Eagles analysis

Eagles mailbag: How much will it help to get Cam Jurgens back?

In the latest Eagles mailbag, Dave Zangaro answers questions about Cam Jurgens, the secondary and more.

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The Eagles are 8-1 and fans are clearly excited about this upcoming run. I can tell because we got a ton of questions for the mailbag this week.

We already answered a bunch in Part 1.

Here’s Part 2:

The Eagles opened the 21-day practice window for Jurgens the week before the Cowboys game but he wasn’t ready to play in that one so they went with Tyler Steen, which seemed to be the plan all week. I’d fully expect Jurgens to return this Monday night against the Chiefs. He was playing quite well at right guard before the foot injury so it’ll be a nice boost to get him back.

As for Quez Watkins, that’s a little more interesting. The Eagles have not yet activated his practice window but that could happen in the coming weeks. Watkins has already missed four games on IR with a hamstring injury so he’s eligible to return. And before the Cowboys game, we saw Watkins working on a side field with trainers, so he’s clearly nearing a possible return. But it’s fair to wonder how he’ll fit into the offense or if he’ll even be activated. When he was healthy earlier this season, Watkins was the No. 3 receiver but he’s played in just three games and got hurt in one of them. In the two games he’s been healthy, he’s played 52 snaps in each. That’s a lot.

The Eagles need to figure out their third receiver option, especially now that Dallas Goedert is going to miss time with a forearm fracture. Could that still be Watkins? It’s possible. The Eagles really seem to like his field-stretching ability and Nick Sirianni is loyal to his guys. The problem is that there’s a bit of a roster crunch. The Eagles have five receivers on their active roster after the addition of Julio Jones so they’d have to find a spot elsewhere to bring back Watkins.

While Jones is obviously a big name, it’s fair to wonder just how much he has left to give and how much the Eagles really want to use him. They might just keep him on a pitch count the rest of the season. And while Olamide Zaccheaus has done some nice things this year, he has a total of 6 catches for 87 yards and a touchdown. It’s not a guarantee, but knowing how Sirianni operates, my best guess is that Watkins does come off IR at some point. And then we’ll see what he can do and how the depth chart shakes out.

1. Yeah, this is obviously a concern. Big Red has always been good after bye weeks and his team is very good again. This would be a tough matchup no matter what but Reid with some extra time is dangerous.

2. I think it will help. It’s not like getting Jurgens back will be a simple fix for the run game but he’s a better option than Sua Opeta or Tyler Steen. The eye test definitely says that Jurgens is better in the run game. While you usually have to take PFF grades with a grain of salt, their run blocking grades bear that out. Jurgens has a run blocking grade of 64.3 this season while Opeta’s run blocking grade in his action was 47.4.

3. The Eagles got to sit back and relax in Week 10 but then the Lions, Cowboys, 49ers and Seahawks all won. The NFC isn’t going to be handed to them. The Lions probably have the best shot of winning the No. 1 seed over the Eagles. They’re 7-2 (one game behind the Birds) but have some winnable games coming up. The fun part is that their season ends with Vikings-Cowboys-Vikings, while the Eagles end with Giants-Cardinals-Giants. So if things are close the Eagles could have a lot to play for in those last three weeks in very winnable games.

It won’t hurt! I’m not sure if every problem will be solved by these guys getting more time together but it’ll definitely help, especially in the case of Kevin Byard. He was still playing at a high level in Tennessee and even though he hasn’t looked great in his first two games with the Eagles, I think it’s fair to expect his level to rise over the second half of the season. Byard and Reed Blankenship should form a steady duo of safeties to settle down the back end of the defense. While Roby did some nice things after the Eagles signed him, he’s played at total of just 55 snaps since he joined the team. So it’s hard to really know what to expect from him, but the hope is that he can fill that nickel corner role.

So you’re looking at a starting secondary of Darius Slay, James Bradberry, Roby, Blankenship and Byard. On paper, that’s pretty good. Of course, Bradberry hasn’t been having his best season and that’s probably more concerning than the expected struggles after rotating so many pieces in and out.

It’s wayyyyyy too early to call Ringo a miss. As much hype as there was about him in the pre-draft process, the kid is a 21-year-old rookie fourth-round pick who we all knew was a bit of a project. The Eagles drafted him because of his unique athleticism but understood they would have to develop him. The good news is that Ringo has become a really solid special teams contributor.

The one thing that was a tad disappointing, though, was that when the Eagles needed an emergency safety, it was UDFA Mekhi Garner who got the first look instead of Ringo. I would never expect Ringo to be a fit at the nickel but an emergency safety? That would make sense. While it would have been nice to see Ringo earn those snaps, it’s just way too early in his career to make any sweeping judgments.

I love this fanbase so much because the Eagles are 8-1 with a pretty great chance to get to the Super Bowl but it’s never too early to talk about the draft. We’re getting ahead of ourselves but I think defensive back is a spot that makes sense. You have two starting corners over the age of 30 without a clear exit strategy. And it’s never a bad idea to replenish on the offensive line, especially with Jason Kelce’s possible retirement and Lane Johnson’s age.

As far as Rodgers … man, the Eagles could have really used him this year. If you don’t remember, the Eagles signed Isaiah Rodgers in August knowing that the former Colts defensive back was suspended for the entire 2023 season because he violated the NFL’s gambling policy. The former sixth-round pick played in 45 games with 10 starts with the Colts from 2020-22 and was a solid nickel cornerback, the spot the Eagles have used a bunch of players this year. Avonte Maddox, who is on IR this year after tearing his pec, is set to enter the final year of his deal in 2024 and has a cap hit of over $10 million next season. So it’s hard to imagine Maddox back on his current deal. So Rodgers is a potential option to be a starting nickel for the Eagles next season.

The Eagles might have found a punter in Braden Mann! He might not be the best punter in the league but he’s been a definite improvement over Arryn Siposs and Brett Kern from 2022. Here’s a look at the numbers:

Mann in 2023: 15 punts, 48.1 average, 42.5 net, 6 inside 20 (40%)

Siposs in 2022-23: 52 punts, 45.2 average, 39.3 net, 18 inside 20 (34.6%)

Kern in 2022: 10 punts, 40.8 average, 36.6 net, 1 inside 20 (10%)

The really encouraging thing is that Mann has come on strong after a bit of a shaky start. Through his first four games with the Eagles, Mann had an average of 41.3. But in his last three games, Mann’s average has been 54.1. Since Week 7, that’s the third-highest average in the NFL behind Bryce Baringer (55.9) and Ryan Stonehouse (54.5).

And Mann has even climbed into the top 10 in EPA this season league-wide.

A few years ago, Brandon Graham talked about entering the media and he would be good at that. But I could also see him working for the team in some capacity when his playing days are over. He has always talked about playing 15 seasons and this is Year 14 for him. So we’ll see how he finishes this one off and if he and the Eagles think he has another left in him. But it’s hard to imagine the NovaCare Complex without BG around.

First, this ended up in a beautiful sans serif font, which are the best ones. (This is a podcast bit)

As a reminder, the Eagles will have a first-round pick and two second-round picks in the 2024 draft, so we’re talking about pretty high selections. Based on their history, we know it’s somewhat unlikely they’ll take a running back that high. At wide receiver, they have A.J. Brown locked up and will probably work this offseason on re-signing DeVonta Smith. And Dallas Goedert is also under contract for two mores seasons. So it’s not like skill positions are a need.

With that said, I wouldn’t rule it out completely either. Remember, the Eagles once took Goedert with a high second-round pick when Zach Ertz was still in his prime. I could see the Eagles drafting a tight end relatively high. And if the best player on the board was a weapon that the Eagles felt could take their offense to the next level, it would have to be in play.

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