Eagles might not be in position to take a franchise quarterback in first round of 2014 NFL Draft

Eagles might not be in position to take a franchise quarterback in first round of 2014 NFL Draft

A quick look at the NFL standings shows that, even with the Eagles 17-3 loss to the Cowboys and 3-4 record, if the season ended today, 13 teams would draft before Philadelphia in the first round of 2014: Tampa Bay (0-6), Jacksonville (0-7), NY Giants (1-6), Minnesota (1-5), Houston (2-5), Oakland (2-4), Washington (2-4), Pittsburgh (2-4), Atlanta (2-4), Tennessee (3-4), Buffalo (3-4), Arizona (3-4) and Cleveland (3-4).

Save for the Falcons, and (on principle) Bills, the commonality between these teams -- and not uncoincidentally, the driver of their ineptitude -- is their lack of a franchise quarterback. You can quibble over a few. Jake Locker looked good enough early on that the Titans may stick with him. (But would Mike Munchak's replacement if Munchak is fired?) New York has Eli, Pittsburgh has Roethlisberger. (But how often will the Giants and Steelers get to pick in the top 10?) Brian Hoyer did some nice things for a while there. (But then, this.) Terrelle Pryor? Mike Glennon? Cinderella story, anyone?!

But don't forget a few likely additions to the line.

St. Louis, somehow the owners of a 3-4 mark (and better point differential than the Eagles), own the Redskins' No. 1 thanks to the RG3 trade two years ago. It also just watched Sam Bradford's knee go boom, likely giving the Rams two top picks and a glaring need at the position. Chicago, only 4-3 and likely to be quarterbacked by Josh McCown for what should be "at least" four truly dreadful weeks, will at the end of the season have to decide whether to re-sign an oft-concussed and erratic Jay Cutler, now coming off a torn groin.

Point is, even the most conservative estimate has six of these teams in the market for a quarterback. Even if we go "married couples in separate twin beds" conservative, that still leaves something like four teams drafting quarterbacks.

Who's (possibly) available? (Asterisks indicate draft-eligible underclassmen.) Even the most casual college football fans know the names. Bridgewater. Mariota*. Hundley*. Manziel*. Boyd. Braxton*. Murray. Mettenberger. Morris. Logan. But do they know about their warts?

Teddy Bridgewater has faced only two ranked teams in 36 games. He also has a hideous release, dainty frame, iffy accuracy. Johnny Manziel's recklessness (on and off the field) and durability (hurt twice in each of the last two weeks? really?) justify comparisons to Mike Vick. Samesies with Ohio State's Braxton Miller, who while he seems to have a squeaky-clean character, at times can't help himself but to unleash his arm strength on receivers, some only five yards away. Same footwork problems, too. Boyd has had the following written about him, by ESPN Scouts Inc: "Has had problems keeping weight down in the past and dedication to conditioning needs to be investigated further." (Sounds familiar...) Aaron Murray's a gamer for Georgia despite his reputation for "coming up small" in big games, but he's, well, small -- 6'0, less than 200 pounds. Zack Mettenberger only flourished this year, under LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron -- in a sport where guys routinely shine without such advantages. (There was also this.) Logan Thomas, well, he hasn't done too well at Virginia Tech, ever, but boy, does he have a big arm!

IMO, the only guys I'd be comfortable drafting in the first round and anointing the face of the Eagles for the life of a four-year rookie deal are Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley. Both have elite physical abilities. Uncanny arm strength. Above-average accuracy. Remarkable escapability. Mariota fits Chip Kelly's scheme, obviously. Hundley has experience in a pro set. And, it should be noted, with a horrendous offensive line chock full of true freshmen. Which, with the way the Eagles O-line has looked this year, makes for a seamless fit.

(Feel free to debate in the comment box below.)

Problem is, they could be gone with the first two picks.

Even if we assume that the Eagles season goes straight to hell, that they win only three more games for the rest of the way (despite getting four gift-wrapped in the Giants, Vikings, Raiders and Cardinals) to finish with a 6-10 record, that's still, what? The eighth overall pick in next year's draft? 10th? And of the quarterback-thirsty teams above, how many out-lose the Eagles the rest of the way?

Even if Howie Roseman went Thomas Dmitroff and traded, basically, their entire draft to move up, how many teams would be willing to move down? In this class? With this many quarterbacks? And so many teams needing them? Would that even be in their best interests, given all of their holes on defense?

Where does that leave the Chip Kelly on Draft Day?

Maybe, without a franchise guy to take.

You'd like to say that the Eagles could just go defense -- maybe a corner like Florida's Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy  or Oregon's Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, safety like Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, nose tackle like Louis Nix III,  linebacker like Alabama's C.J. or Buffalo's Khalil Mack, or, maybe, draft DeSean Jackson's eventual replacement in Clemson's Sammy Watkins -- and wait until 2015 for a QB.

But it's unfortunately not so easy. Here, the Eagles would be stuck between a series of rocks and hard places. Ownership may be able to be patient through one year of Kelly hype yet no results. Could they stomach two? Isn't the only way for Kelly to bide time landing a solid draft class? Does that class lift the Eagles enough that the problem repeats? Maybe the absolute worst-case scenario: they reach, elevating an unworthy talent how Jacksonville, Minnesota and Tennessee did in the Gabbert-Ponder-Locker 2010 Draft.

Then again, the best-case scenario sounds pretty good. They could take Roberson or Purifoy, the best physical talents among the three top corners, slide Bradley Fletcher to the No. 2 corner spot, with Brandon Boykin staying in the slot to, hopefully, transform the defense the way that Patrick Peterson and Joe Haden did singlehandedly for Arizona and Cleveland, and wait for a quarterback to slide into the second round, most likely Murray or Morris. (Who's stock may soon be on the rise, now that Miami is bowl eligible this season.)

Ultimately, while it sounds like a great way to get through what may be a tough season, don't delude yourself into thinking the Eagles are definitely getting a franchise quarterback next year. At least not in Round 1.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @MKH973 Catch him every Saturday from 12-2 on 97.3 ESPN-FM.

Eagles-Vikings 5 things: Game much bigger than Sam Bradford's return

Eagles-Vikings 5 things: Game much bigger than Sam Bradford's return

Eagles vs. Vikings
1 p.m. on FOX

Eagles +3

A familiar face comes to town on Sunday when the Eagles host the Vikings, the NFL's last unbeaten team at 5-0.

There's more to this matchup than a certain jilted quarterback returning to Lincoln Financial Field though. After an inspired 3-0 start, the Eagles have come out flat in two consecutive games, both losses. If this squad has any hope of getting back on track in Week 7, they can't afford to focus on the high-profile former teammate in purple sleeves.

Grinding it out
How good is the Vikings' defense? Even though they're ranked fourth in the league against the run and eighth in yards per carry allowed, they've faced the second-highest number of rushing attempts. Simply put, between a fierce pass-rush and ball-hawking secondary, offenses are afraid to put the ball in the air against this team.

Opponents have decided the best way to beat the Minnesota defense is by keeping the ball on the ground — shorten the game, try to create manageable third downs and play the field position game. Of course, the best way for the Eagles to beat Washington's 28th-ranked run defense last week, with a fifth-round rookie right tackle making his first career start mind you, also would've been to hand the ball off early and often, which wasn't exactly the game plan that we saw.

As good as Carson Wentz is, the Eagles probably aren't going to beat this team by airing the ball out. It may be inefficient and look ugly, but this time, head coach Doug Pederson needs to lean on the ground attack and take the pressure off of his first-year quarterback and tackle. Otherwise, a Vikings defense that ranks third in the NFL in sacks and fourth in interceptions can take this game over.

Self-inflicted wounds
Ticky-tack calls or not, you can't blame the judgment of the officials for all of the penalties the Eagles have taken the past two weeks. Last week in Washington, they drew 13 flags for 114 yards. The week before, it was 14 flags for 111 yards. Is it really any coincidence in two losses the Eagles have been penalized 27 times for 225 yards? Unlikely.

Were one or two or even a handful of those calls excessive? Have officials missed some potential calls that could have gone the other way? Yes and yes, as is always the case. When it's that many penalties for that many yards though, you can only place so much blame on the refs.

Simply put, the players need to clean up their acts. According to TeamRankings.com, the Eagles are committing the most penalties per game at 9.8. Only one other team is above 9.0. All excuses aside, the Eagles lack discipline right now, and it's hard to beat anybody when they are continuously shooting themselves in the foot, let alone the only undefeated squad in football.

No gimmes
There is no bigger indicator of winning and losing in the NFL than turnovers. So what happens when the two teams who cough the ball up the least are going head-to-head?

One thing the Eagles did correct in Washington was the little giveaway problem that cost them the game in Detroit. After losing their first fumble and throwing their first interception of the season in the final three minutes of their loss at Detroit, the offense went back to playing turnover-free football on Sunday, one of the positive things that could be said for the performance.

Yet the only team that's committed fewer turnovers than the Eagles is the Vikings, who have just one through five games. The ball security these clubs have displayed is remarkable bordering on unheard of. So what happens when the unstoppable force meets the immovable object? The first one to blink, or in this case make a mistake, might just cost themselves the game in what could be a tightly contested tilt.

Just a pit stop
If it feels like the Eagles' 34-3 romp of the Steelers at the Linc was a long time ago, well, it has been almost a month. Since then, there's been a bye week followed by trips to Detroit and Washington, putting the last home game at exactly four weeks ago.

Don't get used to the feeling either. After their game against the Vikings on Sunday, the Eagles go back on the road for two contests against the division rival Cowboys and Giants.

What does it all mean? Besides a travel-heavy stretch, it suggests this sandwich game with the Vikings is an especially significant spot on the Eagles' schedule, particularly given the slow starts they've jumped out to as the visiting team of late. That can't be blamed entirely on going on the road of course, but it certainly hasn't helped. Vikings or not, the Eagles could use a positive showing on Sunday before they go away again.

The Bradford Bowl
You didn't really think we were going to completely gloss over Sam Bradford, did you? Not even mention his name?

It's interesting, because right now, the trade that sent Bradford to the Vikings and cleared the way for Wentz to start at quarterback for the Eagles looks like a win-win. Both head coaches agreed with that sentiment as well. Mike Zimmer says Bradford gave the Vikings an energy back after starter Teddy Bridgewater was lost for the season with an improbable injury, while despite coming back down to earth a bit the last two weeks, it's obvious the Eagles' future is bright with Wentz.

That being said, there are some additional bragging rights at stake for both signal-callers this week, whether they acknowledge it or not. If the Eagles win, it shows their gamble on Wentz being prepared to start right away was justified. If the Vikings win, pundits could argue the Eagles never should've traded Bradford in the first place.

These are only narratives of course, and the Eagles' investment in Wentz and the Vikings' desperation trade for Bradford are both left to be judged somewhere down the road, long after this game has been played. Nonetheless, the result on Sunday is sure to spark some interesting debate in the coming days.

Penn State upsets No. 2 Ohio State, 24-21

Penn State upsets No. 2 Ohio State, 24-21


STATE COLLEGE – As his team slogged through back-to-back 7-6 seasons in his first two years as Penn State’s head coach, Langhorne native James Franklin heard time and again that he was in need of a signature victory.

Now he has one, even if he refuses to admit it.

Junior cornerback Grant Haley returned a blocked field goal 60 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 4:27 left as the Nittany Lions stunned second-ranked Ohio State 24-21 on Saturday night.

“That’s for you (media) guys, all that signature stuff,” Franklin said.

Not exactly.

“It’s just a game that put Penn State back on the map,” Haley said. “We needed that signature win, and we did it tonight.”

The fans stormed the field after the Lions, 5-2 after their third straight victory this season, beat a ranked team for the first time since 2013 (Wisconsin). It was also PSU’s first victory over a team ranked in the top five since 1999 (Arizona) and its first over a team slotted as high as No. 2 since 1990 (Notre Dame).

Ohio State (7-1) saw winning streaks of 20 straight road games and 17 straight Big Ten road games come to an end, despite building a 21-7 lead through three quarters.

The Lions whisked 90 yards in five plays to cut the gap to seven with 13:32 left in the game, with quarterback Trace McSorley running two yards for the TD.

Freshman linebacker Cam Brown then blocked Cameron Johnston’s punt to set up a 34-yard field goal by Tyler Davis with 9:33 remaining, making it 21-17.

Ohio State mounted a drive behind J.T. Barrett, their splendid quarterback, moving from its own 13 to the PSU 28. Barrett’s 34-yard connection with wide receiver Noah Brown was the big play.

But the Buckeyes stalled, and Tyler Durbin came on to attempt a 45-yard field goal. Penn State safety Marcus Allen made a leaping block, however, and Haley scooped up the bouncing ball and beat Durbin and Johnston, the holder, down the left sideline for the go-ahead score.

Ohio State’s final drive of the night ended with a pair of Penn State sacks, the last a combined effort by defensive linemen Kevin Givens and Evan Schwan with 1:02 left.

When the final gun sounded, several Penn State players sprinted toward the south end zone and launched themselves into the front row of the stands, Lambeau Leap-style, among the delirious students. And thousands of fans, all clad in white for PSU’s traditional White Out, flooded the field.

“This is for everybody,” Franklin said later. “This community’s been through so much in the last five years (a reference to the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal and its aftermath), and this is a big step in the right direction, in terms of healing. I said very, very early on that for us to get where we want to be, we need this entire community together, and a win like tonight – I know I’m biased – but I believe that football has the ability to bring a community together like nothing else.”

Moments later, he caught himself and said he “didn’t want to spend a lot of time talking about the big picture.”

Rather, he added, “I just want to enjoy tonight.”