Eagles

Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Frank Reich praises WR group, competition is 'very tight'

Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Frank Reich praises WR group, competition is 'very tight'

If Howie Roseman's goal at the wide receiver position this offseason was to turn a weakness into a strength, he certainly achieved it. 

Even after the trade of Jordan Matthews. 

As the Eagles approach their final preseason game on Thursday night, there is an intense battle brewing for the final receiver spot or two. 

"This is, without a doubt, the best group that I've been around for a while," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said Monday. "I mean, from top to bottom, very competitive. They've all flashed. They all deserve to be here. I believe some of these guys, for a couple guys who might not be here, I think they're going to end up someplace else. That's how confident we feel in this group.

"I think, all in all, we're just very happy with the progress they've made and the chemistry in that room and the production that they've had in practice and in games."

It's unclear what the Eagles' receivers group will look like after final cuts. The Eagles kept just five wideouts after final cuts in 2016, but there seems to be a decent chance they'll carry six into 2017. 

Most folks seem to think these four players are locks for the roster: Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor and Mack Hollins. 

That means the Eagles have these six players fighting it out for either one or two remaining spots: Marcus Johnson, Shelton Gibson, Bryce Treggs, Greg Ward, Paul Turner and Rashard Davis. 

Gibson was a fifth-round draft pick who played better later in the summer after a disastrous start, but he's not guaranteed a spot. Johnson has been very impressive and might be the front-runner. Treggs was on the team last year but didn't have much of an impact. Turner made the initial roster in 2016, but was cut shortly after to make room for Treggs; this summer he's dealt with a serious shoulder injury. Ward is a converted quarterback who has shown a lot of promise. And Davis is a latecomer but is a proven return man. 

There are decisions to be made and they might not be easy. 

So how tight is the competition for those last couple of spots? 

"It's tight. It's very tight. It's always tight," Reich said. "When it comes down to those last roster spots, Coach always emphasizes that it's not only what they do as a receiver, but what they do on special teams, and how they can contribute. Position versatility and special teams, all those things factor into the roster."

For a long time, Matthews was the fifth receiver who was guaranteed to make the roster. His departure in the Ronald Darby trade seemed to open up opportunity for another player. 

"If I'm in that room, and I'm one of those players, yeah, you have to believe that," Reich said. 

More snaps for Kendricks?
Mychal Kendricks has been having a pretty productive preseason. That might be putting it too lightly. 

"Yeah, well, I don't know if you could have any more production than him in the preseason," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "Good gracious. A little bit of it is being opportunistic, but he's been in the right spots."

Kendricks' production is hard to argue with. In three preseason games, he has three interceptions and returned one of them for a touchdown. 

But the real question surrounding Kendricks is if this is the beginning of more playing time. Last year, he was a part-time player despite being a starter in the team's base package. He was the odd linebacker out when the Eagles went to the nickel package, which happens about 70 percent of the time. It's possible that the Eagles could find ways to use Kendricks as a blitzer — a role in which he thrives — but Schwartz has been hesitant in the past because he didn't want to tip their hand in such situations. 

Schwartz, though, did reveal something interesting on Monday. Because Jordan Hicks has missed some time recently with a sore groin (he's expected to be fine for the opener), the Eagles worked their nickel package a little differently on Sunday. Nigel Bradham slid into the MIKE position and Kendricks replaced him in the two-linebacker nickel package. That's a look the Eagles will probably never use in the season when Hicks is healthy, but right now, they're trying to prepare for everything.

"If we had a game today, Jordan Hicks couldn't play," Schwartz said. "It's our responsibility to get the guys that can best produce on the field. He's certainly forced himself into that conversation."

Back and Beau than ever
Big ol' Beau Allen returned to the practice field on Sunday afternoon after passing his physical and being removed from the non-football injury list. Allen was pretty excited to get back on the field after working out privately throughout all of training camp. 

But apparently, those private workouts on separate fields kept him in good shape — "great shape," according to Schwartz. 

"Talking to him yesterday, he felt his timing was off a little bit, just timing of hands and steps," Schwartz said. "That will come back to him. He even said to me that this isn't his first rodeo. It will come back quick.

"Ideally, we'd like to get him some time in this game. He's fine. But just for, in my mind, and in his mind mentally, when we play the [Washington] Redskins, it's no longer, ‘How is it going to feel?’"

Rams safety John Johnson III trolled Saints to get back at them for Eagles trolling

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AP Images

Rams safety John Johnson III trolled Saints to get back at them for Eagles trolling

If Eagles fans needed any more reasons to root for the Rams in Super Bowl LIII, aside from wanting to root against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, here’s another one. 

Remember in the NFC Championship Game, when John Johnson III intercepted Drew Brees in overtime and he did the “Choppa Style” dance? 

The “Choppa Style” had sort of become a theme of the Saints’ 2018 season and Johnson III mocked it at the Superdome in overtime. 

Well, that was apparently in response to the Saints’ trolling the Eagles after the divisional round game in New Orleans just the week before. 

While I don’t think the Saints necessarily made fun of the dog masks from last year, there was a custody battle for those black ski masks, with both the Eagles and the Saints claiming them. And after their win over the Eagles, the Saints celebrated in their locker room to “Dreams and Nightmares,” which was the Eagles’ theme song in 2017. 

That disrespect apparently didn’t sit well with Johnson III, who went to Boston College but is from the DMV. That’s likely where his ties to Eagles players start. 

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NFL free agency 2019: A comprehensive look at Eagles' defensive tackles

NFL free agency 2019: A comprehensive look at Eagles' defensive tackles

Reuben Frank, Dave Zangaro and Andrew Kulp continue the 2019 edition of Stay or Go, trying to figure out the future of the Eagles.

Today, they’ll look at defensive tackle:

Fletcher Cox

Roob: Where would the Eagles be without Cox? He’s put together one hell of a body of work in his seven years with the Eagles — four straight Pro Bowls, a first-team All-Pro this year, 44½ sacks. With apologies to Jerome Brown and Clyde Simmons, he is the second-best defensive lineman in Eagles history. And No. 1 is a Hall of Famer. Cox is on that road as well.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: This past season was his best season in the NFL and that’s saying something. Enjoy this. We’re watching an all-time great Eagle in his prime.

Verdict: Stays

Kulp: Aside from the fact Cox registered a career-high 10½ sacks in 2018, it would cost the Eagles upwards of $36 million to trade or release the four-time Pro Bowler, compared to under $12 million to keep him on the roster. Quite honestly, that’s a bargain.

Verdict: Stays

Tim Jernigan

Roob: This is an interesting one. You can see the ability when Jernigan is actually able to play. He actually played more snaps in the postseason (58) than in the regular season (46). But he sure as heck isn’t going to play here under the $11 million he’s on the books for. Jernigan is 26 and talented, but considering the strength of the draft at D-line, I think they move on.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: This one is hard to figure out. There’s no way he’s back with that $13 million salary cap hit. No way. So he’ll need to restructure in a big way and I actually think he will be open to it. If he gets cut, I don’t imagine there’d be a huge market because of his injuries. So maybe both sides can figure something out and Jernigan can have a good season and then earn more money after it’s over. I don’t feel good about this one, but I think Jernigan wants to stay and he means something to the Eagles.

Verdict: Stays

Kulp: Thirteen million dollars seems a lot to pay somebody who lined up for a grand total of 103 snaps last season because of a back injury, but can the Eagles afford to let Jernigan go? Trade or release creates $7 million in savings, yet depth is perilously thin already. Plus, he finished the playoffs strong and turns only 27 in September — still so much upside. It might take a restructure, but he’ll be here.

Verdict: Stays

Haloti Ngata

Roob: Ngata started off slow but gave the Eagles some valuable interior D-line snaps down the stretch. But he’s 35 now — he turned 35 on Monday — and on a pretty stringent pitch count. There were moments in which you could see what made Ngata a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro. But it’s time to move on. Time to get younger.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: He actually started to play better later in the season, but I’d argue the Eagles didn’t get their $3 million worth in Ngata this season. The Eagles need to get younger and better at this spot.

Verdict: Goes

Kulp: Ngata is 35 and hasn’t played a full season or registered more than 2½ sacks since the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2012. With a projected nine picks in this year’s draft, it’s probably best the Eagles find his replacement.

Verdict: Goes

Treyvon Hester

Roob: For a guy who wasn’t in camp with the Eagles and didn’t even sign to the practice squad until the second week of the season, Hester made quite an impact. Of course, it was Hester who blocked Cody Parkey’s potential game-winning field goal attempt in Chicago, but he also became a valuable rotational defensive tackle, averaging 18 snaps once he was added to the roster.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: The playoff hero actually played pretty well on defense when given a shot this year. He’ll be here in camp battling for a job and I think he’ll sneak onto the roster as a rotational player with some upside.

Verdict: Stays

Kulp: There will be competition, but I don’t dislike Hester’s chances right now. He played quite a bit on defense and special teams after his promotion to the 53-man roster in October and blocked that Parkey field goal. He’s got a shot.

Verdict: Stays

Bruce Hector

Roob: Like Hester, Hector spent some time on the practice squad. Unlike Hester, he didn’t really flash when given the opportunity. I could see him getting a camp invite and maybe a spot on the practice squad as a developmental guy if he shows progress, but ultimately Hector will be on the outside looking in next year.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: He certainly earned his spot on the team last summer, but he didn’t do much during the season. I’d expect he’ll be in camp with a chance to make the roster, but I don’t think he’ll make the 53-man roster.

Verdict: Goes

Kulp: A natural pass rusher in college, but undersized coming in as an undrafted rookie. Hector needs to take a big leap in 2019. With Howie Roseman touting this year’s draft class as having a “historical defensive line group,” the odds are probably against him.

Verdict: Goes

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