Can't win playing race card in Cooper vs. Jackson

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Can't win playing race card in Cooper vs. Jackson

Almost a week after the Eagles dropped the hammer on the NFL’s most prolific deep threat, people are still scratching their heads, still trying to make sense of why Chip Kelly abruptly cut the cord with Pro Bowl wideout DeSean Jackson.

The franchise’s continued silence outside of a cursory statement that explained, well, nothing has only fueled some out-there theories about the hidden intentions behind coach Chip Kelly’s decision to nix Jackson from the roster.

One widespread opinion that grows louder by the day is that the Eagles are somehow guilty of racial preference, having severed ties with Jackson just a few weeks after handing wide receiver Riley Cooper a five-year deal with $10 million in guaranteed money.

Cooper, if you didn’t know, is white. Until this past summer, when the world learned via social media that he flung a racial slur at a black security officer while attending a country music concert, Cooper was barely a household name in the Delaware Valley.

Jackson, who is black, has also encountered off-field issues. Some of them were detailed in an NJ.com story last week that outlined the receiver’s association with friends who are alleged gang members, but Jackson had already cultivated a reputation for irking management with immaturity and an ugly contract dispute.

Now that Jackson has freely walked to the division-rival Redskins, fingers are pointing at the Eagles’ braintrust -- Kelly, general manager Howie Roseman and owner Jeff Lurie -- accompanied by accusations of racial bias.

Seahawks corner Richard Sherman, who grew up with Jackson in Los Angeles, seemed to echo the sentiment when he suggested, in a piece for MMQB, that the Eagles showed less tolerance for a punk receiver than a known racist.

“What did they do to Riley Cooper, who, if he’s not a racist, at least has 'ties' to racist activity?” Sherman wrote. “They fined him and sent him to counseling. Commit certain crimes in this league and be a certain color, and you get help, not scorn.”

It’s a convenient argument for those still struggling to come to grips with Jackson’s departure and subsequent signing with the rival ’Skins. But it’s not a rational debate. It’s baseless and groundless, mainly because it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison more rooted in resentment and anger than actual logic.

Instead of comparing Jackson’s situation to Cooper’s, shouldn’t the current regime’s history of dealing with troubled players come under the microscope?

If the Eagles are more tolerant of transgressions of white players, why were they the first team to reach out to Michael Vick and then sign the tarnished superstar out of prison, and then re-sign him to a $100 million contract just three years later?

If the Eagles treat black players with legal issues more harshly than white ones, why didn’t they punish Jason Peters for his drag racing arrest last offseason? Charges were eventually reduced and Peters paid a fine. Why was Peters -- who has been arrested twice since joining the team -- given a monster extension last month, making him the team’s highest-paid player?

LeSean McCoy intentionally sought to embarrass and humiliate the mother of his child on Twitter last offseason, inviting his followers to chastise her while Kelly was still decorating his office. All Kelly did was give McCoy the most carries of his career and repeatedly express his admiration for his Pro Bowl halfback.

Last I checked, McCoy’s not on the trading or cutting block.

Juqua Parker, Akeem Jordan, Mike Patterson, Stacy Andrews, King Dunlap -- just a few former Eagles who were involved in minor legal trouble during their careers, each one black and each having their paychecks authorized by Lurie. None was disciplined or abruptly kicked off the team without explanation.

If you want to bury the Eagles for their awkward handling of the situation and mysterious silence since Friday, go ahead. It’s fair and justifiable. The charade Kelly staged last Wednesday in Orlando at the owners meetings warranted every roll of the eyes it drew.

But to suggest that race played a part in Kelly’s decision to keep Cooper and remove Jackson is to ignore the basic fact that Cooper is a one-time offender who was welcomed back into the locker room by several of his teammates and Jackson showed a repeated pattern of bothersome behavior.

Jackson gave former coach Andy Reid one migraine after another and the team still rewarded him in 2011 with an extension that paid out $18 million in guaranteed money. How many teammates have publicly rallied against the decision to jettison Jackson? Still waiting for one.

If another racial slur ever drips from Cooper’s mouth, the organization should kick him to the curb immediately. If they don’t, it’s fair to play the race card.

Until then, the dots don’t connect.

Eagles pre-2017 draft depth chart: How it stands and what it means

Eagles pre-2017 draft depth chart: How it stands and what it means

We're still a little over a month away from the NFL draft in Philly and the Eagles have some pretty notable holes, while some positions seem good to go. 

The Eagles added three players through free agency -- Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Chance Warmack -- and re-signed several of their own players, while several others walked as free agents. 

Right now, there are 72 players on the roster -- 40 on offense, 28 on defense and four special teamers. (If you're wondering, they have $9,751,328 in cap space, according to the NFLPA.) The Eagles will be able to bring 90 guys to training camp.

We're still months and months away from the season, but here's an updated look at the team's depth chart before the draft:

QB: Carson Wentz, Nick Foles
Chase Daniel and his ridiculous backup salary are gone and replaced by Nick Foles and a still-pricey, but not-as-crazy salary. Foles was once the starter in Philly, but there's no QB controversy here; Wentz is the franchise quarterback and it's just Foles' job to help him out over at least the next two seasons. 

Last year, the Eagles didn't carry a third quarterback on the active roster, instead keeping Aaron Murray on the practice squad. Murray is now with the Rams and the Eagles don't have a third. There's a chance they could look for a QB late in the draft or bring in some kind of developmental QB to stash on the practice squad this year. 

RB: Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, Byron Marshall, Terrell Watson, Ryan Mathews
You'll notice Ryan Mathews at the tail end of this list. That's because it still seems likely the Eagles will cut him and save $4 million in cap space once he heals from that nasty neck injury he suffered late in the 2016 season. That doesn't appear to be happening anytime soon, though. There's, perhaps, a slight chance Mathews returns, but it still seems unlikely. 

That would leave an aging Sproles, a second-year guy in Smallwood and two undrafted rookies from a year ago left. So the Eagles will need some help. It would be surprising if they didn't draft a running back, although that doesn't mean they'll use a first-round pick on one. Remember, the franchise has had success drafting running backs in later rounds and just last year vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas, while with the Bears, took Pro Bowler Jordan Howard in the fifth round. 

FB: Andrew Bonnet
In his first season as head coach, Doug Pederson elected to not use a roster spot on a fullback. He had Ryan Mueller in camp briefly in the spring and then Bonnet was on the practice squad for a little during the season. Pederson elected to use Beau Allen and Isaac Seumalo as lead blockers. It will be interesting to see if that continues or if he'll put more stock into keeping a fullback around. 

TE: Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton, Anthony Denham
The top three guys are back after the Eagles slapped a second-round tender on Burton, who was a restricted free agent. Basically, the second-round value on his tender means that he'll be back in 2017 and the team will likely continue trying to sign him to a long-term contract like it did during the 2016 season. Denham was on the practice squad, which is his best bet again. 

LT: Jason Peters, Matt Tobin, Dillon Gordon
LG: Chance Warmack, Allen Barbre, Darrell Greene, Josh LeRibeus
C: Jason Kelce, Stefen Wisniewski, Josh Andrews, Aaron Neary
RG: Brandon Brooks, Isaac Seumalo, Dallas Thomas
RT: Lane Johnson, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Taylor Hart

The Eagles list 10 players who can play guard on their roster. To put that in perspective, they kept just 11 total offensive linemen on their initial 53-man roster last season. Something has to give, right? Maybe Jason Kelce will eventually be traded or maybe the team will change it's mind and decide to move on from Allen Barbre. But for now, the Birds are extremely deep on the interior of their line. 

The tackle spots are a little different. After Jason Peters and Lane Johnson, the depth isn't great. Big V had an OK rookie season and Matt Tobin kind of is what he is. Barbre and Seumalo offer the flexibility to play tackle, but it's not their strength. The team lists Dillon Gordon as a guard, but his best fit is probably tackle. Though, Gordon is a converted tight end and is still raw. The wild card right now is Taylor Hart, who is converting from defensive tackle to offensive tackle. No one really knows if he can play there yet. 

WR1: Alshon Jeffery, Dorial Green-Beckham, Marcus Johnson, Rasheed Bailey
WR2: Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor, Bryce Treggs, David Watford, Dom Williams
WR3: Jordan Matthews, Paul Turner

This looks a lot different than it did a month ago. Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith come in and immediately get penciled in as starters, while Jordan Matthews continues to hold down the slot. That means DGB and Nelson Agholor become role players instead of starters. Because of his salary, Agholor will be on the team in 2017; DGB isn't guaranteed. With extra outside receiver, it might also make some sense to see Agholor play some in the slot this season. Also, this depth chart includes training camp All-Stars Paul Turner and Rasheed Bailey -- everyone rejoice! 

DE: Vinny Curry, Marcus Smith, Alex McCalister
DT: Fletcher Cox, Aziz Shittu, Justin Hamilton
DT: Beau Allen, Destiny Vaeao
DE: Brandon Graham, Steven Means

This defensive line lost two starters from last year's team. Connor Barwin was cut and Bennie Logan walked in free agency. Replacing them, respectively, are Vinny Curry and Beau Allen. Curry signed a big deal last offseason, so he'll get a chance to prove he's worth it. And unless the Eagles use a high pick to take a DT, Allen gets thrown into the starting lineup. Marcus Smith and Steven Means are the top backups at end and we'll see what Alex McCalister offers after a redshirt 2016 season. Undrafted rookies from a year ago, Destiny Vaeao and Aziz Shittue, provide the depth at interior tackle. 

The Eagles clearly need to draft defensive linemen in April. 

OLB: Nigel Bradham, Najee Goode
MLB: Jordan Hicks, Joe Walker, Don Cherry
OLB: Mychal Kendricks, Kamu Grugier-Hill

As of March 23, Mychal Kendricks is still an Eagle. That could change, though, if the Eagles find a trade partner for him. Kendricks has struggled in recent years, but he's still young and athletic and might bring back some kind of return. Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham both return after working well together in 2016. Bradham enters the final year of his two-year contract. 

There's not much depth after the starters. Joe Walker returns after an ACL tear and a couple of special teamers are the top backups. The Eagles might look to bring in a draft pick to throw into the mix. 

CB: Jalen Mills, C.J. Smith, Mitchell White
S: Malcolm Jenkins, Jaylen Watkins
S: Rodney McLeod, Chris Maragos, Terrence Brooks
CB: Ron Brooks, Aaron Grymes, Dwayne Gratz

The Eagles' biggest need is cornerback and it's not close. Not even close to being close. They can't go into the season without some changes to this part of the depth chart. It would be pretty shocking if they don't add a couple corners in this very deep draft class. Don't be surprised if they add a safety or a corner/safety either. While the starters are set, Chris Maragos is viewed by the Eagles as a special teamer (a great one, by the way) and Jaylen Watkins is a huge drop off from Jenkins or McLeod. 

K: Caleb Sturgis
P: Donnie Jones
LS: Jon Dorenbos, Rick Lovato

The top three guys are set. Sorry, Rick Lovato, you did well filling in last year, but this long-snapper job still belongs to the Magic Man. 

NFL Notes: NFL looking to speed up games via officiating and breaks

NFL Notes: NFL looking to speed up games via officiating and breaks

NEW YORK -- The NFL is making plans to speed up the pace of games, including changing how video replays are handled and using a time clock for extra points.

The league also is discussing with the TV networks how to make commercial breaks less intrusive.

For officiating replays, the referee no longer would go under a hood to watch a play. Instead, a tablet will be brought to him on the field and he will consult with league headquarters in New York. The final call will be made in New York.

Support by 75 percent of the 32 team owners would be needed at next week's annual meetings for passage of the proposal.

In addition to a time clock for PATs when there is no TV break, the league is considering instituting a play clock after a touchdown.

Also, to improve the flow of games on the field and for television audiences, commercial breaks would be reduced from 21 per game to 16, although each would last 30 seconds longer.

Giants: RB Shaun Draughn signs
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants have signed veteran running back Shaun Draughn.

The Giants announced the signing Wednesday, a little more than a month after releasing veteran Rashad Jennings in a salary cap move.

Draughn has played for six teams in six years, most recently the San Francisco 49ers. He has played in 57 games with seven starts. His career totals include 225 carries for 723 yards and seven touchdowns, plus 80 receptions for 597 yards and two scores. He also has 17 special teams tackles.

Draughn says the Giants were interested in his versatility. He says: "I don't know exactly how they'll use me. I'm sure they'll use me to the strengths that I have."

Draughn played in all 16 games last season with one start for the 49ers. He scored a career-high four touchdowns while rushing for 194 yards on 74 carries. Draughn also had career-best totals of 29 catches for 263 yards and two touchdowns.

He joins a backfield that includes second-year pro Paul Perkins, the team's top returning rusher, Orleans Darkwa and Shane Vereen.

Bengals: 'Pacman' Jones faces misdemeanor charges
CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones faces three misdemeanor charges, including assault, but no longer is charged with a felony.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters (DEE'-turs) announced Wednesday that a felony charge of harassment with a bodily substance was dismissed at the prosecuting attorney's request.

Deters said the misdemeanors also include disorderly conduct and obstructing official business.

The 33-year-old veteran whose career has been marked by off-the-field legal issues was jailed Jan. 3 after a confrontation with a hotel security employee was followed by a struggle with Cincinnati police and a sheriff's office report Jones spit on a nurse's hand.

Deters says the criminal charge won't be pursued, given that the nurse has been pursuing a possible civil remedy.

A Bengals spokesman said the team has no comment.