Eagles

Why keeping Carson Wentz off the field was the smart move

Why keeping Carson Wentz off the field was the smart move

How much have things changed?

From 2000 through 2009, Donovan McNabb threw 513 passes in the preseason — an average of more than 50 per year.

That’s an entire season’s worth of meaningless passes.

At the time it seemed to make sense. That’s just how NFL head coaches went about things. The starting quarterback played a little in the first game, a little more in the second and into the third quarter in the third, and nobody ever really questioned it.

Those days are over, and for the first time in at least 30 years — probably much longer and maybe ever — the Eagles will go into the regular season with a quarterback who never saw the field in the preseason.

Carson Wentz is healthy. But will he be ready?

Listen, we've had a lot of good work with him in training camp,” Doug Pederson said. “We had a lot of great work against Baltimore this week in practice, and I'm real comfortable with where he's at right now in his development, his growth with the team, and with the offense. … I'm comfortable where he is, how he's leading this football team, and just felt like this was another opportunity to look at the other guys play.

The NFL only maintains preseason stats since 2000, but just going from memory I know the Eagles’ opening-day quarterback has played in the preseason every year going back to the late 1980s.

The Eagles open the regular season Sept. 8 against the Redskins, and by that point Wentz will have gone almost exactly nine months since his regular season ended in Dallas last Dec. 9.

I expect us to play at a high level,” Zach Ertz said. “We have to have a fast start, and that’s what we’re going to work on the next two weeks. A lot of us will start focusing on the Redskins now because we never really play in that fourth preseason game, so I expect us to come out and play at a high level. I don’t think there’s going to be rust. We’ve been together for so long, we’ve ran so many routes. The two practices against the Ravens were really good for us.

There is precedent for an Eagles’ quarterback barely playing in the preseason.

In 2012, Michael Vick only threw seven passes in the preseason. He played briefly in two preseason games, suffering a hand injury in the preseason opener against the Steelers and a rib injury a week later against the Patriots.

He didn’t play again until the opener in Cleveland, when he threw four interceptions against the Pat Shurmur-coached Browns.

Here’s a look at the work the Eagles’ starting QBs have gotten each preseason since 2000:

2000: McNabb [4 games, 63 passes]

2001: McNabb [3 games, 37 passes]

2002: McNabb [3 games, 38 passes]

2003: McNabb [3 games, 39 passes]

2004: McNabb [3 games, 44 passes]

2005: McNabb [3 games, 51 passes]

2006: McNabb [4 games, 31 passes]

2007: McNabb [2 games, 20 passes]

2008: McNabb [3 games, 54 passes]

2009: McNabb [3 games, 61 passes]

2010: Kolb [3 games, 53 passes]

2011: Vick [3 games, 36 passes]

2012: Vick [2 games, 7 passes]

2013: Vick [3 games, 38 passes]

2014: Foles [3 games, 48 passes]

2015: Bradford [2 games, 15 passes]

2016: Wentz [1 game, 24 passes]

2017: Wentz [3 games, 23 passes]

2018: Foles [2 games, 26 passes]

2019: Wentz [Did not play]

His rookie year, Wentz suffered a rib injury in the preseason opener against the Buccaneers and didn’t play again until opening day, when he threw for 278 yards and two touchdowns in a 29-10 win over the Browns. 

And that was his NFL debut.

This is a much more experienced, much smarter, much more prepared Carson Wentz.

Pederson seems to really like where Wentz is at right now both mentally and physically, with the opener 16 days away.

I think from a leadership standpoint, on and off the field, how he's really taken charge of the team, not just the offense but the team, some of the things that I see, I see him really opening himself up to the offense from the standpoint of letting the offense work,” Pederson said. “And that just comes from time with the system and developing his repertoire of plays and what he likes and getting comfortable. He's really done an outstanding job. And even physically from his rehab back in the spring all the way through training camp, he's clicking on all cylinders. His mind is good, his body feels fresh, and all the things that we've seen through camp … that was the deciding factor (in not playing him).

Look around the league. 

Drew Lock of the Broncos is out for at least the opener with a thumb injury he suffered against the 49ers. 

Tom Savage of the Lions has been out most of the preseason with a concussion he suffered against the Patriots. 

Nate Sudfeld is out indefinitely with a broken left wrist. 

We all saw Cam Newton in a walking boot Thursday night in Foxboro.

Wentz is healthy, and if the price of that is a little bit of rust for a series or two against the Redskins, it was well worth it.



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Four reasons the NFL's CBA proposal is bad for the players

Four reasons the NFL's CBA proposal is bad for the players

If you're a football fan, you've probably read about ongoing negotiations on a new CBA between the NFLPA, which the union representing the players, and management council, which represents the 32 NFL owners.

The NFL’s current collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2020 season, but negotiations have been ongoing this offseason.

The NFLPA executive committee voted 6-5 to not recommend the current proposal to the members, so negotiations continue.

The complete proposal hasn’t been made available to the public, but enough details have leaked over the last two days to get some sense of what’s included.

The NFLPA released this fact sheet outlining key points in the CBA proposal.

And there are a lot of positives for the players. It expands pension eligibility and improves insurance benefits for retired players and raises minimum salaries, eases drug testing and reduces fines.

All good.

But there are plenty of red flags, enough that numerous high-profile players have been tweeting against the proposal.

Here are four reasons the deal as currently proposed is a bad one for the players:

1. The proposal calls for a 17-game regular-season schedule while also calling for an increase in player revenue from the current 47 to 48.5 percent. That’s about a 3.1 percent revenue increase for a 6.3 increase in games played. How is that fair? The owners are going to be raking in massive TV revenue increases, especially with the expanded playoff schedule, but the players won’t be receiving an equivalent share of that money.

2.  All players under contract when the league goes to a 17-game schedule — presumably in 2021 — will be paid only $250,000 more for that 17th game game. So anybody with a base salary over $4.25 million in 2021 will essentially be taking a pay cut. The Eagles have 10 players with 2021 base salaries of at least $5 million. Carson Wentz is on the books at $15.4 million. That’s $905,882 per week based on a 17-week schedule. So his weekly salary would go down to $869,440. That’s a $36,000 pay CUT per week. He’ll essentially be making less money per week. Now multiple that pay cut by several hundred players. The NFL will be raking in billions more dollars by increasing the regular season from 256 games to 272 - and eventually more with expansion - and increasing the postseason from 11 games to 13. While essentially asking the players to earn less per week.
 
3.  The proposal does shorten the preseason from four games to three, but there is apparently no second bye week included. So the players are being asked to play 17 regular-season games in an 18-week span in an era where the NFL loves blabbing about player safety. Add to that the likelihood of increased international travel and the wear and tear that takes on a player as the league explores more and more international games. This is just pure greed on the NFL’s part. It’s clear that everything the league says about player safety is just lip service if they are so desperate to add a 17th regular-season game in an era with increased focus on concussions, injuries and player health after football.  

4. The NFL is way too eager to get a deal done now when the current CBA doesn’t expire for another year. It definitely benefits both sides to have a deal hammered out and guarantee labor peace for a decade. But you just get the feeling the owners want to get this done before the NFLPA really has a chance to digest the full proposal and its long-term financial implications for the players. The owners over the last few days have embarked on a carefully strategized PR campaign to make this proposal seem like a good one for the players and try to rush a vote through before everybody knew what the implications were. Nobody wants a strike. Nobody wants a lockout. But the players are what makes the league work. Without them there is no NFL. They deserve more than what this CBA proposal calls for.

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Figuring out likelihood Eagles free agents return in 2020

Figuring out likelihood Eagles free agents return in 2020

The Eagles have over a dozen pending unrestricted free agents and if they want to bring some of them back, they have a few more weeks of exclusive negotiating rights.

Free agency begins on March 18 and the legal tampering window opens on March 16. Until then, the Eagles won’t have to bid against other teams. Just last year, the Eagles signed pending free agent Brandon Graham to a contract at the combine.

All of the following players are pending UFAs except Nigel Bradham, who was released a few days ago and is already a free agent. Any team can negotiate with him now.

Here’s a look at all the Eagles’ free agents (in alphabetical order) — Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro try to figure out how likely they are to return:

Nelson Agholor

Roob: Everybody seems to understand it would be best for both Nelly and for the Eagles if he finds a new home. The ultimate guy who needs a change of scenery. I'm not going to put 0 percent but ... 1 percent.

Dave: Agholor’s career in Philadelphia was a perfect bell curve. He struggled early, helped the Eagles win a Super Bowl and then struggled mightily last season. It’s best for everyone to move on and I think we all understand that. 0 percent

Nigel Bradham

Roob: A lot of people seem to think the Eagles are going to bring Bradham back at a lower salary, but I think he’s gone. I think they want to get younger and they’re concerned about his level of play dropping the last couple years. 28 percent

Dave: The Eagles want to get younger and faster and bringing back Bradham wouldn’t help either area. I’ve heard Bradham is open to a return but I don’t think it’s very likely. 15 percent

Vinny Curry

Roob: He wasn’t awful last year. He actually had a team-high 4.0 sacks over the second half of the season. He won’t cost much, he loves playing here, he wants to be here, and they need pass rushers. But he’s 31 and it's probably best if they move on. 41 percent

Dave: Curry ended up having a much better season than anticipated, finishing with 5.0 sacks. He was a productive player but again … time to get younger. If other options are too expensive, it’s possible. 25 percent

Ronald Darby

Roob: I never got why they brought him back for 2019 at $5 million, and I definitely would be shocked if he’s back in 2020. Has averaged 8 1/2 games in his three years here and lately on the rare occasions he’s been healthy hasn’t played well. 9 percent

Dave: The Eagles brought back Darby in 2019 and it was a mistake. When healthy, Darby was an OK player but he struggled to stay on the field and it’s time to move on. 6 percent

Kamu Grugier-Hill

Roob: Kamu has played four years on a rookie 6th-round contract and wants to get paid. He’s not going to get a big deal here, so I’d expect him to at explore the open market and see what he can get. If it doesn’t happen for him I could see him coming back. 38 percent

Dave: Last season was supposed to be a breakout season for Grugier-Hill and it didn’t happen. And then it was kind of odd how his season ended with the concussion and surgery. Seems like the marriage might be broken, which is a shame because he still has potential and fits what the Eagles want in their linebackers. 22 percent

Jordan Howard

Roob: I think I’m in the minority on this one, but as much as I like him as a player I don’t think it makes sense for him to come back to a team where Miles Sanders has established himself as the lead back, and I don’t think it makes sense for the Eagles to spend significant money on a back that needs carries to shine. 32 percent

Dave: The Eagles need to move forward with Miles Sanders as their lead back, which means Howard should probably find another landing spot. But he seems to like it here and if a strong market doesn’t develop, the Eagles could certainly use him as thunder to Sanders’ lighting. 54 percent

Timmy Jernigan

Roob: It all depends how much $$$ Timmy wants. The Eagles would love to have him back at another reasonable deal. But who knows what the market is for a guy like Jernigan, who is clearly talented but can’t stay healthy. 51 percent

Dave: I understand the Eagles want to get younger and I understand that Jernigan has struggled to stay on the field. I like the idea of bringing him back as a third DT in the rotation. 50 percent

Josh McCown

Roob: As much as I respect his effort in the playoff loss and what he means in the locker room, I don’t want a 41-year-old backup quarterback. But the Eagles love him, so I’d expect him back as No. 3 and a sort of unofficial player-coach. 67 percent

Dave: I think McCown is going to hang ‘em up. After getting hurt in the playoffs, it’s hard to imagine him signing up for another year of this. 10 percent

Rodney McLeod

Roob: It just makes sense for him to stay where he’s played at a solid level for four years and it makes sense for the Eagles to spend a few bucks at a position where there's no depth. When it makes sense for both sides it usually gets done. But they still need to draft a safety or two. 68 percent

Dave: This is a tough one because if the Eagles can’t figure out the situation with Malcolm Jenkins, they’d probably really like to keep McLeod. And I’m not sure they can find a better value or a better player on the open market. 65 percent

Jalen Mills

Roob: Another one whose greatest value is here. The Eagles absolutely need to bring in a stable of young, fast corners. But Mills won’t cost a ton, he’s a known quantity, he’s popular in the locker room and he's a functional player at a position where the Eagles don't have many. 71 percent

Dave: This is a case where I think the Eagles value the player way more than the rest of the league. Jim Schwartz loves him some Jalen Mills. He’s the one I’m most confident will be back but there’s no guarantee. 75 percent

Jason Peters

Roob: One of the most intriguing roster questions. Can the Eagles really bring back a 38-year-old left tackle who’s had injury issues in an offseason where one of the GM identified getting younger as a major priority? Peters is still a good player when healthy. But he’s not a great player. And Andre Dillard is waiting in the wings. 42 percent

Dave: It’s time to move on. The rest of us know that but I wonder if there’s a chance the Eagles don’t. Eventually, though, I think they come to their senses and Andre Dillard is the starter at left tackle in 2020. 19 percent

Hassan Ridgeway

Roob: Ridgeway was giving the Eagles some productive snaps before he got hurt. He’s only 25, they need interior line depth, and it would make sense to have him, especially if Jernigan is looking for a big deal. 59 percent

Dave: I think either Ridgeway or Jernigan will be back for the 2020 season as a rotational defensive tackle so I’m giving them both the same chance. 50 percent

Richard Rodgers

Roob: He wasn’t even in the league most of the year, so it’s not like there’s a market for him. If the Eagles want to bring him into camp they will. 40 percent

Dave: I really don’t see the need to bring Rodgers back. Sure, he knows the offense but there has to be a younger guy who can do the same thing. 7 percent

Nate Sudfeld

Roob: Sudfeld can’t be thrilled he remained No. 3 after his wrist healed. It just kind of feels like both sides are ready to move on. 36 percent

Dave: This is a really tough one for me. The Eagles would have rolled with Sudfeld as the backup last season but then he got hurt and they brought McCown in. Would they feel comfortable enough rolling with Sudfeld as their backup in 2020? I’m not sure. 45 percent

Halapoulivaati Vaitai

Roob: I think somebody is going to look at Big V as a versatile 26-year-old who’s started on a Super Bowl team and pay him significant dough to be a starter. And he’ll probably do fine. The Eagles can’t compete with that when he’d only be a backup here. 27 percent

Dave: I think the Eagles would love to have Big V back as their swing tackle and key backup but I still think there’s going to be a team that will give him more money to sign as a starter or at least to compete for a starting job. 36 percent

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