Eagles mailbag

Eagles mailbag: Biggest 2019 concern, rookie of the year, LBs

Eagles mailbag: Biggest 2019 concern, rookie of the year, LBs

I answered half of your questions yesterday and saved the rest for today. 

The first batch were about Shelton Gibson, Mack Hollins, training camp and I picked a candidate to have a breakout season.

Let’s get to the rest right now: 

I’m tempted to say the health concerns about the offensive line, but instead I’m going on defense to the defensive end position. In my last mailbag, I picked Derek Barnett as a breakout candidate for 2019, but even if he does break out, the Eagles don’t have great depth at the position. They started last season with these top four defensive ends: Brandon Graham, Barnett, Michael Bennett and Chris Long. This year, their top four are probably: Graham, Barnett, Vinny Curry and Josh Sweat/Shareef Miller. That could be a problem. 

At least the Eagles now have much better depth at defensive tackle with Malik Jackson and a presumably healthy Tim Jernigan. But will that be enough to cover of the deficiency of depth at edge rusher? Not sure. 

I’ll make the safest bet here and say Miles Sanders. I don’t like that Sanders was forced to miss the entire spring with an injury, but among all the rookies, he has the best chance to get significant playing time. Andre Dillard won’t play unless Jason Peters gets hurt. JJ Arcega-Whiteside is behind three very talented receivers. Shareef Miller has room to grow. And Clayton Thorson won’t play. Maybe there’s an undrafted guy who carves out a role, but we know Sanders is going to play and be a complementary player with Jordan Howard and Corey Clement. In fact, I still think Sanders can have a big year as long as he can stay healthy during training camp. 

I think they’re doing it to give themselves flexibility. If a team were to trade for Halapoulivaati Vaitai, they’d do it because they think he can play tackle, not because he learned how to play guard. And based on the spring, it seems like the Eagles are preparing Vaitai to play right guard if Brandon Brooks isn’t ready for Week 1. Doug Pederson even mentioned the importance of Lane Johnson learning how to play next to Big V; that comment wasn’t lost on me. Ultimately, I think the versatility can only help Vaitai and it might help extend his career. 

It’ll be Kamu Grugier-Hill. He played 32 percent of defensive snaps last season and I think he can handle even more this season. I thought he played well when he got the chance last year and he’s in line to have a big role in the defense this year. Zach Brown is kind of playing catch-up as he learns the defense. He’ll play in base defense, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see Nigel Bradham and KGH on the field in nickel situations. 

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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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