June 16, 2021
We've reached the slowest part of the NFL schedule, and with the Sixers (and the NBA in general) keeping us plenty busy, that's just fine for the moment. But that doesn't mean that there's no NFL-worthy content to discuss.
After all, it's a 12-month league, even if the games are only played for five of them.
We've still got over a month until the team returns to the NovaCare Complex for training camp, and there are many questions that need to be answered between now and the start of the season, especially with all the turnover on the Eagles roster, coaching staff and even in the front office (although the main players there still remain).
Let's not waste any more time. Here's a look at what they're saying about the Eagles this week...
Yes, yes. We know. Carson Wentz is gone and we should all move on. We will, but this story (on the worst NFL QBs on every type of throw) from Doug Farrar certainly caught our eye on Wednesday morning (h/t Bleeding Green Nation). And it is based off play from last season, when Wentz was very much still on the Eagles. In that case, it's relevant.
But it's also relevant for another reason: because while Jalen Hurts specifically didn't lead any of Farrar's 16 categories, there were three that had "Eagles quarterbacks in general," meaning the duo collectively proved to be the worst QB on those respective throws. In addition to those three, there were also three separate mentions of Wentz, meaning last year, Eagles quarterbacks were the worst on six of 16 throw types, which isn't great but certainly tracks when you go by not only the stats, but the eye test as well.
And it gets worse, because some of the categories in which the Eagles found themselves were some of the easiest throws to make — or at least the ones with which they should be most comfortable. In addition to being the worst "without the blitz," Eagles QBs were also the worst in the following two categories...
Without pressure: Eagles quarterbacks in general
And, here we are again with these guys. As Wentz and Hurts struggled when they weren’t blitzed, they also came up short when they weren’t pressured. From a clean pocket, Wentz completed 194 of 295 passes for 2,053 yards, 1,244 air yards, 12 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 85.3. Hurts had a rating of 85.1 without pressure, completing 56 of 93 passes for 692 yards, 324 air yards, three touchdowns and two picks. A passer rating in the 85s sounds like a pretty good deal, but when you consider that 21 starting quarterbacks had a passer rating over 100 without pressure last season, it doesn’t quite work out. Dwayne Haskins had the worst passer rating without pressure at 78.5, and Wentz finished second-worst.
In the pocket: Eagles quarterbacks in general
Yes, we know. “Eagles quarterbacks in general” is doing a lot of work here. And when in the pocket, neither Wentz nor Hurts were successful on a consistent basis. Wentz completed 216 of 368 passes for 2,266 yards, 1,351 air yards, 12 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and a passer rating of 76.2. Hurts’ passer rating of 79.9 came about via 63 completions on 106 attempts for 780 yards, 395 air yards, three touchdowns, and three interceptions. The difference in 2020 was that Hurts was somewhat effective outside the pocket (a 71.6 passer rating on 42 attempts), while Wentz… was not (a 54.9 passer rating on 69 attempts). [touchdownwire.usatoday.com]
As for Wentz individually, he was ranked the worst on "zero/one-step drops," "without pre-snap motion" and "with play-action." That's pretty bad, but like we said at the top, he's no longer Eagles fans' problem, so we won't go to deep into Wentz's struggles in 2020, which have already well documented.
This is, however, not a great sign for Hurts, who will likely have the 2021 season to prove he can be the starter going forward. Otherwise, the Birds could look to bring in someone new, whether that's via a trade or the 2022 draft.
The Eagles recently re-re-re-re-signed tight end Richard Rodgers, who actually had a nice season for the Birds in 2020 despite the rest of the offense crumbling around him. With Zach Ertz likely on his way out of town at some point between now and the start of the season, the Eagles needed some tight end depth, and Rodgers is certainly more than capable of providing that.
More importantly, the Eagles appear to be getting him at a bit of a discount. For starters, his one-year deal is what's considered a veteran salary benefit deal, according to NBC Sports' Reuben Frank. These types of deals were designed to incentivize teams to sign veterans instead of younger cheaper players simply because they wanted to avoid paying more money. That means that while his deal is worth a reported $1.027 million, it actually will only count for $887,500 against the cap. And that puts the 29-year-old's price tag well below what his 2020 production suggests he's worth...
While the rest of the Eagles’ offense was in tatters in 2020, Rodgers had a bounce-back season. In 2018 and 2019 with the Eagles, he played in just 8 games and had 1 catch for 7 yards. But in 2020, he caught 24 passes for 345 yards and 2 touchdowns. Still, he’s getting paid just veteran minimum.
Rodgers was the Eagles’ fifth-leading receiver and was 30th in the NFL in receiving yards among tight ends, just ahead of Zach Ertz at No. 31.
By comparison, this new deal makes Rodgers the 71st highest-paid tight end, according to OverTheCap. [nbcsports.com]
The Eagles roster is full of players on the bubble. But the same can be said about every team around the league. And this summer, for some younger Eagles who were taken on Day 2 of their respective drafts, it could be a make-or-break training camp. Here's a look at two of those players, courtesy of Mike Kaye at NJ.com...
WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside
This is a make-or-break offseason for Arcega-Whiteside. The former second-round pick has left a lot to be desired in the first two seasons of his career, and with a new staff in place, he really needs to show improvement this summer. The scholarship is over, and the new staff has no reason to give Arcega-Whiteside special treatment.
Arcega-Whiteside will battle John Hightower, Quez Watkins, Michael Walker and Jhamon Ausbon during training camp and the preseason. While his pedigree and size make him stand out from the rest of the group, Arcega-Whiteside will need to prove himself on the field.
LB Davion Taylor
Taylor is in a similar boat to Arcega-Whiteside. A former premium pick, Taylor hasn’t shown a return on investment in limited action. Taylor was billed as a project during his rookie season, and rightfully so, but now he’s starting to get buried on the depth chart. The Eagles brought in veteran Eric Wilson to lead the group and drafted two “linebackers” in JaCoby Stevens and Patrick Johnson. They will also reportedly move Genard Avery to the position. [nj.com]
On Wednesday morning, our own Jimmy Kempski took a closer look at Davion Taylor and came away with the impression that his roster status is pretty secure, given his contributions on special teams and the fact that he's a recent Howie Roseman pick who was always considered a project pick, meaning Roseman will want to give him plenty of time to develop.
After looking at some young players who have been disappointing so far, let's take a look at the other end of the spectrum. Over at Philly Sports Network, Liam Jenkins ranked the top 25 Eagles under 25 years old. And while his Top 5 included most of the players you'd expect, including Miles Sanders, Jalen Hurts and DeVonta Smith, the name at the top of his list was quite interesting, especially since he was a seventh-round pick, he's only been playing football for a few years, and is currently locked in a battle for the starting job against another under-25 player in Andre Dillard. That's right, it's Jordan Mailata...
Jordan Mailata actually ranked as one of PFF’s top-15 offensive lineman in the final 6 games of the season, which is beyond impressive for someone with as little experience as him. He handled every challenge thrown his way with ease.
What’s more impressive is that there was clear development to be seen on a weekly basis. Previously, Mailata often struggled at finding work at the second level when run blocking. This remained the case at the beginning of 2020, but as the season went on, he became more confident in sizing up linebackers and mauling them out of the way, clearing a path for the running back. His shoulders slowly positioned further forward in his stance to balance his weight and stop giving edge rushers an advantage when it came to knocking him off onto his back foot. With each week that passed, there was a small aspect of Mailata’s game that took a step forward.=
If Jordan Mailata can win the starting Left Tackle competition in 2021, then that’s all the evidence you could possibly need. He will have beaten out a former first-round pick for that very spot, making it his own and proving that those lofty dreams fans may have of seeing him go down as one of the greats like Jason Peters before him are justified.
Another glass ceiling smashed through, Mailata would easily be the team’s most exciting piece to build around over the next era of football…and that’s more than deserving of the first-overall spot in my eyes. [phillysportsnetwork.com]
If this guy can live up to this hype, what a story it would be. And he seems to be well on his way...
Over at Bleacher Report, Alex Ballentine took a look at the three free agent signings that will have the biggest impact on the Eagles this season. The first two were pretty obvious, with the Eagles signing a pair of defensive starters from the Vikings in LB Eric Wilson and S Anthony Harris. The third, however, was a bit surprising consider he's expected to be more of a role player than a three-down guy. Still, the Eagles didn't actually make many big free agent moves this offseason, and the addition of Ryan Kerrigan could be one that has just as big of an impact in the locker room as it does on the field.
The Eagles pass rush wasn't a problem last season. Despite not having one player over 8.5 sacks, they were third in the league with 49 as a team. The addition of Kerrigan should help them continue that trend.
Gannon will now have a stable of edge defenders to call upon to get after the quarterback that includes Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat, Derek Barnett and Kerrigan.
The only loss at the position was Vinny Curry. When compared with Kerrigan, the Eagles got the better end of that transaction. Curry had three sacks and 13 total pressures while playing 28 percent of the snaps last season.
Kerrigan was able to amass 5.5 sacks with 13 total pressures and was on the field 38 percent of the time. The addition of the 32-year-old should help the Eagles continue to get after quarterbacks in 2020 while adding another veteran voice to the room with Sweat and Barnett continuing to develop. [bleacherreport.com]
Finally, let's check on the big addition the Eagles still need to make: a cornerback to start opposite Darius Slay. We've taken a look at several candidates before, like Steven Nelson, who remains the best free agent CB available. But who are some other players that are available this late in the offseason?
4. Gareon Conley
Here’s a former first-round selection of what was then the Oakland Raiders in 2017. He’s since spent some time with the Houston Texans, but like the first three names on this list, Gareon Conley has to be seen as an upgrade over everything the Eagles currently have outside of Big Play Slay.
5. D.J. Hayden
Here’s someone who plays the game correctly. You can make the argument that Conley, in some ways, was D.J. Hayden‘s replacement. On December 3rd of 2016, the Raiders placed the latter on the team’s IR (injured reserve), and he never played a down for the team again.
Since then, he’s seen two more locker rooms, the Detroit Lions, where he was a teammate of Darius Slay’s for a season, and the Jacksonville Jaguars. He’s a nice option that could start until the Birds have a young guy they feel comfortable starting (if they don’t have one already). [insidetheiggle.com]
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