Good morning. I’m writing this on my flight home from Phoenix, where I spent the past few days at the NFL’s annual meeting. This is a key event on the NFL offseason schedule, and Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, executive Howie Roseman, and coach Doug Pederson all met with reporters. There are a few takeaways below, but more will come from my colleagues and I in the coming days. You can also expect to read more insight gleaned from the meetings in this space in the weeks ahead.
— Zach Berman
It was interesting to hear Doug Pederson discuss areas where he could improve in 2019, and specifically mention how he could be more aggressive.
“I think for me, taking another step in play-calling,” Pederson said. “I think I can still continue to grow and get better. A lot of situational things I looked at, I can get better with some of the decisions I made last year. Just more or less, run-pass-type options. I think going back to ’17, there were some opportunities [where] I’ve just got to maintain that aggressiveness. Each year, maintain that and stay on the cutting edge.”
Pederson said he thinks about some of his fourth-down decisions and two-point conversions as examples, or times he could have thrown instead of run the ball. This was not the tune Pederson was singing during the season, but it’s clear that he made an honest assessment of his decisions after the season. (Remember the fourth downs around midfield in the first half of the regular season Saints game?) That should be a positive sign.
“Still having the aggressiveness and showing the team that we’re going to stay aggressive in kind of a calculated way, not in a silly, kind of a whim type of decision,” Pederson said.
The first question to Howie Roseman on Monday was about the Eagles’ hole at running back. They have not added one yet during free agency, and the running backs on the roster are Corey Clement, Josh Adams, Wendell Smallwood, and Boston Scott as the internal options. It’s clear they need help at that position. But Roseman cautioned fans (and reporters) to relax with concern at this point. There’s still much time to add a running back.
“We don’t play for six months,” Roseman said. “We have an opportunity here to continue to improve the football team. And we’re going to do whatever we can to improve our football team. … The three running backs who played in the Super Bowl were all acquired after the 2017 draft. The talent acquisition period continues.”
This is correct, and the market quickly reaches a point where there’s more supply than demand, so prices could come down on running backs. Plus, the Eagles have the draft resources to find a good running back in the first two rounds – if they evaluate it correctly.
However, they must be careful falling into the trap of thinking that just because they found options when they did in 2017, they can do the same every year. They hit on LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, and Clement that season, but a different signing or a trade or a different year might not have yielded the same success.
I’ll wait to reserve judgement until training camp, when their depth chart will be more clear. But it’s important the Eagles upgrade the position.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie made no secret about the organizational commitment to Carson Wentz. This was clear all week from Lurie, Pederson, and Roseman, and it wasn’t just platitudes. Wentz’s injuries during the past two years have not changed the way Lurie views Wentz or caused any pause in his desire to give Wentz a long-term contract, which will almost assuredly be the biggest contract in franchise history.
“When you draw it up, he's exactly what you want,” Lurie said. “Highly competitive, Type-A personality. Demanding. Very smart. Obsessed with winning and winning big. Respected by everybody. Can't draw it up much better."
Also, beyond the Eagles, Lurie was outspoken on league matters. He emphasized his support for the expansion of replay, and said he has been in favor of any measure over the years that expanded replay because he thinks it’s paramount to the integrity of the game.
“You’re asking people to devote their hearts and soul,” Lurie said. “… It’s not just manufacturing shoes. If you’re asking people to devote their emotions to the product you’re presenting, you owe it to everybody you’re presenting it to to be as accurate as humanly possible.”
He also added that he does not want to curtail celebrations and he’d be in favor of changing the overtime rules, including finding an alternative to the coin toss.
I wouldn’t rule it out. I don’t anticipate it happening because my guess is the Eagles take a defensive lineman in the first round, given the quality in the draft and the emphasis on the position. But if Josh Jacobs is there at No. 25 and the Eagles don’t love the defensive linemen on the board, it’s not out of the discussion.
You might say it’s foolish to take a first-round running back, but the No. 25 overall pick is not like a top 10 pick; the salary is not too burdensome for the position, and you’re theoretically getting the 4-5 best seasons of the career. The Patriots took a running back at No. 31 last season, and they’re smart with resource allocation.