Braxton Miller

Hall of Famers, Braxton Miller, and more in Roob's random observations

Hall of Famers, Braxton Miller, and more in Roob's random observations

Some random thoughts on Eagles cornerbacks, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Braxton Miller, Mackey Sasser and much more as we continue to count down the days until these football games actually mean something.

• I like what Carson Wentz said the other day about spending more time in the pocket this year. It’s really part of the natural progression most athletic quarterbacks go through as they truly develop a thorough understanding of their offense. They still can run but they just don’t need to run. Randall Cunningham ran 500 times his first seven years, but by his MVP season with the Vikings in 1998 he ran only 32 times (including 11 kneel-downs). Donovan McNabb ran 349 times his first five years, but in the Super Bowl season, when he had by far his best passing numbers, he ran only 41 times all year (including 11 kneel-downs). Russell Wilson ran over 6.0 times per game his first six seasons but last year, when he had his best passing numbers, he ran only 50 times all year not counting 15 kneel-downs. The key is that when it does make sense to take off and make a play with your legs, you don’t hesitate, and Carson promises he will. I honestly think we could see him take his game to another level this year. With these weapons? I’d be surprised if he doesn’t.

• Cody Parkey went into last year as the 8th-most accurate kicker in NFL history. His 77.8 career percentage from 50 yards and out (on 7-for-9) is 5th-best in NFL history among kickers who’ve attempted at least five of them. He was 21-for-23 with the Dolphins in 2017. Pretty darn good resume. And he can’t get a job. Incredible what hitting a few posts and double-doinking a postseason game-winning attempt will do for you. Tough line of work. 

• Very curious what the Eagles will do with Clayton Thorson. He followed his encouraging game in Jacksonville last Thursday with a very good week of practice. Really looks like he’s turned the proverbial corner. So do they still try to clear him through waivers to get him onto the practice squad and risk losing him? Or do they keep a guy who won’t play this year on the 53-man roster and cut somebody else they want to keep? Right now, I’d say there’s about a 35 percent chance Thorson would get claimed if they cut him. But two more productive preseason games and that number is going to go up significantly. Tricky decision for Howie.

• I don’t know why the Pro Football Hall of Fame continually snubs deserving former Eagles like Eric Allen, Harold Carmichael, Al Wistert, Harold Jackson and Seth Joyner. But I do know that it’s absurd that a franchise that’s been around for 88 years is represented by only six players who spent more than half their career here: Dawk, Reggie, Chuck Bednarik, Pete Pihos, Tommy McDonald and Steve Van Buren. That’s it.

• It’s great that Ronald Darby is back, and it’s not that I don’t like Darby, but I can’t help thinking Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones are the Eagles’ two best options right now at outside corner. 

• I hope things work out for Braxton Miller with the Browns. He’s a good kid and things haven’t worked out for him since he got hurt in 2014 and lost his job quarterback Ohio State. He’s changed positions, becoming a wide receiver, and bounced from the Texans to the Eagles to the Browns. It’s been a rough few years. But I’ve got to be honest. I never saw him make one play at training camp. The Eagles were pretty high on him going into camp, but he just never ever flashed. 

• The Eagles and Packers are the only NFL teams that haven’t had a 50-catch running back in either of the last two seasons. As much as the Eagles work with all their backs in the receiving game, I’m not sure they’ll have one this year either. I do think Miles Sanders will eventually become a dangerous NFL receiver, but that’s probably a year or two away.

• What the heck happened to Stefen Wisniewski? I’ve never seen a guy just lose the ability to snap the football accurately like he has. It’s like Macky Sasser. Or Chuck Knoblauch. The inability to execute the most routine play. Wisniewski is still a solid guard, but he’s here to back up the three inside positions, and if you can’t trust him to play center, does it make sense to keep him? Wisniewski has started a ton of games in the league at center and was a Super Bowl starter at guard two years ago, but I’m not sure the Eagles can afford to keep him around.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

The wild innovation Eagles quarterbacks coach Press Taylor believes is next for the NFL

The wild innovation Eagles quarterbacks coach Press Taylor believes is next for the NFL

The NFL is constantly evolving, constantly changing, as teams look for new twists to gain an advantage.

What’s next?

Eagles quarterbacks coach Press Taylor had some fascinating thoughts about that.

I do think at some point one of the big things is having multiple people on the field who can throw the ball,” he said. “I think that’s something [you’ll see] going forward. You’ve seen kind of the Philly Special, all the different versions of double passes, things like that. I think at some point something like that I could see coming into play.

Now, to put this in context, Taylor — who was originally brought to the Eagles in 2013 by Chip Kelly — is the guy who brought the Philly Special to the Eagles after seeing the Bears run it in 2016. (Read Dave Zangaro’s story about that here.)

So we know he has an innovative mind. Taylor, who was a quality control coach under Kelly and assistant quarterbacks coach in 2016 and 2017, is now beginning his second year as the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach.

“Not necessarily saying that we’re doing that or anything like that,” Taylor said, laughing. “But I just think pushing the envelope could be something [we see]. You’ve got these guys coming out of college that are dual-threat quarterbacks and transition to receiver, different things like that. Those guys get on the field and just to be able to get your best players on the field and threaten the defense in the most ways possible. It’ll be fun to see.”

Interesting to note that the Eagles have two pretty successful college quarterbacks in their receiving corps.

Braxton Miller was Ohio State’s starting quarterback for three years and finished fifth in the 2012 Heisman Trophy balloting and ninth in 2013 before missing 2014 with a shoulder injury and converting to receiver.

Greg Ward was a quarterback at Houston and capped his college career with a win over No. 9 Florida State in the 2016 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta.

The two of them combined for 13,999 passing yards, 104 touchdowns and 43 interceptions as college QBs.

Who knows whether either one will make the final roster, but if they do, the possibilities are intriguing.

You look at all your guys,” Doug Pederson said. “We found out that [Nelson Agholor] can throw and DeSean [Jackson] can throw a little bit and some of these guys, you can use them in unique situations. Again, this is springtime. This is where we get a chance to experiment and sort of dabble in some of these gadget plays and find out who can do that kind of stuff. It does help to have that QB background.

Here are five memorable instances of non-quarterbacks throwing the ball for the Eagles (and we skipped the Philly Special just because that’s still fresh in everybody’s mind):

Keith Byars' perfect season: In 1990, Eagles running back Keith Byars threw four passes and all four were touchdowns (two to Anthony Toney, one to Heath Sherman, one to Calvin Williams). Nobody else in NFL history has thrown more than two passes in a season in which all his attempts were TDs.  

B-Mitch to Dawk: In a 2002 game against the Texans, running back Brian Mitchell threw a 57-yard TD pass to Brian Dawkins, the only career reception of Dawk’s career. Of the 318 players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Dawks’ career yards-per-catch average of 57.0 is highest.

Roger Ruzek did what?: In 1989, Eagles kicker Roger Ruzek threw a 22-yard TD pass to future Hall of Famer Cris Carter in a win over the Cards at the Vet. It was the only pass of Ruzek’s career. Ruzek is the only Eagle in the last 50 years to throw a touchdown pass and make a field goal in the same game.

Big-play Freddie: Interesting note about Freddie Mitchell: He had as many 25-yard TD passes in his career as 25-yard TD catches. One of each. In 2003, FredEx threw a 25-yard TD to Brian Westbrook in a win over the Dolphins in Miami. He’s the only WR to throw a TD pass for the Eagles in the last 35 years.

Legend to a legend: In a 1983 game against the Colts, Harold Carmichael threw a 45-yard TD to Mike Quick. Carmichael, who had 79 career TDs, and Quick, who had 61, are one of only three sets of teammates in NFL history who both had 60 TD catches to connect on a TD pass. The others are Dez Bryant (73) to Jason Witten (68) for the Cowboys against the Lions in 2016 and Charley Taylor (79) and Bobby Mitchell (65) of the Redskins against the Giants in 1965.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

Eagles have intriguing depth at WR beyond Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor

Eagles have intriguing depth at WR beyond Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor

The Eagles have three pretty darn good wide receivers in Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Nelson Agholor.

That’s probably the best three-deep depth chart the Eagles have ever had at receiver and no doubt one of the best in the NFL.

But they’ll keep at least five. Last year, they kept six — Jeffery, Agholor, Mike Wallace, Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson and DeAndre Carter. So there’ll be a tremendous amount of competition this summer, and it’s going to be fascinating to watch.

The Eagles will probably also draft a receiver, and that could come fairly early. With the draft a week and a half away, here’s a look at what the Eagles have beyond the Big Three.

2017 draft picks

Mack Hollins

Hollins, a fourth-round pick out of North Carolina, did some good things as a rookie, with 16 catches for 226 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown against the Redskins and some excellent work on special teams.

Hollins missed all of last year with a mysterious groin injury that wasn’t considered serious during the preseason, but he’s got great size at 6-4, 220, and got a lot of good experience as a rookie, so he’s probably most likely at this point to be the fourth wideout.

Shelton Gibson

A fifth-round pick out of West Virginia, Gibson has only three catches to show for two NFL seasons. It was kind of odd last year that he caught a 48-yarder against the Vikings, then got just 12 snaps on offense the rest of the year and was never targeted again.

Gibson also played less and less on special teams as last year went on, which isn’t a good sign. 

Futures contracts

Braxton Miller

A really intriguing prospect, and the Eagles seem to like the former Ohio State quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist who converted to wideout. Miller spent all last year on the practice squad, so the Eagles know how athletic he is. 

Miller caught 34 passes in two seasons with the Texans. He’s only 26, he’s played at the highest level in college, and he knows this offense now. Keep an eye on him in camp.

Carlton Agudosi

Agudosi, a former Rutgers receiver from Franklin Township High in Somerset County, New Jersey, split the 2017 season on the Cards’ active roster and practice squad but was out of football last year.

He didn’t play a lot in college, but at 6-6, 220, he’s got unusual size and that could get him a good look this summer.

Johnny Holton

Holton played at Cincinnati before bouncing on and off the Raiders’ active roster and practice squad as both a receiver and cornerback. 

Now 27, Holton has only 11 career catches but three of them have gone for 44 or more yards, all from Derek Carr in 2017. Interesting speed prospect.

Dorren Miller

Raw prospect who played at JUCO Georgia Military College and Division II Carson-Newman, Miller ran a 4.39 coming out of school, which opened a lot of eyes. 

He was in camp last year with the Jaguars and then spent all year on the practice squad. 

Marken Michel 

Michel was in camp with the Vikings in 2016 and then spent three seasons in the CFL with the Calgary Stampeders, catching 72 passes for 1,215 yards and eight touchdowns.

His brother is Patriots running back Sony Michel.

AAF refugees

Greg Ward Jr.

Ward remains an intriguing prospect. Former Houston quarterback who led the Cougars to a Peach Bowl win over No. 9 Florida State, he’s three years into his conversion as a wide receiver.

Ward, still only 23, got a Super Bowl ring with the Eagles in 2017 as a member of the practice squad but was released after camp last year and didn’t get a job until the AAF came along. He caught 22 passes for 214 yards playing for the San Antonio Commanders before the league was disolved earlier this month.

Charles Johnson

CJ2 was a seventh-round pick of the Packers in 2013 and is 30 years old, so kind of unusual for a camp body. 

He bounced around with the Packers, Browns, Vikings, Panthers and Jets, piling up 60 catches for 834 yards and two TDs in three seasons in Minnesota.

Johnson spent this past winter with the Orlando Apollos of the AAF, where he caught 45 passes for 687 yards. In a game against the Commanders, he had seven catches for 192 yards and a touchdown from Apollos QB Garrett Gilbert.

Keep an eye on Johnson. The Eagles gave him a $25,000 workout bonus, which is a sign that they really wanted him.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles