Malcolm Jenkins

Eagles need to find coaches to lead their biggest weaknesses

Eagles need to find coaches to lead their biggest weaknesses

Coming out of the 2019 season, if you were to rank the Eagles’ positions of need, it would be really difficult at the top.

There’s 1 and 1a — in either order.

The Eagles were already looking at massive overhauls in their secondary and at the wide receiver position this offseason. And now they’ll need to find coaches to lead two position groups that have been as injury-plagued as they have been disappointing over the last two seasons.

These are going to be very important hires for the organization.

This is a fresh start and an opportunity to hire coaches who can help transform two areas of the team that desperately need it.

Or this could make it even harder.

Last week, we found out that the Eagles fired receivers coach Carson Walch along with offensive coordinator Mike Groh. And on Monday, the Detroit Lions hired defensive backs coach Cory Undlin to be their defensive coordinator. So one guy got fired, one got promoted, but both are gone. And now the Eagles need to replace them.

Whomever the Eagles hire for these positions will likely have a very different cast of players than the ones Undlin and Walch had in 2019. Think about all the uncertainty at receiver and in the secondary and how much these positions need to improve.

Secondary

• Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby and Rodney McLeod are all set to be free agents. Malcolm Jenkins wants a new contract. Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas couldn’t get on the field in the playoff game.

• Thanks to injuries, the Eagles used 21 different defensive backs in the last two seasons, including Josh Hawkins, Dexter McDougle and Tre Sullivan.

• In 2019, the Eagles had the NFL’s 19th-best pass defense. Since 2015, when Undlin took over as DBs coach, the Eagles have the 27th-ranked pass defense in NFL.

• In that same timespan, the Eagles have given up 53 pass plays of 40+ yards. Just five teams have given up more.  

•  And the Eagles haven’t drafted a Pro Bowl defensive back since 2003, according to Reuben Frank. That’s the longest drought in the NFL.

• Just take a look at their last decade drafting defensive backs:

2018: Avonte Maddox (4th)
2017: Sidney Jones (2nd)
2017: Rasul Douglas (3rd)
2016: Blake Countess (6th)
2016: Jalen Mills (7th)
2014: Eric Rowe (2nd)
2015: JaCorey Shepherd (6th)
2015: Randall Evans (6th)
2014: Jaylen Watkins (4th)
2014: Ed Reynolds (5th)
2013: Earl Wolff (5th)
2013: Jordan Poyer (7th)
2012: Brandon Boykin (4th)
2011: Jaiquawn Jarrett (2nd)
2011: Cutis Marsh (3rd)
2010: Nate Allen (2nd)
2010: Trevard Lindley (4th)
2010: Kurt Coleman (7th)

Wide receiver

• The Eagles’ next receivers coach will be their sixth in six seasons.

• Alshon Jeffery has a significant injury and significant guaranteed salary. DeSean Jackson is 33 and coming off a season that also ended with an IR trip. And Nelson Agholor is heading toward free agency and everyone pretty much knows he’s gone.

• Thanks to more injuries, the Eagles used 15 receivers in the last two years, including Markus Wheaton, Kamar Aiken, Deontay Burnett and Rob Davis.

• This season, Carson Wentz became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 4,000 yards without a receiver going over 500 yards receiving.

• And the Eagles haven’t drafted a Pro Bowl receiver since DeSean back in 2008.

• Here’s their decade of misery trying to find receivers in the draft:

2019: J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (2nd)
2017: Mack Hollins (4th)
2017: Shelton Gibson (4th)
2015: Nelson Agholor (1st)
2014: Jordan Matthews (2nd)
2014: Josh Huff (3rd)
2012: Marvin McNutt (6th)
2010: Riley Cooper (5th)

Based on the history of the Eagles’ inability to find cornerbacks and receivers, maybe there shouldn’t be much hope that the front office is going to go out and find talented players at those two positions. But they’re going to try.

From there, it’ll be up to these new, important hires — whoever they are — to develop talent at two positions that desperately need it.

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

Why fixing the Eagles' secondary will be so hard

Why fixing the Eagles' secondary will be so hard

The issue with the Eagles’ secondary isn’t just that it was bad this year.

It's that it was bad and there's not a lot of hope for the future.

Howie Roseman and his staff are facing an almost complete rebuild of the Eagles' defensive backfield, and maybe that’s a good thing considering what we saw this past season.

Big play after big play sailing over the heads of the Eagles’ d-backs.

The Eagles this year allowed an NFL-high eight passing touchdowns of 50 yards or more. And then another one in the playoff loss to the Seahawks.

The last time they allowed more was 1965.

They allowed seven more pass plays of 40 to 49 yards. Include the postseason and that’s 16 pass plays of 40 yards or more.

These are game-changing plays. Momentum killers.

And in the case of Russell Wilson's 58-yarder to D.K. Metcalf last weekend, season killers.

And opposing quarterbacks are going to keep chucking deep balls against the Eagles until they find people who can stop them.

Which won't be easy.

The Eagles went into the season counting on Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas and Avonte Maddox at corner.

Darby got hurt twice and was terrible the rest of the time. Mills was barely adequate. Jones and Douglas both struggled. Maddox was disappointing. Cre’Von LeBlanc did some good things but then had that devastating missed tackle against Seattle.

Mills and Darby are free agents, so sitting here today the corners under contract are Jones, Douglas, Maddox, LeBlanc and Craig James.

Excited for next year yet?

Making the whole equation trickier is that with Rodney McLeod facing free agency, the only safeties under contract are Malcolm Jenkins, who said he’s not going to play under terms of his current deal, and Marcus Epps and Rudy Ford.

Remember Andrew Sendejo? Seems like a lifetime ago.

That’s the problem. When the Eagles think they’re upgrading the secondary, they’re not. Sendejo didn’t even make it to the bye week.

Now, nobody really expects Jenkins to sit out or get traded. But when your popular 32-year-old safety is threatening to hold out, that’s not ideal.

The reality is the Eagles are going into the offseason without a single known quantity in the secondary.

We can sit here and say, Oh, just move Rasul and Avonte to safety, draft a couple corners, sign a free agent, whatever.

But one of the reasons the Eagles are in this situation in the first place is because in 2017 they drafted Jones in the 2nd round and Douglas in the 3rd round and neither one could even get on the field on defense for the Seahawks playoff game.

Everybody keeps saying Rasul can play safety, but after watching him this past year can we honestly trust him to change positions and replace a steady pro like Rodney McLeod? Sidney? He made a couple plays late in the season, but this is a third-year 2nd-round pick who was a DNP-CD in the biggest game of the year.

Maybe they can resign McLeod and agree to a reasonable extension with Jenkins. Maybe Douglas and Jones will magically figure everything out in Year No. 4. Maybe Maddox or LeBlanc can hold down the slot. Maybe Epps can be that third safety. Maybe they'll draft or sign a couple all-pros.

Way too many maybes. No definitelys.

It’s a precarious situation.

The issue isn’t as much that the Eagles need a couple corners and a couple safeties. It’s that their track record of finding players at those positions is so troubling.

The last Pro Bowl defensive back they drafted was Lito Sheppard. That was 18 years ago.

Their premium-round d-backs since? Matt Ware, Nate Allen, Curtis Marsh, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Eric Rowe, Douglas and Jones.

Rowe was Chip Kelly’s pick and Ware was back in 2004, but everybody else was Howie.

You can make an argument the Eagles are drafting good players, they’re just not developing them. But it’s not like any of those other guys have gone to another team and been any better.

There’s a ton of work to do going into the offseason and no real indication the Eagles are capable of doing it.

They know what they need. Whether they can find it is a much different story.


 

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 ‘no hard feelings’ over Malcolm Jenkins’ declaration

Eagles have ‘no hard feelings’ over Malcolm Jenkins’ declaration

Malcolm Jenkins didn’t mince words on Monday when he said flatly that he would not play out the final year on his current contract. 

I wondered how that declaration would play with the Eagles’ front office. So on Wednesday, I got a chance to ask Howie Roseman about it and if those words would affect future negotiations. 

None of this is a surprise,” said Roseman, who stressed how much communication there is between the team and its players. “It's not like it's coming out of left field and we don't understand what they are feeling and what they are doing. I understand. I understand all of our players.

“All of our players are trying to do what's best for their family and trying to get as much as they can. It's a short shelf life in the National Football League, so there's no hard feelings at all.

For what it’s worth, Jenkins before the 2019 season wasn’t shy about his desire for a new contract and still played out the season on his old one. You’ll remember that Jenkins missed voluntary OTAs but returned for all the mandatory stuff and said he wanted a new deal. 

And he has a case. 

During his six years with the Eagles, Jenkins has been incredibly durable and versatile, playing over 98 percent of defensive snaps at several different positions. He’s also made three Pro Bowl teams and has been the unquestioned leader on the Eagles’ defense. 

But Jenkins is also 32 and Roseman on Wednesday stressed the importance of infusing the roster with youth. There has to be a balance, though. While the Eagles need to get younger, they will also need some veterans to lead those young players. 

So it would still make plenty of sense for the Eagles to find a way to keep Jenkins around in 2020 and beyond. 

“We're not going to talk about contracts with any players,” Roseman said. “But it's important that we have discussions with our players and communicate with them. We obviously understood where Malcolm was when it came to training camp and the conversations we have.

“I mean, what an incredible Eagle, what an incredible player, what an incredible person he is, and has been for us. But after that, you know, obviously we'll just kind of keep those conversations between us.”

So what would it take for Jenkins to stay in Philadelphia? Well, Reuben Frank tried to answer that question earlier this week in depth.

When I look at it, I think a three-year contract worth around $35 million would make sense. That would put Jenkins just outside the top five in value in average yearly salary for safeties. And the Eagles could include a nice signing bonus and over $20 million in guarantees, which would allow them to backload the deal if they choose. 

Jenkins would get some cash in his pocket with a little more stability and the Eagles wouldn’t have to break the bank for an aging player. 

Either way, it seems like Jenkins and the Eagles have a pretty transparent approach to these negotiations. Even if this ends, it seems like neither side wants it to end on bad terms. That’s why I’m expecting both sides figure out a way to get it done. 

More on the Eagles