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May 15, 2020

What they're saying: The NFL schedule has been screwing over the Eagles for a decade

Plus, a look at whether or not the Birds are better this year, how many players landed on PFF's list of the decade's best and more

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112_11032019_EaglesvsBears_Carson_Wentz_KateFrese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.

With time becoming more and more of a fluid concept as we all find ourselves continuing to stay indoors despite the warm weather outside, we're here to remind you that we've made it through another week. So congratulations on that. Have a drink. You earned it.

One of the things people in my business use to keep track of days is sports. Knowing what days the teams we cover play is basically the only calendar we have, as the majority of us don't work regular Monday-to-Friday schedules. And without live sports on, we've been stuck in this time loop just like the rest of you. 

But maybe that won't be the case for much longer as sports begin to slowly come back.

Last week, the 2020 NFL schedule was released. And while we've already closely examined the pros and cons of the Eagles' 2020 slate, looked at how bookmakers see their season unfolding, offered up our own predictions and rounded up the experts' picks, one less-important thing remained unknown: the times and dates for Philly's four preseason games. 

That is no longer the case, as the Eagles released their preseason schedule on Friday.

Mark your calendars accordingly. 

But that's not the only reason we're talking about schedules and dates. It's also the biggest item in today's edition of What They're Saying about the Eagles. Let's get right into it...

The scheduling gods give ... the scheduling gods take

Warren Sharp | Sharp Football Analysis

Over at Sharp Football, Warren Sharp had a fascinating and incredibly in-depth look at scheduling inequalities around the NFL over the last decade, and the results paint an unfair picture for several teams around the league, including the Eagles.

The reasoning behind the NFL’s schedule is to create a competitive balance. For that reason, years in advance it is known the two divisions a team will face (one in-conference, one out of conference). And these rotate and cycle, allowing every division to play another complete division once every four years. It is also for that reason that if a team finishes in last place in the division one year, it will play the other last-place finishers of the divisions in the same conference the very next year.

Beyond those basic principles, the NFL is a business and it tries to keep things “fair enough” so that it can maximize its prized possession: TV revenue.

Building the NFL schedule is an annual chore and automation has enhanced that process in recent years, particularly in 2020. But even with so much work put into the schedule, it doesn’t guarantee fairness for all 32 teams.  [sharpfootballanalysis.com]

So, what does Sharp mean by scheduling inequalities? He looked at things like a given team's amount of rest heading into a game compared to their opponents and playing in primetime games, specifically Monday and Thursday nights (which changes the number of days off during a week), and more. And he came away some pretty interesting results that show some teams, like the Cowboys, have benefitted greatly from the schedule layout while others, like the Eagles and Giants, have been among the most negatively impacted teams. 

After analyzing all the preparation, rest, and primetime scheduling variables listed above:

The following teams received the strongest overall benefit from the NFL schedule:

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars
  2. Arizona Cardinals
  3. Dallas Cowboys
  4. Los Angeles Rams
  5. Detroit Lions

The following teams were impacted most negatively by the NFL’s scheduling inequalities:

  1. New York Giants
  2. Indianapolis Colts
  3. Chicago Bears
  4. Philadelphia Eagles
  5. Houston Texans

The most glaring takeaway should be with regard to the NFC East. The NFC East has two of the teams most negatively impacted by the NFL’s scheduling inequalities (Giants and Eagles) but also has one team that benefits most by the schedule, the Dallas Cowboys. That is extremely unfair and the effect will be further discussed below.  [sharpfootballanalysis.com]

One of the categories Sharp considered, as mentioned above, was team's rest/preparation heading into any game compared to the amount of rest/preparation for their opponents. And the benefits received by America's Team makes it almost impossible to ignore. It's so bad, in fact, that it's hard to believe it's accidental, but we can leave the tinfoil hats on the shelf for another day. We won't speculate on any conspiracies and instead let the numbers speak for themselves. 

Here's one last nugget from Sharp, and I highly recommend going and reading his full story so you get all the context and can look at his results for the NFL in one clean, color-coded chart. 

The Giants were -12 in games with a rest advantage. The Eagles have the second-worst ranking with a -11 net, and have played 44 opponents the last decade who had over a week to prepare. It was the most of any team in the NFL (avg of 29).

The inequality is glaring when considering these two teams play in the same division as the Dallas Cowboys, who have one of the strongest edges:

The Cowboys had more rest in a net of +10 games (#2 best) and played 9 short rest road games (#2 best).

The Giants had more rest in a net of -12 games (#1 worst) and played 20 short rest road games (#1 worst).

The Eagles had more rest in a net of -11 games (#2 worst) and played 19 short rest road games (#2 worst).  [sharpfootballanalysis.com]

And those three teams are all competing for the same division title? Come on, man. 

For better or worse?

Andrew Kulp | NBC Sports Philadelphia

Over at NBC Sports Philadelphia, they've been going position by position to see if the Eagles roster is better in 2020 than it was in 2019, and they came away believing they've improved in seven areas while taking a step back in four. 

Today, they took one final look at the roster as a whole. Is the 2020 team better, on paper, than the 2019 version?

The short answer is, "Yes, but ..."

Yes, but perhaps only marginally better. Yes, but there are still moves the Eagles can make to improve further, such as re-signing Jason Peters or adding a Jadeveon Clowney. Yes, but plenty of teams in their conference, such as the Cardinals or Buccaneers, and even in their own division, like the Cowboys, took far greater leaps forward.

Perhaps the ultimate "Yes, but" in all is this: yes, the Eagles got better — but there aren't many teams you would look at in any given offseason and say they got substantially worse.

If the Eagles let a player go or opt to replace somebody, there's usually a reason, whether it's age, performance, whatever. Not every decision works out as planned, but the thinking is a free agent signing, a draft pick, a player returning from injury or emerging talent already on the roster can do just as good of a job, if not better. Only the teams that are tanking, like the Jaguars, or are going through a retooling period after years at the top, such as the Patriots, look like they've taken a step back in May.

So, sure, the Eagles project to have more talent. It's a little silly to claim they don't.  [nbcsports.com]

Eagles are a Quarterback Lineman Factory

Sam Monson | Pro Football Focus

Throughout the week, Pro Football Focus has been unveiling their top 101 players of the 2010s, and the Eagles did pretty damn well for themselves, with seven players appearing on the list, including five (possibly six) current players. 

Interestingly enough, all seven play either offensive or defensive line. You can certainly look at that as an indictment of the Eagles' ability to draft and develop skill position players, but I prefer to take the glass-half-full approach and view it as the opposite: validation of their heavy investment in the trenches. 

Here's are the seven current/former Eagles who cracked the top 101: Lane Johnson (79th), Brandon Brooks (70th), Jason Kelce (52nd), Fletcher Cox (45th), Brandon Graham (42nd), Jason Peters (19th), Evan Mathis (14th).

And on Friday, PFF dropped a look at their all-decade run-blocking offensive line. And three of the five players were Eagles:

Instead of taking a look at what PFF had to say about all seven Eagles (you can do that here), let's examine the three who made that shortlist above:

52. C JASON KELCE

Jason Kelce was a sixth-round draft pick back in 2011, and though he played 1,000-plus snaps in his rookie year, he didn’t look likely to develop into the kind of dominant force he has since become. From that point onward, however, he cemented himself as one of the game’s best linemen and the standout run-blocking center in football over the past decade. Kelce’s speed and athleticism for the position have enabled him to make blocks that many centers just don’t have the skill set to execute. And while he can occasionally be overwhelmed by size and strength — particularly as a pass-protector — his down-to-down efficiency has been phenomenal.

19. T JASON PETERS

Joe Thomas is a Hall of Fame tackle and one of the best players to ever suit up at the position, and it speaks to how good Jason Peters has been in his career that he has been right there with him for pretty much the entirety of the decade. Peters had three straight seasons with an overall PFF grade above 90.0 earlier in the decade and a top-10 pressure rate surrendered over that time (4.7%). Like Whitworth, Peters has also performed well deep into his 30s, though the age appears to have taken a toll on his durability more than it has for Whitworth, with Peters missing time in each of the last few seasons.

14. G EVAN MATHIS

Everybody wants to see Quenton Nelson-style crushing blocks on the offensive line, but the majority of plays are much more subtle wins and losses than that. Are you moving your man out of the intended point of attack, or are you allowing him to stand you up, squeeze or block it in some way? Evan Mathis won those little battles at a greater rate than any offensive linemen we’ve seen and just rarely lost. His highlight reel may have been less impressive than others, but the little plays added up to something truly impressive. Mathis had six consecutive seasons with a PFF grade above 90.0 and owns five of the six highest grades we gave to guards over the decade.  [pff.com]

Clowney not worth the risk

Marcus Hayes | Inquirer.com

Speaking of linemen, one of the players linked to the Eagles this offseason as they consider possible additions at defensive end has been last year's playoff villain Jadeveon Clowney. While the money is likely going to be the biggest factory that keeps the Eagles from going hard after Clowney, Marcus Hayes of The Daily News believes they should stay away regardless, in part because he may be less motivated not playing in a contract year, but also because his injury history could come back to bite them.

Last year, Jadeveon Clowney cost the Seahawks two backup linebackers, a third-round pick, and just $8 million.

That’s a price the Eagles should have been willing to pay. Last year, Jadeveon Clowney, playing for his next contract, would have been motivated to make millions more. Last year, Jadeveon Clowney would have supplanted Derek Barnett at defensive end, and he would have been a massive upgrade.

And, of course, last year, if Jadeveon Clowney hadn’t been traded from the Texans to the Seahawks, he wouldn’t have knocked Carson Wentz out of their playoff game — and, by association, knocked the Eagles out of the playoffs.

Last year, the Eagles should have snagged Jadeveon Clowney.

This year, the Eagles should stay away from Jadeveon Clowney.  [inquirer.com]

You can take it with you

Dave Zangaro | NBC Sports Philadelphia

Earlier this week, Dave Zangaro had Eagles VP of football administration Jake Rosenberg on his podcast and the Eagles cap expert gave some clarity on the Eagles salary situation, not just for this year but next year as well.

The Eagles will have about $20 million left after signing their rookies. And while fans may look at that number and think the Birds have enough to sign pretty much any free agent left on the market, that money is likely already marked for next season. 

The key point Rosenberg made was the importance that the Eagles approach the cap from a multi-year perspective. It’s important to remember that NFL teams roll over unused cap space from year to year. The Eagles rolled over $21,484,051 from 2019 into 2020 and will need to roll over a big chunk in 2021, when OTC projects them to be $50 million over the cap. 

Rosenberg said the Eagles spent the last few seasons creating cap space with the goal of rolling it forward because they knew they might need it in 2020, which was supposed to be the final year under the old CBA. 

In Howie Roseman’s office, he has lists hanging of players signed through future years. The Eagles already have several players signed through 2023 and 2024 and they even have Lane Johnson locked up through 2025. So their plan is based on a long-term approach, while also trying to remain competitive in each and every season. 

In NFL circles, the Eagles are one of the most well-respected teams when it comes to cap management. Roseman is excellent at it and Rosenberg, who joined the team in 2012 after over a decade as a bond and commodities trader, is one of the most important people in the organization who you might not know.  [nbcsports.com]


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