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April 04, 2019

What they're saying: The Eagles have two of the best tight ends in the NFL

Plus, a look at some first-round draft targets, the evolution of Avonte Maddox and the audacity of Carson Wentz

Eagles NFL
040419_Zach-Ertz_usat Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz.

There's not a whole lot going on in the NFL at the moment — although that will change in the coming weeks as we get closer to the 2019 NFL Draft — but that doesn't mean there's nothing to talk about when it comes to the Eagles. If we've learned anything over the years, it's that even with the Sixers about to start their postseason and the Phillies getting off to an impressive 4-1 start to their season, the Eagles talk simply does not stop around here.

Earlier on Thursday, our own Jimmy Kempski wrote about the possibility of the Eagles trading for Brown running back Duke Johnson. He also hosted a chat and could barely get to half of the questions, if you need any more proof that people are craving Eagles content. 

And if you're one of those people, we've got even more good news for you: it's time for another Eagles edition of What They're Saying. Let's get right into it... 

Life in the post-Gronk NFL

Mike Sando | ESPN+

Over at ESPN, Mike Sando posed a simple question to a handful of NFL coaches and executives at the NFL's annual meetings in Arizona last week: With Gronk retiring, who is the best tight end in the NFL? And it was no surprise to hear Zach Ertz's name mentioned. It was a bit of a surprise, however, to see Dallas Goedert's name pop up. 

With top decision-makers gathering for the recent league meetings in Arizona, I asked four head coaches and four personnel evaluators to name the NFL's best tight end now that Gronk is vacating his throne. They were unanimous in their answer -- and in their belief that no current tight end approaches Gronkowski for all-around excellence.

The four head coaches and four personnel evaluators (including two general managers) all pointed to the Kansas City Chiefs' Travis Kelce as the best tight end in a post-Gronk NFL. They placed the Philadelphia Eagles' Zach Ertz close behind. They mentioned the San Francisco 49ers' George Kittle, the New York Giants' Evan Engram, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' O.J. Howard, the Eagles' Dallas Goedert and the Baltimore Ravens' Mark Andrews among younger players to watch.  [espn.com]

In his rookie season, Goedert caught 33 passes for 334 yards and four touchdowns. That's not too shabby considering he was playing second fiddle to Ertz, whereas the other guys listed are more or less the No. 1 tight end on their respective teams.

A running start?

Dave Zangaro | NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Eagles haven’t drafted a running back in the first round since 1986 (Keith Byars), but that could change this season with Alabama's Josh Jacobs being a possibility at 25th overall.

According to NFL reporter Adam Caplan, Josh Jacobs is expected to be in Philadelphia for a visit next week. 

While this certainly doesn’t mean the Eagles are going to draft Jacobs, they do get just 30 official pre-draft visits and they’re using one on the one running back who might be a first-round pick later this month. Jacobs is considered to be the top running back in this class by most and has been a trendy mock draft selection for the Eagles at No. 25. 

But would the Eagles really take him in the first round? 

It’s not completely out of the question. While the franchise hasn’t traditionally valued the running back position this highly, it’s not like they have a top-15 pick this season. And Jacobs is really good. If Doug Pederson ever really wants a true three-down, never-leave-the-field running back, Jacobs is his guy. Still, it seems more likely the Eagles use their 25th overall pick on a different position and add a running back later. My money, based on recent history, would be on the Eagles’ taking a defensive lineman.  [nbcsports.com]

Getting defensive

Tommy Lawlor | Iggles Blitz

If the Eagles decide to go defense with the 25th pick, they could look to pick up the next Fletcher Cox.

Fletcher Cox has been an amazing player for the Eagles. He was drafted 12th overall back in 2012 and has been a star for the Eagles. He will likely go down as the best DT in team history, unless Derek Landri decides to come out of retirement.

What if I told you the Eagles could draft the next Fletcher Cox? There could be a sequel to Fletch, so to speak.

That doesn’t seem likely down at pick 25, but it is. How? DT Jeffery Simmons had a great year for Mississippi State and was going to be a Top 10 pick, but he tore his ACL while working out to get ready for the Combine. Simmons could slide to pick 20. Or even to 25. Heck, it isn’t a lock that he goes in the first round, but he’s so talented that it feels like someone will take a chance on him.

There are good DTs.

And then there is Simmons.  [igglesblitz.com]

I highly recommend checking out the highlights of Simmons that Lawlor has in his post, as well as much more info on why a guy like Simmons could fall to the Birds at 25.

A pleasant surprise

Daniel Rymer | Pro Football Focus

One of the best developments during the Eagles 2018 season was rookie Avonte Maddox, who was thrown into the fire as the Eagles secondary was decimated with injuries. 

Maddox earned a defensive grade of 65.4 in his rookie year (not including playoffs), ranking 10th out of 23 qualifying rookie cornerbacks. Although his grade was just a bit above average among rookie cornerbacks, he still had some very impressive coverage stats. Maddox played 391 coverage snaps and allowed just 218 yards, which equals out to only 0.56 yards allowed per cover snap – second out of 132 qualifying cornerbacks. In addition, Maddox allowed a passer rating of just 59.9 when targeted, also ranking fourth at the position.

Impressively, Maddox saw only 33 targets last season. On average, he was targeted once every 11.8 coverage snaps, making him the most avoided rookie corner in the league in 2018. Including all cornerbacks in the NFL, only one cornerback was targeted less often than Maddox, and that person is Richard Sherman.

What is probably most encouraging for Eagles fans is that Maddox had his best performance against the current NFC Champions. He earned an overall grade of 90.5 in the win over the Rams in week 15, leading all Eagles defenders and ranking third among all NFL cornerbacks for that week. On six targets, Maddox allowed just one reception for eight yards, and he also grabbed an interception – not bad for a rookie cornerback going against arguably the league’s best offense.  [profootballfocus.com]

From Wentz he came

Michael Kist | Bleeding Green Nation

Over at BGN, Michael Kist broke down the 10 most improbable touchdown passes in Carson Wentz's career (based on completion probability.) The craziest part might not be any individual play, but the fact that each of his five toughest completions went for touchdowns.

You'll have to click over to see what the No. 1 play was, but here's a look at No. 2, which is from their 2017 Super Bowl campaign.

2. 2017, Week 7: Corey Clement 9-Yard TD

Completion Probability: 15%


This play has all the trappings of the Eagles’ signature mesh-sit wheel, with some slight modifications throughout. Wentz escapes pressure from the blitz, understanding that Clement will convert his flat route to a wheel if the ball doesn’t come right away. Ultimately Wentz puts one just out of the reach of the recovering linebacker while under extreme duress.
 [bleedinggreennation.com]


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