Eagles

Roob's 10 observations from Eagles-Jaguars

Roob's 10 observations from Eagles-Jaguars

JACKSONVILLE — The Eagles keep losing quarterbacks at an alarming rate, although some good things came out of their 24-10 preseason win over the Jaguars Thursday night at TIAA Bank Field. The loss of Cody Kessler to a concussion a week after Nate Sudfeld broke his wrist puts the Eagles in a difficult position 23 days before opening day.

And I think by this point nobody in their right mind wants to see Carson Wentz before Sept. 8.

Here are some observations on the Eagles’ QB situation and a bunch of other stuff off the second of four games in a way-too-long preseason:

1) At their current rate, the Eagles are going to get four quarterbacks hurt this preseason. With Wentz and Clayton Thorson their only healthy QBs with two preseason games remaining, you would think they have no choice now but to sign a quarterback. Who knows, maybe they would just keep running Thorson out there and use Braxton Miller or Greg Ward — who were both big-time college quarterbacks — if the rookie gets hurt. But Sudfeld isn’t expected back until a few weeks into the regular season, and you never know how long anybody will take to be cleared after suffering a concussion. It’s hard to imagine going into the regular season with just Wentz and Thorson. But you also can’t bring in a quarterback cold 23 days before opening day and realistically expect him to be ready to play. Someone who knows the offense? Christian Hackenberg, who was here last preseason? No thanks. It has to be someone like Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown or Brock Osweiler, veterans who were in the league last year and wouldn’t need a long process to become football ready. Sanchez and McCown have officially retired, but they’re out there. What about Colin Kaepernick? I answer that here. Precarious situation.

2) That said, Thorson played well Thursday night, leading three TD drives, including one of 87 yards and one of 90 yards. A week after a lost debut against the Titans, the rookie fifth-round pick threw a 38-yard touchdown to Ward on a 4th-and-7, had a real nice 3rd-and-7 conversion to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, converted another 4th down with a 25-yard strike to Will Tye and finished 16-for-26 for 175 yards, a TD and an interception off the hands of rookie DeAndre Thompkins that wasn’t his fault. Thorson definitely calmed down after last week and made some throws that honestly we haven’t even seen him make in practice. Interesting question: If Thorson continues to play well and Kessler doesn’t play again in the preseason, do you make Thorson your No. 2 until Sudfeld comes back if Kessler is healthy? Have you seen enough from Kessler to trust him? There’s a lot to sort out, but definitely an encouraging night for the rookie from Northwestern.

3) Seeing the improvement Thorson made in just a week really speaks volumes about the Eagles’ offensive coaches, especially quarterbacks coach Press Taylor, and the work they do behind the scenes. Thorson was so bad last week he had a passer rating of 0.0. But he looked like a different guy against the Jaguars. Obviously, he has a long way to go, but for a fifth-round rookie, you look for improvement, and we definitely saw it last night.

4) A couple encouraging signs from two young defensive ends. Daeshon Hall, a third-round pick of the Panthers just two years ago, had two sacks, including his second strip-sack in two weeks, and Shareef Miller, the Penn State rookie from Northeast Philly, also picked up his second sack in two weeks and had a tackle for loss. Josh Sweat had a couple moments, too.

5) Linebacker Zach Brown flashed again, and that’s good news for a team that’s still missing its two best linebackers — Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill. Brown is a little limited in what he can do. You probably don’t want him out there in coverage on 3rd-and-8. But considering the state of the Eagles’ linebacking corps in general, it’s definitely encouraging seeing Brown so active and physical. 

6) I really think the Eagles have themselves a running back in Miles Sanders. He only got five carries Thursday night and only has eight in two games, but we saw last night what we’ve seen all along in practice, a shifty, decisive back who has the ability to get yards after initial contact. Sanders had a 12-yarder and a 16-yarder and finished 5-for-31. Still not enough work to get into any kind of rhythm, but you have to like what you see.

7) With the Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard additions, Josh Adams has been kind of a forgotten guy this summer, but last year’s Eagles rushing leader had himself a nice game and did two things he wasn’t able to do last year. Adams, who didn’t look like much of a receiver last year (seven catches all year), looked very comfortable taking a short pass from Thorson and navigating traffic for a 19-yard gain in the third quarter. The Eagles have worked a lot with Adams in the receiving game, and that’s a play he wouldn’t have made last year. Adams also had a one-yard TD run, which is notable since he was an NFL-worst 0-for-7 last year on 3rd- and 4th-and-1 (or goal). Adams is still facing an uphill battle to get back on the 53 man roster and the fumbles are still a concern, but it’s nice to see improvement from Year 1 to Year 2.

8) Every time I start to worry about Jake Elliott, he makes a huge kick. He crushed a 52-yarder against the Jaguars a week after hitting a 53-yarder against the Titans. His lack of consistency still concerns me — he missed a 40-yarder last week. If he can just make the kicks he’s supposed to make, he can play here for a decade.

9) I’ve liked Greg Ward since he first got here back in 2017. He’s smooth and fast and for a guy who played QB in college, he catches the ball really well. He’s also an active special teamer and when it comes down to picking the bottom of the roster receivers he’s making a case for himself. You saw his athleticism on that 4th-down 42-yard TD Thursday night, and you saw his versatility on his incomplete pass down the field. It wasn’t complete, but you know Doug Pederson would love to keep a guy who has the versatility to make big plays in a few different ways. 

10) One guy we really haven’t talked at all about this summer is tight end Josh Perkins, but he’s had a really nice camp, he catches everything, and with Richard Rodgers sidelined for close to two weeks now, Perkins has put himself in position for a possible roster spot. Perkins isn’t considered a great blocker on the line of scrimmage, but he had a fantastic block down the field on the Ward touchdown Thursday night.

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Former Eagle Connor Barwin hired as special assistant to the general manager

Former Eagle Connor Barwin hired as special assistant to the general manager

Connor Barwin spent a lot of time at the Eagles’ complex the last couple months of the season, and now we know exactly why.

The Eagles on Friday afternoon announced that Barwin, who spent four years playing for the Eagles, has joined the team's front office in the role of special assistant to the general manager.

I'm done playing football, but my football career is not over," Barwin said in an interview on the team’s web site. "I want to stay involved. I want to help this team wherever I can and also learn the other side of the game from the coaches and the personnel side. There's still a lot that I can learn about the on-field part of the game, as well. I love being around the game. I still want to win a Super Bowl, multiple Super Bowls.

According to the Eagles’ web site, Barwin will work with the player personnel staff during the offseason and work on player development during the season, with an emphasis on mentoring players making the challenging transition from college to the NFL.

Barwin, 33, retired after spending last year with the Giants. He began his career with the Texans before signing a six-year, $36 million deal with the Eagles before the 2013 season.

He spent four of those seasons here and made his only Pro Bowl in 2014, when he had a career-high 14 1/2 sacks - the most by any Eagle over the last eight seasons.

Despite playing only four years here, Barwin ranks 15th in franchise history with 31 1/2 sacks, tied with Mike Mamula.

When Chip Kelly and his staff were fired after the 2015 season and new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz switched from a 3-4 defense under Bill Davis to a 4-3, Barwin moved from outside linebacker to defensive end. He had five sacks in 2016 and was released after the season.

Barwin spent 2017 with the Rams and 2018 with the Giants. He had 56 1/2 sacks in 10 seasons.

"I got to play for a bunch of really great coaches and look inside how other organizations are run," Barwin said. "That's some insight that I can bring to the Eagles."

Even after he left the Eagles, Barwin always considered Philadelphia home. He has made a huge impact in the community with his Make the World a Better Place foundation, which refurbishes and rebuilds parks and rec centers in Philadelphia.

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Eagles reportedly interviewing Graham Harrell for offensive coordinator job

Eagles reportedly interviewing Graham Harrell for offensive coordinator job

We have a new and interesting name in contention to be the Eagles’ next offensive coordinator.

The Eagles on Friday interviewed Southern California offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Graham Harrell, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jeff McLane.

This is an interesting approach from the Eagles and Harrell would certainly qualify as an outside-the-box hire. 

Harrell, 34, spent last season at USC but notably has an extensive history with Mike Leach and his Air Raid Offense. Harrell played for Leach at Texas Tech from 2004-08 before going to the CFL and NFL and then coached under Leach at Washington State from 2014-15. 

So Harrell would likely be able to bring some new and potentially exciting concepts to Doug Pederson’s offense. Remember, Jeff Stoutland is the Eagles’ run game coordinator, which meant that Mike Groh was pretty much the pass game coordinator for the last two seasons before he was fired. Since he wouldn’t call plays, that would basically be Harrell’s role if he got the job in Philly. 

At USC, Harrell was hired by head coach Clay Helton when Kliff Kingsbury left after a month to take the head coaching job with the Arizona Cardinals. USC wanted to have an Air Raid style, so they turned to Harrell. 

In his one year as the offensive coordinator at USC, the Trojans improved drastically in major statistical categories on offense from 2018: 

Points per game: 26.1 to 32.5
Yards per game: 382.6 to 454.0 
Passing yards per game: 248.2 to 335.8  

Check out this interesting excerpt from an Aug. 1 story in Sports Illustrated about Harrell’s hire at USC and his thoughts on the offensive system he comes with:

“People hear Air Raid and they think five wide receivers, no tight ends, 60 pass attempts and 50 points a game. To Harrell, the Air Raid is something else. It is working to death a small number of plays, with shorter playcalls, perfecting those plays and out-executing — not out-scheming — the opponent. Option-based coaches, like former Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, operate under similar mentalities, but with a different focus: rushing the football. Leach does it through the air. “You can’t do everything. I think a lot of people try to take a little bit of everything offensively,” Harrell says. “If you do that, you don’t have much of an identity. You’re just O.K. at everything and not really good at something.”

At times over the last few seasons, the Eagles have found success after simplifying. They’ve also found success using an up-tempo pace to get Carson Wentz into a rhythm. These seem like concepts that would mesh with Harrell’s philosophy. 

And we also know that Pederson values coaches who, like himself, were once players. After he left Texas Tech, Harrell played one season (but was injured) for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and then was a backup quarterback in Green Bay for a few seasons and with the New York Jets for a season in 2013. Harrell’s only NFL game action came in 2012 as a member of the Packers. He played in four games and threw just four career passes. 

Since then, though, he’s been a quick riser in the coaching world. And he has some fresh ideas that might help an Eagles offense that has been far too stagnant at times over the last couple seasons. 

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