Robby Anderson

The move the Eagles have to make

The move the Eagles have to make

The Eagles ran the ball for 218 yards, scored 31 points and recorded a big road win over a tough opponent Sunday.

On Monday, Doug Pederson talked about how he’d love to be able to run the ball like that all the time.

Especially while DeSean Jackson is out.

Which doesn’t say much for what he thinks of the Eagles’ other receivers.

It would be awesome if the Eagles could run 40 times for 200 yards week after week. They wouldn’t lose very often.

The problem is, in the modern NFL you can’t win consistently without a high-powered passing attack. Doesn’t mean an effective running game can’t be a critical part of an offense. But without playmakers in the passing game it’s tough to sustain that rushing attack.

And the reality is the Eagles have only rushed for over 130 yards twice in eight games this year — in Green Bay and Sunday in Buffalo.

They haven’t done it consistently enough to believe it can carry them throughout the year.

So when Pederson says the running game “is a formula for us,” he’s really saying, “We’ve got no receivers.”

The Eagles are 4-4 in a division where nobody has played consistent football. They still have a chance to do something special this year, but it’s not going to happen with this passing attack.

It’s not going to happen with these receivers.

Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffery are the only even remotely functional wide outs on the roster, and neither is even on pace for 650 yards this year.

We’ve got to forget the Super Bowl and how much Agholor and Jeffery did for that team — and in that game — and focus on today. And Nelly is averaging 32 yards per game and keeps dropping deep balls. He has 93 yards over the last five games. Jeffery’s been a little better but he doesn’t look anything like the Alshon of old.

DeSean Jackson will return to practice Wednesday and you would think he’d be available to play after the bye week. But how long will he stay healthy? How much can the Eagles count on a 32-year-old speed receiver coming off a serious abdominal injury? How long will he hold up?

And it’s not even worth talking about Mack Hollins or J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.

Miles Sanders has been a revelation in the passing game, Dallas Goedert has been fine and you figure at some point Zach Ertz will get back involved again. 

But running backs and tight ends aren’t enough.

There’s just no firepower in the offense right now, and that’s why Howie Roseman really needs to consider all options before Tuesday’s trade deadline.

If there’s an opportunity to get a playmaking wide receiver with reasonable compensation, he has to make it happen.

Trades aren’t always the answer. I’d rather build through draft picks. Develop your own players. Get them in your program learning your scheme and believing in your culture from the get-go. When you bring in an outside player, you never really know what you might be getting … as we learned this past week.

But that’s not going so well these days. So they need to turn elsewhere.

Roseman’s nature is to be aggressive, and the Eagles can’t afford to stand pat if they have legit playoff aspirations.

The Eagles have the picks. Assuming third and fourth-round compensatory picks, they’ll have first- and second-round picks next year, plus two picks each in the third, fourth and fifth rounds.

So the need is there. The picks are there. And the aggressive GM is there.

The problem is who?

Mohamad Sanu and Emanuel Sanders are gone.

A.J. Green is out there, but with all his injuries do you really want to risk it?

Robby Anderson? The Temple grad would be an improvement, and certainly Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas talk all the time, but his numbers have dwindled, he’s not signed beyond this year and I have a hunch the Jets’ asking price will be too high. 

DeVante Parker? Do you really want to give up a premium draft pick for a guy who’s averaged 42 yards per game in 4 1/2 seasons?

Tough questions. But every time I tell myself the Eagles can’t afford to give up a second- or third-round pick for a second-tier receiver, I answer by telling myself they can’t afford not to.

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Eagles trade rumors: Will Eagles make a trade? Rankings positions of need

Eagles trade rumors: Will Eagles make a trade? Rankings positions of need

The NFL trade deadline is tomorrow at 4 p.m. and Howie Roseman isn’t a guy who normally sits on his hands. 

He has until that deadline to figure out a way to bolster the 4-4 Eagles as they try to make a playoff push. 

“It’s gotta be right,” head coach Doug Pederson said on Monday. “We’ve gotta do what’s right for the Philadelphia Eagles and our team.” 

The Eagles have made deadline deals in each of the last two seasons. In 2017, they shipped a fourth-round pick to Miami for Jay Ajayi. And last season, they sent a third-rounder to Detroit for Golden Tate. 

Pederson has mentioned several times that in any potential trade, the fit has to be right on and off the field. On Monday morning, he was proud of his current team for the way it has battled through adversity this year. 

“This team is starting to gel and come together,” he said. “If we can add a piece, I think it’s great. If we don’t add a piece, I think it’s great. Because of the guys in the locker room. That’s a credit to those men.”

If the Eagles do make a move, here’s how I’d rank their needs, which is not necessarily the order of what’s most likely:

1. Speed receiver

DeSean Jackson has now missed the last six games and without him, the Eagles have been desperate to find someone to catch the ball downfield. In Jackson’s absence, the Eagles have gotten next to nothing from Mack Hollins (who is playing a lot) and JJ Arcega-Whiteside can’t even get on the field. Sure, Jackson is expected to practice some this week, but even Pederson has admitted Jackson won’t be 100 percent this year. And can you really trust that when Jackson returns, he won’t get hurt again? I can’t, not with this injury that has taken this long to heal. 

Without that vertical threat, this offense looks like the same offense that sputtered last season. The ability to run the ball is great and the Eagles ran the ball really well in Buffalo, but even if this offense becomes a ground-and-pound unit, they’re still going to be limited by their inability to open up the field. 

A couple receivers were already traded last week and prices seem high. The obvious fit from a need perspective would be Robby Anderson from the Jets. He’s in the final year of his contract, so we might just be talking about a rental, but he’s a pretty good deep threat and would help give that speed dimension to the at-times stagnant offense.

2. Defensive tackle

This is the position Pederson mentioned last week because of injuries. Tim Jernigan is expected to return at some point, but he’s really struggled to stay healthy. Coming into this year, DT was a position of great depth but Malik Jackson, Jernigan and Hassan Ridgeway all got hurt. On Sunday in Buffalo, Fletcher Cox lined up next to Bruce Hector, Anthony Rush and Albert Huggins. If the Eagles don’t add anyone, and if Jernigan can’t return in a timely fashion, expect Cox to get doubled all the time in the second half of the season.

The Eagles’ entire defense is predicated on getting pressure with the front four. The good news is that the edge rushers appear to be getting on track and Cox looks like himself again, but another good interior rusher would go a long way. It would also help Jim Schwartz avoid blitzing, which puts stress on a secondary that has been exposed at times this year and in previous years. 

One of the most intriguing names on the trade block got moved on Monday: 

Would you have done that for a guy on an expiring contract? 

3. Cornerback

If you would have asked me a couple weeks ago, cornerback would have been at the top of the list. But Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby are back and both played well against the Bills. Even more help should be coming soon with Avonte Maddox and then Cre’Von LeBlanc. No, it’s not like the Eagles have shutdown corners, but they are in a better position than they were earlier this month, to the point where it’s not the most desperate need. That doesn’t mean this won’t be the position the Eagles go after, but it means if they don’t get a corner, they might just be OK. Also remember, the Eagles reportedly tried to make a deal for Jalen Ramsey earlier this month but were outbid. 

If you’re looking for a name here, there are some big ones: Patrick Peterson, Chris Harris, Darius Slay. Because there are seemingly more names available at this position, the Eagles might have a better chance of pulling something off.

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NFL Notes: Falcons agree to 5-year extension with Devonta Freeman

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NFL Notes: Falcons agree to 5-year extension with Devonta Freeman

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Falcons have agreed to terms on a five-year contract extension with running back Devonta Freeman.

The deal was announced Wednesday, on the eve of the team's preseason opener at Miami.

Terms haven't been released, but the deal is expected to make Freeman one of the NFL's highest-paid running backs.

During his three seasons with the Falcons, the Miami native has racked up 2,383 rushing yards, including back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons in 2015 and 2016. His 3,175 total yards over the past two seasons ranks second in the NFL, behind teammate Julio Jones.

Freeman's agent first raised the prospect of a lucrative extension before the Falcons played in the Super Bowl. While negotiations carried on, the running back said he had no intention of holding out because he didn't want to be a distraction (see full story).

Patriots: Team sends DT Vince Wilfork into retirement
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- For Vince Wilfork, retirement means a chance to sleep late, go fishing or just hang around without needing to be someplace special.

"I'm finally calling it quits from a game that I truly, truly, truly love, a game that I was committed to, a game that I was dedicated to, a game that I gave all to," the former Patriots and Texans defensive tackle said Wednesday after a news conference in New England to confirm his long-rumored retirement.

"For 20 years I've been on a schedule," he said. "I just want to relax. I just want to do something I haven't had a chance to do in 20 years."

A five-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time Super Bowl champion in New England, Wilfork returned to Gillette Stadium for a ceremony to retire as a Patriot. He and owner Robert Kraft signed a contract, and Wilfork was re-presented with a No. 75 jersey like the one he got when he was picked 21st overall in the 2004 draft.

The Patriots were defending Super Bowl champions then. Wilfork took that as a challenge, and he helped them claim the NFL title in his rookie year and again in 2014, his last year in New England (see full story).

Jets: Temple product Anderson leading WR group
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Pop quiz: Name the New York Jets' No. 1 wide receiver.

For the casual football fan, that question might leave them a bit stumped. After all, Brandon Marshall, of course, is a member of the Giants and Eric Decker is in Tennessee with the Titans -- both offseason cuts as the Jets slashed several high-priced veterans.

Quincy Enunwa, who has all of 80 career receptions, was expected to be at the top of New York's depth chart until a neck injury last Saturday night knocked him out for the season.

Give up? Well, the answer is: Robby Anderson.

Yep, that Robby Anderson who was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Temple last year and made the Jets with an outstanding training camp. He had 42 catches for 587 yards and two TDs last season, and now suddenly finds himself the leader of a revamped and alarmingly inexperienced group of wide receivers (see full story).

NFL: League plans to hire 24 full-time officials
NEW YORK -- The NFL will hire up to 24 full-time game officials.

The league will begin hiring between 21 and 24 full-time officials from among the current roster of 124 officials for this season. The decision was announced Wednesday.

"We believe this is a great development for NFL officiating overall and ultimately the quality of our game," said NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent. "We share a common goal, which is to make our game as great as it can possibly be, and look forward to working together on this new effort."

Full-time officials will be hired at each of the seven officiating positions and may serve on each of the 17 officiating crews. They will work collaboratively with their assigned crews, the league officiating staff and the NFL's football-related committees during the offseason.

"NFL officials are always looking to improve, and we believe that additional time, particularly in the offseason, will be positive," said NFL Referees Association executive director Scott Green. "We're looking forward to working together with the league on this effort" (see full story).