NFL Scouting Combine: Philadelphia Eagles Reportby Alex Kielar March 3, 2022 0 comments
On Wednesday afternoon, Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman and head coach Nick Sirianni spoke to the media to give some thoughts on the latest on their approach to the combine as a whole, player interviews and meetings, free agency, the draft, and more. There were a lot of strong answers given, even when they are not able to speak on everything that was asked. For example, players on other teams for potential trades.
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For the Eagles, it’s not always about finding the biggest playmakers, but guys who fit their scheme. One of the positions that the Eagles have been lacking over the last several years is at linebacker. The last time they drafted a true off-ball linebacker in the first round was Jerry Robinson in 1979. If Roseman really wants to show that he values the position, taking one of the top linebackers in the first round should be a priority. It will be key for whoever it is to fit the scheme, but also someone whose talent can be utilized in multiple different ways.
“I think when you look at our defense, and the role of the linebackers, all three are off-the-ball linebackers,” Roseman said. “The definition of what our linebackers do has changed with Coach Gannon. But again, we gotta find players that fit our scheme. That’s the most important thing, finding players that fit what we’re trying to do, offensively, defensively, and special teams.”
While the Eagles transitioned over to Jonathan Gannon’s defensive “bend but don’t break” zone defense from Jim Schwartz’s more blitz-based defense, players had to adjust. They had some success last year at the position, and are hoping to add to it along with all other positions.
“Obviously, T.J. [Edwards] had a good year and so did a bunch of other young players at the position. We’ll just have to see what happens in free agency and the draft. We’re grading linebackers just like we’re grading every position.”
Is Jalen Hurts Still The Guy?
After the season, Roseman told reporters that Jalen Hurts is the guy moving forward. He reiterated that statement on Wednesday and assured the media that (for now) Hurts is the guy. But don’t forget, last offseason the Eagles consistently stated that Wentz was the guy. That was until he wasn’t and was traded to the Indianapolis Colts, Sirianni’s former team. What this staff says today can drastically change without notice because there is always constant motion behind the scenes.
“There’s no doubt about it, [that Hurts is still the guy],” Roseman said. “When we talk about what we talked about at the end of the season, nothing’s [really] changed. I think what has changed for us is the opportunity to add. This is a great time of year for the Philadelphia Eagles, for us, and for our staff. Just being here and really getting everyone involved in the draft process.”
Sirianni feels that Hurts will continue to get better and make progress, saying that he believes in his arm strength to make all the throws. There are key areas in his game that he will get better at as he gets older.
“He just continues to get better, whether that’s from Alabama to Oklahoma, or Oklahoma to his first year in the NFL, or the first year to his second year,” Sirianni said. “We just know, that progression is going to continue and it’s because of the person he is and that he loves football.”
But is Hurts REALLY “The Guy”
Roseman also said that a second-year, 23-year-old quarterback took his team to the playoffs. What he failed to mention, however, was that the wins that he picked up were all against non-playoff teams. The true tests were in the games against playoff teams, including the playoff loss against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In those games, Hurts didn’t show enough to be the true guy for this team, despite what Roseman or the rest of the organization says.
While the “guy” might not be in this draft, there are options elsewhere that should and could be taken into account. This can be heard in the undertone of his statement below, where he talks about having ammunition in the draft. In other words, a potential trade could be in play for a quarterback such as Russell Wilson or Deshaun Watson. While he can’t specifically say one way or the other, you can kind of see in his body language that this is certainly going to be in play.
“It’s not like it’s 100 percent,” Roseman said of having three first-round picks. “[Even when] you’re picking in the top five, it’s not 100 percent. So you’re gonna have more of those numbers. I think what it allows you to do is have more shots at good players. It gives you more flexibility to move up and down the draft board, gives you more ammunition to decide if at some point you want to trade a pick for a player. We feel that we have more shots than we’ve had in the past.”
When asked straight up if he feels that he “has to” make three first-round picks, Roseman replied with a firm “no”. So, ultimately if he and the Eagles feel that they get the right deal on the table, he will not hesitate to move one or more of the picks in the first round. For Philadelphia, it’s all about adding as much talent to the team as they can at every position.
Uncertainty Behind DeVonta Smith
With the Eagles’ first-round pick last year, they drafted Heisman trophy winner DeVonta Smith, which ultimately worked out very well. But behind Smith, there are multiple question marks about the receiving corps, and they really need to add more skill players to their offense. While they also have Dallas Goedert at tight end, Quez Watkins was really the number two receiver last year and was productive.
“When you look at [Watkins], I think he had a heck of a year,” Roseman said. “Really transitioning to a position he didn’t play in college as a slot receiver. The guy’s extremely talented and extremely hard-working.”
One guy that struggled mightily last season and who has been a big letdown since the Eagles drafted him in the first round of the 2020 draft is Jalen Reagor. He has come nowhere close to what they drafted him to be, and they certainly need more from him.
“We need [Reagor] to take another step,” Roseman stated. “We need him to do some of the things that we drafted him to do. He knows that, there’s no secret about that. We told him the same thing.”
Chance to Add Playmakers
Outside of those two guys, the Eagles have to add, as Roseman stated. Other guys could step up, but ultimately what it comes down to is that the Eagles don’t have enough on offense to succeed. With the strength of this draft class and free agency, this will be the general manager’s make or break year with the organization. Not to mention some of the names on the receiver trade market such as Calvin Ridley. With as much ammunition Roseman has, he has to hit on it. If not, it might be the end of the line, as that just adds to the slipups he has had in the past.
“After that, it’s [all about] opportunity,” Roseman said. “When we go through this draft, obviously this is a really good draft class. We have ten picks, nine through the first five rounds. So you’ll have opportunities in the draft where you’ll go, ‘Hey that guy’s a good fit for what we’re doing offensively’, or ‘that guy’s a good receiver.’ We’ll see how free agency goes as well.”
Breaking The Ice
The Eagles always have unique approaches to their player interviews. Last year, Sirianni had rock, paper, scissors competitions to start out the meetings. This year, the Eagles had the players shoot five free throws on a mini hoop. The head coach explained the thought process behind doing these different little “icebreakers” to start out an interview.
“I don’t think everyone liked my rock, paper, scissors stuff last year,” Sirianni said. “In all seriousness, if we can figure out a little bit about their competitiveness, that’s a plus. We’ll do anything to figure out some of the answers to the test. Whether it’s finding a little bit more about the player’s toughness, competitiveness, or love for football. Do you always get that answer by shooting five baskets before they start off? No, but it is a good icebreaker and it does lower the guard of the player a little bit. To let them know that we like to have fun, to compete, and now let’s get into the interview to learn more about you as a player.”
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