Good morning, Eagles fans. Happy Wednesday. If you’re reading this Wednesday, I’m pleased to let you know we’re just 15 days away from the start of the NFL draft. Excited yet? Given the Eagles’ recent draft history, maybe I should ask if you’re worried instead.
Since the last time the newsletter hit your inbox, the Eagles signed linebacker Eric Wilson and re-signed running back Jordan Howard. Wilson will presumably step right in as a starting linebacker, but what does Howard’s future hold?
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Waiting by the phone
Jordan Howard’s swift and somewhat unsurprising fall from grace nearly reached its apex this offseason.
The 26-year-old hit the free-agency market last month and, for the first time in his five-year career, had to wonder if his time in the NFL was over as he waited for a contract offer.
“My market was just pretty dry,” Howard said. “I was at the point, I was having thoughts that I might be done because teams weren’t really calling, but I’m just grateful to have an opportunity to be back here.”
Howard is one of the several cases of low-cost, high-volume running backs who have been quickly cast aside for the next wave of ballcarriers on rookie contracts. He spent his first three years with the Chicago Bears as a fifth-round pick turned featured running back, running for 3,370 yards on 778 attempts over that time. The Bears flipped him in a trade to the Eagles before the 2019 season for a sixth-rounder and turned things over to third-round rookie running back David Montgomery.
The tendency to devalue tenured running backs isn’t lost on Howard, who said he’s out to prove the disinterested teams wrong. Plenty of teams are willing to draft a running back with a premium pick in the draft, but most have plans to run the wheels off them before letting them leave in free agency once their rookie contracts are up.
“They feel like they can get a running back for whatever, any round, or undrafted, so they really feel like we’re disposable,” Howard said. “I feel like running backs can do a lot of different things. I feel like we still have value to teams.”
Howard started the 2019 season strong as the Eagles’ main back, but a lingering shoulder stinger combined with Miles Sanders’ and Boston Scott’s emergence led to his sitting most of the second half of the year. He still got a two-year, $10 million deal with the Miami Dolphins that offseason, but was buried on the depth chart and cut midseason. He finished last season on the Eagles’ practice squad, tallying only 35 carries, including seven with the Eagles.
“I still feel like I have a lot left,” Howard said. “The past two years, I had the injury that put me out for a lot [of time]. Last year, I didn’t really play, so I definitely feel like I have a lot left in the tank.”
What you need to know about the Eagles
New Eagles linebacker Eric Wilson had his introductory news conference Tuesday. Les Bowen has the details on what makes Wilson a good fit for the Eagles’ new coaching staff.
Want to know what yours truly and the rest of the Eagles beat writing crew thought of the Eric Wilson signing? Find out here.
Speed tracking has steadily gained traction in the NFL, but this draft cycle has created an even greater need for it because of the scouting combine being canceled. Yours truly has the story.
If you’ve watched Nick Sirianni’s film session on the Eagles website, you likely noticed just how enthusiastic the coach can be. Marcus Hayes argues Philadelphians have seen this management style before — it was just at the ballpark down the street from the Linc.
Multiple Inquirer reports, including one by Hayes, have uncovered that Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie wanted to fire Frank Reich after the 2016 season, just before Reich helped turn Carson Wentz into an MVP. Hayes explains how Wentz and his camp kept that from happening.
From the mailbag
Assuming the Eagles don’t bring back Jason Peters (again), who do you think will win the LT job between Jordan Mailata and Andre Dillard? — from Dan May (@dannmaal) on Twitter
Good question, Dan. If you’re basing it exclusively off play, Jordan Mailata should be afforded every chance to retain the starting left-tackle job he earned late last season. He wasn’t perfect and there are still valid questions about his long-term viability as a starting left tackle, but he’s still put much better play on tape during his starting opportunity than Andre Dillard did in 2019. Mailata also has plenty of upside, considering he’s 6-foot-8 and 346 pounds, moves well, and is still relatively new to football.
Dillard could prove us all wrong next training camp, but his play during his rookie season and last training camp was concerning. If Dillard comes in as the starter, there’s reason to believe he was given that role because he’s a former first-round pick instead of his actual track record, which would be concerning. The Eagles have given players ample, sometimes unwarranted opportunities because of the investment made in them before, so it’s possible they will do so again, but Mailata has been the better player so far.