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November 17, 2019

Eagles mailbag: Should Jason Peters or Andre Dillard be the starting LT?

Eagles NFL
157_11032019_EaglesvsBears_Andre_Dillard_KateFrese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Andre Dillard during the Philadelphia Eagles game against the Chicago Bears at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on November 3, 2019.

In our Eagles chat on Wednesday there were a lot of questions that we could not get to in time or other questions we did answer but could use more color. And so, let's do a special game day mailbag post to answer some of the overflow.

Question from King of Cromulence: Andre Dillard has looked good for a rookie, correct?

Yes, I've been impressed by him. He has had some very difficult assignments since being inserted into the starting lineup, and he has held up without much help. For the most part, they've left him on an island and said, "Alright kid, go block (fill in the stud edge rusher)."

That doesn't mean he hasn't given up plays, and certainly, he has plenty to work on, notably his ability to anchor against power, but that'll come.

So far, I'll also give credit to the Philly fan base for not overreacting to the sacks he has given up. Eagles fans have been spoiled by tremendous play from their offensive tackles for about two decades, save for the rare bad game (Winston Justice) or bad injury fill-in (Demetress Bell). There's probably a decent argument to be made that the Eagles have had the best offensive tackle situation in the league over the last 20 years. As such, the bar for Dillard is high. Or maybe we're all just distracted by the awful wide receiver play, ha.

Question from Bob: Should we trust the coaching staff to make the right decision for the team regarding Jason Peters' playing status? It does more harm than good to let him play intermittently throughout each game rather than just have him in a reserve role.

Brandon and I debated this on the last podcast. He felt that Peters should go back in as the starter whenever he is ready, since this is not a situation in which the season is over and you just want to get the rookie playing time. He felt that Peters is the better player, so he should just play.

If the Eagles believe that Peters is definitively the better player, than I agree that he should go right back in.

However, I'm not so sure there's a big gap between Peters and Dillard. Certainly, Peters is a lot better than the version of Dillard who had to come in mid-game against the Vikings. But is he significantly better than the steadily improving version that we saw against Chicago before the bye? I think that's debatable, as is whether or not Dillard will continue to grow each week. If you factor in Dillard's trajectory, the debate becomes, "Who will the better player be by the time, saaayyyy, Week 16 rolls around?" The improving rookie, or the 37-year-old who comes out of games regularly?

I think there's merit to both sides of that debate. I'm also quite certain the Eagles are just going to put Peters right back in there.

Question from Bird Gang: What percentage chance do you give for JP to be on the roster next year. If not on ours, what percentage chance is there that he plays for another team in 2020?

I think it would be insane to bring Peters back. The selection of Dillard, and his subsequent solid play sealed this season as Peters’ last in Philly. The only way I can see Peters sticking around is if Dillard shreds his knee or something, unless he's willing to play for backup money, which feels very unlikely. As for Peters playing for another team, I don't think that's crazy, but I don't see it.

Question from bula412: Jimmy, you mentioned that this could be a historic WR class. Does that mean that we are destined to wait around for a "value pick" for a few rounds named something like Ronnel Humphrey?

Haha, yep. The Eagles have not done well in "historic" positional draft classes. In 2017, as you alluded to, they ended up with Donnel Pumphrey in a running back class that everyone knew was loaded. The running backs taken in that class:

 PlayerRound Overall 
Leonard Fournette, Jaguars 
 Christian McCaffrey, Panthers
 Dalvin Cook, Vikings41 
 Joe Mixon, Bengals48 
 Alvin Kamara, Saints67 
 Kareem Hunt, Chiefs86 
 D'Onta Foreman, Texans89 
 James Conner, Steelers105 
 Samaje Perine, Washington114 
 Tarik Cohen, Bears119 
 Joe Williams, 49ers121 
 Donnel Pumphrey, Eagles132 
 Jamaal Williams, Packers134 
Wayne Gallman, Giants 140 
 Marlon Mack, Colts143 
 Brian Hill, Falcons156 
 Jeremy McNichols, Buccaneers162 
 T.J. Logan, Cardinals179 
 Aaron Jones, Packers182 
 Elijah McGuire, Jets188 
 De'Angelo Henderson, Broncos203 
 Devante Mays, Packers238 
 Khalfani Muhammad, Titans241 
 Elijah Hood, Raiders242 
 Chris Carson, Seahawks249 
 Matthew Dayes, Browns252 


And then guys like Austin Ekeler and Matt Breida were undrafted free agents. In fairness, the Eagles did land Corey Clement as an undrafted free agent, and he helped them win a Super Bowl. But look at all the guys drafted after Pumphrey who are contributors for their respective teams, and even a few studs like Marlon Mack, Aaron Jones, and Chris Carson.

And then of course, in the 2019 draft, while I think the selection of Dillard was a good one, that was a loaded defensive line draft, and the Birds came away with Shareef Miller, who has appeared in just one game so far as a rookie. Like Pumphrey, Miller was taken in the fourth round.

The 2020 NFL Draft is going to be absolutely stacked with talent, both at the top of the draft, and throughout. That's a sentiment shared by the draft experts:

Yes, it could be even better than the 2014 class that included Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, Brandin Cooks, Davante Adams, Allen Robinson, and Jarvis Landry, among others. 

All season long in our Grocery Shopping series we've been profiling at least one wide receiver every week, and sometimes two (16 total so far), since I'm certain the Eagles are going to take at least one. They should probably double-dip, with one receiver taken within the first two days of the draft.

Question from Flipper: A little early to be giving up on JJAW, no? History shows it takes most rookie WRs at least a full season to adjust to NFL level. Look it up. We're putting too much pressure on JJAW to perform now when he's still in development mode. I know, I know, some other rooks are performing well ... but I don't think I'm being too easy on JJAW. It's clear he's been forced into action before he's ready (and before Carson has confidence in him).

Yes, it is true that many receivers take a year or two to develop. However, it is also true that it is alarming when a second-round rookie can't get on the field over a guy like Mack Hollins, who hasn't caught a pass since September.

I don't think anyone has "given up" completely on J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, but he's not off to a good start, especially for a guy who many believed was more "pro-ready" than a lot of the other receivers available.

Question from Rich: Don't you think Greg Ward would be a better choice than Jordan Matthews?

No.

Question from Office Linebacker: Do you think the Dolphins are starting to round into form, or are they still terrible? Will that be the dreaded trap game for us?

I still think they're awful, and that a loss to them would be a major embarrassment.  

Question from greenwithenvy: I read an article that said Nate Gerry is the Eagle's most improved player. What's your take on this assessment?

I looked for the article you speak of, and I think I found it! Via b/r:

During his first two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, linebacker Nate Gerry was largely a defensive afterthought. He made just three starts and totaled 24 tackles during that span. This year, however, Gerry has emerged as a key defender and one of Philadelphia's most versatile stoppers.

"I've been thrown into three or four different positions this year so far," he said in October, per Brandon Green of KDLT Sports.

Gerry has appeared in all nine games this season and has started the past five. He's already racked up 33 tackles, a sack, two interceptions and a defensive touchdown.

More than just a serviceable starter, he's becoming a Philadelphia star.

"Philadelphia star," lol.

OK, so that last sentence aside, I don't disagree with the sentiment that Gerry is the most improved player. I mean, who else would make that list? Josh Sweat? A friend of mine suggested Jordan Howard. Whoever you come up with, it's not a very strong list.

When you look at the 2017 Super Bowl team, a boatload of players were either vastly improved, or they overachieved, or however you want to put it. Some of the notable names there would be Carson Wentz, Nick Foles, Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, Patrick Robinson, etc. etc. They had a slew of players who were either vastly improved or exceeded expectations. That just doesn't exist on this team.

Question from King of Cromulence: I was watching an old Bud Bowl commercial and noticed that Bud Light is a better receiver than anyone on our roster. Agree?

The Eagles haven't had a catch as good as the one made at the 1:18 mark below:


Also, notice at the 2:40 mark, Budski is called upon to make a 42-yard field goal for the win, and he double-doinks it in! Lol. (Cody Parkey's double-doink miss was from 43.)

Question from bula412: Jimmy, hope you had a great time in Belize. Surfing Trip? Anyway, is there going to be a bye week edition of you food series where you critique several meals from your vacation?

I was on an island off the coast of Belize (though still part of Belize) called Ambergris Caye, and would recommend it. Belize faces the Caribbean, not the ocean, so no surfing. In fact, Belize had maybe the calmest waters that I've ever seen. I did have the best jerk chicken, by far, that I've ever had in life.

On the press box food spread point, this has been maybe the best food spread group of my career. A lot of teams really stepped up, but it's going to be bad the rest of the way. The Eagles have four home games left, and their spread is weak. I'm told Miami's isn't good either, and I already know that Washington's is horrendous every year. The only decent one left is the Giants', and I think I even overrated that one last year.


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