Making sense of the Eagles' Ronald Darby contract

Making sense of the Eagles' Ronald Darby contract

Why bring back a rehabbing Ronald Darby on a fairly sizable contract — one year at somewhere north of $8 million — when you already have a large stable of promising young corners who carried the Eagles down the stretch last year and through the playoffs and are all making minimum wage or close to it?

It’s a fair question. It’s a good question.

When last year ended, the Eagles were getting very good outside corner play from Rasul Douglas and Avonte Maddox, although Maddox did come back to earth a bit in the playoffs. Not surprising for a rookie fourth-round pick.

But we all saw tons of potential from Douglas, who made tremendous progress as a cover corner and proved to be as capable a tackling corner as we’ve seen around here since Sheldon Brown.

The question with Maddox is does he end up at safety or corner, and the Eagles answered that — at least temporarily — when they restructured Rodney McLeod, which means Malcolm Jenkins and McLeod are your starting safeties in 2019 if McLeod is healthy.

Then there’s Jalen Mills, who fans love to hate and struggled last year before he got hurt. But Mills was a starter on a Super Bowl team and is very good in the red zone. And there’s Sidney Jones, who the Eagles liked enough to draft in the second round in 2017 even though they knew he couldn’t play for a year.

And Cre’Von LeBlanc, who really took ownership of the slot late in the season.

A lot of intriguing talent. A lot of intriguing young talent.

You would think the Eagles could go into training camp with Douglas, Maddox, Mills, Jones and LeBlanc at corner and let everybody compete for the two outside spots and the slot.

And that would have given the Eagles a pretty good secondary.

I saw enough from Douglas and Maddox the second half of last year to feel like they would wind up outside, with LeBlanc inside. That would allow Jones to back up outside as he continues to grow as a player and allow Mills to take his time getting healthy.

But most of these guys are versatile and can play inside or outside and in some cases safety as well, so there were a lot of interesting possibilities.

I would go into the 2019 season with that group.

So why Darby?

Because one absolute law of the NFL is that you can never have enough cornerbacks.

If last year didn’t teach us that, I don’t know what ever will.

The Eagles lost Mills with a foot injury in the Jacksonville game, and they lost Darby a week later against Dallas. Between injuries and guys just not playing well, they went through 10 cornerbacks during the season. And still made the playoffs.

It’s easy to sit back and say, Douglas, Maddox and LeBlanc can hold down corner, but the reality is that those three have started a combined 35 games in their careers.

They’ve shown promise, but none of them are a proven commodity over the long term. 

And relying on promise and potential isn’t always the best way to build an NFL team.

Darby — when healthy — is very good. He’s fast and aggressive, has good size and is fearless.

As much as I like the promise that Douglas and Maddox have shown and the potential Jones has and the spirit that LeBlanc played with last year and Mills’ swagger from the Super Bowl run, a healthy Darby is the Eagles’ most talented cornerback.

Now, the healthy part is key. If Darby can’t get through 2019 without getting hurt, the Eagles are off the hook with no cap hit in 2020. They'll move on, much like they did with Jordan Hicks.

There are still a lot of unknowns in the secondary. Mills, Darby and McLeod are all coming off injuries and could presumably start the season on the PUP list.

The group the Eagles start with will likely not be the one they finish with.

So the more talent you can stockpile, the better your chances of having a capable crew once January rolls around.

The cap space was there. Darby wanted to be here. He knows the system. The deal is team-friendly.

So there’s no downside to this. It’s simple. The Eagles are a better team with Darby than without him.

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Learning more about Rich Scangarello’s role in Eagles’ offense

Learning more about Rich Scangarello’s role in Eagles’ offense

INDIANAPOLIS — It’s a pretty ambiguous title.

The Eagles earlier this month hired former Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello as a senior offensive assistant. But if Doug Pederson is the play-caller, Press Taylor is the passing game coordinator and Jeff Stoutland is the run game coordinator, it begs a pretty obvious question:

What the heck is Scangarello going to do?

At the NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday, Pederson finally answered that question with at least a little bit more depth than we previously heard.

“He’s going to be able to bridge the gap,” Pederson said Tuesday. “He’s going to be able to bring together the run division and the pass division. With a blend of formations and plays and things that really tie everything together. He’s going to have his hands all over the game plan as well. A lot of communication. A lot of film study. Yeah, he’ll work with the quarterbacks, just like I do. He’ll have a chance to have some input there."

OK, so we don’t exactly know how Scangarello will fill every minute of his work days but we’re starting to get a clearer picture.

Pederson said he and Scangarello bonded over their early backgrounds in the West Coast offense but it’s Scangarello’s close ties to 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan that the Eagles found most intriguing. Scangarello worked under Shanahan in both Atlanta and San Francisco and the Eagles are hoping to blend some of those concepts with the offense Pederson is already running.

Namely, the Eagles are hoping this hire really helps Carson Wentz. That’s the No. 1 reason Scangarello was hired.

In addition to the time Scangarello will spend actually coaching the quarterbacks, the idea of QB movement is key. For whatever reason, the Eagles seemed hesitant to move Wentz in and out of the pocket early last season but once they did, he thrived.

That movement, throughout Wentz’s career, has always seemed to get him in a rhythm. And the Eagles are finally ready to lean into that.

“It was important for me,” Pederson said. “I think when I look back at our season and how we kind of finished the season, the thing Carson excelled at was basically those two elements. The play action, the QB movement stuff, the screens were important. And the run game ties into all that.

“This was what was intriguing with Rich, the background, what he’s learned. He studies this game now. You’ll learn when you get to speak to him. This guy has spent a lot of time studying the game. Now helping us, helping our offense. That’s why he was so intriguing to me.”

Despite finding a relatively high level of success with rookie quarterback Drew Lock in Denver, Scangarello lasted just one year as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator.

After the season, head coach Vic Fangio fired Scangarello and replaced him with Pat Shurmur. There’s plenty of smoke around the idea that Fangio and Scangarello didn’t have the strongest of working relationships.

Check out this exchange I had with Fangio on Tuesday morning:

What were some of Scangarello’s strengths?

“Rich is a good football coach. He knew the system well that he came from, does a good job with quarterbacks. I think Rich has got a bright future.”

What specifically did you like about Scangarello as a coach?

“I think for the first year in there, he did a good job. We played with three quarterbacks, so that has some stress to it. He did a good job of handling that.”

So why didn’t it work?

“That’s a long answer to a short question. I’m not going to get into that.”

See? Plenty of smoke.

Fangio did say on Tuesday that he wanted his offense to be more aggressive in 2020, so perhaps that’s another reason they elected to make a switch.

The word out of Denver is the area where Scangarello struggled was on game day, calling plays. On the flip side, he seemed to excel in preparation and game-planning. The good news for the Eagles is that Pederson is probably never going to give up play-calling responsibilities, so they won’t need Scangarello to do much on game day anyway. They’ll be able to utilize his strengths without worrying about his weaknesses.

Only Pederson really knows the logistics of how this new offensive structure will really work. It’s rare for a team to not have someone with an offensive coordinator title but it’s not unheard of. And the Eagles even thought of deviating from the norm back in 2018 when they promoted Mike Groh.

If this structure doesn’t work in 2020, that failure will belong to Pederson. But if it does work, Scangarello will be a big reason why. 

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How Andy Reid’s life has changed since winning the Super Bowl

How Andy Reid’s life has changed since winning the Super Bowl

INDIANAPOLIS — If you were expecting Andy Reid to win his first Super Bowl and turn into a different guy, you don’t know Andy Reid.

At the NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday, Reid spoke to a huge gathering of reporters at the first big NFL event since his Chiefs beat the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV.

And guess what?

Not much has changed for Big Red.

“I stay in the office, so I’m isolated a little bit that way. There’s not much change there. I’m sure the players, if you talk to them, they’re out there and being recognized as world champs. 

I have gotten a couple free meals. That was nice. But I’m not out there that much to where I’m affected by it too much.”

Gotta love when Andy plays the hits.

Reid said he and his staff enjoyed the Super Bowl for a few days. They had a parade and reveled briefly but then it was back to business as usual. The focus then had to immediately switch to free agency and the draft in what was now a suddenly short offseason.

“Maybe someday when we get a little older and we’re out of the game, you can sit back and go, hey, you know what, we did pretty good there,” Reid said. “But right now, it’s buckling down and making sure we take care of business."

During the Chiefs’ run to the Super Bowl, Reid was very aware of the support he was receiving from Philadelphia, where he spent 14 seasons as head coach. Not everyone was rooting for him but it seemed like a large portion of Philadelphians were happy to see Reid hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

On Tuesday, Reid was asked if he’s heard from folks in Philly since winning the big game.

"Yeah, I’ve talked to all those guys. I’ve stayed close to the organization,” Reid said before scanning the crowd in front of him. “Guys like Les (Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Les Bowen) I’ve stayed close with.”

Les gave a wave.

“There are a couple other guys here that are Philadelphia here,” Reid continued. “I spent 14 years there. I appreciated every bit of it. Jeff Lurie, I appreciated him being at the game and supporting me there, too."

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