As Alshon Jeffery sits, Eagles grow desperate for wide receiver help

As Alshon Jeffery sits, Eagles grow desperate for wide receiver help

You can tell how concerned they are about wide receiver not by what they’re saying but what they’re doing.

Re-signing Markus Wheaton, who they released two days earlier. Adding three receivers — including former Ohio State star Braxton Miller — to the practice squad. Reportedly working out former Ravens first-round pick Breshad Perriman on Monday and scheduling a workout Tuesday with former Browns first-round pick Corey Coleman, who reportedly wound up signing with the Patriots before the Eagles could look at him.

If you’re an unemployed receiver, call the Eagles. They’re interested.

While Doug Pederson may say the Eagles are happy with their current group of wide receivers, it’s clear from their actions that they recognize they need help.

Which is understandable.

Alshon Jeffery remains out indefinitely. Mack Hollins is on injured reserve. Shelton Gibson looked promising in the preseason but got only four snaps on offense last Thursday night in the opener as he dealt with a huge special teams workload (22 of 27 snaps).

Mike Wallace wound up without a catch in his first game as an Eagle, although a couple better thrown Nick Foles deep balls might have changed that (see story). DeAndre Carter played 53 snaps against the Falcons and caught one ball for 10 yards.

Nelson Agholor is really the only receiver the Eagles can count on right now, and even he managed only 33 yards on eight catches because Foles kept throwing him the ball with like nine defenders surrounding him.

It’s a little tough to gauge the current state of the Eagles’ wide receiver corps because Foles was so off-kilter Thursday night. Guys weren’t catching passes but they really weren’t getting a chance to.

And here’s a weird thing: As locked in as he was during the postseason, Foles has not completed a pass to a wide receiver of 20 yards or more in his last five regular-season appearances.

That’s 134 consecutive pass attempts — in the regular season — without a 20-yarder to a wideout.

That’s almost impossible.

He had eight of ‘em in the playoffs (one every 9.5 attempts), but that just adds to the mystery of Nick Foles. What seemed so effortless in the biggest games of his life seems so difficult now.

But it’s not all Foles. The Eagles’ issues with the passing game are a reflection of both the quarterback play and the wide receivers.

Eagles wideouts combined for just 43 receiving yards Thursday night, the fewest yards they’ve gotten from their wide receivers in a season opener since 1966, when Ben Hawkins (2 for 28) was the only wideout to catch a pass from Norm Snead in a 16-13 loss to the Cards at Busch Stadium.

There’s certainly reason to be concerned about Jeffery. He told Jen Vrentas of Sports Illustrated after the game Thursday night: “Some days I feel great, and some days ... a shoulder injury is pretty tough,” adding that he’s still a few weeks away from getting back on the field.

Without Jeffery, Hollins and Torrey Smith, the Eagles are missing three of their four wideouts from last year who caught more than five passes.

Agholor can’t do it all himself. Somebody else has to make plays.

Which is why the Eagles are looking at so many receivers right now.

Here’s the challenge: It’s really difficult to just bring in a receiver who’s on the street and ask him to learn the playbook, get familiar with the quarterbacks, get into football shape and acclimate himself to the coaching staff and go out and make plays after being out of work.

That’s why there’s OTAs and training camp. It’s not going to be easy for the Eagles to find someone who can help before Jeffery does get back.

It would be nice if someone like Jeremy Maclin or Jordan Matthews, who have both played with Foles, could magically turn the clock back a few years, but Maclin is 30 now, has been banged up, and hasn’t had an elite season since 2015. Matthews still isn’t healthy after getting hurt in training camp with the Patriots.

The Eagles need help and they understand that.

Ideally, that help would come from within. With Foles calming down and firing the ball the way we saw in the postseason. With Gibson getting an opportunity to make plays, Wallace developing some chemistry with his new quarterback and Agholor getting a chance down the field.

The bad news is the Eagles desperately need improved wide receiver play. The good news is they know it.

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It looks like Eagles’ high-ranking front office member might stay after all

It looks like Eagles’ high-ranking front office member might stay after all

It sounds like Eagles Vice President of Football Operations Andrew Berry might be staying in Philadelphia after all. 

Berry, 32, interviewed with the Browns for their vacant general manager position last week but it seems like another candidate is going to get the job. 

According to Cleveland.com, Vikings assistant GM George Paton “could be hired as Browns GM early this week” as the top candidate for the gig.

Berry has been a hot name this offseason; he’s been mentioned for two possible promotions outside the Eagles’ facility. The other was with the Panthers but the Eagles reportedly turned down their request to interview him because the Panthers’ job wouldn’t involve final personnel say.

So despite plenty of interest in Berry, it appears there’s a pretty good chance he stays put for at least another season with the Eagles under Howie Roseman. 

Berry joined the Eagles last winter. The Eagles created the position for Berry because they wanted to find a way to get the Harvard-educated fast-riser into their building. Before coming to the Eagles, he was already in Cleveland as the Browns’ vice president of player personnel for three seasons. 

It was in that former role that he formed a relationship with Kevin Stefanski, who interviewed for the head coaching job in Cleveland before but finally got hired this offseason. The problem for Berry is that Paton is even closer to Stefanski from their time together in Minnesota. 

With Roseman firmly entrenched as the general manager in Philadelphia, it seems inevitable that the Eagles will eventually lose Berry. But it’s beginning to seem like that won’t happen this offseason. 

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NFL mock draft 2020 roundup 2.0: Some new names linked to Eagles

NFL mock draft 2020 roundup 2.0: Some new names linked to Eagles

As the football world takes over Mobile, Alabama, this week for Senior Bowl, we’re now in full mock draft season. 

We still have months before the 2020 draft but that hasn’t stopped the internet from doing what it does best: mock drafts! 

Here’s the latest roundup of possibilities for the Eagles with the 21st pick in April: 

NBC Sports Washington, Tyler Roman

Xavier McKinney, CB, Alabama

What they said: It’s no secret that the Eagles had one of the worst secondaries in the league this year, so it would make sense to rectify it this off-season. McKinney is a versatile chess piece for a team that really needs talent on the backend. McKinney can cover the slot and hold his own against the run, he’s the prototypical safety prospect for today’s NFL.

CBS Sports, Ryan Wilson

Xavier McKinney, CB, Alabama 

What they said: 32-year-old safety Malcolm Jenkins would like a new deal and Rodney McLoud could be headed for free agency. The Eagles would love to upgrade the cornerback position but three of the top CBs are already off the board. McKinney is a top-flight safety, and could possibly emerge as the top safety in the class by draft night.

My take on McKinney: The Eagles definitely need help at the cornerback position. Their two starters from 2019 (Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills) are both set to become free agents in March and it’s not exactly like the Eagles have a bunch of talent waiting in the wings. But they might need safeties too. Malcolm Jenkins said he won’t play on his current contract and Rodney McLeod is going to be a free agent. 

I listed McKinney as a cornerback because both Wilson and Roman did, but he’s really more of a versatile safety who can play everywhere. McKinney is an impressive athlete and the Eagles could plug and play him at a few different spots. In some ways, it’s hard not to see similarities to former Alabama DB Minkah Fitzpatrick because of the versatility. And we’ve seen how Jim Schwartz has been able to use Malcolm Jenkins over the last few years. I think this would be a solid pick. 

San Diego Union-Tribune, Eddie Brown

Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

What they said: The Eagles wide receiver corps is in shambles. The inconsistent Nelson Agholor faces free agency while DeSean Jackson isn’t getting any younger (or healthier). Higgins is a big-play machine with elite size (6-foot-4, 200 pounds) and speed. He has an “above the rim” mentality as a former basketball player and would be a steal this low in the first round. 

SB Nation, Dan Kadar

Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

What they said: Higgins may have only had three receptions in Monday night’s national title game, but he still profiles as a No. 1 receiver option in the NFL. As the season wore on, it was obvious that the Eagles need weapons on offense. A receiver like Higgins should be the first of a few added in this draft.

My take on Higgins: He’s been the most popular name mocked to the Eagles in the early mock draft season. It’s obvious the Eagles need receiver help and there are plenty in this draft, especially in the first round. We’ll probably see at least a half dozen receivers go in the first round and Higgins is likely going to be one of them. 

Higgins is big and fast. He really does have a good size/speed combo and there’s a lot to like about him. He’s coming off a great junior season when he had 59 catches for 1,167 yards (19.8) and 13 touchdowns. That’s great production, which used to really matter for the Eagles when Joe Douglas was here. But at his year-end press conference, Howie Roseman noted that production doesn’t always translate and there were successful rookie receivers who weren’t as productive in college. That doesn’t mean production at the college level is a bad thing, but it’s maybe not as important for the Eagles this time around. 

USA Today, Luke Easterling

Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU 

My take on Fulton: There were no explanations in this mock draft but we don’t need an explanation of why the Eagles need cornerbacks. They desperately need help at that position. And Fulton is a really good one. He has the potential to be a great man corner in the NFL and he’s coming from a school that has produced a ton of great DBs. He had just two interceptions in his time at LSU, which is noteworthy because he doesn’t appear to be a ballhawk. But he can cover. And the Eagles need guys who can cover. 

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