How Jeff Stoutland's last-minute phone call helped the Eagles land Andre Dillard

How Jeff Stoutland's last-minute phone call helped the Eagles land Andre Dillard

It was the Saturday before the first day of the NFL draft, and Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland had some unanswered questions.

He knew the Eagles were very interested in drafting Andre Dillard in the first round if he dropped down into the 20s.

But because Dillard was projected to be gone long before the Eagles picked at 25, Stoutland never had a chance to visit him at Washington State.

I like when you go out to the school, you get a chance the night before you go sit down with him, you sit in the classroom, the next morning you wake up, you do the workout, and if there’s anything else you need to do you hang around a little longer,” Stoutland said. “I didn’t have that chance to do that with him. … You try to make sure you know everything about every player, but to be honest with you, everybody thought he was kind of out of our reach. You can’t go everywhere. You can’t go out and visit all the players and work them all out. It’s impossible. There’s not enough time.

But Stoutland wasn’t comfortable enough to really go to bat for him. Not yet.

If the Eagles were on the clock and owner Jeff Lurie or executive vice president of football operations suddenly asked Stoutland some crucial questions about Dillard, did he truly have the answers?

When Mr. Lurie or Howie asks me a question about a particular player, I better have an answer, that’s my job,” Stoutland said Monday. “With (Dillard), I needed more information.

What exactly was Stout looking for? 

“Just the football intelligence part of it and how important is the game, the whole makeup,” he said. “I wanted to just double back on it all.”

It was way too late to bring Dillard into Philly or set up a visit on campus.

So five days before the draft, on what would have been a normal, quiet day off for the veteran offensive line coach, Stoutland decided to call Dillard and just try to get a better feel for who he was as a person and as a player.

“My wife goes, ‘Where are you going?’” Stoutland recalled. 

“And I said, ‘Look, I’m going in the other room, everybody just leave me alone for a little bit, I need to make one phone call and I’m good for the rest of the day.’”

Most mock drafts and draft analysts had Dillard going in that 12-18 range, with some projecting him a little higher and some a little lower.

Stoutland knew he could be wasting his time, contacting a kid who was projected to be long gone by the time it was the Eagles’ turn to draft.

But he picked up the phone anyway.

I called him, it was early in the morning, he said, ‘Give me half an hour,’ and then he called back and we Skyped and I had a chance to speak to him,” Stoutland said. “(I told him), ‘You never know in the draft what can happen,’ and I said I’m just making sure. We had a nice conversation. … I felt very, very comfortable and very good with that conversation. Never thought anything would come of it, to be quite honest with you.

On draft day, with the legendary position coach now comfortable with Dillard and Dillard dropping, the Eagles moved up three spots to select him at No. 22.

“You’re sitting there watching the draft and they’re selecting all the defensive linemen and now all the (offensive line) quality is getting pushed back and you’re saying, ‘Holy cow, we might have a shot at this,’” Stoutland said. “And it all worked out.”

Stoutland has been coaching offensive linemen at a high level for a long time, going back to the early 1990s at Cornell. 

What did Dillard share with Stoutland during that conversation on April 20?

I just liked the love of football,” he said. “The importance of it to him. Being prepared. I liked the fact that he’s looking for somebody that’s going to challenge him. … I would say also an increased football intelligence, probably better than I thought. I did ask him some detailed questions, which he answered really good. Sometimes when you have a 1-on-1 conversation with somebody when there’s not a lot of people around, you learn a lot more.

It’s too early to tell whether Dillard will carry on the left tackle tradition of Tra Thomas and Jason Peters, but Stoutland said the 23-year-old Dillard so far has been everything he expected in practice.

If Dillard is what the Stoutland thinks he is, the Eagles will be set at left tackle for a decade once Peters finally retires.

All because of that one extra phone call that Stoutland just had to make.

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Eagles announce several new jersey numbers for 2020 season 

Eagles announce several new jersey numbers for 2020 season 

We have a long way to go before the start of the 2020 season but we have some jersey number updates from the Eagles. 

Most of these new numbers are for new players, but Jalen Mills is also switching out of the number he’s worn for the first four years of his career. 

Here they are in numerical order: 

Jalen Mills: 21

Mills spent the first four years of his career in No. 31. But his rookie contract is over and he’s returning as a safety in 2020. So new position, new number. 

“It’s just recreating myself,” Mills said this week. “Recreating that Green Goblin, that monster. It’s a new position, it’s a new feel, and it’s going to be new energy.”

Mills said he admires guys like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, who each changed their jersey numbers throughout their NBA careers. 

The No. 21 became available after Ronald Darby left in free agency to head to Washington. Darby wore 41 back in 2017 when he arrived in a training camp trade; Patrick Robinson had the 21 on his one-year deal.

Complete Eagles history at 21: James Zyntell, Les Maynard, Paul Cuba, John Kusko, Herschel Stockton, Allison White, Chuck Cherundolo, William Boedeker, Al Pollard, Jim Carr, Joe Scarpati, Ray Jones, Jackie Allen, Wes Chesson, Al Clark, John Sciarra, Evan Cooper, Eric Allen, Bobby Taylor, Matt Ware, William James, Joselio Hanson, David Sims, Roc Carmichael, Jerome Couplin, Leodis McKelvin, Patrick Robinson, Ronald Darby

Darius Slay: 24 

In Detroit, Slay wore No. 30 during his rookie season back in 2013 but had the No. 23 in the next six years. But in Philly, Rodney McLeod has 23, so Slay is happily changing to 24 to honor the late Kobe Bryant.

“I’m going Kobe mode,” Slay said. “Black mamba. Rest in peace to the  One of my favorite players. I will look good in 24.”

Last season, Jordan Howard wore the No. 24 during his one-year stint with the Eagles. 

Complete Eagles history at 24: Howard Auer, Joe Carpe, Dick Lachman, Jack Knapper, Herman Bassman, Joe Pilconis, Rabbit Keen, Bill Schneller, Dom Moselle, George Taliaferro, Don Schaefer, Nate Ramsey, Artimus Parker, Henry Monroe, Zac Henderson, Ray Ellis, Russell Gary, Reggie Brown, Alan Reid, Alan Dial, Corey Barlow, Tim McTyer, Darnell Autry, Rod Smart, Blaine Bishop, Sheldon Brown, Joique Bell, Brandon Hughes, Nnadmi Asomugha, Bradley Fletcher, Ryan Mathews, Corey Graham, Jordan Howard

Will Parks: 28 

During the first four years of his NFL career, Parks wore No. 34 in Denver as a sixth-round pick. But that number is owned by Cre’Von LeBlanc in Philly. 

So Parks will hop into the No. 28 that was vacant for most of last year until Jay Ajayi was signed during the season. 

Complete Eagles history at 28: Dick Thornton, Guy Turnbow, Algy Clark, Joe Pilconis, Max Padlow, J. “Stumpy” Thomason, Harry Klopenburg, Ray Keeling, Bob Jackson, Paul Dudley, Jim Gray, Bill Bradley, Lou Rash, Greg Harding, Don Griffin, Mel Gray, Clarence Love, Amp Lee, Correll Buckhalter, Ramzee Robinson, Marlin Jackson, Dion Lewis, Earl Wolff, Wendell Smallwood, Jay Ajayi

Nickell Robey-Coleman: 31

As an undrafted player, Robey-Coleman came into the league and wore No. 37 for his first three seasons in Buffalo before he got a big-time improvement and took over 21 in 2015. For the last three seasons, he wore 23 with the Rams but that’s taken by McLeod here. 

So he’ll be in the 31 that Mills wore for the last four years. 

Complete Eagles history at 31: Joe Carter, Tom Graham, Irv Kupcinet, William Brian, Bob Masters, Emmett Mortell, Jerry Ginney, Phil Ragazzo, Jim Castiglia, Ted Williams, Art Macioszczyk, Dan Sandifer, Ebert Van Buren, Ron Goodwin, Tom Bailey, Wilbert Montgomery, Troy West, Tyrone Jones, Brian O’Neal, Derrick Witherspoon, Al Harris, Daryon Brutley, Dexter Wynn, Ellis Hobbs, Curtis Marsh, Shaun Prater, Byron Maxwell, Jalen Mills

Trevor Williams: 41

You might have forgotten the Eagles signed Williams back in January, but the cornerback and Penn State product has 39 NFL games and 27 starts to his name with the Chargers and Cardinals. 

He has previously worn 42, 24 and 22. 

Complete Eagles history at 41: Ted Schmitt, Foster Watkins, Buist Warren, Gil Steinke, Frank Ziegler, Jerry Norton, Bob Freeman, Howard Cassady, Harry Wilson, Richard Harvey, Randy Logan, Earnest Jackson, Keith Byars, Alvin Ross, Fred McCrary, Johnny Thomas, William Hampton, Thomas Tapeh, Stephen Spach, Tanard Davis, Antoine Harris, Jarrad Page, Emil Igwenagu, Randall Evans, Ronald Darby, De’Vante Bausby

Jatavis Brown: 53

Everyone pretty much understood that Nigel Bradham wasn’t going to return to the Eagles in 2020 but now they went ahead and gave his number away. Bradham wore 53 for the last four seasons in Philly. 

During his first four NFL seasons with the Chargers, Brown was No. 57 but that’s occupied in Philly by second-year linebacker T.J. Edwards. 

Complete Eagles history at 53: Walt Masters, Alex Wojciechowicz, Ken Farragut, Bob Pellegrini, John Simerson, Bob Butler, Harold Wells, Fred Whittingham, Dick Absher, Dennis Franks, Fred Smalls, Jody Schulz, Dwayne Jiles, Maurice Henry, Ivan Caesar, John Roper, Bill Romanowski, N.D. Kalu, Hugh Douglas, Mark Simoneau, Moise Fokou, Ryan Rau, Najee Goode, Nigel Bradham

Javon Hargrave: 93

Not long after news broke that Tim Jernigan was heading to Houston, Hargrave got his jersey number. 

A switch was necessary for Hargrave, who wore 79 during his first four seasons in the NFL with the Steelers. The Eagles already have a No. 79 who is pretty good in right guard Brandon Brooks. And Hargrave wore 97 in college but that number in Philly is owned by Malik Jackson. 

Complete Eagles history at 93: Tom Strauthers, John Dumbauld, Ray Phillips, David Bailey, Greg Townsend, Daniel Stubbs, Darion Conner, Pernell Davis, Levon Kirkland, Marco Coleman, Jevon Kearse, Trevor Laws, Jason Babin, Brandon Bair, Tim Jernigan

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NFL Draft Betting: Take this under on running back D'Andre Swift

NFL Draft Betting: Take this under on running back D'Andre Swift

With the 2020 NFL Draft just weeks away, now is the time to start scouting your first round bets - if you haven't already.

NBC Sports Philadelphia betting expert Brad Feinberg has identified one over/under he likes quite a bit: local product and Georgia running back D'Andre Swift's draft slot at 31.5.

Feinberg said he likes the under on Swift going before the 31st overall pick this year.

"There is a separate bet you can make, will there be a running back taken in round one of the NFL draft, where the yes is minus-300," Feinberg explained.

In this year's draft, Swift is largely considered the best running back prospect available, so Feinberg sees the likelihood of Swift earning a first-round nod as fairly high.

Plus, history is on Swift's side. 

Despite the supposed league-wide devaluation of the running back position, at least one running back has been selected in the first round in each of the last five NFL drafts, with three in 2018, and two in both 2017 and 2015.

While NFL general managers aren't eager to spend big money on running backs, but when they can be had on rookie contracts and with fresh legs, they feel like good investments.

And Swift seems to be a good first-round investment.

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