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July 19, 2018

What they're saying: Eagles are NFL's team of the future, from the inside out

Eagles NFL
0526_Wentz_Ertz_USAT Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports, File

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, right, and tight end Zach Ertz.

With the start of training camp now less than a week away, things seem to be going swell for the Eagles. Doug Pederson is beating Saints coach Sean Payton at golf. Nick Foles is adding more hardware to his shelf while becoming a best-selling author. Carson Wentz, who just got married, is likely on his honeymoon as you read this. And Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson continue to say Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson things (which usually involve taking shots at the New England Patriots).

As the reigning Super Bowl champs, the Eagles have every right to be feeling good heading into camp. And, according to some ESPN analysts, the Birds are in prime position to enjoy another summer like this in the near future. 

I don't necessarily disagree, I'm just wondering how they came up with those rankings — and where they parked the DeLorean.

It's clearly a slow time of year in terms of actual news surrounding the Eagles, although that will change next week. But in the meantime, there are still plenty of opinions out there about the Eagles. In today's edition of What They're Saying, we'll take a look at the Eagles' bright future, which goes well beyond their young quarterback, as well as local columnist's defense of Terrell Owens and the ever-rising value of the franchise.

Choose your weapons

Bill Barnwell | ESPN.com

Last week, ESPN ranked the Eagles as having the best future outlook at quarterback. Now, they also crack the Top 10 in Bill Barnwell's list of the top skill position groupings in the NFL at number 7. In case you're wondering, that's one spot ahead of the Patriots and one behind the Los Angeles Rams. 

The Top 5 looked like this:

5. Vikings
4. Steelers
3. Falcons
2. Giants
1. Chiefs

Here's what Barnwell had to say about the Birds... 

7. Philadelphia Eagles

The team that beat Belichick's Patriots in Super Bowl LII is structured in a similar way, combining a star tight end with a rotation of useful running backs. Zach Ertz isn't as dominant as Gronkowski, but his injury history isn't as pressing. I'd also argue that the Eagles have a better group of wideouts for 2018, especially given that Edelman is guaranteed to miss at least four games. Philly can expect more out of Alshon Jeffery, who played through a torn rotator cuff last season. To the shock of everyone, Nelson Agholor emerged as a useful slot receiver, and he should continue to improve in that role, while Mike Wallace should be an upgrade on the departed Torrey Smith and could be pushed by further improvement from second-year wideout Mack Hollins.  [espn.com]

In defense of Terrell Owens (and with apologies to Steve Largent)

Bob Ford | Philadelphia Inquirer

Over at philly.com, Bob Ford has a great column defending former Eagles wideout Terrell Owens in his ongoing beef with the Pro Football Hall of Fame. As Owens told PhillyVoice earlier this year, he feels like voters put their personal feelings ahead of stats in preventing him from being elected on his first ballot.

He'll get in this year — along with former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins — but that doesn't mean he's happy about it. Which is why Owens is skipping the induction ceremony altogether. As Bob Ford (correctly) argues, T.O. has a point...

Owens has every right to be angry that it took three years to gain entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was not selected in his first two years of eligibility for the simple reason that the voters didn’t like him. Again, that’s understandable. It’s also not the primary reason the electors are there.

Terrell Owens is a Hall of Fame player, something the voters got around to admitting this year. His career accomplishments place him in the all-time top 10 for receptions (eighth), receiving yards (second) and receiving touchdowns (third). There just isn’t any question that he belongs, but the Hall stuffily kept him out as long as possible because he was a pain in the ass. During the same time, Marvin Harrison was elected despite career numbers that weren’t as good and despite some off-the-field issues that went beyond having an annoying personality.

I mean, really. Steve Largent went in on his first year of eligibility. Steve Largent. He was really good, but, prime of their careers, one game to win, who do you want as your wide receiver, Terrell Owens or Steve Largent? It’s not even worth discussing.  [philly.com]


RELATED: Foles wins 'Best Championship Performance' at ESPYS


The big and the beautiful

Alex Prewitt | Sports Illustrated

I can't do this story justice with a paragraph-long introduction. It's an in-depth feature on the Eagles offensive line for Sports Illustrated. Just go read it.

The big men have earned the right to beef. Kelce slips in a sly shot at New England over dinner: “The last defense we had seen was Minnesota’s, and we were like, ‘These dudes have got some players.’ Then we see [the Patriots] and we’re like, ‘These dudes have got some . . . coaches.’ ” And Peters, a Dallas native, takes a crack at the division-rival Cowboys: “[People there tell me,] ‘Y’all got lucky.’ I just say, ‘Too bad y’all haven’t been lucky in 20-something years.’ ” 

Of course, each of them would rather be on this side, the boisterous heels combatting buttoned-up NFL blue bloods. After all, it’s hard to imagine many other teams embracing a unit that wears dog masks, discourses in drunken F-bombs or, really, shows any semblance of personality whatsoever.  [si.com]

Lining up nicely

Brandon Lee Gowton | Bleeding Green Nation

Speaking of the offensive line, they're the next part of this Eagles-as-the-future narrative. ProFootballFocus.com ranked them as the best in the league heading into the 2018 season, and, as Brandon Lee Gowton of Bleeding Green points out, that could go a long way in helping the Eagles make it back to the Super Bowl.

This line has the perfect mix of talent and chemistry. We know that the depth is pretty good as well.

PFF rated the Eagles’ offensive line as the best in the league heading into last year and that’s the case for this year as well. Their dominance up-front should make life easier on Carson Wentz, who is returning from injury. The Eagles’ running game, which averaged 4.5 yards per carry in 2017, should be strong again as well.

Ultimately, this group will play a big factor in giving the Eagles a chance to repeat as Super Bowl champs.  [bleedinggreennation.com]


TRAINING CAMP PREVIEWS
QB | RB | WR | TE | OT | OG/C | DE


Getting defensive

Gordon McGuinness | ProFootballFocus.com

Speaking of PFF, they also have the Eagles ranked as the No. 1 pass rush unit in the NFL. 

The Eagles led the way in our offensive line rankings and they lead the way again here. With a unit that is as impressive on the edge as on the interior, and with elite top level players and solid depth, another big season seems likely. Graham racked up 11 sacks, four hits and 45 hurries on his way to finishing the year as our eighth-highest graded edge defender. Meanwhile, Cox dominated on the interior with 51 total pressures. The big addition is the former Seattle Seahawks standout in Bennett, who arrives to Philadelphia after a 70 total pressure season in Seattle. The unit loses Vinny Curry, who added 47 pressures of his own in 2017, but look for Derek Barnett to see a bigger role after producing six sacks as a rookie.  [profootballfocus.com]

Worth the cost?

Bill Barnwell | ESPN.com

It's not all sunshine and rainbows for the Eagles. Just last week, Sporting News listed Eagles DT Tim Jernigan as one of the worst contracts in the NFL. Now, Bill Barnwell has fellow defensive tackle Fletcher Cox as having the 10th most inflated contract in the league. However, you can clearly see that his stats took a hit during the regular season before he turned it on in the postseason, something that was largely due to Jim Schwartz's defensive line rotation. As it turns out, that paid dividends in the playoffs.

10. Fletcher Cox, DT, Philadelphia Eagles
Three-year compensation: $47.8 million (36.5 percent over baseline)

Cox's raw statistics are deflated by how the Eagles heavily rotate their defensive linemen throughout the regular season. We saw evidence of that in the postseason. The 27-year-old lined up for only 59 percent of Philadelphia's defensive snaps during the regular season, but when January rolled around, Cox played more than 86 percent of the snaps during the Eagles' run to Super Bowl LII. He also delivered in the playoffs, as Cox's six quarterback knockdowns during the postseason ranked second behind only New England's Trey Flowers.  [espn.com]

Show me the money

Kurt Badenhausen | Forbes

According to Forbes, the Philadelphia Eagles are the 22nd most valuable franchise in professional sports, anywhere in the world, at $2.65 billion. That puts them up 6 percent from the year prior, but still leaves them ranked last in their division — Dallas, Washington and New York are each in the top 10 globally.

And before you start wondering why the Cowboys' value increased nearly twice as much as the Eagles' value, keep in mind that this is for the 2017 fiscal year, and the impact of the Eagles wining the Super Bowl likely hasn't been fully factored into this. At least not yet. 

The NFL is still the dominant sport in the world's biggest economy. Thirty-seven percent of Americans picked football as their favorite sport to watch in the latest Gallup Poll. Football is down from it's peak of 43% a dozen years ago, but it still crushes basketball (11%), baseball (9%) and soccer (7%).

TV networks pay billions to satisfy viewers wanting NFL action. NFL teams evenly divvied up $8.2 billion, or $255 million per team, last season from shared league revenue, with TV rights deals from CBS, NBC, Fox, ESPN and DirecTV the bulk of the money. Factor in a salary cap that restricts player costs to 50% of league revenue and NFL owners are minting money with average profits of $101 million per team in the sense of earnings before interest, taxes, deprecation and amortization.

Rank, Team, Value, 1-Year change (Sport)
1. Dallas Cowboys, $4.8 billion, 14% (NFL)
2. Manchester United, $4.123 billion, 12% (Soccer)
3. Real Madrid, $4.09 billion, 14% (Soccer)
4. Barcelona, $4.064 billion, 12% (Soccer)
5. New York Yankees, $4 billion, 8% (MLB)
6. New England Patriots, $3.7 billion, 9% (NFL)
7. New York Knicks, $3.6 billion, 9% (NBA)
8. Los Angeles Lakers, $3.3 billion, 10% (NBA)
8. New York Giants, $3.3 billion, 6% (NFL)
10. Golden State Warriors, $3.1 billion, 19% (NBA)
10. Washington Redskins, $3.1 billion, 5% (NFL)
...
21. New York Jets, $2.75 billion, 0% (NFL)
22. Philadelphia Eagles, $2.65 billion, 6% (NFL)
23. Chicago Bulls, $2.6 billion, 4% (NBA)

[forbes.com]


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