Fletcher Cox, Michael Bennett, Golden Tate, and more in Roob's 10 Eagles observations

Fletcher Cox, Michael Bennett, Golden Tate, and more in Roob's 10 Eagles observations

Is Fletcher Cox an all-time Eagles top-10 defensive player? What's going on with Golden Tate? How good is Michael Bennett?

We're all over the map with this week's edition of Roob's 10 random Eagles observations!

1. Doug Pederson has really done a masterful job the last two years toggling between Carson Wentz and Nick Foles, and it can’t be easy. They’re both great guys, unselfish, close friends, which makes it easier, but it’s still a tricky thing balancing personalities and keeping both guys engaged and positive and supportive when they’re not playing. You know Wentz didn’t want to give way to Foles while his back healed. You know Foles didn’t want to give way to Wentz back in Week 2 after winning a Super Bowl MVP. But Pederson and his staff have not only done a terrific job getting both QBs ready to play — the Eagles are 23-9 the last two years when either Wentz or Foles finishes the game — but Pederson has also managed to navigate the potential minefield of egos and personalities along the way. This is a very underrated and very important part of coaching: Dealing with people. Pederson is very good at it.

2. Someone asked me on Twitter whether I’d consider Cox an all-time top-10 Eagles defensive player, and I don’t think there’s any question now that he is. You can make a case for Jeremiah Trotter and Bill Bergey, and guys like Jerome Brown, Tom Brookshier, Asante Samuel, Wes Hopkins, Hugh Douglas and William Fuller might be in the mix as well. As well as Malcolm Jenkins. But here’s what my top 10 looks like: 

1. Reggie White
2. Brian Dawkins
3. Chuck Bednarik
4. Eric Allen
5. Maxie Baughan
6. Seth Joyner
7. Troy Vincent 
8. Clyde Simmons
9. Fletcher Cox 
10. Bill Bradley

3. It’ll be interesting to see what the Eagles eventually do with Avonte Maddox, who has that rare ability as a rookie fourth-round pick to play safety, outside corner or slot, depending where he’s needed the most. What a find this kid is. I figure long term he’ll wind up in the slot, where his intelligence, aggressiveness and vision are probably the best fit. But I know he'll be somewhere on the field next year and for years to come.

4. It’ll be fascinating to see how next year’s secondary lines up. Assuming the Eagles cut ties with Rodney McLeod and don’t re-sign Ronald Darby, I could see Jalen Mills and Sidney Jones outside and Maddox in the slot, with Jenkins and Rasul Douglas at safety. Now, if they choose, they can probably bring McLeod and or Darby back with cap-friendly deals, since nobody is going to give big money to guys coming off those injuries and we don’t even know when they’ll be cleared to work out for teams. McLeod is due $7.5 million and would count about $4.8 million if the Eagles cut him. It would benefit both sides if they could agree to a restructure. As for Darby, someone might give him a huge deal, but I doubt it. If I could get him back cheap for a year and he's healthy? I’d do it. One thing we've learned this year is that you can never have too many corners.

5. One interesting thing that would seem to indicate the Eagles are capable of playing with anybody is that they’ve only lost one game by more than a touchdown — obviously to the Saints. They’re one of only eight NFL teams that have lost one or no games by more than a TD, along with the Panthers, Saints, Steelers and Seahawks (one) and the Chiefs, Texans and Bears (none). In Pederson's three years, the Eagles have lost only five games by more than one TD. Only the Chiefs have lost fewer. So they’re in almost every game. And if you’re in almost every game, you’re always giving yourself a chance. 

6. I have to admit I’ve been kind of shocked at all the anti-Wentz sentiment I’ve seen and heard this past week. And I’m the biggest Foles guy on the planet. How quickly they forget what Wentz did last year and even this year. Foles has played three games this year and had two in which he threw at least one INT and didn’t throw a TD. Wentz has played 24 games the last two years and has had one game in which he didn’t throw a TD and threw an INT. Foles will always be a legend in this city and deservedly so, but that doesn’t mean Wentz is terrible. He’s anything but. Drew Brees has been the best QB in the NFL over the last two years, and Wentz has one less TD and more INT over the last two seasons. Let’s cut it out with the “Wentz sucks” nonsense.

7. Interesting to note the differences in styles between Josh Adams and Wendell Smallwood. Adams has 98 carries and Smallwood 74. Adams has six carries this year longer than 15 yards and Smallwood has none. But Adams also has 13 carries for negative yards and Smallwood has only five. Adams is averaging 4.5 yards per carry and Smallwood 4.2, but Adams gives you a bigger chance at a big gain … but also for a big loss. Here's Pederson on Adams on short-yardage issues: 

Know the situation. Sometimes he just has to put his foot down and kind of cram it in there and just get the three feet that we need.

Smallwood is 3 for 4 in his career on 3rd- or 4th-and-1 (75 percent) and Darren Sproles is 16 for 23 (70 percent). It will be interesting to see if Pederson sticks with Adams when the Eagles have a big 3rd-and-1 Sunday. I’d go with Smallwood or Sproles at this point.

8. I feel like Jake Elliott needs to make that 53-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, which would have clinched the Eagles’ win in L.A. The rest of the league is 10 for 14 from 53 yards this year, which is 71 percent. Even over the last five years, that’s a 70 percent kick. Kicking has changed. What we once thought of as a crazy long kick is now a layup. Elliott’s been very good, but that’s a clutch kick he should make.

9. This Tate thing is just flat-out weird. Tate has played only 20 and 22 snaps (out of 116) the last two weeks. He’s surpassed only 50 yards in one of six games since the Eagles acquired him, and he’s had only one catch of 20 yards or more. This can’t be what the Eagles had in mind when they shipped a third-round pick to the Lions. I liked the trade when the Eagles made it, but at this point it’s hard to imagine the Eagles bringing Tate back on a long-term deal.

10. Michael Bennett has been so much better than I expected. And more than that. As a person, he’s been nothing like I expected. I should know better than to make judgments about someone based on hearsay. He’s not only a beast on the field, he’s smart, insightful and funny off it. If you missed our Q&A with Bennett this week, you can find it below: 

Part 1
Part 2

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NFL Draft 2020: Top analyst has a ‘home run’ pick for the Eagles

NFL Draft 2020: Top analyst has a ‘home run’ pick for the Eagles

The Eagles have a pretty obvious and pressing need at wide receiver as the 2020 NFL Draft nears and here’s some good news: 

NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah, on a national conference call Friday afternoon, called this class of receivers “phenomenal,” adding that he has 27 (!) receivers with top-three round grades. 

With all that in mind, I asked Jeremiah which receivers might be available when the Eagles pick at No. 21 and which players of that group would really fit what they do offensively. 

One name rose above the rest. 

If you were to say, ‘Home run pick for the Eagles, who is it?’ Henry Ruggs. Just because how much speed and juice he would give to that offense.

In his first mock draft of the season released on Jan. 21, Jeremiah actually had the Eagles taking Ruggs with the 21st pick. But on Friday said he expects Ruggs to be “long gone” by the time the Eagles on on the clock at 21. 

Ruggs (6-0, 190) didn’t put up monster numbers at Alabama but there’s a chance the Eagles this year won’t care about college production as they have in the past. And Ruggs certainly has one key attribute: speed. 

Jeremiah, who was once a scout with the Eagles, said he thinks the Birds will prefer the element of speed, which Ruggs certainly has. There’s a chance Ruggs might blow the doors off the combine, which would only hurt the Eagles’ odds of landing him. 

An interesting thought is a possible trade up. The Eagles are expected to have a total of 10 picks in this draft and perhaps they could use some of those picks to move up and take a player like Ruggs. 

But if they don’t, Jeremiah said the Eagles could use different styles of receivers and had some other options with that No. 21 pick: 

Justin Jefferson: The 6-3, 192 LSU receiver is coming off an incredible junior season. He caught 111 passes for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns. 

“I think Justin Jefferson has got a chance to be a high, high volume slot receiver who is a lot like Keenan Allen,” Jeremiah said. “He can fill that role, he can work in traffic, he’s really good down in the red zone. He led the entire draft class down in the red zone this year. He had 12. He’s a point producer and he’d be a great fit for them.”

Brandon Aiyuk: At 6-1, 206 pounds, Aiyuk is known for his YAC ability. He averaged 18.3 yards per catch in 2019 (65 catches, 1,192 yards, 8 touchdowns). 

“I love Brandon Aiyuk from Arizona State,” Jeremiah said. “I think he’s a stud. He’s tough, competitive, run after catch guy. Needs a little polish but he can return as well so has some value there.”

Tee Higgins: At 6-4, 215, Higgins is a very different player than a guy like Ruggs. He did catch 59 balls for 1,167 yards and 13 touchdowns in his junior season at Clemson. 

“And then Tee Higgins will probably be there, who’s long, tall and rangy,” Jeremiah said. “You’re hoping you’re drafting A.J. Green but I don’t think he’s on that level. But that’s the style which he plays. There’s a little bit of concern with him just getting off press. Some of the better competition he played later in the year, he struggled a little bit with that. 

“I would say that group of wide receivers is the one they’ll be staring at.”

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Ranking all of Howie Roseman’s Eagles 2nd-round picks

Ranking all of Howie Roseman’s Eagles 2nd-round picks

As we near the 2020 NFL draft, the Eagles are expected to have 10 selections and a real opportunity to pick up some important young players for the future of the franchise. 

During his time as GM (2010-14, 2016-present), Howie Roseman has had some hits and he’s had some misses. 

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to rank all of his draft picks (excluding the 2015 year when Chip Kelly was in charge) by round. 

We already looked at the first round.

Today, we’ll get to his 10 second-round picks: 

1. Zach Ertz (2013, No. 35) 

It’s hard to believe that Ertz is 29 already and just finished his seventh NFL season. While he’s playing in an era with some other really great tight ends, Ertz is having the type of season that will one day likely warrant a discussion about the Hall of Fame. He’s the only player in Eagles history with five straight seasons with 70+ catches and 800+ yards. And his 525 receptions are the most ever for a tight end through their first seven seasons. 

2. Miles Sanders (2019, No. 53) 

Maybe this is too early but I’m sold on Sanders. I think he’s going to be a star and I think the Eagles nailed this pick. Going by merit, he’s too high here but I’m projecting some. Sanders set an Eagles rookie record for scrimmage yards with 1,327. I expect him to continue to get better too. 

3. Mychal Kendricks (2012, No. 46) 

Kendricks played six seasons with the Eagles and even signed a pretty significant contract with the team. His last game as an Eagle was Super Bowl LII. While the Eagles moved on from him after the Super Bowl and while his play the last couple years wasn’t up to his previous level, Kendricks was a pretty darn good player for several years. In six years with the Eagles he had 3 Ints, 7 FFs and 14.0 sacks. 

4. Dallas Goedert (2018, No. 49) 

If Ertz wasn’t already an Eagle, I have no doubt Goedert would be a clear No. 1 tight end and his stats would be much better. Even with Ertz in front of him, Goedert has caught 91 passes for 941 yards and nine touchdowns in his first two seasons and he’s been a really good blocker. He has allowed the Eagles to utilize 12 personnel and make their offense more diversified. 

5. Jordan Matthews (2014, No. 42) 

He never had a 1,000-yard season but the Vanderbilt product in a three-season span (2014-16) caught 225 passes for 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns. While he was never a great receiver, it’s hard to argue with those numbers. But his two stints with the Eagles since then haven’t been very productive. 

6. Vinny Curry (2012, No. 59) 

Curry has had a strange career in Philly. For the first few years of his career, he was a pass-rush specialists and was later a run-stuffing first- and second-down player. His best season came in 2014, when he piled up 9.0 sacks. In his second stint in 2019, he actually had 5.0 sacks but is set to be a free agent again. 

7. Nate Allen (2010, No. 37) 

Allen didn’t become the Eagles’ next great safety but he’s better than you remember. In five years with the Eagles he played 74 games (69 starts) and had 10 interceptions and four sacks. 

8. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (2019, No. 57) 

We have just one year to work off of so maybe JJAW rises quickly. But early returns certainly aren’t good for the receiver out of Stanford. As a rookie, Arcega-Whiteside caught 10 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles could have used more production in 2019. 

9. Sidney Jones (2017, No. 43) 

Jones made some clutch plays late in the 2019 regular season but he clearly hasn’t lived up to his extremely high potential. The Eagles took a gamble when they drafted him coming off an Achilles tear and so far that hasn’t paid off. The Eagles would have loved if Jones could have taken over a starting gig but he’s struggled to stay healthy and when he’s been on the field he hasn’t been the great corner we saw at Washington. I have Jones lower than JJAW simply because he’s had more opportunities. 

10. Jaiquawn Jarrett (2011, No 54) 

Once billed as a hard-hitting safety in the mold of Brian Dawkins, the Temple draft pick lasted just over one season with the Eagles. He played a total of 13 games with the Eagles and started two games. He was released the September after his rookie season. 

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