the two. 

- Russell is listed at 6-foot-2, 236 pounds. Bradley is listed at 6-foot-1, 235 pounds. 

- Both feel like they have gotten bigger, stronger and faster over the last couple of months. 

- Both are from New Jersey (Bradley from Mount Holly, Russell from Lakewood). Both became huge parts of Temple’s defense and were awarded single-digit numbers (Bradley got 5, Russell got 3) — an honor for the nine toughest Owls on the roster — in 2018. 

- Both put up big numbers in 2019. Bradley led the Owls with 86 tackles and Russell was second with 72. Bradley had 8 tackles for loss; Russell had 8 1/2. 

- And both feel like they have plenty to prove this week. 

While there are some big-name linebacker prospects in Indianapolis this week, the two Temple linebackers aren’t considered to be in that class. During their interview sessions on Thursday, while the big-name players spoke at podiums, Russell, Bradley and the less highly regarded prospects were crammed in the corner of the room at little round tables. 

“I think we’re going to open a lot of eyes,” Russell said. “…  I feel like when we go out there Saturday, we’re going to prove a lot of people wrong.”

Bradley and Russell both said the Eagles were one of the first teams to meet with them this week and each would love the opportunity to stay in Philly and continue to play home games at Lincoln Financial Field. It’s something the Eagles brought up to them in their respective interviews. 

Continuing their football careers in Philly would mean a lot to both men. For Bradley, it would allow him to stay close to home, where his family — including his four siblings, all 13 or younger — would be able to watch him play. 

Bradley joked the one problem he might have if he became an Eagle is remembering to go to the Birds’ locker room at the Linc and not to the Owls’ locker room farther down the hallway.  

But each guy basically said the same thing about the Eagles. 

“If Philly wanted to draft me, I’d be all for it,” Russell said. 

In recent months, Bradley and Russell have been in contact with several former Temple players who have already been through this pre-draft process. Since 2016, there have been 11 Owls drafted — 1 in the first, 2 in the second, 1 in the fourth, 3 in the fifth, one in the sixth and three in the 7th. 

A good showing from either Bradley or Russell on Saturday would go a long way in adding one of them to that list. 

Oh yeah, and one of them will earn those bragging rights too. 

“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be me,” Russell said. “But that’s the competition between me and him. He’ll say him, and I’ll say me.”

We’ll find out soon enough. 

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