Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Eagles Decide to Go Back to the Future in the 2016 NFL Draft

The Eagles made front page news with their deal to move up to the No. 2 overall spot in next Thursday’s opening round of the NFL Draft. They appear to be trying to recreate the magic of 1999 when first year head coach Andy Reid selected quarterback Donovan McNabb out of Syracuse with the second overall pick in that year’s draft. That duo never brought home a NFL title in their 11 years together in Philly, but it was still a very successful run that included five trips to the NFC Championship Game and one Super Bowl appearance.

Doug Pederson was Reid’s starting quarterback in 1999, while McNabb waited patiently in the wings to take over the helm later that season. Now that he is the new head coach of his old team, Pederson must think that San Bradford will be more than willing to play the same role for either Carson Wentz or Jared Goff while they wait their turn to become the next great franchise quarterback in Philadelphia.

There is also a very good chance that whichever of these two top-rated quarterbacks does have his name called when the Eagles are on the clock at No. 2 will get booed by the Philly fans in the crowd just like McNabb did back in '99. Going back to that pick, the Philly faithful wanted the Eagles to select running back Ricky Williams, out of Texas. This time around, the Boobirds hopes were pinned on getting former Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott with the eighth overall pick (I know because I was one of them). Instead, we get a quarterback (at a much higher price) that would have to really raise their game to match what McNabb accomplished in his 11-year career in Philadelphia.

In the immortal words of Yogi Berra, it sounds like Deja vu all over again. However, I am not convinced that things are going to work out like they did for Reid and McNabb. It is a different world today for NFL quarterbacks and whichever player the Eagles end up drafting will immediately be under the microscope in one of the toughest sports towns in the country. This will be true even if they are on the bench at the beginning of the new regular season. My big question is how motivated will Bradford be as the current starter knowing that he is just a stop-gap measure until Pederson decides his rookie quarterback is ready to go. This situation could easily result in our new franchise signal-caller getting pressed into service much earlier than expected once the Eagles tank in their first few games.

All I know is that Philly has just taken itself out of any talk about winning the 2016 NFC East Division title and into a rebuilding mode that will probably result in five or six wins this season. Before this move, the Eagles had a good chance to add a few key players on both sides of the ball with all the picks they did have. I still think that it would not have taken all that much to get back to the playoffs this season in a watered-down division. Unfortunately for Eagles' fans, team vice-president and de facto director of player personnel Howie Roseman decided the best move was to mortgage the present while possibly mortgaging the future at the same time. All this could still go back to the fact that Chip Kelly was largely responsible for bringing Bradford to Philly in the first place. What ever Kelly had done, Roseman seems hell-bent on undoing as quickly as possible.

I thought that drafting McNabb over Williams was the right move, but the Eagles already had the No. 2 pick in that draft so they did not have to give-up anything to get him. Neither of the two quarterbacks (Wentz or Goff) that the Eagles are gunning for strike me as a can't-miss pick like Andrew Luck or even Marcus Mariota. The hype surrounding both of these over-hyped quarterbacks obviously got the best of Roseman and Pederson's imagination. Unfortunately, they have put on their rose-colored glasses and put this beleaguered franchise in a prime position to take a major step backwards if or in my opinion when this over-zealous speculation does not live-up to reality.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Breaking Down the Eagles 2016 Schedule

The Eagles' 2016 regular season schedule was released this past Thursday and I decided to take a few days to reflect on what it means in terms of the Birds' chances to win the NFC East this year. Along with their six division games, we already knew that the Eagles would face the AFC North and the NFC North as well as Atlanta and Seattle to round-out the 16-game slate. Now that the actual schedule has been put together, it is time to start putting the games into the win and loss column.

The good news is that the Eagles will open the season at home against Cleveland and the early betting line on that game has Philly favored by seven points. I am going to pencil this one in as a W considering just how bad the Browns really are.

In Week 2, the Eagles will go road to face the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football before returning home to host in-state rival Pittsburgh in a late start on Sunday, Sept. 25. The best-case scenario would be a split heading into an early Week 4 bye and I'll take it.

The month October features three-straight 1 p.m. starts against Detroit and Washington on the road and Minnesota at home. I am going to get really optimistic and say that the Eagles come away with two wins in these three games to improve to 4-2 through their first six contests. Things start getting tough from there starting with a Sunday night road trip to Big D on Oct. 30 to face the Cowboys. I am looking for a split in the season series, but the win is going to have to come at home following a loss in this game.

Philly will start the month of November on the road against the New York Giants and that could spell another tough loss within the division. Now at an even 4-4 on the year, I do like the Eagles' chances to get back above .500 with a victory at home against Atlanta on Sunday, Nov. 13. Unfortunately, it will be short-lived with losses to Seattle on the road in Week 11 followed by a home loss to Green Bay in another Monday night appearance on Nov. 28. For anyone not keeping score, that puts the birds at 5-6 heading into the all important month of December.

The Eagles will start the month on the road in Cincinnati as a likely underdog and the end result will prove the Oddsmakers right with a third-straight loss. The rally to the NFC East title starts with a win at home against Washington on Sunday, Dec. 11. They will then go on to pull-off the I-95 Beltway sweep by beating Baltimore on the road the following week.

The final two games on the schedule for the 7-7 Birds start with a Thursday night matchup at home against the Giants on Dec.22. I am giving the Eagles the slight edge in this one and the extra rest heading into the season finale against the Cowboys is just enough to tip the scales in their favor in that game as well.

The end result is a 9-7 record with a 4-2 record in the NFC East. That record was good enough to win the division last season and it will prove to be good enough to claim the title this year. A few other bold predictions have Doug Pederson receiving strong consideration for "Coach of the Year" honors and running back Ezekiel Elliott being named the NFL's "Offensive Rookie of the Year".

What did you expect from a life-long homer like me? Just remember when this season does unfold that you first read all about at EaglesLincs!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Ohio State's Elliott to Anchor Philly's Running Game?

Mock drafts are a dime a dozen this time of the year and I personally have given up on trying to predict the unpredictable. Everything is subject to change right up until the start of the first round and I always get a kick out of these so-called NFL Draft gurus telling everyone which player a team is going to draft when that particular team does not even know who they are going to take.

That being said, there is some traction behind the rumors that the Eagles will use the eighth overall pick in the first round to select former Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott. There is no doubt that they need a quality running back to help inject some new blood into their ground game. Last season the offense fell to 14th in rushing yards per game (108.9) following the trade of LeSean McCoy and the ill-fated addition of DeMarco Murray to take his place. Murray is gone as well so Philly might be tempted to start from scratch with a player that can successfully fill that role for the next four or five years.

Normally, a running back will not command that high of a draft pick and I would much rather see the Birds add a huge lineman upfront given that their running issues were directly tied to a less than stellar offensive line. It all starts up front and finding offensive lineman that can fill an immediate need in the later rounds is a bit tougher than finding a suitable running back in Day 2 of the draft.

With Howie Roseman calling the shots along with new head coach Doug Pederson at the helm, the thinking may be to try and make a splash with such a high pick by drafting a big-named skill position player. We have already discussed the chances that Philly takes a quarterback at that No. 8 slot and the name Jared Goff out of California remains in the mix on quite a few mock draft boards. This will be a wait and see situation right up to that last Thursday in April, but one thing that is vitally important is that the Eagles make a significant impact with whoever they decide to take. It has been quite awhile since a first round draft pick has got the fickle Philly fans excited about the future direction of the team and Roseman and Co. are well aware of this fact.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Eagles Free Agency Report Card

The beginning of April means that the official countdown to the 2016 NFL Draft is on, but it also marks a good time to take a look back at some of the moves the Eagles made to improve their roster through free agency. I might be grading on a curve, but I am going to give the Birds a solid B for their efforts. Howie Roseman is running the show now as the De facto director of player personnel even though his actual title is Executive Vice President of Football Operations. To me, he is basically everything but head coach, which is now Doug Pederson's job title.

Some of the early moves Philly made were to lock-up the free agents on its own roster that it wanted to keep. This list included quarterback Sam Bradford, defensive end Vinny Curry and cornerback Nolan Carroll II. The Eagles also extended the contracts of tight ends' Zach Ertz and Brent Celek. All of these players have been solid contributors in the past and while I am not sold on Bradford as a true franchise quarterback, he remains a good fit until a long-term replacement can be found.

Some of the new faces we will see in midnight green next season include guard Brandon Brooks, safety Rodney McLeod and cornerbacks' Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks. This group of players as a whole add some much needed depth to the team's biggest weak spots. The Eagles also came to terms with backup quarterback Chase Daniels, who worked with Pederson when he was the offensive coordinator in Kansas City. Daniels has only started two games in his seven-year NFL career, but many football experts believe he has a chance to take Bradford's place as the full-time starter in Philadelphia. I am not ready to jump on that bandwagon, but competition at any position is always a good thing.

The main reason that I graded the Eagles so high is for their overall approach to free agency this offseason. Getting value for their dollar has replaced the mentality of paying big bucks for big named free agents. Those type of deals rarely work out as expected and all they do in the long run is chew-up salary cap space. There are still some holes to fill on both sides of the ball, but I do believe that the team under the Roseman/Pederson regime is moving in the right direction. You cannot deny that things were much more exciting with a wheelin' and dealin' Chip Kelly at the helm, but we all know how that fiasco ended.