Eagles

Michael Bennett explains OTAs absence after 1st Eagles practice

Michael Bennett explains OTAs absence after 1st Eagles practice

After his first practice as a member of the Eagles, Michael Bennett spent a few moments chatting with owner Jeff Lurie. Catching up. 

See, Bennett was with the Eagles earlier this spring, but skipped the team’s voluntary OTAs before reporting to mandatory camp on Monday morning. 

The 32-year-old NFL veteran had a pretty simple reason for skipping OTAs: they’re voluntary. 

“It’s the only job in the world that’s voluntary that people expect you to show up,” Bennett said, after he finally left Lurie’s side. “For me, the offseason is always about how to be a better parent and a better husband. So every year, I work with my kids, teaching them after school, coaching basketball, doing whatever I can. That’s the best thing about the offseason.” 

Even during his time in Seattle, Bennett skipped the voluntary workouts. Maybe it’s more troubling now that he’s trying to fit into a new defense in Philly, but his coaches didn’t seem too worried. Neither did his teammates. 

In fact, Bennett said he had been texting with some of his fellow defensive linemen like Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham during his time away from the team. Bennett said he wants to first know his teammates as men before he knows them as football players. 

Tuesday was just Day 1 for Bennett in an Eagles uniform, but he already seems to be fitting in. He already feels “pretty comfortable” with the playbook and seems to be a logical fit in the locker room. 

“I think the culture is just one of a kind,” Bennett said. “I think we have a lot of great coaches, obviously. But then the coaches are all about family, about team and you see it throughout the organization. Whether it’s the equipment guys, training staff, everybody is about the team, that family.”

It’s pretty easy to see how Bennett should fit with the Eagles on the field. He’s a versatile Pro Bowl defensive end who should be able to add to a group that was already one of the best in the NFL. 

He took second-team reps at defensive end on Tuesday, but head coach Doug Pederson said Bennett will be worked in with the first team during this mandatory minicamp. After all, the Eagles didn’t trade for Bennett to make him a spectator. 

“I think coming here, you want to be an All-Star just like you’ve been,” Bennett said. “You want to be one of the top players in the league and you come in with that. I think the organization is expecting that. They’re not expecting me to come in and sit back. They’re expecting me to come in and dominate on the field and that’s my job. Obviously, every day I take the field, that’s my mindset.” 

Off the field, Bennett is facing felony charges for injury to the elderly, stemming from an incident after Super Bowl LI. The 32-year-old didn’t want to talk too much about the incident, saying he’ll let his lawyer handle it for him. 

Aside from the court case, Bennett has never shied away from the public spotlight or from being outspoken about politics, race and other important issues. He also plans on becoming a part of the community in Philly. 

“I think you just want to be a great citizen,” he said. “When you come into a city, you want to feel the atmosphere of the city. You want to visit schools, you want to visit people, eat the food and just immerse yourself in the culture. It’s a new culture for me, coming from Seattle. It’s a whole different vibe and I’m liking it. I think it’s an opportunity to grow as a person and grow with my family in a new situation.”

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Way too soon to write off forgotten Eagles running back Josh Adams

Way too soon to write off forgotten Eagles running back Josh Adams

Every conversation we’ve had about Josh Adams this offseason, every podcast, every roster projection, every Twitter discussion, has come to the same conclusion.

“Oh, he's not going to make the team.”

It’s an understandable opinion.

The Eagles’ backfield is crowded. Corey Clement is back, Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard have been added, Boston Scott had an impressive summer. Wendell Smallwood always seems to find a way to stick around. One-time fourth-round pick Donnel Pumphrey is still here.

And Adams? Because his production dropped late in the season and then he was the forgotten man in the postseason, playing just one combined snap against the Bears and Saints, we’ve all just kind of assumed he’s gone.

And maybe he is.

But let’s take a minute to take a fresh look at Adams.

There was a stretch in the middle of last season when he was actually one of the more productive running backs in the league.

From Week 7 through Week 14, a span of seven games, Adams averaged 5.1 yards per carry, seventh-best among all running backs in the league who had at least 75 carries during that stretch.

Look at this stretch from the Jaguars game in London through the overtime loss to the Cowboys in Dallas:

9-for-61, 6.8 at Jaguars
7-for-47, 6.7 vs. Cowboys
7-for-53, 7.6 at Saints
22-for-84, 3.8, vs. Giants
20-for-85, 4.3 vs. Redskins
7-for-36, 5.1 at Cowboys

That’s solid, consistent production, especially for an undrafted rookie who began the year on the practice squad.

Here’s one thing I really liked about Adams: He was always good for at least one long run per game. During the seven-week stretch from the Jaguars game through the first Redskins game, he ripped off six runs of 18 yards or longer, and during that period, only Saquon Barkley (8) and Joe Mixon (7) had more in the entire NFL.

Now at some point late in the season, Adams hurt his shoulder seriously enough that he needed post-season surgery to repair a torn labrum.

It’s not clear when Adams got hurt, but he kept playing, and the injury would certainly help explain the late-season drop in production.

Adams averaged just 2.7 yards per carry the last three weeks of the regular season and then got that one postseason snap, a two-yard carry against the Bears.

But when evaluating Adams and his possible future as an Eagle, we have to take the injury into consideration.

Adams did enough during that two-month stretch in the middle of the season to at least warrant an honest look this summer.

Even starting the season on the practice squad, getting just 11 carries the first seven weeks of the season and then getting hurt, Adams still led the Eagles in rushing and became the 20th undrafted rookie in NFL history to rush for at least 500 yards, three or more TDs and an average of 4.3 yards per-carry or higher.

When you step back and look at his season, he was pretty darn good in all but the two December games against the Rams, the NFC champs, and the Texans, who had the No. 3 rush defense in the NFL.

Obviously, Sanders and Howard project to be the heart of the running attack. A healthy Clement can catch, run, block and play special teams. Smallwood and Scott can both run, catch and return.

Adams is limited. He isn’t a polished receiver — he caught just seven passes last year — and he plays very little on special teams — just 48 snaps as a rookie, only two in the last six games.

That puts him at a disadvantage from the start. So for him to win a spot on the 53 the Warrington native and former Notre Dame star has to have a healthy training camp and show exceptional production as a runner.

The odds are against him. But Adams is 22, he was the Eagles’ leading rusher last year, and undrafted rookies don’t have an eight-game stretch averaging 5.1 yards per carry by accident.

If we got rid of every rookie running back who had two mediocre games at the end of a productive season there wouldn’t be any running backs left.

Adams is talented. It’s tough to say where he fits in, but it’s way too early to say he doesn’t.

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Are 2019 Eagles better or worse at defensive end?

ap_derek_barnett_eagles.jpg
AP Images/Winslow Townson

Are 2019 Eagles better or worse at defensive end?

It was out with the old, and in with some more of the old for the Eagles at defensive end this offseason. Will the returning players make the unit better or worse in 2019?

Key additions: Vinny Curry (free agent, Buccaneers), Shareef Miller (draft, fourth round) 
Key departures: Michael Bennett (trade, Patriots), Chris Long (retired)

Why they could be better: Derek Barnett’s potential

Barnett had a nice rookie season with 6.0 sacks, including playoffs, and finished fourth on the club with eight tackles for loss and 16 quarterback hits, all while playing only 41 percent of the snaps. It was looking like he could take the next step in 2018, too, with 2.5 sacks four games into the campaign — until a shoulder injury struck. Then it was a matter of weeks before he wound up on the injured reserve list. Up to that point, it looked like the former 14th-overall draft pick was very much on the verge of a breakout season.

There’s really no reason that can’t still be the case. At least, nobody ever expects a shoulder injury to derail a defensive end’s career. The Eagles are likely penciling him in for the starting job on the opposite end from Brandon Graham, and why not? As long as he’s healthy, Barnett’s body of work thus far suggests he’s on his way to enjoying a successful NFL career.

Why they could be worse: Michael Bennett’s proven production

One can assume the real reason the Eagles’decided to part ways with Bennett was over something (or things) behind the scenes. It wasn’t the return — a fifth-round pick for Bennett and a seventh. It wasn’t the contract, because the Patriots only wound up giving him an additional $1.25 million in base salary and no new years. And it sure as hell wasn’t production, because the three-time Pro Bowler was the Eagles’ most disruptive pass-rusher off the edge by a wide margin.

Bennett finished with 10.0 sacks last season, including playoffs, and it should’ve been 12.0 except for two blatantly incorrect roughing penalties. He also ranked fourth in the entire NFL with 30 quarterback hits, and narrowly finished outside the top-10 with 15 tackles for loss. Granted, Bennett turns 34 in November, and it’s possible his personality simply wasn’t a fit here. Regardless, the numbers speak for themselves.

The X-factor: Brandon Graham’s inevitable decline

Everybody loves BG. The sack totals haven’t always been there, save for the 9.5 he registered in 2017 — plus one pivotal strip sack in the Super Bowl — but he was always more productive than traditional counting stats indicated. Graham is 31 now, though, and last year was his least effective rushing the passer in a long time. His 4.0 regular season sacks and 1 forced fumble were his lowest since 2013, and this wasn’t merely a matter of racking up a bunch of Mamulas, either, as he landed just 11 quarterback hits.

Fortunately for the Eagles, who just signed Graham to a new three-year deal worth $40 million in the offseason, there are reasons to believe he could bounce back. First, he was coming off of offseason ankle surgery and only rejoined the team in mid-August. Second, he was still stout against the run. Third, Graham showed signs of life in the playoffs with 1.5 sacks and a strip. So, was his down season a matter of circumstance, or is this the new BG?

Are the Eagles’ defensive ends better or worse?

If he’s 100 percent, Barnett has the ability to blossom into a star. He was well on his way last season. Yet, the Eagles are depending on him to replace Bennett’s production, re-signed Vinny Curry to replace retired Chris Long’s production, and Brandon Graham to stop aging so noticeably. It also wouldn’t hurt if one of Shareef Miller, Josh Sweat or Joe Ostman became a reliable fifth rusher. The Eagles got younger, and arguably more talented, but there are too many questions to say the ends are better on paper. 

WORSE

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