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June 09, 2020

What they're saying: Eagles' MVP over the last decade, the Wentz-Foles debate won't die, more

Plus, a look at the current cornerback situation and why DeSean Jackson might have picked the wrong sport

The Eagles offseason continues, and with no actual football of which to speak, it's getting into that point of the NFL calendar — pandemic or not — when needless debates overtake the general dialogue surrounding the team. And this year has been no different.

Over the weekend, Pro Football Focus released a list of the Eagles most valuable players over the last decade, based on their PFF WAR. It's unsurprising that the top three spots belong to quarterbacks, but the order may raise some eyebrows...

The first reaction from most fans is probably to wonder how the only quarterback to win a Super Bowl (and a Super Bowl MVP) is third on the list. But when you consider that these are based on WAR, a stat that is skewed based on how long you've been playing with a team and how many starts you've made, it becomes a bit more understandable. 

More shocking, actually, is the omission of the likes of Jason Peters and Fletcher Cox, who have been impact players for the Eagles for some time now. 

Still, it's lists like this that, for better or worse, provide hours of content for sports talk radio lists — and people writing Eagles roundups. Shows on both Philly sports stations were debating this list at various points on Tuesday morning. It's part of the reason the Carson Wentz vs. Nick Foles debate just won't go away despite most Eagles fans treating it like this:


It also doesn't help when former players decide to weigh in and take the contrarian stance. That's where we'll start today's edition of What They're Saying... 

Wentz vs. Foles (yes, again)

Michael Bennett | Green Light with Chris Long

A couple of former Eagles defensive linemen (and Super Bowl winners) were talking about the current state of the world and players' reactions to the George Floyd protests when one of them decided to make a heel turn and fracture Philly even further. 

Michael Bennett, who played with the Eagles in 2018, joined Devin McCourtey on Chris Long's podcast, The Green Light, and came out of nowhere with a bold proclamation: Nick Foles is better than Carson Wentz. Bennett may be a defensive end, but he did play with both quarterbacks during his one season in Philly. The real question is, why bring this up out of nowhere? And why now? We should be trying to come together as a city, and this certainly isn't going to help.

At least Long recognized how divisive that particular debate is and opted to take the politician's route...

"Long: I look at the Carson Wentz situation, someone I always knew had it in him. If you play with Carson, he is a good guy, but you don't know if he has that intestinal fortitude to be that first one to step over the line--

Bennett: Nick Foles is better.

Long: He said Nick Foles is better.

McCourty: Yes (laughter)

Bennett: Keep going, keep going. [...]

Long: You are the worst. We are trying to have a serious conversation and you wanna divide Philly in-half. I love both those m*****f******s, let me both-sides that. There is no both-sidezing on police brutality to me but on the Nick Foles/Carson Wentz debate, I'm gonna straddle the line like a f****** champ."  [h/t 94WIP]

Assessing the CB situation

Jeff McLane | The Philadelphia Inquirer

Over at the Inquirer, their positional previews continued with a look at cornerback, a position the Eagles put a lot of stock in this season by swinging a splashy trade for Pro Bowler Darius Slay, while also signing Nickell Robey-Coleman.

Obviously, however, Slay is the key addition for the Eagles, who have seen their secondary struggle in recent years. And the loss of Malcolm Jenkins at safety, with Jalen Mills expected to move from corner to safety to fill that role, only puts more pressure on corners. But if Slay can continue to play at a high level, it should be a net positive for the Birds in 2020. His ability to shut down opponents' top options will also have a trickle down effect on the rest of the defense. Here's more from McLane... 

Who’s new: The Eagles were involved in the chase to sign Cowboys free agent Byron Jones, but their offer fell short of the Dolphins’ bid. Jones would have cost a lot, but he’s young, physically gifted, and has been durable in his NFL career. He wouldn’t come without concerns, namely the lack of forced turnovers and whether he would have been able to handle playing for a former divisional rival. The Eagles wasted little time addressing the glaring need for an established outside corner when they sent third- and fifth-round picks to the Lions for Darius Slay a day after missing out on Jones. They wisely signed the 29-year-old to a three-year, $50 million extension with $30.05 million guaranteed. That may sound like a lot considering his age, but Slay came with a year remaining on his deal with Detroit and the extension has no guarantee in base salary beyond 2021.

Slay might be regressing based on last season, but he was still a top-flight corner, especially when healthy and playing man defense. He was hampered by a hamstring strain at times last season. Slay likes to travel with a team’s best receiver. His cover numbers might be skewed as a result. I watched nearly all of his snaps in 2019, and while he struggled a few weeks, he should be better than any corner the Eagles have had since Asante Samuel. He’s a lockdown defender, and I’d expect Schwartz -- who coached Slay for one season with the Lions -- to utilize man coverage more than he typically has in the past. Slay did well last season against the Cowboys and receiver Amari Cooper; not so well versus the Redskins’ Terry McLaurin. But one thing you can say about him is that he competes every down. He should help the Eagles’ defensive line have more time to pressure quarterbacks.  []

Cornerback a strength?

Reuben Frank | NBC Sports Philadelphia

Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philly also wrote about the cornerbacks on Tuesday. And while it first looked like he might be a little down on the outside of the Eagles secondary, but came away with the opinion that if all goes well, it could actually be a strength of the Birds for the first time in, well, a while.

Mills was very good in 2017, but let’s be honest — the Eagles haven’t gotten Pro Bowl play out of a cornerback since Asante Samuel in 2010.

Of course the cornerback position is closely tied to how Mills (or perhaps Will Parks) manages at safety with Malcolm Jenkins gone and how much pressure the Eagles can get from injury-plagued Derek Barnett and 32-year-old Brandon Graham.

But if Slay can continue his Pro Bowl level of play, if the talented Maddox can hold up for a full season at outside corner at 5-9 and the combination of Robey-Coleman and LeBlanc can hold down the slot, then maybe the unthinkable can actually occur, and for the first time in a long time cornerback can be a strength of this team.  []

Malik Jackson 'excited' to face Drew Brees

Jason Owens | Yahoo! Sports

Eagles defensive tackle Malic Jackson isn't buying what Drew Brees is selling. The Saints quarterback came under fire following his comments about kneeling during the national anthem — and how it's disrespectful to the flag — in the wake of even more police brutality. 

If it isn't obvious already, players weren't kneeling to protest the flag or the country or the military or any of the other stuff opponents will tell you it was about. It was about taking a stance against systemic racism and police brutality. 

And when Brees equated the two, he was met with a lot of blowback from around the country and even within his own locker room. And Jackson wasn't a fan either, as he told ABC's Jeff Skversky in a recent interview

Here's some of what Jackson had to say:

“I lost a lot of respect for Drew Brees,” Jackson said (1:03 above). “A great player, but very insensitive about the times and where he stands. ...

“My great granddaddy and dad fought in the war too, and they were getting spit on at the same time. I understand where you’re coming from. But I said ‘F you’ for your mindset. You’re still not understanding where we’re coming from after three years of trying to talk about this and get notoriety. You’re still talking about kneeling for a flag. A flag that has oppressed people.”  []

Jackson has a point there. While kneeling during the anthem isn't a protest of the flag, it is worth noting that for many marginalized people in this country, the flag has come to symbolize that oppression and racism they face on a daily basis. 

Brees came out and apologized after the blowback from his initial statement about kneeling, but many, including Jackson, didn't buy the apology, saying "he’s only apologizing because of people coming for him."

Either way, Jackson said he already has Week 14 circled on his calendar. That's when Brees and the Saints will visit the Eagles at the Linc.

“Definitely excited playing them in the year,” Jackson said. “I’m gonna have a lot to say. Hopefully I don’t get too wild with it.

“I don’t understand how you can say that when you have people blocking for you that are black, when you have people catching the ball from you that are black, when you have people running the ball for you that are black.”  []

Centerfielder DeSean Jackson?

Zach Berman | The Athletic

What if DeSean Jackson played baseball instead? 

There's a long list of pro athletes who were stars in other sports in high school and college, including right here in Philly, as many believe Allen Iverson was one of the best football players in the state of Virginia, not just during his time there but ever. Over at The Athletic, Zach Berman introduced us to another, DeSean Jackson the baseball player, who was actually pretty damn good and apparently would've been drafted in the first three rounds. And the Phillies were one of the teams who scouted him back in 2005 when he was a senior in high school. 

At the time, Jackson was a high schooler at Long Beach Poly Prep. He was set to attend Cal and play football. But Jackson also played baseball, and the Phillies were among the teams who scouted him closely before the 2005 MLB Draft. [...]

Jackson was rated among the top high school baseball players in the country even though he didn’t play the sport year-round. Perfect Game ranked him as the No. 64 high school prospect, ahead of players who became first-round picks in 2005 or three years later in 2008. offered this scouting report on Jackson: “Lean, wiry body. Small-medium frame. Line-drive stroke, makes contact. Excellent running speed, will become productive base stealer. Loose, live arm w/ carry. Sure handed OF. Outstanding athlete.”  []

As Berman notes, there was no way Jackson was going to give up football for baseball, which he told many teams point blank and is the reason he wasn't ultimately drafted, but that didn't stop scouts from gushing about his play, and unsurprisingly his speed, which one scout said was on a different level even when compared to Jimmy Rollins. 

“From a baseball standpoint, the speed and athleticism and the ability to play center field was so good that I had to spend my time scouting him,” Kissner said. [...]

Jackson, a switch hitter, batted .296 with a .359 on-base percentage during his senior season, according to MaxPreps. He stole 25 bases and scored 20 runs on 20 hits. He did not commit an error and had six assists from center field, according to the Los Angeles Times. The 2005 article pointed out that Jackson’s bat needed work, but said the consensus was Jackson “had the makeup of a future major leaguer.”

“I wasn’t no big power hitter, but I used to make contact, get on base and steal every base — and home,” Jackson said during his conversation with Johnson. (Jackson was not available to comment for this article.)  []

Definitely go check out the full story to see what some of the scouts had to say about him. And you never know when you might find the best scouting report down in the comments section... 

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