Eagles

Eagles Mailbag: Linebackers, Alshon Jeffery stats, possible trades

Eagles Mailbag: Linebackers, Alshon Jeffery stats, possible trades

The offseason is rolling right along. 

We're past the flurry of free agency and the draft, and OTAs start Tuesday. More on that during the week. 

For now, let's get to your questions: 

Well, let's start with the best linebacker on the roster, Jordan Hicks. I think Hicks is probably one of the most under-appreciated players on the team. He had a fantastic 2016 season, and perhaps more importantly, was able to play in all 16 games. He finished the year with 95 tackles and five interceptions. His five picks led the team. The area Hicks needs to improve — and he's admitted it — is against the run. But he actually had a pretty good excuse last year. After tearing his pec, he wasn't able to gain upper-body strength. His plan this offseason was to get bigger, which he thinks will help him improve as a run-stuffer. If he can, he's a Pro Bowl-caliber player. 

After Hicks, the linebacker position becomes a little murkier. 

The other two starters are Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks. Bradham actually had a really good season in 2016 but is entering the final year of the two-year deal he signed before 2016. While he was good on the field, he wasn't so good off it. He had two separate run-ins with the law, the more serious one being an incident in Miami that resulted in a felony assault charge. Bradham is set to go to court for that incident in July. 

Then, there's Kendricks, who is still on the team … for now. Unless the Eagles are able to trade him, Kendricks will continue to be a starter but will come off the field in nickel and dime situations. Not ideal, but he wasn't completely terrible in 2016. 

After that, there's not much depth. Najee Goode is a good special teamer and an OK backup. The team really liked 2016 seventh-rounder Joe Walker before he tore his ACL in the preseason. He's been recovering well and is the front-runner to be the team's top backup. And keep an eye on Steven Daniels. He was a seventh-rounder of Washington's last year out of Boston College but never got to play because of injury. 

Then, there's Nate Gerry. Don't know what to think of the rookie just yet. He's making the transition from college safety to NFL linebacker. 

Nope. That wouldn't be good enough. 

That would be better production than Jeffery has had in each of his last two seasons (and those would probably be around the right over/under numbers for him), but that's not the production the Eagles want out of him in 2017. They need him to return to his 2013-14 form. 

Jordan Matthews has had more productive seasons than 65 receptions and seven touchdowns. Jeffery ought to be able to put up better numbers. If he does, there's another payday in it for him. 

Ward doesn't have a real shot to make the Eagles' 53-man roster. Just too many guys ahead of him. 

But he is an intriguing prospect. For those who don't know, Ward was a dual-threat-type quarterback for the Houston Cougars, but he's transitioning into a receiver at the next level. He didn't run a great 40 time at his pro day (4.58) but he might have a future as a receiver/returner. The problem for him is that future isn't immediate. 

Last year, the Eagles kept David Watford, who was making the same transition, on the practice squad. Having a player like that around makes sense, especially if the team can find a way to use him for their scout team. The practice squad is always a good landing spot for projects like Ward, so he'll have a chance to earn a job there. 

Sure. The Eagles will be opportunistic if an opportunity presents itself. They really were planning on entering the season with Sam Bradford as the starter in 2016 until Teddy Bridgewater went down in Minnesota. 

I'm not sure how much value Kendricks has, but I'd image Kelce would be more in demand. Kelce isn't nearly as bad as some think he is and after a year with an awful O-line draft class, he'll have even more value. The Eagles have stockpiled talent on the interior of their line, so they could get by without him. If he's still on the team, though, Kelce will be the starter. 

Eagles might lose executive Andrew Berry after all

Eagles might lose executive Andrew Berry after all

Just a few days ago, it seemed like the Eagles weren’t going to lose Vice President of Football Operations Andrew Berry because it looked like the Browns were going to hire someone else.

Well, that someone else has dropped out of the race.

Vikings assistant GM George Paton has taken himself out of the running to be the Browns’ next general manager, which means Berry is now the new favorite, according to Cleveland.com

This is certainly an interesting turn of events.

According to Cleveland.com, “Paton was reluctant to accept the initial interview because he assumed the job would go Berry.”

Now it might.

It would have made plenty of sense for the Browns to hire Paton, who has a long-standing relationship with new head coach Kevin Stefanski from their time together in Minnesota. But according to reports over the past few weeks, it seems like Berry has been a favorite of ownership and the front office.

While Berry and Stefanski have never worked together, they did get to know each other during the coaching search in Cleveland a year ago. After that search, the Browns hired Freddie Kitchens and Berry left for Philly. But now, Berry and Stefanski might actually get a chance to work with one another.

The Harvard-educated Berry, 32, was with the Browns from 2016-18 as their Vice President of Player Personnel before he joined the Eagles last season in a role they created for him. Berry initially came up in the Colts franchise, first as a scouting assistant and finally as a pro scouting coordinator. He’s been a quick-riser in the NFL world.

Earlier this offseason, the Eagles reportedly denied a request from the Panthers to interview Berry for a Vice President job. The reasoning from the Eagles was that it wasn’t a general manager position and he wouldn’t have had final say on personnel matters.

Final say is something Berry will likely never have here in Philadelphia. Despite a few missteps in recent years, Howie Roseman has pretty solid job security and he isn’t going anywhere. If Berry is going to become a GM, it’s going to be in another city. And it seems like that day might be coming soon.

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Lane Johnson says one awful Eagles game made him shave his head for good

Lane Johnson says one awful Eagles game made him shave his head for good

Lane Johnson is officially in offseason mode, and he kicked off Pro Bowl week - which he's now officially part of - by showing up on former teammate Chris Long's podcast and shooting the breeze for an hour.

The duo bantered about plenty, from dealing with failure and ego as football players, to Johnson's time as a grave digger. About halfway through, Johnson offered up a seldom-heard explanation for his hairstyle, or lackthereof.

Johnson, of course, famously keeps his hair short (read: nonexistent) on top, and keeps his beard long. He explained to Long that it took some serious self-reflection, and a couple rough games early in his rookie season, to officially start shaving his head:

I was in college, it was my senior year, and my friend goes, 'Bro, are you f***ing losing your hair?' I said, what are you talking about? Then I went to the mirror, and I'd clearly been in denial for some time. I said, 'Bro, this s*** is terrible.' 

So I played with it my senior year, it was bad. I'd comb it over, wear my hats, feather it out in the back, try to look cool. Then I got to the Eagles, and after getting bull-rushed by Dwight Freeney and giving up three sacks to Justin Houston, I just shaved that s*** off. I've been a different man ever since.

The Eagles, you might remember, lost in Week 2 that year to Freeney's Chargers, and then lost in Week 3 to Houston's Chiefs, to fall to 1-3. They went 9-3 the rest of the way, a startling and fun turnaround. I'm not saying it's all thanks to Johnson shaving his head... but maybe?

That's about as good a reason as I can think of to make a hairstyle change. Johnson has been one of the best right tackles in the NFL since he started shaving his head, so maybe he's on to something. He spends very little time focusing on his hair, and plenty of time focusing on his game.

When you go back and look at Johnson with hair, it's... extremely jarring:

Johnson is basically unrecognizable in that video. He looks like a child! Thank goodness for Freeney and Houston shellacking Johnson as a rookie, or he might still be clinging to that brutal hairdo.

Maybe Johnson should've floated this idea to the Eagles' coaching staff years ago. Who knows what a haircut could've done for Nelson Agholor?

You can listen to, and watch, the full conversation between Johnson and Long below:

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