Eagles

Roob's 25 Random Points: South Jersey RBs, Lane Johnson and the race to 300

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Roob's 25 Random Points: South Jersey RBs, Lane Johnson and the race to 300

South Jersey running backs, Shady and Chip, comedy from Jeff Lurie, success with Lane Johnson, RG3 and what do DeSean Jackson and Caleb Sturgis have in common (the answer is not nothing!).

Sure sounds like a 25 Random Points is on the way!

1. Brandon Graham has developed into one of the NFL's most feared pass rushers. Nelson Agholor certainly looks at least like a serviceable NFL wide receiver. Two first-round picks, two guys quickly labeled busts, two guys who had big roles in the Eagles' opening-day win Sunday in Washington and certainly figure greatly in the Eagles' hopes to end their playoff drought this year. Every player in the NFL progresses — or doesn't — at a different rate, and there are so many factors that go into whether a guy has immediate success. How good a scheme fit is he? How does he adjust to life away from home, perhaps for the first time? How does he handle suddenly having a ton of money? How quickly can he process the massive amount of information thrown his way and transform it into plays on the field? There are so many reasons the NFL draft is an inexact science and why every year players who looked so dominating in college struggle to find their way. Everybody handles all these factors differently. Some are stars from Day 1. Some never make it. Some take years. The Eagles' draft history is littered with the Leonard Renfros, Bernard Williams and Fireman Danny's who never figured it out. But it's always wise to err on the side of patience because today's bust could be tomorrow's stud. This all struck me this week because I got so many tweets about Donnel Pumphrey, with people - understandably - assuming that once he goes on Injured Reserve it's the last we'll ever see of him. But as Howie Roseman pointed out a couple weeks ago, if you like a player enough after watching his film, interviewing him, going to his pro day, tracking him at the Combine and bringing him into your facility, why would you release him after a few sluggish preseason games? You trust your scouting and stick with him because that guy who looked so bad in his rookie preseason could turn out to be an important piece of your puzzle in the future. Pumphrey is out for the year with a torn hamstring, but I would just caution people against writing him off. Or writing off any rookie, no matter how over-matched he looks. These things can take time. Graham and Agholor are evidence of that.

2. Doug Pederson said on Friday, "We have to run the ball better." In other words, we have to stick with the run because you can rarely establish a running game when your lead back has seven carries in the first 16 minutes of a game and then three carries in the next 35 minutes. The Eagles' 58 rushing yards in Washington were their second-fewest in an opener since 1972 (they had 51 in Atlanta in the 2005 opener). On Sunday in KC, they'll face a Chiefs defense that did allow 124 rushing yards to the Patriots in the opener, so you'd think the Eagles can get something going on the ground. If they don't, I don't know how they beat this team. If they do, at least they have a chance.

3. For the record, there have only been three instances in Eagles history where they've had fewer than 60 rushing yards in each of their first two games -- 1940, 1962 and 1971.

4. For all the talk about Colin Kaepernick being out of the NFL at the age of 29 and just four years after leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl, it's way more remarkable to me that RG3 is out of the league -- and wasn't even in a training camp -- at the age of 27. Robert Griffin III, who started against the Eagles for the Browns on opening day last year, certainly has had a tough run of injuries since his amazing rookie year in 2012, but unlike Kaepernick there isn't a single non-football reason for a team to at least bring him into a camp. He's not a distraction, he's never been in trouble. RG3 hasn't been a special player in a few years and maybe the injuries he suffered starting that second year in Washington have left him simply unable to function as an NFL quarterback anymore. But I have a hard time believing there are 85 or 90 better quarterbacks in the league than RG3.

5. Nice win for Sean McDermott in his NFL head coaching debut last weekend, and his bell-cow was none other than LeSean McCoy, who had 110 rushing yards on 22 carries and added five catches for 49 more yards. Shady now has 29 career games with 100 rushing yards and a 5.0 average, and only 12 other running backs have had more before their 30th birthday (eight of those 12 are in the Hall of Fame). Shady also increased his career yards from scrimmage total to 12,043, which is 13th-most in NFL history by a player before his 30th birthday. And 10 of the 12 ahead of him are in the Hall of Fame.

6. Hey Chip, what were you thinking omg???? 

7. I just heard the worst song I've ever heard, and it's called "Panic Cord" by someone named Gabrielle Aplin.

8. Anyone who parks in front of a restaurant or take-out joint and leaves his car running while ordering food and then waiting 15 minutes till its ready, car idling, blocking people, interfering with traffic, polluting the neighborhood, when there is a parking space available within 500 feet, should lose his license for a year. Do it again and lose your license for five years.

9. In 2008, Andy Reid drafted DeSean Jackson, and in 2009 he drafted LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin. Then he goes to Kansas City and drafts Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt in the first five years. Talk about having an eye for skill players. Now, Reid isn't the GM in Kansas City, but he certainly has a say in personnel, and his knack for spotting gifted running backs, receivers and tight ends is remarkable. He's got a pretty good track record for quarterbacks, too, and while the jury is obviously still out on Pat Mahomes, if he's as good as advance notice, the Chiefs are stocked at the skill spots for the next decade.

10. Also interesting that Reid has drafted two running backs with the last name Hunt in the third round. Tony rushed for 25 yards in his career. Kareem rushed for 148 yards in his first NFL game.

11. The Eagles have scored two or fewer offensive touchdowns in 13 of their last 14 games. The only exception was the Dallas game the last day of last season when the Cowboys played their scrubs much of the game.

12. Since July 16, the Phillies are 27-30, which isn’t great, but it’s respectable. The Phillies were 30-60 through 91 games, a historically bad .333 clip, and with the lineup now filled with promising young bats, they’re playing .474 baseball since. That puts them 17th out of 30 teams in winning percentage over about two months. I know it's a mistake to put much credence in meaningless wins. But what I like is that during that 57-game span, the Phils are hitting .268 (seventh-best in baseball) with a .773 OPS (ninth-best). The problem is they also have a 4.73 ERA during that span, which is 20th-best. But the bats are there. Maikel Franco, Tommy Joseph, Freddy Galvis, Aaron Altherr and Odubel Herrera all have at least 50 RBIs, and going into play Saturday night Nick Williams needed two to get to 50. The last time the Phils had six guys 27 or younger with 50 ribbies in a season? It was 2001 (Bobby Abreu, Marlon Anderson, Pat Burrell, Travis Lee, Scott Rolen, Jimmy Rollins). Before that it was 1893 and 1932. So this is a rare group. If the Phils can surround Aaron Nola with a few more capable starters (Corey Seidman has more on that), this could be a very good baseball team in two years.

13. I hate when people try to be clever and say an old guy is like "88 years young!"

14. I wouldn't mind seeing Corey Clement get some carries.

15. Speaking of Clement … you know what's amazing? How many insanely talented running backs South Jersey has produced. Franco Harris (Rancocas Valley) is a Hall of Famer. Ron Dayne (Overbrook) set the NCAA career rushing record at Wisconsin. Lydell Mitchell (Salem) had a brilliant NFL career, with three straight Pro Bowls and the most yards from scrimmage in the league from 1973 through 1978 for the Colts. Mike Rozier (Woodrow Wilson) was the 1983 Heisman Trophy winner for Nebraska. Avon Cobourne (Holy Cross) rushed for over 5,000 yards at West Virginia -- ninth-most in NCAA history when he graduated -- and went on to have a tremendous career in the CFL, where he was 2009 Grey Cup MVP. Gordie Lockbaum (Glassboro) was third in the 1987 Heisman balloting after playing running back and safety for Holy Cross and was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. Wali Lundy (Holy Cross) set an ACC record with 52 rushing touchdowns. William Greene (Holy Spirit) was a first-round pick of the Browns in 2002 after an All-America career at Boston College. Albert Young  (Moorestown) once held the South Jersey rushing record and had a very good career at Iowa. Adam Taliaferro (Eastern). Shonn Green (Winslow Twp.) was a consensus first-team All-America at Iowa and spent six years in the NFL. Jonathan Taylor (Salem) ran for 2,815 yards and 35 touchdowns -- just as a senior -- in high school and is off to a torrid start as a freshman at Wisconsin, with 438 yards, five TDs and an 8.3 average in three games, including the Badgers' win over BYU Saturday. Isaac Redman (Paulsboro) spent parts of five years with the Steelers after rushing for over 5,000 yards in high school and a Boise State-record 3,300 yards. And then there's Clement, who ran for 6,245 yards at Glassboro before a great career at Wisconsin. What a list!

16. On Wednesday night, I had the thrill of a lifetime when I got the chance to play keyboards with the band Illinois at Union Transfer when they opened for Mondo Cozmo. When I walked on stage and Illinois singer Chris Archibald introduced me, and everybody started yelling, "Roooooooob," I can't even explain how good that made me feel. I love everybody.

17. This shouldn't be possible, but Caleb Sturgis and DeSean Jackson have scored the exact same number of points in an Eagles uniform. 234.

18. Also fascinating probably only to me is that Sturgis, who's only been the Eagles' kicker for a couple years (and is now hurt), is tied for the second-most 50-yard field goals in franchise history. Sturgis is actually 7 for 11 from 50 and out since joining the Eagles after Cody Parkey got hurt early in 2015. David Akers made 15 50-yarders in 32 attempts and Tom Dempsey was 7 for 16, but Akers played in 188 games, so he made a 50-yarder once every 12 ½ games. Sturgis has seven in 30 games as an Eagle, so he's averaging one every 4.3 games. Dempsey actually averaged one every 6.7 games.

19. Since the start of his NFL career in 2013, the Eagles are 30-21 when Lane Johnson plays (.588) and 5-9 when he doesn't play (.357). They've only lost one game with Johnson in uniform since Doug Pederson became head coach -- that 24-23 loss at Detroit last October. The last game the Eagles lost at the Linc with Johnson on the field was against the Redskins in 2015 -- Chip Kelly's last game as Eagles head coach. Lane is good.

20. Since McCoy in 2011, only two Eagles have made a Pro Bowl in their first three seasons in the NFL -- Parkey and Nick Foles. From 2000 through 2007, seven Eagles did that -- Trott, Donovan, Westbrook, Lito, Michael Lewis, Shawn Andrews and Trent Cole. Young home-grown talent. That's how you become an elite team.

21. My pal John and I decided back in December we would have this little competition in 2017 where we would actually have a race to see who could see 300 bands the fastest. John and I, both being huge live music fans and stupidly competitive, quickly set some ground rules for what became known as #TheRoadTo300. You could only count a band once, no matter how many times you saw them. To count a band, you had to stay for at least four songs. Unless it was at a festival with multiple stages, in which case you only needed two full songs. We both got off to fast starts with the seven January triple bills at the Boot and Saddle for a variety of terrific local charities. We both hit 100 in March and 200 in June. He cleaned up at Boston Calling, I cleaned up at the Havertown Festival. We hustled obsessively at the XPoNential Festival to see as many bands as humanly possible, even bands we hate. We even started a blog where we post rankings of all the shows we've seen in 2017 along with several other lists. So what's the latest? Going into Tuesday, he will be at 298 and I will be at 297. And he's going to see a triple bill at the Fillmore Tuesday night and I'm headed to World Café Live, where there are two bands upstairs and two downstairs. So after 8½ months and literally hundreds of bands, the winner will be determined by whether the second band at the Fillmore finishes its fourth song before the third band at World Café finishes its fourth song. It could come down to a matter of minutes. Maybe even seconds. It's going to be tough for one of us to lose this race! But you know what? We still have 3½ months left. There's always #TheRoadTo400!

22. Get this: The Chiefs are 4-13 in Week 2 since 2000, tied with the Lions for the worst Week 2 record in the NFL during that span. Like that one? (The Eagles are 8-9 in Week 2 during that span.)

23. After the Eagles-Redskins game in Landover, Maryland, Sunday night, I headed over to the nearby Amtrak station, New Carrollton, Maryland, to wait for my train back up to Trenton. Now, New Carrollton is the worst train station you can imagine. Not only is it a dank, filthy, gloomy rat-hole, there isn't a single bench in the place. Nowhere to sit. Nowhere. How do you have a major train station along the Northeast Corridor that serves both Amtrak and regional rail with nowhere to sit?!?! So with some time before my train and tons of work to do, I had no choice but to plop down on the wretched concrete floor of the musty corridor leading to the escalators that go up to the train platforms, get out my laptop and start working. Other than the laptop, I must have looked like a homeless dude sitting there on the floor surrounded by my weathered backpack and a bottle of water. A few minutes later, there was a commotion around the corner and I saw some cops clearing the entire corridor of pedestrians and travelers, although they somehow missed me. A few minutes after that, the Eagles walked by. The entire team. And front office. I had forgotten the team travels from New Carrollton to 30th Street Station following games in Washington via an Amtrak charter. Here they were arriving by bus at the station to board their private train. First guy to notice me plopped down on the floor? Jeffrey Lurie. He looked over at me, shook his head in mock sympathy, reached into his pocket, and started to hand me a dollar! One of the funniest things I've ever seen.

24. Seriously, how do you have a train station that serves about 10,000 riders per day and doesn't have one freaking bench?

25. I made a good honest attempt at seeing all 32 performers on four stages at the seventh annual Havertown Music Festival last weekend. Fell short but still saw 28 of the 32. Here's my Top 10: 1. Matthew Sweet, 2. I Think Like Midnight, 3. Somerdale, 4. The Weeklings, 5. Skip Denenberg, 6. Jonny Drucker, 7. Jesse Gimbel, 8. The GTV's, 9. Dennis Selfridge, 10. The Barrel Fires.

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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NFL Draft 2020: Top analyst has a ‘home run’ pick for the Eagles

NFL Draft 2020: Top analyst has a ‘home run’ pick for the Eagles

The Eagles have a pretty obvious and pressing need at wide receiver as the 2020 NFL Draft nears and here’s some good news: 

NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah, on a national conference call Friday afternoon, called this class of receivers “phenomenal,” adding that he has 27 (!) receivers with top-three round grades. 

With all that in mind, I asked Jeremiah which receivers might be available when the Eagles pick at No. 21 and which players of that group would really fit what they do offensively. 

One name rose above the rest. 

If you were to say, ‘Home run pick for the Eagles, who is it?’ Henry Ruggs. Just because how much speed and juice he would give to that offense.

In his first mock draft of the season released on Jan. 21, Jeremiah actually had the Eagles taking Ruggs with the 21st pick. But on Friday said he expects Ruggs to be “long gone” by the time the Eagles on on the clock at 21. 

Ruggs (6-0, 190) didn’t put up monster numbers at Alabama but there’s a chance the Eagles this year won’t care about college production as they have in the past. And Ruggs certainly has one key attribute: speed. 

Jeremiah, who was once a scout with the Eagles, said he thinks the Birds will prefer the element of speed, which Ruggs certainly has. There’s a chance Ruggs might blow the doors off the combine, which would only hurt the Eagles’ odds of landing him. 

An interesting thought is a possible trade up. The Eagles are expected to have a total of 10 picks in this draft and perhaps they could use some of those picks to move up and take a player like Ruggs. 

But if they don’t, Jeremiah said the Eagles could use different styles of receivers and had some other options with that No. 21 pick: 

Justin Jefferson: The 6-3, 192 LSU receiver is coming off an incredible junior season. He caught 111 passes for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns. 

“I think Justin Jefferson has got a chance to be a high, high volume slot receiver who is a lot like Keenan Allen,” Jeremiah said. “He can fill that role, he can work in traffic, he’s really good down in the red zone. He led the entire draft class down in the red zone this year. He had 12. He’s a point producer and he’d be a great fit for them.”

Brandon Aiyuk: At 6-1, 206 pounds, Aiyuk is known for his YAC ability. He averaged 18.3 yards per catch in 2019 (65 catches, 1,192 yards, 8 touchdowns). 

“I love Brandon Aiyuk from Arizona State,” Jeremiah said. “I think he’s a stud. He’s tough, competitive, run after catch guy. Needs a little polish but he can return as well so has some value there.”

Tee Higgins: At 6-4, 215, Higgins is a very different player than a guy like Ruggs. He did catch 59 balls for 1,167 yards and 13 touchdowns in his junior season at Clemson. 

“And then Tee Higgins will probably be there, who’s long, tall and rangy,” Jeremiah said. “You’re hoping you’re drafting A.J. Green but I don’t think he’s on that level. But that’s the style which he plays. There’s a little bit of concern with him just getting off press. Some of the better competition he played later in the year, he struggled a little bit with that. 

“I would say that group of wide receivers is the one they’ll be staring at.”

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