January 07, 2020
The Eagles' season may have come to an end with Sunday's loss to Seattle, but that doesn't mean there isn't plenty to talk about with this team, especially given the potential roster overhaul following a year that failed to live up to expectations.
From free agency to the draft to possible coaching changes, the 2020 offseason is going to be a busy one for the Birds, who saw many of last season's additions fail to live up to exceptions last season, whether due to injury or otherwise. But before we get into any of that — and we will get into all of that — let's first examine a story that, while looking back at 2019, also provides a cautionary tale for the Eagles in our latest edition of What They're Saying...
Before the Eagles can go out and add any players, they're going to need to decide which players they plan on getting rid of this offseason. Some of those decisions have already been made and others have been helped by injuries to players in question, but the emergence of several practice squad players also complicated the Eagles' process a bit.
It's complicated because the team arguable looked as good, if not better, with those backups playing, which led to many of those who cover the team to wonder if the players that had either been let go or lost to injury were actually holding the team back.
“You can’t keep going with it,” Jenkins continued. “Those things take time to develop and I think as the season went on our roster just shook itself out to the point where we had the guys we needed to move forward, whether that was practice-squad guys or whatever.
“The team just kind of got closer as we fine-tuned the roster.” ...
Jenkins was referencing some of the “new faces” Eagles management had brought in during the offseason or early in-season, and it wasn’t difficult to discern that cornerback Orlando Scandrick was one of those players. But there were many others who were discarded, and many more who weren’t part of the season-ending four-game winning streak because of injuries. [inquirer.com]
And that brings up the question, what if those players are back in the locker room next season? One such player was Alshon Jeffery, who had a down year for the Birds before suffering a Lisfranc fracture late in the season.
Alshon Jeffery had been labeled as the source by a WIP-94.1 personality who is also an Eagles sideline reporter, but the wide receiver had previously denied any involvement. Nevertheless, several players still believed him to be behind the quotes.
The receiver, meanwhile, had been producing at a level far below his norm. Various injuries had an effect, but Wentz and Jeffery continued to lack a chemistry that each has had with other receivers/quarterbacks.
They had their best day in Miami despite the upset. But the following week, with the season increasingly on the line, their struggles returned against the New York Giants. Jeffery was targeted twice and caught neither before suffering a season-ending foot injury just before the half.
At the time, the Eagles trailed 17-3, and their offense was ineffective. But something clicked after the break, especially for Wentz. [inquirer.com]
Could Jeffery find his way out of town this offseason? That's easier said than done, as our own Jimmy Kempski outlined in his story on Monday regarding the Eagles' biggest offseason needs. I guess it should come as no surprise that No. 1 on his list was wide receiver.
Another thing the Eagles could have to deal with this season is potential coaching changes. On Tuesday, it was reported that Jim Schwartz would be interviewing this week for the Browns' head coaching vacancy. There are probably plenty of fans in Philly who would volunteer to drive Schwartz to the airport, but, as Jimmy pointed out, Eagles fans should be careful what they wish for:
NBC Sports Philadelphia's Dave Zangaro went into a little more detail about what Schwartz has accomplished in his time in Philly and provided some numbers for those who want Schwartz gone...
Not so fast. Because as much as many fans would like to see Schwartz out of town, he wouldn’t be an easy guy to replace. The grass really isn’t always greener.
Since Schwartz became the Eagles’ defensive coordinator in 2016, and was given near complete autonomy over that side of the ball, check out where the Eagles rank in several key defensive categories:
Points allowed: 7th
Total yards allowed: 11th
Rushing yards allowed: 1st
Opponent 3rd down %: 3rd
Opponent 1st downs: 2nd
During his time here, the Eagles have played six playoff games and have given up 20 or fewer points in five of them. Even including Super Bowl LII, they have given up an average of just 17.0 points per game in those six. [nbcsports.com]
That's pretty good for a defense who hasn't had many Pro Bowlers in recent years.
Second-year offensive coordinator Mike Groh has come under fire quite a bit since taking over for Frank Reich, and perhaps the Eagles opt to change things up. With Jason Garrett out in Dallas, there's a chance Cowboys coordinator Kellen Moore would become available, and Albert Breer of SI.com believes the Eagles would have interest in the former quarterback — after all, they do have a thing for ex-QBs.
Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, quarterbacks coach Jon Kitna and line coach Marc Colombo all remain under contract, and Jones has intimated to candidates that, ideally, he’d like to retain Moore. It would help ease Dak Prescott’s transition through the coaching change, but my sense is that the Cowboys want to keep a coach they really, really like (not totally unlike how they invested in Jason Garrett). If Moore were to leave, I would not be surprised to see a division rival—the Eagles—take an interest in him. [si.com]
There will be at least 100 more of these before the NFL Draft actually arrives, and we'll be periodically post mock draft roundups in the months leading up to draft, but this one was too good to ignore, as it has Oklahoma wideout CeeDee Lamb falling all the way to the Eagles at 21. In this mock draft from SB Nation's Dan Kadar, Lamb, who can give the Eagles exactly what they need, would be the fourth WR taken. But Kadar also has him going in the middle of a run of five straight receivers from 20th to 24th, so there could be a lot of movement there.
Still, it's nice to dream.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
Throughout much of this season, it was obvious the Eagles need talent at wide receiver. Lamb has No. 1 potential and averaged an incredible 21.4 yards per reception this season. [sbnation.com]
We'll be kicking off our annual "Eagles Stay or Go" series on Wednesday, and we'll cover every player on the roster, as well as some coaches and even the GM. But over at NJ.com, Mike Kaye took at look at the 14 unrestricted free agents the Eagles have and offered some thoughts on whether or not those players should be re-signed this offseason.
One player of interest is Jalen Mills, who has struggled with injuries in recent years but has been one of the team's more reliable corners when healthy (which isn't saying a ton). But with the Eagles in need of a shakeup in the secondary this offseason, Mills could find himself playing elsewhere in 2020. Or, the Birds could opt to keep him and add other players around him.
2019 Salary: $2.03 million
Stay or Go: Stay
Quick Thoughts: The team loves Mills and the front office believes in him. While he’s dealt with injury issues over the past few years, the Eagles are probably going to bring him back as the veteran at the position. Mills’ return will probably force the Eagles to trade one of their former picks. Sidney Jones has shown some serious flash as of late, so Mills’ potential return could lead to a ticket out of town for inconsistently used Rasul Douglas. The Eagles will still probably address the position in the draft as well. [nj.com]
Now, we start to look at the big picture stuff, as in what the Eagles need to do to contend for the Super Bowl in 2020. For starters, they need to remake their secondary, according to Eric Eager of Pro Football Focus.
The Eagles are one of the biggest examples of how poor coverage can not be overcome by a great pass-rush, as they have been a top-six group getting after the passer in each season of the Doug Pederson era. What has fallen drastically since their 2017 Super Bowl run is their coverage. Part of this is health-related, but almost none of their cornerbacks have played well over the past two seasons.
After a season in which he played only 542 snaps and graded well (70.4 coverage grade) prior to an ACL injury, Ronald Darby earned only a 41.0 coverage grade across 506 snaps in 2019. Jalen Mills failed to earn over a 60.0 coverage grade in just under 1,000 coverage snaps the last two years, a year after playing over 1,100 snaps in a Super Bowl-winning 2017 season that earned a 67.2 coverage grade. Rasul Douglas (49.7), Avonte Maddox (57.4), Sidney Jones (68.3 on only 293 snaps), Craig James (41.0) and Cre’Von LeBlanc (69.3 on just 82 snaps) are not offering anything that’s positive EV any time soon. A total and complete overhaul at the cornerback position is likely necessary. [pff.com]
According to Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports, the Eagles already have the hardest part figured out, head coach and QB. Now, they just need to figure out the rest. Kerr provided a list of steps the Eagles should follow if they want to contend in 2020, and unsurprisingly, improving their wideouts was right at the top of the list.
The Eagles wide receivers were their most disappointing unit in 2019. Alshon Jeffery suddenly became the oldest 29-year old in history (43 catches, 490 yards, four touchdowns in 10 games) and may miss the start of next season with a LisFranc injury. Jeffery will be back in 2020 with a $15,446,500 salary thanks to a restructure of his deal by Eagles general manager Howie Roseman that ties them to the aging receiver (Eagles lose $10,659,500 in cap space by cutting him). So Jeffery will be back, but the Eagles need speed at the position in a league that thrives off big plays down the field.
Sure, Philadelphia has DeSean Jackson for 2020, but he played just 65 snaps and will be 33 years old at the start of next season. The Eagles can't rely solely on his game-breaking ability and think everything is okay at wideout. Philadelphia needs to get younger at wide receiver and add more speed to compliment Jackson, whether or not he stays healthy. [cbssports.com]
CeeDee Lamb, anyone?
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