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October 20, 2020

What they're saying: Should Eagles trade for WR John Ross? Why is this team always so injured?

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John-Ross_102020_usat Joe Maiorana/USA TODAY Sports

Bengals wide receiver John Ross reportedly wants out of Cincinnati.

With the Eagles facing a short turnaround this week as they shift their focus to Thursday night's game against the Giants, a game in which they're currently 4-point favorites according to TheLines.com and could take over first place in the NFC East, you're probably assuming this edition of What They're Saying to be focused solely on team's first matchup of the season against their northern rivals. 

But we all know what happens when you assume

If the headline wasn't enough of a giveaway, today's post is going to focus more on the NFL trade deadline, which is rapidly approaching and the rumors will only heat up in the two weeks between now and Nov. 3. The latest rumor churning on the mill revolves around a former first-round pick who is looking to get out of his current situation. And the injuries, of course we'll talk about the injuries.

Let's get right into today's What They're Saying... 

Ross wants out of Cincy

Nick Shook | NFL.com

Before getting into whether or not this player is a fit for the Eagles, we should probably talk about who the player actually is. It's former first-round pick John Ross of the Bengals, and it was Mike Garafolo of NFL Network who first reported the news that the 24-year-old wideout wants out of Cincinnati, where he appears to have quickly fallen out of favor. 

Here's more from Nick Shook of NFL.com:

In the midst of a contract year, John Ross wants a fresh start.

Ross has requested a trade, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported. Ross' agent has had talks with the Bengals about a potential deal to send him elsewhere, but those talks didn't go very far, Garafolo added.

Ross is frustrated with his playing time in 2020 after showing flashes of his potential in 2019, Garafolo reported, per Ross' agent Brad Cicala. After appearing on 56 offensive downs in Week 1, Ross played half as many snaps (28) in Week 2 before he was inactive from Weeks 3-5. He played just one snap in Sunday's loss to the Indianapolis Colts.  [nfl.com]

A fit in Philly?

Eliot Shorr-Parks | 94 WIP

The obvious next question for Eagles fans is whether or not going after the speedy Ross is worth it for the Eagles. Eliot Shorr-Parks of 94 WIP believes it would be a smart move for the Birds.

Ross makes a ton of sense for the Eagles.

The Eagles are in the market for young, speed receivers, and made it a priority to find some this offseason when they drafted Jalen Reagor, John Hightower and Quez Watkins. It is far too early to decide if any of them are going to be contributing players, so adding Ross to the mix as another chance at finding a legit deep threat makes sense.

Ross would being a nice combination of youth and upside to the group, while also bringing 27 games of NFL experience. Having Ross on the roster only increases the Eagles’ chances of finding a legit deep threat, and he would also be an immediate upgrade over players like J.J. Arcega-Whiteside or Hightower. It would also make more sense to give Ross snaps over players like Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson, who won’t be back in 2021.  [radio.com]

Eliot adds that Ross would cost the Eagles about $1 million in cap space, a number they could certainly use next year when they're projected to be well over the cap, but that's not all it would cost them. The Birds would have to part with something no matter how much Ross is struggling, and he's in a contract year, meaning there's no guarantee he's around after this season. On top of that, is another injury-prone speedy wideout really what the Birds need right now? The spent considerable resources in the offseason, acquiring three young wideouts through the draft and traded for another in Marquise Goodwin, who ultimately opted out of the season over COVID-19 concerns. 

They also should be getting two deep threats in Jalen Reagor and DeSean Jackson back from injury soon — the latter could return on Thursday night — and have been getting inspired play from backup Travis Fulgham, who is quickly earning himself a regular role on Doug Pederson's offense. Plus, Alshon Jeffery is on the mend as well. So, who does the team get rid of to make room for a guy like Ross? 

Unless their injury concerns persist and another WR or two need to go on IR, it's tough seeing him making a lot of sense for the Eagles. Of course, Howie Roseman is no stranger to making to deadline deals, so maybe he takes a flyer if the price is right.

If the price is right

Adam Hermann | NBC Sports Philadelphia

Over at NBC Sports Philadelphia, Adam Hermann was another fan of the Eagles making a play for Ross. While there are plenty of drawbacks, if this is what Jason LaCanfora meant when he said Howie Roseman would be a deadline buyer, then it's at least slightly more palatable. 

A young wide receiver who still has a theoretically high ceiling, and doesn't saddle the team with any money problems in coming seasons? Sign me up.

This isn't the kind of move that would totally change the trajectory of the Eagles' franchise. But it's the kind of move that smart organizations make. Instead of holding our collective breath for aging vets like Alshon Jeffery or DeSean Jackson to suddenly shed their injury-prone reputations, how about we bring in a relatively low-risk young player and see if he can mesh with Carson Wentz ahead of free agency? Because of his uneven time in Cincy, Ross won't command a big payday this offseason unless he somehow leads the Eagles to a Super Bowl - in which case, pay the man.

If Howie Roseman can get the Bengals to send Ross to Philly for something like a fifth- or sixth-round pick in this year's draft, he should do it immediately.  [nbcsports.com]

If it only costs a sixth-round pick — and you don't need to get rid of another prospect to make room for him and believe you can bring him back on a cheap deal next season — then why not?

It's a trap!

Tim McManus | ESPN

Oh, this is why. The terrible NFC East is tricking the Eagles into thinking they're actual contenders. And that kind of thinking can hurt your team for years to come, especially when it's fool's gold. 

As Tim McManus writes for ESPN — and our own Jimmy Kempski wrote last week — the Eagles need to remember the big picture and would be wise to spend the rest of the season seeing what they have in some younger players and players you need to make decisions on after the season. And if those players wind up winning you the division, then that's just fine. Maybe the cupboard isn't as bare as we thought. 

It's worth remembering that winning this terrible division could cost you 10 spots in the draft. The 14 teams that make the playoffs will pick 19th-32nd, meaning the Eagles could win the division at 5-10-1 and still be picking 19th overall, behind the teams with 9, 10 or even 11 wins. Meanwhile, the team who finishes second in the NFC East, even if it's only by a half game, will likely have a top 8-10 pick.

A home playoff game would be nice, but is a potential January blowout worth the trade down from 8 to 19?

General manager Howie Roseman and the Eagles brass are justified in moving in one of two directions given the numbers at hand: They can be aggressive at the NFL trade deadline (Nov. 3) and lean heavily on their veteran players in pursuit of their fourth straight playoff appearance, or they can hold tight to their future draft picks and showcase their young talent the rest of the way in the name of defining a path forward.

The second option is the right one. The Eagles cannot let false hope seduce them into putting this chase -- which will likely be after their own tail in the end -- over the longer-term health of the franchise.

There have been signs, though, that Roseman is teetering in the other direction. Such as a recent CBS report that "Howie is on the prowl already" for a trade-deadline acquisition (likely a linebacker) and is eager to make a deal. Or the decision to waive defensive end Casey Toohill -- a seventh-round pick out of Stanford who showed enough in camp to make the 53-man roster -- in advance of activating defensive end Vinny Curry, 32, and safety Will Parks from injured reserve. The Eagles were hoping to sneak Toohill back onto their practice squad, but he was instead claimed by the Washington Football Team. That's not the first time this season an Eagles developmental prospect was snatched away by another team as a result of a roster gamble gone wrong.

The Eagles need all the young talent they can get. They are projected to be $69 million over the salary cap in 2021, per Spotrac, the second-highest total behind the New Orleans Saints ($81 million). They'll need to shed veteran salary after this season -- a group that will likely include receivers Alshon Jeffery ($18.4 million) and DeSean Jackson ($11 million). Philadelphia will need to replenish at multiple positions, including receiver.

So why not use the rest of this season to see what the young skill position players bring to the table?  [espn.com]

Health concerns

Jeff McLane | Inquirer.com

For the Eagles, injuries seem like a yearly concern. And perhaps that's because they are. If this week's injuries play out as expected, the Eagles will have 29 players who have missed at least one game and will have 77 total games missed due to injury this year. Carson Wentz and Jason Kelce will be the only two offensive starters from the beginning of the year still playing. And they have a starting unit worth of players on injured reserve. 

So, what gives? Is it the doctors and training staff? It's unlikely considering the team recently overhauled their medical staff in an attempt to combat this problem. Is it the players? That's also unlikely given that there's been a fair amount of turnover and this isn't a case of the same players getting hurt over and over. To quite Jason Kelce, "It's the whole damn team."

Or maybe it's simply that the NovaCare Complex is haunted. 

Either way, Jeff McLane attempted to get to the bottom of it in a recent story for the Philadelphia Inquirer... 

Roseman addressed the injury concerns by making several changes to his medical staff in the past offseason. The most significant ones were hiring Tom Hunkele as director of sports medicine/head athletic trainer, and Ted Rath as director of sports performance.

It was the third straight offseason that Roseman made alterations to the staff. The most notable came after the 2017 Super Bowl-winning season when the team’s top two doctors, Peter DeLuca and Gary Dorshimer, and head athletic trainer, Chris Peduzzi, departed.

Jerome Reid was hired to replace Peduzzi, and a year later, Arsh Dhanota became chief medical officer and team head physician, essentially replacing Dorshimer. Christopher Dodson and Matthew Pepe have been the head orthopedics who have stepped into DeLuca’s shoes.

DeLuca, Dorshimer, and Peduzzi each had around 20 years of NFL experience. From 2013-17, when the trio were together, the Eagles finished first (32.2), fifth (48.6), sixth (52.0), fourth (39.6) and 13th (53.5) in FO’s adjusted games lost rankings.  [inquirer.com]

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