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June 07, 2020

What they're saying: Eagles can still add impact free agents this offseason

Plus, a look at their search for a backup RB and why the secondary always seems to be an issue...

Eagles NFL

While NFL facilities across the country are beginning to reopen following the coronavirus pandemic, the Eagles will reportedly not bring their coaches into the NovaCare Complex just yet, allowing them to continue to work from home. It's a bit of a surprising move, but one that makes sense when you consider that players will not be returning until training camps (hopefully) open in July. 

But one thing is clear, sports are getting closer to returning. The NBA and NHL have announced plans on how they plan on finishing their seasons, while the MLB seems as far as ever from coming to an agreement on the best way to commence a season that increasingly looks like it won't start at all.

And throughout it all, as it remained one of the least impacted sports, the NFL has been one of the constant sources of sports news, first with free agency, then the draft, and now with how they plan on returning to the field. As we've been doing throughout the shutdown, let's take a look at the latest news and rumors surrounding the Eagles as football continues to inch closer to players actually getting on the field. 

Still time for an impactful addition

Jeff Kerr | CBS Sports

It seems like one of the things we've been covering for a while now is the Eagles' quest to fill a few more glaring holes that remain on the roster following free agency and the draft. Those needs include a pass rusher, a backup running back, some offensive line depth and maybe an extra linebacker. 

Over at CBS Sports, Jeff Kerr wrote about three moves the Eagles can still make this offseason that would help solidify them as legit Super Bowl contenders, focusing on the first three positions listed above.

We've written extensively about the Eagles' search for a running back to spell Miles Sanders, with LeSean McCoy and Devonta Freeman emerging as the two best options, although some disagree on which player would be the better addition. We've also covered the potential for the Eagles re-signing Jason Peters to start over Andre Dillard at left tackle, as well as the chance that they sign a pass-rusher like Jadeveon Clowney, whose asking price is still likely a bit rich for the Birds. 

Another option we've identified for the Eagles is Everson Griffen, a player Kerr thinks would be a real difference-maker for the Eagles, who lack the kind of depth at the position that has led to some of their success on defense in recent seasons... 

Here's where Everson Griffen comes in. While Griffen isn't planning on signing with any team until he can visit team facilities, 74.5 sacks in 10 seasons is nothing to scoff at. Griffen has just 13.5 sacks over the past two seasons, but had 35 pressures and 13 hurries in 15 games last season. Griffen may not be a starter anymore, but can still get to the quarterback. Sounds like an ideal fit for a No. 3 edge rusher that can start on a one-year deal. 

Jadeveon Clowney would be great for the Eagles defense, but he doesn't appear to be an option at this time. Perhaps the Eagles have a change of heart and can land Clowney at an affordable price, but Philadelphia should focus on adding one of those two edge rushers. Ezekiel Ansah could also enter the picture as he's played in Jim Schwartz's scheme before with the Detroit Lions. Schwartz's defense doesn't excel without a good pass rush and the Eagles place a huge premium on rotating players and getting to the quarterback consistently. 

Seems foolish to just pass on two defensive ends in Griffen and Clowney who could make the defensive line even better.  [cbssports.com]

What if Eagles don't add a RB?

Zach Berman | The Athletic

In a recent post, Zach Berman of The Athletic wrote a bit about the Eagles' running back situation. And in addition to saying fans should buy stock in Boston Scott, he also believes the Birds could still add a veteran running back — and agrees that Freeman and McCoy are the top options — but he doesn't seem as convinced as others that it's a foregone conclusion.

3. Even with Sanders and Scott, don’t rule out the Eagles adding a veteran running back, but don’t expect them to pay much. You’ll notice a trend in this column: The Eagles will prioritize good value with any veteran they add.

Carlos Hyde, who agreed to a deal with Seattle in late May, would have fit. Devonta Freeman and LeSean McCoy are proven veterans still on the market. Freeman, at this point in his career, is the superior player. McCoy has sentimental value, as well as a background in the scheme and a likely understanding that Sanders is the top running back and Scott will have a role. The Chiefs didn’t have McCoy active for the Super Bowl, but he was productive in the regular season.

The Eagles don’t necessarily need a veteran running back, although they’re bare at the position behind Sanders. (Don’t fall for running back-by-committee stories this offseason; it’s Sanders’ backfield.) Scott, Corey Clement, Elijah Holyfield and two undrafted rookies aren’t necessarily strong insurance at the position if Sanders goes down. Of course, it’s easy to find inexpensive veteran running backs late in the offseason, and it’s generally viewed as a plug-and-play position for a player added at any point. If the Eagles elect to go with what they have on the roster, trusting their offensive line and offense to get passable production on the ground, it wouldn’t be the worst outcome. There’s going to be a drop-off after Sanders, however it plays out. They could just gamble on fresh legs.  [theathletic.com]

Deep impact

Maurice Moton | Bleacher Report

Over at Bleacher Report, Maurice Moton took a look at the nine most impactful offseason additions — like Tom Brady going to Tampa or the Cardinals adding DeAndre Hopkins — and one of the Eagles' new players landed on the list: cornerback Darius Slay. 

The Philadelphia Eagles have struggled to patch their holes in pass defense on the perimeter, so their trade with the Detroit Lions for Darius Slay makes sense. [...]

The Eagles acquired Slay for a third- and fifth-round picks. They also signed him to a three-year, $50 million extension. He could solve the coverage issues on one side of the field and match up against the opposing team's lead wideout. The All-Pro cornerback is able to make plays on contested targets and has logged 19 interceptions and 104 pass breakups for his career.

Jones has missed at least four games in each of his campaigns. Avonte Maddox offers inside-out versatility, but the Eagles needed a top-notch cornerback to battle wideouts Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, as the Dallas Cowboys pose the biggest threat to take the NFC East crown.  [bleacherreport.com]

Secondary concerns remain

Benjamin Solak | Bleeding Green Nation

Speaking of the secondary, Benjamin Solak of Bleeding Green Nation took a look at why that area has become a constant problem in recent years. Largely, it because the Eagles haven't invested a ton in making offseason improvements, and while that may appear to have changed this offseason with the Slay trade, Solak says "don't be fooled." Beyond that, there's much more bad than good. 

But in the secondary, the issue is negligence. The Eagles keep making the same, bad bets. They are presumably hoping one of Jones, Maddox, Douglas, or Trevor Williams wins the starting job opposite Slay. Not a single one of these players is both a plus-starter and regularly healthy, which puts the Eagles on the exact same road they have traveled before. To replace Jenkins, the Eagles have once again put chips on Jalen Mills’ number despite the fact that he’s never been a quality starter, with two players who have never been starters in the NFL (Parks and Wallace) as backup options.

It’s inarguable that the biggest issue with the 2019 Eagles was the state of their WR room, but I think it’s equally beyond debate that the biggest issue with the Doug Pederson-led Eagles altogether has been the continued bargain-binning in the secondary. Sidney Jones, while a quality prospect back in the day, has yet to do anything in the league to prove he can be a consistent depth piece, let alone starter. Why is he getting another crack at the starting job? Rasul Douglas has been in the locker room for three years now, has never been able to climb up the depth chart, and doesn’t seem like a scheme fit — so why is he still holding a roster spot?

When forecasting the Eagles’ 2018 and 2019 seasons, it wasn’t hard to circle the secondary as the biggest concern on the roster. Sometimes, there was uncertainty at guard or linebacker or wide receiver, yes — but in both years, there was reasonable doubt as to the Eagles’ likelihood of fielding three functional NFL corners. In 2020, what stands out as the biggest area of concern on the roster? To me, it is once again the secondary — which means the story of this season could very likely be the story of many seasons past for Philadelphia: a good offense regularly forced into shootouts by a defense that can’t hold their own against the pass-happy offenses that define the top teams in the league.  [bleedinggreennation.com]

Fly, Eagles, Fly

Barry Werner | Touchdown Wire

Finally, a look at some not-so-bad schedule news for the Eagles. A few weeks (months?) ago, we took a look at how the Eagles (and the other NFC East teams not from Dallas) had been getting screwed by NFL schedule-makers for years. This year, the Eagles caught a little bit of a break in one area of the schedule: total miles traveled. 

The Eagles are right in the middle of the pack when it comes to how far each team will have to travel in 2020, and they're set to fly the second fewest miles of any team in the NFC East behind only Washington. But with so many NFL teams clustered in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, it's not entirely surprising. 

16. Philadelphia Eagles

In defending their NFC East championship, the Eagles will fly 14,890 miles with a couple of long trips on the docket.  [touchdownwire.usatoday.com]

For comparison, the Dallas Cowboys (24th) will travel 19,286 miles, while the Giants (20th) will go 15,928 miles. 


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