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Found 402 results

  1. Eagles’ thumping linebacker lands on list of most important players Over the next few weeks leading up to training camp, we’ll be counting down the top 25 most important Eagles for the 2022 season. 25. Quez Watkins 24. Gardner Minshew 23. T.J. Edwards T.J. Edwards might have saved the Eagles’ season in 2021. OK, maybe that’s going a little too far. But it’s hard to overstate just how important Edwards was to the Eagles’ second-half turnaround last season, how much he ended up meaning to Jonathan Gannon’s defense down the stretch. Early in the 2021 season, while Edwards was starting some games, he wasn’t playing all that much. But in the second half of the season, when Edwards barely left the field, the Eagles’ defense looked completely different. Sure, there were other factors involved — most importantly that the schedule got easier — but the other biggest change was Edwards’ presence on the field. It meant a lot to their defense. In the first eight games of the season, Edwards played 36.8% of the Eagles’ defensive snaps. In the next eight games, he played 94.9% of their defensive snaps. The Eagles were 3-5 in their first 8 and 6-2 in their next eight. Excluding the meaningless regular season finale, in which Edwards was inactive, here’s a look at how the Eagles’ defense fared: First eight games: Allowed 344.0 yards per game (10th in NFL), 123.5 rushing yards per game (23rd), 220.6 passing yards per game (9th), 23.9 points (16th). Next eight games: 295.3 yards per game (6th in NFL), 84.4 rushing yards per game (4th), 210.9 passing yards per game (14th), 17.9 points per game (7th). He ended the season as ProFootballFocus’s 10th-best linebacker in 2021 and was given an extension for the 2022 season. Edwards added a layer of toughness to the Eagles’ defense they had been missing. Defensive coordinator even handed over the green helmet dot to Edwards. "I do think that it's a calming effect for the defense to have one signal caller, and when you play a lot of packages, as we do, that can get challenging at times. But he's really settled in,” Gannon said in the second half of last season. "He's the green dot and he makes all the front mechanic calls with the front. I mean, he's making the back end calls with the back end guys, and he's just a really good communicator. "You hear me talking about being emotionally stable. He's one of those guys that every once in a while I'll juice him in his ear and he just gives me a thumbs up. ‘I got you, Coach.’ Or, ‘TJ, get this done.’ ‘I got you, Coach,’ and then a call comes in. He's been a joy to be around. He's smart, tough, physical. He's what we look for in the MIKE position and he's playing well.” After all that, why doesn’t Edwards even make the top 20? Well, the Eagles have made some great strides to improve the position this offseason and now, all of a sudden, Edwards finds himself in a pretty crowded linebacker room. Kyzir White and Nakobe Dean are both going to play an awful lot this year and it’ll be up to Gannon to figure out how to use all three and Davion Taylor too. Edwards doesn't seem concerned. "The more depth you have, the more pieces you have, the more you can do," he said this spring. "We’ve brought in some really good additions, guys that have really played football at a high level, so I think it just adds more to what we can do. "So you look at that and you look at it as competition and everybody’s going to get better from that, really.” Still, it’s hard to imagine Edwards playing over 90% of the defensive snaps like he did in the second half of last season but he shouldn’t be forgotten either. Edwards might never become a Pro Bowler in the NFL but he’s carved out quite a career as an undrafted rookie from Wisconsin. And he’s proven himself as a dependable, instinctive linebacker who deserves a role. He will have one again in 2022. https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/eagles/eagles-2022-season-tj-edwards-list-most-important-players
  2. Minshew lands on list of Eagles’ most important players in 2022 Over the next few weeks leading up to training camp, we’ll be counting down the top 25 most important Eagles for the 2022 season. 25. Quez Watkins 24. Gardner Minshew A good backup quarterback is like an insurance policy. You don’t need it until you need it. No team understands that better than the Eagles, who watched their backup quarterback hoist the Lombardi Trophy several years ago. Just last year, the Eagles needed Gardner Minshew to start the Jets game when Jalen Hurts was out with an ankle injury. The Eagles won that game 33-18, their first win of four straight that propelled them into the postseason. After the win, Minshew had this legendary celebration with his father. (CLICK ON LINK TO ARTICLE TO VIEW VIDEO) In that game, Minshew completed 20 of 25 passes for 242 yards and 2 touchdowns. His passer rating of 133.7 in that game is higher than any game of Hurts’ career. Of course, the Jets weren’t very good last year and won just four games. Hurts likely would have carved them up too. Still, it didn’t stop Minshew from asking Nick Sirianni if there was a chance he could win the starting job. That was a query Sirianni shut down pretty quickly. "Gardner has played a lot of football in this league,” Sirianni said in January. "I’ve got a lot of confidence in him. ... We always talk about wanting your backup quarterback to be able to come in and function and give you a chance to win. And we saw that. He was awesome in the game that he played against the Jets. And so I would be disappointed if Gardner didn't want to be the starter.” Coming into 2022, there’s absolutely no quarterback controversy. This team belongs to Hurts. But that doesn’t mean Minshew isn’t important. Minshew, 26, entered the NFL as a sixth-round pick in 2019 and has had some success. Minshew Mania took over Jacksonville during his rookie season and even after that wore off, he’s still a good player. He’s realistically a low-level starter/high-level backup in the NFL. For the Eagles, he represents an insurance policy behind Hurts on a team that wants to (and should) contend in 2022. In his career, Minshew has completed 63.2% of his passes with 41 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions and a passer rating of 93.9. That’s the 18th-highest passer rating in the NFL among QBs with at least 20 starts. On his recent top 40 QB list, NBC Sports’ Chris Simms ranked Minshew as the 37th-best quarterback in the NFL; Hurts came in at No. 25. The Eagles acquired Minshew last August for a sixth-round pick. At that time, they still had Joe Flacco as their backup and didn’t need Minshew but they thought the value was too good to pass up. But when they traded Flacco to the Jets in October to recoup a sixth-rounder, they promoted Minshew to the backup spot. That’s probably an upgrade. Could the Eagles still deal Minshew this offseason? Sure, if another team is desperate for a quarterback and is willing to give up a substantial draft pick, the Eagles would listen. But it would have to be substantial. Because Minshew is still on the final year of his rookie contract and represents a cheap and solid backup QB for a team that has serious playoff aspirations. If all goes to plan in 2022, the Eagles will make the playoffs and they’ll do so with Minshew on the bench. But it’s never a bad idea to have a backup plan; and Minshew is a pretty good one. https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/eagles/eagles-2022-season-gardner-minshew-list-most-important-players
  3. Quez Watkins lands on list of Eagles’ most important players Over the next few weeks leading up to training camp, we’ll be counting down the top 25 most important Eagles for the 2022 season. 25. Quez Watkins If Watkins never played another snap, you could already consider him to be a successful sixth-round pick. But he’s still getting better and will still be a big part of the Eagles’ offense in 2022. Watkins, who just turned 24 earlier this month, had a breakout season in 2021, his second in the NFL. He finished the year with 43 catches for 647 yards and 1 touchdown. It’s crazy to think that this time last year, Watkins was presumably going to have to fight for his roster spot at training camp. By the end of last season, however, Watkins was the Eagles’ No. 2 receiver. To begin the 2021 season, Watkins was the Eagles’ third receiver behind DeVonta Smith and Jalen Reagor but he finished the year clearly ahead of Reagor. Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said after the year ended that Watkins was a legitimate No. 2 receiver in the NFL. "He has big-time speed, and he has a knack to make plays,” Sirianni said in January. "Of course, you always want to get – the style of offense that we played this year didn't allow for Quez to get as many touches as he probably deserves, but we did everything we could do to win each individual game. "So, Quez has big-play ability in him. I think out of the No. 2 wide-outs I've been around in the NFL, he can be one of the best No. 2’s that I've been around in the NFL because of his skill set and because of his ability to make plays.” Last season, Watkins became the first Eagles player drafted in the 6th round or later to have 40+ catches and 600+ yards since John Spagnola in 1985. And he’s one of just five since the merger: Spagnola, Harold Carmichael, Harold Jackson, Gary Ballman. The fact that Watkins put up those numbers in an offense that didn’t prioritize getting him the football is even more impressive. The problem for Watkins is that he still won’t be a priority going into the 2022 season. The Eagles bring back Smith after his promising rookie season and also added A.J. Brown through a trade. So the offensive game plan, from a passing perspective, will be focused on trying to get the ball to Brown, Smith and tight end Dallas Goedert. Still, the attention on others might help Watkins. In 2021, Watkins played 68.9 percent of his offensive snaps from the slot. That’s notable because he had never really played in the slot before last year. While he performed well inside, it’s fair to wonder if he was able to utilize his 4.35 speed in there. This upcoming season, Watkins might get some more time outside. Because Brown has played a decent amount of snaps in his three-year career from the slot and Sirianni will likely get him inside based on certain matchups. That will give Watkins a chance to use his burners outside. Either way, Watkins is still just 24 and entering his third NFL season. He has ability and began to unlock it last year. It’ll be fun to see if there’s a lot more growth in Watkins’ future. https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/eagles/eagles-2022-season-quez-watkins-list-most-important-players
  4. Sirianni explains why he gave up play calling A lot of coaches wouldn’t give up play calling. Nick Sirianni did. While you could certainly find the negative in the situation, that the offensive head coach the Eagles hired last year gave up those responsibilities during his first season at the helm. But the positives stand out even more. In a profession where ego can derail careers, Sirianni selflessly handed off play calling during the 2021 season to his offensive coordinator Shane Steichen. Earlier this spring, Steichen confirmed he’ll be calling the offensive plays again in 2022. "I think that's where a lot of problems happen in the NFL is from an ego standpoint,” Sirianni said last week. "It’s what is the best thing to do. If I said I'm going to stand on a table and run these plays that we ran with Philip Rivers, because that's what we do, that's an ego thing to me. So, it's the same thing here. I felt like I needed to make a change in the sense of how to free me up to be a better head coach, and I had a good assistant to call the plays, and so that's what I went with. "So yeah, no hesitation there at all, no ego thing there at all. Shane has done a great job, and imagining we do what we're supposed to do and win games, do what we were paid to do to come here, Shane will get an opportunity to be a head coach and then we [discuss] it again.” Sirianni, 40, made it very clear that it’s not like he’s turning over the entirety of his offense to Steichen. Sirianni, with input from his assistants, still devises the gameplan weekly. He and Steichen go over situational football and they even script the first 15 plays together too. Sirianni’s point was that a lot more goes into play calling than the actual moment Steichen calls the play through the headset to Jalen Hurts. But we shouldn’t minimize that role either; it’s important. And there are plenty of head coaches who wouldn’t have been willing to turn over the reins. Heck, Doug Pederson never considered turning over his play sheet, even when things were going poorly. That’s not a knock on Doug; he’s a good play caller who wanted to work his way out of a rut. But it’s a good example of how sure of himself Sirianni is. He felt like calling plays on game days was taking him away from some of his other responsibilities on Sundays. "What I noticed was, well, I wasn't communicating enough with (defensive coordinator Jonathan) Gannon about something, or I wasn't communicating enough about the defense about something that they needed to be pumped up or [Special Teams Coordinator Michael Clay] or the special teams,” Sirianni said. "I love doing that, to go over into the kickoff return and say, ‘Let's go, let's get a play going.’ There are a lot of things that have to happen on the offense before a drive starts. "You have to communicate to all the offensive players, ‘Here are the next string of plays.’ You have to put together the next string of plays of what you're talking about. "I just really trusted Shane. Shane and I spend so much time throughout the week together, again, coming up with a plan amongst the coaches, and Shane and I are doing most of the heavy lifting. "We shifted to it during one of the games, and I felt comfortable with being able to talk to everybody – there are things that come up with the referees that I need to do. There are things that come up with the guys upstairs that I need to talk through a situation and how we might need to handle it. There are just so many things that came up, and you know what, I wanted to trust the guys on the staff that I had, because I have good coaches. We just talked about it.” Even during games, there are plenty of conversations between Sirianni and Steichen about the next set of plays. And Sirianni contends that he and Steichen have such a long history working with one another, dating back to their years together with the Chargers, that they’re always on the same wavelength anyway when it comes to play calling. "He knows exactly what I want on a 3rd-and-long at the 40-yard line,” Sirianni said. "He knows exactly what I want. What's that game show where you go behind — I don't even remember, but we would write down the exact same play.” The Newlywed Game? "Yeah, the Newlywed Game,” Sirianni said chuckling. "Shane and I.” The Eagles just have to hope this marriage keeps working. https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/eagles/eagles-nick-sirianni-explains-why-he-gave-play-calling
  5. Eagles add veteran safety with starting experience The Eagles have finally addressed the safety position, agreeing to terms on a one-year deal with veteran Jaquiski Tartt Tartt, 30, has played his entire seven-year NFL career with the San Francisco 49ers. In those seven years, Tartt has played in 80 games with 64 starts. Tartt played and started 14 games for the Niners last season. You might remember Tartt as the player who dropped what would have been a crucial interception in the fourth quarter against the Rams in the NFC Championship Game in January. The Rams won 20-17 and went on to win the Super Bowl a couple weeks later. "I deserve all the criticism my way!” Tartt tweeted the night of the loss. With the Eagles, Tartt help bolster what was the weakest position group on the team. The presumed starters were Anthony Harris and Marcus Epps. Tartt should be able to push one of them. If nothing else, this signing gives the Eagles some much-needed depth at the position. Their top backups were K’Von Wallace, Andre Chachere and Jared Mayden. At least now the Eagles have a few decent safeties. Last year, the Eagles rotated Harris, Epps and Rodney McLeod. The 49ers drafted Tartt in the second round out of Samford in 2015. Tartt has four career interceptions and 18 pass breakups. Tartt was ranked as the 72nd-best safety in the NFL last season by ProFootballFocus. https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/eagles/eagles-signing-veteran-safety-jaquiski-tartt-1-year-deal
  6. Eagles’ veterans break down their new rookie teammates The Eagles had an abbreviated spring practice schedule so the work was limited on the field … but they did get to connect. That’s one of Nick Sirianni’s favorite core values, of course. The Eagles held a three-day rookie minicamp before welcoming back the veterans for OTAs. At those practices, rookies and veterans took the field and shared the meeting rooms. So it was the first chance for the established players on the team to be around their youngest teammates and in some cases the guys who will one day replace them. Since we have a long break before training camp begins on July 26, I went back through every interview with veterans this spring to find out what they said about their rookie teammates: Dallas Goedert asked to name an under-the-radar player who stood out this spring: “(UDFA receiver/returner) Britain Covey. He’s got a lot of potential. He’s a good player. He’s really smart in his route running. He was the one that probably stood out the most.” Jason Kelce on second-round center Cam Jurgens, whom he helped scout: "I’m pretty excited about the kid. I liked him a lot. I like his tools, I like his mentality. Probably overstated a little bit, my involvement in that selection. So I’d like to kind of step that back a little bit. I think I’ve looked at a few guys the past couple years when they’ve asked my opinions. He’s here obviously because Jeff Stoutland and Howie Roseman, Nick Sirianni, all these people, watched his tape and really believe in him. I think although he does have a lot of similar traits to me, he’s going to be his own player and I’m looking forward to helping out any of these young guys, in particular Cam.” Landon Dickerson on his advice for Jurgens "Gotta be ready to learn every day and get better. You’re going to make mistakes; can’t let it weigh down on you. Take it on the chin, keep moving forward.” Brandon Graham on the Eagles’ picking nose tackle Jordan Davis with the No. 13 pick: "It gives us great depth together. Man, I’m excited for big boy because he’s going to be taking two or three people with him, hopefully, and take a lot off of us. I just believe that he added more depth for us. And it’s going to be a lot of fun once we get everyone up to speed. That’s a big boy for real. That’s another Jordan Mailata on the defensive side. I just can’t wait to see him, man, kind of pick his brain and see what he knows. From Georgia, watching him, you see it. It’s like, OK, this boy explosive, this boy can run and it’s just all about making sure he can do that at a high level.” Javon Hargrave on the Davis pick: "Of course we were happy. He definitely adds a big piece to us. A great defensive lineman, so it’ll just make us even deeper. We’re just ready to get rolling with him.” Fletcher Cox on the addition of Davis: "It’s great. I’ve talked to him, picked his brain. The little time I have been here with him, I’ve been on him a little bit, just how to be a professional. Trying to teach him how to be a pro, how to practice, how to handle certain situations. It’s good. I think the more talent we have on the D-line, the better we are. Dickerson on blocking Davis as a teammate at Alabama: "It was a great experience in college. Obviously, he’s a very good player. Look forward to practicing against him and seeing him grow as a player now that he’s in the league.” Haason Reddick on the additions of first-rounder Davis and third-rounder Nakobe Dean: "Some more youth, some energy. Can’t wait to see what they actually do on the field. But Jordan Davis, hopefully he can be a big help in the middle, as big as he is. And then getting Dean, I’ve heard lots about him in terms of him being an intelligent linebacker. So hopefully getting him on the field too and have them guys help the team in any way that they can.” T.J. Edwards gives his early impressions of Dean: "Nakobe is a sponge and I think he really wants to be a good player. He’s asking questions to everybody and I think everybody is also trying to make sure they’re pushing each other too.” Davion Taylor on Dean: "He’s a great player. I feel like me and him clicked, personally, just because we’re both from Mississippi, we’re both from the south. We talk a lot and we play the same position so, me personally, I don’t see it as competition yet. Right now, it’s OTAs so we’re just connecting. We’re helping each other out. I’m helping him learn what he’s doing. When the time comes, I know we’re going to have to compete. But now is all about connecting and getting better as a team and as a group.” Reddick on hearing that sixth-round pick Kyron Johnson emulates him: "I remember being in his position and people asking me the same question. At the time, I was trying to model my game after Von Miller at the time. For him to say that about me, you know, it’s amazing. It’s just a testament to my work and a testament to how far I’ve grown thus far in the NFL.” Dallas Goedert on his role as a leader to sixth-round pick Grant Calcaterra: "Obviously was really excited to be here for four more years and my leadership role without Zach is definitely growing. Grant, met him a few times at the agency, watched his film. He’s a tremendous player. I’m excited to get him here and teach him everything I know. And pick up anything he knows that I don’t know. And just excited for how he’s going to be able to improve the group as the whole.” Hurts remembers being teammates with Calcaterra at Oklahoma in 2019: "Our time at Oklahoma was kind of cut short due to his issues and overcoming concussions. But I’m so happy that he’s made a return to the game and now we have an opportunity to finish what we started at OU. I know when I talked to him, he was very excited, he was very excited, ready to come to work, ready to build off what we started at Oklahoma my last year, my senior year. I’m excited to get to work with him.” https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/eagles/what-eagles-veterans-think-rookies-jordan-davis-nakobe-dean-and-more
  7. Cox ready to teach his enormous understudy all he can Jordan Davis is noticeably taller that Fletcher Cox but that doesn’t stop him from looking up at the Eagles great. Now that the two are teammates, Davis wants to soak up as much knowledge as he can from Cox. And Cox is eager to teach. "I want to be able to share a lot of information with Jordan and I know he’ll get it,” Cox said last week. "I know it’s a lot for him. He’s a rookie. I’ve been in that same position before, when guys have kind of taken me under their arms and kind of led the way. "I’m excited about Jordan and we converse all the time and talk about football and, more importantly, about life. About how have things been lately with you. I’m excited about him to see him go in training camp.” Cox, 31, has been with the Eagles since he was the 12th overall pick back in the 2012 draft. He’s been to six Pro Bowls and has 58 career sacks. He’ll go down as one of the greatest players in franchise history. But his willingness to teach a guy who could become his eventually replacement is just another line to add to his impressive resume. Cox looks back at the leaders who were on the team when he arrived in 2012 and wants to continue that legacy for Davis, who was drafted with the No. 13 overall pick less than a couple moths ago. "He’s one of those guys that I look up to,” Davis said. "And it’s crazy to say that I’m playing next to him. Regardless, he’s always coaching me up. I feel that he wants me to be the best player I can be for the betterment of the team.” Cox arrived late for the voluntary program this spring but popped his head in as a sign of respect. So he did get some time on the practice field with his understudy — half what could be a deadly defensive tackle rotation. While Cox might not be back in 2023 (he’s on a one-year deal this year), he’s part of a rotation with Davis, Javon Hargrave and Milton Williams. That’s a really impressive four-man rotation. "It’s great. I’ve talked to him, picked his brain,” Cox said. "The little time that I have been here with him, I’ve been on him a little bit about just how to be a professional. Just trying to teach him how to be a pro, how to practice, how to handle certain situations. It’s good.” In recent seasons, Cox has really embraced his role as a veteran leader. He’s helped some younger players like Williams, Marlon Tuipulotu, Raequan Williams, Destiny Vaeao and others. He has gotten this down to a science, but now he has a premier talent to tutor. Maybe in a decade, Davis will be passing down some of the tips Cox is giving him this offseason. https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/eagles/eagles-fletcher-cox-ready-teach-jordan-davis-all-he-can
  8. Ranking Eagles' positional strengths leading into 2022 training camp Expectations are high for the Eagles in 2022 and, at least on paper, they have a strong roster. It wasn’t easy to rank their position groups, but here’s what I came up with, from strongest to weakest: 1. Offensive tackle The Eagles have one of the best starting tackle combinations in the NFL with Lane Johnson and Jordan Mailata, who are both Pro Bowl caliber players. Both were Pro Bowl snubs last year but they played at that level. When he’s healthy, there’s not a better right tackle in the NFL than Johnson. And Mailata is already a very good left tackle and will presumably keep getting better. And after those two guys, the Eagles have solid backups in Andre Dillard, Jack Driscoll and Le’Raven Clark. 2. Defensive tackle Even if we recognize that Fletcher Cox isn’t the same dominant player he once was, we have to realize he’s still pretty good. And he’s part of a rotation with Pro Bowler Javon Hargrave, as well as first-round pick Jordan Davis and last year’s third-round pick Milton Williams. That’s a very good and deep four-man rotation that will keep these guys fresh throughout the season. 3. Cornerback The Eagles’ cornerback duo of Darius Slay and James Bradberry has the potential to be one of the best in franchise history. While it might only last for one year, it should be fun to watch. And then you can toss in Avonte Maddox, who proved himself to be one of the best nickel cornerbacks in the league last year. You can question their depth but the Eagles have a bunch of young cornerbacks like Zech McPherson, Tay Gowan, Kary Vincent, Josiah Scott and Jimmy Moreland. All of those guys have potential. 4. Receiver The Eagles entered last year with Jalen Reagor as their No. 2 receiver. They enter this season with Reagor as the No. 5. That goes to show how much better this unit should be in 2022. They have A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins, Zach Pascal and Reagor, who round out the top five. And if they want to keep six, they have some intriguing options with guys like John Hightower, Devon Allen and Britain Covey. 5. Interior offensive line Jason Kelce is 34 now but he’s coming off yet another All-Pro season and will likely remain very good in 2022. On his left, you have Landon Dickerson, who began to play increasingly well as his rookie season went on. He’ll hopefully man that left guard position for the next decade. And then at right guard, the Eagles are giving Isaac Seumalo the first crack at the position. Seumalo has struggled to stay healthy but was once a solid left guard who is making the switch. And they have depth inside too with Cam Jurgens, Driscoll, Sua Opeta, Kayode Awosika and more. 6. Off-ball linebacker The fact that this isn’t all the way at the bottom of this page says a lot about how far the Eagles have come. But having a linebacker room with Kyzir White, T.J. Edwards, Nakobe Dean, Davion Taylor and Shaun Bradley is pretty impressive. Ton of potential there and a baseline that’s much higher than it’s been in many years at the position. 7. Tight end The Eagles have a top-5 tight end in Dallas Goedert, who comes into this season as the unquestioned No. 1. Early last season, he had to split those snaps with Zach Ertz. Overall, the Eagles’ tight end room was better this time last year because of Ertz but now Goedert will be able to really unlock all of his potential. And they added sixth-round pick Grant Calcaterra to a room that already included Jack Stoll. The depth isn’t great but it’s hard to overlook the stud at the top. 8. Edge We’re putting all the "overhang” guys together here in a group that includes Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett. The Eagles addressed their edge deficiency by adding Reddick but didn’t improve at the defensive end position, instead electing to bring back Barnett on a two-year deal. I thought edge rusher was a possible early-round draft pick but the Eagles waited until the sixth round to take Kyron Johnson out of Kansas. 9. Quarterback This is the toughest one to place because it really depends on what you think of Jalen Hurts. To me, Hurts is a borderline top-15 quarterback, which really puts him in the average quarterback in the NFL. Can he get better? Absolutely. We just need to see it. And having a good backup like Gardner Minshew does help this ranking. 10. Running back Miles Sanders is a good running back when healthy but he’s missed nine regular season games over the last two years. Last season, Sanders played in 12 games but had a career-high average of 5.5 rushing yards per attempt. After him, the Eagles have solid rotational guys like Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell, who figures to have an expanded role in Year 2. They are, however, missing a big bruising back like they had last season with Jordan Howard. 11. Specialists Jake Elliott is coming off a career year and Rick Lovato is solid as a long snapper. But punter Arryn Siposs really struggled last year as a punter and the Eagles haven’t brought in any competition for him. And if we extend this to the return men, Reagor didn’t do much as a punt returner last year and the Eagles might not have a better option. Could a guy like Covey or Allen make the team as a return specialist? Maybe. But that’s far from a sure thing. 12. Safety The Eagles let Rodney McLeod walk and despite interest in some top free agent safeties, the Eagles right now have a starting duo of Anthony Harris and Marcus Epps. The Eagles showed that they wanted to improve the position and they got worse. Especially when you consider the lack of depth, which includes K’Von Wallace, Andre Chachere, Jared Mayden and Reed Blankenship. https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/eagles/ranking-eagles-positional-strengths-leading-2022-training-camp
  9. PFF loves Eagles’ offensive line going into 2022 The Eagles’ team-building philosophy for decades has been to start in the trenches. So it should be no surprise that their offensive line has been ranked by ProFootballFocus as the best unit in the entire NFL heading into the 2022 season. PFF’s Michael Renner put four offensive lines in Tier 1 and led off with the Eagles at No. 1 overall, followed by the Browns, Lions and Buccaneers. Here’s what Renner wrote about the Eagles’ OL: "There may not be a single below-average starter along the Eagles' offensive line. Pair that with arguably the best tackle duo in the NFL, and there’s no debate about which team's offensive line belongs at No. 1 heading into 2022. Jordan Mailata's incredible development at left tackle can't be understated. After not playing a snap in his first two NFL seasons, Mailata went from spot starter at left tackle in 2020 to the third-highest-graded player at the position in the NFL last season.” Based on what we saw at OTAs and based on the way the Eagles’ coaching staff talked about the right guard position, it clearly seems like it’s Isaac Seumalo’s to lose. Seumalo, the former starting left guard, has been flipped to the right side of the line to replace recently retired Brandon Brooks, who missed most of the 2021 season. So here’s a look at the Eagles’ projected starting offensive line: LT: Jordan Mailata LG: Landon Dickerson C : Jason Kelce RG: Isaac Seumalo RT: Lane Johnson The combination of Mailata and Johnson as the bookend tackles might be the best in the entire league. Last year, Mailata ranked as PFF’s No. 3 tackle in the NFL and Johnson came in at No. 10. And then on the interior of the line, Kelce is 34 now but was an All-Pro again in 2021. Meanwhile, Dickerson after a rough start to his rookie season played so well at left guard that the Eagles decided to keep him there. Seumalo was a solid left guard at one point in his career and is the weak spot of this line as he comes back from a Lisfranc injury. But if he’s able to stay healthy, should be their best option there. This doesn’t even mention the Eagles’ depth on the OL. Even after cutting Nate Herbig, the Eagles have solid depth: Andre Dillard, Cam Jurgens, Jack Driscoll, Sua Opeta, Le’Raven Clark and more are all on their bench. If you’re wondering about the other offensive lines in the NFC East, the Cowboys ranked at No. 6, the Commanders at No. 15 and the Giants at No. 18. https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/eagles/eagles-offensive-line-ranked-best-nfl-profootballfocus
  10. Nakobe Dean, pride of Horn Lake, was always destined to be a star Nakobe Dean’s favorite food is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He’ll take them with creamy or crunchy peanut butter; either way. But his mother, Neketta Dean, insists her son ‘Kobe will declare a house with a fully stocked refrigerator to be devoid of food if it lacks the necessary ingredients to create his culinary masterpiece. "That’s his absolute favorite food,” she says. In part, Neketta Dean, the rock of the Dean household, tells me this about her son so I can get to know him beyond the surface. It’s just a fun little fact. It does, however, make Dean a tad more relatable. He likes a good PB&J. Oh yeah, she continues, he also likes to dance. Although he’s a bit shy — with a serious demeanor — and doesn’t let that fact slip out all that often. He might not be too happy she’s sharing this. In plenty of ways, Nakobe Dean is just an ordinary guy from Horn Lake, Mississippi. But in so many more, he’s extraordinary. And his mom didn’t want this reporter to hang up the phone without knowing how much her son loves a particular sandwich, how he has a fun side and — you better believe it — how he went through his high school career without receiving any grade lower than an A. Neketta Dean is proud of her son, the Philadelphia Eagles rookie who has demanded excellence from himself for years and has achieved it. After a storied career at Horn Lake High School and then at the University of Georgia, Dean is ready for the next chapter of his life in the NFL. A star at Horn Lake Brad Boyette, the former head coach of the Horn Lake Eagles, is vacationing in Northern Virginia, about 10 miles outside Gordonsville, when his phone rings. Despite the somewhat choppy cell reception inside his yurt, Boyette insists on continuing the conversation about Dean. "I’ll talk about that kid as long as you’ll stay on the phone with me,” Boyette says. It’s funny, then, that Boyette had to be somewhat convinced about Dean back in 2015. It wasn’t that Boyette didn’t see something special in Dean back then; he did. But he also didn’t like to play freshmen and he was concerned about putting a 14-year-old kid in a bad situation. But after plenty of spirited discussions with his assistants, Boyette gave in. Not only did Dean start the first game of the year, but he played every defensive snap that season. Dean was the only freshman to play varsity that year. "Yeah, that’s 100 percent true,” former Horn Lake cornerback Alonzo Hunt says without a hint of jealousy. "They knew he was special.” On his first day of ninth grade, Dean’s English teacher asked their students to write down goals for their high school careers. Among Dean’s goals: Win a state title, become an Under Armour All-American and achieve straight A’s. Check, check and check. Before Dean left Horn Lake, he helped turn around a program that had just three playoff wins in school history before his arrival and led them to a state championship as a senior. He became a five-star prospect and one of the top recruits in the country, winning the high school Butkus Award. And he did it all with humility while excelling in school and giving back to his community through his family’s philanthropic ventures. "If any one of us adults could go back to 9th grade and do it all over again with an adult mentality,” Boyette says, "I think we would all go back and be much better versions of what we were. I think Nakobe had that figured out the first time through.” All eyes on ‘Kobe It was September of 2018 and the Eagles were well on their way to a perfect 15-0 record and a state title as the recruitment of Nakobe Dean hit full throttle. It wasn’t uncommon to see college football’s top coaches descend upon Horn Lake to get a glimpse or have a chat. At its peak, Boyette estimates Dean was getting 10-15 recruiting phone calls per day. Even if Dean wasn’t overly interested in a school, he would still respectfully have a conversation. You can imagine, though, that it was a bit much for anyone — let alone a teenager — to handle. All that attention, all those phone calls, all the curiosity about the looming decision. So Boyette sat down Dean about a third of the way through Dean’s senior season and told him that if he was ready to make a decision it would go a long way to eliminating the circus that followed his recruitment. It could give him a little relief and take one huge item off his plate. But Dean wasn’t interested. "Coach, as long as I don’t commit, there are coaches coming by here,” Dean answered. "That may help somebody else on the team.” Dean, of course, was right. The coaches kept showing up and when they watched him they would see his teammates. And some of those teammates ended up with opportunities they might not have had otherwise. It’s hard to overstate how big of a deal Dean’s recruitment was in Mississippi at the time. When he eventually made his decision on signing day in December, lifting a Nike shoebox to reveal a Georgia t-shirt, it was broadcasted nationally on ESPN. One of Dean’s former teammates remembers Nick Saban showing up at the school. Another recalls spotting Kirby Smart at their state championship parade. So this was a big deal, a huge deal, but Dean never acted like it. "Honestly, you wouldn’t even know,” former Horn Lake linebacker Micheal Campbell says. "I don’t think he even acted like he was under pressure. He was real humble so he didn’t even talk about having all the offers and schools talking to him and stuff like that. I know a lot of people would ask him and he would tell it how it is. But he didn’t ever seem like he was under pressure.” Former Horn Lake offensive lineman Matt Williams even remembers that Dean would often bring up his teammates whenever college coaches would talk to him. Boyette says he wishes every high school kid would handle the recruiting process like that. Neketta Dean, when asked how her son was able to deal with all that pressure, says it probably stemmed from his upbringing. Dean grew up in a single-parent household with his mom, his older brother Nikolas and his younger sister Brooklyn. Neketta worked long hours as a director of community/public affairs at the county and because of that, the Deans were latchkey kids. They had to help out at home and they certainly didn’t "have room for foolishness.” It created an atmosphere where Dean had to be responsible and stay out of trouble. If he or his siblings were involved in any "craziness”— mom’s term, not mine — and Neketta had to leave her job to deal with it, that would have been unacceptable. That maturity flowed into sports. "Nakobe, with all the sports he’s played,” Neketta Dean says, "he doesn’t feel like he needs to shine out. He really grasped the concept of team. So it’s not big I, no little you. It was, we all win. If we leave one behind, we’re only as strong as our weakest man, so we have to help each other.” Competition started early The Dean household required maturity but there was fun to be had too. And a bulk of that fun happened on Freestyle Fridays. OK … what’s a Freestyle Friday? It was a way for the Dean family to relax after a hectic work week. They’d order pizza or wings, the kids could invite over a friend or two, and they’d have some fun. Those are the nights when the family would get into heated games of Yahtzee, Scrabble and UNO. That same competitiveness also showed up in school, on and off the field. Hunt told his favorite story about Dean. It happened during their ninth or 10th grade year. In what was a common scene for the Eagles, a few of the football players began to wrestle after practice one day, just fooling around. But when Dean, the star linebacker, joined in, they ganged up on him. There were a few defensive backs, a couple linemen and they all started going after Dean. "We caught him off guard,” Hunt remembers. "He somehow still beat all of us. Everybody just got up and took off running from him.” Dean was also drawn to sports at a young age. He would carry around a ball, any ball, as a sort of security blanket. When he was just 6 months old, the only way Neketta could get him to cooperate for a photo was by placing a football next to him. Then he was happy. The Dean kids were also very competitive about school. Neketta didn’t give her kids allowances. Instead, they were rewarded for grades. If they got straight A’s on their report card, they’d get $100. But just one B would drop their reward all the way down to $25. These rewards were handed out in front of all the kids and so it became a competition. After he got a B in his seventh grade typing class — Dean used to joke to Boyette that his fat fingers were to blame — he always pulled in $100. Smarts on the field and off If you haven’t figured it out by now, Dean is pretty smart. He was an engineering major at Georgia and hasn’t ruled out eventually going pre-med, perhaps one day aiming to work in the field of prosthetics. You already know that he had straight A’s in high school, but he also had a 3.55 GPA at Georgia. When he decided on going to Georgia, he told Boyette that he wanted to go somewhere where he could win a national championship without sacrificing his academics. He did just that. There are plenty of examples of Dean’s intelligence. Williams has another one. Dean once received a hoverboard as a Christmas present and even though Williams was a 250-pound offensive lineman, he wanted to give it a try while he was visiting the Dean home … so he did. "I ended up breaking it,” Williams says. "I was outside and he was inside the house. I put it in his room but he’s smart and as soon as he got in his room, he noticed it.” Dean has put that intelligence to work during his football career, especially in the film room. Several of his high school teammates credit Dean for helping them learn how to really break down game tape and use it to their advantage. Boyette says he had plenty of players who were willing to watch a ton of film, but none of them have had the ability to retain and process it like Dean. There’s one particular moment that stands out to Boyette. In the 2018 MHSAA 6A state championship game, Dean made a play only he could make. During their week of film study, the Horn Lake coaches showed their defense a play Oak Grove ran just once in Week 6; this was Week 15. On the play, there was a tell. If Oak Grove was in a certain formation and went in motion, the running back was running a wheel route and the Horn Lake defense would be susceptible. Dean knew the boundary safety was responsible for the running back out of the backfield but also realized his teammate wasn’t going to remember that. So Dean left his assignment and broke up the pass nowhere near his responsibility. Fans in the crowd assumed Dean had man coverage and simply did his job. But Boyette was standing there in amazement that a high school kid just pulled that off. The state championship Long before Dean led the Georgia Bulldogs to a national championship win over powerhouse Alabama, he led the Horn Lake Eagles to their first-ever state title. But it wasn’t easy. Coming into that game, the Eagles expected Oak Grove to run the ball and the Eagles were exceptionally good at defending the run. But after the first few series didn’t yield much, Oak Grove and quarterback John Rhys Plumlee (now at UCF after transferring from Ole Miss) abandoned the run and began to throw the rock, catching the Eagles off guard. What resulted was a back-and-forth, high-scoring affair that came down to the final moments, when an Eagles interception sealed the win. Throughout the stressful game, it was Dean’s leadership and calming voice that settled his teammates down. "We just needed a stop,” Williams says. "It was our first championship so everyone was nervous. He kept everybody calm on the sideline and kept everybody’s spirits high.” Just before the game-sealing interception, Dean made one last effort to calm his teammates. He was always in control. "Nakobe just made sure that everybody’s head was on straight and made sure that everybody was ready,” Hunt says. "It’s like he can sense it, whenever it’s about to happen.” Dean is known for having an alpha personality. It’s what made him such a great leader for the national champion Bulldogs. But his high school teammates saw it long before all that. Nakobe the role model Earlier this spring, the City of Horn Lake honored the Philadelphia Eagles’ third-round draft pick on Monday, May 9: Nakobe Dean Day. "They had a Nakobe Dean Day,” repeats Neketta with pride. Horn Lake Mayor Allen Latimer that day presented Dean with the official proclamation in a frame. "Well, I’ll tell you what,” Latimer says after promptly returning a voicemail. "He is fulfilling his dream of getting to play pro ball and being a credit to his family and he certainly has been a role model for our youth in this town. He has certainly been a role model. He was involved in the community, still stays involved in the community when he gets a chance. His family is just outstanding, just rock citizens, the kind every town would love to have. He is a gentleman all around.” Being a role model isn’t something Dean takes lightly. His quest to be a positive example likely comes from his upbringing. He was raised by Neketta in a Christian household where community service was the norm. Every Saturday she would haul her kids and sometimes her kids’ friends to volunteer. They’d give their time at homeless shelters, nursing homes, they’d give toys to needy families, Nakobe gave his time to the Boys & Girls Club. And Neketta would try to impress upon her children that they were fortunate in their situation and God required them to give back; and so they gave back a ton. Nakobe wants to continue to set a positive example, which doesn’t come as a surprise to his high school teammates. They looked up to him years ago; why wouldn’t kids look up to him now? "We couldn’t ask for a better representative,” the mayor says. The Philadelphia Eagles held a rookie minicamp last month and it was Dean’s first chance at an NFL press conference. When he was asked about the draft slide that had him falling to No. 83 overall, he admitted it’ll provide some motivation. But he also said it wouldn’t be the primary source. Aside from his family, what motivates Dean? He wants to be a role model for kids in his community. "When I go back home, I try to tell the kids, I don’t want y’all to try to be like me,” Dean says. "I want y’all to be better than me. But I’m going to make it hard.” If you ask anyone in Horn Lake, he already has. All photos in this story are courtesy of the Dean family. https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/eagles/eagles-nakobe-dean-georgia-horn-lake-destined-nfl-star
  11. Why Brown expects DeVonta Smith to ‘dominate’ in 2022 The addition of A.J. Brown should really help the Eagles’ passing game this season. It ought to help DeVonta Smith too. "In my opinion, Smitty is a wide receiver 1 and he’s going against a cornerback No. 2,” Brown said on Friday. "I expect Smitty to dominate.” Brown is a former Pro Bowler, an established No. 1 receiver in the NFL, and he’s going to garner attention. A lot of times, that means Eagles’ opponents are going to put their best cornerback on him this upcoming season. That was the treatment Smith received in his rookie season and he still managed to set the franchise mark for rookie receiving yards. If top corners are lining up against Brown … then they can’t line up against Smith. So now Smith is a year older, wiser and with a potentially easier path to putting up big numbers in 2022. No wonder his new teammate is so bullish on Smith’s upcoming second NFL season. Even though he’s going to be deemed the No. 2 on this roster, Brown thinks Smith is a legitimate No. 1 receiver in the league. Why? "Because he’s a really good route runner,” Brown said. "Guys early on in their career, first year, year two, they’re still developing and he can run every route in the route tree. It’s just the little nuances, the things we can all get better at and that will just keep tuning up our game, keep developing. I think the sky’s the limit for Smitty. I’m excited for Year 2, the step he takes.” Smith is entering his second NFL season with the same offensive scheme and the same quarterback. The connection forged with Jalen Hurts last year should pay off this upcoming season. "I think with the time we put in, with the reps we’ve had, I think that is definitely beneficial for our connection,” Hurts said. "I think it will be good for the football team." As a rookie on a team that ended up becoming extremely run-heavy as the season went on, Smith still managed to catch 64 passes for 916 yards and 5 touchdowns. It was a very impressive and encouraging rookie season, but the Eagles still think he’s an ascending player. "He’s just getting better at understanding,” cornerback Darius Slay said. "Like I always tell him, man, in college you were the Heisman Trophy winner, you was better than everybody out there. In the league, man, there’s no separation when it comes to talent. It’s about who does the best technique at the end of the day. I just told him, just make everything look the same, make sure you just be a good player, consistent. He does it very well right now.” The idea that Brown will take pressure off Smith is a very valid one. To start last season, Smith was already the Eagles’ No. 1 and their No. 2 was Jalen Reagor. Eventually, Quez Watkins wrestled away that second spot from Reagor. But the Eagles went from their top four options in 2021 being Smith, Reagor, Watkins and Greg Ward to their top four in 2022 being Brown, Smith, Watkins and Zach Pascal. That’s quite an upgrade. Last year, the Eagles weren’t shy about the way they game planned their passing attack. They wanted to get the ball to Smith and Dallas Goedert. The presence of Brown will obviously change that. So it’ll be up to the coaching staff to feed all the mouths. "I think with anything you go into game plans you have three really good players that you have to get the ball to,” offensive coordinator and play caller Shane Steichen said. "Every game is going to be different. I always say this, there's one football, and you have three really good players along with other additions that we have, so we're working through that every single day, and that'll take place through training camp and going into the season.” https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/eagles/eagles-aj-brown-expects-devonta-smith-dominate-2022-nfl-season
  12. Davis fitting in and slimming down with Eagles Jordan Davis is a big guy with a big personality. During OTAs this spring, his new teammates are seeing both on full display on the practice field, in the weight room and around the NovaCare Complex. "You can tell he’s a jokester, old soul,” said Brandon Graham, the longest-tenured player on the team. "He knows all the old school songs, he be singing, dancing. We gotta get on him a little bit, ‘You’re a rook, come on man, don’t come in here with all that.’ But we try to let him have his own personality. He’s comfortable.” That last part is pretty obvious. Not long after Graham met with reporters on Friday, the jolly giant himself appeared. Wearing a red long-sleeve Georgia shirt and a grin, Davis plopped himself down in the chair behind the microphone. "Class is in session,” Davis said. "Let’s do it.” When asked who the funniest player on the roster is, Davis didn’t hesitate to name cornerback and resident jokester Darius Slay. It was Slay who played a big role in helping last year’s first-round pick, DeVonta Smith, come out of his shell quicker than expected. But Smith is quieter, more reserved than Davis, who doesn’t need any help getting loose around his teammates. Davis has been letting his jovial personality fly from the moment he arrived in Philly. "Just being confident in myself,” Davis said. "I’m gonna always be me, I’m gonna always be myself. It’s football, it’s a grind. I’m not going to sit here and be one person in one aspect and be one person in another aspect. I’m just going to be me. They have to get on me sometimes. I’m the little brother of the group. But it’s all love. It’s all love. There’s a time and place for everything and I understand that.” He hasn’t been in Philly long, but Davis has already started to learn about the culture in the city. The best thing he’s eaten so far? A cannoli from Dante & Luigi’s he said was "to die for.” "You can tell the culture up here is really heavy,” Davis said, "and you’re going to get a good cannoli.” This is true. This is very true. Of course, the last time Davis spoke to reporters was at rookie minicamp when he said he weighed 345 pounds and was working on cutting his weight down to the 330s in an attempt to hit his peak performance. So cannolis are great … in moderation. And Davis knows that. He’s already putting in the work to reconstruct his body. "I think I look a little bit slimmer,” Davis said as he looked down and rubbed his chest. "I look in the mirror and I’m like, man, I’m getting toned. My arm muscles are looking good. My mom says I’m slimming down. My face is getting slimmer. I think that’s just the continuous work. It’s every day, it’s something. It’s just work. "We put in that work, it’s obviously just gonna fall off. And just keeping in mind, I’m getting paid to do what I do. I’m getting paid to be at my peak. Just working down and cutting down. You can’t just go out and eat everything in the world. You have to have everything in moderation.” The Eagles drafted Davis in late April and while it’s important for him to learn the defense, his role in it, to meet his teammates and forge relationship, it’s also really important for him to work with the nutritionists and athletic trainers at the NovaCare Complex. Because Davis is an exceptional athlete but there’s going to be a fine line when it comes to his weight and body composition. It’s about finding that sweet spot to balance his massive frame while maximizing his unique athleticism. So far, Davis feels like the plan in place from the Eagles is going well. "I’m just sticking to the plan and when the time comes,” Davis said. "I’m sure it’ll be for my benefit.” Aside from the work he’s been putting in off the field, Davis has been learning a ton on the field too. He’s really been learning a lot already from his veteran teammates. Technique, Davis said, is what really separates players in a league that doesn’t allow much margin for error. If Davis can perfect that technique and pair it with his insane athletic profile, the Eagles might have nailed their first-round selection. Graham knew Davis was going to be "massive” but like most people who meet Davis, he ends up being even bigger than you expected. Heck, Davis even dwarfs 6-4, 310-pound Fletcher Cox. On Friday, Graham marveled at the ease with which Davis has been moving massive weights in the Eagles’ locker room. Davis responded with humility, saying the other guys are lifting a lot too. But then Davis was asked who he thinks is the strongest guy on the team. He paused, then grinned. "I don’t want to toot my own horn but I’m might give somebody a run for their money. But anyways … ” he said, drumming on the table before standing up. "Y’all have a great day. I love y’all.” https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/eagles/eagles-jordan-davis-fitting-he-slims-down-spring
  13. Graham feels great as things come full circle from low point There was a time earlier in his career when Brandon Graham didn’t hesitate to name the low point in his NFL journey. "The low point was when Wash was here,” Graham said in 2015. "That was my low point.” Jim Washburn was the Eagles’ defensive line coach in 2011 and part of 2012 before he was fired during the season. The gruff position coach had a grating personality and to put it simply, he and Graham didn’t get along. It was bad. But eventually, years later, the old position coach and Graham cleared the air and buried the hatchet. That’s especially good news now because Graham is once again being coached by a Washburn. This offseason, as the Eagles split up their defensive line room into two parts, the overhang players are being coached by Jeremiah Washburn, Jim’s son. That might seem awkward. But Graham claims it isn’t. Graham and Jim Washburn had a nice chat several years ago when Graham accompanied Derek Barnett to Tennessee to work out with the former Eagles position coach. Ever since then, that weight has been lifted. "We buried all that,” Graham said. "I know I was just young and immature at the time and he was tough. He was just tough. That’s why it wasn’t as nice for me, because it was tough. Tough time during that time when he was here, coming off the knee injury and people not believing in me in the city, thinking I was a bust and all this stuff. And even myself, thinking I was at that time, because it’s like, what have I done at that point? But we talked about it, we over it.” This spring, the Eagles’ interior defensive linemen are being coached by DL coach Tracy Rocker, while their overhang players are in are a room with Washburn, who has the title of director of player personnel/senior defensive assistant. Washburn, who has a coaching and scouting background, joined the Eagles in 2019 and stayed on staff during the changeover from Doug Pederson to Nick Sirianni. In the time Washburn has been working with the defensive line — which predates the DL room split this offseason — Eagles players have been overwhelmingly complimentary of him. "For it to happen full circle like this, I’m happy the place that we are in because it’s no animosity towards how me and his dad was,” Graham said. "It’s all about trying to get better and let’s get this ring.” It really has come full circle for Graham. Those moments in 2011 and 2012 were rough on him. It was long before he became a starter, a Super Bowl hero, a Pro Bowler. Now, Graham is 34 and is the longest-tenured pro athlete in the City of Philadelphia. No one thought that would be the case during the Jim Washburn years. Graham, by the way, is feeling really good at OTAs this spring. He has completely recovered from an Achilles tear that ended his 2021 season in Week 2. After working out with the Eagles’ staff all offseason, Graham said he feels "great” as he prepares to enter his 13th NFL season. And just like the feud with Wash, that Achilles injury is in the past too. "I feel like nothing ever happened,” Graham said. "For real.” https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/eagles/eagles-brandon-graham-feels-great-things-come-full-circle
  14. Eagles OTAs observations: Kelce already teaching his future replacement The Eagles wrapped up their Organized Team Activities on Wednesday with their sixth and final practice of the spring. The team will now break until July 26, when they begin to report for training camp. So these observations will have to hold us over for a month and a half. Enjoy: 1. The Eagles had pretty good attendance during OTAs, Nick Sirianni said, but they were missing a few key players on Wednesday. They were without DeVonta Smith, A.J. Brown, Lane Johnson, Josh Sweat, Javon Hargrave and Jalen Reagor. Remember, these practices are voluntary. There were a few players out there who weren’t practicing. Among that group: Tyree Jackson, Richard Rodgers, Brett Toth. But we did see the return of Fletcher Cox, Jason Kelce and Jordan Mailata, who were all missing from last week’s practice open to reporters. 2. We already know the role Kelce had scouting Cam Jurgens and we knew he’d be more than willing to mentor the rookie from Nebraska. We’re already seeing that in action. Last week, when reporters were at a practice, Kelce wasn’t there. This week, he was and he spent some extra time working with Jurgens between drills, going over technique and little tips. It was fun to watch and will likely be a theme of training camp. These two guys are going to spend a lot of time together over the next year and the Eagles hope it’ll put them in a good position for the future of the franchise. 3. After a bunch of dinking and dunking earlier in practice, the highlight of the day came on back-to-back deep balls late from Jalen Hurts. On the first one, he hit a streaking John Hightower, who got behind Avonte Maddox and Anthony Harris and caught a beautiful pass in stride from Hurts. He celebrated with a little NSFW hip thrust and then was joined by his teammates for the same motion. They were flagged by the staffer in the end zone. The next play was another 40+ yard bomb from Hurts to Quez Watkins, who burned James Bradberry down the field. This pass was a bit more wobbly but it did the job. Hurts celebrated this one with a little dance. Strong finish from the first-team offense after a slow start. 4. As nice as those two deep balls were, I didn’t think either was his best pass of the day. There was another play that, sure, took a long time to develop, but Hurts eventually rolled to his right and threw an absolute strike about 25 yards to the right sideline for Greg Ward, who hauled it in. Hurts has had his arm strength questioned, but this throw proves that it’s in there. That’s a really tough play to make and it made me tilt my head a bit. 5. Some depth chart items: • The right guard spot still belonged to Isaac Seumalo on Wednesday. The rest of the line remained the same but without Johnson, Jack Driscoll filled in at right tackle. • The Eagles’ first-team defense to start in 7-on-7s was Darius Slay, James Bradberry, Avonte Maddox, Kyzir White, T.J. Edwards, Anthony Harris and Marcus Epps. The first-team offense (to start) was Jalen Hurts, Miles Sanders, Quez Watkins, Zach Pascal, Greg Ward, Dallas Goedert and Jack Stoll in 12 personnel. Boston Scott also worked in there on offense and Davion Taylor on defense. • Second-team defense: Zech McPhearson, Mac McCain, Josiah Scott, Davion Taylor, Kyzir White, K’Von Wallace, Andre Chachere. Second-team offense: Gardner Minshew, Jason Huntley, John Hightower, Deon Cain, Britain Covey, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. 6. In some 7-on-7 drills, the Eagles had Derek Barnett out there. That makes some sense because the overhang players will occasionally have to drop into coverage. You don’t want to see it too often, but it’ll be a part of their defense. We saw Kyron Johnson dropping too. 7. Kenny Gainwell has the best hands of the Eagles’ running backs but he had an uncharacteristic drop in the flat. But he made up for it later with a nice grab and a stutter step move on Kyron Johnson that had the rookie left in the dust. And keep an eye on Jason Huntley this summer. He’s undersized but the running back is fighting for a roster spot and his speed is undeniable. He put on the burners down the left sideline on Wednesday. Sanders even had a nice grab on air. 8. The best defensive play of the day came on a pass that Minshew tried to sneak in to Covey. But White made a diving PBU and knocked the ball into the hands of Taylor, who picked it off. Maybe it wasn’t the best decision but it was a heck of a play by White. 9. The Eagles had some punt return drills on Wednesday but Reagor was absent. So the punt returners were Ward, Scott, Covey, Gainwell and Watkins, in that order. They all fielded their punts cleanly. 10. Several former Eagles were out watching practice today: Dick Vermeil, Irving Fryar, Frank LeMaster, Ron Jaworski, Barrett Brooks. Stupid Observation of the Day: Nick Sirianni had some fun on Wednesday, trying to egg on the guy with the boxing glove pole to knock out the football during ball security drills. It didn’t work. No fumbles. https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/eagles/eagles-otas-observations-jason-kelce-already-teaching-cam-jurgens
  15. Slay wants to fill big shoes with Bradberry Darius Slay isn’t just a Pro Bowl cornerback. He’s apparently a little bit of a historian too. At least as it pertains to the Eagles. Because Slay understands how long it’s been since the Eagles have had a cornerback duo that’s as good as the one they seemingly have this year with him and James Bradberry as the starters. Slay talked about that last week during an appearance on SiriusXM Radio. "On the outside, I’ve always been looking in, it’s always been a corner issue here,” Slay said to Alex Marvel and K.J. Wright. "I guess that’s why I got traded here. It’s always been that. "From my look in, just knowing football too much, there aren’t too many teams that had two top-tier corners that played together in the Philly area, except (Sheldon) Brown and Lito Sheppard. We’re trying to make sure we fill them shoes … they set the trend here, trying to fill them shoes up and compete.” Brown and Sheppard were two names that came to a lot of Eagles fans when the Birds signed Bradberry earlier this month. Because Slay-Bradberry is probably the best cornerback duo the Eagles have had since Brown and Sheppard over a decade ago. (And adding Avonte Maddox in the mix as a nickel corner only makes it more impressive.) In fact, when NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Reuben Frank came up with his list of the best cornerback duos in Eagles history, he ranked Brown and Sheppard at No. 2 overall, just behind Bobby Taylor and Troy Vincent. Brown and Sheppard played together from 2002-07 but really had a five-year span during those years where they formed one of the best combinations in the NFL. That’s why everyone seems to be so excited about Slay and Bradberry joining forces in Philly for the 2022 season. It’s been a long time. "I think, the sky’s the limit for me and Bradberry, man,” Slay said. "I’m here to help him. He’s here to help me. We both complement each other. We’re trying to really turn something into something great here.” From a talent perspective, Slay and Bradberry could end up pretty high on that list of top Eagles cornerback duos but they might not get to play together too long. Bradberry is here on a one-year deal and Slay is already 31. Still, it’s exciting. Bradberry, like Slay, believes this duo has a lot of potential. But he knows they have to prove themselves too. "I’ve been watching him since I’ve been in the league and I admire his game a lot,” Bradberry said earlier this month. "And I feel like it’ll be a great opportunity to learn from him but also play alongside him because he’s a great corner. "Potential only gets you so far, so I don’t want to speak on potential. I know individually we’re pretty good. The goal is to be great together.” https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/eagles/eagles-darius-slay-wants-fill-big-shoes-james-bradberry
  16. Eagles promoting 2 internal candidates to assistant GM roles As the Eagles continue to rebuild their front office, they are promoting two internal candidates to assistant general manager titles, sources confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia. Both VP of football operations and compliance Jon Ferrari and VP of football operations and strategy Alec Halaby are being promoted and given assistant GM titles. This is a significant change — at least in titles — for the front office structure. Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer first reported the two promotions that are among several others to be announced in the coming days. Ferrari was initially hired as the Eagles’ manager of football compliance in 2016 and previously spent 2007-16 in the NFL’s league office, in the management council. He also oversaw the start of the Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship program. Ferrari was promoted to his current position during the 2019 offseason. He is someone the Eagles had tabbed as an assistant GM candidate for a while. Halaby, meanwhile, is known as the analytics guy. He’s the Harvard graduate who has seen his voice increase in the organization since his arrival back in 2012. His first title with the Eagles was as special assistant to the GM and he was promoted in 2016 to his current role. In addition to these two names, there are several other internal candidates expected to be promoted, sources said. Among them are director of college scouting Alan Working, west coast area scout Ryan Myers, southeast area scout Phil Bhaya and pro scout Ameena Soliman. They are also giving owner Jeff Lurie’s son, Julian, an official title within the organization. The Eagles are also adding outside talent, including former Steelers scouting director Brandon Hunt, former Browns national scout Charles Walls and former Broncos VP of player personnel Matt Russell, who will join former Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell in advisory roles. In the last few months, the Eagles have lost significant talent in their front office. They’ve lost Ian Cunningham and Brandon Brown before the draft and then lost Catherine Raîche and Andy Weidl. Weidl recently took the assistant GM job in Pittsburgh well after this process to replenish the front office was already underway. All these changes and promotions are expected to be formally announced in the coming days. https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/eagles/eagles-promoting-2-internal-candidates-assistant-gm-roles
  17. Eagles OTAs observations: Our first glimpse of A.J. Brown The Eagles were on the practice field on Friday for their third of six OTA practices … and we got to watch! A theme during Nick Sirianni’s time as head coach has been prioritizing player health and safety. That’s why they’re taking it so easy this spring. And that’s why Fridays’ practice — the toughest of the week — was still just around 55 minutes long and didn’t include any 11-on-11 work. Still, there were observations to be had: 1. Friday was our first in-person glimpse at new wideout A.J. Brown. While Brown and Jalen Hurts are best friends, they’re still working on building an on-field rapport. While Hurts hit Brown on a short pass early in the 7-on-7s portion, they missed on two deep balls. On the first one, Hurts under threw Brown after a stutter step move; on that one, Brown became a defensive back and had to knock the ball away from Darius Slay. After that play, Brown told Hurts if he’s going to miss him, to miss him deep. So on the next one, Hurts airmailed one out of Brown’s reach. So they’re still working on it. Long way to go before Week 1. 2. Aside from that, Hurts had a very strong day, completing most of his passes. Hurts had some sharp throws on Friday. One of them went to backup tight end Jack Stoll who made a nice catch through some traffic. Although in a game, he might have been in harm’s way after the catch. 3. Isaac Seumalo is apparently getting the first crack at the right guard spot and was in that role on Friday. Of course, three starters on the offensive line (Jordan Mailata, Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson) were not at the voluntary practices. So this was the first-team OL on Friday: LT: Andre Dillard LG: Landon Dickerson 😄 Cam Jurgens RG: Isaac Seumalo RT: Jack Driscoll So it’s important to note that while Seumalo is likely getting the first crack at the right guard job, Jurgens and Driscoll (two other candidates) were at other spots with the ones. 4. On defense in the 7-on-7 drills, the Eagles had Darius Slay, James Bradberry, Avonte Maddox, Anthony Harris and Marcus Epps in the secondary; no surprises there. At linebacker, their top two guys for most of the afternoon were T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White, although Nakobe Dean got a rep at the MIKE and Davion Taylor mixed in at the WILL. The Eagles kept it to nickel on these 7-on-7s so no Haason Reddick out there at the SAM. 5. Receiver Deon Cain made a couple of nice catches during 7-on-7s. One came on a deep ball from Hurts when Cain beat Slay in coverage. I wouldn’t worry too much about Slay, but it’s a nice moment for Cain. The former sixth-round pick out of Clemson joined the Eagles on the practice squad last year. He was initially drafted by the Colts when Nick Sirianni was their offensive coordinator. 6. Second-year cornerback Zech McPhearson had a nice pass breakup while working with the second team. He nearly picked off Gardner Minshew. McPhearson was in line to be a starter until the Eagles signed Bradberry. But now he’s back as their top outside cornerback. 7. A little 41-on-41 violence at practice when safety Jared Mayden collided with Britain Covey, who took the brunt of it and went flying. That happened again to Covey later in the session. At 5-8, 173 pounds, Covey is the lightest player on the roster aside from the kicker. It showed on Friday. 8. We saw some movement with the receivers on Friday. Quez Watkins wasn’t at practice so maybe that changed some things. Greg Ward was with the first team as the slot receiver. But we saw A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith take a couple reps inside. While they’ll likely end up playing most of their snaps on the outside, the Eagles will get them inside on occasion to take advantage of matchups. Brown played quite a bit in the slot in Tennessee. 9. The practice got off to a hot start when Hurts hit Smith deep down the right sideline over James Bradberry for a long completion. He hit Smith down the left sideline over Slay later in the session. 10. Former receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is a tight end now and looked noticeably thicker as he makes the transition. He still faces an uphill battle but had one catch in this practice. Stupid Observation of the Day: During COVID, the Eagles created an extra outdoor weight room right next to their regular weight room. They had to spread out during COVID. Now, they have a small and bouncy turf field in its place. https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/eagles/eagles-otas-observations-our-first-glimpse-aj-brown
  18. Top Eagles storylines heading into OTAs The Eagles on Tuesday begin their Organized Team Activities, the next step toward a 2022 season with high expectations. Back on April 25, the Eagles began their offseason workout program. Thanks to the NFL-NFLPA, the offseason is separated into phases. The beginning of OTAs marks the start of Phase 3 for the Eagles. Their OTA days are as follows: May 31, June 2-3, June 6-8. Reporters won’t be at the NovaCare Complex until later this week. Here are some key storylines to follow this spring: Take it easy Under Nick Sirianni, the Eagles are big on rest and they’re going to get plenty of it this spring. This time last year, the Eagles were in danger of missing most of their spring workouts so Sirianni met with some leaders on the team to come to a compromise. It was really the first big win of his coaching tenure and it got most of the team together for workouts, while eliminating the mandatory minicamp in mid-June. The Eagles are pretty much doing that again. This year, the Eagles are having just six days of OTAs, well short of the CBA limit of 10. And they aren’t even going to have full practices on those six days. "We are transitioning away a little bit more from 11-on-11s this year. We are not going to see those this year,” Sirianni said. "I think you guys know we have two weeks of OTAs and look forward to getting a lot of good work done with our individual, get a lot of individual where we can work on our fundamentals. Then we’ll be doing 7-on-7 because it helps our skill guys and quarterback in making the read and different looks he's going to get.” The Eagles are also just one of two teams league-wide that won’t hold a mandatory minicamp. The other team without one is the Bengals, who are coming off a Super Bowl appearance. Sirianni really wants to protect his players and thinks this is the way to do it. After an encouraging first season at the helm, he has to feel vindicated about his methods. Seeing the new guys We got a chance to see the Eagles’ draft picks at their rookie minicamp earlier this month, but this will be our first chance to see the big-name free agent acquisitions out at practice. So we’ll see A.J. Brown catching passes from Jalen Hurts. We might see James Bradberry covering DeVonta Smith. And we’ll definitely see Haason Reddick rushing the passer … he just can’t hit him yet. No, these practices won’t be like training camp and we won’t have a chance to learn a ton about the Eagles from our brief glimpses. But just seeing these guys on the field will be an appetizer before training camp later in the summer. Watch the depth chart The Eagles aren’t doing 11-on-11 drills, which will make it hard to learn a ton about things like the defensive scheme. But there will still be some opportunities to figure out some depth chart stuff. Among those issues is the right guard position. Brandon Brooks retired and Nate Herbig was released and is now with the Jets. So who’s the starter between Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson? The candidates are presumably Isaac Seumalo, Jack Driscoll, Sua Opeta and perhaps even rookie Cam Jurgens. We’ll at least likely see who lines up in that spot in individual drills. We might also get an idea of pecking order at other positions too. How will the linebackers rotate? Who are the top cornerbacks after Darius Slay and Bradberry? Will the edge players and SAM linebackers go through position drills together? Even from abbreviated practice and a short viewing window, there are still some answers to find. https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/eagles/top-eagles-storylines-heading-2022-otas
  19. Early Eagles 53-man roster projection as OTAs begin We’re a long way from the start of the 2022 season but we already know most of the names who will be on the 53-man roster. The Eagles begin OTAs tomorrow and then kick off training camp later in the summer. So plenty is still subject to change. But here’s my best (early) guess at the Eagles’ 53-man roster in 2022: Quarterback (3): Jalen Hurts, Gardner Minshew, Carson Strong There’s a chance the Eagles could get blown away by an offer for Minshew, in which case he could end up on another roster. If that doesn’t happen, then he’s the backup behind Jalen Hurts. And Strong makes the roster as the No. 3 quarterback. The UDFA from Nevada got a huge amount of guaranteed money ($320,000) and that puts him ahead of the incumbent third-stringer. Out: Reid Sinnett Running back (3): Miles Sanders, Kenny Gainwell, Boston Scott There’s a good chance the Eagles could keep four running backs, which means Huntley and Brooks will be fighting for that lost spot. But the Eagles don’t have to keep four either. They’d probably have success sneaking one or both of them through to the practice squad. The top three feel pretty safe, especially Sanders and Gainwell. Out: Jason Huntley, Kennedy Brooks Receiver (5): A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins, Zach Pascal, Jalen Reagor Could the Eagles keep six receivers? Sure. But which of those other guys would make it. Britain Covey is an intriguing name and he has a chance to be a good return man too, but this came down to a numbers game. And he could be signed to the practice squad and called up on some game days. And, yes, Reagor makes the team. The Eagles aren’t going to give up on him just yet and he’d have a bigger cap hit if they cut him. Out: Greg Ward, John Hightower, Keric Wheatfall, Josh Hammond, Deon Cain, Devon Allen, Britain Covey Tight end (3): Dallas Goedert, Jack Stoll, Grant Calcaterra Goedert and Stoll return from last season and the Eagles used a sixth-round pick on Calcaterra out of SMU. These three feel pretty solid, especially because it seems unlikely last year’s third-stringer Tyree Jackson will be back from his torn ACL in time to make the initial 53. Out: Richard Rodgers, Noah Togiai, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside; PUP: Tyree Jackson Offensive line (10): Jordan Mailata, Landon Dickerson, Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, Isaac Seumalo, Andre Dillard, Cam Jurgens, Jack Driscoll, Sua Opeta, Le’Raven Clark The Eagles have pretty impressive depth on their offensive line. There’s a chance they could deal Dillard if another team gets desperate for a starting-caliber left tackle. But if that doesn’t happen then he’ll be back for the final year of his rookie contract as the top backup left tackle. Clark is the last guy in because of his swing-tackle ability. Out: Brett Toth, Kayode Awosika, Josh Sills, Jack Anderson, William Dunkle, Jarrid Williams Defensive tackle (5): Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Jordan Davis, Milton Williams, Noah Elliss The top four are locks. If the Eagles keep five, it’ll probably come down to Elliss vs. last year’s sixth-round pick Tuipulotu. Even though Elliss is injured this spring, I kept him over Tuipulotu because he’s a pure 0-tech and could be a backup at that position. They also paid him a lot of money for a UDFA and Tuipulotu didn’t do anything that stood out during his rookie season. Out: Marlon Tuipulotu, Renell Wren, Marvin Wilson Defensive end (4): Josh Sweat, Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Tarron Jackson Not much to figure out here. The Eagles are light on defensive ends but in a way we can put the DE and SAM linebacker positions together as what Jonathan Gannon calls his "overhang” players. The top three are sure things and while Jackson isn’t, he showed some flashes as a rookie and has the frame to be a standup edge rusher. Out: Matt Leo SAM linebacker (2): Haason Reddick, Kyron Johnson Reddick is going to start, play a ton and will be the Eagles’ top player at this position. After him, Kyron Johnson and Patrick Johnson will be fighting to be the backup SAM. But the Eagles also have a couple defense ends who could fill this role too. I have Patrick Johnson out but it’s possible the Eagles keep three SAM linebackers. Out: Patrick Johnson, Ali Fayad Off-ball linebacker (5): Kyzir White, Nakobe Dean, T.J. Edwards, Shaun Bradley, Davion Taylor These five seem relatively safe to me. Some combination of White, Dean and Edwards will get most of the playing time and then Bradley and Taylor are high-level backups who will be major special teams contributors in 2022. Out: JaCoby Stevens, Christian Elliss Cornerback (6): Darius Slay, James Bradberry, Avonte Maddox, Zech McPhearson, Jimmy Moreland, Tay Gowan The Eagles have roughly 1,000 cornerbacks so this wasn’t easy. The top four are locks. Slay, Bradberry and Maddox are starters and McPhearson is the top backup outside; he’s also a big special teams guy. I have Moreland over Josiah Scott as the backup nickel but that will need to play out. Moreland will have to show ability on special teams to supplant Scott. And I just like Gowan. I think he has enough talent to keep around. But this was tough because of the numbers. The Eagles are going to have to cut some talented young corners — no way around it. Out: Kary Vinent Jr., Mac McCain III, Josiah Scott, Craig James, Mario Goodrich, Josh Jobe, Josh Blackwell Safety (4): Marcus Epps, Anthony Harris, K’Von Wallace, Andre Chachere Even if you believe in the starting couple of Epps and Harris, the depth at this position is somewhat concerning. Epps was the third safety last year but with the departure of Rodney McLeod in free agency, that job now belongs to Wallace. Chachere is a safety but is really a special teamer. Keep an eye on Mayden who probably has a better shot of making the roster than you might think. Out: Jared Mayden, Reed Blankenship Specialists (3): Jake Elliott, Arryn Siposs, Rick Lovato The Eagles haven’t brought in any competition for Siposs, who really struggled as a punter down the stretch. There’s something to the idea about continuity with the kicking operation and Elliott had a career season because of it … but if Siposs has a rough stretch again, the Eagles have to be willing to find a replacement. https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/eagles/early-eagles-53-man-roster-projection-2022-otas-begin
  20. Sweat details scary incident that kept him out of playoff game Josh Sweat initially tried to downplay the serious condition that kept him out of January’s playing game, saying he just had a "little bit” of internal bleeding. Then he caught himself. "Not a little bit … a lot,” Sweat said. The Eagles’ Pro Bowl edge rusher was held out of the playoff loss in Tampa with what the team then called a "life-threatening situation” and hadn’t spoken publicly to reporters since that loss until Tuesday afternoon. Heck, you probably forgot all about this incident. But it was a scary moment for Sweat. Then still just 24, Sweat was sitting at his home when he began to feel lightheaded. Strange, he thought, because he was well-hydrated. Then he stood up and his abdomen felt heavy. That’s when he knew something was wrong. "It just came out of nowhere. Don’t really know how,” Sweat said. "There’s no signs, it just kind of happened.” Sweat went to the hospital and was admitted the Tuesday before the wild card game; doctors found that one of his arteries had "opened up a little bit,” which was the cause of the internal bleeding. When asked if the injury was football-related, all Sweat could say was that he didn’t know how it happened and that it didn’t become an issue on the football field. Sweat said doctors cauterized the leaky artery, closing it up. He made it sound like a simple procedure, like taking out the trash, and maybe it is … but it doesn’t make it any less scary. "I didn’t actually know what was happening until they said and then it was scary until it wasn’t,” he said. "It was just like we can just do this, couple minute fix.” Officially, Sweat was listed as questionable heading into the wild card weekend. He thinks he could have played in that game but it wasn’t up to him and the Eagles kept him out. Sweat believes that had the Eagles beaten the Buccaneers — they lost 31-15 — he would have been able to play in the divisional round. The good news is that doctors have told Sweat there’s not a fear of the injury recurring. The bad news is that the pain of missing a playoff game has taken longer to heal than a leaky artery. "It was big for me, for sure,” Sweat said. "But I don’t want to just hold on to it. I just approach the offseason the same way, trying to improve however I can, stay available.” Sweat early last season signed a three-year contract extension worth $40 million. Then he began to live up to it. Last season was a good one for Sweat. For the first time in his career, he became a true starter and he finished with career highs in sacks (7.5), tackles (45) and quarterback hits (13). Initially a Pro Bowl alternate, Sweat was named to his first Pro Bowl roster when 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa was forced to bail because of injury. By February, Sweat’s leaky artery and repair had healed enough to participate in his first Pro Bowl; he had two tackles in the game. "I just felt like the little guy. That’s motivation too,” Sweat said. "It was great to be around them, a lot of great guys. I got to speak to them and see how their mindset was. It was great. But it was also motivation because, you know, I just want to make it straight up. I don’t want to wait my turn to see if I’m going to get in. It was great though. It was a great experience.” https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/eagles/eagles-josh-sweat-details-scary-incident-kept-him-out-playoffs
  21. Why Hurts is actually a reason the Eagles are going for it When the Eagles traded for A.J. Brown and then gave him a $100 million contract, it was easy to find the connection with his best friend Jalen Hurts. And it seemed like that friendship might have helped the Eagles land Brown. Hurts had a lot to do with it for a different reason. He doesn’t get paid much. Because Hurts is still getting paid relative peanuts on his rookie contract, it has allowed the Eagles to splash this offseason, to go "all-in” despite the unknowns about their quarterback position long-term. Heck, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman admitted as much shortly after the Brown trade. "Obviously with all these players, contract's a big issue,” Roseman said in April. "When you have a young quarterback like we do, you can be a little bit more aggressive with contracts than maybe you can when you're paying a quarterback.” Remember when we heard the Titans were low-balling Brown? Well, the Titans have an established quarterback who makes a ton of money. No matter your thoughts about him as a player, Ryan Tannehill has the highest cap figure of any quarterback in the NFL in 2022. It’s pretty clear to draw the correlation as Roseman did when he was a guest on PFTPM recently. "I don’t want to talk for [Titans G.M. Jon Robinson],” Roseman said, "but I’m sure that was part of his thinking, like, ‘I got a quarterback that I’m paying.’” That would make some sense. Tannehill in 2022 has a cap hit of $38.6 million — or 19.5% of the Titans’ total cap payout this season. Hurts, meanwhile, has a cap hit of just over $1.64 million, which ranks 54th in the NFL among quarterbacks, according to OverTheCap. That ranks as the 29th-highest cap hit on the Eagles’ roster, just behind J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. And Hurts accounts for less than 1% of the Eagles’ total cap payout. This is a pretty simple concept. Quarterback is the most important position in football and they are generally the highest paid players on their respective teams. But the rookie wage scale means that quarterbacks are cost-controlled for at least the first three years of their rookie contracts before they become eligible for extensions. As a second-round pick in 2020, Hurts is extremely underpaid as an NFL starter. And that has allowed the Eagles to allocate that cap space to other positions. So when the Eagles went out this offseason and signed Haason Reddick, gave Brown a mega deal, when they paid Fletcher Cox $14 million to return, brought in James Bradberry late and even when they handed out all those extensions during the season last year, it was in part because of Hurts. Not because they’re necessarily all-in on Hurts becoming the long-term franchise quarterback, but because his salary is so low it allows the Eagles to go all-in in other areas. They’re in a strike-now window. This is the Russell Wilson plan. Not the Wilson who plays for the Broncos or the Wilson who became one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL. This is about Russell Wilson, the inexpensive third-round pick in 2012 who led the Seahawks to the Super Bowl in his second NFL season and back again in his third. Now, none of this is to compare Wilson and Hurts as football players. Wilson was a Pro Bowler in each of his first four NFL seasons and came out of the gate as a star. But their salaries are comparable. Because in 2013, when Wilson led the Seahawks to their Super Bowl victory, his cap hit was just over $681,000. In 2014, when he led them back to the Super Bowl, his salary was just over $817,00. It’s no coincidence that the Seahawks were able to build an extremely strong team when Wilson was underpaid. It allowed them to use that cap space to bolster a roster that had five other Pro Bowlers in 2013 and 2014 and the No. 1 defense in the NFL during that two-year span. It wasn’t until the 2015 season when Wilson got a $87.6 million contract extension that he was finally paid what he deserved. That’s when the roster construction became trickier. The Seahawks were good after that but never got past the divisional round again with Wilson as their QB. If Hurts plays like a franchise quarterback in 2022, then the Eagles might give him a big contract extension before next season. But even then, they’d still have the ability to backload it and keep the cap figure relatively low for at least the next few years. While Hurts was very inexpensive last year, his first as a starter in the NFL, the quarterback position wasn’t inexpensive for the Eagles. They were swallowing a then-NFL record $33.82 million in dead money for Carson Wentz, who was traded to the Colts. That accounted for over 16% of the Eagles’ adjusted cap figure. This season, the Eagles' entire quarterback room accounts for just 2.55% of their adjusted cap. So, with Hurts and Gardner Minshew on their rookie contracts, this is really the first season the Eagles are enjoying the benefit of an inexpensive quarterback room. They’re making the most of it. Now, this only works if Hurts is able to improve enough and play well enough to turn the Eagles into legitimate contenders. If he can, this plan would be a very worthwhile one. https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/eagles/eagles-going-it-while-jalen-hurts-still-underpaid
  22. If it's true that Foles wanted to come to Philly but that the feeling wasn't mutual, I'd say it's a tactical mistake by the team. We already know what a hot Foles can do at the end of the season and in the playoffs. He'd be a great change of pace from Hurts who may not even stay healthy the whole season. Both Eagles and Hurts' personal history show that the team needs a strong backup sometimes to snag a championship. https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/eagles/former-eagles-qb-nick-foles-explains-decision-join-frank-reichs-colts Why Foles is thrilled to reunite with Reich in Indy 1H ago / by Dave Zangaro Nick Foles wanted to play in the NFL this year but he wasn’t willing to "settle,” the veteran quarterback said this week. After being granted his release from the Bears, Foles wanted to find the right spot and really wanted to land somewhere with some familiarity. He got that when he joined the Colts. "This was at the top of my list but it doesn’t always mean it’s going to happen,” Foles said to reporters in Indianapolis on Wednesday. "There’s a lot of different things going on. There was a part of me that said it might not happen this year. We were able to get our release later so everyone has their players for the most part. But it worked out and I’m grateful to be here.” Just after Foles reached a two-year deal to join the Colts, ESPN reported the Eagles were "involved” in Foles’ free agency. Earlier this week, ESPN’s Adam Schefter clarified, saying the interest was more about Foles’ desire to return to Philly than it was about the Eagles going after him. That makes some sense. The Eagles are in a solid quarterback situation with Jalen Hurts as their starter and Gardner Minshew and Carson Strong as his top backups. Bringing back a Philly legend like Foles in a backup role would be popular among fans but might be unfair to the starter. In any case, Foles seems thrilled to reunite with his close friend and Colts head coach Frank Reich in Indy. Reich, of course, was Foles’ offensive coordinator here in Philadelphia in the 2016 and 2017 season and their last game together was Super Bowl LII. "It’s a huge thing,” Foles said. "Frank’s been a great mentor to me since I was with him in Philadelphia. We’ve stayed in touch every single year a great bit. To have him as my head coach is special.” This coming season will be Foles’ 11th in the NFL and the Colts are his sixth team in eight seasons. Foles didn’t want to just sign a one-year deal so he pushed for a two-year deal and the Colts gave it to him. While Foles has had some incredible peaks in his career like his Pro Bowl season in 2013 and his Super Bowl MVP to cap the 2017 season, there have been lows too. Since hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, Foles has a combined record of 3-9 as a starter with the Jaguars and Bears. "I wanted two years because I’m not just looking to come here for a year and then, alright, maybe I just go hit it big. I want to be here,” Foles said. "I know this is the latter part of may career. My goal is to be here. Whatever role it is, as long as I can play, as long as they want me, as long as it’s a healthy environment, everyone is getting along, that’s the big thing.” It’s hard to believe that Foles is reaching, as he said, the "latter part” of his NFL career, but he is. He’s 33 now and his chances of getting another opportunity as a true starter aren’t great. But he seems to be embracing his role as the defined backup to Matt Ryan, who has been incredibly durable in his long NFL career. Foles insisted Ryan’s durability didn’t make him hesitate before joining the Colts. For him, it was about finding a solid team and locker room. The chance to play for Reich again obviously played a big role too. "I think the big things for him, he was always calm,” Reich said. "If I made a mistake, he wasn’t chewing me out on the sidelines. He was like, ‘You’re feet are good, you look good.’ I remember in the Super Bowl, I threw a pick. I wasn’t worried about it; I threw a pick, it doesn’t matter. He was the same way. He was like, ‘You look great. Great day. This is fun.’” It was fun. The Eagles will face Foles and the Colts in Indianapolis on Nov. 20.
  23. Eagles mailbag: Are the Birds serious contenders in the NFC? We answered your first batch of questions — including some on Jessie Bates, Kenny Gainwell and more — so we’ll get to the next group today. Today’s questions includes overall outlook, Miles Sanders’ future and expectations for Jalen Hurts in 2022: We might be getting a bit ahead of ourselves but it’s not crazy. Their roster is pretty good. Obviously, a lot of their success will be dependent on Jalen Hurts’ success. But on paper, this is a really good team. I wouldn’t call them the favorite in the NFC, but they’re in the mix now. The Rams, Buccaneers and Packers are still the top three teams in the NFC. But the Eagles are right behind them in a group that includes the Cardinals, Cowboys and 49ers. With their easy schedule, a deeper playoff run isn’t out of the question for the Birds. I’m not exactly sure how to gauge this because numbers might not do it justice. The best answer to this would be that the Eagles are able to finally have a balanced and dynamic offense. Last year, Nick Sirianni was forced to go to a run-heavy offense because the Eagles weren’t good enough in their passing attack. They ended up being ranked 25th in the NFL. That’s not gonna cut it this year. So aside from Hurts’ individual numbers, he needs to be able to make timing throws more consistently. I’ve said it a lot about Hurts but the one area where he needs to improve is throwing with anticipation. It’s something the accuracy stats don’t really hit. Because a completed pass that a receiver has to wait for isn’t the same as one he catches in stride and on time. It’s probably not reasonable to expect Hurts to turn into a Pro Bowl quarterback or even a great passer in 2022. But it is reasonable to expect him to grow significantly and, with the players around him, show the ability to run a dynamic, balanced offense. Hurts would have to be really awful and even then I don’t think it’s likely. Because if they’re 4-4, they’re still very much in the mix. It would have to be a situation where he’s legitimately the only reason the Eagles are losing games. Yeah, there’s a chance. Sanders is entering the final year of his rookie contract this season. He’ll have just turned 26 this time next year, and Sanders has been a productive running back in his career. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry last season, which was a new career high. The problem with Sanders is the injuries in 2020 and 2021. He has missed a total of nine games over the last two years with various injuries and that’s concerning for any player, especially a running back. Still, if Sanders gets off to a good start in 2022, the Eagles will try to reach an extension with him like they did with the members of the 2018 class. The Eagles view him like Dallas Goedert, Avonte Maddox and Josh Sweat, who all got extensions during the 2021 season. But then Sanders will have to decide whether he jumps at the chance for stability or if he wants to test free agency for the first time. I like the way you think. Not only do the Eagles have an influx of linebackers, but there’s a real depth issue at safety. If Anthony Harris and Marcus Epps are starters, then their top backups are K’Von Wallace, Andre Chachere and Jared Mayden. So this would make some sense. At 6-1, 222 pounds (at least that’s where he’s listed) Stevens is the Eagles’ lightest linebacker but he’d be their heaviest safety by a long shot. He’s a real tweener on this roster. Take a look at where he sits between the Eagles’ lightest linebacker and heaviest safety. Davion Taylor: 230 JaCoby Stevens: 222 K’Von Wallace: 205 The fear with playing Stevens at safety would be that he would be a box-only safety and the Eagles really like their safeties to do multiple things. Would he have enough range to play the position in the NFL? He’d have to prove it. To be fair, if any team loses its No. 1 receiver, it hurts. The Eagles would obviously really miss Brown if he were to get injured and miss any amount of time. But if you’re asking about their depth, that’s where Zach Pascal comes in. We said at the time when the Eagles signed him that he’s much better as a fourth option than the third receiver. Any scenario with an injury is the real reason why. Keep an eye on undrafted running back Kennedy Brooks. The Eagles signed the UDFA out of Oklahoma after the draft ended and gave him $240,000 in guaranteed money. Brooks (5-11, 213) had a really impressive college career, averaging 7.0 yards per carry for the Sooners. He carried the ball 472 times in his three years in college and went over 1,000 yards three times. He’s not much of a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield and lacks burst but if the Eagles want a bigger back to make the roster, he’s their best bet already on the team. And if the Eagles are still looking for a Jordan Howard-type at some point … may I suggest Jordan Howard. The 27-year-old remains unsigned and is still just a phone call away. Sure. Happy to give advice. It might sound obvious but the best way to learn is by doing. I cut my teeth covering high school sports and it’s an experience that really helped me. There are plenty of really talented folks covering the NFL who never covered high schools, but I think it was really important for my development. I feel very fortunate that I was in a position to accept unpaid internships. I had a couple in college and they helped me a ton, not just learning how to report and write but building connections in the business. I was an intern for CSNPhilly way back in 2009 and worked my butt off enough to make an impression. I recognize not everyone can work without pay, but there are some internships that do pay. Those are obviously really competitive but they’re worth seeking out. Hope that helps. https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/eagles/eagles-mailbag-are-eagles-serious-contenders-nfc
  24. How Roseman nailed positions that have eluded Eagles for years The NFL is undoubtedly a passing league these days. Because of that, the guys who catch the football and the guys who try to stop them have become increasingly important. Those are areas where the Eagles have struggled. While their longstanding franchise philosophy has been to build through the trenches, and they’ve done that quite successfully, the Eagles have had their weaknesses at the receiver and cornerback positions in recent history. Not this year. Because now they boast a receiving corps led by A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Quez Watkins. And they boast a starting cornerback trio of Darius Slay, James Bradberry and Avonte Maddox. When’s the last time the Eagles had receivers this good? Probably DeSean, Maclin and Avant. When’s the last time they had cornerbacks this good? Probably Lito and Sheldon. When’s the last time they had strengths and these two positions in the same season? It’s been a long time. And that’s kind of the point. Now, a big reason for their deficiencies at these positions has been the failure to draft at these spots. Because if Jalen Reagor or J.J. Arcega-Whiteside worked out, Howie Roseman doesn’t need to trade for Brown. And if Sidney Jones or Rasul Douglas became stars here, then Howie doesn’t need to trade for Slay or sign veterans like Steve Nelson last year or Bradberry this year. That’s all fair and we shouldn’t lose sight of it. Because you should fault the Eagles for putting themselves in this hole to begin with. But if you do that, then you certainly have to praise them when they climb out of it. And, boy, have they climbed out of it. Think back to some of the names of receivers who have played a lot over the last several seasons. Since the Super Bowl, the Eagles have used aging Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson and have tried with Mike Wallace, JJAW, Reagor, Greg Ward, Jordan Matthews, Travis Fulgham, John Hightower and others. And now think about some of the names at cornerback. Maddox out of position, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, Douglas, Jones and others. Some of them were decent players, but having the combination the Eagles have now is clearly a big improvement. Just because the Eagles have struggled some to draft these positions, it doesn’t mean they should stop trying. There’s pretty good evidence in that because despite the misses on JJAW and Reagor, they still drafted Smith and Watkins, who were their top two receivers in 2021. And if the Eagles wanted to draft a cornerback with one of their high-round picks this year, it certainly would have made sense. But the thing that makes these positions so interesting is that the Eagles, after years of struggling to find receivers and corners, have formed these two groups in several different ways. Of those six players we mentioned earlier, the Eagles drafted Smith, Watkins and Maddox. They traded for Slay and Brown before giving them big contracts. And they signed Bradberry as a free agent. Is it easier to simply draft at every position and build a team that way? Sure. But it’s unrealistic. And at least Howie has creatively found ways to get it done. One thing is for certain: Training camp is going to be a lot of fun. Nick Sirianni is all about competition and the competition between those six players is going to be electric. Slay vs. Smith. Brown vs. Bradberry. Maddox vs. Watkins. Sign me up to watch all of it. And give credit to Howie for making it happen. https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/eagles/eagles-howie-roseman-bolstered-previously-elusive-wr-and-cb-spots
  25. Why Eagles think Marcus Epps is ready to be a starter Nick Sirianni preaches competition to his players. So when Marcus Epps and Avonte Maddox sit next to each other in the Eagles’ defensive backs room and have some down time, they compete in spirited games of Kahoot! — a popular quiz game. "He always beat me by like three points,” Maddox said. If Epps is as good a safety as he is at Kahoot! then the Eagles’ secondary might just be OK this year. That has to be the hope, at least. Because barring another James Bradberry-like acquisition — which remains possible — Epps is slated to be a starting safety for the Eagles in 2022. "The coaches, they’ve expressed confidence in me,” Epps said this week. "Obviously, I have a lot of confidence in myself. But just like any other year, man, I still have to come in and prove it. I still have a lot to prove.” That’s probably a pretty unpopular statement among Eagles fans: That Epps is going to be a starter. After all, the Eagles went after a few top safeties this offseason and came up empty. So now it looks like they’re falling back on Epps — maybe in some ways they are — who could be the weak spot of their secondary. But just after the draft GM Howie Roseman expressed his confidence in Epps. His teammates share that confidence. And there are reasons to believe that Epps will be just fine in a starting role in 2022. Just look at his performance in 2021. Epps began last season as a depth player in the secondary but because of some injuries to Rodney McLeod and Anthony Harris, Epps’ role grew. Then he played well enough to basically force Jonathan Gannon to use a rotation on the back end. Epps was playing too well to keep him off the field. In 2021, Epps played 48% of the Eagles’ defensive snaps and, according to ProFootballFocus, graded out higher than both McLeod and Harris in front of him. Epps was PFF’s 18th-best safety in 2021. McLeod and Harris ranked 43rd and 53rd, respectively. Epps last season played in 16 games with 3 starts and had an interception, 5 pass breakups and 62 combined tackles. That success last year did a lot to boost Epps’ confidence. "I thought I played pretty solid last year,” he said. "I thought I set a good foundation for myself to build on this year.” This offseason, the Eagles re-signed Harris, but let McLeod walk. And without any other significant additions to the position — even though they showed interest in players like Marcus Williams and Tyrann Mathieu — it’s pretty clear that Epps is in line for a starting gig. Could the Eagles still find another safety? Sure. But Epps isn’t worried about that. And his teammates don’t seem to be worried about him. "He’s definitely ready to be a starter,” Maddox said. "He comes out, he puts in the work, he puts in the time, he studies in the film room, he has great fundamentals and details. He makes plays. Last year, he made plays. He’s not afraid to come up and tackle and he’s definitely capable of running 40 yards to the left, 40 yards to the right to stop that fade ball or help that corner out on the fade ball. I’m excited to see what he do this year.” Epps, 26, arrived in Philadelphia during the 2019 season as a mid-year waiver claim from the Vikings, who drafted him in the sixth round that year. The Eagles brought in Epps to basically replace veteran Andrew Sendejo, who was cut a few days before. Epps saw some time on defense in 2019 but then saw his role expand in 2020 and again in 2021. He’s been here for two and a half seasons and Epps has continued to get better. As a former walk-on at Wyoming, Epps is no stranger to working his way up the depth chart. "Our coaches have been saying something: ‘You have to prove and reprove yourself,’” Epps said. "That’s kind of the way it’s been for me even in college. I was a walk-on. I had to prove and reprove myself. That’s how my mindset has always been. My mindset hasn’t really shifted from that. Always have that chip on my shoulder and feel like I have to prove myself. And even if I prove myself, I have to reprove myself. I’m just going to continue to try to show I belong.” Most folks agree that Epps played fairly well in a limited role last season. But the big question is whether or not that success will translate if he’s a starter. Was Epps good last year because he has a very small role and excelled at it? Or was he good because … he’s just good? "I mean, some people want to look for sample size,” Harris said last week. "I think you just look at the player, the ability and what he’s done with the opportunity he’s given. And nobody can predict the future but he’s doing all the right things to give himself the chance to be just as successful as anybody else. "I think you take a look at that and you continue to give players more opportunities to continue to do and succeed with what they’re given as well.” The Eagles this offseason have improved just about every position on their defense. They added on the defensive line with Jordan Davis. They brought in an edge rusher in Hassan Reddick. They found legitimate linebackers in Kyzir White and Nakobe Dean. And this week they landed their CB2 in Bradberry. On the outside, it looks like the Eagles still need to improve at the safety position and maybe they still will. But it’s also possible the Eagles think they already have their answer on the roster. https://www.nbcsports.com/philadelphia/eagles/eagles-marcus-epps-prepared-take-over-starter
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