The next three weeks are going to determine a lot of things for the Eagles, including whether they make a fourth straight trip to the playoffs and whether Doug Pederson returns as the head coach.
One thing that definitely isn’t hanging in the balance, though, much to the chagrin of many Eagles fans, is the future of the general manager, Howie Roseman.
Sources close to owner Jeffrey Lurie said that while no decision has been reached on whether Pederson will be back for a sixth season, Roseman’s return never has been in doubt. In fact, it’s not even something Lurie has contemplated.
When asked about Roseman’s job security last week, former Eagles president Joe Banner, who has known Lurie since they were kids and spent nearly two decades working alongside him, said he didn’t think there was “even a 10% chance” of Roseman’s getting fired or being asked to resign.
“I know how Jeff thinks,” Banner said. “I know how much confidence he has in Howie. I know, in his mind, he’ll view Howie’s eight-to-10-year record, including winning a Super Bowl. I think he has tremendous trust in Howie. And I’d be very surprised if there was a move there.”
Others, both inside the Eagles organization and around the league, concur. While Roseman has made some glaring mistakes in the draft and free agency in recent years, his relationship with Lurie remains rock-solid.
“[Lurie] likes to be surrounded by people that he feels he can trust without any reservation,” said a league executive who has worked with both Lurie and Roseman. “People that kind of know him and how he thinks, and vice-versa. Jeffrey is very uncomfortable in situations where he doesn’t have people like that immediately around him.
“And there’s nobody else there that can be that to him at the moment other than Howie. So I have a hard time picturing him standing there without anybody like that by his side.”
For the better part of two decades, that was one of the roles that Banner served for Lurie. That’s why Lurie brought his childhood friend along with him when he bought the Eagles in 1994. He wanted somebody next to him whom he could trust unequivocally.
After Banner left the organization in June 2012, and coach Andy Reid departed six months later, Roseman became Lurie’s primary confidante.
Even when Roseman lost a power struggle to Chip Kelly after the 2013 season, Lurie kept him on. And when he finally realized that he had made a colossal mistake giving Kelly the keys to the football operation and fired him, he immediately put Roseman back in charge.
“He does have a blind spot when it comes to Howie,” said one current member of the organization. “I’m not saying he deserves to be fired for the way this season has gone. I mean, we did win a Super Bowl three years ago and have made the playoffs three straight years. So he probably deserves a little slack.
“But there’s no question that Jeffrey looks at Howie through a different lens than he does everybody else.”
Roseman, 45, has been with the Eagles since 2000, when he was hired out of Fordham Law School to help with the salary cap and player contracts.
Reid brought him over to the football side and promoted him to vice president of player personnel in 2008 under general manager Tom Heckert.
When Heckert, who died in 2018, was forced out two years later, Roseman replaced him as general manager, though Reid still had final say in all personnel matters until he left.
The Eagles drafted 33 players in the 2010-2012 drafts. Got a lot wrong. Got some really, really wrong, like guard Danny Watkins and safety Jaiquawn Jarrett (first and second rounds, 2011). But they also got some very right; people who would end up playing key roles in their Super Bowl title, including Brandon Graham (first round, 2010), Jason Kelce (sixth round, 2011), Fletcher Cox (first round, 2012), and Nick Foles (third round 2012).
Roseman also was in charge in 2013 when the Eagles drafted three-time Pro Bowlers Lane Johnson and Zach Ertz.
His last five drafts since returning to power in 2016 have been hit and miss. How they’ll be remembered is largely going to depend on what happens next with Carson Wentz, and whether players like Derek Barnett and Josh Sweat and Dallas Goedert and Isaac Seumalo and Miles Sanders can develop into Pro Bowlers or are going to max out as serviceable starters.
While Lurie isn’t going to fire Roseman, some think there is a possibility he could suggest bringing in another experienced football evaluator.
But a scout who has worked with Roseman said that really wouldn’t change anything.
“You could bring somebody else in,” the scout said. “But Howie still will be there in the middle of it making all of the final decisions. Howie either has to get it right or it’s not going to get right if he’s there.”
One of the reasons Pederson appealed to Roseman as a head-coaching candidate in 2016 was that Roseman knew he didn’t have to worry about a repeat of what happened with Kelly.
Pederson doesn’t have a big ego. He doesn’t like to make waves. He’s not a confrontational person. He wasn’t interested in acquiring organizational power. He was just happy to be a head coach in the NFL.
He knew Roseman from his previous time with the organization on Reid’s staff. He felt he could work with him, but he also knew that Roseman is a master at self-preservation. If things ever went south, it would be him being shown the door, not Roseman
Pederson has become increasingly frustrated the last couple of years with the way Roseman has conveniently allowed him to be the fall guy in front of the media.
Last January, a day after Pederson told reporters that he wasn’t going to be firing offensive coordinator Mike Groh, he got a call from Lurie and was ordered to do exactly that.
He could have resisted. He could have told Lurie and Roseman that if Groh goes, he goes. They almost certainly would have backed off. But that’s not who Pederson is. He acquiesced.
Asked about Pederson’s relationship with Roseman, a Pederson colleague and friend said, “It’s not a bad relationship. But it’s one in which you always have to watch your back if you’re Doug.
“That’s just the nature of the animal you’re dealing with. That’s why I don’t think Doug would be upset if he got fired. Because he knows he’ll get another job. And he won’t have to deal with a lot of the crap he has to deal with here.”
Figuring the Eagles
--Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts have combined for 38 of the Eagles’ 93 rushing first downs. Wentz has 25 and Hurts has 13, including seven Sunday against the Saints.
--The Cardinals have 18 takeaways – 14 in their seven wins and four in their six losses.
--Kyler Murray has been under pressure on 27.1% of his drop-backs this season, according to Pro Football Focus. Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts have been under pressure on 36.7% of theirs, and 39.3% since Week 5.
--Not including three game-ending kneel-downs, Hurts ran the ball 15 times against the Saints. He had four scrambles that gained 50 yards, six designed runs that gained 22, and five zone-reads that gained 38.
--Just five of Hurts’ 25 aimed throws (doesn’t include four throwaways and a batted pass) traveled longer than 10 yards against the Saints. Six of his first seven passes traveled 3 yards or fewer, including a 39-yard completion to Jalen Reagor on a 3-yard crossing route. Hurts was 0-for-2 on 20-plus- yard throws, 2-for-3 on 11-19-yard throws, 9-for-14 on 0-10-yard throws and 6-for-6 on throws behind the line of scrimmage.
--The Eagles used 12-personnel on 36 of 66 plays against the Saints (54.5%). They used 11-personnel on 29 of 66 (43.9%). For only the third time this season, they used 21-personnel – two running backs, one tight end, two wide receivers – on a third-quarter play, which resulted in an incompletion to tight end Dallas Goedert.
--Quarterbacks have averaged 5.6 yards per carry against the Eagles this season (65-364). The Cardinals have allowed 5.3 yards per carry to quarterbacks (59-316).
2021 draft: the offensive tackles
Two years ago, the Eagles traded up three spots in the draft and took Washington State offensive tackle Andre Dillard with the 22nd overall pick.
Would they consider taking another offensive tackle in the first round in 2021? The Eagles, like a lot of teams, believe the offensive and defensive lines are the foundation of a successful football team.
Dillard missed the entire season with a biceps injury, and Doug Pederson acknowledged this week that they still haven’t seen enough of him to know what they’ve got. Their other left tackle option, Jordan Mailata, has been playing football for all of three years.
And, oh yeah, their All-Pro right tackle, Lane Johnson, was limited to seven games this season because of an ankle injury, will turn 31 in May, and has a $17-plus million 2021 cap number.
If they’re going to add another young offensive tackle, this is the year to do it, according to NFL Network draft analyst Ben Fennell. He said the tackle class in the 2021 draft is comparable to, if not deeper than, the 2020 class, when six offensive tackleds were taken in the first round.
“I think there are going to be a lot of guys ready to play, just like there was with this year’s class,” Fennell said. “I think there’s a bunch of first-round guys that are plug-and-play.”
It’s difficult to say right now where the Eagles will be drafting in the first round. Right now, they have the ninth-worst record in the league. But five of those eight teams in front of them draft-wise, all have 4-9 records. And the Eagles still have a chance of winning the NFC East. So, they could be picking anywhere from fourth to the bottom third of the round.
Four offensive tackles – Andrew Thomas, Jedrick Wills, Mekhi Becton, and Tristan Wirfs -- went in the top 13 last year. Thomas was taken by the Giants at four. Wills, Becton, and Wirfs went 10, 11, and 13 to the Browns, Jets, and Bucs. Austin Jackson went to the Dolphins at 18 and Isaiah Wilson went to the Titans at 29.
Fennell thinks there’s a good possibility five or six tackles could again go in the first round, though maybe not four in the top half of the first round because of quarterback and other positions getting pushed up.
The best of the 2021 offensive tackle class is Penei Sewell of Oregon. Fennell compared the 6-6, 331-pound Sewell to Hall of Famer Walter Jones. He fully expects Sewell to be the first non-quarterback off the board, possibly as high as third.
“He is as much of an offensive tackle prodigy as we’ve seen in years,” Fennell said. “I’ve compared him to Jones. He’s also been likened to Jonathan Ogden and Orlando Pace and other elite offensive tackles that have played in the league in the last 25-30 years.
“But he’s still a young player. A lot of people question his experience and age and maturity and strength maturity.”
Here is how Fennell has the offensive tackles ranked four-plus months out from the draft:
Ben’s take: “Fires out of his stance. His quickness off the ball is exceptional. Light feet and loose hips in pass protection. Independent hand-usage. His play ID as far as identifying stunts and blitzes is excellent. Can seal and control gaps in the run game. Has strong hands to latch/torque defenders.”
Cons: “Needs to improve his lower-body strength.”
Comp: Walter Jones
Ben’s take: “Powerful upper body. Thick core with broad shoulders and long arms. Heavy-handed on contact. Can shock/jolt defensive linemen with his punch. He can absorb/engulf power with his massive frame and competitive attitude.”
Cons: “Heavy-footed at times. Needs work on his recovery and adjusting to counter-moves.”
Comp: Donald Penn
Ben’s take: “Strong in the run game. Has excellent movement on kick-outs and down-blocks. Efficient at climbing, locating, and latching on to second-level defenders. Springy and long out of his stance in pass-protection. Uses his light feet to mirror defenders.
Cons: “Lunges on his punch at times. Overextends and leads to waist-bending. His body-control can occasionally be sloppy.”
Comp: Morgan Moses
Ben’s take: “Prototypical length, frame, size, and strength for an NFL tackle. Has run-blocking versatility -- gap, zone, pulling, and backside. He’s a powerful puncher. Has consistent timing and location. Keeps his head out.”
Cons: “Has a two-handed punch technique. Teams prefer independent hand-usage. Pops out of his stance too often.”
Comp: Anthony Castanzo
Ben’s take: “Excellent lateral mobility in zone run scheme. Good quickness off the ball. Aggressive, edgy, scrappy. Sets a tone and plays a physical brand of football. Had the best performance against Chase Young in 2019 of any college offensive tackle.”
Cons: “Lacks length. Allows rushers into his chest. Some already have projected a move inside to guard for him.”
Comp: Joel Bitonio
Best of the rest
6—Samuel Cosmi, Texas, 6-7, 309
7—Walker Little, Stanford, 6-7, 309
8—Jalen Mayfield, Michigan, 6-5, 320
9--Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State, 6-6, 320
10—Abraham Lucas, Washington State, 6-7, 324
Candidates for a move to guard
Darrian Kinnard, Kentucky, 6-5, 345
Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC, 6-4, 315
Zion Johnson, Boston College, 6-3, 310
Jackson Carman, Clemson, 6-6, 328
Jaxson Kirkland, Washington, 6-7, 295