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In Roob's Obs, what Eagles' secondary desperately needs


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In Roob's Obs, what Eagles' secondary desperately needs


What the Eagles definitely need in the secondary, the insane amount of talent on the Birds' coaching staff in the late 1990s and why Derek Barnett is going to get a huge contract.

Welcome to this week's edition of Roob's Random Eagles Offseason Observations.

1. When you look at the Eagles’ secondary this past year, Darius Slay was very good, Steve Nelson was solid, Rodney McLeod finished strong and Anthony Harris was largely disappointing. But what they have in common is that they’re all 28 or older, and this was the first time in franchise history the Eagles had four regular starting defensive backs who were all at least 28. And that’s a dangerous place to be. Even though Slay, Nelson and McLeod all played well individually, you have to be careful in the secondary - more than any other position - that you don’t get too old. Because it seems like every year NFL wide receivers get faster, and you can’t cover these Olympic sprinter types with guys who are starting to decline. And that’s generally what happens to defensive backs who hit 30. So it’s not as much where these guys are now but where you project they’ll be this coming season. Next year, McLeod will be 32, Slay and Anthony Harris 31 and Nelson 29. Avonte Maddox is 25 and coming off a strong year in the slot, but the Eagles have to surround Slay and Maddox with promising, young, talented defensive backs who can run. I’m OK bringing McLeod back but it has to be in a rotational role like the last stretch of this season. If priority No. 1 this offseason is improving the pass rush, priority No. 1B has to be injecting this secondary with youth, speed and playmaking. Because an aging secondary is just asking for trouble.

2. Here are some players from throughout Eagles history who’ve averaged more receiving yards per game than Jalen Reagor: Mark Bavaro, Dorial Green-Beckham, L.J. Smith, Riley Cooper, Paul Turner, Michael Timpson, Art Monk, Reggie Brown, Jeff Graham, Travis Fulgham and James Thrash.

3. Somebody is going to pay Derek Barnett a ton of money in free agency. Derek Barnett? The guy who had two sacks this year? Seriously? They’re going to look at his traits, his potential and the fact that he’s only 25 years old, and they’re going to pay him somewhere between $8 and $10 million per year. Everybody wants edge rushers, and they’re not easy to find. It’s why the Eagles made sure to keep Josh Sweat at $13.3 million per year even though he had only 10 career sacks. It's why the Jets paid John Franklin-Myers a deal worth $13.8 million per year before this season even though he had only five career sacks (and added 6.0 this year). A good comparison for Barnett is Romeo Okwara. Barnett had 21 ½ sacks in his first five years and Okwara had 20. The Lions re-signed Okwara before the season to a deal averaging $12.3 million per year. The Bengals gave Sam Hubbard a deal averaging $10 million after he had 16 ½ sacks in his first three seasons. In so many cases, teams are paying for potential and not production. Barnett should be a double-digit sack guy, but he’s never come close. But somebody is going to pay him based on what they think he can become. And they’re going to regret it.

4. From 1997 through 1999, these people all coached with the Eagles: Jon Gruden, Bill Callahan, John Harbaugh, Sean Payton, Andy Reid, Brad Childress, Ron Rivera, Leslie Frazier, Pat Shurmur, Sean McDermott, Steve Spagnuolo, David Culley and Doug Pederson. All were head coaches at some point. Seven of them reached a Super Bowl (Gruden, Callahan, Harbaugh, Payton, Reid, Rivera, Pederson) and five of them won one (all but Rivera and Callahan). What an astonishing collection of coaching talent. Also, during that three-year period, the Eagles were 14-33-1. 

5. Andy Reid has been a head coach for 23 years. His teams have reached the playoffs 17 times and had three losing seasons. 

6. Brandon Brooks’ retirement got us thinking about what players from the 2017 Super Bowl team will eventually be enshrined in the Eagles Hall of Fame. I feel like Nick Foles, Zach Ertz, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Jason Kelce and Jason Peters are locks; and Darren Sproles, Malcolm Jenkins, Lane Johnson and Brooks are all likely to get there, too. The problem is the Eagles only add two players per year so it could take quite a while for all the deserving members of the Eagles’ only Super Bowl championship team to get in. The 1960 team has the most Hall of Famers with eight, and the 1988, 1989 and 1990 teams – despite not winning a single playoff game – have seven each, as does the 1961 team. The 1949 NFL Championship team had six future Eagles Hall of Famers and the 1948 Championship team had five.

7. Only two running backs in the entire NFL scored at least six touchdowns this year on 101 or fewer touches – Boston Scott (7 TDs on 100 touches) and Kenny Gainwell (6 TDs on 101 touches). The Eagles are the first team to have two running backs with at least six offensive TDs on 101 or fewer offensive touches since the 2001 Raiders (Zack Crockett 6 TDs on 59 touches and Tyrone Wheatley 6 TDs on 100 touches). 

8. Hopefully, Jason Kelce returns to the Eagles for a 12th season. If not, there is absolutely no way they’re going to move Landon Dickerson to center. Why mess with such a good thing? Dickerson played at such a high level at left guard once he got settled in, and there's no reason to break up the powerhouse left side of the line with Jordan Mailata and Dickerson, who were just destroying people by the second half of the season. Mailata is 24, Dickerson is 23 and I love the idea of those two growing together. Plus, the NFL is going toward smaller, more mobile and athletic centers – a trend Kelce pioneered. And at 335, Dickerson is 10 pounds bigger than any current NFL starting center. In fact only five regular centers this year weighed more than 315. Isaac Seumalo, at 305 pounds, is more of a prototype center. Kelce told me years ago that when he does retire, Seumalo would be a Pro Bowl center. Not sure if that will happen, but there’s no question Seumalo’s quickness and athleticism are better suited to center than Dickerson’s massive and powerful frame. So Dickerson at left guard, Seumalo at center and probably Jack Driscoll at right guard, with Mailata and Lane Johnson at tackle. It's possible the Eagles could lose Kelce and Brooks - eight combined Pro Bowls - and still line up the NFL's best o-line. And all five were draft picks.

9. There were certainly other factors for it, but interesting to note that the Eagles since 2016 are 43-25 (.632) when Brooks played and 12-23-1 (.347) when he didn’t. 

10. I keep hearing people tell me how Jalen Hurts inflated his stats against bad teams and struggled against good teams. So instead of taking their word for it, I thought I’d check the numbers. And here’s what I found: In eight games vs. losing teams, Hurts had an 88.3 passer rating, and in seven games vs. winning teams he had an 86.2 passer rating. His completion percentage was a lot higher vs. losing teams (64.3 percent to 58.3 percent), but his TD-to-INT ratio was better against winning teams (8-3 vs. 8-6). He averaged 5.1 yards per rush vs. winning teams with 6 TDs and 6.3 vs. winning teams with 4 TDs. So much for that theory.


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