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October 08, 2021

Mailbag: An early look at the Eagles' biggest draft needs in 2022

Eagles NFL
Howie-Roseman_082221_usat Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman.

In our Eagles chat on Thursday, there were a lot of questions that we could not get to in time or other questions we did answer but could use more color. And so, let's do a mailbag post to answer some of the overflow, as well as some commonly asked questions on Twitter and via email.

Question from Pragmatic: It appears the Eagles will have at least 2 pretty high draft picks, and almost at worst 4 top 50 picks. I'm not asking you to tell me who those players will be, but if they decide not to go for a QB, I think they should REALLY focus on defense, obviously taking the best player available, but leaning towards defense?

I agree that their biggest needs heading into the 2022 offseason are on the defensive side of the ball. Ignoring quarterback for now, I'd currently rank the Eagles' needs like so:

Pass rushers: The Eagles need players who can get to the quarterback, and in all shapes and sizes. Whether that's a player who is going to be in the Josh Sweat / Derek Barnett role, the Brandon Graham role, or the SAM role where Genard Avery is getting snaps, the Eagles need more playmakers. Graham is aging and recovering from a major injury, Barnett won't be back next year if he continues to do nothing, and Ryan Kerrigan is looking like he'll be one-and-done in Philly.

Cornerback: The Eagles need to upgrade their group of Darius Slay, Steve Nelson, and Avonte Maddox with some young talent. That's rather obvious, right?

Linebacker: In Jonathan Gannon's scheme, the linebackers have to be able to get off blocks and make tackles, while also possessing the ability to drop deep in zone coverage and make plays on the football. Linebackers weren't asked to do as much in Jim Schwartz's scheme, so they weren't prioritized, but in this scheme, they're getting exposed (more so). There must be a higher priority put on the position. 

Offensive tackle: Even before the Lane Johnson mystery of the last week, the Eagles were going to have to put a succession plan in place at right tackle.

Safety: Anthony Harris turns 30 on Saturday, and Rodney McLeod just turned 31. K'Von Wallace hasn't impressed yet.

Question from BlameWho?: Is Gannon holding the defense back or is the defensive personnel holding back Gannon?

Gannon has rightfully been under fire after a pair of defensive collapses against the Cowboys and Chiefs. His game plans have been predictable, and opposing offenses have marched the field with ease. Running lanes have been wide open, and areas in the short-to-intermediate parts of the field have often been void of defenders in the passing game.

But I do think there's an element of "chicken or the egg" at play here, as the players themselves haven't exactly been good either. Javon Hargrave aside, the defensive line has underperformed, to put it kindly, while the linebackers haven't been able to get off blocks and make tackles near the line of scrimmage. Meanwhile, the back end has for the most part kept the action in front of them, but they have not forced turnovers or even incompletions for that matter, and receivers have killed them underneath.

So take your pick. Bad scheme? Bad game plans? Bad use of the skills of the players on the roster? Bad players? I think it's all in question when you allow 11 touchdowns on 18 drives over two games. 

Question from QB Factory Worker: Why haven't the Eagles tried more jet sweeps and fake jet sweeps with all of their fast WRs? It feels like even showing that as a threat could open up the defense, even for just more traditional runs.

Heavy pre-snap motion / motion at the snap is a trend that the NFL's most successful offenses have been using over the last half decade or so, and it's disappointing that the Eagles under this new coaching staff don't seem interested in prioritizing it.

This is pretty eye-opening stat, via Cynthia Frelund of NFL.com:

Not all pre-snap disguises and looks that throw defenses off balance are created equal. However, over the past three seasons, teams earned a passer rating that's about 14 percent higher when they use pre-snap shifts and motions compared with similar downs and distances results when they don't use them. Some teams are so adept at using these tactics that they see an even more dramatic difference.

So yes, I'm with you that the Eagles have a set of receivers with speed that opposing defenses would have to respect on jet sweeps and such, which would open up more opportunities for runs with Miles Sanders and Kenny Gainwell. But beyond that, motion is also pretty clearly a proven benefit to passing attacks around the league, and the teams that are using it are putting their quarterbacks in better positions to succeed than teams that don't. 

Question from RKotite: Jimmy, I know that Dallas Goedert is young and good, but is $12-$15 million per year really worth it for him, given all the other holes to fill. Can't that money be spent better elsewhere?

If you let Goedert walk, you're going to have to use resources — draft picks or money — to replace him, and there's no quarantee that his replacement will pan out. I'd rather just keep the good, young player. 

The good news for the Eagles is that they don’t have to make an immediate long-term decision on Goedert. OverTheCap.com is projecting the franchise tag amount for tight ends next year to be $11,139,000, which is pricey, but still affordable.

Question from Secret Agent Randy Beans: Do you think referees might give special attention to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside because they know he's only a blocker & not a threat to receive the ball? For example, that ticky-tack OPI might not have been called on, say, DeVonta Smith. But because they know this guy is only on the field to be a blocker on a screen/pick/etc., they're more likely to throw the flag?

I agree that was a bad call, but I don't think that officials know the game traits of the fourth and fifth receivers for each team, like officials in, say, the NBA, might have a little more intimate knowledge of the players and what they do.

However, I did want to answer this question because opposing defenses certainly know that J.J. is only in there to be a glorified blocking tight end. The Eagles did sort of run a wrinkle with J.J. against the Chiefs in which they ran a screen to the side of the field where J.J. wasn't. Take THAT, Andy Reid. 

But yeah, at some point, J.J. is going to have to prove that he can run a route and catch a pass before any defense respects him as anything more than a Jack Stoll-level player.

Question from QB Factory Worker: Should all of the young players who aren't playing a lot now get more snaps? At this point I'd rather see what Davion Taylor and Shaun Bradley can do at linebacker. Could they be worse than the current linebackers? I mean, they could stink too, but let's find out.

I don't think the Eagles are at the point where they go, "OK, season's over, put in all the young guys." And really, they're already playing a lot of young guys, like Jalen Hurts, DeVonta Smith, Landon Dickerson, Milton Williams, Kenny Gainwell, Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins, Jack Driscoll, K'Von Wallace, etc.

That said, I'm with you on Taylor and Bradley. Taylor has gotten like 18 snaps so far this season, but he has stood out in a good way to me already a few times. And then Bradley was a player who was a pleasant surprise when I took a look at his 2020 snaps during the offseason.

Eric Wilson has been brutal, and Alex Singleton hasn't yet proven that he's a reliable starter. I'd be curious to see what Taylor and Bradley can do.


MORE: Derek Barnett isn't doing anything, with gifs and stuff


Question from Elwellian: Next year's draft could make or break the Eagles for years to come. With current status of this roster, is there any way you would trust that draft to Howie Roseman? Do you think Lurie will do so?

Howie isn't going anywhere. I think that's clear.

Question from ThatGuy: If you could take one player from each NFC East roster to add to the Eagles who would you add?

I'm taking Dak Prescott from the Cowboys. I feel like that's rather obvious. Prescott serves as something of a model of what Jalen Hurts should aspire to be, so if you just have that player, done and done.

I'm taking Chase Young from Washington. I considered Terry McLaurin for a hot second, but Young is too physically gifted to pass up, and he plays a more important position.

I really struggled with my choice for the Giants. Their roster is just not very good. James Bradberry would be a logical choice, but I think Leonard Williams would be a pretty good scheme fit here in the Brandon Graham role.

Question from EaglesFan1966: Other than Jordan Mailata and DeVonta Smith, is there a single player on this team that you wouldn't trade for a 3rd round pick?

Yes. While it was galaxy brain choice for team that already seemingly had a franchise quarterback in place, the second-round pick used on Jalen Hurts was appropriate value, and I believe that he has since only helped his value to the team. I wouldn't trade him for a second-round pick, much less a third-rounder.

I think that what you're probably getting at here is that the Eagles don't have many valuable players. I agree with that. However, ignoring the actual feasibility of trading players, contract-wise, guys like Javon Hargrave, Dallas Goedert, and Josh Sweat are worth more to the team than a third-round pick. And then certainly, they wouldn't trade a guy they drafted highly like Landon Dickerson for a 3.

When we get a little closer to the trade deadline, if the Eagles appear to be sellers, we'll take a closer look at the most likely trade candidates, and place values on them.

Question from RKotite: Which is more likely: (a) Ertz contract extension or (b) Ben Simmons ever playing again for the Sixers?

Ha, well an Ertz contract extension would obviously be dumb, but personally speaking, I can't watch Sixers games if Simmons ever plays here again. I think he's going to go down as the biggest loser in Philadelphia sports history.  

Question from Frank and Beans: Are you looking forward to the food spread in Carolina? Don’t forget to weigh in.

I can't remember what they had the last time we were there in 2017, and I didn't start writing my press box food spread review until 2018, so I can't refer back to old notes. I'm told that they have historically had a weak food spread. We'll see. I'm trying to go in with an open mind. As far as weighing in, that was a one-time deal in Dallas, when I knew I was going to eat a whole lot of food.

Question from Drew S: How many of the 32 current NFL stadiums have you been to?

I have not covered Eagles road games when hey have played the Texans, Broncos, Raiders, and Cardinals. I have covered games when they have played the Rams at the Los Angeles Coliseum and the Chargers when they played at that soccer stadium (which was awesome, by the way), but I have not yet been to the new stadium in L.A.

Barring any surprises, I’ll knock out the Raiders and Broncos this year.

My five favorite NFL cities to visit:

  1. Nashville
  2. New Orleans
  3. Phoenix
  4. Miami
  5. San Francisco

My five least favorite:

  1. Landover, MD
  2. Detroit
  3. Pittsburgh
  4. Cleveland
  5. Green Bay

Green Bay may sound a little hot takey, because of its lore and whatnot. I enjoyed it the first time I went, and I do like the gameday vibe that comes with a historic stadium dropped in the middle of a small town. But ultimately, it sucks flying into Milwaukee and driving two hours to Green Bay. 


MORE: Eagles at Panthers: Five matchups to watch


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