The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.
I remember when Desean Jackson went back to Philly in a burgundy & gold uniform and the Eagles fans boo’ed him. Jackson rightly pointed out that he hadn’t chosen to leave; he’d been cut from the team. He wanted to remind Eagles fans that he’d given them everything he had while he was in his green & white uniform.
Nate Sudfeld, on the other hand, chose the Eagles practice squad over the Redskins practice squad.
Those who are cynical see a team trying to gain an edge by signing a backup quarterback who has two offseasons and a regular season in the Gruden offense.
Those who are a bit more charitable see 6’5” Carson Wentz, 6’6” Nick Foles, and 6’6” Nate Sudfeld and suggest that maybe the Eagles front office just likes really tall quarterbacks.
The one new player is Sudfeld. The 23-year-old quarterback was a sixth round pick by the Redskins last year. Sudfeld was Washington’s third string quarterback this offseason. The Eagles needed a young QB to have on the practice squad as their third stringer behind Carson Wentz and Nick Foles. It’s an added bonus that the Eagles play Washington next week. Maybe they can gain some inside intel from Sudfeld.
What are people around the league saying about the Philadelphia Eagles prior to the start of the season?
Ceiling: 11-5. Carson Wentz develops chemistry early and often with all his new toys, namely receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith and, perhaps, rookie running back Donnel Pumphrey. Jim Schwartz gets the same effectiveness out of his defense on the road this year as he did at the Linc last season (road: 26.9 ppg allowed, home: 15.5). LeGarrette Blount (30) is at least 80 percent of what he was in New England in 2016.
Floor: 5-11. Think the defense is going to be viable enough to win six games. That said, the Eagles could struggle if no hot hand can be found among Blount, Wendell Smallwood, Pumphrey and Corey Clement. Oh, and the 34-year-old Darren Sproles ends up showing his age (it was bound to happen eventually). The addition of Ronald Darby doesn't lift the play of a middling secondary that's waiting for rookies to flourish.
Why I have the Eagles 23rd: So many things about this team I like right now, including the drafting of cornerback Sidney Jones in the second round though he’s coming off Achilles surgery in March, and no one knows if he’ll play this year or at what level.
This franchise is being built for the long term, with smart two-year pieces like Chris Long plugging temp holes. On offense, Carson Wentz will have more help from a motivated Alshon Jeffery and deep threat Torrey Smith, and Wentz has to progress or the whole program is in trouble. The defense will miss Bennie Logan, and the secondary had better hope Schwartz’s front can bring some pressure; the corners can be attacked. But improvement from Wentz is the key.
Most important factor to this team this year: The development of Carson Wentz. It’s paramount to everything this franchise has done since Chip Kelly got whacked a year and a half ago. After a strong start last year, Wentz was less than mediocre (last 12 games: nine touchdowns, 13 picks) for the final three months of the season. The Eagles are convinced he’s better than that. Time to show that what EVP of football operations Howie Roseman paid for Wentz was worth it.
Patrick Robinson is the notable veteran addition to the secondary, but he is coming off a rough season in Indianapolis that saw him give up a passer rating when targeted of 111.7 in eight appearances. Jalen Mills (31.8 overall grade) and Ron Brooks (40.9 overall grade with Buffalo) failed to impress last season, and rookie Sidney Jones is likely to be limited or unavailable for much of the season with an Achilles injury. Third round pick Rasul Douglas should factor into the equation, as his eight interceptions and 18 total passes defended led FBS in 2016. The safety position features Rodney McLeod, who has 52 missed tackles in four seasons as a starter with the Eagles and Rams, and Malcolm Jenkins, who appears to be past his prime after giving up a combined 13 touchdowns the past two seasons.
Philly’s starting quarterback opened his NFL career with three straight wins, efficiently carving up the defenses of the Browns, Bears and Steelers. In those three September games, he completed 64.7 percent of his throws while averaging 256.3 yards per game and 7.54 per attempt. He tossed five touchdown passes and zero picks, posting a passer rating of 103.8. Wentz, in short, was terrific — a quick-thinking, mobile QB with plenty of arm. He certainly looked the part of a top-of-draft quarterback, a franchise cornerstone.
And then the calendar flipped to October. No one would have guessed it at the time, but Wentz’s best games were already behind him. Losses piled up, as did turnovers. Wentz was punished by the better defenses on Philadelphia’s schedule. Here’s a look at his month-by-month performance:
September – 7.54 Y/A, 64.7 CMP%, 5 TD, 0 INT
October – 6.01 Y/A, 66.7 CMP%, 4 TD, 3 INT
November – 6.51 Y/A, 60.1 CMP%, 2 TD, 5 INT
Dec. & Jan. – 5.53 Y/A, 60.5 CMP%, 5 TD, 6 INT
After Wentz’s early binge, he began a gradual descent toward mediocrity, and eventually to something worse. When all the numbers were in, he had nearly as many interceptions (14) as TD passes (16). He ranked near the bottom of the league in Y/A (6.23), behind guys like Case Keenum (6.84), Ryan Fitzpatrick (6.73) and Blake Bortles (6.25). Wentz completed a respectable 62.4 percent of his throws, but he averaged just 3.3 air yards per attempt, again ranking among the NFL’s sketchiest passers. (Keenum averaged 3.7, Osweiler 3.6 and Bortles 3.3).
Jeffery was the biggest (but not only) addition to Philadelphia’s receiving corps, and the team landed him on a one-year, make-good contract. Considering the modest commitment, it’s tough not to like the deal from the team’s perspective. When Jeffery is at his best, he’s one of the NFL’s elite downfield threats, uncommonly gifted in jump-ball scenarios. He has the size, strength and skills to win one-on-one battles on any route, at any level. Jeffery also has an 89-catch, 1421-yard season to his credit, so we know he’s capable of sustained WR1-level performance. But he also has a PED suspension on his resume, and he’s struggled with soft-tissue injuries. He’s hardly a lock to give us 16 games.
By the end of the season, the Eagles will have 13 players over the age of 30 … including some guys who are expected to play a major role this year:
30 and Over Club
LS Jon Dorenbos (traded last week to the Saints for a 7th round pick)
P Donnie Jones
OT Jason Peters
RB Darren Sproles
OG Allen Barbre
TE Brent Celek
DE Chris Long
S Chris Maragos
Turning 30 during the 2017 season
CB Patrick Robinson in September
C Jason Kelce in November
S Malcolm Jenkins in December
Note: Ryan Matthews was #13 on the list, but was cut after this article was published.
RUNNING BACKS (4)
Who's in: Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles, LeGarrette Blount, Donnel Pumphrey
Who's out: Corey Clement, Byron Marshall
Analysis: This is a position where Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas could look to significantly upgrade either via trade or following roster cuts, particularly if a younger player who is a better scheme fit than Blount becomes available. Pumphrey edges out Corey Clement if only because of the fact that the Eagles invested a fourth-round draft choice in him and he has the potential to also play slot receiver.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9)
Who's in: Jason Peters, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Stefen Wisniewski, Chance Warmack, Dillon Gordon.
Who's out: Josh Andrews, Victor Salako, Aaron Neary, Tyler Orlosky, Darrell Greene, Taylor Hart.
Analysis: Taylor Hart's transition from defensive tackle to offensive lineman couldn't have gone much better, but he remains a long shot to make the roster. A strong preseason finale from Darrell Greene against the Jets could lift him onto the squad.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)
Who's in: Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Derek Barnett, Chris Long, Destiny Vaeo, Justin Hamilton, Steven Means, Alex McCalister, Beau Allen (Non-Football Injury List).
Who's out: Gabe Wright, Elijah Qualls, Winston Craig.
Analysis: The addition of Tim Jernigan this offseason gives the defensive line the potential to be the strongest and deepest position group on the roster. If Allen is healthy enough to return Week 1, Hamilton would likely be the odd-man out.
There have been several developments since April, when I predicted the Philadelphia Eagles would go 9-7. They drafted University of Tennessee's all-time sacks leader Derek Barnett. They acquired reigning rushing-touchdown champion LeGarrette Blount in free agency. Dallas Cowboys starting running back Ezekiel Elliott was suspended for six games by the NFL. And, the Eagles traded wide receiver Jordan Matthews and a third-round pick to the Bills for some much needed cornerback help in the form of Ronald Darby.
Will that bump them up into double-digit win territory? Let's take a look:
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 10 at Washington Redskins, 1 p.m. ET
Quarterback Carson Wentz gets to test new weapons Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in regular-season action. The Eagles have lost five in the row to Washington, including their past three on the road, but get Year 2 of the Wentz era off to a positive start by bucking that trend. Record: 1-0
What do you think?
Are the Eagles ready to build on Carson Wentz's rookie season after signing Alshon Jeffrey and Torry Smith in the off season, or does the front office need another year to recover from the Chip Kelly disaster?
Question 1: What will be the result of Sunday’s game?
This poll is closed
Redskins win by 3 points or less
Redskins win by 4-7 points
Redskins win by 8 points or more
The Redskins start the season 0-0-1
Question 2: Where do the Eagles finish in the NFC East in 2017?
This poll is closed