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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Eagles remember Kobe Bryant as 'a champion for the ages'

Eagles remember Kobe Bryant as 'a champion for the ages'

Anybody who’s seen the video of Kobe Bryant celebrating the Eagles’ Super Bowl championship knows how much he loved his hometown football team.

The Eagles joined the rest of the sports world Sunday in mourning Bryant’s death in a California helicopter crash:

The Eagles are shocked and saddened to learn of the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna. He was a champion for the ages, a fearless competitor, and an outstanding ambassador for the city. Our hearts go out to all of today’s victims and their families.

The Eagles and Bryant had a very close relationship. Bryant spoke to the team in December of 2017 while the Eagles spent a week in the Los Angeles area between West Coast games against the Seahawks and Rams, and he was often seen wearing Eagles jerseys and other gear.

Several Eagles players took to Twitter to express their grief, including Zach Ertz, who tweeted out a photo of a signed jersey Bryant gave him.

Sidney Jones tweeted out a photo of himself with Bryant.

Jordan Howard wrote about the impact Bryant had during his 41 years.

Lane Johnson offered his thoughts.

And former Eagle Jordan Matthews posted a video with Bryant, who congratulated his wife on the birth of their son.

Thoughts on newest Eagles coach Marquand Manuel, LeSean McCoy's Hall of Fame case, more in Roob's 10 observations

Thoughts on newest Eagles coach Marquand Manuel, LeSean McCoy's Hall of Fame case, more in Roob's 10 observations

Thoughts on the Eagles’ new secondary coach, LeSean McCoy’s Hall of Fame case and an unbelievable stat about Lito Sheppard and Michael Lewis.

All that and so much more in this weekend’s edition of Roob’s random offseason Eagles observations! 

1. OK, it’s been 18 days since the Eagles fired Mike Groh, and they still don’t have an offensive coordinator. Senior Bowl week is over, the combine is only a few weeks away and free agency starts in less than two months. Of the 10 teams with an OC vacancy, the Eagles are the only one that hasn’t hired anybody. A couple thoughts: 1) Maybe the guy Doug Pederson is going to hire is already in place. Internal candidates Duce Staley and Press Taylor were both at the Senior Bowl practices. Maybe the Eagles are just waiting until the entire staff is complete to announce everything. I doubt it, but it’s possible. 2) Maybe Doug has decided not to hire an offensive coordinator and just do the job himself with his position coaches. I doubt that too, but it’s possible. 3) Otherwise, it has to be Jim Caldwell, right? As long as he’s healthy. By far the most impressive remaining outside candidate. Caldwell was QBs coach of the Colts when they won the Super Bowl and offensive coordinator of the Ravens when they won the Super Bowl. If Doug wants a veteran QB guru for the job, this is a no-brainer. Get it done.

2. I do like the Marquand Manuel hire. I like that he’s been a defensive coordinator on the NFL level, I like that he’s coached in a Super Bowl, I like that he played in the NFL for eight years and I like that he’s got a little background with Jim Schwartz — he played for Schwartz in Detroit in 2009 — but still brings a fresh voice to the coach’s room. He’s got his work cut out for him. Getting Sidney Jones on track is priority No. 1. But the Eagles’ secondary as a whole is going to look very different in 2020, and the Eagles needed a capable veteran voice to bring it all together and make it work. He looks like the guy to do it.

3. The last Eagles defensive players to make a Pro Bowl before their 25th birthday were Lewis and Sheppard in 2004. Since then, 94 defensive players league-wide have made a Pro Bowl before they turned 25. 

4. How many QBs would you rather have right now than Carson Wentz? First I’m going to eliminate anybody in their 30s — Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, all those guys. Who does that leave? You’d rather have Pat Mahomes than anybody, but beyond that? Lamar Jackson? Brilliant talent but I wonder how sustainable his style of play is. Dak Prescott? No thanks. Jimmy Garoppolo? Nope. Deshaun Watson? You can make a case, but I’d take Wentz. Jared Goff? Kyler Murray? Daniel Jones? Nah. The injuries are frustrating but no doubt in my mind that despite everything the Eagles have the right QB to build around. 

5. I wonder if the Super Bowl will be McCoy’s final game. He had a nice first half of the season and showed he has something left, but since Damien Williams’ emergence, he’s barely played and doesn’t even have a carry since mid-December. Shady’s a free agent after the Super Bowl and turns 32 this summer, an age where few running backs are still going. Shady’s the only player in NFL history with 11,000 rushing yards, a 4.5 rushing average and 500 catches. Hall of Famer if he retires now? Probably not quite. But one hell of a career.

6. Curious note about McCoy: He’s never had a carry in a postseason victory. The Eagles were 0-3 in the playoffs with McCoy in uniform and the Bills were 0-1. He didn’t have a carry in the Chiefs’ win over the Texans and was inactive for the win over the Titans. 

7. In Eagles history, Jordan Matthews has the most receiving yards after three seasons and Shady has the most rushing yards after three seasons. One of them will win a Super Bowl ring next Sunday. Both will probably be inactive.

8. Chiefs GM Brett Veach is a remarkable story. He grew up in Mt. Carmel, between Harrisburg and Wilkes-Barre, starred at Mt. Carmel High School, played with Matt Nagy at Delaware and was on track to work in Delaware’s athletic department after college when he landed an internship with the Eagles in the summer of 2004. With his work ethic and uncanny eye for talent, he worked his way up the ladder. When Andy Reid asked him to find a wide receiver the Eagles could take in the second round in 2008, Veach recommended DeSean Jackson, even though he was coming off a poor season. When Reid was hired by the Chiefs in 2013, he brought Veach with him. In 2015, Veach was watching film of Texas Tech offensive lineman Le’Raven Clark and Tech’s unheralded QB kept jumping out at him, and Veach knew even then Mahomes was something special, and in 2017 they traded up for him. Mahomes is now the best QB in the NFL, an MVP and one win from a Super Bowl. In span of 10 years, Veach went from interning in the Eagles’ scouting office to drafting Pat Mahomes.  

9. This is kind of a strange one, but Boston Scott this year became only the seventh player in NFL history with 85 or fewer touches but at least five rushing TDs and 20 catches. The dude definitely made the most of his limited workload.

10. I used to think Harold Carmichael’s franchise record of 589 catches was untouchable. Only seven Eagles even reached 300 during the 30-year period from 1985 through 2015, and only Brian Westbrook got over 400. But Zach Ertz will go into 2020 just 64 catches behind Harold, and at his rate of 5.8 catches per game over the last five years he’ll pass him somewhere around Week 12 if he stays healthy. Harold will go into the Hall of Fame in September and have his most hallowed record broken in November. And knowing Harold, nobody will be happier for Ertz.

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