Eagles

5 reasons why the Eagles have such an insanely ineffective group of wide receivers

5 reasons why the Eagles have such an insanely ineffective group of wide receivers

This isn’t about Jordan Matthews, who probably was the best option out there for the Eagles now that the trade deadline has passed.

It’s about how the Eagles wound up with such an insanely ineffective group of wide receivers that they had to bring Matthews back here for his third stint as an Eagle.

How did it get this bad?

Like most things, there’s no one simple answer. But let’s take a look at five contributing factors:

1. The draft

The Eagles have drafted eight wide receivers since 2010, the year after they took Jeremy Maclin. Who has the best career numbers of those eight? Jordan Matthews, of course. Next on the list is Nelson Agholor, who has had his moments but has put up some of the worst numbers in NFL history by a first-round wide receiver. Riley Cooper had a decent year in 2013, but that’s about it. Josh Huff was a disaster as a third-round pick, Mack Hollins has done nothing to warrant being a fourth-round pick and JJ Arcega-Whiteside can’t even get on the field. It’s not just Howie Roseman. Agholor was a Chip Kelly pick and Huff was probably more of a Kelly pick, although Roseman was still the GM. The bottom line is none of them are elite. For the record, Cooper was drafted before Antonio Brown, Huff before John Brown and Agholor before Stefon Diggs. It’s too early to fairly compare JJAW with D.K. Metcalf, Terry McLaurin or Diontae Johnson, but the early returns aren’t encouraging.

2. Free agency 

Look at some of the outside receivers the Eagles have brought in. Last year, they added Kamar Aiken, Bryce Treggs, Mike Wallace, Markus Wheaton. They signed guys like Braxton Miller, Reggie Davis and Dorren Miller to the practice squad. This past summer, it was guys like Marken Michel, Charles Johnson, Johnny Holton, Devon Ross and Marcus Green. Greg Ward has been around for a few years but can’t get on the field. Now, some of these guys were just training camp legs, but none of them are even in the league at this point. You want your developmental guys to develop, and theirs aren’t.  

3. Trade deadline 

The Eagles didn’t make a move at the trade deadline, yet six days later Doug Pederson stood there at a press conference and talked about how important it was for the Eagles to add a receiver. It’s hard to imagine guys like Robby Anderson of the Jets, A.J. Green of the Bengals or DeVante Parker of the Dolphins couldn’t be had. The 49ers and Patriots are the NFL’s two best teams right now, and they went out and got receivers. The 49ers traded 2nd- and 3rd-round picks to the Broncos for Emmanuel Sanders and a 5. The Patriots got Mohamed Sanu from the Falcons for a 2nd-round pick. It’s a lot to give up, but the Eagles have plenty of picks, and even Roseman would have to admit the Eagles have a better chance of landing a productive receiver in a trade than through the draft.

4. Coaching 

The Eagles’ wide receivers coach is Carson Walch. He’s their fifth wide receivers coach in five years following Bob Bicknell in 2015, Greg Lewis in 2016, Mike Groh in 2017 and Gunter Brewer in 2018. When multiple players regress at the same time — and you can say that about Jeffery, Agholor and Hollins — and young players don’t progress the way they should, like JJAW, the first person you look at is the position coach. The lack of continuity at the position isn’t ideal, and so far the results under Walch are dreadful.

5. Compensatory picks

When last year ended, Matthews and Golden Tate were both on the roster. In fact, they were the only wide receivers to catch postseason TD passes last year — Tate the 4th-down game-winner in Chicago and Matthews a 37-yarder against the Saints. The Eagles elected to let both of them go, presumably to help them with the compensatory pick formula. Tate is averaging 64 yards per game for the Giants, and Matthews is now back after spending the offseason and bits of this year with the 49ers. If the Eagles like Matthews enough to keep bringing him back, why not just keep him in the first place? Sometimes it seems like Roseman’s decision making is geared too heavily to maximizing the team’s compensatory pick stash instead of simply putting the best 53-man roster on the field.



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How good can Eagles running back Boston Scott be?

How good can Eagles running back Boston Scott be?

One of the more intriguing guys on the Eagles’ roster is Boston Scott, who like so many others started on the practice squad and had carved out a significant role by the end of the season.

Is Scott just a flash-in-the-pan who had a few nice moments before teams figured him out?

Or is he a legit talent who can be an effective change-of-pace running back playing behind Miles Sanders?

Scott didn’t find his way onto the active roster until mid-October, when Corey Clement went on Injured Reserve, and he wasn’t really a significant part of the offense until the last month of the season.

But he still managed to rush for 270 yards with a 4.0 average and five TDs and catch 27 balls for 227 more yards.

Over the last month of the season, only four NFL backs had more receiving yards – Christian McCaffrey, Austin Ekeler, Saquon Barkley and Melvin Gordon, and only 11 had more yards from scrimmage.

The former Saints 6th-round draft pick showed a combination of elusiveness and power both as a runner and receiver and proved to be a valuable No. 2 back with Clement, Darren Sproles and Jordan Howard all out with injuries.

What's next? How much better can he get?

I haven’t arrived by any means,” Scott said in a recent chat. “I haven’t reached the standard I have for myself. I appreciate all the support, I appreciate all the love, but I’m not done. I’m still hungry. There’s still more.

Scott’s always been one of those guys who’s had to fight for everything.

Walk-on at Louisana Tech. Late-round draft pick. Stints on both the Saints’ and Eagles’ practice squads.

It wasn’t until the Eagles’ Week 14 win over the Giants, when he ran 10 times for 59 yards and a TD and caught six passes for 69 yards, that we all really saw what kind of player he could be.

Never feel comfortable,” he said. “Never satisfied. Always hungry. That’ll never change. Since I was a walk-on. That’s definitely where I laid the foundation of never being satisfied. I want to be the best at what I do. I want to be up there with the elite, and the only way to get there is through hard work and dedication. I’m a long way off from where I want to be, but I’m definitely determined to get there.

Sproles has retired, Clement is still under contract and Howard is facing free agency.

Where does Scott fit in?

It’s a fascinating question and the answer really depends on whether you believe Scott’s performance late last year was a fluke or whether he can really be an impact player in this league.

I’m just really thankful Doug and Howie had faith in me to continue to put me out there,” he said. “I made mistakes, and I learned from them and I think every rep I spent out there on the field my confidence grew, and I look forward to continuing to build on what I’ve put together in my time here. There’s plenty to clean up. I’m far, far from where I want to be, but it’s definitely a good starting point and having something to build on in the offseason.

There’s really no reason to think Scott can’t do what he did the last four weeks over a full season.

He’s got the physical tools, he’s got the toughness, he’s got the attitude.

Can he be what Correll Buckhalter was to Brian Westbrook?

Can he be what Charlie Garner was to Ricky Watters?

Can he be what Earl Gros was to Timmy Brown? (That one's for Ray Didinger)

We already saw it during a playoff push. A full season of Boston Scott is going to be fun to watch.

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NFL free agency: Weighing pros and cons of a Darius Slay trade for Eagles

NFL free agency: Weighing pros and cons of a Darius Slay trade for Eagles

The Eagles desperately need some help at cornerback and one of the top ones in the game is reportedly available. 

Of course the Eagles should be interested. 

Schefter doesn’t list any teams in that report but it would make plenty of sense if the Eagles were one of them. In fact, during the 2019 season, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported the Eagles were interested in possibly trading for Slay before the trade deadline. That obviously didn’t happen. 

And now the three-time Pro Bowler is about to enter the final year of his contract with the Lions. 

Let’s weigh the pros and cons of a possible deal for the Eagles: 

Pros

• Slay is good and still in his prime. This is pretty obvious. The 6-0, 190-pound cornerback was an All-Pro in 2017 and has been a Pro Bowler in each of his last three seasons. And he’s been good for a long time. Since 2014, Slay has 19 interceptions, which ranks him fourth in the entire league behind Marcus Peters, Stephon Gilmore and Reggie Nelson.  

And Slay during his time in Detroit has traveled with their opponent’s best receiver a ton. That’s something Jim Schwartz hasn’t done in his time with the Eagles but would probably want to if he had a player of Slay’s caliber. And in a division with Amari Cooper, Darius Slayton and Terry McLaurin for the next few years, that would be nice to have. 

• The Eagles desperately need help at cornerback. Whether it comes through the draft, free agency or a trade, the Eagles need to revamp a position that has been a problem for years. They have struggled to sign cornerbacks as much as they’ve struggled to draft them. Slay would immediately be the best cornerback to suit up for the Eagles in a decade. Their last Pro Bowl caliber cornerback was Asante Samuel, who hasn’t played here since 2011. 

• The trade might not cost as much as you’d think. ESPN’s Mike Clay projected a Slay trade for the Eagles a few days ago. In that trade, he had the Eagles sending a third-round pick and Sidney Jones to Detroit. That sounds like a small haul for a perennial Pro Bowl player but Slay is entering the final year of his contract and if the Lions are going to move on, they probably want to get something for him. Lions new DC Cory Undlin seemed to like Jones when he was here and a change of scenery could help him live up to his potential. 

Plus, if the Eagles trade for Slay and can’t work out a long-term deal, they’d probably get a compensatory pick back for him. 

Cons 

• Slay is 29. The Eagles want to get younger and Slay is nearing 30. While he has been durable, playing at least 13 games in all seven of his NFL seasons, it’s fair to wonder how long he’ll be in his prime. So many of the Eagles’ best players are near or over 30 and adding Slay would mean adding another aging player to the core. 

• He wants a contract. Slay is a 29-year-old Pro Bowler entering the final year of his deal. He has a base salary of $10 million in 2019 but wants to get paid and he’s earned that. The highest-paid six cornerbacks in the NFL make over an average of $14 million per season, so to sign Slay to a long-term deal, it’ll take at least that. The highest-paid CB in the NFL is Xavien Howard at just over $15 million per season. Slay is three years older but that’s likely where his agent will want to start. 

• There might be more attractive options. Sure, it’s hard to imagine a better option than a three-time Pro Bowler who still appears to be in his prime, but there might be cheaper and younger options. There’s a deep free agent class this offseason with guys like Logan Ryan and Kendall Fuller and then there are plenty of solid options in the draft. One of those options might be more appealing to the Eagles but those possibilities might also keep the price (trade and contract) at a reasonable level for Slay. 

So …. 

The Eagles should absolutely be interested in Slay, especially if we’re talking about a trade like the one Clay put forward. For that trade price, it might even be worth getting Slay for one season and seeing what happens. I don’t know how Slay would feel about playing out the final season of his contract but if he’d show up, that might be the best move because the Eagles will have enough cap space to pay him $10 million in 2020. The Eagles could trade for Slay, draft a corner or two and then see where things stand heading into the 2021 season. Not saying this is a slam dunk, but we all know Howie Roseman isn’t shy to pick up the phone. And this time it’s warranted. 

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