Eagles Circle the Wagons in Buffalo

Eagles Circle the Wagons in Buffalo

Honestly, the more people who jump from the Philadelphia Eagles bandwagon, the better off this team probably is at this point.

Two of the biggest elements that have come back to haunt this club so far are perceptions and expectations -- the perception this was a "Dream Team" of sorts, and the Championship expectations that came along with that obnoxious label. Now that they are 1-3, the summer of free agent splashes a distant memory, all that's left is to play football.

Frankly, that's all football players should be doing.

There has been a massive shift in pressure away from the guys in pads, who are largely responsible for the dramatic errors that cost the Eagles three consecutive games. Instead the weight now rests squarely on the coaching staff and folks whose finger prints are all over this roster -- especially Juan Castillo, Andy Reid, and Howie Roseman.

Which is fine. One thing we've seen from this organization through the years is they are unwavering in the face of criticism. The men in charge will continue to work diligently toward solutions, while the media and fans continue banging the "Fire Reid" drum.

That's been our way over the past bunch of years.

Let's not forget who created the "Dream Team" moniker in the first place though: the players. Actually, it was Vince Young, but the way Pro Bowlers flocked to the nest intimated there was a belief that if you wanted to win a Super Bowl, sign in Philly.

In other words, it was another set of expectations that may have doomed the Eagles out of the gate: their own. They expected to win, expected to be in the race until the end. The postseason would come, because it usually does in Philadelphia, and because look at us! We've already won... on paper.

Michael Vick declared that was over with now, and for once, even those who doubt his sincerity have every reason to believe him. The losing is becoming embarrassing, not that it wasn't already, but if the individuals on this team have any pride at all, every person in that locker room should be able to dig deep and find some extra motivation to pull out of this.

And if you don't think motivation alone is enough to cover up the glaring holes that are still so prescient on the depth chart, that's fine too. The Eagles have done some of their best work when they were left for dead, their backs against the wall -- in '08, '06, and to a lesser degree, '03 -- long after many fans assumed they weren't going anywhere.

We're about to find out whether the 2011 iteration has that kind of character, or whether this season truly is spiraling out of control. Whatever the case, at least they should be loose, because those perceptions and expectations are long gone.

Notes

Jason Peters and Trent Cole are out today. King Dunlap takes Peters' place at left tackle. The Eagles' rotation at defensive end will be a little thin without Cole though -- Darryl Tapp and Juqua Parker return from injuries, but could still be slowed. Derek Landri was also brought back to replace Antonio Dixon, who went on injured reserve and was done for the year. Landri had a strong preseason, picking up two sacks. Danny Watkins makes his first NFL today at right guard.

Eagles Mailbag: Bennie Logan, top WRs in draft, Jeremy Maclin return?

Eagles Mailbag: Bennie Logan, top WRs in draft, Jeremy Maclin return?

There hasn't been much Eagles talk recently. The last few weeks have been pretty dead. 

That's about to change soon enough. Next week, the football world will take over Indianapolis for the combine and just after that, free agency will begin on March 9. After that, the draft isn't too far away. 

So let's jump into your mailbag questions: 

Yeah, I think there's a real chance Bennie Logan isn't an Eagle next year. Howie Roseman has been pretty consistent in saying he wants Logan to return, but it's fair to wonder about the price. Logan has now proven that he can play in a 4-3 or a 3-4 scheme, so there will be plenty of teams interested. 

If the Eagles lose Logan, their defense will take a big hit. There's not really a way around that. He's a good player and has been an important part of the line. But with a ton of money devoted to the defensive line over the next few years -- even assuming Connor Barwin isn't back -- will the Eagles pay another? I'm not so sure. 

And I agree that Logan was really good against the run last year. But I think his real value is in being great against the run while also being able to generate some pass rush. I think Beau Allen can be a decent run-stuffer, but he's clearly not the same player as Logan. 

I can't give a real answer here. Sorry. While I don't wholeheartedly agree with the best player available notion, the Eagles also can't prioritize one need over the other in this scenario. There will be either 13 or 14 picks before the Eagles are on the board. 

Really, it's going to depend on which players are left. Are Mike Williams and Corey Davis on the board? How about the top corners? There's a lot of them. If the player the Eagles really want at one of those positions is off the board, they could look elsewhere. And it's not automatic they'll take a receiver or a cornerback. What if they opt for an edge rusher? 

But getting back to corner vs. receiver, there are a couple thoughts: 

1. They'll pick a corner because receivers are far from a sure thing. Roseman made it a point to talk about how the 2014 draft changed expectations for rookie receivers. And the Eagles haven't had much luck recently drafting receivers in the first round. And Roseman has also said that while it might make sense to grab a first-round corner in the second round because of depth, there's often a run at positions where a draft is strong. It would be better to just get the best one. 

2. On the flip side of that, maybe they'll pick a receiver with the idea that at least one really good corner will be on the board in the second round. That would maximize value, especially if they get the receiver they want in the first round. 

That's a long way to say: I don't think it'll be about position as much as it will be about the specific player at 14 or 15. 

This is a tough one. I really think the margin separating these two is so close that the combine could flip them for me. But for now, I'm going with Mike Williams. 

Clemson listed him at 6-3, 225 and I think he's going to come close to that at the combine. And he might not have Corey Davis' speed or quick twitch, but he makes up for it. I really want to see how he performs at the combine; I expect it to confirm my belief that he's the top receiver in the draft. Davis will reportedly not run at the combine because of an ankle injury. 

It's possible a team like the Eagles could fall in love with Davis' deep threat ability. That's clearly what they value right now. But ultimately, I think Williams is the top guy. 

I don't think Ryan Mathews will be back next season. He's 29, coming off a serious neck injury and is way too expensive. The Eagles can save $4 million by cutting him. I expect that to happen and for the Eagles to try to find some younger, healthier talent. 

Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy! Let's get the band back together! 

I understand why the Maclin questions are rolling in. An ESPN column recently suggested that the Chiefs could cut the former Eagle. Maclin is familiar with the Eagles' offense and Doug Pederson, which means the move would make some sense. 

But from a football standpoint, Jackson would give the Eagles what they need more than Maclin. Over the last couple years, Maclin has really been utilized in the slot, which happens to be where the Eagles' only decent receiver plays. Sure, Pederson will move around his receivers, but there are probably better fits out there for the Eagles than Maclin. If he does become a free agent, though, it's at least worth inquiring. 

Former Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans joins 49ers coaching staff

Former Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans joins 49ers coaching staff

About a year ago, while in Indianapolis for the combine, the Eagles cut veteran linebacker DeMeco Ryans. 

Ryans has finally found his next job ... as a coach. 

The 32-year-old former linebacker has been named a defensive quality control coach on Kyle Shanahan's staff in San Francisco. Shanahan was on the Texans' staff for the first four years of Ryans' pro career. Niners defensive coordinator Robert Saleh was also on that Houston staff. 

After the Eagles cut him last Feb. 24, Ryans was out of the league in 2016 after 10 NFL seasons. He played the first six years of his career in Houston, where he was a two-time Pro Bowler, before joining the Eagles through a trade in 2012. 

While the Eagles cut Ryans after the 2015 season to save $3.5 million in cap space, they made a point to go out of their way to praise him on his way out. He was very well-thought of in the locker room and throughout the building. 

While Ryans played one season under Andy Reid, he quickly became a favorite of Chip Kelly, who frequently called Ryans the "Mufasa" of the Eagles' defense. 

Kelly didn't forget about Ryans when he went to San Francisco to coach the 49ers for the 2016 season. In fact, in Kelly's questionnaire in the NFL's 2016 information guide, Kelly listed Ryans as a player who'd make a great head coach.