Blake Countess

Eagles failed trying to duplicate Super Bowl blueprint

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Eagles failed trying to duplicate Super Bowl blueprint

When you look at the Eagles’ Super Bowl roster, it’s remarkable how much of an impact older veteran acquisitions made on that team.

They were Band-Aids, but they were really, really good Band-Aids who all wound up riding a float up Broad Street.

Most were only here briefly. Most were near the end of their careers. Most are out of the league already or playing minor roles with their new team.

But they contributed in a huge way to the Eagles’ first championship in 57 years.

During the three-week period from March 10 to April 4 of 2017, the Eagles acquired Nick Foles, Stefen Wisniewski, Chris Long, Torrey Smith, Patrick Robinson and Tim Jernigan. LeGarrette Blount arrived in May, Corey Graham and Ronald Darby in August, Jay Ajayi in late October.

It’s no secret the Eagles’ drafting has been uneven since 2014. And uneven is putting it nicely.

But general manager Howie Roseman and the Eagles’ pro personnel department nailed those veteran acquisitions. The impact those guys made was enormous. 

Foles was Super Bowl MVP. Wiz started at left guard. Long was one of the team’s best pass rushers and locker room leaders. Robinson held down the slot and made one of the biggest plays of the postseason. Smith gave the offense a dimension of speed and was huge in the playoffs. Blount and Ajayi led the NFL’s No. 3 rushing offense. Graham and Darby were key parts of a top-10 secondary. Jernigan was a force in the middle.

Without those guys? There is no Super Bowl. There is no 41-33. There is no parade. 

The Eagles cut ties in some way, shape or form with every one of those guys, although they did bring back three of them — two of whom are still here.

Ajayi, Blount, Graham, Long and Smith are all out of football, although Ajayi hopes to play again.

Robinson is back with the Saints but is barely playing. Foles is hurt in Jacksonville. The Eagles brought Jernigan and Darby back this offseason, but both have been hurt and neither has been productive since 2017. Wisniewski came back for a bit but was released and is now with the Chiefs.

But the poor drafting has continued. The Eagles have drafted one Pro Bowler since the Lane Johnson / Zach Ertz draft in 2013, and that’s Carson Wentz, who didn’t even play in the Super Bowl.

The Eagles this past offseason again tried to use the Super Bowl blueprint, stockpiling free agents to offset the lack of homegrown talent.

The results have been dramatically different.

Consider these names: Paul Worrilow, Malik Jackson, DeSean Jackson, Vinny Curry, Zach Brown, Blake Countess, Orlando Scandrick, Cody Kessler, Johnathan Cyprien, Charles Johnson, Andre Sendejo and L.J. Fort. Along with Wisniewski, Jernigan and Darby.

Brown, Countess, Kessler, Cyprien, Johnson, Fort, Worrilow and Wisniewski are gone. Scandrick was released, then brought back out of necessity. Malik Jackson, DeSean Jackson, Darby and Jernigan have all been hurt. Curry and Sendejo are here but haven’t exactly made a big impact.

Jordan Howard has been fine and Hassan Ridgeway is eating up a lot of snaps at defensive tackle with Jernigan and Malik Jackson out. 

You can’t totally blame the front office for injuries, but when you rely on a 32-year-old as your speed receiver and he gets hurt, or when you rely on oft-injured guys like Darby and Jernigan and they get hurt, it shouldn’t be a surprise.

Some of these failed moves didn’t cost the Eagles a penny. Most of them did.

But the bottom line is the Eagles’ pro scouting evaluations this year have been nowhere near what we saw two years ago, and it's reflected in their record.

Instead of forming the nucleus of a Super Bowl champion, this year’s crop so far has done very little on a 3-3 team struggling to find its way.

Let’s take a look at the Eagles’ Veteran Class of 2019.

Zach Brown: The Eagles paid Brown a guaranteed $1.4 million and made him a starting linebacker. He was released on Monday. The full $1.4 million counts against their cap.

Blake Countess: The Eagles claimed their former draft pick on waivers in May and released him in August. He counts $180,000 against their cap.

Vinny Curry: The Eagles’ one-time second-round pick returned after a year in Tampa. He counts $2.1875 million against this year’s cap.

Johnathan Cyprien: The Eagles signed Cyprien early in training camp and traded him to the Falcons a few weeks ago for Duke Riley. He counts $151,764 against the cap.

Ronald Darby: Darby was a free agent when the Eagles re-signed him to a one-year contract. He played two games before getting hurt again. He’s only played in 23 of a possible 43 games since coming here. He counts $2.825 million against the cap.

L.J. Fort.: The Eagles released Fort after the Packers game, and he signed with the Ravens, where he’s now starting for the NFL’s No. 6 defense. He counts $1.335 million against the cap.

DeSean Jackson: Jackson had a huge opener against the Redskins but got hurt a few snaps into the Week 2 game in Atlanta and hasn’t played since. The Eagles do expect him back soon, but he's been ruled out for Sunday. He counts $3.164 million against the cap.

Malik Jackson: Suffered a season-ending injury just 32 snaps into the season. He’s signed through 2021 but will be 30 in January coming off a season-ending foot injury. Cap figure is $2.8 million.

Tim Jernigan: Hasn’t played since the Atlanta game but is expected back at some point. Cap figure is $1.25 million, but he still also counts $6 million in dead money from when the Eagles declined his contract option in March.

Charles Johnson: CJ2 had caught 670 balls for 834 yards for the Vikings, but he ultimately made less of an impact than CJ1 and didn’t survive training camp. Minimal cap hit of $50,000 in dead money.

Cody Kessler: He was supposed to compete with Nate Sudfeld for the No. 2 QB job. Turns out he can’t throw a football. Counts $127,058 against the Eagles’ cap.

Orlando Scandrick: Eagles released the veteran cornerback as part of final cuts then re-signed him two weeks ago. He counts $787,647 against the cap. Because his initial deal didn’t have a bonus, he doesn’t have any dead money counting against the Eagles’ cap.

Andre Sendejo: The veteran safety is a favorite of the coaches, but he’s made more of an impact injuring his teammates than anywhere else. He has a $1.3 million cap hit.

Stefen Wisniewski: Wiz’s first go-around with the Eagles ended with a Super Bowl ring. His second ended with $958,334 in dead money.

Paul Worrilow: After missing all of last year, Worrilow rejoined the Eagles in January but was released in August with lingering knee issues. He did work out for the Eagles recently so he could be back. Because his 2019 contract didn’t have a signing bonus, he doesn’t count against the Eagles’ cap.

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Eagles bring back defensive tackle Aziz Shittu, release Blake Countess

Eagles bring back defensive tackle Aziz Shittu, release Blake Countess

The Eagles released one-time sixth-round pick Blake Countess with an injury settlement on Tuesday morning and also brought back defensive tackle Aziz Shittu.

The Eagles drafted Countess in 2016 but released him with the intention of bringing him back on their practice squad, but he instead signed with the Rams and spent three years there, playing mainly on special teams.

He re-signed with the Eagles in May but was slowed in OTAs with a foot injury he suffered with the Rams late last season, and more recently has been out with a significant hamstring injury he suffered in the preseason opener against the Titans last Thursday. 

He hadn’t practiced since and was expected to miss several weeks, according to the Eagles. 

Shittu, 25, initially joined the Eagles as an undrafted rookie out of Stanford just after the 2016 draft. He wound up spending the entire season on the practice squad, then spent all of the 2017 Super Bowl season on Injured Reserve. 

The 6-foot-2, 290-pound Shittu had two stints on the Cowboys’ practice squad last year before getting released in April. He’s been out of football since.

With Countess gone, the Eagles still have a crowded safety group, with starters Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod, offseason pickup Andrew Sendejo, recently acquired Johnathan Cyprien and Tre Sullivan, Trae Elston and Deiondre’ Hall.

The Eagles are banged up at defensive tackle, so Shittu gives them a healthy body for the rest of training camp.

Fletcher Cox hasn’t practiced because of a lingering foot injury from last year, and offseason pickup Hassan Ridgeway is out with a concussion he suffered during the game Thursday night.

The current healthy group includes Tim Jernigan, Malik Jackson, Treyvon Hester, Bruce Hector and Kevin Wilkins along with Shittu.

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Eagles Injury Update: Cre'Von LeBlanc, Blake Countess, Brandon Brooks

Eagles Injury Update: Cre'Von LeBlanc, Blake Countess, Brandon Brooks

We have the first two injuries of training camp and they both involve defensive backs.

On days like Friday, when Doug Pederson doesn't address the media, there is no injury update from the Eagles, so the nature and severity of these injuries is unknown.

There were no team drills Friday so guys who are rehabbing — Ronald Darby, Rodney McLeod, Corey Clement and Fletcher Cox — participated in positional drills.

CB Cre'Von LeBlanc 

LeBlanc suffered an unknown injury at some point. He was seen in the locker room after practice Thursday and seemed fine and spoke with reporters without mentioning an injury and didn’t have any ice bags or the other usual signs of an injury. However, he didn’t participate Friday and wasn’t even out on the field with a trainer. So something apparently flared up between practices. No word on how serious it is.

S Blake Countess 

Countess was out early doing some work on his own but quickly went inside with a trainer. Countess was limited in OTAs by a foot injury that dates back to late last year with the Rams, but he was a full participant on Thursday. The Eagles could just be bringing him back slowly.

OG Brandon Brooks 

Brooks, six months out from his torn Achilles, got some work in group install on Friday, again a remarkable achievement considering how recent his injury was. Brooks is still questionable for the opener, but seeing him out there during installation was pretty amazing (see story).

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