EXPECT EAGLES TO SHRUG OFF DRAMA AND COME BACK AS CONTENDERS
Despite the drama that has unfolded since the heartbreaking defeat to the New Orleans Saints in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 13, the Birds are in good shape. Let’s leave the quarterback decisions and commentary for later in this article. Let’s concentrate on the foundation of this team.
I spent the Pro Bowl this year on the conference room floor in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on the grounds of Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida taping new episodes of Film Sessions with Ron Jaworski for the NFL. Two of those episodes involved pro-bowl players; Lane Johnson and Malcolm Jenkins.
Two players who take their craft very seriously and who are pillars of leadership within the Eagles. Lane spent time off camera talking about the youth that has been drafted and curated by offensive line coach, Jeff Stoutland.
Both Jordan Mailata and Matt Pryor have tremendous size and potential. Mailata, who never played football at any level until he donned the pads in training camp has made more improvement in such a short time than any player I have ever seen at any level.
Matt Pryor hails from a TCU program that has had three OT’s drafted in the late rounds who have started for the last three Super Bowl Championship teams. Marcus Cannon of the Patriots and Big V from the Eagles have excelled in the big game. Pryor has played both OT and OG and I think he has a bright future for the Birds. The Eagles have been highly successful because of their commitment to keeping the “trenches” strong and deep.
Malcom spent a good deal of time talking about the futures of some young players that really helped strengthen a secondary that was beset by injuries all season long. Avonte’ Maddox started the final five games at LCB and found himself a home after playing both free safety and nickel corner.
Despite being 5-foot-9 he has the foot quickness and competitive fire necessary to go up against the elite wide receivers in this business. On November 5 the Eagles released Dexter McDougle to make room for Cre’von LeBlanc. Originally LeBlanc, was an undrafted free agent out of FAU by the Patriots.
He had played the next three seasons for the Pats, Bears, and Lions. Only 24 years old, he came in and immediately upgraded the Eagles nickel/slot corner position.
With LeBlanc at nickel it allowed Jenkins to concentrate on safety, dime linebacker and to cover some of the league’s best tight ends.
The fact that GM, Howie Roseman, and personnel chiefs Joe Douglas and Andy Weidl, can be as relentless as they have been year-round to constantly upgrade the roster should be soothing to the confidence of all Eagle fans world-wide to address the weakness of the roster whenever that may be.
The days of trading away draft picks for short term gains are over. Whether it’s for the acquisition of Golden Tate or Jay Ajayi they will not forego draft picks to address any position that may be not up to par.
I think the Eagles front office, that also includes former Steeler GM, Tom Donahoe is as talented and thorough as any front office in the NFL. Difficult roster changes are coming that may include the jettisoning of future hall of fame LT Jason Peters, the return of Darren Sproles, and possibly the retirement of Jason Kelce. And those are just a few of the bigger names.
The running back position may see many changes. While I hear that they would love to entertain the return of Sproles, they need to find a big powerful “contact” back. One who can start and finish a game, and in the process, wear down a defense. LeGarrette Blount comes to mind of a player who would bring so much to Duce Staley’s running back room.
The other great piece of news this offseason is that no coaches or personnel people left for other opportunities. I have always believed that it is harder to replace good coaches than it is to replace good players. Coach Doug P. can spend this offseason addressing alterations to the playbooks that everyone can understand. No one new to break in which should keep the continuity intact.
At the center of this off season is going to be the quarterback position. To me it isn’t really difficult. Nick Foles has earned the right to seek free agency and to lead another team. I was surprised that he was able to stay after winning Super Bowl 52 and taking home the coveted MVP Trophy.
He was a better player than Kirk Cousins, and Alex Smith, and Case Keenum as they traveled through the QB carousel on their way to cashing large free agent checks. I will be more than surprised if he doesn’t reunite with former Eagle QB coach, John DeFillipo, in Jacksonville.
But why wouldn’t the New York Giants be interested amongst the likes of the Redskins and Dolphins? He would be an upgrade over any of those players in any of the teams I just mentioned. He has foregone $2 million dollars to seek his freedom and enter the burgeoning free agent QB market.
The Eagles may try to franchise tag him so they can trade him and seek compensation, but really, Nick Foles doesn’t owe the Eagles any kind of retribution or home team discount.
Carson Wentz is their starter. Period! I remind his detractors that he has earned the right to get healthy. The 2018 off-season was spent in an aggressive rehabilitation program that may have led to the back issues that cut short his 2019 season. When healthy he is what every team in the NFL is looking for.
Natural leader, fiery competitor, and hungry for a second championship. His contract entering his fourth NFL season is not an issue for 2019. I think that once April comes around Carson will be 100 percent healthy and ready to lead the Birds through the off-season programs.
This is a time to really absorb new concepts and build timing with young stalwarts like Dallas Goedert. He also needs time to put a series of injuries behind him that have bothered him the past two seasons. Behind him is Nate Sudfeld who the Eagles have been grooming entering their third season together. I expect them to address this position in the draft.
The future is playoffs. This is what the Eagles goals are every year. Once in, it’s anyone’s game. I believe in Coach Doug P, Carson, and Howie. It’s a good team that is not happy with a tough loss to the Saints.
The sour taste from that defeat is fuel for everyone at NovaCare. The Eagles are not mired in drama despite what has led the local headlines have read.