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July 15, 2021

What they're saying: Eagles (again) linked to Deshaun Watson; Ertz's future; Sirianni's doubters

Plus, the Birds were well represented in a recent list of the best players over 30.

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Deshaun-watson_031721_usat Quinn Harris/USA TODAY Sports

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.

On Wednesday, shockwaves were sent throughout the sports world when Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce revealed that he doesn't pronounce his last name the same way fans do — including those in Philly who regularly cheer on his brother, Jason.

Here's how Travis, appearing on what I believe is a Barstool podcast, says his name is actually pronounced:

I'm sorry, what? Have we been saying it wrong all this time? I mean, Jason Kelce has been in Philly for a decade at this point, and he's never once said we were pronouncing his name wrong. Like his brother, he just seems to have "rolled with it." And forget for telling the media or fans they're wrong, Travis apparently didn't even tell his teammates!

Of course, as is often the case, there's more to the story. And Jason went on the WIP Morning Show on Thursday to clear the air, and to tell fans that we're not pronouncing it wrong it all. It's actually Travis, Jason, and mainly their father, Ed, who have been pronouncing it wrong.

We'll let the Eagles center explain:

"So I'll give you the story behind why my brother said that," Kelce explained. "My brother and I have gone by Kel-see our entire lives. I still remember my dad answering the phone as Ed Kel-see all growing up when he was on work calls and everything. But we have a really small family. We don't have any first cousins. Somehow we got so disconnected with that side and my dad at some point, when he was working at the Steel mills in Cleveland, Ohio, got tired of correcting everyone who was calling him Kel-see. Apparently the correct, the standard pronunciation is Kelse, which the rest of my family goes by. So my dad, out of pure laziness, completely changed his last name. For some reason he decided to change it and that's what we've gone by our whole lives.

"We've gotten plenty of messages and texts since becoming NFL players from extended family members all over the world that have told us, 'You're pronouncing the name wrong!' I prefer Kel-see because that's what I've gone by my entire life."  [WIP]

That's some great journalizin' by WIP, getting the story right from the source. 

Now that we have the most important Eagles news of the day cleared up, let's take a look at what the rest of the football world is currently saying about the Birds... 

Eagles gearing up to go after Watson?

Brandon Lee Gowton | Bleeding Green Nation

The other big piece of "news" that came down on Wednesday, at least as it pertains to the Eagles, centered around Deshaun Watson, who has constantly been linked to Philly throughout this year. The rumors continue to persist despite Watson's considerable legal issues largely because the Eagles don't have a long-term plan in place at quarterback — unless Jalen Hurts turns out to be the guy — and could have as many as three first-round draft picks next offseason. 

Connect the dots and suddenly, Howie Roseman and the Eagles emerge as a legitimate landing spot for Watson. So much so that ESPN's Adam Schefter said on 97.5 The Fanatic that Philly is better positioned than any other team in the league to make a run at the 25-year-old QB. 

It’s interesting because Schefter wasn’t even specifically asked about the Houston Texans quarterback or the Eagles at all. He was actually talking about how the Sixers should look to address their issues (he thinks they should sign Kyle Lowry) and then pivoted into a big move that the Eagles should make. It’s then that he said the following:

“The Eagles are more equipped to make a run at Deshaun Watson than any team out there.”

Naturally, Schefter was asked about the allegations that Watson is facing and how those could very well impact his future.

“Let’s see how it plays out first. But, again, what I would say is if there are charges and he gets imprisoned or something happens to that effect, something far-reaching and damaging and awful … like a lot of this stuff seems, then, yeah, well, it’s not happening. But I’m operating under the assumption somehow this will be settled, or he will serve his discipline for the league, or whatever punishment he has coming, whatever is fair and just, once that is done, I just think that at that point in time, whenever it is, when he is deemed ready to play by legal authorities, by the National Football League, to me, the Philadelphia Eagles should be waiting.”

Schefter later said that he wasn’t “telling you anything you don’t know.” And that much is true from the standpoint we all know the Eagles will potentially have three first-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. And potentially a big need for a new starting quarterback.  [bleedinggreennation.com]

That's hardly the first we've heard of this line of thinking surrounding the Eagles, and Brandon Gowton does a great job over at BGN of putting together a timeline of all the reports that have come out linking the Eagles to Watson. And then there's this nugget he just casually slips in there: 

"But one might be remiss to write off Schefter’s comments as mere idle speculation. He has a history of couching information in opinion, as he did in early January when he talked about how he didn’t believe Carson Wentz wanted to be back in Philly."

Interestingly enough, I wrote something very similar about two weeks back in reference to an odd report about Danny Green. Here's what I said then, and it very much applies to Schefter's comments (and BLG's interpretation of them).

"To let you peak behind the curtain a bit, writers with inside information that they're not allowed to publicly disclose will sometimes mask that by presenting it as their own opinion. Or, they could do this if their information isn't solid enough to warrant reporting it as such, but they believe it to be true. Not every piece of reporting comes with the "according to sources" label. This probably happens far more than you realize. And while that doesn't mean that's the case here, it can't be ruled out."

And then, on Thursday's edition of Get Up! on ESPN, former GM Mike Tannenbaum said the Eagles are "absolutely number one to try to acquire Deshaun Watson" and that Philly will be "very aggressive" in trying to get Watson should his legal situation get resolved.

So, yeah, it's really beginning to feel like there's something here.

Age is just a number

Jeff Kerr | CBS Sports

Over at CBS Sports, they recently put together a list of the top defensive players at every position over 30 years old. And the Eagles were well represented, which is good, but also bad when you consider how few players they'd have on a list of players under 30. In other words, it's feeling more than ever like the Eagles top talent is all on the wrong side of 30 and barreling toward retirement rather than coming into their primes. 

Still, the Eagles that are on this list have been productive players at their current age. The drop-off will come, but it hasn't yet for this pair of defensive linemen who made the First Team on Kerr's list of the top defensive players over 30. 

DE: Brandon Graham -- Philadelphia Eagles (33)

Talk about a player that gets better with age. Graham has become one of the most consistent edge rushers in the NFL, despite never recording a double-digit sack season. He was still very good in 2020, finishing with 46 tackles, eight sacks, 16 quarterback hits, and 57 pressures -- 19 of which came on third down. Only three players in the NFL had eight sacks, 13 tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles in 2020: T.J. Watt, Haason Reddick, and Graham -- which is pretty elite company. 

A reliable edge rusher, Graham has never missed a game in his 30s. [...]

DT: Fletcher Cox -- Philadelphia Eagles (30)

If it wasn't for Donald, Cox would have been considered the best defensive tackle in football for a few years. The Eagles defensive tackle is still very good. Off his sixth consecutive Pro Bowl selection, Cox finished with just 46 pressures, but was sixth among defensive tackles with 6.5 sacks and his nine quarterback hits were good for sixth at his position. 

Cox still commands the double team frequently and continues to be one of the top run-stopping defensive tackles in the game.  [cbssports.com]

Former Eagle Malcolm Jenkins, now with the Saints, was also on the list. And the Eagles had a pair of offensive linemen make the list for the other side of the ball, with center Jason Kelce and right tackle Lane Johnson making the list. An argument could be made that Brandon Brooks also belongs on this list. He didn't even make it as the Second Team right guard, but he might have made it had he not missed the entire 2020 season.

Skeptical of Sirianni

Marcus Hayes | Inquirer.com

One of the stories we covered earlier this week was the anonymous report from NFL Network's Michael Robinson regarding some Eagles players' skepticism over Nick Sirianni. Our main takeaway? While he deserves a chance to sink or swim on his own first, can you really blame a player for being skeptical of a first-time head coach (at any level) after just a few spring practices? A healthy level of skepticism is warranted, but the problem is running to members of the media to voice that concern. That's not going to help you or your coach. 

But, according to Marcus Hayes, Robinson's report was true. And there really isn't that much wrong with that.

After a day of checking, we can confirm Robinson’s claim; there is, in fact, at least one player who is skeptical that Sirianni — who has never called plays, and who never played in the league — can handle an NFL locker room. He says other players are, too.

Duh. They should be. I am. Aren’t you?

Is this a big deal? No. Rather, it’s completely predictable. In fact, you should be much more concerned if veteran players were not skeptical.

Players’ careers last, on average, about three seasons in the NFL. Every season is precious. None can be wasted. You can’t blame a player for worrying that Barney Fife is going to waste one of his years.  [inquirer.com]

The problem is more with players anonymously bashing their first-year coach before he's even had the chance to prove himself. But that doesn't mean they're wrong.  

Of course, the last time unnamed sources made noise about discontent in the Eagles’ locker room it concerned Carson Wentz’s inability to lead the team, which turned out to be completely accurate. Such issues are not poison pills; Wentz’s teams still won lots of games.

Players won’t say it, obviously, but if the truth were known, most of them are skeptical that first-time head coaches in any sport can command a large roster composed of the sort of egoistic multimillionaires you need to win in professional sports, and especially in the NFL. It’s the risk you take when you hire a newbie.  [inquirer.com]

Many of the same criticisms were being lobbed at Doug Pederson when he was first hired, as well as Andy Reid and Ray Rhodes. In fact, the only time people seemed to be excited about a coaching hire under Jeffrey Lurie was Chip Kelly. And that was arguably the worst of them all. So let's wait and see how this plays out first, shall we?

Waiting on an Ertz trade

Mike Kaye | NJ.com

We're now less than two weeks away from the first training camp practice for the Eagles. And there's still one major question hanging over the heads of the Eagles. One that, according to Mike Kaye of NJ.com, needs to be resolved before July 28. 

Biggest Question: Will the Eagles make a decision on Zach Ertz before the preseason?

The Eagles will lose a lot of leverage if Ertz returns to the NovaCare Complex later this month. If Ertz is in the building, the Eagles would be at the risk of him suffering a potential injury. Ertz won’t want to be fined for skipping practice, so it’s in his best interest to show up and force the Eagles’ hand (or wing or whatever).

The Eagles are lacking in cap space, and trading Ertz would save them $8.5 million in space. That’s the price of another starting cornerback, some injury insurance and rollover spending. It’s in everyone’s best interest for both sides to part ways before training camp.  [nj.com]

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. 

Ertz tired of 'bullcrap' in Philly?

Jeremy Fowler | ESPN

Speaking of Zach Ertz, it would appear he still has some value around the league, despite the fact that no teams seem to be offering up what the Eagles want in return (otherwise he'd be gone already). Over at ESPN, Jeremy Fowler ranked Ertz as the 10th best tight end in football. But it's really that quote from an anonymous NFL veteran that stands out to us. 

[NOTE: Dallas Goedert checked in at 6th on the list.]

10. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles

Highest ranking: 4 | Lowest ranking: Unranked

Age: 30 | Last year's ranking: 3

Just about everything went wrong for Ertz in 2020, causing a drop in the rankings. First, the contract negotiations that turned bitter. Then the ankle injury. And the Eagles' dreadful offense resulting in Carson Wentz's benching.

One of the game's most productive tight ends in 2018-19 regressed to 9.3 yards per catch and only one touchdown. But there's a ton of pedigree here. Ertz was the No. 3 tight end on this ranking just 12 months ago. And he hasn't forgotten how to play.

"He's probably tired of the bullcrap in Philly," a veteran NFL offensive player said of Ertz. "With a fresh start, he'll still be great."

Ertz would embrace a fresh start, and teams have shown willingness to provide one, but Philadelphia hasn't moved on a deal. His $8.25 million salary is a factor as teams look to save in a crunched post-pandemic salary cap.

A few contenders could use the help.

"Still a productive player, but the explosion and fluidity wasn't all the way there [last year]," an AFC exec said. "Maybe a full offseason to get healthy will help him regain that."  [espn.com]

The bullcrap in Philly? Fresh start? Still great?

Carson, that you?

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