Good morning, Eagles fans! T-minus four days until the 2019 season officially opens. The Eagles are in full prep mode for Sunday’s game against the Redskins. After Tuesday’s day off, the players report to the NovaCare Complex Wednesday for their first full practice of the week. The game plan is set, and Doug Pederson and his coaching staff will drill the Eagles over the next several days.
Pederson and quarterback Carson Wentz are scheduled to meet with reporters Wednesday. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Mike Groh will talk Thursday. And Pederson returns Friday to round up the week. The locker room is open for access, as well. Saturday is the walkthrough, but the practice facility is closed to the media before Sunday’s game at Lincoln Financial Field.
And if you’re looking for more Eagles, we’ve got you covered: Join our coverage team in an exclusive conversation on Sept. 10 at The Inquirer with live Week 1 analysis, expert season predictions, and more. We’ll bring the Wawa hoagies, you bring your burning Birds questions. Tickets: inquirer.com/minds.
— Jeff McLane (firstname.lastname@example.org)
It takes at least three seasons before a draft class can be properly assessed. The Eagles’ rookies have yet to play in even one regular-season game, but the early returns on the group, especially the first three picks, have been positive.
Tackle Andre Dillard (first round), running back Miles Sanders (second), and wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (second) had their ups and downs during their first training camp, but they never looked overwhelmed by the competition. More important, each player flashed during the preseason.
But of the three, Sanders is expected to make the greatest contributions in 2019.
“Miles has a chance to really contribute to this football team this year,” Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said Saturday. “He has a great combination of feet and power. I think that one of the things that maybe it’s hard to realize until you see Miles in pads is how much power he plays with. He’s not afraid of lowering his shoulder, and really, he has some thump to him.”
Sanders certainly won’t carry the load. The Eagles traded for Jordan Howard in March and won’t be shy about giving him touches. Howard is in the last year of his rookie contract, and it is unlikely the Eagles bring him back next season. Darren Sproles and Corey Clement will also be in the mix as Pederson likes a by-committee backfield. But Sanders has looked electric at times and it may be difficult for the Eagles to harness the thoroughbred.
Roseman’s comments about Dillard and Arcega-Whiteside make it clear that the Eagles will take a more patient approach with the tackle and receiver. But in his comparisons of Dillard to Jason Peters and Arcega-Whiteside to Alshon Jeffery, the GM may have signaled a changing of the guard.
“He has maybe the best left tackle of all time to learn from,” Roseman said of Dillard. “That’s really exciting, and for him, again, to be able to sit there and develop and learn, he’s above probably where we thought he would be at this time, which is really exciting.”
Arcega-Whiteside shined in the Eagles’ third preseason game against the Ravens. He caught eight of nine targets for 104 yards and a touchdown.
“I think for J.J. to go out and have that third preseason game and you see kind of the skill-set that we looked at, tremendous hands, NFL body, knows how to play big,” Roseman said, “and again, what a great opportunity for him to learn from one of the best, big-body receivers in the National Football League in Alshon.”
At 6-foot-3, Arcega-Whiteside could see most of his snaps in the red zone, particularly in place of the smaller and less-effective-inside-the-20 DeSean Jackson.
If the Eagles hit on their first three picks, it won’t matter much how the rest of the draft class fares. But for the second straight year they had only five selections. The jury is still very much out on fourth-round defensive end Shareef Miller. And fifth-round quarterback Clayton Thorson was released Saturday.
“There are going to be a lot of draft picks cut in rounds that are higher than the fifth round and lower than the fifth round,” Roseman said. “We’ve got to do what’s best for our football team and build our team the way we see fit. So, at the same time, things even out. We added two undrafted free agents and [I am] really excited about those guys, too.”
Thorson was signed to the Cowboys’ practice squad. It was unclear if he chose Dallas over the Eagles, who would sign Kyle Lauletta, who was waived by the New York Giants. Thorson struggled throughout camp and in the preseason, making some wonder what the Eagles ever saw in the Northwestern product.
Center Nate Herbig and linebacker T.J. Edwards were the aforementioned undrafted rookies. With the NFL’s third oldest roster, and a salary cap that will be increasingly restricted by quarterback Carson Wentz’s contract, the Eagles will need to get younger and hit on more draft picks and undrafted signings in future years.
Hey, Jeremy. Good question. Unless the Eagles sign a player to the 53-man roster by the time this email is sent, I think there are one of two possibilities: A player will be promoted off the practice squad by Saturday, or, as you suggested, a veteran like Orlando Scandrick will return after Week 1.
The reason for waiting until after Week 1, as I’m sure you’re aware, is that Scandrick or any other vested veteran won’t have their entire salary for 2019 guaranteed. Scandrick would likely fill the Cre’Von LeBlanc spot until the corner comes off injured reserve and returns from a foot injury.
A third tight end is possible. The Eagles could call up either Joshua Perkins or Alex Ellis off the practice squad or they could sign a tight end off the street next week. But the Eagles seem to be OK with the idea of having just Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert active on game days, and only adding a third tight end if either was to get hurt. The Eagles used their 13 personnel package a fair amount, but they can always use an offensive lineman in that role, although it would signal to teams that the play was a likely run.