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.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith Bolster Eagles' Receiving Corps

Last week I posted a piece on the Eagles' options to improve their receiving corps through free agency and on the first day of the new free agent season they came through in a big way by agreeing to a one-year deal with former Chicago wide receiver Alshon Jeffery after already inking Torrey Smith to a three-year deal as a free agent receiver out of San Francisco.

In that post, I questioned Philly's ability to land a high-profile player like Jeffery given the team's current strains on the NFL salary cap, but it started the process of making some room by releasing fan-favorite defensive end/linebacker Connor Barwin and his $7.75 million hit on the cap. It takes hard decisions to win in the free agent game and the mentality of this team appears to lean towards helping the offense at the expense of the defense. Standout defensive lineman Benny Logan was already given his walking papers which has to raise some concern for a unit that finished the regular season in the middle of the pack in total yards allowed.

Do not get me wrong, the addition of both Jeffrey and Smith immediately upgrades a passing offense that was 24th in the NFL in yards per game and it gives second-year quarterback Carson Wentz both a big target that can come down with the jump ball as well as a speedster that can bring the deep ball back into play. These moves also help to turn up the heat on Jordan Matthews to up his game as possibly the third-best receiver on this team right now. Rest assured that the heat will also get turned up pretty high on Wentz if he does not take full advantage of his two new weapons.

The Eagles still need to address their running game and there are more than a few holes on defense that could turn into huge craters if team vice president Howie Roseman and head coach Doug Pederson do not start doing a much better job with the draft. I would not look for anymore big splashes in free agency given that the Eagles' cap situation could still be called tenuous at best, but they should be able to add a few pieces here and there to keep things moving in the right direction.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Eagles' Free Agent Plans at Wide Receiver

It is no big secret that one of Philadelphia’s most pressing needs this offseason is a major upgrade at the wide receiver position. The Birds tried to solve this problem a few years back by drafting Jordan Matthews in the second round of the 2014 draft before using a first round pick in 2015 to land Nelson Agholor. Both players have proven they can play at the next level, but neither one will ever be considered an elite wide receiver in the NFL.

After giving away the farm last year to move up and get Carson Wentz with the second overall pick of the 2016 draft, it is time to bring in some legitimate weapons to give the second-year quarterback a chance to live up to his potential. The quickest and easiest way to accomplish this goal is through free agency since you already know what you are getting in return for your money. With a number of high-profile wide receivers expected to test the free agent waters in the coming weeks, the question on every Eagles fan’s mind is which players they should go after.

DeSean Jackson was one of the most exciting wide receivers to ever play in Philly, but I do not think he is the answer should Washington decide to cut him loose. DJax would create a 'been there, done that' type of situation that could actually do more harm than good if he reverts back to some of his old selfish ways. Another name on the list could be Alshon Jeffery, who reportedly is looking to test the free agent market as opposed to staying in Chicago. That situation could turn into a bidding war with several teams and Philadelphia is not in the best of situations when it comes to NFL salary cap.

Moving down the list, names such as Kenny Britt (Los Angeles) and Kenny Stills (Miami) come to mind as potential targets. Both of these players are coming off big years which should boost their value on the open market. If I had to choose between the two, I see more upside in Stills given his relative youth.

Trade rumors surrounding New Orleans’ wide receiver Brandin Cooks have been linked back to Philadelphia, but it appears that New England has stepped to the forefront with an offer involving a first round pick.

A new name on the list could be Terrelle Pryor after he failed to come to terms on a new contract in Cleveland. Another Redskins' receiver that could find himself on the open market is Pierre Garcon, who has proven himself to be one of the more consistent players at his position. In this head-to-head matchup, I would opt for Pryor given his youth and incredible versatility as an all-around playmaker.

Brandon Marshall was given his walking papers by the New York Jets, but he is another wide receiver that comes with too much baggage to be a good fit in Philly. A few of the other big names on the potential free agent list include Victor Cruz (New York Giants) and Vincent Jackson (Tampa Bay), but neither of those two players can make the major impact that the Eagles need from a new No. 1 or even No. 2 receiver.

The bottom line in this whole situation is that team vice president Howie Roseman and head coach Doug Pederson have their work cut out for them when the NFL starts its new business year on March 9. They could opt to try and fill this need with the draft, but that strategy is what has gotten the Birds into this situation in the first place. While I am not exactly sure which available free agent receiver I would go after, I would not break the bank to get a deal done. This position may be at the top of the list when it comes to offseason needs, but there are plenty of other holes to fill on this team if the Eagles have serious plans to be competitive in the NFC East next season.