Eagles

Matt Jones doesn't help his case for Eagles' 53-man roster in preseason debut

Matt Jones doesn't help his case for Eagles' 53-man roster in preseason debut

FOXBORO, Mass. — This was not the game Matt Jones wanted, and it’s not the game he could afford to have if he’s going to make the Eagles’ 53-man roster.

Playing in his first game this preseason, Jones ran six times for 19 yards Thursday night against the Patriots and dropped three passes, one of which was picked off by Christian Sam off his hands.

Not an auspicious debut for the former Redskin and Colt.

“I don’t want to put anything like that on film,” he said at his locker after the Eagles lost to the Patriots, 37-20, at Gillette Stadium. “Just lack of focus because of fatigue and just not locking in and watching the ball through. 

“Don’t want to get down on myself because I know I can catch the ball. … I know I’m a better player than that and I’m going to prove it.”

Jones didn’t play in the opener, and with Donnel Pumphrey and Josh Adams both out Thursday night and Wendell Smallwood not doing anything to help himself, this was his chance to make a statement.

Jones was among the NFL’s leading rushers the first half of 2016. He even had a 135-yard game against the Eagles. So he should be able to dominate against some of the second- and third-stringers he faced Thursday night.

But he didn’t come close to dominating.

“Big learning experience for me about what I need to get done, what I need to do, what I need to work on,” Jones said.

“I got a lot of reps on special teams, a lot of reps on offense, need to watch the film and really study myself. There was a lot on my plate tonight, we have some backs down tonight, I just had to suck it up.

“I’m close to where I want to be. I’m real close. I need to clean up the little stuff, there’s some stuff I need to fix."

Smallwood finished with four carries of one yard rushing, so he didn’t help himself much either.

Right now, there are four running backs competing for one possible fourth spot behind Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement and Darren Sproles, and none of the four has claimed the spot. 

You would think Jones, with his resume, would have. But this wasn’t the start he needed.

"I think [Jones and Smallwood] would agree that there were plays left out on the field tonight,” Doug Pederson said. “And something we got to clean up and keep working. You know, it’s a great battle between those two and we have a couple weeks left before we make these tough decisions.”

Jones said he felt terrible about his drops Thursday night, especially the one that turned into an interception from Nate Sudfeld. He said he'll do more sprints after practice to get his wind up so he can get through a full game playing teams and offense.

“Playing offense and special teams, I’m not used to that, and it was something really challenging for me," he said. "But I’m going to bounce back next week and really hone in on it. It’s something I’ve never really done before, now I just have to step up to the challenge and be ready.”

Jones and Sudfeld were teammates with the Redskins in 2016, so they go back a few years.

“He’s a guy who really believes in me and I believe in him so every time I’m on the field I try to give him my all,” he said.

“So with the drops, I feel like I owe him a couple. I’ll make sure I make up for those next game.”

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NFL trade rumors: Why Stefon Diggs makes sense for the Eagles

NFL trade rumors: Why Stefon Diggs makes sense for the Eagles

On Tuesday night, receiver Stefon Diggs sent the internet into a tizzy when he apparently erased any mention of the Vikings from his Instagram account. 

We’re taking a bit of a leap here (gotta love 2020) but if this is Diggs’ somehow voicing his frustration with the Vikings it wouldn’t be the first time. And it would also basically be a Bat Signal to the other 31 NFL teams: “Come and get me!” 

The Eagles should. 

It’s funny. Before all those rumors began to swirl on Tuesday night, I was on NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Quick Slants and was asked for one potential trade target for the Birds. The name I gave was Diggs. He made sense even before this. While there’s no guarantee the Vikings trade him, it’s worth finding out. 

If you haven’t noticed, the Eagles are in desperate need of help at receiver. It’s why about 85 percent of mock drafts have them taking one in the first round of the draft in a couple months. But any player they pick in the draft is an unknown. Diggs is not. 

There are three big reasons why Diggs should be attractive to the Eagles: 

1. He just turned 26 back in November

The Eagles are committed to getting younger this offseason and getting Diggs now would kind of be like signing a free agent after his rookie deal. The Eagles have been getting older but Diggs would help them get younger. No, he’s not a 21-year-old anymore but he is arguably entering his prime. 

2. Diggs is already one of the best receivers in the NFL

Despite his targets dropping from 149 in 2018 to 94 in 2019 (ostensibly one of the reasons for his displeasure), Diggs still managed to have more receiving yards this past season. Since the 2016 season, Diggs has 313 catches, 3,903 yards and 26 touchdowns. There are just six players in the league with better stats in those four seasons: DeAndre Hopkins, Davante Adams, Antonio Brown, Mike Evans, Travis Kelce and Michael Thomas. 

What has been impressive about Diggs is that he’s been successful in different ways. After averaging 10.0 yards per catch in 2018, he averaged 17.9 (a career high) in 2019 and was a tremendous deep threat. Just three players in the NFL had a higher yards-per-catch average in 2019. 

The Eagles certainly saw what he can do. In Week 6 against the Birds, he had his best game of the 2019 season. He caught seven passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns. That was the only time this season he was targeted over 10 times in a game. 

3. Diggs is relatively cost-controlled for another four seasons

While trading for Diggs will cost draft equity (we’ll get to that soon), his salary will be cheaper than that of a free agent of the same caliber because he’s already locked up. While multiple teams will out-bid each other for free agents and end up over-paying, Diggs has a contract that runs through the 2023 season and it’s a very reasonable contract. By the end of it, there’s a very good chance he’ll be extremely underpaid. Even though he just signed the five-year extension in the summer of 2018, he’s already just the 13th highest-paid NFL receiver in terms of APY, according to OverTheCap. 

Check out his base salaries for the remainder of the contract: 

2020: $10.9M
2021: $11.4M
2022: $11.4M
2023: $11.4M

No, that’s not exactly cheap like a rookie contract would be but it’s very manageable. And once the new CBA is eventually worked out, those prices will probably look even better. And there are some performance escalators written in, but if Diggs hits them, both sides would be happy. 

So what will it take? 

This is the big question. I think we all agree that Diggs is a good player and the Eagles would love to have him. But what would they have to give up in a trade? 

Well, the Vikings are going to start any negotiation with a first-round pick at minimum. They should. All those reasons I listed above are reasons why they should have teams lining up for Diggs. It’ll be interesting to see just how bad things really are between Diggs and the Vikings, though. There was definitely frustration during the 2019 season but he finished out the year. Is it bad enough that it’s an untenable situation? If so, then the Vikings would lose some leverage. 

If it’s a second-round pick, this is an easier conversation. The real question is whether or not the Eagles would be willing to give up a first-round pick. I kind of doubt they’d be willing to but you can make a real case for it. It’s easy to say the Eagles should just focus on the draft and take one of the many talented options with the 21st pick but there’s no guarantee they’ll hit. In fact, their history picking receivers, especially in the last decade, shouldn’t instill much confidence. They have drafted four Day 1 or Day 2 receivers since 2010: J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff. 

None of them ever became what Diggs is right now. And there’s a good chance any player taken at 21 won’t become what he is either. 

Maybe GM Howie Roseman and the Eagles will be worried about Diggs’ fit in the building; after all, he has created enough drama in Minnesota to bring all of this up in the first place. Would that eventually happen here? Hard to say. This isn’t a no-brainer but it’s worth a call or two. 

Pick up the phone, Howie. 

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Brandon Graham, DeSean Jackson, more Eagles players react to Nigel Bradham move

Brandon Graham, DeSean Jackson, more Eagles players react to Nigel Bradham move

The Eagles decided Tuesday to decline the team option on Nigel Bradham's contract (see story), cutting the 30-year-old linebacker loose after four years in Philly. From the highs of winning a Super Bowl to the lows of his multiple run-ins with law enforcement, Bradham's time with the Eagles was nothing if not entertaining.

Bradham's teammates received the news Tuesday, just like fans did, and a number of his now-former teammates shared their reactions to the team's move on their Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Brandon Graham lamented the end of his time playing alongside Bradham:

DeSean Jackson and Kamu Grugier-Hill wished Bradham luck in his next NFL stop:

Nate Gerry thanked Bradham for teaching him the ins and outs of the linebacker position, and of life as pro football player:

Rodney McLeod and Nelson Agholor, two players who might not return to Philly in 2020, also shouted Bradham out on Instagram:

One particularly interesting reaction, to my eye, was that of cornerback Rasul Douglas, who opted to use the head-slap emoji in a quote tweet of a report about the move:

Whether that signifies surprise or displeasure, it seems like Douglas would've preferred Bradham return to Philly in 2020.

Instead, free agency is off and running, and the Eagles' sleepy offseason is finally about to heat up.

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