2019 NFL draft

Howie Roseman explains why Eagles didn't draft a safety or linebacker

Howie Roseman explains why Eagles didn't draft a safety or linebacker

Nasir Adderley was there. Taylor Rapp was there. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson was there.

When the Eagles picked Miles Sanders and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside in the second round, they bypassed several highly regarded safeties, which certainly opened some eyes.

With Malcolm Jenkins turning 32 late this season and Rodney McLeod only signed through 2019, the Eagles have a clear need for a young safety. 

And with Jordan Hicks gone, and Nigel Bradham the only linebacker assured of a starting job, they have a clear need for a young linebacker as well.

The Eagles came out of the draft with neither, and Howie Roseman admitted the Eagles would have liked to address both before the weekend was over.

Yeah, I think it's fair to look at those two groups and say that it's probably something that we would have liked to have done. There were a couple times in the draft where we were deciding between a couple guys.

But Roseman and Joe Douglas were adamant about sticking to their board. And that meant taking Sanders at 53 and Arcega-Whiteside at 57. 

And it meant coming out of the draft without a safety or linebacker.

We had a couple of those opportunities where maybe we could have gone in a different direction,” Roseman said. “But I think when we sit back down and look at it, maybe that was an area we thought we'd address, but you can't go into a draft and just say you're going to address it.

What do the Eagles have at safety behind Jenkins and McLeod?

They signed Andrew Sendejo, who turns 32 before the season starts. They have former undrafted free agent Tre Sullivan, who played well last year down the stretch. Deiondre’ Hall is mainly a special teamer. Then there are corners who could presumably work in at safety, like Avonte Maddox, Rasul Douglas, and even Jalen Mills.

What do they have at linebacker behind Bradham?

Kamu Grugier-Hill played 328 snaps on defense and played OK. Nate Gerry is mainly a special teamer. L.J. Fort and Paul Worrilow are 29-year-old veterans. And Dave Zangaro will kill me if I don’t mention B.J. Bello, who spent a couple months on the Eagles’ practice squad last year.

So there are some interesting names but very little proven depth.

We need some of our young guys to take a step up at both those spots,” Roseman said. “They have been here. We are hopeful that that's the case, and again, talent-acquisition season has not ended. We have a long way to go before we play a game, and then we have a long way to go before the trade deadline. We're not going on vacation now. We're going to continue to try to do whatever we can to support coach (Doug Pederson) and his staff.

Did Roseman and his staff handle this the right way?

They were certainly true to their philosophy of taking the highest-rated player on the board instead of addressing an obvious need.

And it just turned out that their highest-rated players at 22, 53 and 57 were on offense.

Only time will tell whether their evaluations will correct. But their approach sure was.

“At the end of the day, we didn't reach on any offensive players here,” Roseman said. “We do definitely want to support our quarterback and make sure that he's got the right line around him and the right skill position guys around him, but we also know the defense can help him.”

Think back to the 2011 draft, when the Eagles desperately needed a safety and they took one — Temple’s Jaiquawn Jarrett — in the second round while bypassing some pretty good players, like linebacker Justin Houston, receiver Randall Cobb and defensive tackle Jurrell Casey.

Jarrett lasted two inconsequential seasons with the Eagles and was out of the NFL before his 27th birthday.

That’s why you can’t reach at a certain position. You end up without the best possible value at that spot.

Nobody knows what the future holds at any specific position, so you take the best player on the board and go from there.

Whether the Eagles did that we’ll know in about 2021.

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Eagles' 1st-round pick Andre Dillard made one mistake last season ... and he's obsessed with it

Eagles' 1st-round pick Andre Dillard made one mistake last season ... and he's obsessed with it

Andre Dillard pass blocked nearly 700 times last year. He allowed one sack.

Pretty good ratio when you’re giving up a sack on 0.001 percent of your pass plays.

Out of those 700 snaps, guess which one he recalls the clearest.

Of course. The one sack.

“I remember that exact play,” Dillard said. “I sometimes like dream about it because I'm just really critical of myself and everything that I can do better on each play.”

Washington State led the BCS with 677 pass attempts last year, one of the highest totals in college football history.

Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew, who was drafted in the sixth round Saturday by the Jaguars, threw for nearly 5,000 yards with 38 touchdowns this past fall, and that production came with Dillard protecting his blind side.

Washington State went 11-2 and averaged 38 points per game, and Minshew threw an average of 51 times per game.

One sack.

Dillard spoke about that one sack when he met with the Philly media Friday.

After his interview, he was asked who got the sack and he just shook his head and muttered, “Guy from Utah. No. 6.”

It was seven months ago. Sept. 29, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Washington, and Dillard still seems disgusted talking about it.

No. 6 from Utah is Bradlee Anae, who is a pretty highly regarded player (his father happened to play with Andy Reid at BYU). Anae was a first-team all-Pac 12 defensive end last year and had 14 ½ sacks over the last two years.

So Dillard isn’t the only tackle he’s victimized.

Still, it drives Dillard nuts that he wasn’t perfect this past season.

“I do remember that my weight was kind of forward and my hands weren't all the way inside on that particular play,” he said. “And so he kind of just got a hold of my shoulder and kind of pulled me down forward and went inside. I'll always remember that play.”

The good news: Washington State did beat Utah that day, 28-24.

The bad news: The Eagles are getting a guy who isn’t perfect. But he was awfully close to it at Washington State.

Nobody chucks the football as much as Mike Leach and Washington State, so Dillard got more work pass blocking over the last few years than any offensive tackle in college football.

Considering he’s coming to a pass-first team in a pass-happy league, it’s hard to imagine a better way to prepare than playing for the Cougars.

“I do think having a leg up on pass protection is helpful for me because it is something that is very hard to master,” he said. “It takes a lot of precision, technique and just poise and everything. And so you really have to study and take lots of reps in order to master something like that. So I think it definitely helps me with that transition.”

So Dillard wasn’t perfect, but think of it this way:

After that Utah game, Washington State played eight more games, including the Alamo Bowl against Iowa State.

Minshew threw 389 passes during that eight-game stretch, and Dillard didn’t allow a sack.

Talk about learning from your mistakes.

Dillard made one of them. Then he never made it again.

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2019 NFL Draft: Analysts' grades for Eagles

2019 NFL Draft: Analysts' grades for Eagles

Assigning grades the day after the draft is kind of like assigning grade-point averages to babies the day after they're born.

It's too early. Way too early. Nobody knows. Nobody has a clue.

But they're fun to look at, and at a minimum they give us an idea of what people around the country think of what the Eagles are doing.

The Eagles only had five picks in this year's draft, but the 10 draft analysts we checked all had positive reviews of what Howie Roseman, Joe Douglas and Co. accomplished from Thursday through Saturday.

The Eagles got five A's, four B's and one "above average" from the 10 random draft analysts we checked.

Here's a rundown of those 10 grades with my comments on each one:

A  Chad Reuter, NFL.com

What they said: “(Andre) Dillard and Lane Johnson will form a great tandem whenever (Jason) Peters moves on. (Miles) Sanders will be an impact back who could see his role grow quickly with Jordan Howard due to become a free agent after the 2019 season. (JJ) Arcega-Whiteside will be a red-zone stud and general safety valve for Carson Wentz. (Shareef) Miller will offer a strong pass rush for the Eagles despite falling to the end of the fourth round. The (Clayton) Thorson pick made plenty of sense with Wentz coming off injury and Nick Foles gone."

Roob’s take: This guy loves the Eagles’ draft! The odds that all five guys will actually contribute are slim, but none of them seems like a ridiculous pick off the bat. He makes a great point about Arcega-Whiteside. I don’t know if he’ll ever be a star, but he certainly does have a knack for the end zone. 

B-: Dan Kadar, SBNation

What they said: “It’s curious that they didn’t address cornerback.”

Roob’s take: No, it’s not curious that they didn’t address cornerback. Nobody thought they were drafting a cornerback. Nobody. They have tons of promising young corners. Sidney Jones is 22, Rasul Douglas and Avonte Maddox are 23, Cre’Von LeBlanc is 24, Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills are 25. Come on now, Dan.

“Above Average”: PFF Analysis Team

What they said: “Philly hit a home run with (Dillard) at No. 22. JJ Arcega-Whiteside, a PFF favorite and first-round talent on the final board, is a steal for Philly at pick No. 57. (Miller) still has a long way to go before he’s a finished product in the NFL.”

Roob’s take: I think this last point an important one. Even defensive ends drafted in the highest rounds need a couple years to figure out the NFL game. It's a very tough position for a young guy to come in and master. Miller, as a fourth-round pick, is definitely a pick for the future, and I wouldn’t have very high expectations of him right off the bat.

A-: Andy Benoit, SI.com

What they said: “Every pick made sense for the Eagles, especially when you look a few years down the road. “

Roob’s take: That’s what the draft’s all about, drafting for 2021, 2022 and 2023, not necessarily trying to fill in spots on the 2019 depth chart. Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas were true to their board, avoided the temptation to reach for a safety early and wound up with who they believe are the best players they could get at each spot.

B: Evan Silva, Rotoworld

What they said: “This class isn’t blowing anyone away with only five draftees, but its grade improves when you include pick-swap acquisitions WR DeSean Jackson and DT Hassan Ridgeway.”

Roob’s take: This is important to remember. If you’re going to complain that the Eagles only had five picks, you have to remember that Roseman turned 6th- and 7th-round picks in this year’s draft into Jackson and Ridgeway. We all know what Jackson can do, and the Eagles have had their eye on Ridgeway for a while and believe he’s a better fit here than he was in Indianapolis. I’m guessing Jackson and Ridgeway will help more than anybody the Eagles could have taken with the 208thand 246th picks.

B: Mel Kiper, ESPN

What they said: “I like what Roseman & Co. did this weekend, but it's tough to say it's stellar with just five picks. I do expect Philly to be a playoff team again in 2019.”

Roob’s take: I expect that, too. This is a team that won 10 regular-season games and a playoff game in 2018, and I think they’ve gotten better. 

A+: Steve Serby, New York Post

What they said: “Howie Roseman leapfrogged the Texans for Dillard, the best pass blocker in the draft and the likely replacement next season for 37-year-old Jason Peters. Sanders isn’t Saquon Barkley, but he averaged 6.0 yards per carry at Penn State. WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside (80-inch wingspan) will be another big red-zone target for Carson Wentz. QB Clayton Thorson has a chance to be the new Nick Foles.”

Roob’s take: Very positive evaluation from Giants country.

A: Steve Silverman, Bleacher Report

What they said: “The Eagles clearly know what they are doing on draft day.”

Roob’s take: They do seem to have a plan and they stick to it. You can never totally prevent busts, but it does seem like the Eagles’ scouting structure is in a place right now to minimize those disastrous mistakes a la Jon Harris, Danny Watkins and Marcus Smith.

A-: Vinny Iyer, Sporting News

What they said: “It's a compact class, but a solid one.”

Roob’s take: A pretty healthy undrafted free agent group should help the Eagles make up for the fact that for the second straight year they only had five picks. Check out the NBC Sports Philadelphia's undrafted rookie free agent tracker here.

B: Nate Davis USA Today  

What they said: “Miles Sanders could be a rookie of the year dark horse for a team that struggled to fill the position in 2018. First-round LT Andre Dillard and the other second rounder, WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside, look like shrewd investments who may not have to start for another year.”

Roob’s take: Two shrewd investments and a rookie of the year darkhorse and they get a B? This dude’s a tough grader.

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