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May 18, 2018

What they're saying: Wentz for 2018 MVP, high grades for Eagles' UDFA haul, and more love for Howie

The Eagles return to the field for OTAs next week, which is crazy because it feels like just yesterday they were beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl. 

Boy, time flies.

And just as the weather has been heating up, so too have the takes. One gasbag has been so bad, in fact, that he actually forced our own Jimmy Kempski to acknowledge his existence and, in doing so, knock him down a peg. Or two, if there are even that many left before he hits the ground. 

That being said, Colin Cowherd seems like the exception rather than the rule when it comes to how the national media view the Eagles following their first Super Bowl title – did we mention that they beat the Patriots, 41-33, in that game? – and it's becoming increasingly easier to find positive stories about the Birds than negative ones.

Just take a look at ESPN analyst – and former NFL scout – Louis Riddick, who thinks that the Eagles have two of the three best quarterbacks in the NFC East. And Riddick isn't alone among his colleagues over at the worldwide leader, which seems as good a place as any to begin today's edition of What They're Saying:

The comeback kid

Staff | ESPN

"The Comeback Kid" isn't just the name of the greatest Parks and Rec episode (and greatest blooper) of all time, it will also describe the Eagles quarterback this season. And if he plays anywhere close to the level he was at before tearing his ACL last year, he's almost a guaranteed lock for Comeback Player of the Year. 

Well, he was also playing at an MVP level, so it would stand to reason that a return to form would like put him in that conversation once again. ESPN had their insiders do some more predictions, including who they think will win MVP in 2018. And while several said Aaron Rodgers, there was one vote for Carson.

Mike Clay, NFL writer: Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles are the defending champs and -- as rosters currently stand -- also happen to sport the league's best team on paper. I don't expect a Super Bowl hangover, so as long as Wentz returns healthy from his torn ACL, I expect another outstanding season behind Philadelphia's league-best offensive line.  []

What's in a name?

Dave Zangaro | NBC Sports Philadelphia

Speaking of Carson, there are going to be quite a few more running around Philadelphia in the near future.

According to the US Social Security database, there were 301 babies named Carson in Pennsylvania in 2017, a clear spike from recent years. And we’re at the intersection of Chase and Carson. In 2017, for the first time in the last decade, there were actually more babies named Carson (301) than Chase (299) in PA. And it’ll probably be that way for a while. 

There are two keys to these correlations. First, it takes a player that is truly beloved; both these guys are. And it takes a name that isn’t historically super popular. Maybe we’ll see a spike in Nicholas thanks to Nick Foles, but names like Nicholas and Ryan and James are already pretty popular. Carson and Chase are just unique enough to track.  []

Crunching the numbers

Sheil Kapadia | The Athletic

I mean, it is a little weird that parents would name their kids after a goat, but whatever...  

Below are five numbers — courtesy of Sportradar — about Wentz that outline both his strengths and what he needs to work on.

49.0 – The percentage of third downs that the Eagles converted last year when Wentz dropped back to pass. That was the best mark in the NFL; no other quarterback was higher than 44.3. It is also tied for the best mark by any quarterback since 2011 when Drew Brees converted 55.2 percent of his third-down chances. Wentz averaged a ridiculous 9.5 YPA on third down; no other QB was better than 8.4.  []

MORE: Former NFL scout ranks Nick Foles ahead of Dak Prescott | Philadelphia Eagles updated 2018 depth chart | I mean, just shut up already, Colin Cowherd, lol

Movin' on up

Patrick Daugherty |

Remember when everyone hated Howie? Me neither.

3. Howie Roseman, Eagles

Winning an NFL power struggle can be a Pyrrhic victory. Oftentimes, you’re the next one out the door. When Howie Roseman bested Chip Kelly in late 2015, he inherited a roster at a crossroads, one without a quarterback and pruned of much of its veteran talent. Roseman wasted no time in planting the seeds for its revival. Attacking his second chance with ferocity, Roseman made reputation-risking moves at both head coach and quarterback. His hiring of Doug Pederson felt flat. His trade up for Carson Wentz seemed desperate. Both proved to be inspired, serving as the twin pillars of the first Super Bowl championship in Eagles history. Now the boss of an imposingly deep roster, Roseman has complemented his major moves with quieter ones, like his pilfering of Timmy Jernigan from the Ravens. It’s been only eight years since Roseman first started assisting Andy Reid as his general manager. There have been some lows along the way. Roseman learned from them on his way to the highest of highs.  []

The leftovers

Maurice Moton | Bleacher Report

And it seems like the Eagles' front office is picking up right where they left off last season, getting rave reviews for their free agent, draft and UDFA hauls. Last year, that helped lead them to a Super Bowl title – and before you question the importance of those UDFAs, two words: 

Corey. Clement.

[Notre Dame RB Josh Adams] looks like an early-down back, who can contribute to a committee as opposed to a workhorse asset, though, he fits well in an Eagles backfield that lost a downhill runner in LeGarrette Blount during free agency.

Bruce Hector and Joe Ostman could make the roster as an underrated pass-rushing tag team on the defensive line. The former finished a three-year college career as a wrecking ball on the inside with 18 sacks. The latter took down the quarterback 26 times in his time at Central Michigan.

The Eagles front seven would certainly improve with either Hector or Ostman in the rotation. If they both manage to earn roster spots, Philadelphia should lead the league in sacks. 

Grade: A   []

Lightening the load

Reuben Frank | NBC Sports Philadelphia

Roob's 10 observations are always great, and this week they included one that was more of a prediction than an observation. [I also threw in the James Thrash because that was the last Eagles jersey my dad ever bought – and I can't imagine why.]

5. I think the Eagles are going to be very careful with Jay Ajayi’s workload, both during training camp and the season. Ajayi averaged only 10 carries per game after joining the Eagles in November, and that number jumped to 14 per game in the playoffs, and he was healthy and productive when the Eagles needed him the most. Ajayi is only 24, but obviously the Eagles are concerned about his knees. I love Ajayi’s ability, but I don’t think he gets more than 200 carries during the regular season (12 ½ per game), and it’s clear the Eagles want to add as much talent as possible around him — Matt Jones, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement, perhaps Wendell Smallwood, perhaps Josh Adams, perhaps even Donnel Pumphrey — so the Eagles can rotate guys and keep Ajayi’s workload down. Pederson loves rotating backs anyway, and even without LeGarrette Blount, you’ll continue to see that. ...

10. James Thrash actually had a pretty good season in 2001. Caught 63 for 833 and eight touchdowns. What’s amazing is that from 1997 through 2003, he’s the only Eagles WR who did that!  []

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