Friday, April 28, 2017

Eagles Get Defensive in the NFL Draft

The speculation over which player Philadelphia would select in the opening round of this year's draft in front of the raucous home-town crowd continued all the way to Thursday night when Cleveland went on the clock with the No. 1 overall pick. A few mock drafts had the Birds adding another wide receiver with their 14th pick, but once Mike Williams and John Ross came off the board in the first 10 picks that plan came to an end.

Running back was another position the Eagles were looking to fill heading into the draft, but Leonard Fournette went to Jacksonville at No. 4 and Christian McCaffrey went to Carolina four picks later as the two top prospects in this year's class. There was some speculation that they would take former Florida State standout Dalvin Cook, but he remains on the board heading into Friday night's second round.

Everyone knew that Philly needed some help in their defensive secondary and both Marlon Humphrey and Adoree' Jackson were still on the board when the Eagles went on the clock at No. 14. However, team vice president Howie Roseman and head coach Doug Pederson decided to go in a slightly different direction. It was no big surprise that they went with former Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett with that pick since he had been linked to Eagles throughout the entire draft process. He had a stellar three-year career as a Volunteer that was highlighted by breaking Reggie White's career record for sacks with 32.

The lone caveat to this pick was the fact that former Alabama defensive tackle Jonathan Allen was still on the board at 14 and he eventually went to division rival Washington with the 17th overall pick. Looking back at most of the player rankings coming into this draft, Allen was expected to go in the first 10 picks. There was no real explanation why he dropped so far down in the opening round, but maybe the Eagles knew something that all the draft experts overlooked.

Both players are outstanding additions to their respective new defense and they are sure to be compared to one another over the next few seasons given that they will both be playing in the NFC East. Let hope that Barnett can continue to follow in the larger-than-life footsteps of No. 92 by breaking his NFL sack total someday.

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.