Friday, April 21, 2017

Eagles Face the Redskins in Season Opener

The NFL released the dates and times for the 2017 regular season on Thursday; a week before the NFL Draft is set to get underway in the City of Brotherly Love. The Eagles will open their 2017 campaign on the road against a very familiar foe when they head to FedEx Field to play the Washington Redskins. The early betting line out of Las Vegas has Philly listed as a 2.5-point underdog in this matchup.

The Birds will stay on the road in Week 2 to face former head coach Andy Reid's Kansas City Chiefs before playing their home opener against the New York Giants in Week 3. We should get a pretty good idea of just how good (or bad) this team will be in these three tough tests. Week 4 takes Philly to the West Coast to face the San Diego Chargers before playing host to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 5. The Eagles will then play a pair of night games in the next two weeks starting with a Thursday night road game against the Carolina Panthers before facing the Redskins for the second time this season on Monday night at home.

They will close out the first half of their schedule with a home game against San Francisco. Given the first eight games on the Eagles' 2017 schedule an even 4-4 record at this point could be considered a good start. Week 9 brings the Denver Broncos to Lincoln Financial Field in their third-straight home game. Following a bye in Week 10, the Eagles will go on the road in their first game of the season against Dallas in a prime time showdown on Sunday Night Football. The next three games are against Chicago at home followed by road games against Seattle and the Los Angeles Rams.

Given its schedule to date, I have Philly at 6-7 heading into the final three games of the year. Next up could be tough road game against the Giants before closing out the season at home against Oakland and Dallas. I have them squeezing at least one win in the closing trio of games for a second-straight season at 7-9.

Do not worry all you die-hard Eagles fans out there. These predictions are pre-draft and largely based on what all of the Eagles' 2017 opponents did last season. The NFL is still a league of parity that has a tendency to produce a number of new playoff teams each and every year. A couple of bounces of the ball in the Eagles' favor could easily turn this record to 9-7 and 10 wins is not out of the question. With five prime time games on the schedule, maybe the NFL knows something that I do not!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Are the Eagles Leaning Towards Dalvin Cook with Their First Round Pick?

It is common knowledge that the Eagles need a featured running back that can anchor the ground game in order to balance out their recent upgrades in the passing game via free agency. Ryan Mathews has not been the answer given his inability to stay healthy and Darren Sproules is not about to fill that role heading into his 13th season in the league. Last year, Philly used a fourth-round draft pick to select Wendell Smallwood out of West Virginia, but the jury is still out as to whether or not he can be an every down back at this level. I would have to put fourth-year back Kenjon Barner in the same category following three very pedestrian seasons with the team.

That leaves this month's NFL Draft, which just so happens to take place in the City of Brotherly Love, as the best venue for acquiring a player than can immediately step in and fill this role. Using a first round pick on a running back is not all that common of a practice in the NFL, especially as one as high as No. 14. However, it is hard to ignore just how much mileage Dallas got last season from former Ohio State standout Ezekiel Elliott as the fourth overall pick of the 2016 draft.

Draft guru Todd McShay as linked the Eagles to Stanford's Christian McCaffrey as a possible solution at the running back position, but I still think that Florida State's Dalvin Cook is at the top of the list. Just a few days ago on a local radio show he was quoted as saying "They’ve (the Eagles) been showing heavy interest in me and I loved the city when I went there. So everything is good". Most football experts have Cook as the top-rated running back in this year's draft so there is a chance that he may be already off the board when Philly in on the clock; however if he is still available it would give team vice president Howie Roseman and head coach Doug Pederson a golden opportunity to fill the biggest remaining hole on the offensive side of the ball.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Eagles Ink Veteran's Chris Long and Patrick Robinson for Added Depth on Defense

Last week I talked about the Eagles possibly leaning toward taking a defensive end with the 14th overall pick of the draft, but it now appears that this move would be put on the back burner considering that they just turned to free agency to help fill that need. Veteran defensive end Chris Long came to terms on a two-year deal this week to join the nest after helping New England win a Super Bowl last season.

Long was a first round pick by the Los Angeles (then St. Louis) Rams back in 2008 out of Virginia and his best seasons as a pro were in 2011 and 2012 when he registered a total of 24.4 sacks. He recorded four sacks for the Patriots in 2016 in his only season with the team.

I still think that Philly goes with a defensive pick when it is on the clock in the first round of this year's draft, most likely at the cornerback position. In another move this week to address that very need, the Eagles signed free agent defensive back Patrick Robinson to a one-year deal. Robinson was a first round pick by New Orleans in the 2010 draft, but he spent last season with Indianapolis after a brief stop in San Diego in 2015. Plagued by injuries throughout his career, he has only played a full 16 games twice in his first seven seasons in the NFL.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Eagles NFL Draft Update- Thinking Defense in First Round

Philadelphia Eagles vice president Howie Roseman and head coach Doug Pederson where able to address some of the team's biggest needs on offense through free agency with the signing of wide receivers' Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. There is still a glaring need at the running back position; however early indications point towards the Birds using their first round pick of this year's NFL Draft on the defensive side of the ball. Taking a cornerback with the 14th overall pick appears to be the general consensus given just how deep this year's draft class is at that position, but there are some rumblings that they may go with a defensive end to add some depth up front with the recent departure of both Bennie Logan and Connor Barwin.

Looking at the big board of any number of mock drafts, the one defensive lineman that could still be available at that 14th spot is former Tennessee standout Derek Barnett. A few other names that could be in the mix if the Eagles decide to go in this direction would be Takkarist McKinley out of UCLA and Alabama's Tim Williams.

Going back to cornerback as Philly's biggest need on defensive, it is probably just wishful thinking that Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore would still be on the board. This means that the Eagles would once again have to trade up to get the player they want, which is not an ideal situation for a team that has quite a few holes to fill in this year's draft. A bit further down the list are another two former Buckeyes at that same position. The first and most likely choice would be Gareon Conley, who has already shown up on NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper's board as the Eagles' top pick. The other prospect from Ohio State would be Malik Hooker, but he could be a bit of a reach this high in the first round.

The best thing about this year's NFL Draft is that it is being held outdoors at the Philadelphia Art Museum from April 27 to April 29. With the draft in our own backyard, the one thing that you can rest assured is that no matter which direction Roseman and Co. take when Philly is on the clock with that 14th overall pick, the home-town crowd will be sure to let them know exactly what they think about the player they select. If you think Donovan McNabb got booed way back in 1999 as the second overall pick in that year's draft, just wait and see how bad things get if the Philly faithful do not like this pick.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Is Former LSU Standout Leonard Fournette on the Eagles' Draft Radar?

It is no big secret that Philadelphia needs a major upgrade at the running back position to help the ground game complement its recently upgraded passing game. Speculation that team vice president Howie Roseman and head coach Doug Pederson are high on Florida State running back Dalvin Cook as a possible first round pick in the upcoming draft is still running high, but you might want to add the name Leonard Fournette to this list.

Fournette first started garnering attention from pro scouts in his freshman year at LSU and he started high on the list of Heisman hopefuls in his next two seasons. While he never really lived up to all the hype, in all fairness the bar might have been set a bit too high given the Tigers' inability to live up to some pretty high expectations as a team. In three seasons with Louisiana State, Fournette rushed for 3,830 yards and 40 touchdowns while averaging a solid 6.2 yards a carry. He proved to be a bruising back that knew how to gain the hard yards when necessary. A few mock drafts have him off the board within the first 10 picks, but it could make for an interesting situation if he is till available when the Eagles go on the clock with the 14th overall pick.

Most experts still believe that Philly will target the top defensive back available when its first draft pick does roll around and I would probably agree given a high area of need in the Eagles' secondary. However, a fresh set of legs in the backfield would be an exciting addition to an offense that is suddenly looking like it has what it takes to be one of the more productive units in the NFL next season.