Eagles

Not time to panic yet, but Eagles’ defensive injuries are worrisome

Not time to panic yet, but Eagles’ defensive injuries are worrisome

Jim Schwartz isn’t worried. 

Yet. 

But with less than five weeks to go before Week 1 of the 2019 season, it’s certainly worth noting that several key members of the Eagles’ defense aren’t completely healthy. And now you can add Kamu Grugier-Hill and his Grade 3 MCL sprain to the growing list that already included Fletcher Cox, Derek Barnett, Nigel Bradham, Rodney McLeod, Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby and Cre’Von LeBlanc. 

At what point does defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz worry about these injuries affecting the start of the season? 

I don't know,” Schwartz said. “I'll let you know when it comes. It's not now. We're taking a patient approach. Just about all those guys are veteran players that have really proved their worth in the NFL. Just a matter of getting those guys healthy and enough reps that they knock the rust off. They're not new to the system. They're not new to the NFL. They're all coming from a position of experience.

Doug Pederson said something similar. He noted that a lot of these injured guys are veterans, so there’s “no real concern over them missing time right now,” because they’ve been in the system for a long time. Fair enough. 

But just last season, we all thought Brandon Graham was going to be fine for the start of the 2018 season after missing time with his ankle injury. He played in the opener, but he wasn’t himself at the beginning of the season. Sometimes injuries linger. And sometimes the effects of missing practice and losing conditioning time linger, too. 

In a way, I agree with Schwartz. It’s not time to hit the panic button. We still have over a month. But it’s something to keep an eye on. We expect this Eagles’ offense to be explosive in 2019, but the defense needs to at least pull its weight. If these injuries aren’t cleared up, we might see a situation where the offense needs to carry the team early in the 2019 season. 

Among the injured players, McLeod appears to be the furthest along. He’s been participating in 11-on-11 drills and looks good. The only thing he hasn’t done so far are live tackling drills, but that will come eventually. Barring a setback, I expect him to be full-go for Week 1. 

Cox (foot) and Bradham (toe) both had surgery for injuries they suffered in the Saints game. Barnett (shoulder) had surgery for a torn rotator cuff during last season and has been working his way back. These three Eagles are very important to the team’s success. 

And while Ronald Darby (ACL) has been progressing, Jalen Mills (foot) is still on the Active/PUP. And Cre’Von LeBlanc suffered a Lisfranc sprain and is out for a little while. 

The Eagles definitely have a bunch of injuries on that side of the ball. It might not be time to panic yet … but a little worry is warranted. 



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Eagles' lack of young talent glaring in ESPN ranking

Eagles' lack of young talent glaring in ESPN ranking

Back in May, I wrote about the Eagles’ alarming lack of young talent. I ranked the Eagles’ top-10 players under 25 and as you can see the list drops off quickly once you get past Miles Sanders at No. 1.

The Eagles have reached the playoffs the last three years and won a Super Bowl in 2017 with a veteran roster, but Howie Roseman went to great lengths this offseason to re-stock the roster with talented young players. But just about every one of them comes with a giant question mark. 

People have noticed.

ESPN on Monday released an analytics-driven ranking of the under-25 talent on each of the 32 NFL teams, and the Eagles finished 29th, ahead of only the Vikings in 30th, the Patriots in 31st and the Falcons in 32nd.

The No. 29 ranking is actually an improvement over last year’s No. 32 ranking.

And while the analysis was flawed in one way and kind of ridiculous in another, the piece does correctly illustrate the concerning absence of proven young talent on the Eagles’ roster.

One absurdity in the ESPN piece: The Eagles are one of three teams listed with no so-called “blue-chip” players under 25.

Last we checked, Sanders is 23.

Sanders led all NFL rookies last year with 1,327 scrimmage yards, was 9th in the NFL in rushing average and had the 12th-most catches of all NFL running backs yet wasn’t one of 79 players listed as a blue-chipper.

That’s just silly.

Another absurdity: In explaining why the Eagles improved from 32nd to 29th, the piece credits the Eagles’ success with players drafted in “later rounds” of the draft and uses Sidney Jones as an example. But Jones was a 2nd-round pick and played more than 3 snaps in only two of the Eagles’ last nine games.

But despite the piece’s flaws, it does correctly highlight a general lack of young, proven talent on the roster.

As of now, the Eagles have only four slam-dunk projected under-25 starters: Sanders along with Andre Dillard, Derek Barnett and Avonte Maddox, who are all 24. T.J. Edwards, who is 24, is a likely starter, and either 23-year-old J.J. Arcega-Whiteside or 21-year-old Jalen Reagor will likely start as well.

For the sake of comparison, the Giants rank second in the ESPN piece after being No. 5 last year. They are listed with five “blue-chip” players under 25 (Will Hernandez, Saquon Barkley, Daniel Jones, Dexter Lawrence and Andrew Thomas). 

Washington is No. 11 with five blue-chippers (Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Daron Payne, Dwayne Haskins, Terry McLaurin).

And the Cowboys are No. 24 with four blue-chippers (Leighton Vander Esch, Connor Williams, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb).

The five teams with the most under-25 talent according to the piece are the Ravens, Giants, Cards, Bills and 49ers.

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The Cre'Von LeBlanc conundrum and more in Roob's 10 Eagles Observations

The Cre'Von LeBlanc conundrum and more in Roob's 10 Eagles Observations

 

The hidden value of Jason Avant, a ridiculous Kevin Curtis stat and the Cre’Von LeBlanc conundrum.

That’s just a taste of what lies ahead in this week’s Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Observations! 

1. Bringing Jason Avant in as part of the NFL’s minority coaching internship program is a really under-rated move. A few people complained on Twitter that it makes no sense to bring in one of the slowest receivers to work with this group of speedy receivers. But that’s exactly why it makes sense. Because it takes a lot more than just speed to make it as a WR, and Avant is proof of that. Jason’s 40 time at the 2006 Combine was 4.62, which ranked 38th out of 41 WRs who ran that year. Yet he went on to catch 346 passes for 4,118 yards in 10 seasons and was one of the NFL’s most dependable slots for a decade. Avant is here because although you can’t teach speed, you can teach everything else: “I was a technical receiver,” Avant said on the Eagles’ web site. “I wasn't the fastest receiver. I wasn't the biggest guy. I was able to get open by getting off the line of scrimmage and being precise. That's what I hope to help teach these receivers. It's just not about speed and movement.” Great move.

2. Speaking of slow receivers at the 2006 Combine … nobody in NFL history had more 85-yard touchdown catches than Hank Baskett, who ran a 4.50 at that same 2006 Combine. Hank had two in 2006 and one in 2008. In NFL history, only Cliff Branch, Bob Hayes, John Taylor and Wesley Walker had as many 85-yard TDs as Baskett, who was undrafted. Baskett had as many TD catches of at least 85 yards from 2006 through 2008 as every other Eagle has combined over the last 30 years.  

3. The last Eagles WR with consecutive 100-yard games: Jordan Matthews vs. the Cards and Redskins in 2015. Since then, 52 different NFL receivers from 29 other teams have had back-to-back 100-yard games.

4. It sure seems like Avonte Maddox will get the first crack at CB2 opposite Darius Slay, with Sidney Jones backing him up. And it sure seems like Nickell Robey-Coleman will get the first crack at the slot. If I were Jim Schwartz I’d make sure I found ways to get Cre’Von LeBlanc on the field. The guy is active, tough, smart, physical and instinctive. Good things happen when he plays. I don’t know where he fits in, but Schwartz and d-backs coach Marquand Manuel need to make sure he DOES fit in.

5. Misleading stats can be fun. Here’s one: Kevin Curtis averaged more yards per game in his Eagle career (56.3) than Harold Carmichael (49.9).

6. I wrote about 5-time Pro Bowler Jimmy Smith the other day in my piece on 10 great NFL players who began their careers in obscurity with the Eagles. How much of a difference would Smith have made if the Eagles kept him instead of Jeff Sydner at the end of 1994 training camp? From 1999 through 2005 - the seven years where Smith and Donovan McNabb were both in the league - Smith had 8,249 receiving yards. During the same span, the Eagles’ leading receiver was Todd Pinkston, with 2,816 yards. Imagine how much would have been different if Kotite had seen the greatness of Jimmy Smith staring him right in his face? 

7. We talk all the time about how incredible Nick Foles was in the 2017 playoffs, but right along with his remarkable performance is the fact that he dropped back 108 times and was sacked twice - once in the Falcons game and once in the Vikings game. Foles’ 971 passing yards in the 2017 postseason are the most in NFL history by a QB who was sacked two or fewer times. Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce and Brandon Brooks were the heart of that o-line, but Big V and Stefen Wisniewski were both huge during that run as well.

8. From the Be Careful What You Wish For Department: In the summer of 1971, there was a kicking competition in Eagles training camp between incumbent Mark Moseley, who the fans were furious with after his 27-yard miss cost the Eagles a 1970 win over the Falcons, and rookie 4th-round pick Happy Feller, the overwhelming fan favorite. “‘I’ll probably go out there to kick and the fans will all want to see Happy,” Moseley told Chuck Newman in the Aug. 13, 1971, Inquirer, before the first home preseason game of 1971. “Maybe they’ll boo, but that’s their privilege. The fans have their favorites.” As it turned out, the Eagles kept Feller and released Moseley. Feller went on to go 6-for-20 on field goal attempts in 1971, and that 30 percent accuracy is the worst in the NFL in the last 50 years. Feller spent a couple years with the Saints and made 37 percent of his career field goals. Nobody else in the NFL over the last 50 years has been under 50 percent. Moseley kicked in the NFL for 17 years and was a two-time Pro Bowler.

9. Crazy that there are more assistant coaches than players still with the Eagles from the Chip Kelly Era. Six coaches, two players. And there are more players remaining that Andy Reid brought in (five) than Chip brought in (two). And there isn’t a single player from either the 2014 or 2015 drafts still in the organization.

10. Need more evidence of Duce Staley’s ability to get the most out of his players? Since 2015, the Eagles are the only NFL team that hasn’t had a running back with 200 carries in a season. During that five-year period, Duce has made do with an ever-changing rotation of DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, Josh Adams one year, Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement and Boston Scott. Yet with that unsettled group of young unproven backs and veterans at the end of their career, the Eagles are 9th in the NFL in rushing during that five-year span. Of that group, Murray, Blount, Ajayi, Sproles and Mathews are all out of the league. 

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