Roob's Observations

In Roob's Observations: Figuring out the Eagles' cornerback room

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Figuring out how the Eagles’ huge stash of cornerbacks fits together, a look back at Sean Desai getting fired and five things to like and not like about the Eagles’ 2024 schedule.

That’s just a taste of what lies in store for those who dare reading all 10 of this week’s Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Offseason Observations.

1. With Shon Stephens in the mix, the Eagles now have 14 cornerbacks on the roster, which is nuts but shows just how serious they are about fixing their broken secondary. On my projected 53-man roster I kept seven - Darius Slay, Quinyon Mitchell, Cooper DeJean, Isaiah Rodgers, Avonte Maddox, Kelee Ringo and Eli Ricks. I could see three corners on the practice squad – Stephens, Zech McPhearson, Josh Jobe, Tyler Hall and Mario Goodrich are good candidates. It’s tough to cut Jobe because he’s one of the Eagles’ better special teamers, and I expect him to be around. And I’m keeping Mekhi Garner but moving him from corner to safety, where he’ll have a better chance to stick. I like the idea of getting DeJean some work in the slot from the jump to get him on the field, and if Ricks or McPhearson show they can handle backup slot I could see Maddox being expendable, even if he’s able to stay healthy. No matter how I draw it up I don’t see how James Bradberry is on the roster. Keeping him would mean losing a promising young corner and I just don’t see Howie Roseman doing that, no matter what the cap hit is. My guess is the Eagles go into training camp with Bradberry on the roster and then trade him to a team desperate for veteran help. No reason to cut him now. However you draw it up, the Eagles will have more talent at the position than last year. Way more. It's going to be fascinating to see how it all shakes out.

2. The Eagles had 11 defensive players 28 or older play at least 100 snaps last year, and eight of those 11 are no longer with the team. Gone are Fletcher Cox, Bradley Roby, Kevin Byard, Haason Reddick, Zach Cunningham, Nicholas Morrow, Justin Evans and Shaq Leonard. The only ones who are still here are James Bradberry – who I don’t expect to be here when the season begins – along with Brandon Graham and Darius Slay.

3. Nelly? Heck yeah. Out of 94 wide receivers who were targeted at least 40 times last year, Nelson Agholor’s 77.8 percent catch percentage was 3rd-highest in the NFL behind Buffalo’s Khalil Shakir (86.7) and the Lions’ Kalif Ryamond (79.5). Nelly caught 35 of 45 targets for the Ravens. Highest catch percentage in Eagles history by a WR is DeVonta Smith’s 72.3 last year, with Jason Avant in 2009 (70.7) and Alshon Jeffery in 2018 (70.7) next. Agholor’s catch percentage from 2015 through 2022 with the Eagles was 59.3, which ranked 63rd out of 94 receivers with at least 300 targets. Good for Nelly.

4. Three weeks before Sean Desai was fired, the Eagles had the 12th-ranked defense in the NFL and they were coming off a win in Kansas City over the eventual Super Bowl champs in which they shut out Patrick Mahomes and Company in the second half, the first time in three years the Chiefs had been blanked in a second half. Then they gave up 34 points in a win over the Bills – two of their TD drives were under 50 yards – and then they got gashed for 42 and 33 points by the 49ers and Cowboys. In the span of three weeks they faced the No. 4, 5 and 2 offenses in the league, three offenses averaging a composite 28.4 points per game, and they got no help from an offense that repeatedly put them in poor position and that’s when Desai was fired and replaced by Matt Patricia. We all know what happened after that. The more I look back on the end of last year, the more I realize how changing defensive coordinators in midstream created far more problems than it solved and what a horrible mistake it was to replace a defensive coordinator who three weeks earlier had the No. 12 defense in the league with the Eagles rolling along at 10-1. I think about Haason Reddick standing at his locker and giving his honest assessment of the change: ““I'm not going to say or act like it's not a hard thing to do. It is hard. It's extremely hard.” Desai wasn’t perfect, but it was a combination of the schedule, poor personnel – especially in the secondary – and an offense that made things very tough on the defense as well as some of Desai's shortcomings that contributed to that three-game collapse. And any chance the Eagles had to turn things around going into those last four games was with the same scheme, the same defense, the same terminology, the same voice that got the Eagles to 10-1. That was a panic move and out of character for a franchise that likes to take a smart, measured view of things. Getting rid of Desai was a mistake. Replacing him with Patricia was a bigger mistake. 

5. DeVonta Smith is one of only six players in NFL history with 260 catches, 20 touchdowns and 13 yards per catch in his first three seasons (including playoffs). The others are Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, Odell Beckham Jr., CeeDee Lamb and A.J. Green.

6. Jason Kelce was the 191st player taken in the 2011 draft. Only eight of the 190 players taken ahead of him are still in the league: Von Miller, Tyron Smith, Blaine Gabbert, Cameron Jordan, Cameron Heyward, Andy Dalton, Justin Houston and Tyrod Taylor. Three others - Patrick Peterson, Julio Jones and Taiwan Jones - were active in 2023 but aren’t currently on a roster.

7. Brent Celek has the 3rd-most receiving yards by a tight end in NFL history without ever making a Pro Bowl. Celek caught 398 yards for 4,998 yards and 31 touchdowns during his 11-year career, all with the Eagles. Only Ben Watson (6,058 yards from 2004 through 2019) and Bob Tucker (5,421 yards from 1970 through 1980) had more yards but never made a Pro Bowl. Dallas Goedert is 14th on that list and third among active tight ends with 3,589 yards, trailing Hunter Henry (3,853) and Tyler Higbee (3,602). Celek’s 971 yards in 2009 are 3rd-most ever by a tight end in a single season without making the Pro Bowl. Darren Waller had 1,145 in 2019 and Jimmy Graham 982 in 2012. 

8. Of the five defensive backs the Eagles have drafted in the last 20 years who had at least 10 career interceptions, only one of them had more than a third of them as an Eagle. Quintin Demps had one of 18 as an Eagle, Kurt Coleman seven of 21, Nate Allen 10 of 13, Jordan Poyer none of 24 and Rasul Douglas five of 19. 

9A. Five things to like about the 2024 schedule: 1) The Eagles won’t have to step on an airplane the last six weeks of the season, with four home games and road games in Washington and Baltimore, 2) Only one of their last 13 opponents won a playoff game in 2023 (the Ravens), 3) With the Panthers in Week 13, the Commanders in Week 15 and the Giants in Week 17, the Eagles should be able to avoid any sort of late losing streak, 4) There is only one point where the Eagles face 2023 playoff teams in consecutive weeks – the Rams and Ravens in Week 12 and 13. They face the Bucs and Browns in back-to-back games but separated by the bye week, 5) The Eagles face the Cowboys at home in Week 17, and in meaningful home games against the Cowboys in December the Eagles are 5-1 since 1995, with the only loss coming in 2014 with Mark Sanchez at quarterback. When the Eagles face the Cowboys in December in Dallas, they’ve lost five of their last six.

9B. Five things to not like about the 2024 schedule: 1) Three of their first four games entail air travel. Between Sept. 4 and Sept. 29, the Eagles will fly 13,498 miles, 2) From Week 8 through Week 13, the Eagles face five teams that had a winning record in 2023 in a six-week span, including three in a four-week stretch that each won at least 10 games and reached the playoffs (Cowboys, Rams, Ravens), 3) The early bye week means the Eagles will play 13 games in 85 days to finish the regular season, 4) The stretch from Week 10 through Week 13 includes the Commanders at home on a Thursday night four days after a late afternoon game in Dallas and then a Sunday afternoon game in Baltimore after a night game vs. the Rams in Los Angeles, 5) The Eagles face several veteran quarterbacks who’ve had their number: Matt Stafford is 4-2 against the Eagles but with 12 touchdowns and one INT, Russell Wilson is 6-0 with nine TDs and one INT, Kirk Cousins is 6-5 but with nine TDs and two INTs and Dak Prescott is 9-4 with 24 TDs and eight INTs. 

10. L-W-L-W-W-W-W-W-L-W-W-L-W-W-L-W-W.

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