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April 17, 2024

7 takeaways from Howie Roseman's and Nick Sirianni's pre-draft press conference

What will the Eagles strategy be in the 2024 NFL Draft? Their decision-makers addressed questions on that this week.

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012524HowieRosemanNickSirianni Jimmy Kempski/for PhillyVoice

Howie Roseman and Nick Sirianni

Howie Roseman and Nick Sirianni held their annual pre-draft press conferences on Tuesday. Here were the highlights, and I'll throw in my two cents on each topic.

1) In regard to the offensive line, how does the team weigh using an early pick on a prospect who can play early in his career vs. having them sit behind a star player like Lane Johnson?

"When you look at Lane Johnson, you talking about one of the best players in the league," Roseman said. "One of the best people, one of the best players. We're incredibly fortunate to have him at the level that he plays at. I can't speak for [Nick Sirianni] — but I know just speaking with him often enough — the confidence with going into a game with Lane being our right tackle and one of the captains on this team, you don't ever replace that. You don't replace that in three years. You don't replace that in five years. He's a generational player. Just like we talked about with Jason Kelce and with Fletcher Cox, you don't ever replace those guys. They're irreplaceable. 

"When you talk about positional importance, the offensive line across the board has been a huge importance to us, and it hasn't always been about the five guys. It's been about having depth upfront. Certainly when you look at it, we've lost a few guys [and we signed one in free agency]... We're looking at it just in terms of numbers, not only where we are now but also going forward.

"I think also when you look at having guys like Jason Kelce and Fletcher Cox, for example, you have two options. You can tell people stories about work ethic and how guys played and how they led or you can have them watch that. And so for us, when we drafted Cam Jurgens, we were always trying to recruit Jason to keep playing for as long as he felt comfortable playing. But at the same time, having him be able to study how Jason practices, how Jason takes notes, instead of saying, 'Man, Cam, you should have seen how Jason Kelce led, how he practiced, how he takes notes.' We think that gives him the best potential to [maximize his ability], and the same for Jordan Davis and Jalen Carter.

"In the short-term, you could say, 'Cam sat for a year. Maybe you could have gotten some bigger bang for your buck with that second-round pick in the short-term.' But we think over the long-term — and we're trying to do things that are best for this team over the long-term — that it makes sense for these guys to be around these great players."

#JimmySays: Generally speaking, I believe that fans have come around on the idea of allowing a drafted quarterback to learn from a good veteran in front of him, but find that idea less palatable at other positions. I think the Eagles genuinely believe in that premise, and are willing to apply it at other positions of high importance, with offensive tackle being an obvious inclusion.

2) From a coaching perspective, what's the tolerance for using a high pick on a player who might have to sit for a while?

"I always have to think about how we win the next game," Sirianni acknowledged. "That's how a coach is built. I think Howie's trying to win the next game, too."

"Damn right," Roseman interjected.

"But you're also thinking about the long-term success of it," Sirianni said. "Howie explained that perfectly. How do we teach players things that we want them to learn in football? We let them study the greats."

#JimmySays: Sirianni then more or less parroted back Roseman's messaging about young players learning under the likes of Jason Kelce, Fletcher Cox, etc. 

During the 2023 season, the Eagles' coaching staff relied too heavily on mediocre veterans over rookies in some cases, notably at RG, CB, S, etc. I don't think Sirianni will mind in the slightest if Roseman drafts a guy to sit for a year, given the staff's reluctance to use rookies even when there were openings at their positions.

3) Why do the Eagles hate cornerbacks?

I'll post the entirety of the question here, rather than just paraphrasing it, because it detailed some facts about the Eagles' recent history of draft (or rather, not drafting) cornerbacks with high picks.

Jeff McLane: "In the last six drafts, you’ve only drafted three cornerbacks, and none of them higher than the fourth round. In any draft that you’ve overseen, there has only been one drafted in the second round. Why do you hate cornerbacks? No, I’m only kidding. You’ve found alternative ways to fill the position with varying degrees of success. How do you view that position, and how do you evaluate it? What have you learned from past mistakes and successes?"

Roseman: "Obviously corners are a huge part of playing defense in the National Football League right now. We always talk about affecting the passing game. And just like on offense where we talk about the offensive line and having skill guys, we talk about the defensive line and having guys who can cover, on the outside and on the inside and how much that helps you.

"Two years ago we were No. 1 in pass defense. We had two guys – Slay made the Pro Bowl and James was a second-team All-Pro. That just goes to show how important that is to playing good defense. 

"I’ve always felt that that’s a priority. Obviously when you give [the number of corners we've drafted], those are compelling. We’ve found different ways, and really me going back to when I was a personnel director, we have signed some Pro Bowl caliber corners or traded for Pro Bowl caliber corners, so we’ve kinda probably done it a different way, but yeah, you’re right, those numbers are what they are."

#JimmySays: It is my understanding that the Eagles had interest in drafting a cornerback with a high pick in 2021 (Patrick Surtain or Jaycee Horn) and 2022 (Sauce Gardner or Derek Stingley). The willingness is there, but those drafts just didn't unfold that way. They place a high importance on the cornerback position, and I believe that corner and offensive tackle are the two most likely positions to be addressed in the first round, in whatever order you prefer. 

4) On Vic Fangio and the need to find players who fit his defense

"Obviously we have a lot of faith in our coaches and everything we're doing here is not only for the short-term but the long-term," Roseman said. "With Coach Fangio taking over our defense, his influence has been on our previous defensive coordinators as well so it's not like we're starting from scratch. I think it's important that we're not just bringing in players that we like, but also fit what we're trying to do defensively." 

#JimmySays: Nothing surprising here.

5) On the recent spate of contract extensions, notably on the offensive side of the ball, and what that does for the offensive coaches

"I think it’s exciting, not only for the offensive coaches, but also just the culture of our football team, that these guys are going to continue to grow as football players, grow as leaders," Sirianni said.

#JimmySays: On Tuesday we published an article about the Eagles' offensive core being set for a while, and within it we showed a chart of the nine offensive starters under contract through at least 2025. We may as well get some more mileage out of that:

Player 2024 2025 2026 2027 2028 
QB Jalen Hurts ✅ ✅ ✅ ✅ ✅ 
RB Saquon Barkley ✅ ✅ ✅ ❌ ❌ 
WR A.J. Brown ✅ ✅ ✅ ❌ ❌ 
WR DeVonta Smith ✅ ✅ ✅ ✅ ✅ 
TE Dallas Goedert ✅ ✅ ❌ ❌ ❌ 
LT Jordan Mailata ✅ ✅ ✅ ✅ ✅ 
LG Landon Dickerson ✅ ✅ ✅ ✅ ✅ 
C Cam Jurgens ✅ ✅ ❌ ❌ ❌ 
RT Lane Johnson ✅ ✅ ✅ ❌ ❌ 

There are a lot of talented players on that list above. It will be on the offensive staff — as well as Jalen Hurts — to do great things with that group.

6) On balancing a player's talent vs. durability issues they may have had in college

"Our performance staff, our training staff, and our doctors are a huge part of the process," Roseman said. "We're not experts in that field, and so we take their guidance on that. We put a grade based on what we think the player is going to be, not only this year but what the player is going to be three, four, five years down the line when we develop them at the best of their abilities. And then we meet with the doctors, and we talk about their ability to play though it. Durability is a huge part of this game  Having your guys on the field is a huge part of how we have success. That is a huge part of it and that is a factor at the end of the day."

#JimmySays: The Eagles aren't risk averse to drafting players with injury histories. Sometimes they miss (Sidney Jones) and sometimes they hit (Landon Dickerson).

7) How does this year compare to previous years in terms of being able to guess what will happen before the Eagles' first-round pick?

"There's always going to be something different that happens in front of you or behind you that you didn't anticipate," Roseman said. "I feel really good about where the players are going to come off around the first 25 picks. That doesn't mean there's going to be some moment in the first round where I go, 'Whoa.' But I feel good about that. I think that when you're picking in the middle of the second round, there are probably a little bit more curve balls that come your way, but we will be prepared for it.

"We don't do many 'best outcome' scenarios. We work with, 'This will be the worst case,' and even in our worst case situation at 22, 50, and 53, we'll be able to improve this football team."

#JimmySays: With the exception of the disastrous 2014 draft when the worst case scenario (Marcus Smith) became the reality, Roseman has proven to be very good at reading what is likely to happen before the Eagles' pick.

I also thought it was noteworthy that Roseman felt that the unpredictability of the first round will begin after the first 25 or so picks, which in my mind means that he believes that there is a dropoff in talent after roughly 25 players. If that read is right (and if Roseman is being honest about where the unpredictability begins), a trade back feels unlikely to me.

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