Good morning. Today is the NFL's trade deadline; any deal must be made by 4 p.m. Other than that, it will be a quiet day — and week — for the Eagles, as they're off because of the bye.
Also, I have a book out today. UNDERDOGS: The Philadelphia Eagles' Emotional Road to Super Bowl Victory is available now in bookstores and wherever you purchase books online. The book chronicles the unforgettable 2017 season, detailing how it all came together and going deep into the characters and moments that made the team special. Merrill Reese wrote a fantastic foreword for the book, too. I hope you'll read it and enjoy it.
— Zach Berman
There's a lot of intrigue about whether the Eagles will be active at the trade deadline. Howie Roseman is one of the league's most aggressive executives, and the Eagles have areas that could use an upgrade (defensive back, defensive tackle, offensive playmakers).
"Let me say this: I'm very confident and comfortable with the guys we have," coach Doug Pederson told reporters on Monday. "I'm very confident in those guys and in this group. We are constantly looking. If we can add value and if we can add talent anywhere on the team, we are going to look at that. Howie is going to look at that. And so, we'll see. We have a little bit of time here over the next couple of days. If it values the Eagles and helps us win games, we'll see."
Although Roseman is a prolific trader, he doesn't make deadline deals ever year. In fact, he's made only three October trades since 2010. Roseman will call around, but I also don't think he will give a valuable pick for a player who can only help the team for the next eight games. He'll think about whether the player can help beyond this season, too. A big part of the Jay Ajayi trade last year was that the Eagles secured their starting running back for 2018.
It's easy to say Roseman should trade a fourth-round pick for an established player and note that the Eagles have whiffed in that round before, such as with Donnel Pumphrey in 2017. But that was also the round the Eagles selected Avonte Maddox this year, and Maddox is now an inexpensive, cost-controlled, ascending player who's starting as a rookie. In fact, the game shifted on Sunday when Maddox forced a fumble and Dallas Goedert caught a touchdown. Both are rookies. So that's something to consider. The Eagles know they need to find inexpensive players through the draft, and they also like having a greater inventory of picks because that's ammunition for trades on draft weekend.
Roseman also thinks about compensatory picks. That works two ways. The Eagles factor in projected compensatory picks when looking at how many selections they'll have in 2019. And if there's a pending free agent that the Eagles think will sign a big contract elsewhere in the offseason, they can count that as a potential draft pick in 2020.
If you want names, I'd look at Oakland's roster. Gareon Conley and Karl Joseph are former first-round picks who could be intriguing buy-low candidates.
The Eagles also must know who is and isn't coming back this year. If Tim Jernigan returns, defensive tackle is not as much of an issue. If he doesn't return, it remains a hole. Same with wide receiver Mike Wallace, who is on injured reserve.
There's a lot of intrigue. We'll find out by 4 p.m.
Speaking of players returning, the Eagles will soon have decisions to make about activating players off injured reserve. The first decisions will be tight end Richard Rodgers and receiver Mack Hollins. Then Wallace is the big candidate looming thereafter. Ajayi, Rodney McLeod, and Derek Barnett will not be able to return this year, so you can't put them in that mix. The Eagles can only return two players off injured reserve. Jernigan doesn't count in this group, though, because he's on the non-football injury list. At this point, the Eagles will decide between Rodgers, Hollins, and Wallace because any player put on IR starting in Week 9 wouldn't be able to return in the regular season.
Doug Pederson also mentioned Darren Sproles as a player the Eagles are expecting to return. That's obvious considering Sproles is not on IR, but he hasn't played since Week 1. This injury has lingered, but he's getting closer.
"These guys are doing a heck of a job with their rehab," Pederson said. "Obviously, they want to get back out on the field. We've got some time this week to get them ready and see where we're at next week."
What stood out about the Eagles' playing time distribution on Sunday? Let's start with the defensive line in the first game since Derek Barnett went on IR. Michael Bennett took 86 percent of the snaps, and Brandon Graham took 80 percent of the snaps, although the defensive tackle situation factors into that, too. Chris Long played 62 percent of the snaps. It was not an equal workload for rookie Josh Sweat, who played only four snaps. Haloti Ngata returned to the lineup after missing three weeks and played 41 percent of the snaps. Treyvon Hester was down to 23 percent of the snaps.
The Eagles defense spent most of the game in the nickel or dime, which was why Dexter McDougle played 91 percent of the snaps. When Sidney Jones returns, McDougle won't have that type of role. Rasul Douglas was up to 66 percent of the snaps because of Jalen Mills' injury.
On offense, Wendell Smallwood played 50 percent of the snaps, showing he's the top running back right now. Corey Clement's seen his playing time reduced, playing only 21 percent of the snaps. Josh Adams was productive while playing 29 percent of the snaps, and he could carve a bigger role going forward. Jordan Matthews was the leading receiver while playing 55 percent of the snaps. Dallas Goedert's 48-percent workload showed the Eagles continue to use multiple tight ends; that won't change anytime soon. Halapoulivaati Vaitai played 89 percent of the snaps because of Lane Johnson's injury, and the Eagles will need Johnson going forward.
I'd say speed wide receiver because of how it helps the rest of the offense. When it can stretch the field from the spot opposite Alshon Jeffery, it changes the way defenses play. LeGarrette Blount was productive for the Eagles, but remember — the Eagles sought to upgrade at running back last season. There were games when he wasn't making enough plays, either. The Eagles can improve their red-zone running, and Blount definitely helped there, but I actually think Darren Sproles will help in that area. He's a much better short-yardage rusher than many think, especially near the goal line. It's not just about powering through the line — it's also finding a sliver of space. Sproles does that well.