Eagles mailbag

Eagles mailbag: 1 open practice, breakout player, Mack Hollins

Eagles mailbag: 1 open practice, breakout player, Mack Hollins

We have officially entered the NFL’s dead period. It’s really one of the only times during the year when there’s not much NFL action. Sure, there are some signings and some news breaks, but teams are off until training camps begin. 

The Eagles will report to training camp on July 24 before their first practice on July 25. 

With some time to spare, let’s answer your questions: 


First, I want to make sure everyone knows I do not run the Philadelphia Eagles and this was not MY decision. Because if I ran the Eagles, there’s no way I’d do this. 

If you haven’t heard, the Eagles will have just one open training camp practice for fans at the Linc this summer. They are charging $10 per ticket and that money goes to the Eagles Autism Challenge, which is an absolutely great cause. But this isn’t the way to raise money for that great cause. 

I totally understand the outrage and frustration for fans. For me, the biggest issue isn’t the $10, it’s limiting the amount of open practices. It wasn’t that long ago that you could watch nearly 20 practices for free at Lehigh and the first year they held camp back in Philly, they still at least had four. To have one open practice is just unforgivable. It’s hard to get to an NFL game and it’s equally as hard to pay for it. So training camp has offered a way for fans to get close to their favorite football team for decades. How many people do you know who have a special story from Lehigh or West Chester? I get those days are long gone and I understand why. The positives of having camp at your own facilities outweigh the positives of the team-bonding experience away from the city. 

But why can’t the Eagles at least have one more open practice? We haven’t gotten a good reason yet. 

My biggest issue with the news is the limited access, but the $10 isn’t great either. I know it’s for charity, but a free family event has now turned into something that will cost over $50 for a family of five. It’s so hard for families to afford anything involved with the NFL and training camp was, to me, kind of like a sacred thing. It sort of feels like the Eagles knew they wouldn’t face as much backlash by making it for charity, but this still isn’t right. 

I don’t believe Gibson’s injury is serious. He was healthy enough to watch practice on the sideline and didn’t appear to be very hurt. I’d expect him to be ready for training camp. 

But has he really made great strides? I haven’t seen that. I know he had a good spring and summer last year, but that success didn’t really translate into the season in 2018. He had one catch last year. It was a 48-yarder, but just one. In his first two years, he has three catches for 59 yards. That’s almost nonexistent offensive production. And think about how desperately the Eagles needed a deep threat last year after Mike Wallace went down early. And still, Gibson played double digits in snaps just once all season. 

The biggest thing Gibson has going for him is his ability as a gunner on special teams. He’s been able to carve out a niche there, but he’s definitely fighting for a roster spot this summer. I don’t think he has one locked up. 

He is! And I captured proof during minicamp! 

I guess I’ll use this space to talk about Hollins. It was a good sign to see Hollins return to practice, even if he was just limited during minicamp. If he is trending the right way, he’ll be able to be a full participant at camp and then theoretically make the roster as the fifth receiver. He needs to stay healthy, but that should be his job to lose. Unlike Gibson, we’ve actually seen Hollins have some success. He had 16 catches for 226 yards and a touchdown as a rookie and it’s a shame he lost his entire second season. Aside from his ability as a receiver, he’s a good special teamer, which is important for those last couple receivers on the depth chart. 

Hollins hasn’t talked to reporters — at least in an official capacity — since about a week before the 2018 season, when he said he was ready to go. Then he missed the entire season. The mystery around his injuries has made his name a joke over the last year and that’s a shame too, because if he can stay healthy, I think he could have a role on this team. 

My pick is Derek Barnett. And the Eagles could really use it. 

One thing we know is as long as Barnett is healthy, he’s going to have a ton of opportunity. He’s going to be a starter and with the addition of Malik Jackson as a pass-rushing DT and the loss of Chris Long and Michael Bennett, it looks like Barnett could really be a three-down player. 

I actually think there was a good chance Barnett was on his way to a breakout season last year before injury. His stats don’t look great; he had just 2 1/2 sacks in six games, but he suffered his shoulder injury in the Tennessee game and tried to play through it in the next two games. So, really, he had 2 1/2 sacks in his first four games. Actually, he had 2 1/2 sacks in back-to-back games against the Colts and Titans, so it seemed like he was getting hot. It’s Year 3 for Barnett in 2019 and the Eagles are expecting — and really need — him to have a big season. 

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Eagles mailbag: Corey Clement’s role, picking an UDFA to make the team

Eagles mailbag: Corey Clement’s role, picking an UDFA to make the team

You know the deal. 

I asked for mailbag questions and you guys delivered enough to fill a few different posts. Thank you for helping me do my job; your checks are in the mail. 

Part 1 is here.

Here’s Part 2: 

Did you just sneak in a fantasy football question? I’ll allow it. 

I think people probably already know I’m really high on Sanders, but I’m going to go with Howard here. In his three NFL seasons, Howard has 24 touchdowns; just five NFL players have more in that span. I’m also going to guess that when the Eagles get around the goal line, they’re going to feel more comfortable handing the rock to the vet over the rookie. One of the few knocks against Sanders coming out of college was that he fumbled. He can shed that reputation in the NFL, but giving the ball to the more sure-handed veteran makes sense. 

A few names come to mind: LB T.J. Edwards or perhaps one of the undrafted guards (Ryan Bates, Nate Herbig or Sua Opeta) or maybe even return man DeAndre Thompkins from Penn State. It’s kind of early to guess this right now before seeing them on the field at OTAs, but I’ll go with Edwards and reserve the right to change that pick after actually seeing a few practices. 

If Chris Long doesn’t come back, I’m with you on this being a little concerning. Going into last season, the Eagles’ top two reserve DEs were Michael Bennett and Long. This year, their top backups are Vinny Curry and Josh Sweat.  

The one guy still available who makes sense to me is Derrick Morgan. He’s 30 now and wouldn’t be expensive after having just a half a sack last season. But he’d be a decent addition and has played end in a 4-3 before. For the record, the Eagles should try to get Long to return. He’s their best option if they can convince him. 

Sure. Doug Pederson was asked about this before Wiz came back and mentioned that Halapoulivaati Vaitai was going to get some cross-training inside at guard. He’s the one that makes sense. You don’t want to put too much on Mailata’s plate and let’s let Dillard acclimate to the NFL first. Vaitai would actually make a pretty decent guard. It might be a good way to prolong his career. I was talking to my coworker Barrett Brooks about Big V the other day and he agrees that a move to guard makes plenty of sense. 

Clement has a shot to be the Eagles’ third-down running back this season, which is crazy because he really wasn’t a pass-catcher in college. But since coming to the NFL, he’s definitely shown that ability. 

Jordan Howard is likely going to be a first- and second-down guy and while Miles Sanders will eventually become a three-down feature back, it’s tough to trust a rookie in pass protection situations. That’s where Clement comes in. 

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Eagles mailbag: Rookie of the year, Adams’ role, Sidney Jones

Eagles mailbag: Rookie of the year, Adams’ role, Sidney Jones

As we head into this weekend, we’re just a few days away from the start of Eagles’ OTAs in Phase 3 of the offseason program. 

Doug Pederson will have his press conference before practice on Tuesday and Carson Wentz is also scheduled to speak with reporters. 

You guys gave me so many questions that I broke this mailbag up into three parts. Part 1 is today and we’ll run the other two over the weekend. 

Let’s get to your questions: 

I’m going to play the odds here and say Miles Sanders. He’s one rookie I know will play a lot this season. Now, if Jason Peters suffers a significant injury at some point, I’d go all in on Andre Dillard. But since Peters is clearly the starting left tackle, I can’t pick Dillard … at least not now. 

Barring injury, sheer opportunity makes Sanders the easiest pick. But Sanders is going to be a damn good player. I think he’s going to play well enough this season that the Eagles don’t have to worry too much about letting Jordan Howard walk after this year. 

Since the Eagles drafted Mailata, I don’t think there’s been a time I’ve asked for questions and didn’t get one back about him. He’s an intriguing guy; I get it. And I understand why you’d look at him and think he could play on the defensive line. Still can’t see it happening. 

If the Eagles were to move Mailata now, they would have basically wasted a year of his development. Maybe if Mailata hadn’t shown incredible growth at offensive tackle, they’d think about it, but he has shown tremendous growth. Last preseason was shocking. He went from never playing football to looking like a serviceable player in a live game. It was never going to be a short-term project, so the Eagles just have to stick with him at offensive tackle. No one knows if he’s going to be a Hall of Famer or if he’ll ever play a meaningful snap. But there are plenty of reasons to be encouraged by his progress as an offensive lineman. 

Simply put: No. Adams was thrust into a lead role last year out of necessity and then was basically benched in the playoffs. And that’s not a knock on him; he should have never been in a lead role to begin with, but injuries forced the Eagles’ hand. Adams did play through an injury of his own so maybe he comes back healthy and sticks around as the fourth running back, but he doesn’t even have a roster spot locked up right now. He needs to have a good spring and summer just to make the team. Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders and even Corey Clement are firmly ahead of him. 

Got a couple questions on Sidney Jones, so I’m happy to address him here. I’ve been bullish on Jones since the Eagles drafted him and I still think he’s going to be a really good player in the NFL. Jones is about to turn 23, so the harsh criticism of him is pretty unfair. I get that he didn’t have a great season in 2018, but he was injured. Part of the impatience from Eagles fans comes from his redshirt season in 2017, but it’s unfair to hold that against him. We all knew the situation when the Eagles drafted him in the second round. They were playing the long game. You can hate the pick because there was too much risk involved, but to say Jones isn’t ever going to be good is unfair. Had he been a normal rookie last season, you’d look at it and say, “Oh well, he got hurt.” Instead, folks are holding his 2017 season against him. 

And it seems to have been forgotten, but Jones won the nickel corner job out of camp last year and was pretty good at the beginning of the season there. He shined in an unfamiliar position in the first meaningful games of his career. By the time he got to play outside, he was already dealing with that lingering hamstring injury. This is a huge year for Jones, no doubt, but I’m not ruling out big things for him. He just needs to stay healthy. 

The Eagles are in a better position with kick returners than they are with punt returners, which isn’t ideal because most kickoffs just end up as touchbacks anyway. 

At kick returner: Wendell Smallwood or Corey Clement would make sense. 

At punt returner: DeSean Jackson in small doses and then maybe a deep reserve WR (like Greg Ward or Braxton Miller) makes the team as a punt returner. Heck, maybe even Nelson Agholor or Avonte Maddox could do it. We’ll see who’s back there at OTAs and get a better idea. 

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