Measuring '09 Predictions from Eagles Offseason Against Results

Measuring '09 Predictions from Eagles Offseason Against Results

Although it always manages to arrive much too soon, the offseason can be a fun time for fantasy general managers. We like to suggest what players the team should sign and draft, and occasionally offer some whimsical trade proposals.

And of course, we like to prognosticate about the real guy's decisions too. The Eagles had one of the more wild offseasons on record in 2009, leading to an abundance of second-guessing, as well as plenty of intrigue. Looking back on the events from last spring and summer, how well did our expectations match the final product?

The Draft

Prediction: Rookies usually don't get much playing time here; Jeremy Maclin won't, but LeSean McCoy will.

 It's probably fair to say the draft turned out better than initially hoped. After a holdout that lasted a week into training camp, it was thought Jeremy Maclin couldn't have much of an impact this season, especially early on. Wrong. Maclin burst onto the scene in Week 5 with 142 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Moving forward, he had at least 40 yards in nine of the remaining 12 games, plus 146 yards and a TD in the Wild Card loss. Not bad at all for a rookie.

McCoy's contribution was also a bit of a surprise. We knew he would have to be a factor in the offense somehow, but he exceeded most expectations with 945 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns. With Westbrook in and out of the lineup for most of the season, McCoy's role increased and he answered the challenge. We are very confident knowing he is the running back of the future.

The rest of the draft was a wash. The only other player who was supposed to make an impact was Cornelius Ingram, but apparently his knee is a mess. Macho Harris was awful down the stretch, but nobody suspected he would play such a key part in the defense. Moises Fokou took some terrible penalties, but there were some positives to take away from this season.

Result: The bulk of the grade falls on the performance of the top selections, and Maclin and McCoy out-performed expectations.

Offensive Line

Prediction: Revamped O-line will be better than ever.

Beginning with the major offseason addition, Jason Peters was definitely inconsistent. He took way too many penalties, and while he's no revolving door, he needs to be more of a constant while protecting the quarterback's blind side. Let's talk about the good though. Even if Tra Thomas secretly had a better season in Jacksonville, which we don't know one way or the other, it's completely irrelevant. He couldn't be the left tackle here forever. Peters is an amazing talent. The idea that they were going to wait and be able to find somebody better is far fetched, and now they are settled at left tackle for a long time to come.

After we got over our Winston Justified initial fears, this was a change that worked out much better than ever could have been hoped. While Shawn Andrews did whatever it is he was busy doing, Justice blossomed into a decent right tackle. Meanwhile, Jon Runyan finally got some play in San Diego toward the end of the season, but the Eagles somehow successfully replaced both of their offensive tackles in the same offseason.

The Stacy Andrews signing went quite a bit less swimmingly. His knee was a concern when they signed him, and we all know how that story ended. Before we go ahead and label this a complete bust though, he deserves the benefit of the doubt for one more year. Knee injuries are difficult for any athlete to come back from, especially linemen. All the pushing and driving those players do begins at their base. If the knee isn't strong enough, that lessens the force the upper body can distribute. You should be rooting for his return to form, because Jamaal Jackson will have the same issues, and it just so happens Stacy can also play center.

Result: Not without its issues, but injuries plagued them all season. The jury is still out on the unit as a whole.

Stewart Bradley

Prediction: Huge loss, but they have good reserves and strong interior defensive linemen.

The assumption the Eagles would be fine without Bradley was based on two ideas that both proved false. First we imagined Joe Mays to be far better than he actually is. In retrospect, he's not a starting caliber linebacker in the NFL, not at all. What can I really say? Occasionally you fall in love with a player who it turns out isn't very good.

No big deal, because we still have Omar Gaither. Well then Gaither went and had a season ending injury of his own, and suddenly there isn't a single quality linebacker on the roster who also has the distinction of being experienced in the middle. There really wasn't any way to predict that would happen.

There wasn't an injury that had a bigger negative impact on the Eagles season. While Sean McDermott desperately plugged one body after another in that spot, the play never improved. Patterson and Bunkley looked a lot more ordinary without a decent player behind them to clean up their handiwork, and Gocong's production fell off as offenses paid less attention to one particular linebacker. The defense never got right without him.

Result: It was a total failure. Stewart Bradley was the loss this team never overcame.

Brian Dawkins

Prediction: His departure graded anywhere from "Won't be a problem," to "Everything will fall apart."

If I had my way, Dawkins would have been back this season. I still won't blame the organization for letting him walk, but that's for another discussion. The fact of the matter is, there was a steep drop off in the quality of play at the safety position, and that's not even limited to his replacements. Quintin Mikell didn't have what anybody would call a good season either.

That being said, safety typically isn't an impact position. Dawkins proved it can be, but it's not a necessity. To say not having him in the secondary was a serious problem might be stretching it. Hey, they missed him in more ways than one, but was that the difference between winning or losing against Dallas? Not seeing it, not the way they were completely destroyed.

At least one person will question the leadership and point to his influence in the locker room. Nobody can deny that about Dawkins, but bring something to the table we can actually quantify. We have no way of knowing leadership was or was not a problem, and even if it were, how can you even begin to measure what, if any, effect that has.

Result: They would have been far better off with Dawkins, but how significant his loss was depends on where you stand.

With new mindset, Nelson Agholor embraces competition to prove himself to Eagles

With new mindset, Nelson Agholor embraces competition to prove himself to Eagles

Nelson Agholor’s rookie season was a disappointment, but his second year in the NFL was a disaster, the pressure of which was clearly getting to him. Now Agholor finds himself on the roster bubble as his third year with the Eagles commences, and it’s fair to wonder what the wide receiver’s mindset is like in 2017.

“Confident and comfortable,” Agholor said Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex, where phase three of OTAs had just begun.

Earlier in the day, Agholor had been involved at practice — cycling in with the first-team offense and getting plenty of looks, too. Later, he would be the last player to leave the field, continuing to run sprints alone after practice ended. Finally, back in the locker room, Agholor explained the epiphany he arrived at during the offseason, and how he knows he’s ready to put 2016 behind him.

“I just had a realization that the only thing that matters is the current situation,” Agholor said. “I’m here, I have an opportunity to get better and make myself a better football player.”

None of this means everything is about to click for Agholor, and he’s suddenly going to perform up to his status as a first-round pick. The Eagles clearly weren’t counting on that, either, when they signed Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency, then selected two more receivers in the draft.

If Agholor intends to turn his career around, a fresh outlook isn’t a bad place to start.

Failing to meet expectations and under relentless scrutiny, Agholor’s demeanor changed over the course of last season. Frustrations finally boiled over during a postgame rant after an Eagles loss to the Cowboys. Four weeks later, he was a healthy scratch against the Packers. Though Agholor suited up for the final five games, there was no discernable change from a production standpoint.

“That’s in the past,” Agholor said. “I practiced today. I got after it today. Anything that happened back then, it happened for a reason.”

Agholor — who turned 24 Wednesday — attributed the bulk of his struggles to youth and inexperience while denying mental or confidence issues were to blame for his performance. With only 59 receptions for 648 yards and three touchdowns to show after two years, the Eagles couldn’t wait for him to grow up any longer, which led to Jeffery and Smith being brought aboard.

“I took it for what it was,” Agholor said. “I said, ‘This was what happened, this is the new opportunity, so every day, just focus on getting better at some aspect of it.’

“It’s all about getting better consistently each day, even if it’s just a little. At the end of the day, the whole world will be like, ‘Man, this is the product?’ Some of the best players in this league, they didn’t just become really great the first day there. It took a process and continuous progression every day.”

But how exactly does Agholor go about making that jump? Because work ethic has never been a complaint, nor was talent a problem at USC, where he finished with 179 receptions for 2,571 yards and 20 touchdowns in 40 games.

There’s no telling whether Agholor will ever put it all together in the NFL. He has refined his approach, however.

“I focused on the simple grind, whether it’s conditioning, whether it was living weights,” Agholor said of offseason workouts. “I wasn’t trying to have just a miracle happen. I just started focusing on the simplest things.

“I got on the track and worked on my speed and worked on my conditioning. I was in the weight room, worked on my strength and my durability, making sure my muscles were working the right way. That’s all it was, little things like that.”

Coaches and teammates are seeing a difference in Agholor as well. Most of all, they believe competing against veterans like Jeffery and Smith will bring the best out of a young receiver still trying to find his way.

“Nelson's attitude has been great. He's worked extremely hard this offseason,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “As I've said all along, competition sharpens you, and that's what I've seen from Nelson.”

“I feel like competition is what’s going to help breed production,” Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews said. “If you’ve got more guys coming in and working, you don’t have time to worry about this, this and this. You have to worry about going in and keeping your job, you have to worry about going in and making plays every single day, and that goes for everybody, not just Nelson.”

Agholor does not disagree.

“I thought it was a great opportunity for me to compete vs. some really good players,” Agholor said of Jeffery and Smith. “These guys have proven themselves in the league, so if I show that I’m capable of performing the same way they are, then I’m in the conversation.”

That might seem like wishful thinking, but for this brief period in OTAs, Agholor has the upper hand — he knows the offense. And even if the Eagles wanted to move on from Agholor this year, his contract is such that a release would cost more against the salary cap than if he was to remain on the roster.

Financial ramifications aside, Agholor’s spot on the final 53-man roster legitimately appears to be in jeopardy. His hope in the meantime is to make himself indispensable.

“I feel like I want to be one of the best players on this team, and that takes care of it right there,” Agholor said. “I want to be a guy when you watch him on tape, you’re like, ‘Yeah, I need him.’

“The best players play, and I want to be one of the best players.”

For all of the doubts about his confidence, Agholor has seldom had any trouble expressing a general belief that he belongs in the NFL. Any doubts he did have, he obviously did not entertain for very long, based on his goals in 2017.

“I love this game, and I want to play this game for a long time, so I’m not going to allow anybody besides myself determine how long I do this,” Agholor said. “This is only Year 3, and I want to play 10-plus. The only way I do that is making myself available and making myself a good football player.”

Coming off of a season that nearly caused him to lose his swagger and cool, Agholor is doing and saying all the right things again, even as the Eagles bring in potential replacements. Perhaps the notion that it feels like a step in the right direction speaks to how poorly those first two seasons went.

Quick Slants podcast: Lane Johnson impressed by Derek Barnett

Quick Slants podcast: Lane Johnson impressed by Derek Barnett

It took Lane Johnson just one day to figure it out: Derek Barnett might be pretty good. 

The Eagles' right tackle went up against the 14th overall pick in last month's NFL draft several times during Tuesday's first OTA practice and the young pass-rusher more than held his own. 

Johnson was a guest on the Quick Slants Podcast with Derrick Gunn and Barrett Brooks and he said he was impressed by Barnett. 

"I had a chance to go against him today," Johnson said. "He's got a few moves in his arsenal just from being a rookie. I expect a big year from him just from seeing him go against other guys, me going against him. He's a very talented guy." 

What specifically impressed Johnson about Barnett? 

"He can get real low, dip that edge and shave a lot of yards off when he's rushing the passer," Johnson said. "Everybody was talking about Myles Garrett being the best rusher in the class, but I think they underestimated Derek."

Barnett was just one of the topics Johnson touched on in this week's podcast. He also talked about his future after PED violations and the state of the entire Eagles' offense. Check out the full podcast here