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August 16, 2022

Eagles mailbag: Is Jessie Bates still in play, and thoughts on various players competing for roster spots

Eagles NFL
051822JessieBates Joseph Maiorana/USA TODAY Sports

Bengals S Jessie Bates

I solicited question on Twitter a few days ago for a mailbag. Thank you as always for doing half the work for me.

Question from Greg Richard: During the Howie Roseman era, how many times have the Eagles entered Week 1 with only 2 QBs on the 53-man roster?

We'll just go back to 2016, when Howie reemerged from the Chip Kelly rubble and reclaimed his GM job.

• 2016: The Eagles were set to enter the season with Sam Bradford as the QB1, Chase Daniel as the QB2, and Carson Wentz inactive on gameday, when Teddy Bridgewater snapped his leg and the Vikings made a panic trade for Sammy Sleeves. Wentz then went from QB3 to QB1, and the Eagles added Aaron Murray to the practice squad.

• 2017: The Eagles entered the season with Wentz and Nick Foles. I believe they viewed Matt McGloin as a possible QB3, but he was awful in camp and did not make final cuts. They then added Nate Sudfeld to the practice squad and paid him like a rostered player. Sudfeld was eventually added to the active roster later in the season.

• 2018: Wentz, Foles, and Sudfeld.

• 2019: Wentz, Josh McCown, and Sudfeld.

• 2020: Wentz, Jalen Hurts, and Sudfeld.

• 2021: The Eagles started the season with Hurts, Joe Flacco, and Gardner Minshew. They later traded Flacco to the Jets, while concurrently claiming Reid Sinnett off of waivers from the Dolphins.

So, in summary, they like keeping three quarterbacks.

I had Sinnett making my most recent 53-man roster projection. Many disagreed, likely just on what they saw of him in two quarters of the first preseason game, playing behind almost an entire line of undrafted players and a No. 1 target in Noah Togiai. There's no question that Sinnett struggled initially, which was disappointing, but he would eventually lead an 18-play drive for what could have been a game-winning score, which counts for something.

In practices, Sinnett has shown legitimate talent. I do think he could use a strong preseason game performance to solidify his spot, but I don't think the Eagles are thinking, "This guy is trash, let's cut him" based on the way he played Friday night. 

Question from Johnny: If Carson Strong looks awful why not bring in another development QB for the next two weeks?

Strong looked like a quarterback who was not ready for the NFL when he was getting reps earlier in camp. He has since barely gotten any work at all in practice, and as you saw Friday night, did not get to play in the game.

The Eagles gave Strong a nice chunk of guaranteed money to come play for them.

I think they'd be fine with another team claiming him off of waivers so that someone else has to play that guaranteed money.

As for signing another quarterback, I think that if there were someone worth bringing in, he'd already be on someone's roster.

Question from Gritty: Hype around a Jessie Bates trade seems to have gone down. Is the front office still kicking the tires on that?

Bates showed up to the Bengals' first preseason game, and is expected to play for Cincinnati this season, per Paul Dehner and Jay Morrison of The Athletic.

One of the biggest stories of the night actually happened in the suites. Just before halftime, Bengals safety Jessie Bates III posted a video to his Instagram story of his feet on the rail of a suite on the 20-yard line of Paycor Stadium.

Bates was franchise tagged in March and is the lone player given the tag to not sign it yet and has not reported to camp.

It indeed was Bates in the suite and not just a random pair of Nikes on his account. Bates was wearing a Cincinnati Reds hat and accompanied by a small group with him.

This could signal a return is coming soon for the 25-year-old. Players and coaches have all suggested they expect Bates back with the team at some point before the season started but nobody committed to an expected timeline. The team has left it up to Bates to decide when he’s ready to show up.

It’s understandable why Bates wouldn’t want to take any chances of getting injured in camp and isn’t subject to any fines since he has not signed a contract with the team at this point.

The deadline for franchise tagged players to sign long-term deals passed on July 15, and when it did, the likelihood of a Bates trade decreased substantially.

Joel Corry of CBS thoroughly outlined Bates' situation, and he covered the possibility of a trade. Corry explained that franchise-tagged players are almost never traded, and that the last one to get dealt, Yannick Ngakoue, took a huge pay cut to facilitate it because he simply didn't want to play in Jacksonville anymore. Bates wants to be paid more money, not less.

Question from gmd11284: You were critical of the Cam Jurgens pick (based on allocation of resources, not player’s ability).  With his impressive training camp and dominant preseason game, have you fully come around on the pick?

This is why grading drafts immediately after they occur is fun. At that juncture, more weight is given to the process of the pick as opposed to the actual player, because, well, we don't yet know what the player will look like in the NFL.

I documented my quibbles with the process of the pick after the draft, and having gone back and re-read my draft grades, those quibbles are pretty logical!

Of course, being the savvy veteran beat writer that I am, I was careful to cover my ass.

Ultimately, if there's a smooth, seamless transition from Kelce and Jurgens is very quickly a great player, then the above quibbling will no doubt seem silly, in hindsight.

So, we'll see if Jurgens becomes that. He's certainly off to a fantastic start.

Question from Rob Fox: Is Cam Jurgens the first off the bench if a guard goes down?

Aside from an extremely small handful of snaps at guard, Jurgens has pretty much only played center throughout camp, and he did not play guard at all in college. If Landon Dickerson or Isaac Seumalo go down, Sua Opeta will fill in, and he'll be fine.

Question from Anik: Best guess on how linebacker snaps will be distributed to start the season?

I think the starters will be T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White, and they'll get most of the playing time. They'll also mix in Nakobe Dean to get him experience, and I believe that Davion Taylor has made a clear jump from Year 2 to Year 3 in camp and deserves a chance to carve out a role of his own in the defense as well.

There's a decent chance that we see nine defensive linemen and four linebackers all getting a decent amount of playing time when the Eagles are healthy, if, you know, Jonathan Gannon has a good plan for how to use them all.

Question from Miguel Garcia: Boston Scott isn't bad, but he's also not great. We know what he can do, and he's an average player. Why not keep Jason Huntley over him if it's close? He's younger and probably has a higher ceiling. Why is Scott such a lock?

To begin, I think the Eagles like Boston Scott, but they were willing to risk losing him earlier this offseason. He entered the new league year as a restricted free agent, and the cost to retain him on a "right of first refusal" basis was $2,433,000. The Eagles made the decision not to tender him, and he was an unrestricted free agent for a brief period, free to sign with any team. The Eagles eventually brought him back on a one-year deal worth $1.75 million, of which $800,000 is guaranteed.

In 2021, if you look at Scott's game logs and compare them with Miles Sanders' game logs, he really only played whenever Sanders was hurt. That indicates that he is not a player that the coaching staff believes has a particularly useful skill that the other backs on the roster do not possess, and thus worthy of a role no matter who is or isn't healthy. But they do think enough of him to carry the load when their top guy is out.

Huntley has not shown that he can be a guy to carry the load whenever Sanders is out. He has speed, but he does not run through contact, and he is inconsistent as a receiver. In my opinion, he is the best kick returner on the team, but his value as a returner is limited because he does not return punts.

In 2021, Huntley spent the entire season on the Eagles' practice squad, and 31 other teams had a chance to poach him. They did not, and I don't think Huntley has done anything in the meantime to suddenly be in more demand. The Eagles should be able to get him back onto the practice squad once again in 2022.

Question from Nina Alston: Will the Eagles bring in a power back?

I believe they will. It just makes too much sense to pair a big bruiser with the Sanders' explosiveness.

Question from 6'0 Short King: Reed Blankenship had a great game, in my opinion. Does he have a chance to push for the 4th safety spot?

Blankenship played five seasons at Middle Tennessee State. His first three were highlighted by his takeaway numbers (8 INTs), while his last two were noteworthy for his high number of tackles (186 of them in 22 games). In 2021, Blankenship compiled 110 tackles (10 for loss), a sack, an INT, 8 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles, and 3 recoveries, one of which he returned for a score.

I actually profiled him during each of the last two seasons in our prospects series, most recently here (flex 💪), and thought he was a draftable player.

I was recently wondering how I even heard about Blankenship in the first place, because I sure as hell wasn't randomly watching Middle Tennessee State games and mining for talent. Then one day Fran Duffy mentioned offline that Blankenship made Bruce Feldman's "Freaks" list in 2020. So that was definitely it.

Blankenship has good size and decent enough athleticism, and he has shown throughout camp that he has good instincts. I think he could be a contributing special teamer right off the bat with the chance of growing into a role in the regular defense. He has shown more this summer than guys like Jaquiski Tartt and K'Von Wallace, in my opinion.

So, yes, while I did not have him on my most recent 53-man projection, I do think he has a good chance to make it if he closes camp strongly.

Question from John Wetherby: Are they changing the Eagles font in the end zone?

During the first preseason game, the end zones were blank. 

During the season last year, they had the old wordmark.

They're not going to use the old wordmark, so change is coming, for sure. My bet is that yes, it will be the new wordmark that most fans hate.

Question from PlayinPossum: If Hurts plays like that first quarter this entire season, does he get re-signed? And if so how much?

Well, he was 6 for 6 for 80 yards and a TD on his only drive. Let's say conservatively the Eagles have 8 drives per game. That's 48 for 48 for 640 yards and 8 TDs each game, and 56 points per game. Over the course of the season, he'd be 816 of 816 for 10,880 yards and 136 TDs. 

If he does that, I like his chances of getting re-signed, and he might even get a lot of money.

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