Roob's Observations

In Roob's Observations: Do the Eagles have their 3rd wide receiver yet?

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The Eagles’ options at third receiver, a curious comparison of Saquon Barkley and D’Andre Swift and a look at all of Donovan McNabb's wide receivers.

As we all breathlessly wait for the NFL schedule release, here's today's helping of Roob's 10 Random Eagles Offseason Observations. 

1. One of the Eagles’ more intriguing positional battles this summer will be at WR3. Who gets the reps behind DeVonta Smith and A.J. Brown? It’s a position the Eagles haven’t gotten right lately, with Zach Pascal in 2022 and Quez Watkins, Julio Jones and Olamide Zaccheaus last year. There are candidates but no sure thing. DeVante Parker has had such a disappointing career as the 14th pick in the 2015 draft. He’s 31 now and last year among receivers with at least 50 targets he had a success rate of 49.1, which ranked 56th of 80. The only WRs who’ve ever made any kind of impact with the Eagles at 31 or older are T.O. and Irving Fryar. We’ll see. Then there’s Parris Campbell, who’s reached 170 yards once in five NFL seasons as a former 2nd-round pick. There’s Day 3 draft picks Ainias Smith and Johnny Wilson, who are both likely long-range projects, and there’s punt returner Britain Covey, who has a good feel for the slot but has barely played on offense in the regular season, and there are guys like Joseph Ngata, who had a nice training camp last year. WR3 is a position where the Eagles could use some production to take a little pressure off DeVonta Smith and A.J. Brown, and it’s something they haven’t had since Watkins’ 647-yard season in 2021. Nick Sirianni always says the offense will revolve around Smith, Brown and Dallas Goedert – and maybe Saquon Barkley can make a big impact as a receiver – but another outside weapon who could make a play here and there would really help Jalen Hurts and the whole offense, which got so predictable last year – “stale” was Sirianni’s word – without a legit third WR option. There are some interesting options, and I’d expect Parker to get the first crack at it, but I also think there’s a fair chance that the guy who ultimately ends up as the Eagles’ third receiver is someone who isn’t on the roster yet.

2. This surprised me: During the four years that D’Andre Swift and Saquon Barkley have both been in the league, Swift has more scrimmage yards, more catches, more receiving yards, more rushing touchdowns, more total touchdowns, more yards per carry and more yards per reception. Take a look:

BarkleySwift
Rushing Yards2,9012,729
Rushing Average4.04.6
Rushing TDs1823
Scrimmage Yards3,8424,141
Receptions145195
Receiving Yards9411,412
Receiving TDs68
Total TDs2431

3. Since the inception of the Pro Bowl in 1951, Rodney Peete has the most career wins by an Eagles quarterback without ever making a Pro Bowl. With 15. The 11 winningest Eagles QBs since 1951 all made at least one: Donovan McNabb (92 wins), Ron Jaworski (69), Randall Cunningham (63), Carson Wentz (35), Jalen Hurts (34), Norm Snead (28), Nick Foles (21), Michael Vick (20), Norm Van Brocklin (19), Bobby Thomason (18) and Sonny Jurgensen (17).

4. Pete Pihos led the NFL in receptions in 1953, 1954 and 1955 and then retired.

5. If Carson Wentz throws a pass for the Chiefs, he’ll become the first 1st-round quarterback drafted with a top-two pick to play for five different teams since Rick Mirer, the second pick in the 1993 draft. Mirer played for the Seahawks, Bears, Jets, 49ers and Raiders between 1993 and 2003. If he starts a game for the Chiefs, he’ll be the first first or second pick to start a game for five teams since Jeff George, the first pick in 1990, did so with the Colts, Falcons, Raiders, Vikings and Washington between 1990 and 2001.

6. During his 11 years with the Eagles, none of Donovan McNabb’s four-leading pass catchers was a wide receiver. Brian Westbrook caught 364 of McNabb’s passes, Chad Lewis 199, Duce Staley 187 and L.J. Smith 179. Here’s a list of every wide receiver who caught a pass from McNabb as an Eagle: Todd Pinkston (159), James Thrash (153), Terrell Owens (127), Reggie Brown (123), DeSean Jackson (108), Kevin Curtis (99), Jason Avant (88), Greg Lewis (87), Freddie Mitchell (79), Torrance Small (68), Charles Johnson (63), Hank Baskett (57), Jeremy Maclin (47), Antonio Freeman (33), Na Brown (31), Donte’ Stallworth (23), Dameane Douglas (6), Billy McMullen (5), Dietrich Jells (1), Brian Finneran (1) and Alex Van Dyke (1). Yikes. It tells you everything you need to know about the Eagles’ receivers under Andy Reid that T.O. had the 3rd-most catches from McNabb and only played 21 games here. Imagine if McNabb had A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith? 

7. Al Wistert by any measure is one of the greatest Eagles in history. He was a 1st-team all-pro four straight years and a 2nd-team all-pro four more years. He captained the 1948 and 1949 NFL Championship teams while coaching at Riverside High in South Jersey. In 2009, when I was working on the book The 50 Greatest Plays in Eagles History, I called Wistert at his farm out in Grants Pass, Ore., to talk about Steve Van Buren's game-winning touchdown run – behind a block from Wistert – in the Eagles' 7-0 win over the Cards in the 1948 NFL Championship Game at Shibe Park. Nobody picked up when I called, so I left a voicemail explaining who I was and what I wanted to chat about. He called back a couple hours later and apologized and said he had to run into town to renew his driver’s license. “Darn thing is I have to go back and renew it in another 10 years!” he said. Al was 88 at the time. He lived a long, healthy, rich life and is a crucial figure in Eagles history. Al died in 2016. He was 95. 

8. Ever stop and think … “Who are the Eagles’ backup safeties?” Good question. Assuming Reed Blankenship and C.J. Gardner-Johnson are the starters, there’s not much else there. Sydney Brown showed a lot of promise as a rookie, but he tore his ACL on the last day of last season and could miss the start of the regular season. Former undrafted free agent Mekhi Garner from LSU looks the part at 6-2, 210, but he’s only played 27 defensive snaps in his career (17 at safety) so he’s an unknown quantity. Cooper DeJean probably could play safety, but he didn’t at Iowa and it’s hard to imagine the Eagles throwing him right into the mix at safety while he’s still learning how to be an NFL corner. Who else? Tristin McCollum got into three games last year and played 17 snaps at safety. Undrafted rookie Andre Sam was a safety at LSU. So no clear answer. There has to be a move coming here, right? 

9. Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick are the only Eagles quarterbacks over the last 33 years to beat the Cowboys twice in a season. McNabb did it in 2000, 2001 and 2004 and Vick in 2011. 

10. Fletcher Cox and Jason Kelce are only the seventh pair of six-time Pro Bowl teammates in NFL history to retire after the same season – and the first in 43 years. It happened six times in the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s. Lenny Moore and Jim Parker of the Colts both retired after the 1967 season, Leroy Kelly and Gene Hickerson of the Browns after the 1973 season, the Chiefs’ Len Dawson and Buck Buchanan in 1975, the Lions’ Lem Barney and Charlie Sanders in 1977 and the Cowboys’ Roger Staubach, Rayfield Wright and Cliff Harris all after the 1979 season. The last time it happened was after the 1981 season, when L.C. Greenwood and Joe Greene of the Steelers both retired. Now, 2020 was the last year Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro were with the Steelers, but the Steelers actually released DeCastro and it wasn’t until later that he retired, so that doesn’t count. 

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