Examining the Eagles' 'New' Front Office

Examining the Eagles' 'New' Front Office

Chances are we will never learn all of the facts behind what led to Joe Banner's departure -- especially not as long as you're searching for sinister plots. Now that we are through picking over the remains of Banner's tenure with the Eagles though, two prominent figures remain. No matter what really happened, the effects of this shift on the head coach and the general manager are permanent.

First we have Andy Reid, who supposedly is the man with everything to gain from Banner's exile. Legend has it Reid's job is on the line in 2012, so he convinced his employer to remove a practical figurehead. Some guy -- not Reid -- was promoted to Banner's post. Reid gains super powers... Reid smash.

Then there is Howie Roseman, not seated at the table for the Smolenski-Lurie-Banner-Reid press conference/brunch last week. On the heels of a pair of oft-scrutinized drafts, a KoP shopping spree where he maxed out your father's credit cards on junk, and inviting most of the 8-8 kids back to his next four or five parties, somehow he comes out smelling like... bacon. Why, Roseman is more popular than the Priceline Negotiator these days.

The "Good Cop"

Many players spoke out in opposition to Banner's negotiating tactics since the news broke on Thursday, and some acted out while they were members of the team. For as many great deals as the team struck under Joe's watch, there were hurt feelings and mistakes along the way.

There always are.

Roseman is the toast of the town at the moment because this offseason's batch of contract negotiations never became contentious. He made it so Cullen Jenkins is able to retire here. He was not to be outbid for the services of Evan Mathis. He achieved the impossible, making DeSean Jackson happy. He kept LeSean McCoy enthusiastic, under lock and key.

In reality, these were all easy deals. The Eagles want Cullen Jenkins, they need Evan Mathis, and LeSean McCoy earned it. The only discrepancy at all with any of the players the club signed or acquired this year was Djacc, and some folks just can't give the decorated athlete his due -- perhaps Banner included. Still, if Reid wanted Jackson, and truly is the head of personnel (he is), I believe it could have happened one way or another.

But make no mistake, Roseman's job will not always be so simple. In the future, even less than a year from now, the Eagles will be presented with difficult decisions on current players. Mike Vick's contract is not as concrete as some people think, Jason Peters is coming off of a "non-football related" injury, and Jason Babin could outperform his contract. Meanwhile, young players such as Jeremy Maclin, Nate Allen, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie want extensions. Does anybody really imagine all of that will go swimmingly?

The idea that the Eagles will never be split with a player over money again is amusing. To be fair, nobody actually said that either, but can we stop this nonsense about Roseman being a more pleasant negotiator than Banner? When the time comes, he will draw the ire of the players or agents who are seated across the table, and depending on who we're dealing with, rest assured Roseman will be painted as the bad guy.

Coach for life?

Jumping back to Reid for a bit, the conclusion folks have reached is the head coach seized unprecedented power from the Eagles, and it sounds like that was as easy as a grabbing a fistful of Snickers bars. Now the fear is with no one left to rein him in, a contract extension for Reid is already on the way, and he will be in place for many years to come.

Let's start with problem number one, Reid's ascension to the top of the food chain. It seems true, in theory at least, he gains rank with Banner out of the picture. There is one less dissenting voice in the conversation, so yeah, Reid's words naturally hold more weight. How much more though? Would you say his power increased tenfold or twofold?

How about less?

With Roseman negotiating contracts and managing the cap, it lends the appearance Reid didn't gain much at all. It's not his direct superior making those calls any longer, but it's not like Reid took the checkbook, either. We heard he sat in on McCoy's extension, which is interesting, and speaks to a potentially greater involvement in this aspect of the business going forward. Still, there is a salary cap to navigate, and there have been no suggestions its management will be turned over to Reid.

In short, his job is to pick the players -- same as always -- and Roseman's is to keep him fiscally responsible, as Banner had done before. So on the surface, Reid's role hasn't changed at all. Sure he has more influence, but he's stuck in the same position with the same responsibilities. That's not typically how you would define an increase in one's power.

Respect whose authority?

The man who seems to be sitting pretty as the tornado twists around him is Roseman. While he's taken a few lumps since becoming general manager, I can't remember the last time a member of the front office was so well received in Philly. He's been pegged as the players' negotiator, and quite possibly the new public face of the Eagles. Roseman is unassuming, and if he performs at his job, fans are going to like him.

It's a good thing, too, because he might be running the show on his own soon enough.

Oh, right, except there's that coach for life thing. It will be intriguing to see how this plays out for Reid, as it begs the question who is ultimately responsible for making the decision on his future? After all, this isn't Congress, where officials vote on a pay raises for themselves -- Reid answers to somebody, and it's a short list.

Jeffrey Lurie, obviously, and he is probably the one who will have to pull the plug finally if the team continues spinning its wheels or moving in the wrong direction, or choose to grant an extension if Reid pulls off a great season in 2012. But the real question might be who is responsible for tabbing Reid's successor? I think if you can answer that, you might get a better sense for what's going on here.

Until last week, that would have been Banner. Don Smolenski is the incoming president, but seems to have little or nothing to do with the on-field product. I'm sure Lurie will be involved, but I don't envision him handling the entire interview/negotiation process on his own.

Which only leaves Roseman. As Banner's protege, he climbed the corporate ladder, absorbing tremendous power along the way -- first taking over as GM when Tom Heckert left, now performing his mentor's tasks on the football side of the business, amazingly without stepping on any toes (that we know of) on his way up. Is it so unreasonable to speculate his next move could be Lurie's new right-hand man in football operations?

From that perspective, it kind of looks like Roseman is holding a better hand than Reid at the moment, doesn't it?

Jordan Matthews eager to return after missing first-ever game

Jordan Matthews eager to return after missing first-ever game

Jordan Matthews experienced something new on Sunday. Something he hoped he’d never have to experience. 

He was relegated to spectator.  

After never missing a game dating back to little league – through high school, college, and into his third season in the NFL – a right ankle injury kept him out of Sunday’s 32-14 loss in Cincinnati. 

“It’s definitely not fun,” Matthews said. “But it’s one of those things where I try not to dwell on it or be like ‘woe is me.’ There’s people going through way worse things in America than me missing a football game.”

The Eagles certainly could have used Matthews on Sunday. But they should get him back this weekend when the Birds host Washington for a 1 p.m. kickoff at the Linc. Along with Ryan Mathews and Dorial Green-Beckham, Matthews is listed as questionable. 

But he seems confident he’ll be good to go. 

“I think one game is definitely going to be enough for me,” Matthews said. “I’m definitely going to try to get back out there Sunday.” 

On Friday, during his first media availability in two weeks, Matthews said he chose to find the positives in his absence from Sunday’s game. Namely that Paul Turner and Trey Burton got some extra reps. 

Burton had five catches for 53 yards and Turner, in just his second NFL game, had six catches for 80 yards. 

“I try to see the positives,” Matthews said. “I liked seeing what PT was able to go out there and do. I was happy for him and his first live-game action, being able to go out there and make plays. I was also proud of Trey. His role got to expand with me being out and I think he played extremely well. He got to show what he can do and show how he can help this team. We just have to continue to utilize him moving forward. There’s always a positive in it. 

“We might not see it now, in a loss, but just think, some of those guys are going to be weapons for us in the future. And we saw they can go out and perform well without me in there, so I think it’s going to end up being a positive. But I definitely can’t wait to get back out there.”

Earlier in the week, head coach Doug Pederson said that even with Matthews’ returning, the team would still try to get Turner involved. Since the team sees Turner primarily as a slot receiver, that means Matthews could see time outside this weekend. There’s an even better chance when taking Green-Beckham’s injury into account. 

Before the season, Pederson talked a lot about wanting to play Matthews both inside and outside, but this season, Matthews has been in the slot for 74 percent of his snaps. Forty-four of his 57 catches have come from the slot too. 

On the play where Matthews hurt his ankle against the Packers, he was actually lined up outside and caught a back-shoulder throw from Wentz. 

“I was actually joking with Carson,” Matthews said, “I was like ‘bro, the reason I got hurt was because our back shoulder was better than Jordy [Nelson] and Aaron [Rodgers’]. So it didn’t mesh well with the universe. It wasn’t supposed to happen that way on Monday night for everybody to see, so the football gods took my ankle. So it’s all good. … That’s a joke.”

Matthews, despite being in his third season, is clearly one of the Eagles’ leaders on offense, especially in a very young receivers room. He’s looking forward to playing Washington after he thinks they were the first team that “actually came out and beat” them earlier in the year. 

With four games left in the regular season, the Eagles’ playoff chances are extremely slim. But Matthews thinks it’s important for the team to finish strong, especially with rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. 

With Wentz, Matthews thinks the Eagles have already taken the first step toward building something special. 

“He’s the guy,” Matthews said. “He looks like the guy, he walks like the guy, he talks like it. And he goes out there and plays like it. It’s more we have to continue to ride around him and coach Pederson and be positive and go out there and produce.”

Eagles-Redskins scouting report: Secondary must stand up vs. Kirk Cousins

Eagles-Redskins scouting report: Secondary must stand up vs. Kirk Cousins

Eagles (5-7) vs. Redskins (6-5-1)
Sunday, 1 p.m. on Fox
Redskins favored by 2; over/under 47

When the Eagles went into FedEx Field in Week 6, they had an opportunity to leave 4-1 and in great position in the NFC East. Instead, what ensued was a stretch of three divisional losses in four weeks by a combined 18 points.

Two months later, the Eagles are out of the race at 5-7 while the 6-5-1 Redskins are still battling for an NFC wild-card spot. The 'Skins would be out of the playoffs if the season ended today — they currently hold the seventh spot in the NFC, behind the Bucs (7-5) but ahead of the Vikings and Packers (6-6).

This is obviously a crucial game for Washington, but the Eagles are just as desperate after losing by 11, 14 and 18 points the last three weeks. Don't underestimate the role desperation and a few weeks of embarrassment can have on a team's ability to bounce back. It was partly why I cautioned in these scouting reports the last two weeks not to count out either Green Bay or Cincinnati, teams that had more talent and stability than a few weeks of midseason losses indicated.

Cousins and Reed
The next time the Eagles limit Kirk Cousins will be the first time. In four games against them, he's completed 63 percent of his passes, averaged 336 yards, thrown 10 TDs and two interceptions and rushed for another score. Washington has averaged 31 points and won three of the four contests.

The Eagles' margin of error on defense is extremely small in this game. To win, they'll need a better effort against a Redskins' ground game that gashed them for 230 yards last time, they'll need to generate consistent pressure on Cousins and they'll need Jordan Reed to not be himself.

Reed, the NFC's most dangerous tight end, is questionable with a Grade 3 AC joint separation suffered on Thanksgiving. Reed was a warrior on Turkey Day, leaving the game in the second quarter, standing on the sideline in a sling, probably receiving a little (ahem) help at halftime, and then dominating in the second half in Dallas. Reed finished that game with 12 catches for 95 yards and two TDs, but was hurt badly enough to miss last week's game.

The Eagles were fortunate to avoid Reed in the season's earlier matchup. Fortunate because he destroyed them last December, catching nine passes for 129 yards and two TDs in a 14-point win. Washington uses its tight ends more than any offense in the league, and Reed is a mismatch even for an Eagles team that has allowed the fewest catches (31) and receiving yards (327) to tight ends. 

With Reed out in October, backup Vernon Davis burned the Eagles for two catches, 50 yards and a TD. But it sounds like Reed will play Sunday after telling reporters that his range of motion is back.

The issue in stopping Washington is the Eagles just don't have enough defensive backs to defend everything. It's why they need Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham to get consistent pressure and keep Cousins out of a rhythm. They haven't been able to do that. They had no sacks in Washington in Week 6 and have failed to sack Cousins in two of the last three meetings.

Without forcing Cousins to get off his spot and get the ball out quickly, the Eagles' secondary hasn't shown anything to inspire confidence they can stop DeSean Jackson, Jamison Crowder, Pierre Garcon, Reed and Davis at the same time.

To make matters worse, this is the first week Washington's All-Pro left tackle, Trent Williams, is back from a four-game substance abuse suspension. According to Pro Football Focus, Williams has allowed just three sacks in his last eight games against the Eagles.

Which Wentz will show?
Last week was Carson Wentz's worst game as an NFL quarterback. He missed wide-open throws, threw three interceptions and could have thrown more and barely exceeded 300 yards despite throwing the ball 60 times. 

He didn't look like the guy we saw the first four games of the season, and quite frankly he hasn't looked like a top-20 QB since October. 

The lack of weapons and occasionally poor protection are major reasons why, but Wentz isn't void of blame — he's simply missed some makeable throws.

Against Washington back on Oct. 16, Wentz was just 11 of 22 for 179 yards as the Eagles lost the time of possession battle. The best days belonged to Ryan Mathews (9 carries, 60 yards) and Jordan Matthews (three catches, 75 yards). Both are questionable heading into this one. 

Wentz didn't throw a single pass at Josh Norman in the first meeting. At times, Norman has followed the opposing team's top receiver, but don't expect him to do so this Sunday. Norman has lined up on the left side 64 percent of the time this season and in the slot just nine percent. 

Slot matchup
Matthews has run 73 percent of his routes from the slot and should draw third-round pick Kendall Fuller. As long as Matthews is sufficiently recovered from his ankle injury, this should be a good matchup for the Eagles. 

Fuller has been beaten repeatedly this season, allowing 42 catches (on 53 targets) for 542 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterbacks have a 123.9 rating against him, third-worst among all slot corners. (Malcolm Jenkins is actually worst in this category with a 137.9 QB rating allowed in the slot.)

Fuller has also struggled to wrap receivers up after the catch, allowing an NFL-high 213 yards after the catch. Picking up yards after a reception is something the Eagles have struggled to do all year.

Run game
The Eagles were shutting running backs down until they played the Redskins in October. Since-demoted RB Matt Jones rushed for 135 yards, current starter Rob Kelley rushed for 59, and both had a run of 45-plus yards.

Cox, Barwin and LB Nigel Bradham had awful games that afternoon against the run. It also didn't help that the Eagles were credited with 12 missed tackles. 

Run-stuffer Bennie Logan left that game early with a groin injury and missed the next three weeks. Since returning, however, Logan hasn't been himself, struggling to rush the passer and stop the run.

The Kerrigan factor
The Eagles always have trouble containing Redskins pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan, who had three sacks in the first meeting. 

Kerrigan has been a force in 2016 with 44 QB hurries, which is three more than Kahlil Mack and second-most among outside linebackers to Von Miller.

Kerrigan has nine sacks in 11 career games against the Eagles, and Washington is 5-1 when he has at least one against them.

Prediction
Close game, better performance from Wentz and an awakening in the run game, but not enough defensive talent to shut down what Washington will try to do deep with Jackson and Crowder, over the middle with Reed and short with Garcon.

Redskins 31, Eagles 27