Eagles dangerously misguided to believe they're 'close'

Eagles dangerously misguided to believe they're 'close'

There are few things in sports as misguided and dangerous as a team believing that a few close losses means they’re on the brink of greatness.
That’s the theme we’ve been hearing out of the NovaCare Complex for the last few weeks.
That a bunch of close losses — losses by seven points or less to the Lions, Cowboys, Giants, Ravens and Redskins twice — could easily have gone the other way if the ball just happened to bounce differently.
“When you look back on the season, it's going to come down to about six or seven plays that could change the outcome of your season and flip it for you,” head coach Doug Pederson said last week. “So we were right there.”
The reality? The Eagles were not “right there.” And nobody involved in this disappointing season has any right to say they were.
And this is the last thing any Eagles fan should want to hear right now.
Because it indicates a franchise that has deluded itself into believing it’s closer than it really is. It ignores the reality the Eagles weren’t on the brink of anything this year. It pretends the talent to be a legit contender is here, and it’s not.
Losing close games means one thing. You lost.
It doesn’t mean that magically those close losses will become close wins next year.
Let’s look around the league.
The Jaguars finished 3-13 and fired their coach. They lost nine games by seven or fewer points. Are we supposed to believe they were nine plays from being a 12-4 team?
The Bears went 3-13. Six losses by a touchdown or less. Did they look like they were a few bounces of the football away from a 9-7 record?
The Bills were a 7-9 team with six losses by seven points or less. Right on the brink of 13-3, right?
You can play this pointless game for just about any bad team.
The Eagles won two games from Sept. 26 through Dec. 21. A 3-0 start became a 5-9 record. And the close losses and these last two wins better not delude anybody in the front office into thinking the Eagles suddenly figured anything out.
The Giants win was a good win, and it’s always nice to beat the Cowboys, but that was Mark Sanchez and a bunch of scrubs out there, for crying out loud. Everybody went home happy Sunday, but in the big picture, beating a Cowboys team resting its starters for the playoffs is nothing to brag about.
The reality is this team won three games against teams playing their starters after Week 3.
The reality is that a bunch of close losses don’t mask the fact that the roster is shockingly low on elite young players.
The reality is the Eagles have the NFL’s worst group of wide receivers, they once again need wholesale changes at cornerback, they don’t have a franchise running back, they’re desperate for a pass rusher and there are serious questions up and down the offensive line.
The Eagles recorded the second-fewest offensive plays of 30 yards or more in the NFL this year — just 12 all year. And they allowed the third-most — 33, just two off the lead.
Their offense can’t make a big play down the field, and their defense can’t stop big plays down the field. Bad combination.
Two of their best offensive players, Darren Sproles and Jason Peters, are 33 and 34, respectively. Key defensive guys like Brandon Graham and Malcolm Jenkins are going into their eighth and ninth seasons. One-time Pro Bowl veterans like Connor Barwin and Jason Kelce face an uncertain future.
The head coach, while liked by his players and generally able to get them to play hard, made enough poor gameday decisions to raise legitimate questions about his ability to guide the franchise to elite level even with a stocked roster.
But there is no stocked roster. Years and years of poor drafting have caught up with the Eagles, who haven’t won a playoff game in eight years and haven’t even reached the playoffs in three years.
There is a small nucleus here of promising young players, and it begins with Carson Wentz and continues with Jordan Hicks, Fletcher Cox, Zach Ertz and Jordan Matthews. They do have a very impressive, very promising young quarterback, and that is a terrific start.
But there is so much work to do, not a ton of salary cap room to do it with and a front office run by a guy with a weak track record for identifying and selecting talented college players.
This is a last-place team, the only team in the NFC East that hasn’t reached the playoffs the last two years, one of only 12 NFL teams that hasn’t been to the postseason the last three years.

The Eagles are not close. They are not on the brink. They are not a few bounces away from being an elite team.
And the people running the franchise better understand that or it's never going to change.

Ranking all of Howie Roseman’s Eagles 2nd-round picks

Ranking all of Howie Roseman’s Eagles 2nd-round picks

As we near the 2020 NFL draft, the Eagles are expected to have 10 selections and a real opportunity to pick up some important young players for the future of the franchise. 

During his time as GM (2010-14, 2016-present), Howie Roseman has had some hits and he’s had some misses. 

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to rank all of his draft picks (excluding the 2015 year when Chip Kelly was in charge) by round. 

We already looked at the first round.

Today, we’ll get to his 10 second-round picks: 

1. Zach Ertz (2013, No. 35) 

It’s hard to believe that Ertz is 29 already and just finished his seventh NFL season. While he’s playing in an era with some other really great tight ends, Ertz is having the type of season that will one day likely warrant a discussion about the Hall of Fame. He’s the only player in Eagles history with five straight seasons with 70+ catches and 800+ yards. And his 525 receptions are the most ever for a tight end through their first seven seasons. 

2. Miles Sanders (2019, No. 53) 

Maybe this is too early but I’m sold on Sanders. I think he’s going to be a star and I think the Eagles nailed this pick. Going by merit, he’s too high here but I’m projecting some. Sanders set an Eagles rookie record for scrimmage yards with 1,327. I expect him to continue to get better too. 

3. Mychal Kendricks (2012, No. 46) 

Kendricks played six seasons with the Eagles and even signed a pretty significant contract with the team. His last game as an Eagle was Super Bowl LII. While the Eagles moved on from him after the Super Bowl and while his play the last couple years wasn’t up to his previous level, Kendricks was a pretty darn good player for several years. In six years with the Eagles he had 3 Ints, 7 FFs and 14.0 sacks. 

4. Dallas Goedert (2018, No. 49) 

If Ertz wasn’t already an Eagle, I have no doubt Goedert would be a clear No. 1 tight end and his stats would be much better. Even with Ertz in front of him, Goedert has caught 91 passes for 941 yards and nine touchdowns in his first two seasons and he’s been a really good blocker. He has allowed the Eagles to utilize 12 personnel and make their offense more diversified. 

5. Jordan Matthews (2014, No. 42) 

He never had a 1,000-yard season but the Vanderbilt product in a three-season span (2014-16) caught 225 passes for 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns. While he was never a great receiver, it’s hard to argue with those numbers. But his two stints with the Eagles since then haven’t been very productive. 

6. Vinny Curry (2012, No. 59) 

Curry has had a strange career in Philly. For the first few years of his career, he was a pass-rush specialists and was later a run-stuffing first- and second-down player. His best season came in 2014, when he piled up 9.0 sacks. In his second stint in 2019, he actually had 5.0 sacks but is set to be a free agent again. 

7. Nate Allen (2010, No. 37) 

Allen didn’t become the Eagles’ next great safety but he’s better than you remember. In five years with the Eagles he played 74 games (69 starts) and had 10 interceptions and four sacks. 

8. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (2019, No. 57) 

We have just one year to work off of so maybe JJAW rises quickly. But early returns certainly aren’t good for the receiver out of Stanford. As a rookie, Arcega-Whiteside caught 10 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles could have used more production in 2019. 

9. Sidney Jones (2017, No. 43) 

Jones made some clutch plays late in the 2019 regular season but he clearly hasn’t lived up to his extremely high potential. The Eagles took a gamble when they drafted him coming off an Achilles tear and so far that hasn’t paid off. The Eagles would have loved if Jones could have taken over a starting gig but he’s struggled to stay healthy and when he’s been on the field he hasn’t been the great corner we saw at Washington. I have Jones lower than JJAW simply because he’s had more opportunities. 

10. Jaiquawn Jarrett (2011, No 54) 

Once billed as a hard-hitting safety in the mold of Brian Dawkins, the Temple draft pick lasted just over one season with the Eagles. He played a total of 13 games with the Eagles and started two games. He was released the September after his rookie season. 

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Where did the Eagles’ Super Bowl roster disappear to?

Where did the Eagles’ Super Bowl roster disappear to?

With Nigel Bradham now gone, there are only eight starters left on the Eagles’ roster from their Super Bowl triumph just 24 months ago.

And that number could continue to dwindle, depending on what the Eagles do with Alshon Jeffery, whether Jason Kelce returns for a 10th season and whether Malcolm Jenkins gets a new deal or plays under his current one.

The only other starters from the Super Bowl under contract for 2020 are Zach Ertz, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson on offense and Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham on defense.

There are three other guys under contract (or who the Eagles hold exclusive negotiating rights for) who played offense or defense in the Super Bowl: Corey Clement, Isaac Seumalo and Derrick Barnett.

And five others played only on special teams in Super Bowl LI vs. the Patriots: Nate Gerry, Jake Elliott, Rasul Douglas, Rick Lovato and Shelton Gibson.

Of the Eagles’ eight inactives on Super Bowl Sunday, only Sidney Jones remains under contract.

And of the eight players who finished the year on Injured Reserve, only Carson Wentz is still here.

In all, only 17 players remain under contract with the Eagles of the 61 who finished the 2017 season either on the active roster or Injured Reserve.

The Eagles do have exclusive negotiating rights with their own free agents until the legal tampering period begins on March 16.

But as far as players under contract? Some 72 percent of the Super Bowl roster is gone.  

Of those 44 players, 11 are currently free agents, 15 spent 2019 on other teams, 7 formally retired and another 8 haven’t announced their retirement but weren’t on a roster when 2019 ended, two are in the XFL and one is a restricted free agent. 

Interesting to note that the Patriots' figure is similar. They have seven starters remaining under contract -- which doesn't include Tom Brady -- and a total of 16 players left from their 2017 Super Bowl roster.

Here’s a quick look at the 61 Eagles who were with the team on Super Bowl Sunday and where they are now:

Under contract for 2020 [15]: Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Malcolm Jenkins, Isaac Seumalo, Derrick Barnett, Nate Gerry, Jake Elliott, Rasul Douglas, Rick Lovato, Carson Wentz.

With other teams at end of 2019 [15]: Stefen Wisniewski [Chiefs], Nick Foles [Jaguars], Mychal Kendricks [Seahawks], Trey Burton [Bears], Mack Hollins [Dolphins], Patrick Robinson [Falcons], Beau Allen [Buccaneers], Jaylen Watkins [Chargers], Najee Goode [Jaguars], Kenjon Barner [Falcons], Marcus Johnson [Colts], Wendell Smallwood [Redskins], Stephen Means [Falcons], Jordan Hicks [Cards] and Joe Walker [Cards].

Unrestricted free agents [11]: Nelson Agholor, Halapouliivaati Vaitai, Vinny Curry, Tim Jernigan, Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Rodney McLeod, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nigel Bradham, Nate Sudfeld, Jason Peters.

Retired [7]: Torrey Smith, Brent Celek, Corey Graham, Chris Long, Donnie Jones, Darren Sproles, Chris Maragos

Not with a team at end of 2019 [8]: Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount, Chance Warmack, Dannel Ellerbe, Will Beatty, Destiny Vaeao, Caleb Sturgis

Playing in the XFL [2]: Donnel Pumphrey, Elijah Qualls

Restricted free agent [1]: Corey Clement.

Right of first refusal free agent [1]: Shelton Gibson

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