June 10, 2020
Welcome back to another edition of What They're Saying to help you cure those hump day blues. We've got a lot to cover today, so we're going to keep the intro short and sweet and get right into it...
Over at ESPN, Eagles beat writer Tim McManus took a position-by-position look at Philly's offense in order to gauge whether they're better, worse or the same at each area now that the majority of offseason moves have been made.
When it comes to the Eagles, however, there are still some unanswered questions, specifically at running back as the Birds look for a veteran backup to plug in behind rising star Miles Sanders, who nearly came out of nowhere to win Rookie of the Year in 2019. As the roster is currently constructed, McManus believes the running backs are worse as a group in 2020 than they were a year earlier, and it's hard to argue given the departures of Jordan Howard and Darren Sproles, although neither wound up being contributors down the stretch for Philly.
That being said, McManus believes there's still time for the Eagles to go from "worse" to "better" with one signing...
Additions: Adrian Killins Jr. (UFA), Mike Warren (UFA)
Losses: Jordan Howard (Dolphins), Darren Sproles (retired)
Returners: Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Elijah Holyfield, Corey Clement
Better, worse or the same? Worse
This is a temporary state, however. The Eagles don't have that veteran security blanket in the fold yet, but they've been keeping a close eye on the running back market and will probably add to this group (they've shown interest in Devonta Freeman and LeSean McCoy) before the start of the season. Whatever drop-off they might experience at RB2 will be offset by the growth of RB1 Sanders, who averaged more than 5 yards per carry and 97 all-purpose yards from Week 8 on last season as a rookie and looks to be a dual-threat star in the making.
Howard was key for this team over the first half of the season, but Sanders and Scott proved they're ready for more snaps. Once a final piece is added, this group could be even better than last season. [espn.com]
While the Eagles are still looking for that veteran backup at running back, Goeff Mosher of Inside the Birds made it clear in a recent column that Philly wouldn't be showcasing a running back by committee in 2020, something that's been a staple during Doug Pederson's first four seasons in Philly. He also thinks the fact that they've been so patient in the running back market is a testament to their faith in Sanders.
For the Philadelphia Eagles, their dormancy in enhancing the running back position through free-agent spending or the draft this year is perhaps the organization's loudest and most clearest commentary on its belief in Miles Sanders and its most honest admission about the running back committee that team brass and Doug Pederson have surrendered to for the past four seasons. [...]
This year, Eagles fans will witness Pederson's true intentions, a ground game predicated less on communal carries and more on molding Sanders into following in the footsteps of the aforementioned greats. [insidethebirds.com]
Still, the Eagles could use an insurance policy behind Sanders, should the second-year back suffer an injury that forces him to miss any kind of significant injury. But even if the Birds sign Devonta Freeman, who is the top remaining running back on the market, that doesn't mean that he becomes 1B to Sanders' 1A.
This year is all about Sanders, Mosher writes...
It's June, and Freeman remains unsigned. If he comes back to Earth with his financial demands, the former Falcon could be a steal for any team that would decide to sign him.
In measured snaps, Freeman could showcase the talent that once made him among the league's top running backs and also give himself a better opportunity to avoid the rampant injuries that have since dogged him.
If the Eagles signed Freeman they'd be ridiculous to let him collect dust on the bench, but make no mistake, Freeman would still play second fiddle to Sanders. Signing the two-time Pro Bowler wouldn't be an indication of another committee blueprint, just an opportunity to improve depth and talent at a position constantly thinned by injuries.
The Eagles are poised to enter 2020 without an established veteran who could step into the primary role if Sanders were to miss time, which again paints their picture of commitment to Sanders and their belief that one Boston Scott, Elijah Holifield, Corey Clement or the rookie free agents could take on an expanded role if necessary during the season. [insidethebirds.com]
If nothing else, this would cause Sanders' fantasy value to skyrocket, even if the Eagles sign someone like Freeman or LeSean McCoy.
Over at NJ.com, Mike Kaye took a look at eight remaining free agents who have ties to the Eagles' staff — and interestingly enough didn't include LeSean McCoy on that list (probably because his ties to the Eagles are already well known). But he did include a running back option who hasn't been talked about nearly as much as Freeman or McCoy when it comes to the Eagles, but is a guy with ties to a pair of high-ranking coaches who could provide some depth for the Eagles.
3. Theo Riddick, RB, Denver Broncos
Connection: Rich Scangarello - Senior offensive assistant; Jim Schwartz - Defensive coordinator
Riddick missed all of last season after suffering a shoulder injury during training camp. That said, he was signed by the Broncos during Scangarello’s lone year in Denver. Along with his short history with Scangarello, Schwartz drafted Riddick with the Detroit Lions in 2013. He could be a third-down option at running back, providing a cheap veteran presence to compete with Corey Clement. [nj.com]
He'd certainly be cheaper than some of the Eagles' other options...
Let's move off the running back search for a bit and switch focus to the guy who will be handing them the ball, quarterback Carson Wentz. In Tuesday's What They're Saying, we wrote about Wentz being the team's MVP of the last decade while Michael Bennett said Nick Foles was the better quarterback.
One thing we skipped over was ESPN's NFL re-draft, where they placed all current NFL players into a draft pool and had their NFL Nation writers pick which players (in their current form) they'd like to start a franchise with. And Carson Wentz was taken 11th overall, something Ryan Phillips at took exception to, not just because of where he went, but also because of the players who went ahead of him.
Perhaps the most shocking thing about ESPN's draft exercise is the fact that Ronnie Stanley (No. 6) and Nick Bosa (No. 11) went ahead of him. A 40-year-old Drew Brees also went eighth. If you were building an NFL team from the ground up, why would you select an offensive tackle, a defensive end or an old quarterback over Wentz? As if that wasn't enough, Pro Football Focus not only ranked Wentz outside its list of the top 50 players in the NFL, it didn't even put him on the list of the guys who just missed.
Based on the numbers, I'm absolutely not overrating Wentz. Yes, he's had injuries, but he's only missed eight regular season games in his four NFL seasons. He's never missed an entire season and it appears the back injury that plagued him in 2018 is a thing of the past. He also got knocked out of Philadelphia's Wild Card game against the Seahawks in January but that came after a helmet-to-helmet hit from Jadeveon Clowney. It would have sent any quarterback to the locker room.
When digging into the numbers, one thing is clear: Wentz doesn't throw interceptions. If you take his rookie year out of the equation (which is fair for an NFL quarterback), he has thrown 81 touchdowns against 21 interceptions. He's thrown a measly seven interceptions in each of the past three seasons. [thebiglead.com]
Speaking of Wentz being underrated, FOX Sports host Colin Cowherd had the following assessment of Wentz, whom he compared to Russell Wilson and even Patrick Mahomes.
Here's the transcription of his comments in case you don't feel like watching the video.
“I always, with quarterbacks, take out the rookie year. Don’t count the rookie year. Start with the second year. In the last three years, 81 touchdowns [and] 21 picks. That’s a four to one ratio. 64 and a half completion percentage. Passer rating at 98. And in one of those years, he was throwing to deck chairs and lawn furniture. What is — and I said this, I take pride in spotting quarterback talent early. I did it with Russell Wilson three and four years ago. I said, ‘Folks, stop it. It’s not the Seahawks defense. It’s not Pete Carroll, it’s not Marshawn Lynch. Russell Wilson is the secret sauce to this near dynasty. I don’t get the Carson Wentz pushback. ‘Well, he’s been hurt!’ He’s missed eight regular season games in four seasons. Not that hurt. Is it because he played for a college we didn’t watch on TV? Is it because Nick Foles won and we think if Nick Foles can win, anybody can win with your talent? He is the player in the league now — because I think people have come around, I think people eventually came around on Andrew Luck, I think they’ve come around on Russell Wilson. Russell Wilson now has not just me but dozen of backers. Wentz is the new Russell Wilson. He’s good, stop it. He’s the only guy in this league, you watch Patrick Mahomes and you can see Wentz. Arm, angles, talent, mobility, size, moves. Gets banged up because he moves around a little bit. No one else looks like Mahomes, Wentz kinda looks like him.” [h/t bleedinggreennation.com]
And finally, one more look at some Wentz talk, specifically how many points he adds to his team's spread. While the casual fan may not care a ton about this, Las Vegas does. And it's certainly an interesting exercise that shines some light on the quarterback situations around the league and how they're viewed by oddsmakers.
Lamar Jackson is the reigning NFL MVP, and Patrick Mahomes is the clear favorite next season to win his second such award ln three years.
But when it comes to the NFL’s most valuable quarterbacks in relation to the point spread, Jackson and Mahomes are in the middle of the pack, according to South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews.
The longtime Nevada bookmaker made point values for all 32 starting QBs based on a one-game adjustment to the line from each team’s starter to backup. [reviewjournal.com]
It's worth noting that this has almost as much to do with the talent of the backup QB as it does with the starter. Teams with more experienced backups often found themselves further down the list, regardless of how good their starter was. It should also be noted that they used Jalen Hurts as the Eagles' backup, while it's actually expected that Nate Sudfeld will enter the season as the No. 2 QB behind Wentz, who found himself tied in 10th overall.
Here's a look at the top 15 starting QB values in the NFL according to Andrews...
Team Starter/Backup Points
Buccaneers Tom Brady/Blaine Gabbert 7
Seahawks Russell Wilson/Geno Smith 7
Steelers Ben Roethlisberger/Mason Rudolph 7
Cardinals Kyler Murray/Brett Hundley 6
Packers Aaron Rodgers/Jordan Love 6
Rams Jared Goff/John Wolford 6
Texans Deshaun Watson/A.J. McCarron 6
Titans Ryan Tannehill/Logan Woodside 6
Vikings Kirk Cousins/Sean Mannion 6
Chiefs Patrick Mahomes/Chad Henne 5
Eagles Carson Wentz/Jalen Hurts 5
49ers Jimmy Garoppolo/Nick Mullens 5
Saints Drew Brees/Jameis Winston 4
Falcons Matt Ryan/Matt Schaub 3.5
Ravens Lamar Jackson/Robert Griffin III 3.5 [reviewjournal.com]
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