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Archive for the ‘Eagles’ Category

What is Eagles’ plan?

Posted by Eric Fisher On February - 2 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Fisher column logo2The Falcons provide hope for Eagles fans. The Falcons were 8-8 in 2015, just one more win than the Eagles had this season.

If you’re looking for additional encouragement, look no further than the NFC East. The Giants improved from 6-10 in 2015 to 11-5 this season. The Cowboys were transformed from a 4-12 team to a 13-3 championship contender.

Looking for a 7-9 team in 2015 that reached the playoffs this year? The Lions accomplished that feat, but only finished 9-7 and lost in the first round of the playoffs. A more inspiring example is Oakland, which went 12-4 this past season. If we put aside all of the “moving to Las Vegas” talk, the Raiders would be a perfect model for the Eagles.

None of this, of course, guarantees the Eagles will reach the playoffs next season. It only means that it is possible.

But is it likely? That’s the million dollar question – or however high that total has been pushed by rising costs.

The Eagles have their starting quarterback. Carson Wentz isn’t Matt Ryan. At least not yet. He isn’t Derek Carr, either. But he appears to have a bright future ahead of him.

Wentz will, however, need someone to catch the football. The Falcons have Julio Jones, who might be the best receiver in the NFL, and Mohamed Sanu. The Eagles have Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham. Those sets of receivers shouldn’t appear in the same paragraph.

The Eagles also don’t have running backs as good as the Falcons. With apologies to Darren Sproles, the Eagles can’t match the backfield duo of Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman with respect to either running or receiving.

If Sproles can have another productive year, perhaps his final NFL season, and the veteran offensive linemen can avoid a drop in quality, perhaps the Eagles can contend for the NFC East title, or at least a wild card berth.

But there are questions about how the Eagles are approaching next season. Head coach Doug Pederson spoke of being “extremely close” after the season. By contrast, executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman was preaching patience.

We should get some clues during the offseason. If the Eagles release center Jason Kelce – Roseman would not commit to retaining Kelce last week prior to the veteran’s appearance the Pro Bowl – and guard Allen Barbre, it’s a clear indication that they’re building for the future rather than trying to contend for a playoff berth next season. The offensive line could still be very good if Jason Peters stays healthy and Lane Johnson doesn’t get suspended, but the signal sent by going with youth will be unmistakable.

Another barometer for the Eagles’ approach to the 2017 season will be their free agency signings. Do they try to pick up a receiver or cornerback via free agency or will they wait for the NFL Draft? If they address both needs via free agency and the draft, it may be a sign that the Eagles plan on contending sooner rather than later.

The Eagles may try to contend because some of their most important players may not have many years left playing at a high level. Peters is a prime example. Safety Malcolm Jenkins and defensive end Brandon Graham also may not be far from passing the peak of their careers. Consequently, the Eagles may have a long-term plan and a short-term window, which necessitates using some of their resources to trying to contend soon.

Planning to contend doesn’t mean the Eagles will contend. So much depends on Wentz’s development. The Eagles could aid that development by finding a consistent running back. If not at the same quality, they need a running back who can take some of the pressure off Wentz, just as Ezekiel Elliott does for Dak Prescott.

Roseman must do a good job signing and drafting receivers, cornerbacks, linebackers and possibly a defensive end. Those are a lot of holes to fill in one offseason.

Could the Eagles follow the Falcons’ path to the Super Bowl next season? That’s highly unlikely. But could they make the playoffs? That’s certainly possible.

But it’s also possible that the Eagles finish 7-9 again. Or worse.

QB is the key

Posted by Eric Fisher On January - 21 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Fisher column logo2The Eagles have been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism during the past few months. But they deserve credit for getting one thing right. They got their quarterback.

Remember when Howie Roseman said the Eagles gave up a lot of assets to move up to the second pick in the NFL Draft because of how difficult it was to get the right quarterback? The logic was that it’s easier to find the right pieces to put around a franchise quarterback than it is to find a franchise quarterback.

The NFL playoffs indicate that Roseman is correct. The quarterbacks for Sunday’s conference championship games are Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan. Brady, Rodgers and likely Roethlisberger have already won Super Bowls and are headed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Ryan is an MVP candidate and could elevate his Hall of Fame credentials by leading the Falcons to a Super Bowl victory.

Two of Ryan’s top rivals for the MVP Award are Brady and Rodgers. After missing the season’s first four games due to the “Deflategate” suspension, Brady threw 28 touchdown passes and only two interceptions while leading the Patriots to an NFL-best 14-2 record. With the Packers mired at 4-6 entering Thanksgiving weekend, Rodgers famously said before a Monday night game against the Eagles that he thought the Packers could run the table and make the playoffs. With Rodgers leading the way, the Packers did exactly what the veteran quarterback said they would do.

Roethlisberger doesn’t have the gaudy numbers of Brady, Rodgers or Ryan, but he’s led his team to nine straight victories. Like the Packers, the Steelers’ postseason hopes appeared in jeopardy when they were sitting at 4-5 in mid-November. An improved defense was a major component in the Steelers’ turnaround, but don’t underestimate the impact of Roethlisberger’s leadership.

Let’s play a little game. Let’s look back at the divisional playoff round and switch the quarterbacks. Does it make a difference in the outcome?

If the Texans had Tom Brady and the Patriots had Brock Osweiler, would the Texans have won the game? Maybe. And the Texans certainly wouldn’t have lost by 18 points.

If the Chiefs had Roethlisberger and the Steelers had Alex Smith, would the result have been reversed? Probably. I don’t think Smith receives enough credit, but an exchange of quarterbacks would likely have made a difference in a close game.

Would the Cowboys have beaten the Packers if they had Rodgers and the Packers had Dak Prescott? With all due respect to Prescott, who had a good game, I think putting Rodgers on the Cowboys would have changed the outcome. Rodgers achieved that victory without top receiver Jordy Nelson. Imagine Rodgers throwing to Dez Bryant and with a running back the quality of Ezekiel Elliott. That’s downright scary.

The only game in which you could plausibly say there might not have been a difference if the quarterbacks switched sides was the Falcons’ victory over the Seahawks. And that’s more of a testament to the skills of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson than a slight toward Ryan. The Falcons won the game fairly easily, so it’s not likely that a quarterback exchange would have affected the outcome.

Which brings us back to the Eagles. They appear to have their franchise quarterback in place. It’s far too early to mention Wentz in the same sentence as Brady, Rodgers, Roethlisberger and Ryan, but he has the poise and potential to one day lead his team to the conference championship game.

Wentz threw too many interceptions this season, but he displayed the poise and athletic ability to be an impact quarterback. It should be noted that the Eagles had the worst receiving corps in the NFL, so Wentz didn’t have a lot to work with at wide receiver.

Look around the NFL. How many teams have quarterbacks that you would exchange for Wentz? If we don’t take the future into account, the list would include the four starting quarterbacks in the conference championship game, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Derek Carr, Joe Flacco and, arguably, Marcus Mariota, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, Kirk Cousins, Cam Newton and Dak Prescott.

That would put Wentz, at worst, squarely in the midde of the pack. At best, he would be on the cusp of being in the top quarter of the NFL’s quarterbacks, joining a group consisting mostly of quarterbacks who have won Super Bowls.

And that ranking is for right now. Remember, Wentz just finished his rookie season. He should move up the list in the next two seasons.

The Eagles appear to have their franchise quarterback. That was supposed to be the most difficult piece to find. The 2017 draft appears to validate that logic. There appear to be many more highly rated receivers, cornerbacks and defensive ends than there are quarterbacks.

Roseman’s job now is to fill in the pieces around Wentz. How well Roseman does his job will determine whether one day we are talking about Wentz’s value before a conference championship game in the same way we are discussing Brady, Rodgers, Roethlisberger and Ryan this weekend.

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Classic George Steele (RIP) match, interview