October 25, 2018
During the 2017 offseason, and later into the regular season, the Philadelphia Eagles loaded up on older players who went on to provide significant contributions in backup roles.
During the week of the Super Bowl last year, Howie Roseman was asked what he learned in his time away from the team, in terms of building a roster from 1 to 53. His answer was that he became more open to adding those kinds of older players.
"I think that sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of its part," philosophical Howie said. "You're going to have a bunch of injuries over the course of the year, and obviously it's the 'who' of who is going to get hurt, but to me to be in a position where one injury derails your ability to compete, we didn't want that to happen, so we wanted to make sure we built up as much depth as possible.
"I think you've seen that maybe in the past, we would go for younger players. But here we brought in some veteran guys to fill those roles because we felt like we had a good football team, and we wanted to be able to have this 'next man up' mentality where guys can come in and play at a high level, whereas taking it on the chin wasn't as much as we had done in the past."
The Eagles signed five players in 2017 with significant roles who were over the age of 30 during the 2017 season:
• DE Chris Long (32): Long had a great season as a rotational defensive end, collecting 5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles during the regular season, and then making a huge play in the NFC Championship Game when he affected a Case Keenum throw that was returned for a TD by another 30-plus addition, Patrick Robinson.
• S Corey Graham (32): Graham closed the season on a high note, when he made a big play against Evan Engram in the back of the end zone against the New York Giants, helping the Eagles clinch a first-round bye. He also had an interception against the Vikings in the NFCCG.
• LB Dannell Ellerbe (32): Ellerbe didn't have any major impact plays last season, but as a fill-in starter he was decent enough against the run, and an upgrade over younger linebacker Joe Walker.
• RB LeGarrette Blount (31): While Blount was technically a starter for much of the season, he was used more like a role player, as he averaged 10.4 carries per game. In his role, Blount was effective, carrying 173 times for 766 yards and 2 TDs. He also had a huge game in the Super Bowl, carrying 14 times for 90 yards and a TD.
• CB Patrick Robinson (30): The aforementioned Robinson had the play of the NFCCG for the Eagles when his pick-six completely changed the momentum of that game. He was also one of the best slot corners in the NFL during the regular season.
In 2018, the Eagles haven't had as much luck with older players acquired during the offseason (listed in order of when they were acquired by the team):
• Michael Bennett (32): On the first day of the new league year, the Eagles traded a fifth-round pick and WR Marcus Johnson to the Seahawks for Bennett and a seventh-round pick. Bennett has been the one old guy acquisition who has panned out for the Eagles so far. Through seven games as a rotational DE/DT, Bennett has 15 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, and a very impressive 14 hits on the quarterback. He has arguably been the Eagles' best defensive end so far this season. And then it gets ugly...
• Haloti Ngata (34): Ngata signed a one-year deal and is on the Eagles' cap for $2,725,000 this season. On the season, he has 6 tackles, a sack, and has missed three games with a calf injury.
• Mike Wallace (32): Wallace signed a one-year deal with the Eagles a week into free agency. He appeared in two games for the Eagles, breaking his fibula Week 2 against the Buccaneers. He did not have any catches.
• Darren Sproles (35): Immediately following the 2018 NFL Draft after not having drafted a running back, the Eagles signed Sproles, then a free agent, to a one-year deal. He has missed all but one game with a hamstring injury.
• Corey Graham (33): Graham signed with the Eagles deep into training camp this offseason, after playing with the team (as noted above) in 2017. He gave up the 4th and 15 conversion that would have otherwise sealed the game against the Titans, and he has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury.
Roseman's "old guy" strategy certainly makes sense, as he was able to acquire contributing role players at a low cost. It paid off big-time for the Eagles in their run to the Super Bowl. In 2018, however, the five old guys Roseman acquired have missed a combined 16 games, which is a risk with older players, and have largely been ineffective when they have been on the field, Bennett aside.
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