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May 13, 2023

Eagles mailbag: Jalen Carter, future NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year?

Jimmy Kempski answers Eagles fans' questions in his latest mailbag.

Eagles NFL
051323JalenCarter Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Jalen Carter

On Thursday, we solicited questions for an Eagles mailbag via Twitter. Thank you as always for doing half the work for me.

Question from @MyNamesJDale: Do you think Jalen Carter has a legit shot at Defensive Rookie of the Year, or will the Eagles' rotation cut into his production?

As we noted in our Eagles first-year role projections, defensive tackles don't often put up big numbers as rookies. The last defensive tackle who won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year was Aaron Donald in 2014. Before that it was Ndamukong Suh in 2010, and before that the most recent occurrence was in 1994.

Carter is extremely talented, so he has a chance to be a first-year freak show like Donald or Suh, but it's more likely that he'll have modest numbers. I actually think that the Eagles' D-line talent could help Carter more than it hurts him, because he should get his share of single blocks. 

Question from @RandomFrankP: When the Eagles face the Cardinals Week 17, will Jonathan Gannon still be the coach?

I think the Cardinals as an organization realize that this is a tank year, so yes, he'll make it through the season. I do think there is a chance that he is identified as a fraud this season and is canned in favor of someone better next offseason.

Question from @StarForceManuel: Do the Eagles have a legitimate chance at getting same or more sacks than last year?

They had the third-most sacks in a single season in NFL history last season. If I were a betting man, no, I don't think they'll have 70 sacks again.

BUT... They do still have Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Milton Williams, and now also Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith. They'll get to the quarterback often.

Question from cocoeagles88: The most immediate question or rather concern is the schedule after the bye. It is giving me complete and utter anxiety. We didn't experience anything that intense all last season.

Coco is referring to this stretch of games:

Week Opponent 2022 record 2022 point differential 
Cowboys 12-5 +125 
10 BYE   
11 At Chiefs 14-3 +127 
12 Bills 13-3 +169 
13 49ers 13-4 +173 
14 At Cowboys 12-5 +125 

Even before the schedule came out, we knew that their 2023 opponents had a combined record of 161-123-4 (0.566) in 2022. This time last year, the Eagles' upcoming opponents in 2022 had a combined record of 133-154-2 (0.464) in 2021. So, yeah, for sure, this year's Eagles schedule is harder than last year's.

As we're all aware, there are disappointing teams every year. Last year when the schedule came out, the hard stretch of the Eagles' schedule looked like it would be Weeks 11, 12, and 13, when they would face the Colts, Packers, and Titans. Those three teams had a combined record of 34-17 (0.667) in 2021, with a combined point differential of +230. As it turned out, all three of those teams underperformed.

Could one or more of the Cowboys, Chiefs, Bills, or 49ers have surprisingly bad seasons in 2023? Of course! It happens every year. So, we'll see if that stretch looks as daunting in November as it does right now. 

Question from @Boston__Sucks: More rushing yards for the Eagles in 2023: Rashaad Penny or D'Andre Swift?

I'll go out on a limb a bit here and say Penny. If he is able to stay healthy, Penny is the better player. I'll have a Swift review coming out in the next few days. I already cut up all his rushes and targets on the 2022 season, and while he has some explosiveness I do kinda get why a team like the Lions soured on him a bit.

Comment from @igglesnut: Not a question but a request: Please detail for your readers the criminal conspiracy that results in the Cowboys never having to play a road game on three days rest despite every other team being required to do so occasionally.

At the 2019 NFL owners meetings, Jeffrey Lurie said that the first thing he looks at every year is whether or not the Eagles will have to play a Thursday road game on a short week of rest and preparation. And, as you note, 30 of the NFL's 32 teams have to worry about that each year when the schedule is released. There are two — the Cowboys and Lions — who don't, as they are rewarded with a home Thursday game on Thanksgiving every single year. 

That offseason, the Eagles had proposed — and later withdrew — a resolution to negate the Cowboys' and Lions' competitive advantage.

Withdrawn, By Philadelphia; to continue the annual tradition of having Dallas and Detroit play on Thanksgiving, provided that one of those clubs host a home game with the other club playing away, and alternating home and away games each subsequent season. 

According to studies done by the Eagles (and, you know, common sense), it's a disadvantage to have to play on the road on a Thursday after you've just played a Sunday game.

"We do a lot of data analysis of schedules and things like that, and short weeks, because you’re trying to prepare and recover and all those kinds of things, and one of the things that came up was the difficulty sometimes of short weeks on Thursdays," Lurie said in 2019.

"Nobody wants to play away on Thursday night on a short week, and we feel it should be a balanced schedule in terms of teams that have to play on a short week, away. That’s all. It has nothing to do with Thanksgiving. It’s a great tradition in Detroit, Dallas, whatever, but just on a competitive basis, as soon as you look at the schedule, you want to know, are you on short week on a Thursday?"

Ask any Cowboys or Lions fan, and they will tell you that Dallas and Detroit were the the most willing participants to play on Thanksgiving before most of us were born, and they shouldn't have that tradition taken away. Lurie, like the vast majority of non-Cowboys and non-Lions fans, couldn't care less about that tradition. And really, the Eagles' proposal didn't seek to take it away. It only intended to modify it in a way that would allow the Cowboys and Lions to continue to play every year on Thanksgiving, but with every other year being a road game, which is an entirely reasonable solution to an obvious competitive advantage.

So what was the feedback the Eagles received from the league that caused them to withdraw their proposal in 2019?

"All we heard was that the competition committee said there wasn’t enough support," Lurie said.

Schedule makers have recently been giving Dallas a second Thursday game, but it always falls on the schedule the week after Thanksgiving, meaning that they never have to play a Thursday game on short rest, which is indisputably an advantage.

Anyway, that whole Dallas/Detroit/Thanksgiving discussion kind of died after Lurie tried to bring attention to it in 2019. He should have continued to beat that drum, in my opinion.

Question from @wikiperrya: Looking back a draft, when the Eagles traded for the 4th round pick to select Ringo, how do you think they knew he wasn't going at 103 or 104? Do other GMs revel who they are taking? Or did Howie just roll the dice?

So in case anyone is unfamiliar, two other teams — the Saints and Raiders — traded into the the first and second overall spots in the fourth round before the the round even began. The Eagles then traded into the third spot, again, before the draft even got underway that day.

Howie got asked about his confidence in Ringo still being available. 

"I think we felt pretty confident about — we were picking third," he said. "We did the trade before the draft. I think we felt pretty confident what was going to go one, and we had a pretty good indication of what was going to go two for us to do it."

So, he was vague in his answer, but yes, I would imagine the two GMs who had traded up to the first and second spots on Day 3 — Mickey Loomis (Saints) and Dave Ziegler (Raiders) — told him who they were taking.

Question from @JonStinnett: Do you think that the Eagles' solid CB depth means that decent young guys like Josh Jobe, Eli Ricks, and Josiah Scott will probably get plucked from the practice squad?

A week or so ago, we published a "way too early 53-man roster projection," and all three of those guys were not on it. The cornerbacks who made it on were Darius Slay, James Bradberry, Avonte Maddox, Zech McPhearson, and Kelee Ringo. If I were to add a sixth, it would have been Jobe, who I do think has a decent enough chance of sticking on the roster again.

The common quibble to my projected 53 was the absence of Greedy Williams, and it often came in the form of, "Uh, Greedy Williams?" I didn't forget about Greedy. But as of right now, I would have him as no better than seventh on the cornerback totem pole.

We'll see how all these guys look in training camp and the preseason, and I'll adjust who I think will be in or out based on that. But it's worth noting that over 500 players were picked in the last two drafts, and Jobe and Ricks weren't among them. It's usually easier to keep guys like like on the practice squad than is perceived. 

Question from @WalkWithLyle: What percentage chance do you give on Tyler Steen starting at RG for the season opener?

As noted above, I have to see all these guys play in camp and in the preseason, but Nick Sirianni was clear to say that the best player would play. He isn't just handing the starting RG job to Cam Jurgens. I'll tentatively call it 25 percent.

Question from @samhughesreview: Only THREE 1pm games?!

Before I had a career covering the NFL and I was watching these games from home, my favorite Eagles time slot was late afternoon. The 1:00 games were kind of the appetizer, the Eagles game at 4:25 was the main entrée, and the night game was the dessert. As a reporter covering these games now, my favorite time slot by far is 1:00.

I can't recall the Eagles ever having so few 1:00 games. Here's the breakdown of their time slots:

• Sunday, late afternoon (4:05 or 4:25): 7 games

• Sunday, early afternoon (1:00): 3 games

• Monday (one is 7:15, one is 8:15, and one is on Christmas at 4:30): 3 games

• Sunday Night Football: 2 games

• Thursday night: 1 game

• TBD: 1 game

NFL fans around the country are going to be seeing a hell of a lot of Eagles games this season.

Question from @avoidthenoid: Does the Christmas game being home (and 4:30) make it at least tolerable as a beat reporter having to cover it?

That was the best case scenario, in my opinion. Personally, what matters to me on Christmas is watching my daughter open presents in the morning, and I can do that, so I'll take it. (I also like Christmas Eve, and I avoided having that ruined.) 

The biggest thing is that the game isn't in, saaayyyy, Kansas City or something. Last year I had planned on going to Dallas for the Eagles-Cowboys matchup on Christmas Eve, and flying back super early on Christmas Day, but as it turned out I got really sick and didn't go at all. I think that'll be my Christmas M.O. going forward. If it's in some other city, I'm just not going to attend. In 20 years I won't remember that game, but I'll sure as hell remember not seeing my kid open presents.

I'll be happy when Christmas is on a Wednesday next year and I don't have to sweat that stuff.

Question from phillyaws: Which away games are you most looking toward to?

Last year, the (first) trip to Arizona was early in the season, and the trip to Chicago was late. I'd have liked those to have been flip-flopped. This year, same thing with Tampa and Seattle. But here's my away game experience ranking, for those of you who travel. We'll limit this to non-NFC East cities:

  1. Seattle: Very cool city, and it really doesn't get that cold in December, though it does rain a lot in December/January. It's a bummer that this game is the week before Christmas, but if you've never been to Seattle it's worth checking out.
  2. Tampa: Super easy to get to, warm (maybe too warm in September), and Clearwater is nearby.
  3. Los Angeles: Brutal traffic, but it's warm, and there's endless things to do.
  4. Kansas City: I've only been there twice, so I can't speak confidently about the fun factor of KC, but the BBQ is excellent.
  5. Foxborough, MA: I like Boston as a city, though their sports teams (mostly the Celtics) can go to hell. But if you stay in Boston, you'll have a long trip to the game on Sunday. Foxborough is actually closer to Providence, RI than it is to Boston. It's drivable from Philly, of course, but it's not the most convenient of locations.

Question from @Loctastic: What do you do for fun?

Ya know... I don't even know, man. The football season basically begins in late July with training camp, and then there's the season, and then there's the playoffs, and then there's free agency, and then there's the draft, and then there's some small stuff like the rookie minicamp the schedule release.

Now that the schedule release is over and done with, I have no events on the horizon other than an OTA or two until late July. This question is timely because I started thinking, "Hm, I can do anything I want right now. What should I do?" And I had nothing, lol. I guess I like surfing, but the water is too cold right now, and it requires cooperation from the ocean (to produce waves). Golf is OK I guess, too. But otherwise, I don't even know what I like 🤷‍♂️. So please, if any of youse have any suggestions, let me hear them.

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