Roob's random Eagles observations from training camp

Roob's random Eagles observations from training camp

A few random observations after the first few days of Eagles training camp!

• Jim Schwartz was really talking up second-year defensive end Josh Sweat the other day, and he’s certainly one of the more intriguing guys in camp. Here’s Schwartz on Sweat: 

We're excited about him. He's long. He can play with some power. He has speed. He's around the passer when he rushes because he's so long. There are a lot of good things with him. He just needs to have a good camp, and I think he's focused to be able to do that.

If Sweat can give the Eagles some meaningful snaps, it would be huge.

• When I heard the Eagles were working out veteran corner Orlando Scandrick on Friday, my first thought was there was no way they were going to sign him. They have plenty of talented young corners, and Scandrick was not good with the Chiefs last year. Then they signed him. And the more I thought about it, the more it made sense, especially with Jalen Mills still out, Cre’Von LeBlanc potentially seriously injured and Ronald Darby not yet a full participant.

As promising as Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox and Sidney Jones are, they’ve started a combined 26 games. Scandrick has started 76. After seeing the Eagles forced to use 10 corners last year, it’s hard to argue with bringing in a healthy, experienced veteran on a make-good contract. If he stinks? He stinks and you cut him, no harm done.

• I can’t get over Brandon Brooks’ recovery from a truly devastating Achilles injury. It’s been just over six months since the Saints game and to see him out at practice, even in a limited role, is a real testament to his tremendous work ethic and determination. It also speaks volumes about his positive mentality. Right from the start, Brooks had an incredibly positive outlook on his injury and recovery, never felt sorry for himself, never asked "Why me?" And that really helps. The guy is such an inspiration.

• I’m a little surprised the Eagles don’t have a second kicker in camp. Jake Elliott was good but not great last year, and he did make that game-winning 61-yarder against the Giants in 2017, but he was one of the worst kickers in the NFL beyond 50 yards last year, going just 2 for 5. The misses were from 53, 54 and 55 yards, so they’re not layups, but the rest of the league was 32 for 50 from 53 to 55 yards last  year, or 64 percent. Elliott was 40 percent. Overall, Elliott is at 83.9 percent over the last two years, which is middle of the pack (20th of 37 kickers with 20 or more attempts). He’s obviously got a huge leg, but can he be consistent enough from long range to be the long-term answer? I’m still not positive.

• Here’s an interesting one: Only eight Eagles have started 16 games as rookies over the last 30 years. Seven of them are linemen (Bernard Williams, Barrett Brooks, Tra Thomas, Doug Brzezinski, Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, Corey Simon). The only rookie in the last 30 years who’s not a lineman to start all 16 games? That would be Carson Wentz.

• One of the popular sideline topics among the beat writers during practice is Corey Clement. There’s a school of thought that with Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard and Darren Sproles guaranteed roster spots, 2018 Eagles rushing leader Josh Adams and Wendell Smallwood back from last year and Boston Scott also in the mix, Clement could be a roster casualty.

I say no freaking way. What we saw Clement do down the stretch in 2017 and in the Super Bowl — as an undrafted rookie running back who had barely played during the regular season — can't be forgotten. This is a talented kid, and he’s also the best receiving back on the roster and one of the better blocking backs. He’s not going anywhere.

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How the NFL’s perception of Carson Wentz has changed

How the NFL’s perception of Carson Wentz has changed

Two years ago, Carson Wentz came in at No. 3 on NFL Network’s list of the top 100 players in the league.

All he’s done since then is throw 48 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, complete 66 percent of his passes and fashion a 96.7 passer rating.

And drop out of the top 100.

It’s stupid, of course. We all understand Wentz should be in the top 100. He’s a really good player. But instead of complaining about it, let’s consider what it means.

Because it didn’t just happen. Nobody was out to get Carson. His fall out of the top-100 may be ridiculous, but it happened for a very real reason and represents a very real national perspective.

When he got hurt in L.A. late in the 2017 season, Wentz was 24 years old and the best young quarterback in football. Pat Mahomes and Deshaun Watson were rookies and Lamar Jackson was still at Louisville. 

Now Wentz is 27 and going into Year 5, and he’s just as talented as ever. His numbers considering his lack of receivers are crazy. That 96.7 passer rating throwing to Nelly, Mack Hollins and Alshon is 9th-highest in the NFL over the last two years. Yet he’s dropped from No. 3 entirely off the list.

It's all about perception.

Carson is no longer seen as this hot young quarterback taking the league by storm. He’s now perceived as injury prone and incapable of carrying a football team from opening day through a deep playoff run.

It’s amazing how perception can change so quickly, but that’s what happens. This year’s Next Biggest Thing is next year’s Washed-Up Has-Been.

The reality for Wentz is somewhere in between. When he’s been healthy, he’s been really good. But he’s going into Year 5 and the sum total of his postseason career is a 3-yard completion to Boston Scott.

So it’s really hard to fairly rank Wentz because he’s 27 and hasn’t won a playoff game. Hasn’t even finished one.

And this is a fickle business. 

Kyler Murray had a nice rookie year and I think he’s going to be really good, but he has no business being ranked ahead of Wentz. Josh Allen did some exciting things last year, but he has no business being ranked ahead of Wentz.

But people look at those guys now the same way they looked at Wentz two years ago. Young, exciting, improving, full of potential. Part of a new wave of NFL quarterbacks.

And when you look at the big picture, there’s a sense that young QBs are leaving Wentz by the wayside.

Mahomes and Watson are three years younger than Wentz. Jackson is four years younger. 

They’re now the hot young QBs. Now they're the future.  

That’s just natural.  Maybe it’s not fair that while you’re out there throwing 48 TDs and 14 INTs your reputation takes a hit, but that’s life.

I liked Carson’s answer when I asked him last week about not being in the top 100

“You can always use anything and everything as just a little bit of extra motivation,” he said. “I'm not going to let that cause me to lose any sleep or anything, but I do look forward to going out this year and showing what I can do.”

I’m glad he’s pissed. Or as close to pissed as Carson gets. I want angry Carson. 

Because you can hang your head and feel bad about being snubbed by somebody’s list or you can shrug it off and go do something about it and win some games and get to the playoffs and prove you really are one of the 100 best players in the league or maybe one of the 10 best.

In the end, only Carson truly controls how he's perceived. In the end, Carson's vote is the only one that counts. 

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Fletcher Cox spills details from Eagles D-line getaway at his ranch

Fletcher Cox spills details from Eagles D-line getaway at his ranch

Eagles defensive tackle Bruce Hector grew up in Tampa, Florida, and went to college at South Florida. Bruce Hector is 6-foot-2, 296 pounds. 

Bruce Hector had never ridden a horse. Of course he hadn’t. 

That changed in May when Fletcher Cox hosted most of his defensive line teammates at his ranch in Texas. 

Hector and Derek Barnett rode horses for the first time. The guy shot skeet — “everybody sucked at first until about 20 minutes into it,” Cox said — and Malik Jackson, whom Cox affectionately referred to as a “Cali Kid” got to spend some quality time with mosquitos and flies. 

It was one of those things, it was very important to me that I did that, to let those guys know ‘hey, I’m here for you, let’s all get together and get it done,’” Cox said. “Once the guys got there, we had everything laid out, food, places to stay. And guys enjoyed it.

In addition to all the activities Cox’s ranch has to offer, the Eagles’ defensive linemen also worked out together while trying to stay safe during COVID-19. 

Aside from the horses who had to support 300-pound linemen, the real MVPs of the getaway were Stephanie and Sue, two women who work on Cox’s ranch and were in charge of making sure everything was clean for the Eagles as they got together during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Eagles’ Pro Bowl defensive lineman said Stephanie and Sue “really stayed on top of it.” 

“I asked them, ‘hey when guys wake up go in their room, make sure you’re spraying everything down, make sure you’re washing the bedspread, making sure that everything is getting sprayed every day,’” Cox said. 

And they did. 

Aside from that, the only people working out on the fields were Cox and his teammates. In an offseason where the Eagles lost all of OTAs and minicamps, Cox felt like he had to step up and get the group together. Without those workouts, the Eagles’ defensive line wouldn’t have been together until training camp this month.  

“I knew I had the place to get all the guys down to my place in Texas,” Cox said. “I reached out to all the guys. I told the guys, ‘hey if you feel safe coming down, let’s all get together as a group, as a D-line unit and try to knock some things out.’ Let’s get a couple days where we can get some work in and just kind of hang out and be around each other.”

Cox, 29, has really grown into his role as a leader on the team, similarly to Carson Wentz, who got a group of receivers together this offseason in Houston. 

On Wednesday, Cox said the defensive line will need to lead the Eagles in 2020 and he’s probably right. That makes his role even more important. He’s the leader of the group that has to lead the team. 

Give him a lot of credit for getting his teammates together during a difficult and unusual offseason. Give that horse a ton of credit too. 

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