As minicamp ends and we enter a break from football until July 25th, let’s take a dive into what we have learned about this Eagles team, organization, and upcoming season as a whole.
Fletcher Cox and Darren Sproles Came Back
We knew it was only a matter of time before these two guys showed up. One thing seems to be trending is that many fans and media do not understand the business side of football. You can almost not worry about this part of the game and let it take care of itself. Darren Sproles was holding out because of trade rumors involving his name and Fletcher Cox held out because he is unhappy with his contract situation. The Eagles know what role Sproles will play, which is a limited running back who can be very helpful out of the flat and will still provide the exceptional punt returning skills. Chip Kelly was wrong in a lot of ways, but was correct when he said that Sproles is worth probably an extra win or two per season. Remember the Jets and Patriots games, last year? Sproles had a punt return TD in each of those games, and each game was decided by a touchdown or less. If Sproles didn’t score, the Eagles may have been 5-11 when it was all said and done.
When it comes to Cox, the Eagles have to do everything they can to keep him happy, but at the same time, the notion around the NFL is that you cannot lock up amazing amounts of money into the defensive line. Your offense will suffer down the road and, considering where Cox was drafted, it is not too far fetched to say that you can find defensive line talent in the later parts of the first round. Nevertheless, Cox is a special player and you have to do everything you can to keep him around. If the money is not agreed upon, the franchise tag is always an option.
The Defense Is Looking Good (For Now)
When defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz came to the podium over a week ago, he admitted his defense did not look good at the beginning of OTA’s and even minicamp. Since then, the notion has been that the defense was clicking by the end of minicamp, especially the safeties.
The addition of Rodney McLeod might have been the most overlooked pick up this whole offseason. Walter Thurmond, who recently retired, was a solid safety to go along with Malcolm Jenkins, but he was soft. The addition of McLeod to play alongside Jenkins could prove invaluable this season. There were many times when Jenkins was attacking the line of scrimmage, but you did not see the hard hitting football from Thurmond’s side. With McLeod, the safeties provide a sense of fear for offenses they will face. With McLeod’s big hitting and solid defense, combined with the Pro-Bowler Jenkins, there is no reason why this safety tandem can’t rank among the best in football.
Along with this, the defensive line has looked as solid as it did last season. The questions for this defense are the cornerbacks and the depth at the linebacker position. If this defense can stay healthy, they will be among the best. They will certainly benefit from not being on the field as much as they were in Kelly’s offense. For God’s sake, Malcolm Jenkins played the most snaps in football over the last two years. There are still question marks on this defense, but if they can stay healthy, great things can come.
Chris Givens Could Be A Deep Threat
The addition of Chris Givens could prove to be a great pick up by the Eagles. The 26 year-old receiver played with quarterback Sam Bradford when he was in St. Louis, and it seems that Givens and Bradford could be an exciting duo this upcoming season. Givens provides a deep threat with his speed, which is something the Eagles have been lacking. Having a deep threat like Givens makes it that much easier for other receivers to get open. With Givens being a 3rd or 4th option, it can provide more opportunities for the tight ends, as well as Jordan Matthews and Rueben Randle. One wide out who should be worried about Givens? Josh Huff. Huff was definitely outplayed by Givens in OTA’s/minicamp, and if Huff can’t battle this upcoming training camp, then he could be the odd man out of this receiving core.
The Quarterback Position Looks Settled (For Now)
Starting quarterback Sam Bradford sat out the first two weeks of OTA’s to express his frustration with the Eagles going up to #2 in this years draft to get Carson Wentz. Bradford eventually realized this is the best situation for him and is now sticking it out as the bridge to future franchise-QB Wentz. With the quarterback picture how it is, people were skeptical if Bradford would be willing to show the rookie the ropes. So far, Bradford and backup Chase Daniel have been great mentors to Wentz. The consensus so far is that Wentz has been competing very well with the other two quarterbacks, but coach Pederson has reiterated that Bradford is 100% the starter. Now, I understand that Bradford is going to be the Day 1 starter, but offensive coordinator Frank Reich said there may be some sort of competition at the quarterback position. If the Eagles are spiraling downward quickly with Bradford and the season is out the window, don’t be surprised if Wentz is thrown in there earlier than we thought.