Eagles

Eagles Stay or Go 2020: Time to revamp the cornerback position

Eagles Stay or Go 2020: Time to revamp the cornerback position

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 cornerbacks:

Jalen Mills 

Roob: Mills is an interesting case. He’s been the Eagles’ best cornerback by default over the last few years, and he certainly gives you a lot in terms of toughness, swagger and red-zone playmaking. It really is going to come down to how extensively the Eagles want to rebuild the cornerback position. Mills is an unrestricted free agent, Jim Schwartz loves him and my hunch is he’ll be back.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: Mills is going to be a free agent and while I think the Eagles should probably completely revamp the position, my bet is that he comes back on a reasonable deal. Jim Schwartz loves him and Mills is a competitor. He’s somewhat limited but he’s been a solid player in his four years here. 

Verdict: Stays 

Kulp: Other than concerns with his speed, Mills really seems like the prototypical Jim Schwartz cornerback in many ways. He's physical, confident and has a short memory. In all honesty, his four-year run with the Eagles has been pretty good, minus the injuries. Ideally, the team would not put itself in a position where it has to replace starters at both spots in the same offseason, so if they can get him back on an inexpensive short-term deal, that would be a big help. Seeing as he missed 15 games the last two years, it's not at all implausible. 

Verdict: Stays

Ronald Darby 

Roob: The Eagles really goofed bringing back Darby for one year at $6.5 million. It just seems like years of injuries have caught up to him, and the player we saw this past year was only a shadow of the guy we saw during the stretch run and playoffs in 2017. 

Verdict: Goes

Dave: The Eagles never should have brought Darby back for the 2019 season and it’s hard to imagine they’ll make that mistake again. It’s a shame because Darby had all the physical skills to be a top-end corner but he couldn’t stay healthy and even when he did, he wasn’t the player we once saw as a rookie in Buffalo. 

Verdict: Goes 

Kulp: Darby's tenure in Philadelphia wasn't nearly as bad as some would have you believe -- he did start for a Super Bowl champion -- but 2019 was awful. It didn't even look like he lost much speed coming off the ACL injury. He was plain getting beat on the reg. Even when he was in position to make a play, he couldn't. Constantly getting posterized whenever he goes to tackle somebody, too. Darby is only 26, so he could easily go on to have a nice career with wherever he signs in free agency. It's just time for a change of scenery. 

Verdict: Goes

Avonte Maddox 

Roob: Maddox took a step backward this year and it will be interesting to see where he fits in moving forward. He’ll be here, but in what role? He can start inside, outside or at safety or he can back up anywhere. He was so good as a rookie in 2018. The Eagles could sure use him regaining that form wherever he plays.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: Heading into Year 3 and we still don’t really know which position is best for Maddox. But I know what I’d do. I’d sign Malcolm Jenkins, let Rodney McLeod walk and turn Maddox into a full-time safety. I get that at his size it would be a little unusual but I like his fit there and thought he played well as a safety in 2018. 

Verdict: Stays 

Kulp: Some people way overreacted to Maddox's rookie season, which was fine, far short of spectacular. This offseason, we should be able to comfortably write he wasn't the second coming of Eric Allen without starting a flame war. That being said, Maddox will only be 24, he's competent with the tools to become dependable, he's a tough kid and he's played just about every position in the secondary for the Eagles. He'll have a role next season, his third. 

Verdict: Stays

Rasul Douglas

Roob: I was high on Rasul when the season began, but he did not play well and after getting nearly 600 snaps on defense during the regular season he played none in the playoff loss to the Seahawks. Douglas has actually played more games than any other Eagles corner over the last three years because he’s the only one who’s generally been able to stay healthy. But he goes into 2020 with a future that’s uncertain at best. 

Verdict: Goes

Dave: I didn’t particularly like what I saw from Douglas this season. He again got a chance to play a ton but didn’t make the most of it. But you need backups on a team too and at least Douglas has some starting experience under his belt. 

Verdict: Stays 

Kulp: Douglas is a confounding player. At times, he's looked like the Eagles' best corner the past few seasons. Then he'll have stretches where all he does is give up 80-yard touchdowns -- and when he gets beat, he's often not even the same hemisphere. 2019 seemed like more of the latter. His size and physicality are great attributes, yet he would probably fare a lot better in Cover-3 or some sort of zone defense. He's got one year left, it's just time for a change. And, no, he would not make a good safety in today's NFL.

Verdict: Goes

Sidney Jones

Roob: Just when you thought Jones was showing some positive signs in spot action late in the season, he gets benched for the playoff game against the Seahawks. When your second-round pick is finally healthy and can’t even get on the field for the biggest game of the year that’s a problem. What does it mean for his future? Not encouraging. Jones will get another chance in 2020 because he's a 2nd-round pick on his rookie contract, but it's hard to be optimistic.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: I have always been bullish on Jones and he made some big plays down the stretch in 2019. But I’d expect the Eagles to bring in at least two high-level corners through free agency or the draft, which would push Jones down the depth chart. And if the Eagles are going to trade Jones or Douglas, I think Jones has more more value. But if I’m the Eagles, I’m just not ready to give up on him yet. 

Verdict: Stays

Kulp: It's frequently very unfair to presume to know what's going through a young athlete's mind, but there was a point last season where Jones looked like he was playing scared or at least thinking too much. Not coincidentally, he was inactive for awhile after that. Then just when it looked like his story might be written, he got into some games down the stretch, sparingly, and took care of business. Even though Jones couldn't get back on the field in the Eagles' playoff loss, and he's dealt with so many injuries, there's still this nagging feeling about his talent and potential. The kid was supposed to be a top-10 pick. He'll only be 24. At least give him a shot to crack the roster. If his head is right and he's healthy, who knows what will happen. 

Verdict: Stays

Cre’Von LeBlanc

Roob: LeBlanc is on a bargain contract and has shown enough positives to warrant a long look this summer. LeBlanc has the versatility to play inside or outside, although he’s probably best suited for the slot. Like several of these young corners he’s shown up at times, but what’s his ceiling? What’s his role? What is he best at? LeBlanc will get every opportunity to show the Eagles this summer.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: Every time LeBlanc is given an opportunity to make plays, he makes them. Can’t argue with that. Is he ever going to be a Pro Bowl corner? Probably not. But he’s a pretty solid nickel and I’d give him a chance to earn that role going into next season. 

Verdict: Stays  

Kulp: LeBlanc is a perfectly capable slot corner. Of course, that's where Maddox is probably most suited to play, too. Unless Maddox is moving to safety, not sure the Eagles' best lineup would never feature both players on the field at the same time. LeBlanc only make a cool mil though, and Maddox can move, so it's not really hurting anything. 

Verdict: Stays

Craig James 

Roob: James played 237 snaps on special teams this year, and if he’s here it will be because of his special teams ability. But you know how these things go. Assuming the Eagles overhaul the cornerback spot, a guy like James, who probably isn’t going to help much on defense, could be the first to go.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: For a while, James seemed to be a pretty good special teamer, working as a gunner for most of the season. But that shouldn’t be enough to keep him around. And if the Eagles bring him new talent, his chances to return will be shot. Maybe he sticks around on the practice squad. 

Verdict: Goes

Kulp: Good back end of the roster type, but the Eagles need to upgrade the position in the worst way, so there should be new bodies and plenty of competition. Which means if James is back, something went terribly wrong. 

Verdict: Goes

Tremon Smith

Roob: One thing we know about Smith is that he can run. He ran 4.32 at his pro day, which puts him in elite company. But he hasn’t been able to make that speed work for him yet in stints with the Chiefs and Packers. He does have a 25.8 career kick return average, which is legit – 6th-highest among active players. But it’s not enough. 

Verdict: Goes

Dave: Smith’s ability as a return man is intriguing to me but I’m not sure if that’ll be enough to keep him around. I’m looking forward to at least seeing that speed in training camp. 

Verdict: Goes

Kulp: The Eagles are his third team in two years, and while they need a lot of help at corner, that means draft picks and/or big ticket free agents, not practice squad prospects.

Verdict: Goes

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Penn State’s KJ Hamler hopes Miles Sanders puts in good word with Eagles

Penn State’s KJ Hamler hopes Miles Sanders puts in good word with Eagles

INDIANAPOLIS — Penn State receiver KJ Hamler said he wasn’t surprised to see how much success Miles Sanders had during his rookie season with the Eagles in 2019.

The two are close friends and Hamler claims he knew from his freshman year at Penn State that Sanders would be a successful NFL player.

Hamler, 20, would like to follow in his footsteps, especially if those footsteps lead to Philadelphia.

“It would be great to play with Miles,” Hamler said at the NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday. “I hope he put in a good word.”

Hamler, the 5-foot-9, 178-pound speedster, said he has a meeting on the books with the Eagles on Wednesday. He would relish the opportunity to play with his close friend Sanders if the Eagles decide to draft him.

It’s likely Hamler will be a Day 2 pick in the draft in April. And the Eagles certainly have a need for a speedy receiver.

As a junior in 2019, Hamler caught 56 passes for 904 yards (16.1) and eight touchdowns. He did struggle at times with drops, which he claims was a focus issue. It’s something he wants to improve and show NFL teams that it’s not a problem this week. There’s also a chance Hamler runs an impressive time in the 40-yard dash.

This class of receivers has been called historic, but Hamler is a competitor and he hasn’t shied away from the competition. He wants to be the best of the bunch.

So what separates him from others?

“I’m a dawg,” he said. “That’s just point blank, period. You don’t find a lot of people my size doing some things that I do. For me, my playmaking ability and my dawg mentality just stands out.”

If the Eagles draft Hamler, he would get a chance to play with DeSean Jackson, someone whom Hamler has looked up to for a long time.

The idea of Jackson grooming a young speed receiver is certainly intriguing.

“I just love his playmaking ability,” Hamler said of Jackson. “Whenever you need him to make a play, whether it’s on special teams or on offense, he’s going to do it.”

Throughout this pre-draft process, Hamler has been in contact with his friend Sanders and the Eagles’ running back has given him plenty of advice.

The best piece of advice: “Just stay hungry is probably the main thing. It’s a grown man sport. Basically, you gotta fight for another man’s job.”

Sanders in 2019 had an impressive rookie season. He rushed for over 800 yards, had over 500 yards receiving and six total touchdowns. His 1,327 yards from scrimmage were a record for Eagles rookies.

None of that surprised Hamler. But he was proud.

“I was very proud. I think a lot of us was,” he said. “A lot of people always had this cloud over his head about him playing behind Saquon, Saquon this, Saquon that, but he wanted to be himself. He wanted to make a name for Miles Sanders. I’m proud that he’s doing real well and I’m blessed to be in this opportunity that he was in.”

The Eagles drafted Sanders with the 53rd overall pick in last year’s draft. They now hold the 53rd pick in this year’s draft. It would be somewhat fitting if they used it this year on Hamler. He really would follow in Sanders’ footsteps.

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Hall of Fame reveals lame plan for Harold Carmichael induction

Hall of Fame reveals lame plan for Harold Carmichael induction

Harold Carmichael and the other Centennial inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame will be enshrined on Sept. 18, the Hall of Fame announced on Tuesday.

That's six weeks after the traditional Hall of Fame summer festivities.

The modern-era players will be enshrined on the usual first preseason weekend, which this summer is Aug. 8, in conjunction with the Hall of Fame Game.

The Centennial enshrinees, unfortunately, will be relegated to a Friday evening two weeks into the regular season and won’t be part of the annual Hall of Fame festivities that honor the greatest players in football history.

The Hall of Fame hasn’t specifically announced the schedule for that evening but according to a press release issued on Tuesday morning, the festivities will include “world-class performances from a variety of music icons.”

Oh boy.

The press release said ticket information to attend the induction of Carmichael and the other all-time greats was not available yet.

Carmichael is only the 7th player who spent more than half his career with the Eagles to make it to Canton. The others are Steve Van Buren (1965), Chuck Bednarik (1967), Pete Pihos (1970), Tommy McDonald (1998), Reggie White (2006) and Brian Dawkins (2018).

Carmichael spent the 1971 through 1983 seasons with the Eagles after getting drafted in the 7th round out of Southern University. He was named a wide receiver on the NFL’s 1980s all-decade team and is also on the Eagles' 75th anniversary team named in 2007.

During his 12 seasons with the Eagles, he caught 589 passes for 8,978 yards and 79 touchdowns -- all still franchise records. He led the NFL in catches and yards in 1973 and made four Pro Bowls.

The other centennial inductees are Jimbo Covert, Bobby Dillon, Cliff Harris, Winston Hill, Alex Karras, Donnie Shell, Duke Slater, Mac Speedie and Ed Sprinkle.

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