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May 25, 2020

What they're saying: Eagles' top free agent options, first starter to get benched, Hurts compared to McNabb

Welcome to a Memorial Day edition of What They're Saying, where we'll bring you the latest news, rumors and analysis surrounding the Eagles. 

The Birds should be in the middle of their offseason workout program at this point, but with the pandemic still forcing many people to remain indoors, that's on hold for the moment, giving us more time to speculate and theorize about what moves the Eagles still might have left to make, how the roster will shake out, and most importantly, what this team will actually look like when they take the field for the first time together, whenever that is. 

But the Eagles news never stops — they're literally everywhere. And if you need any more proof of that, the Birds actually came up a few times on Sunday during the charity golf match between Tom Brady/Phil Mickelson and Peyton Manning/Tiger Woods. First, there was Peyton saying that if he were allowed to bring a caddy, he'd consider bringing in Nick Foles just to rattle Brady. 

Then, later in the round with his team down, the announcers compared this match to the Super Bowl comeback his Patriots made against the Falcons. And Brady again confirmed that the Eagles still live rent free in his head. 

That came after Brady split his pants while holing out from the fairway* and was enough to send Eagles Twitter into a frenzy.

*Credit where credit is due, Brady was playing like shit and still hit the shot of the match. It was awesome — seeing two of the best golfers in the world swoon over an amateurs shot is really fun — and I hate admitting that. 

But now The Match is over and we're back to waiting for the next live sporting event to distract us from, well, everything. In the meantime, maybe this edition of What They're Saying will help... 

Finishing touches

Mike Kaye |

As we've written about several times in recent weeks, the Eagles likely aren't done adding pieces to their still unfinished roster. While the bulk of the work is done, the Birds brain trust needs to fill a few more holes, mainly for depth, at a few key areas. 

Last week, we looked at Tim McManus' report that the Eagles were eyeing a trio of running backs — LeSean McCoy, Devonta Freeman and Carlos Hyde — with plans on adding a veteran in the near future. And while that last one recently signed with the Seahawks, the need still remains. But that's not the only position.

Mike Kaye of recently picked the four positions where the Eagles most needed to make additions, and here's a look at the first two.

1. Running back

The Eagles have been linked to the likes of Devonta Freeman, Carlos Hyde and LeSean McCoy in recent weeks. While the team has a potential star in Miles Sanders and a reliable backup in Boston Scott, the depth behind that duo is largely unproven. Adding a veteran to the mix could help reinforce the running back depth heading into an unprecedented training camp situation. While Hyde signed with the Seahawks last week, McCoy and Freeman are still available.

2. Defensive end

Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett will be the starting duo for a third consecutive season. Behind that pair is Josh Sweat, who displayed some serious potential last season. Beyond that trio, the rest of the group provides similar question marks as the running back depth chart. While the team has invested notable draft picks in Shareef Miller and Genard Avery (via trade), the former only played in one game as a rookie and the latter is more of a hybrid rotational pass rusher. The Eagles don’t need to spend a ton of money on someone like Jadeveon Clowney to improve their depth. Vinny Curry is still available.  []

No real surprises there as we've already both those positions, including whether or not Clowney actually makes sense and what other options they might have

The other two spots identified by Kaye are linebacker and offensive tackle, both positions we've covered in depth, from free agent options at LB to the decision on whether or not to bring Jason Peters back or turn over the reins to Andre Dillard. 

Getting demoted

Dave Zangaro | NBC Sports Philadelphia

Since practice hasn't started yet, it's the perfect time to lay down some bold predictions on the season. And that's what Dave Zangaro did in his latest mailbag.

Dave was asked what starter is the most likely to be demoted first this season. And, despite massive changes in the secondary, he still believes that's where the first benching of the 2020 season will happen. 

This is an interesting question and there were two positions that came to mind first: Cornerback and safety. 

Let’s start with corner. For now, it seems like Avonte Maddox is the starter penciled into the CB2 spot. He hasn’t won that job yet, but he’ll probably get the first crack at it during training camp this summer. I think Sidney Jones has a chance to win the job but if he can’t, I wonder how long Maddox’s leash would be. 

And at safety, Jalen Mills will get the first chance to start at Malcolm Jenkins’ old spot next to Rodney McLeod, but the Eagles also signed Will Parks and drafted K’Von Wallace. Because of the potential to rotate, I’m not sure this would be a benching as much as it would be a phasing out. We have no idea how Mills will handle this new role and if he struggles, there seem to be two viable options behind him in Parks and Wallace.  []

In good company?

Tommy Lawlor | Iggles Blitz

Whether or not you like this is probably going to depend on how you feel about a certain former Eagles quarterback, but over at Iggle Blitz, Tommy Lawlor compared each of the Eagles draft picks this year to a former Philly player. And the comp for second-round pick Jalen Hurts was certainly an interesting one, and one that many Eagles fans would be more than happy if Hurts lives up to.

Here are the similarities Lawlor sees between Hurts and Donovan McNabb:

2 – QB Jalen Hurts – Donovan McNabb

Both players were outstanding dual threat QBs in college. They posted big numbers and led their teams to a lot of success. They have similar builds (Hurts is 6-1, 222 and McNabb was 6-2, 225). McNabb was the more polished passer, while Hurts played in a more explosive offense.

Each player came to the Eagles with some controversy. McNabb was a player that most people wanted, but there was a vocal minority that wanted the team to take RB Ricky Williams (how insane does that seem now?). McNabb was booed by the fans who came to the draft and he never let go of that fact. Hurts didn’t have to deal with in-person booing, but he did have social media, which might be worse.

Hurts was tested by his benching in college and that should give him the mental and emotional toughness to handle any negative stuff that fans may throw his way.

McNabb was an elite prospect and franchise QB. Hurts is more of a project so please don’t see this as me saying he’ll turn into a borderline HOF player like McNabb was. They do have similar builds, skill sets and backgrounds.  []

Talkin' 'bout practice

Paul Domowitch | Philadelphia Daily News

Earlier, we talked about how the Eagles players should be hitting the field for practice, but that's not the case this year. That will likely cause a steeper learning curve for many of the rookies and new players who have to learn a new playbook and scheme. 

And nowhere might that be more obvious than at wide receiver, a position where the Eagles are hoping their new additions can make an immediate impact this season. 

Three of the Eagles’ 10 draft picks were wide receivers -- first-rounder Jalen Reagor, fifth-rounder John Hightower, and sixth-rounder Quez Watkins.

If this were a normal year, they’d get plenty of opportunities during the spring to catch passes from Carson Wentz and establish some sort of chemistry with the Eagles quarterback.

“The second we added those pieces, I was excited to get together with them and the playmakers that we already have," Wentz said last week.

“There’s a challenge in developing chemistry, developing timing. But we’re not the only team dealing with that. The entire league is trying to find ways to be creative and develop chemistry and team unity and everything.

“We’re just taking it one day at a time right now. This situation obviously is unprecedented. There’s really no right or wrong way to go about it. We’re trying to be creative as we go here. Hopefully, we’ll be able to find ways to link up and get some work in here and there. But as of now, we’re pretty limited."

The Eagles never have had more than four rookies log 200-plus snaps in any of Pederson’s four years as head coach.  []

Speed trap

Elliot Shorr-Parks | 94 WIP

Speaking of the Eagles' new toys on offense, many were brought in with one overarching goal in mind: make this team faster. But how much faster did they really get if several of those new players are going to struggle to see significant time this year. 

Over at 94 WIP, Elliot Shorr-Parks took a look at just this question, running through each of the Eagles "speed options" at wide receiver, and came away somewhat underwhelmed. In large part, that was due to the Birds having a combination of oft-injured vets and unproven rookies, leaving them without a "sure thing" when it comes to stretching the field. 

The team’s clear effort to focus on speed is admirable, considering it requires them to admit their mistakes from last season. The good news is by acquiring so many options, they have increased their chances of one-or-two hitting and helping the team next season. 

Despite all of the swings they took, however, it is fair to question if this offense will actually be much quicker than it was last season, as there is no getting around the fact that every single “speed” option — DeSean Jackson, Jalen Reagor, John Hightower, Quez Watkins and Marquise Goodwin —comes with a fairly significant question mark.


Which brings us to the real issue with the five receivers the Eagles are counting on to make their offense faster. One of them was on the roster last season and shouldn’t be viewed as a new addition to the offense. Three are rookies. The last one was given away by a team who is competing for Super Bowl next season. 

The ceiling might be high with the five receivers, but the floor is very low, and there is no safety net on the roster right now. 

Considering how obvious the team’s need for speed on offense was, it is hard to get behind a plan that doesn’t include one sure thing.  []

Don't try this at home

Zach Berman | The Athletic

Pro athletes are just different. While Brandon Graham has been working out with his wife during quarantine, his linemate Fletcher Cox had a suggestion for teammates without access to a home gym.

Fletcher Cox has spent most of the past few months at his ranch in Texas, where he has a fully equipped gym for workouts and enough space to push a sled. He knows some of his teammates don’t have that luxury, so Cox offered them advice for homemade training sessions.

“I told guys: ‘Hey, go drive your car to a flat parking spot and push it,’” Cox said. “I feel like that’s the way we can work our way into (shape) — pushing cars. You’ve got to push on bodies for 34 seconds, so I think that’s a good way to kind of simulate that. But at the end of the day, it’s really hard to simulate and put your body in those weird positions where you’re actually playing football.”

If there ever was a statement that showed the difference in strength between a pro football player and someone with a home workout routine, it might be the suggestion to push a car in a parking lot.  []

Imagining Fletcher Cox suggesting to Jake Elliott that he should push a car in a parking lot is just an absolutely hysterical visual. 

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