Eagles Pass on Geno, Select Stanford TE Zach Ertz in Round Two of the Draft

Eagles Pass on Geno, Select Stanford TE Zach Ertz in Round Two of the Draft

It wasn’t a quarterback, but
the Eagles continued to focus on offense in the second round of the NFL Draft on
Friday. Zach Ertz joins Brent Celek and James Casey in a suddenly crowded field
of tight ends for Philadelphia.

Chip Kelly’s offense is
expected to feature the tight end heavily, so despite Celek’s presence on the
roster plus the addition of Casey through free agency, adding another with the 35th overall selection was far from surprising. The belief is the Eagles will carry up to four, possibly
even five tight ends this season.

The Stanford product was
easily one of the top prospects at the position, as he was just the second tight
end to come off the board. He has good size (6-5, 249 lbs.) and strength, and
is said to be an excellent route runner. He'll also be useful in an H-back role.

Here’s the scouting report from NFL.com:

Strengths

Smooth athlete
with good route quickness to create some separation and sneaky speed to get
behind the defense. Sturdy, well-built frame, adding 30 pounds of bulk and
muscle since he arrived in Palo Alto. Tough with the ball in his hands and isnt afraid to deliver hits, lowering his pads and finishing
runs. Not afraid to get physical as a blocker and gives good effort in this
area, always looking for someone to block downfield. Tracks the ball well and
does a nice job adjusting his frame to make the tough catch, extending and
plucking. Looks like he has glue on his hands with some of the catches he is
able to make. Does a nice job selling his patterns, getting good depth in his
routes and immediately looking for the ball out of his breaks. Nice job
deceiving defenders and finding soft spots in coverage to make something happen
after the catch, averaging over 13 yards per catch in 2012. Has experience all
over the offense for Stanford, lining up in-line, slot and out wide, but looked
most comfortable in the slot. In 2012 Ertz doubled Coby Fleeners production from the year before, earning All-American honors as a
Mackey Award finalist. Hard worker on and off the field and plans to graduate
in June.

Weaknesses

Missed half
of his sophomore year due to injury. Must prove his straight-line speed to
scouts. Will not elude NFL defensive backs after the catch with pure quickness.
Inconsistent in-line blocker, can get after his man but also loses the leverage
battle and gets pushed back too easily. Misses second-level blocks when lunging
at targets instead of getting position. Nice job adding bulk to his frame, but
needs to continue to develop his strength to sustain blocks at the line of
scrimmage. Will round off some routes at times and needs to better control
himself in/out of his breaks. Needs to do a better job coming down with
contested throws and will drop some easy ones seems to
have at least one drop each game.

Ertz posted a whopping 69
receptions for 898 yards and six touchdowns last year as a redshirt junior, including 11
for 106 and a score in a 17-14 win over Chip’s Ducks. It was by far his most
productive season, although he was always a threat inside the red zone, hauling in an additional nine touchdowns the previous two years despite a much smaller role.

Looking at this selection from
another perspective, Ertz and Lane Johnson aren’t just offensive players. They
are BIG, powerful offensive players. The Eagles aren’t going to just tucker
opponents out with a breakneck pace, or try to finesse their way down the
field. They want to wear defenses
down physically as well.

Geoff Mosher wrote more about the Eagles' plan at tight end earlier this week:

When the Eagles signed versatile fullback/tight end James Casey in
March, coach Chip Kelly spoke about the increase of two tight-end
formations, about the creation of a lethal tight end tag team similar to
New England’s Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

Casey and
veteran tight end Brent Celek, right now, are Kelly’s vision of the
Gronkowski-Hernandez pairing. Backups Clay Harbor and Emil Igwenagu are
OK but haven’t proven themselves to be dynamic.

Hoping to emulate
the Patriots, who have stockpiled at the position, the Eagles have
closely examined this year’s college crop of tight ends, and several
league officials familiar with Kelly’s background and offense expect the
Eagles to add depth there before the end of the draft.

The downside is the Eagles
haven’t addressed defense yet in this draft even though the unit was tied for
third in points allowed last season. However, an inconsistent and erratic
offense has compounded the issues on the other side of the ball for the last
two years.

Besides, it makes sense to build
a team that suits the head coach. Whatever Chip Kelly’s vision is for this
offense, he needs certain types of players to make it work. Ertz, like Johnson
before him, fits the mold.

On verge of Super Bowl, Eric Rowe responds to Eagles, Roseman

On verge of Super Bowl, Eric Rowe responds to Eagles, Roseman

The Eagles' season ended a few weeks ago with a 7-9 record. 

In a couple weeks, Eric Rowe might be playing in the Super Bowl. 

Rowe, of course was the Eagles second-round pick in 2015 and went on to have a promising rookie season. But in 2016, the change of head coaches brought a new defensive coordinator and a new scheme, which Rowe apparently didn't fit. So a few days before the season began, he was dealt to the New England, where he has become a big part of their defense. 

In his after-the-season press conference on Jan. 4, Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman was asked about the trade and gave a somewhat curious answer. He said the team made the move because the front office had already determined they were not going to give Rowe an extension, even though he wouldn't have been eligible for two more seasons. 

If that sounded weird to Eagles fans, they weren't alone. It sounded weird to Rowe too, when the Wilmington News Journal's Martin Frank caught up with him this week. 

“That’s a long time away," Rowe said. "If that’s the reason, that’s really, really weird. You know, it’s whatever. If he thinks that, then I guess that’s what it was. They’re thinking way down the line.” 

Rowe, 24, ended up starting seven games during this regular season for New England, but played just 43 percent of the Patriots' defensive snaps. If Rowe played 50 percent of defensive snaps in 2016 or if he does it in 2017, the fourth-round pick the Eagles get back in the trade will turn into a third-rounder, so there's still a chance next year. 

While a third-round pick wouldn't be bad, the Eagles gave up on a young, talented corner just a year after drafting him because he didn't fit what they wanted to do. 

Shortly after the trade, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz called Rowe a good cover corner but cited the development of Jalen Mills as a reason why Rowe became expendable. Schwartz said he appreciated Rowe, but the personnel staff "decided to use him as an asset, and as coaches, we just deal with that and keep playing." 

It was pretty clear during training camp that Rowe had fallen out of favor with the Eagles. He was buried behind Mills and others on the depth chart, so maybe the trade was the best thing for him. 

"That was frustrating, just kind of like thinking, 'What am I doing wrong?'" Rowe said to the Wilmington News Journal. "Yeah, I made mistakes, but everybody makes mistakes. I'm not making bad mistakes. I'm making plays. Why am I sliding down? That was frustrating times. I would just go home and my girlfriend's there, and I'm telling her all this stuff. I'd tell my parents, and they're like, 'Just keep your head up, just keep working because you never know. Then boom, the trade comes up." 

And now he might get a chance to play in the Super Bowl, while the Eagles desperately need to fix their cornerback position before next season. 

Sixers-Trail Blazers 5 things: Streaking Sixers meet tough stretch

Sixers-Trail Blazers 5 things: Streaking Sixers meet tough stretch

Sixers vs. Trail Blazers
7 p.m. on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 6:30

Coming off of an impressive win over the Raptors Wednesday, the Sixers (14-26) welcome the Trail Blazers (18-26) to the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night for the first game of a back-to-back. 

Here’s what to watch for the matchup:

1.  Streaking Sixers
What a new year it’s been for the Sixers.

Winning seven of their last nine games has Joel Embiid thinking playoffs. The Sixers are 5½ games out of the eighth seed in the East, and should get even better if (or when) Ben Simmons makes his debut.

With five teams ahead of them, it seems unlikely the Sixers get in, but why not enjoy the streak while it lasts and give Embiid and the youngsters a taste of their first success in the NBA?

2. Heating up
Speaking of enjoying the streak while it lasts, the schedule gets tougher from here on out.

With five sets of back-to-backs over the next two weeks, the team will be forced to play at least five games without Embiid. And the difference with "The Process" on the floor and off is staggering. The Sixers are 12-17 with Embiid, but a putrid 2-9 without the rookie sensation. Much of that can be attributed to Embiid’s stellar defense and Jahlil Okafor’s um, less than stellar, whatever he calls what he does on the defensive end.

3. Super Dario
Dario Saric’s improved play has been another catalyst for the hot streak. Saric has elevated his game during the 7-2 run, raising his numbers in points and rebounds, giving the Sixers a solid second unit. In fact, Saric is second (behind Embiid) among rookies in points (9.7) and rebounds (5.9) per game. 

“If Joel Embiid weren’t in the league, you’d have to talk about him in consideration for Rookie of the Year,” head coach Brett Brown said after Wednesday’s win.

4. Another one
After slowing the Raptors' All-Star backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry on Wednesday, the Sixers face another dynamic backcourt in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The duo averages a combined 49.5 points per game, nearly half (46 percent) of the Blazers' total points per game.

Luckily for the Sixers, the Blazers are an abysmal 7-17 on the road this year, including 5-10 vs. the Eastern Conference. 

5. This and that
• The Blazers have given up an average of 114 points over their three-game losing streak. The Sixers have scored 114 or more points in five of their 30 games this season. 

• The Sixers are 3-4 in the first game of back-to-backs and 1-6 in the second leg. The Sixers face the Hawks Saturday.

• After signing a four-year, $70 million contract with the Blazers in the offseason, former Sixer Evan Turner is averaging 9.4 points, 3.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game, all down from his four-year average while with the Sixers. 

• Nearly every Sixer received a player vote for the All-Star Game: Embiid (43), Sergio Rodriguez (8), T.J. McConnell (4), Okafor (4), Simmons (3), Jerryd Bayless (2), Robert Covington (2), Nerlens Noel (2), Gerald Henderson (1), Ersan Ilyasova (1), Richaun Holmes (1), Timothe Luwawu-Cabbarot (1), Saric (1).