Expectations of playing time and impact for Eagles’ 2019 draft class

Expectations of playing time and impact for Eagles’ 2019 draft class

The Eagles just held their rookie minicamp last weekend and it offered our first glimpse of their five-man draft class, among many others. 

Howie Roseman was pretty consistent that the Eagles weren’t going to draft for need for the 2019 season and because of that, got some players who might not play a ton in the coming season. 

But let’s take a look at all five players drafted and how big of an impact I’m expecting them to have in their rookie seasons: 

Round 1: OT Andre Dillard 

Like a lot of these rookies, his playing time will be dependent upon the health of the players in front of him. I expect Dillard to be the Eagles’ backup left tackle and Jason Peters struggled to stay on the field last season. In 2018, Peters started all 16 games but still played just 79 percent of the Eagles’ offensive snaps, leaving plenty of games early. Peters played every snap in just seven of 18 total games (including playoffs) last season, so there’s a really good chance Dillard is going to get on the field at some point in 2019. 

In a way, this is an unusual situation, to have a first-round offensive lineman who isn’t scheduled to play. Here’s how much recent Eagles’ first-round offensive linemen played in Year 1: 

Lane Johnson (2013): 16 games, 16 starts 
Danny Watkins (2011): 12 games, 12 starts
Shawn Andrews (2004): 1 game, 1 start
Tra Thomas (1998): 16 games, 16 starts
Jermane Mayberry (1996): 3 games, 1 start
Bernard Williams (1994): 16 games, 16 starts
Lester Holmes (1993): 12 games, 6 starts
Anyone Davis (1991): 16 games, 15 starts 

Andrews would have played a lot more in his rookie season, but he broke his leg in the 2004 season opener. And a case of pneumonia delayed Mayberry’s rookie season. So it would be rare for an OL to get drafted in the first round and not play a ton, but that’s the situation we’re looking at here. If Peters is healthy, it’s hard to imagine Dillard playing much. There aren’t even any plans for him to cross-train at guard. 

But with Peters’ injury history and because he’s already 37, I’d expect Dillard to get in quite a few games and to possibly start a few in place of the future Hall of Famer. He’ll take over the job full-time in 2020. 

Round 2: RB Miles Sanders

Of all the rookies in this draft class, I fully expect Sanders to play the most. Sure, Jordan Howard is still in front of him on the depth chart, but for how long? Howard is signed through just this upcoming season and Sanders could be the future of the team at the position. Sanders also has way more upside as a potential three-down back in the NFL, but he’ll need to prove himself in pass protection before he gets third-down opportunities. Until then, I’d expect him to vulture some first- and second-down carries from Howard. 

Just the nature of the Eagles’ running back-by-committee system alone makes it very likely that Sanders will play a good deal immediately as a rookie. And the fact that they used a second-round pick on him means they’ll be in even more of a hurry to give him the rock. 

The last time the Eagles used a second-round pick on a running back was in 2009, when they drafted LeSean McCoy. In Shady’s rookie season, Brian Westbrook was limited to eight games because of injuries. Shady rushed for a team-high 637 yards, an Eagles rookie record. It’s hard to know how much the Eagles will use Howard while he’s here, but I’d expect over 500 yards for Sanders with a chance to approach or break Shady’s record. Heck, Josh Adams had 511 yards rushing last year as a rookie and Sanders is a much better prospect, although Adams was forced into a prominent role. 

Here are the top five rookie rushing performances in Eagles history: 

1. LeSean McCoy (2009): 637
2. Correll Buckhalter (2001): 586
3. Keith Byars (1986): 577
4. Po James (1972): 565
5. Bryce Brown (2012): 564

I think Sanders is going to find himself in that mix and perhaps at the top of that list by the end of 2019. 

Round 3: WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside

With Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Nelson Agholor still on the roster, Arcega-Whiteside is very clearly the Eagles’ fourth receiver. If everyone stays healthy, there’s probably not going to be a ton of playing time for JJAW. The most snaps a fourth receiver played in any game last year was 29 (Golden Tate). And there might be even less opportunity this year if the Eagles use their 12 personnel package more; that seems to be the plan. 

But based on recent history of two of the receivers in front of him, he should stay ready. Alshon Jeffery hasn’t missed a ton of games, but he has dealt with a couple series injuries the last couple seasons. And Jackson has averaged just 12.75 games per season in his last four seasons. There’s probably going to be some opportunity outside for Arcega-Whiteside (the No. 57 pick) at some point this year. 

Last season, there were six receivers drafted in the second round. Here were their rookie numbers: 

2-40: Courtland Sutton (DEN) — 42 rec, 704 yards, 4 TDs
2-44: Dante Pettis (SF) — 27 rec, 467 yards, 5 TDs
2-47: Christian Kirk (ARI) — 43 rec, 590 yards, 3 TDs
2-51: Anthony Miller (CHI) — 33 rec, 423 yards, 7 TDs
2-60: James Washington (PIT) — 15 rec, 217 yards, 1 TD
2-61: DJ Chark (JAX) — 14 rec, 174 yards, 0 TDs 

This year, JJAW was one of seven receivers taken in the second round. With his skills, the one area where he could really help the Eagles is in the red zone. With leaping and body control ability like Jeffery, Arcega-Whiteside could be a force in the end zone. 

A couple years ago, Mack Hollins had a 16/226/1 season as a fourth-round pick. Arcega-Whiteside should be able to top that easily, even with limited opportunity. 

Round 4: DE Shareef Miller

At best, Miller will be the Eagles’ fourth defensive end in 2019, but there’s a pretty good chance he’ll be fifth behind Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry and Josh Sweat — and this is with us assuming Chris Long doesn’t come back. There’s still some playing time for deep reserves but not a ton and even less with the addition of Malik Jackson. In the last couple of years, defensive ends would get more snaps because one or two of them would bump inside on passing downs, but Jackson’s presence will make that a less likely occurrence. 

It’s also important to note that Miller wasn’t just a fourth-round pick; he was the last pick in the fourth round. There’s a big difference between the top of that round and the bottom. The Eagles used a fourth-round pick on Sweat last year, but he played 68 defensive snaps before ending the season on IR. But even before the injury, the most snaps he played in any game was 20 and he got in double digits just twice. 

It’s hard to imagine Miller really pushing for significant playing time in his rookie season unless there are significant injuries to the players in front of him on the depth chart. 

Round 5: QB Clayton Thorson 

If Thorson plays in 2019, something has gone drastically wrong. The Eagles used a fifth-round pick on Thorson to be a developmental player but it’s not like the Eagles will be rotating quarterbacks. In a perfect world, Nate Sudfeld won’t even see the field unless it’s at the end of blowouts or in a meaningless Week 17 game after the Eagles have their playoff fate sealed. 

If Thorson plays this season, it’ll first mean Carson Wentz is hurt. It’ll then mean either Sudfeld got hurt too or he’s playing so poorly that the Eagles have turned to a rookie fifth-round pick from Northwestern. Either case would be an absolute disaster for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. 

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A-plus for running backs, disappointing defense and more in Eagles-Redskins report card

A-plus for running backs, disappointing defense and more in Eagles-Redskins report card

Another game-winning drive led by Carson Wentz and the defense does just enough to defeat Washington, 37-27, on Sunday — but there was one unit in particular that stood out and earned an A-plus on this week’s Eagles report card.


Carson Wentz: 30/43, 266 YDS, 3 TD

There’s plenty to nitpick about Wentz’s game, including a bad fumble in his own end, but he threw three second-half touchdowns. The second score was a 15-yard laser on the run, past the outstretched hands of two Washington defenders, and the third, a perfectly placed four-yard over-the-shoulder floater over tight coverage. Wentz also missed some throws that would’ve extended drives, but that’s back-to-back clutch performances for the Eagles’ franchise quarterback.

Grade: A-

Running backs

Miles Sanders: 19 ATT, 122 YDS, TD, 6 REC, 50 YDS, TD

The kid does it all. Sanders averaged 6.4 yards per carry, his vision and physicality on full display. And on his 15-yard touchdown catch, the rookie exhibited veteran instincts, finding a spot all alone in the corner of the end zone, and tremendous body control to stay in bounds. Boston Scott added 65 yards of total offense.

Grade: A+

Wide receivers and tight ends

Greg Ward: 7 REC, 61 YDS, TD

You can see why the Eagles waited until they were literally forced to put JJ Arcega-Whiteside on the field. He dropped one touchdown, killed another drive with a holding penalty and finished with zero catches. Good games by Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert and Ward, the latter of whom caught the game-winning touchdown, as all three finished with at least five receptions and 55 yards receiving.

Grade: B

Offensive line

Paved the way for a huge day on the ground, with 157 yards rushing on 5.6 yards per attempt. The pass protection was mostly reliable as well, minus a few hiccups, allowing only six quarterback hits and two sacks — one of which was entirely the result of the quarterback holding the ball too long.

Grade: B+

Defensive line

Brandon Graham: 5 TKL, 2 TFL

Not only did the Eagles fail to register a sack against Washington — they didn’t even hit the quarterback as far as the statkeepers were concerned. And a typically strong front against the run didn’t even do a particularly outstanding job there, allowing a 34-year-old running back to amass 66 yards with a 4.1 average. The front was a bit more disruptive than the numbers suggest, but not much

Grade: C-


Nathan Gerry: 4 TKL

It’s a good thing Nigel Bradham returned a fumble 47 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the game, otherwise an Eagles linebacker may not have had his name called all game. That’s a bit of an exaggeration obviously, as the unit combined to make nine tackles, but the unit’s missed tackles were certainly a lot more memorable.

Grade: C-


Avonte Maddox: 3 TKL, 2 PD

Washington’s rookie quarterback entered the game completing 55 percent of his passes for 6.1 yards per attempt with three touchdowns and seven interceptions. So naturally, he was 19 of 28 with a 9.3 average, two scores and no picks against the Eagles. Maddox had a particularly rough day, with a missed tackle resulting in a 75-yard catch-and-run to the end zone and another touchdown in coverage — though he responded with a pair of pass breakups.

Grade: C-

Special teams

Jake Elliott: 1/1 FG, 4/4 XP

For the second week in a row, Cameron Johnston’s punts were once again critical plays, twice pinning Washington’s offense inside its own 15-yard line on three tries. Neither possession ended in points.

Grade: A-


Eagles’ record: 7-7

Not sure how Jim Schwartz managed to make a rookie quarterback who had played poorly up to this point look like a stud, but he found a way. Doug Pederson almost got away from the run at one point mid-game, yet he went back to it and got some big plays. Bottom line, this team is fighting tooth and nail and doing just enough to win in the end. You just have to wonder if effort alone will be good enough to beat Dallas next week.

Grade: B

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Eagles at Redskins live: Highlights and analysis from NFL Week 15 game

Eagles at Redskins live: Highlights and analysis from NFL Week 15 game

4:08 p.m.: Greg Ward Jr. just came up clutch with a four-yard touchdown catch. Give credit to Carson Wentz for bouncing back with that drive. That fumble was brutal, but he had another clutch drive. 

The defense got a touchdown at the end to close out the game. 

Final: Eagles 37, Redskins 27 

3:54 p.m.: Dustin Hopkins just drilled a 43-yard field goal to give Washington the lead. They got the ball with great field position after a terrible fumble from Carson Wentz. 

Still 4:52 left: Redskins 27, Eagles 24 

3:41 p.m.: Tie game. Dustin Hopkins just hit a 53-yard field goal to tie it up. 

With 8:02 left: Eagles 24, Redskins 24 

3:34 p.m.: The Eagles answer right back. On a 3rd-and-11, Miles Sanders took a draw and went 56 yards for a first down. Sanders is up to 124 rushing and 170 scrimmage yards today. Good fight from the Eagles’ offense. Let’s see if the defense can finally get a stop. 

Still 9:59 left: Eagles 24, Redskins 21 

3:23 p.m.: The Eagles’ offense finally scored and then their defense gave it right back on a 75-yard touchdown drive. Gross. 

Adrian Peterson just punched in a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter to give the Redskins a lead. 

With 14:53 left in the game: Redskins 21, Eagles 17 

3:19 p.m.: We’re heading into the fourth quarter. The Eagles have a three-point lead but Washington is driving at the end of the third quarter. 

After 3: Eagles 17, Redskins 14 

3:11 p.m.: Holy cow! That was an insane throw from Carson Wentz on the 15-yard touchdown to Miles Sanders. Legitimately one of the best throws I’ve ever seen him make. Rolling right, through traffic to Sanders in the back of the end zone. 


Eagles take a lead. 

Still time left in third: Eagles 17, Redskins 14

2:28 p.m.: That’s it for the first half and we’re in a tight game here in Landover. 

The Eagles are getting out-gained 216-194. They’ve given up two touchdowns and this is just the second time all season the Redskins have scored 14 points in the first half. The other time happened in the opener against the Eagles. Washington came into today averaging 14 1/2 points per game. They pretty much did that in the first half. 

Meanwhile on offense, the Eagles scored on their first two drives and then punted on their next two. 

At half: Redskins 14, Eagles 10 

Eagles get the ball back to start the second half. 

1:57 p.m.: The Redskins just took back their lead on a seven-play, 75-yard drive in 2:55. Dwayne Haskins is having a good game so far. He’s 7/8 for 130 yards and two touchdowns. Haskins hit Steven Sims in the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-goal. 

There’s 6:58 left: Redskins 14, Eagles 10

1:45 p.m.: Miles Sanders just passed DeSean Jackson for the Eagles’ rookie record for scrimmage yards. He’s been great this season and he was good on that drive. 

The Eagles went 75 yards on 6:18 and Sanders punched in a 1-yard touchdown. On that drive, they were bailed out by a weak roughing the passer call that went in their favor. 

Still 9:53 left in the half: Eagles 10, Redskins 7

1:33 p.m.: That was a quick first quarter. The Redskins are up but the Eagles are driving. Zach Ertz was just took a cheap shot from Montae Nicholson, but he looks to be fine. 

After 1: Redskins 7, Eagles 3 

1:26 p.m.: Well, Terry McLaurin didn’t beat the Eagles deep down the field, but he still scored a 75-yard touchdown. He caught a ball in the middle and Avonte Maddox missed the tackle. 

That was quick. 

Later in the first: Redskins 7, Eagles 3 

1:23 p.m.: The Eagles just went on a 16-play, 88-yard drive that took 7:40 off the clock. They eventually had to settle for a 25-yard field goal. Zach Ertz had three catches for 48 yards on the drive. 

Late in the first quarter: Eagles 3, Redskins 0 

1:10 p.m.: The Eagles gave up a few first downs on the opening drive but eventually forced a punt. Dwayne Haskins was getting the ball out quick on that drive. Seemed like a concerted effort to do that. 

1 p.m.: Eagles win the toss, defer. Defense up first. 

11:30 a.m.: Here’s the full list of Eagles’ inactives against the Redskins: 

Lane Johnson (ankle) 
Nelson Agholor (knee)
Jordan Howard (shoulder) 
Derek Barnett (ankle) 
Nate Sudfeld 
Sua Opeta 
Shareef Miller 

For Washington, guard Brandon Scherff is out. That's a big deal and good news for Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan inside. Watch for those guys to eat today. 

11:14 a.m.: A few scenes from early warmups: 

10:13 a.m.: Some good injury news a little over an hour before inactives come out. 

9:56 a.m.: It’s a beautiful sunny day here in Landover. We got really lucky. It was raining all day yesterday and it’s supposed to snow tomorrow. We’ll take a 50-degree day with sun for the game. 

8:28 a.m.: Good morning! It’s game day and I have had my coffee, so we’re good to go. The only injury question heading into today for the Eagles is about Ronald Darby, who is questionable after suffering a hip flexor injury in practice on Friday. The Eagles already ruled out Lane Johnson (ankle), Nelson Agholor (knee), Jordan Howard (shoulder) and Derek Barnett (ankle). 

The Eagles play at 1 p.m. and if they win, it’ll be worth watching the Rams-Cowboys game at 4:25 p.m. If the Eagles win and the Cowboys lose, it’ll set up a situation where the Eagles can clinch the division against the Cowboys in Week 16 and basically give themselves a Week 17 bye. 

But first the Eagles have to take care of business against Washington. Here are five matchups to watch. 

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