joe douglas

Eagles continue to thrive in secondary RB market

Eagles continue to thrive in secondary RB market

As the 32nd pick drew closer, the tweets grew more and more frequent. 

“The Eagles have to take Nick Chubb!”

“I can’t believe Derrius Guice is still on the board. The Eagles gotta take him!”

“Lots of quality running backs still on the board!”

It was never going to happen.

The Eagles haven’t drafted a running back in the first round in 33 years, and they might not draft one in the first round for another 33 years.

They won a Super Bowl last year relying heavily on their running attack without a running back taken in the first four rounds. And they haven’t taken a running back in the first three rounds in nine years, the longest they’ve gone without selecting one with a premium pick since the 1970s. The Eagles are also the only team in the league that hasn't taken a running back in the first round in the last 30 years and they're one of just five that hasn't taken one in the first three rounds since 2010. 

So it sure seems like there’s an organizational philosophy in place to focus on certain positions early in the draft — historically, offensive and defensive line — and cobble together a running back corps.

It sure worked last year. They signed LeGarrette Blount (a one-time undrafted free agent) after the draft, they signed rookie Corey Clement after the draft and they traded for Jay Ajayi (a one-time fifth-round pick) after the draft.

Then they went out and averaged 132 rushing yards per game, third-most in the NFL, and 4.5 yards per carry, fourth-best in the NFL. 

“If you look historically, you can get good running backs anywhere through the draft,” Eagles Vice President of player personnel Joe Douglas said after the draft. 

“You can get great running backs in the first. Like the draft has proven the last few years, you can get great running backs in the third. Like we proved last year, you can get a really good running back after the draft. 

“So it just works out. Seems to work out that way every year with the depth of the draft at that position.”

Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said the Eagles aren’t opposed to using a high pick on a running back. It just hasn’t worked out that way since they took LeSean McCoy in the second round in 2009.

“Honestly, I think it’s a coincidence more than anything, it’s just worked out that way,” Roseman said. “We’ve had first-round grades, second-round grades, third-round grades on running backs every year.”

But the reality is the Eagles haven’t drafted a productive running back in the first round since Steve Van Buren in 1944 (although 1988 pick Keith Byars did become a very good receiver).

While they didn’t draft a back this year, they did sign heralded undrafted rookie Josh Adams, a Bucks County native who was very productive the last three years at Notre Dame.

So the current running back group includes two fourth-round picks (Darren Sproles, Donnel Pumphrey), two fifth-round picks (Ajayi, Wendell Smallwood) and two undrafted players (Corey Clement, Adams).

And building a running game around unheralded players or cheaper free agents means more money for other positions. 

Also, the running back-by-committee approach that head coach Doug Pederson prefers isn’t really conducive to first-round picks, who are going to expect 300 carries a season.

According to Spotrac, the Eagles rank 27th in the NFL in running back spending in 2018 based on current rosters.

It’s not that the don’t value running backs. They do. The Eagles have the fourth-most rushes in the NFL in the two years since Doug Pederson became head coach (behind only the Bills, Cowboys and Titans).

They’ve just figured out that with the right evaluations it’s possible to build a dangerous and productive running back room through the secondary market.

Eagles happy to take defensive end Josh Sweat despite injury history

Eagles happy to take defensive end Josh Sweat despite injury history

Despite a horrific injury from high school that had many teams concerned, the Eagles didn’t sweat it. They just took him. 

The Birds felt comfortable enough to draft Florida State defensive end Josh Sweat on Saturday with pick No. 130 in the fourth round. 

The talent of Sweat has been questioned far less than his health, which seems to be a very legitimate concern. Sweat had surgery on his ACL, MCL and PCL before college, when he was a top college prospect. 

But that was four years ago, and Eagles doctors cleared Sweat before the draft. 

“We can only speak to our medical and we have a lot of trust in our medical staff and our doctor, Dr. (Peter) DeLuca has done a great job for us for a long time,” Eagles VP of football operations Howie Roseman said. “When he tells us the guy is ready to go, then we trust that. Then it goes down to the evaluation of the player and we were very excited to get this guy.” 

Sweat suffered the incredibly serious knee injury in September 2014 and needed to be rushed to the hospital after not just tearing his ACL, but also dislocating his left knee. 

“Some people don’t know that if I damaged the arteries then I could have lost the bottom of my leg,” Sweat said in 2016 about the injury. “My leg was dislocated. It wasn’t like a torn ACL. It was bent at a 45-degree angle.”

The Eagles had Sweat rated much higher than where they got him. And while Roseman and personnel head Joe Douglas said they couldn’t speak for the other 31 teams, it sure seems like this injury four years ago played a big role in where he was drafted. 

“Yeah, I think so without a doubt,” Sweat said. “That’s why I didn’t get selected until the fourth round. … I think that’s the biggest [reason] why I fell.” 

Many of the questions Sweat faced on a conference call were about an injury that happened four years ago. It was also listed as the biggest concern about him and was seemingly the reason he wasn’t drafted until the fourth. You’d probably forgive him if that frustrated him … but it doesn’t. 

“I wouldn’t say frustrating,” Sweat said. “It’s more like motivating if anything. I take everything with a grain of salt. I knew anything could happen in this draft.” 

Despite injury concerns, Sweat missed just one game during his three years playing for the Seminoles.

“He’s been very durable at Florida State,” Douglas said. 

Once Eagles doctors cleared Sweat, the talent evaluators were happy to get him. 

This is the seventh straight draft the Eagles have taken a defensive lineman. Roseman acknowledged defensive end wasn’t a need but noted that the draft is about balancing the short-term outlook with the long-term. 

Sweat is 6-foot-5, 250 pounds and had 12 career sacks for the Seminoles. In 2017, he started 12 games and had 56 tackles, 5 1/2 sacks and 12 tackles for loss. 

Douglas said the trait of Sweat’s that stood out was his first few steps off the line. Douglas said Sweat gains ground quickly and makes things tough on the outside shoulder of blockers. 

Sweat said one of the reasons he came out after his junior year was to get to a position that fit him better. He played a ton of four-technique at Florida State at 251 pounds. Coming to the Eagles will give him a more natural fit. 

“I need to get on the edge,” Sweat said. “That’s where I can showcase my talents.” 

Carson Wentz, new TE from opposite sides of same rivalry

Carson Wentz, new TE from opposite sides of same rivalry

What’s the best way to squash an old rivalry? 

A couple emojis, of course. 

Not long after the Eagles traded up to No. 49 to take Dallas Goedert out of South Dakota State (see story), his new quarterback Carson Wentz, who once led rival North Dakota State, sent the tight end a series of text messages to congratulate him. 

“Yeah, he actually texted me right after I got picked,” Goedert said on a conference call with Philadelphia reporters Friday night. “We had a little conversation.”

The conversation between the 23-year-old tight end and his 25-year-old quarterback began with a couple of emojis, because … of course it did. 

“The first one was, ‘Let’s go homie with sunglasses and a pound-fist,’” Goedert said. 

The next message from Wentz said they have “some business to do,” to which Goedert replied, “I’m excited and can’t wait to get out there and play with you.” 

While they were once rivals, it seems like Wentz and Goedert are going to get along fine in Philadelphia. The two actually met earlier this spring, when Goedert visited the NovaCare Complex on his top-30 visit. (The Eagles also met with him at the combine and sent tight ends coach Justin Peelle to his pro day.) Wentz and Goedert met briefly in the hallway of the building and had a short chat. In addition to both being from the Dakotas and playing for rival colleges, they also share an agency. 

“I watched him a lot,” Goedert said. “He’s an incredible quarterback, the best in the NFL. To be able to play with him, that’s going to be a lot of fun.” 

Goedert is from Britton, South Dakota, and went to Britton-Hecla High School before he went to play for the Jackrabbits. After a redshirt season in 2013, Goedert had a slow progression until he broke out with two 1,000-yard seasons in 2016 and 2017. 

While the Eagles aren’t necessarily running their picks by Wentz before they make them, the franchise quarterback let his opinion about Goedert be known. He was high on Goedert after obviously seeing plenty of him over the past few years. 

“[Wentz has] been around the building, kind of talking to us about [Goedert] a little bit,” Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said. “He’s excited. I know just from the texts some of us have gotten, the quarterbacks are excited. Joe (Douglas) said it best, this is a friend for the quarterback.” 

Like North Dakota State, South Dakota State is also a Division I FCS school. Eagles personnel head Douglas said he liked the way Goedert dominated at that level. The Eagles said similar things when they drafted Wentz at No. 2 in 2016. 

During Goedert’s four years playing at South Dakota State, the Jackrabbits were 2-4 against the Bison, including two losses in the playoffs. But they did win the last two regular-season games in Goedert’s college career against the Bison. 

So just how big of a rivalry is there between the two programs? 

“It was big,” Goedert said. “It’s definitely our biggest rivalry. We were able to win two of the last three. We never beat Carson. But we were able to win the last two regular-season games and they were really big games for us, a lot of fun playing them.” 

Now, Goedert is hoping it’ll be just as fun to play with one at the next level.