Eagles

Ronald Darby’s goal is Week 1, knows he needs to stay healthy

Ronald Darby’s goal is Week 1, knows he needs to stay healthy

Ronald Darby tore his ACL on Nov. 11 against the Cowboys, so by the start of the 2019 season, he’ll be just about 10 months removed from the injury. 

His goal is to be ready to play.  

“My rehab is going great right now,” Darby said on a conference call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon. “I’m hitting all the marks I need to. My goal is to be back by Week 1.” 

Darby, 25, recently signed a one-year deal to stay in Philadelphia. It’s really a one-year, prove-it deal for the talented young corner, who has missed 15 regular season games over the past two seasons. 

In 2017, Darby missed eight games with a dislocated ankle but returned for the playoffs. 

In 2018, Darby missed seven regular-season games and both playoffs games after tearing his ACL. 

On Tuesday, Darby said he thinks serious injuries in back-to-back seasons affected his value on the free agent market. In 2019, he’ll not only need to play well, but he’ll — more importantly — need to prove he can stay healthy. Darby played in 15 games as a rookie and 14 games in his second NFL season, both in Buffalo before the trade to the Eagles in 2017. 

Of course it’s been real frustrating. I never got hurt like this before until I got to Philly. So this was new. Everything was new to me. But I’ve been playing football since I was 8 years old. I’ve just got to have a healthy season. … This year, I’m gonna go out there, have a healthy season, compete and play hard.

If all goes well for Darby in 2019, he’ll be in line for a major contract this time next year. He said he would “love” to be back with the Eagles, but we’ll see where both sides of the negotiating table are after the 2019 season. 

“I always wanted to be back, of course,” Darby said. “It’s hard to walk away from a place like this.”

The move to bring back Darby was slightly surprising given that the Eagles seem to have a defensive back room stocked with young, cheap talent. But after they were decimated by injuries in 2018, they will at least have the luxury of depth for this coming season. In addition to Darby, they still have Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, Sidney Jones, Avonte Maddox and Cre’Von LeBlanc under contract. 

Darby said he thinks the talent in the defensive backs room should breed a lot of competition. That would be ideal. But the Eagles are paying him like a starter, so he needs to be that for them in 2019. If he does, and if he can stay healthy, he’ll earn himself some serious coin this time next year. 

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Eagles NFL draft options at No. 25: Jerry Tillery

Eagles NFL draft options at No. 25: Jerry Tillery

Jerry Tillery arrived at Notre Dame as an offensive lineman, and with his quickness and athleticism he probably would have been a pretty good one. But he moved to defense as a freshman, and the move certainly paid off.

Tillery had some issues early in his career. He was suspended for the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State as a freshman for violating team rules and in a game against USC as a sophomore got into trouble for stepping on a player’s leg and kicking another player while he was on the ground. But he grew into a leader and one of the most dominating interior linemen in the country.

Tillery blossomed as a junior with nine tackles for loss and 4 ½ sacks and earned All-America status this past year with 10 ½ TFLs and eight sacks. At 6-6, 295, Tillery is a force against the run but also a ferocious pass rusher. Tillery is still raw and prone to occasional technique breakdowns, but his upside is off the charts.

Current roster at DT: The Eagles desperately need help at defensive tackle behind projected starters Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson. With Haloti Ngata retired, the only other interior linemen on the roster are former practice squadders like Treyvon Hester and Bruce Hector. 

How he would fit: He’d play immediately. The combination of Hester, Hector, Ngata and Detiny Vaeao played more than 800 combined snaps on defense last year, so if ideally Cox and Jackson play about 75 percent of the snaps, that leaves about 35 snaps per game for the third defensive tackle. Perfect for a rookie.

Eagles history at DT in draft: The Eagles have taken four defensive tackles in the first round since 2000 – Corey Simon, Mike Patterson, Brodrick Bunkley and Cox. All but Patterson were among the first 14 picks. Only the Rams and Jaguars have also taken four tackles since 2000. Before that there was Leonard Renfro in 1993 and Jerome Brown in 1987.

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Other options at 25 

Are Eagles more likely to trade up or down in 2019 draft?

Are Eagles more likely to trade up or down in 2019 draft?

During his joint 42-minute pre-draft media availability this week, Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman was asked a simple question: 

Are you more interested in trading up or down in the first round? 

His answer was not nearly as simple: 

Who’s on the board? What’s the value? What are we getting?

His point, of course, was that they’ll have to see how the first round is going before figuring out whether or not they’d be willing to trade up to target a player or trade back to acquire more draft picks. At No. 25, it seems like they’re in a good position to do either. And Roseman is never shy about making draft-day trades. 

I still think the Eagles are more likely to trade up to get what Roseman calls a “difference-maker,” but that doesn’t mean a trade down isn’t possible. 

Remember, for Roseman, the draft isn’t about just getting good players; it’s about getting good players for good value. Earlier this week, Roseman outlined three reasons to make a trade in the first round: 

1. Trading up: If there’s a fall-off point in talent in the first round, it makes sense to move up to get a difference-maker. The Eagles are sitting at 25, so if they have 20 players they think are first-round worthy (even though their grading scale doesn’t work by round), there’s a chance they’ll have to move up to get one of those top players. They’ll do their research, but won’t truly know if one of those top-tier players will be available at 25 until the players start getting picked off the board. 

2. Trading down: If the Eagles are on the clock at 25 and they have, say, four players who are graded equally or close to it, they could add value by moving back three or four spots. They would get more or better later-round picks and still get a player they view as an equal to whomever they’d get at 25. 

3. Trading down: If they’re on the clock at 25 and they don’t think any of the players are worthy of that pick, they can hope someone else sees value there. In that case, they can trade back and get into a pocket of that round or the next round where they’d feel more comfortable making a pick. 

Since he became the Eagles’ GM in 2010, Roseman has been in charge of eight drafts (not including the 2015 draft under Chip Kelly). In those eight years, he has made 25 draft-day trades and four of them include first rounders. That’s over 3.0 per year and he’s never not made a trade during the draft. (This doesn’t include the two trades in 2016 to get in position to draft Carson Wentz; those happened before the draft.) 

Of the four Round 1 trades, two were to trade up, two were to trade down. 

• In 2010, the Eagles traded picks Nos. 24, 70 and 87 to move up to No. 13 to draft Brandon Graham. 

• In 2012, the Eagles traded Nos. 15, 114 and 172 to move up to No. 12 to draft Fletcher Cox. 

• In 2014, the Eagles traded No. 22 down to No. 26 to draft Marcus Smith. The Browns wanted Johnny Manziel. The Eagles also got No. 83. 

• In 2018, the Eagles traded out of the first round (No. 32) when the Ravens wanted to draft Lamar Jackson. The Birds ended up trading back up higher in the second to take Dallas Goedert the next day. 

Roseman has talked before about the usual talent cutoff in first rounds. There are only a certain amount of “difference-makers” atop every draft — it differs by team — and on Tuesday, he said most drafts don’t have “32 legitimate first round grades” on players. He, of course, didn’t say whether or not this is one of those years, as to not tip his hand. But the Eagles are already running through all the hypothetical situations. And this is the time where preliminary phone calls between teams about draft-day intentions start happening. Roseman always says trades happen because of relationships around the league. 

So the reason Roseman didn’t answer the question on Tuesday is because he probably really doesn’t know what’s going to happen when the draft kicks off. He certainly has more of an idea than he let on — I still think the Eagles are in prime trade up territory — but there’s no point in tipping his hand. 

The only thing we know for certain: Roseman isn’t one to shy away from draft-day moves, so there’s a good chance we see one again next week. 

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