Eagles

NFL free agency 2019: What will the Eagles do at running back?

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NFL free agency 2019: What will the Eagles do at running back?

Reuben Frank, Dave Zangaro and Andrew Kulp continue the 2019 edition of Stay or Go, trying to figure out the future of the Philadelphia Eagles. 

Today, they’ll look at running back: 

Jay Ajayi

Roob: I love the way Ajayi runs and nobody can ever take away what a big part of the 2017 Super Bowl run he was. But the knees. I really worry about the knees. The Eagles could sign Ajayi to a risk-free deal and bring him back to see if he can stay healthy, but my gut feeling is they draft a back in the second round and maybe also sign a free agent and move on from Ajayi.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: If Ajayi could get healthy and there were no problems with his knees, he could still be a good running back in this system. But he had knee concerns before his trade to the Eagles and now he’s coming off a torn ACL. Maybe they work out a prove-it deal to keep him in town, but I just don’t think the Eagles can rely on him being healthy. Tough to say goodbye, but I think that’s where we’re heading. 

Verdict: Goes 

Kulp: The Eagles could use a vet ball carrier, and Ajayi’s price will be discounted coming off a torn ACL. That said, the injury is why I ultimately believe the team moves on. Stability is needed in the backfield, meaning healthy bodies, and while Ajayi should be ready Week 1, there’s no telling what you’re getting from a guy who had a bum knee in the first place.

Verdict: Goes

Corey Clement

Roob: Looks like Clement’s the only back I’m keeping. The Eagles really missed him this year. He’s a perfect fit in this offense — a tough runner, a very good receiver, a willing blocker and also a solid special teamer. I don’t think Clement will ever be a lead back, but I do think he’ll be a significant part of the offense in 2019.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: I don’t think Clement is really the answer as a feature back, but I think he can be a nice piece to the puzzle. He never looked truly healthy in 2018 and it showed even before the knee injury that ended his second season. I expect him back in 2019 as a part of the rotation. 

Verdict: Stays 

Kulp: Don’t know the precise nature of Clement’s injury, though I wouldn’t be surprised if he misses games in 2019. Still, he’s only 24 and under contract for basically the league minimum. Even if he started the year on the physically unable to perform list and consequently fell out of the mix, Clement could return mid-season and contribute on special teams.

Verdict: Stays

Wendell Smallwood

Roob: Smallwood runs hard, catches the ball pretty well and has had some big games, and he finally proved this year he can stay healthy for a full season. It wouldn’t shock me if he’s back for a fourth season with the Eagles as a reserve back, but I just think the Eagles need to get better across the board at running back, and I don’t think he’s back.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: I’ve counted out Smallwood before. Not going to make that mistake again. I know many Eagles fans have seen more than enough of Smallwood, but he ended up having a big role for the Eagles in 2018 and became the guy in the playoffs. He’ll be battling for a back-end-of-the-roster spot again in 2019. 

Verdict: Stays

Kulp: Fully anticipate the Eagles adding two backs — a free agent and a draft pick — and those are the primary ball handlers. Yet, Smallwood may have done enough to carve out a role as the No. 3. He is serviceable in a pinch, plays special teams and basically makes the league minimum. And if the backfield gets crowded, he probably has some trade value in August, too.

Verdict: Stays

Darren Sproles

Roob: Tough one. Will Sproles come back for a 15th NFL season or retire? The Eagles counted heavily on Sproles in the postseason, but he averaged only 1.6 yards on 16 carries and had 35 yards on seven catches. Sproles did help down the stretch, but what can the Eagles get out of him at 36 years old? If Sproles does want to play it’s a tough call for the Eagles. Gut feeling is he retires.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: This is all on Sproles. If he wants to come back, I’m sure the Eagles would like to have him. His whole reasoning for coming back in 2018 was because he didn’t want his career to end with an injury. Not sure if he thinks he did enough to feel ready to move on after an injury-plagued season last year. I have a hunch, he’ll want one more chance and if he can stay healthy, he can really help the Eagles. 

Verdict: Stays

Kulp: I don’t know how Sproles can retire after watching the final seven weeks. He makes one or two big plays seemingly every game. It shouldn’t cost the Eagles a ton of money to keep him, either. Sproles turns 36 and earned less than $1.5 million for 2018, which is a deal for the spark he provides.

Verdict: Stays

Josh Adams

Roob: Adams has some ability and spent a chunk of the fall as the Eagles’ lead back, and had some big games. I think he’ll get every opportunity to make the team next year. But I also expect the Eagles to remake the running back position in 2019, and nothing is guaranteed. Adams isn’t a polished receiver and doesn’t play special teams, and his postseason benching isn’t a good sign for his future here.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: For a short stretch of time in 2018, Adams was the Eagles top running back after not even making the 53-man roster at the beginning of the season. And then he didn’t even play in the playoffs. I think the Eagles are going to draft a running back that can run between the tackles and makes Adams expendable. 

Verdict: Goes

Kulp: Wonder how much Adams’ diminished performance was a result of wearing down and injuries. Even if that were the case, it’s not a great sign given the 22-year-old’s relatively modest workload (157 touches, including preseason). With only one postseason carry, looks like he’s fallen out of favor regardless.

Verdict: Goes

Boston Scott 

Roob: Eagles’ mid-season pickup returned some kicks but was really only here because of injuries to Ajayi and Clement and never got any touches on offense. Scott could be a practice squad type of guy, but I don’t see him playing any sort of role with the Eagles moving forward.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: Scott came to the Eagles late in the 2018 season and I haven’t really seen enough one way or the other. He barely played on offense and didn’t blow me away as a returner. He’ll get his fair shot in training camp, but for now, I’m not sold. 

Verdict: Goes

Kulp: The fact that the Eagles plucked this kid off the Saints’ practice squad in December and he was active two weeks later and every game thereafter says something. I just don’t see a spot. Might think better about his chances if Sproles is out of the picture, but that scat back role is likely filled. Scott is a practice squad candidate.

Verdict: Goes

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Should Eagles be interested in a trade for Jalen Ramsey?

Should Eagles be interested in a trade for Jalen Ramsey?

Another good player might become available in a trade, so Howie Roseman and the Eagles’ front office should at least look at the possibility. 

Just like we talked about with Minkah Fitzpatrick last week, the Eagles are never shy about kicking tires when a quality player might be up for grabs. 

That should be no different with Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who would absolutely help the Eagles. 

We’ve seen the Eagles’ struggles early this season to defend the pass. They’ve given up 680 passing yards in two games, the second-most they’ve ever given up in the first two games of a season. The Eagles have been rotating their outside corners with varied results. Ronald Darby, coming back from a torn ACL in 2018, has struggled early this season. 

Meanwhile, the 24-year-old Ramsey was the fifth-overall pick in 2016 and has been a Pro Bowler in each of the last two years and was an All-Pro in 2017. To put it simply, he’s good. And he’s much better than anyone the Eagles have right now. 

It’s also worth pointing out that the Jaguars lose plenty of leverage because this rocky relationship between Ramsey and the team is so public. That doesn’t help them get the best possible haul, but they should start by looking for a first-round pick. 

Unlike Fitzpatrick, whom the Eagles would have cost-controlled through 2022 with a fifth-year option, Ramsey is in the final year of his four-year rookie contract and is on a fifth-year option in 2020. So Ramsey, presumably, will be looking for a big-time contract soon. That’s not a deal-breaker, but it does make a trade a little more complicated. 

Ramsey certainly has a loud personality and isn’t afraid to speak his mind. That is always part of what the Eagles look at when they inquire about potentially adding a player. But the Eagles have faith in their locker room’s ability to absorb unique personalities. In that now-infamous interview with GQ last year, Ramsey gave his honest (and brutal) assessment of many QBs, but at least he spoke highly of Carson Wentz. 

Since entering the league in 2016, Ramsey has nine interceptions and 45 pass breakups. During that span, Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod are tied for the Eagles’ lead in INTs with six and Jalen Mills leads the Eagles in pass breakups with 30. So Ramsey would immediately help. 

It’s probably a long shot that the Eagles end up getting Ramsey, but based on Roseman’s history with trades, you certainly can’t rule them out. 



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An angry Carson Wentz questions NFL concussion procedures

An angry Carson Wentz questions NFL concussion procedures

It’s rare that we see this side of Carson Wentz.

The pissed-off side.

Wentz was definitely angry at the way his concussion test was handled late in the second quarter of the Eagles-Falcons game Sunday night in Atlanta.

On a 3rd-and-10 with 1:51 left before halftime, Wentz threw incomplete to Mack Hollins, setting up an Eagles punt.

Wentz went over to the sideline and stayed there uneventfully while the Falcons went 3-and-out.

But at some point late during that Atlanta drive, the NFL’s neurosurgeon assigned to watch players’ behavior for possible concussions and then having them tested, instructed Wentz to enter the medical tent.

This coincided closely with the Falcons’ punt.

So when the Eagles returned to the field with 43 seconds left, Josh McCown was at quarterback.

If the concussion specialist saw concerning behavior from Wentz, why not have him tested immediately?

Good question.

Honestly, that was super frustrating,” Wentz said. “I was sitting on the sideline for about five minutes and then they called down to look at that. To me that is something that they need to figure out. It’s incredibly frustrating when I feel fine, but I understand that they need to look at that and that it is part of the game. But the fact that it took so long is really frustrating.

McCown played six snaps and actually converted a couple first downs as he drove the offense from the Falcons’ 41-yard-line down to the 13.

Wentz finally returned and a second later Jake Elliott hit a field goal to bring the Eagles within four points at 10-6,.

Head coach Doug Pederson said the Eagles will have conversations with league officials to try to figure out why things went the way they did.

“We'll have communication obviously about it, but that stuff is out of our control,” he said. “If they see it, they are going to pull the player and it's out of our control. It's out of my hands. I can't do anything about it. It's a medical issue. It's a player-safety issue. I'm sure we'll have discussions on it but quite frankly, it's out of our hands.”

Wentz seemed upset that in his eyes he wasn’t showing any concussion symptoms, but he and Pederson were most upset about the delay.

Why not call Wentz into the tent immediately when he got back to the field? He certainly doesn’t think he began displaying symptoms five minutes after leaving the field.

“That's the part we have to have communication and dialogue with and make sure they are seeing the same things we're seeing,” Pederson said. “But again, it's out of our hands when the spotter sees something.”

The NFL's concussion testing protocol has come a long way, and that's a positive.

But when it starts affecting when a perfectly healthy star player can go back on the field, there's a problem. A big problem. And the NFL needs to figure that part of this out in a hurry.



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