May 22, 2020
Although it may not feel like it with most people planning on remaining home, we're heading into a holiday weekend. Yes, for those of you who have completely lost all sense of time, it's Memorial Day Weekend.
Normally, we'd already have seen some of the Eagles players out on the field for minicamp and OTAs, but this year in the midst of a pandemic, teams are just starting to open their facilities for their players to work out, if their local government is allowing it.
And while that lack of live practice has left somewhat of a void in the sports world, the NFL news cycle never stops, whether there's football being played or not. So, one last time before you log off for the (likely stay-at-home) holiday weekend, here's a look at what they're saying about the Eagles, from how successful their offseason was to whether their receivers would beat the Chiefs' in a 4x100 relay. Seriously.
Over at ESPN, Bill Barnwell ranked the offseason success of every NFL team, and while the Eagles have been getting some praise for what they added this spring, not everyone seems to think they did as good of a job as they could've. And Barnwell is among the latter.
He ranked the Eagles as having the 17th best offseason. Here's a look at what he thinks they did right and, more importantly, what they did wrong...
17. Philadelphia Eagles
What went right: The Eagles addressed their two obvious weaknesses heading into the offseason. The trade for Darius Slay netted them the No. 1 corner they sorely needed after years of frustrating play at defensive back, and general manager Howie Roseman went all-in for speed during the draft by adding receivers Jalen Reagor, John Hightower and trade acquisition Marquise Goodwin. The perennially creative Eagles also found a way to add a run-plugging defensive tackle by signing away Javon Hargrave from the Steelers, and the one-year, $1 million deal they gave corner Nickell Robey-Coleman might have been one of the best value signings of the offseason.
What went wrong: Solving the problem at cornerback might have created holes elsewhere on defense, as Philadelphia declined safety Malcolm Jenkins' option and released linebacker Nigel Bradham without really replacing either veteran. Jalen Mills was re-signed and is expected to move to safety, and the Eagles appear set to hand the middle linebacker job to T.J. Edwards after he played 112 snaps as an undrafted rookie. Former Chargers linebacker Jatavis Brown also could figure in the mix, but if teams feel comfortable avoiding Slay to target other mismatches on defense, the Eagles won't realize much of an improvement from their long-awaited move. [espn.com]
Hindsight is always 2020, and of course all this is based simply on how the team looks on paper — and doesn't include any other moves they might make. Normally, at this point in the offseason, that may not be anything splashy, but with several holes left to fill and impact players available, the Eagles might not be done just yet.
Here's a look at what Barnwell thinks Howie Roseman and Co. could've done differently, and what he thinks they should focus on the rest of the offseason.
What they could have done differently: You could argue that they might have been better off just riding out what was a relatively cheap cornerback market and holding on to their third- and fifth-round picks. Slay is a genuine top-flight cornerback, but when you factor in the cost of both trading away a pick and signing Slay to a three-year, $50.5 million extension, would the Eagles have been better off simply signing Robey-Coleman and another cornerback, like Chris Harris Jr.? Keeping those picks would have allowed them to draft a safety to replace Jenkins or add valuable offensive line depth they don't have after Jason Peters and Halapoulivaati Vaitai left this offseason.
What's left to do: Add offensive line depth. The Eagles have reportedly been in talks to bring back Peters, which would be interesting; they drafted Andre Dillard in the first round last year with the expectation that he would take over for Peters in 2020, but Dillard struggled across his 337 offensive snaps last season, and this offseason will make it difficult for any young player expected to grow into a new role. If they don't sign Peters, they would be looking at options like Cordy Glenn or Kelvin Beachum at tackle. Larry Warford will likely be out of Philly's price range, but it could look toward someone like Ron Leary on the interior. [espn.com]
While adding offensive line depth is certainly something that would benefit the Eagles, there are other areas they could use depth as well — including running back, defensive end, and linebacker — before the start of the season. The problem with ranking these moves now is obvious, but that won't stop us from reading every single one ... especially this year.
Speaking of offseason success, a pair of Barnwell's colleagues disagree with his assessment of the Eagles' moves this offseason. ESPN's panel of NFL experts answered a few key offseason questions, including which teams improved the most and what were the most underrated moves of the offseason.
And the Birds came up not once, but twice.
Which team improved the most this offseason?
Jeremy Fowler: Philadelphia Eagles. Let's bypass Tompa Bay on the GPS and head to Philly, where the additions of Javon Hargrave and Darius Slay bolster the Eagles' defensive attack. They spent the better part of the past year combing the trade market for corner help, and holding out paid off: Getting Slay in exchange for third- and fifth-round picks is great value. Hargrave is a versatile interior lineman with pass-rush explosion. Slot corner Nickell Robey-Coleman and safety Will Parks bring good depth. And the draft brought receiver help with do-it-all playmaker Jalen Reagor.
What was the most underrated move of the offseason?
Field Yates: The Philadelphia Eagles added two players to their secondary -- slot cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman and safety Will Parks -- for less than $3 million combined for this year. Even though neither projects to start, the Eagles know the importance of depth in the secondary after theirs was tested so severely last season, and each player adds pedigree to this position group. [espn.com]
It appears the level to which the Eagles were successful this offseason depends who you ask. Unfortunately, we won't get an actual answer either way until the season (hopefully) kicks off in September.
Another person who is high on the Eagles offseason is Hall of Fame running back LaDanian Tomlinson, who said recently on NFL Total Access that he believes the Eagles are the most under hyped team in the NFL heading into the 2020 season. And given that the Birds are the reigning division champs and have been to the postseason each of the last three seasons, including a Super Bowl title, calling them under-hyped seems appropriate when you factor in that nearly every sportsbook is picking the Cowboys to win the division.
Tomlinson said that he not only loves what the Eagles did in the offseason, but also thinks they're "going to be scary."
Here's a transcript of his comments if you don't want to watch the entire video:
"Remember, last year the Philadelphia Eagles had to win their last four games to get into the playoffs. So they won all their last four straight games, averaged almost 28 points per game. And yet everyone is talking about the Dallas Cowboys. But when you look at it, Carson Wentz last year was throwing to guys I don’t even know. Guys like Greg Ward Jr. and guys like that.
“He has a slew of guys coming back. They have really built a track team at the wide receiver position, when you talk about DeSean Jackson coming back, they drafted Jalen Reagor out of TCU, they got Marquise Goodwin this offseason, and not to mention, Alshon Jeffery is coming back. I love what this team has done on offense.
“I think their defense is going to be better; they traded for Darius Slay. So this is a team that nobody is really talking about but they won their division last year! So Philadelphia is going to be scary." [h/t NBC Sports Philadelphia]
The Eagles probably aren't going to go 16-0 this season no matter how hard fans try to speak it into existence. The Eagles have a schedule worthy of a first-place finish, and that's not great news for Doug Pederson's team heading into 2020. In other words, it's not going to be a cake walk. But, if you still think the Birds can go undefeated, you can put your money where your mouth is, as DraftKings has put odds on six teams to finish with perfect records, and the Eagles are one of them.
However, Philly has the longest odds of any team at +12500, meaning if you bet $100, you'd win $12,500. The best odds belong to the Chiefs at (+2500) and Ravens (+3000).
Over at DraftKings Nation, Chet Gresham took a look at what the Eagles would need to do to go undefeated (again, they won't) and broke the schedule down into three parts: easy matchups; winnable, but could be close; and tough matchups. And unfortunately, nearly half of their games land in that last category. But, 16-0 aside, where the season could be won or lost is in that middle group. Here's what Chet has to say about those five games...
Winnable, but could be close
Week 2: vs. Los Angeles Rams
Week 8 vs. Dallas Cowboys
Week 10: at New York Giants
Week 11: at Cleveland Browns
Week 15: at Arizona Cardinals
We have a mixed bag here, as the Cowboys playing in Philadelphia could be considered a tough matchup and the Eagles playing on the road against the Giants could be an easy matchup, but taking the home/away and division rivalry perspectives, they meet in the middle. If they have a lot of trouble with the Cowboys in Week 8 at home this season, their chances to go 16-0 are nil.
The Browns and Cardinals both have improved enough this offseason to give them a shot against the Eagles at home while the Rams are a bit of a wildcard after a down 2019, but have too much talent on offense and defense to look past, even at home. [dknation.draftkings.com]
Earlier this week, former NFL receiver Chad Johnson tweeted out an interesting question, one that a year ago would've been met with nothing but laughter. But, after the Eagles added Marquise Goodwin, plus Jaelon Reagor and two other speedy wideouts in the draft, it might not be as one-sided as you'd think.
I would love to see a 4x1 race between the Chiefs & Eagles receivers, who y’all got❓— Chad Johnson (@ochocinco) May 21, 2020
Over at NBC Sports Philly, Dave Zangaro put together the ideal 4x100 team for the Eagles (as well as one for the Chiefs) in an effort to find a winner on paper. Here's who would be on the team for Philly, although I worry there would be a pulled hamstring before that baton crossed the finish line.
• DeSean Jackson is one of the best deep threats in NFL history. Back at the 2008 combine, he ran a 4.35 and he still trains as a track athlete. Sure, he’s 33 now but he reached 21.4 mph as a ball carrier before he got hurt last year.
• Jalen Reagor ran a disappointing 4.47 at the combine but he followed that up with hand-timed 40s of 4.22 and 4.28 at his individual pro day. In high school, he was a state long jump champion and ran a personal best in the 100m of 10.92.
• Quez Watkins, a sixth-round pick, gets the edge over John Hightower, the fifth-round pick who ran a slower 40 time. The lack of track experience might hurt Watkins, but he ran a 4.35 at the combine, the second-fastest time in 2020.
• Marquise Goodwin, acquired in a draft-day trade, is literally an Olympic athlete. Goodwin ran a 4.27 in the 40 back in 2013. He has a personal best of 10.24 in the 100-meter. He is now 29, though, and had a knee injury last year. But back in 2018, when asked if he was faster than Hill, Goodwin said he doesn’t compare himself to anybody, but then pulled up his sleeve and showed off his Olympic Rings tattoo. [nbcsports.com]
Sure, this is a fun exercise that means nothing in reality, but isn't this a much better way to head into your holiday weekend than debating Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz or trying to figure out what the Eagles are going to do with Jalen Hurts? We thought so too.
Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin
Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports