Eagles

Good luck trying to pick apart this Eagles team

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Good luck trying to pick apart this Eagles team

Eleven penalties, three fumbles lost versus the Bears. There it is. If you were searching for some kind of blemish, some minutia, some needle in the haystack of dominance that has been the Eagles' last nine games, you got it. Good luck digging any deeper for any warts. 

And by the way, if you are in any way focused on that after what's gone down this season, you have serious issues. You should turn in your fan card and take up a hobby on Sundays.

The 2017 Eagles define balance. Doesn't matter if it's home or away, division or conference foe, AFC or NFC. You know week in and week out the offense and the defense will show up and they will show up in a big way. They have won their last five games by 30-plus points. They allowed one defensive touchdown in November. Carson Wentz has thrown at least three touchdown passes in five straight. The defense has had multiple interceptions in four consecutive games.

The Bears had six rushing yards Sunday. Their running backs ran 10 times for minus-six yards. This is a team that entered the game ranked fifth in the NFL in rushing. They had zero first downs in the first half. Conversely, the Eagles have rushed for 100-plus yards in their last 10 games. Whether it's through the air or on the ground, defending the run or shutting down the pass, its advantage-Eagles any way you slice it.

Want to take a trip into the red zone? Wentz is 31 for 48 for 242 yards with 20 touchdowns, zero interceptions and zero sacks taken.

With the exception of Tom Brady's 251 yards passing, Wentz's red-zone numbers are as good or better than anyone's in the NFL. 

The Eagles' defense is third in red-zone scoring. The Birds rank third in takeaways with 22. They are 22nd in giveaways. They are a plus-nine on the season, which is second-best in the league.

Which brings up the coaching — this team is better prepared than the opponent every week. They don't just beat teams, they throttle them. We've been waiting for the letdown game all season. Hasn't happened. The only knock, if you can call it that, is they've beaten one team with a winning record thus far. And we will certainly find out a lot more the next two weeks with the Eagles traveling to face the 7-4 Seahawks and 8-3 Rams. 

But teams with this kind of balance can beat you in a multitude of ways. And they can overcome adversity when something is taken away or goes awry. Doug Pederson has done a phenomenal job thus far. He may lose as many as two assistants off of his staff at year's end and that's a good thing. No one is mining the fields of the Browns' or Bears' staffs. 

The other thing about Pederson is he gets it. Much has been made of the Eagles' celebrations but Pederson has allowed the players to be themselves and have fun. Far removed from the Chip Kelly drill sergeant routine.     

The quarterback is having an MVP year and a season for the ages and he's only getting better. Alshon Jeffery, after a bit of a slow start, is coming on strong, with five touchdowns in his last four games. Ronald Darby hasn't skipped a beat since rejoining the team. Brandon Graham is having a career year. Good luck finding a more dominant duo than Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan, or Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks for that matter.

Coaching, talent, depth and focus — all hallmarks of sustainable winning, all attributes the Eagles continue to deliver each week. Oh, and did I mention balance?

Eagles hoping no-risk, high-reward veteran signings can rekindle past success

Eagles hoping no-risk, high-reward veteran signings can rekindle past success

When you’re in salary cap hell, you have to be creative when building a roster.

And one tactic Howie Roseman used when putting together the Eagles team that begins training camp Thursday is signing a handful of no-risk, high-reward guys.

Players trying to revive their careers. Players trying to reclaim past glory. Players running out of chances.

These are no-risk, high-reward guys. They could become contributors, but if it doesn’t work out? The Eagles can release them before the season with modest or no cap ramifications.

When you’re in salary cap hell, you can’t sign all the free agents you want. So you sign the free agents that you can. And you do that by signing players nobody else wants. Guys with no leverage.

One tool Roseman likes to use is the NFL’s minimum-salary benefit, which gives teams some salary cap relief when they sign veteran players to certain deals.

The minimum-salary benefit can be used only for veterans with at least four years of experience who sign one-year minimum-wage deals with combined bonuses equalling $90,000 or less. 

Here’s a look at four of these no-risk, high-reward players the Eagles added this offseason.

Markus Wheaton

The Eagles signed Wheaton to a one-year deal with a $790,000 base salary (sixth-year minimum) with a $45,000 signing bonus, a $45,000 workout bonus but a cap number of $720,000, thanks to the minimum-salary benefit.

If the Eagles release Wheaton before the season, he would count just $90,000 against the cap, the value of his two bonuses.

Wheaton is only 27 and should be in his prime but has done nearly nothing the last two seasons after two very good years.

In 2014 and 2015, he combined for 97 catches for 1,393 yards, seven touchdowns and a 14.4 average. He had seven catches of 40 yards or more during those two years. Pretty good production.

But the last two years, Wheaton had just seven catches for 102 yards and one TD for the Steelers and Bears.

If he’s healthy and can be even half the player he was in 2014 and 2015, he could really help as a fourth receiver.

Matt Jones

The Eagles signed Jones to a two-year, $1.51 million deal that includes base salaries of $705,000 this year and $805,000 next year with no bonus money, which means no dead cap money if he’s released.

Even though Jones’ deal is not subject to the minimum-salary benefit, his base salaries of $705,000 and $805,000 are minimum wage for a third-year veteran in 2018 and a fourth-year vet in 2019.

Jones was one of the NFL’s best running backs the first half of 2016. Through seven games, he had 460 yards and a 4.6 average with three TDs. In a mid-October win over the Eagles at FedEx Field, he ran for 135 yards, the most rushing yards against the Eagles the last two years.

But he hurt his knee and never got his job back, then was released before last season. He resurfaced with the Colts but had only five carries all year.

Jones is only 25 and is a good enough receiver that he caught 19 passes for 304 yards and a TD as a rookie reserve.

With LeGarrette Blount gone, Jay Ajayi on a pitch count because of chronic knee soreness, Corey Clement’s role still undefined and Darren Sproles likely to be limited on offense at 35 years old, Jones will have a chance to work his way into the mix.

And if it doesn’t work out? No cap hit.

Richard Rodgers

The Eagles signed Rodgers to a one-year, $880,000 contract that includes a $790,000 base salary, a $45,000 signing bonus, a $45,000 workout bonus and a $720,000 cap figure, courtesy of the minimum-salary benefit rule.

If the Eagles release him, he’ll count $245,000 in dead money, the amount of guaranteed money in his one-year deal.

As recently as 2015, Rodgers caught 58 passes for 510 yards and eight touchdowns, which ranked him 12th among all NFL tight ends in catches and fifth in TDs. But he dropped to 30 catches in 2016 and just 12 last year.

Rodgers is only 26 and should be in his prime, but he’s reached only 30 yards twice in his last 31 games.

With Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, the Eagles have a potent 1-2 punch, but if Rodgers can regain his form of 2015, it would give Doug Pederson even more options in a ridiculously talented array of skill players.

LaRoy Reynolds

The Eagles signed Reynolds to a one-year, $880,000 contract that includes a $790,000 base salary, a $90,000 roster bonus and a reduced $720,000 cap figure.

Because there’s nothing guaranteed in his contract, the Eagles would not absorb any dead money under the cap if they release him before the season.

Reynolds, now with his fourth team in four years, has played in 68 games with seven starts. He’s only 27 and is considered an above-average special teamer and adequate depth linebacker.

The Eagles have some big question marks at linebacker, with Paul Worrilow (Reynolds’ former teammate) out for the year, Mychal Kendricks now with the Browns, Nigel Bradham suspended for the opener and Jordan Hicks able to finish one of his first three seasons.

Reynolds will have a chance to work into that mix. If not? No harm done.

More on the Eagles

Eagle Eye: When does a contract negotiation become a problem?

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Eagle Eye: When does a contract negotiation become a problem?

In the latest edition of Eagle Eye, John Clark and Barrett Brooks are pumped for the start of training camp. Following MLB Commissioner's comments on Mike Trout's marketability, the guys discuss if it's on the player or the league to market an athlete? The Falcons said they will not give Julio Jones a new contract. At what point does a public contract negotiation become a distraction in the locker room?

1:00 - Guys are excited for the start of training camp.
4:45 - Is it on a player or a league to market an athlete?
11:00 - When does a Julio Jones contract situation become a locker room distraction?
18:00 - When money starts dividing a locker room.

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