June 14, 2019
The Eagles' mandatory minicamp came to an end this week, and that means there will be very little football news coming out of South Philly until the team returns for training camp late next month. But that doesn't mean there isn't plenty to write about this team, which heads into the 2019 season with Super Bowl aspirations and a chip on its shoulder following a divisional round loss to the Saints back in January.
Don't worry. There's always something to talk about when it comes to the Birds, and we'll keep you updated daily between now and the start of training camp.
It's also a nice afternoon, so I won't waste your time with a long-winded intro. Let's get right into it, with today's post-minicamp edition of What They're Saying...
Over at Pro Football Focus, they dropped their rankings of the Top 50 players in the NFL (down from their list of the 101 best they put out a year ago), and a trio of Eagles linemen found their way onto the list, including one in the Top 5.
It should come as no surprise that defensive tackle Fletcher Cox was the highest-ranked Eagles player on the list, checking in at fourth overall, behind only Aaron Donald (1), Tom Brady (2) and Bobby Wagner (3). That's some pretty impressive company for the veteran Eagle, who is entering his eighth season in the NFL.
41. EDGE BRANDON GRAHAM, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Sacks don’t tell the whole story for any player in the NFL, and no player epitomizes that more than Graham. He’s only recorded double-digit sacks in PFF’s system once (2017) but has been as consistent as they come from an overall pressure and pass-rush grade standpoint. He has recorded 45 or more pressures in six of his last seven seasons in the NFL and has earned 81.0-plus pass-rush grades in five of them.
24. C JASON KELCE, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Kelce’s four-year overall grade (91.1) ranks fourth among the 94 interior offensive linemen with at least 2,000 offensive snaps played since 2015, and his 93.4 run-block grade ranks first among the same group of qualifiers. Most recently, Kelce earned a career-high 88.0 pass-blocking grade in addition to his 80.7 run-blocking grade in 2018. He also earned a 94.6 run-blocking grade throughout the Eagles’ Super Bowl run in 2017, a single-season mark that ranks first in the PFF era (2006-18) among qualifying centers and one that landed him PFF’s top run-blocker award in 2017.
4. DI FLETCHER COX, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
It’s a shame that Cox plays in the same league as Donald; he’d be the unanimous decision for top defensive interior if it weren’t for the Rams superstar. Cox’s pass-rush win rate in 2018 (20.9%) is the fourth-best single-season mark of any defensive interior in the PFF era. And his 91.2 pass-rush grade this past season, another career-high for the big man, also ranks inside the top 10 among qualifiers since 2006.
From PFF’s Austin Gayle in his latest feature on Cox comparing him and Donald:
“Among the 125 interior defensive linemen with 500 or more pass-rush snaps since 2015, Donald ranks first in pass-rush grade (95.9), total pressures (375) and pass-rush win percentage (22.1%). Cox ranks second behind Donald in all three metrics.
And the trend continues, as Donald led all at his position in pass-rush grade in each of the past four seasons (2015-18). Cox ranked second two of the years (2017 & 2018) and third in another (2015).” [profootballfocus.com]
It will be interesting to see if Carson Wentz cracks this list next year after a full healthy season (knock on wood). PFF had six quarterbacks on their list, and here's a look at some of the names Wentz will have to catch up to in order to make it next time around:
39. Russell Wilson, SEA
25. Andrew Luck, IND
17. Aaron Rodgers, GB
6. Patrick Mahomes, KC
5. Drew Brees, NO
2. Tom Brady, NE
If Wentz returns to his 2017 form — and plays all 16 games — there's every reason to believe that he can pass the first two names on that list.
On of the benefits of the Eagles signing Carson Wentz when they did is that other quarterbacks from his class (and after) will all be looking to beat his record-setting deal. And one of those quarterbacks is Dak Prescott, who reportedly wants close to $35 million per year.
And I totally think the Cowboys should give it to him. In fact, I'd give him $50 million per year. Maybe more.
The new deal signed by Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, worth $32 million annually in new money, was not lost on Prescott.
While that deal could impact his negotiations with the Cowboys, as the team is analyzing all 60 pages of Wentz’s new contract, per source, know that Todd France and CAA have broached a deal in the range of $34 million annually, according to someone with knowledge of the talks.
Now, these are negotiations, and it’s the agent’s job to ask for the moon with hopes of landing on the stars. [star-telegram.com]
Jokes aside, Wentz is better than both Prescott and Jared Goff, the other notable quarterback from the 2016 draft class, and had either of those quarterbacks had been the first to sign a deal like Wentz did, there's no telling what he'd be asking for. Prescott has every right to ask for more — and the Cowboys don't really have any other option to give it to him. That's why the Wentz deal was so good for the Eagles.
Speaking of Wentz's new deal, we're finally starting to be able to make some sense out of what turned out to be a really confusing deal (thanks, Howie). Here's a look at what his annual cap hits are going to be, according to OverTheCap.com:
Based on the reported numbers (and Ill post these later when I get a chance) I believe Wentz’ new cap numbers will be $3.99M, $18.66M, $34.67M, $31.27M, $34.27M, and $32M. There are some other minor rules I want to check into (and these can fluctuate if he doesn’t fall off the log right away), but I think these should be in the ballpark of where Wentz will be with the salary cap down the line. I’ll update this if I come across any more details. [overthecap.com]
I also highly recommend reading Ben Solak's in-depth analysis of Wentz's deal over at Bleeding Green Nation.
Finally, we turn our attention from the guys who don't have to worry about their roster spots to the guys who are fighting for a spot on this team come Week 1.
Sure, spring practices just ended, but it's never too early to take a look at some 53-man roster projections. Our own Jimmy Kempski published one on Thursday, and there were two names notably missing from his running backs section: Josh Adams and Wendell Smallwood, who would up being the Birds' leading rushers a year ago after injuries to Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement.
Jimmy has both those guys being left off the roster — although he dubbed Smallwood his "54th man" — in favor of Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard, Clement and Boston Scott, who many believe could fill the Darren Sproles role in the Birds offense.
Apparently, Jimmy isn't alone in his belief that the Eagles will only keep four running backs — and that position battle should be one of the best of training camp. Here's a look at a few other 53-man projections and how they see the running back battle playing out over the summer.
RB: Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, Corey Clement, Boston Scott (4) 
Howard, Sanders, and Clement are roster locks. The real question is: how will their touches be split up? Howard is the favorite to get a bulk of the carries. There’s talk about him being more involved as a pass catcher in Philly than he was in Chicago but I don’t put a lot of stock into that. Howard has averaged 1.5 receptions per game over his career (24 per season); it’d be surprising to see that figure go up dramatically. The Eagles are high on Sanders. At the same time, the rookie missed all of spring practices with a nagging hamstring injury. Sanders has some catching up to do when camp begins. Clement is still rehabbing so we’ll have to see where he’s at in July. Scott seems to be leading the battle for the fourth running back spot. Doug Pederson previously talked about Scott as a potential Darren Sproles replacement. Scott is currently the team’s first team punt returner. The Eagles might actually keep five running backs since they always like Wendell Smallwood more than almost everyone else. I can’t see Josh Adams, who actually led the Eagles in rushing last season, making the 2019 roster but he could land on the practice squad. [bleedinggreennation.com]
Prediction: Howard, Sanders, Clement, Scott
Why: The Eagles have been giving Scott every chance to win a job on this roster and he looks like the early favorite to be the team’s primary returner in addition to a Darren Sproles-lite running back. Smallwood is well-liked and trusted, but he’s already reached his ceiling and hasn’t had a great spring. Adams is the most talented of that trio, but needs to get healthy. [nj.com]
Running back: Jordan Howard, Corey Clement, Miles Sanders, Wendell Smallwood, Boston Scott (5)
Analysis: Sanders missing essentially the entire offseason — almost all of OTAs and all of the minicamp — is far from ideal. Both head coach Doug Pederson and running back coach Duce Staley have admitted that. Sanders missing time won’t impact his roster spot, but it is something to keep an eye on once training camp begins. The top three spots here — Howard, Clement and Sanders — should all be viewed as locks. Scott should as well, unless Sproles comes back. The real question here is Smallwood. It is possible he is cut, but until the Eagles actually cut ties with a running back they trust to fill in when needed, I won’t be projecting it to happen. [94wip.radio.com]
Running Back (4)
Depth chart: Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders (rookie), Corey Clement, Boston Scott
Analysis: Initially before the NFL draft, Howard was the top running back on the roster, as he has developed into a productive starter. There were a ton of depth charts with Sanders ahead of Clement, but the Penn State product hasn’t been able to see the field because of a hamstring injury. With Howie Roseman using a second-round pick on Sanders, and him having some fantasy football value, Clement will still be third. The Eagles will likely start out with a one-two punch of Howard and Sanders with Scott snagging the final roster spot because of his ability to return punts and kickoffs. [theeagleswire.usatoday.com]
Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin
Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports