Eagles free-agent targets: Dexter McCluster

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Eagles free-agent targets: Dexter McCluster

Each day from now until March 7, the day before teams can talk to agents for free agents, Geoff Mosher and Reuben Frank will profile some of the NFL’s top impending free agents and project their likelihood of signing with the Eagles.

Dexter McCluster, kick returner/running back/wide receiver

Age: 24
Height: 5-9
Weight: 165
Last team: Kansas City Chiefs

Scouting report
McCluster entered the league with so much promise, especially after clocking a 4.58 in his 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2010. He was viewed as the ultimate triple threat who could line up at receiver or running back and also return punts and kicks. Kansas City drafted him in the second round with the 36th overall pick, but McCluster never emerged into a dynamic playmaker. He hasn’t had a 100-yard game rushing or receiving in his four seasons and has just nine career touchdowns, three on special teams. His career rushing average is 4.4 yards per carry and his career receiving average is 8.7 yards per reception. His longest career reception is 49 and his longest run is 32 yards. He made the Pro Bowl this past season as a return specialist after leading the NFL in returns (58), yards (686) and TDs (two).

Geoff’s projection
If you’re tired of watching the Eagles slog through returners and only occasionally getting DeSean Jackson back on punts, you’re probably rooting for the team to sign this guy. He’d make an immediate impact, like he did last season for Andy Reid as a primary punt returner for the first time in his career, but will he try to parlay his one good year into more money than he’s worth? I suppose Chip Kelly has the ingenuity to capitalize on McCluster’s skill set, but the Eagles have enough offensive weapons. They can probably find a good returner in the draft. I’d pass on McCluster.

Reuben’s projection
I like McCluster more than Mosh does. His 11.5 punt return average since 2011 is seventh-best in the NFL during that span, and his 11.8 average last year was best in the NFL among returners with at least 50 chances. The Eagles need that kind of spark in the punt return game. Field position killed the Eagles this past year, and McCluster, even if he’s only a modest weapon on offense (and he did catch 53 passes last year), can change that. Heck, other than the occasional DeSean Jackson return, the Eagles haven’t had a quality punt returner since Brian Westbrook. Since then, it’s been slop. Dexter Wynn, Reno Mahe, Jorrick Calvin, Chad Hall, Damaris Johnson. At the very least, I’d see what kind of money McCluster is looking for. He should come fairly cheap, and if he does, I’d bring him in. He has to be better than the slop the Eagles have had returning punts the last few years.

CSN's NFL Power Rankings: Cowboys surging, Eagles continue to fall

CSN's NFL Power Rankings: Cowboys surging, Eagles continue to fall

With Week 13 behind us, it's clear that there is major separation at both the top and the bottom of the league, led by the surging Cowboys and anchored by the lowly Browns. However, With just a quarter of the season remaining, the race for the Wild Card is closer than ever. 

After taking in all the action from this past week, here's CSN's NFL Power Rankings for Week 14, compiled by Derrick Gunn and John Boruk.

1. Dallas (11-1)
While others in the conference struggle, Dallas continues to glide through its schedule and became the first team in the league to clinch a playoff spot. - Gunn (1)

Impressively, the Cowboys beat the Vikings despite just 13 first downs and 264 total yards. - Boruk (1)

2. New England (10-2)
If the Patriots get home field advantage in the AFC, I’d bet on them to win the conference even without Gronk. - Gunn (2)

Best first quarter team in the NFL. Easy to win when you make your opponent one dimensional. - Boruk (2)

3. Oakland (10-2)
The Raiders can get physical or play the finesse game. Their six-game win streak and overall record are no joke. - Gunn (3)

They dominate the trenches.  Oakland has allowed 13 sacks, fewest in the NFL. - Boruk (3)

4. Seattle (8-3-1)
The loss of Earl Thomas for the season will hurt, but this team is so good at dealing with adversity. - Gunn (4)

The loss of Earl Thomas will be huge to that secondary.  He covers up a lot of their flaws. - Boruk (4)

5. Kansas City (9-3)
The Chiefs' last two wins over Denver and Atlanta were quite impressive and set the stage for a huge showdown Thursday with Oakland. - Gunn (5)

Safety Eric Berry has been one of the top-five defensive players in the league. - Boruk (5)

6. Detroit (8-4)
The Lions' defense was a weakness but now is a strength. In their last four outings, the Lions haven’t allowed more than 83 yards rushing in a game and have held their last six opponents to 20 points or less. - Gunn (6)

Detroit’s offense is 100 percent in the red zone this season – a TD or FG on every drive. - Boruk (7)

6. Denver (8-4)
The Broncos are solid everywhere, but quarterback play could hold this team back. - Gunn (7)

Denver has been bad against the run.  How will they stop DeMarco Murray/Derrick Henry? - Boruk (6)

8. Baltimore (7-5)
The Ravens stopped the Dolphins' win streak at six and control their own playoff destiny. - Gunn (8)

Have won four of their last five, lead the AFC North and as of today, they’re 43-1 odds to win the Super Bowl. - Boruk (8)

9. Pittsburgh (7-5)
When the Steelers' offense is on point it can be lethal. - Gunn (9)

11-1 over their last 12 December games. Can Ladarius Green follow up on his performance against NYG? - Boruk (9)

10. N.Y. Giants (8-4)
G-men have potential to be really good, but last four games vs. Dallas, vs. Detroit, at Eagles and at Washington are not an easy road to travel. - Gunn (10)

Steelers snapped the Giants' six-game winning streak. Allowed 24 points for the first time since Week 4. - Boruk (11)

11. Atlanta (7-5)
Falcons have lost two of last three. - Gunn (11)

They found ways to win earlier this season.  Now, the Falcons are finding ways to lose games. - Boruk (12)

12. Tampa Bay (7-5)
During their current four-game win streak, the Bucs have beaten the Chiefs, Seahawks and Chargers. - Gunn (13)

Four-game winning streak. Defense has stepped up and allowed just 53 points during the streak. - Boruk (10)

13. Washington (6-5-1)
Will Jay Gruden chewing out his guys after a second straight loss wake the Skins up? Time will tell. - Gunn (12)

Defense has allowed 62 points in a two-game losing streak. Should bounce back against Eagles. - Boruk (13)

14. Minnesota (6-6)
The Vikings are 1-6 over their last seven games. An Adrian Peterson return could save their season. - Gunn (14)

One win over their last seven games. They get Jacksonville this week to remain in the playoff chase. - Boruk (17)

15. Miami (7-5)
Getting smacked by the Ravens wounded the Dolphins. Key players are banged up. - Gunn (16)

There goes that six-game winning streak. Completely manhandled by the Ravens on both sides. - Boruk (15)

16. Indianapolis (6-6)
In a three-way tie with Houston and Tennessee in the AFC south. If Luck stays healthy, I look for the Colts to win that division. - Gunn (18)

A healthy Andrew Luck certainly goes a long way. They’ve scored 311 points and have allowed exactly 311 points. - Boruk (14)

17. Green Bay (6-6)
Rodgers says the pack can run the table. So far, two in a row and counting. - Gunn (15)

WRs aren’t usually this consistent, but Jordy Nelson has a TD and at least 90 yards in five of his last six weeks. - Boruk (22)

17. Buffalo (6-6)
QB Tyrod Taylor holds the Bills back. - Gunn (21) 

Tough loss for the Bills who were leading 24-9 midway through the third quarter before losing to Oakland 38-24. - Boruk (16)

19. Tennessse (6-6)
Marcus Mariota has really improved. He has 5th best passer rating (101.9), and it helps to have the No. 2 rusher DeMarco Murray behind him. - Gunn (19)

We’ll see if the Titans can benefit from a Week 13 bye with the Broncos coming to Nashville. - Boruk (20)

19. San Diego (5-7)
If only the Chargers could stop turning the ball over. Tied for the league lead with 25. - Gunn (20)

Shocking...Chargers blow another fourth quarter lead. Haven’t been at .500 since Week 2. - Boruk (19)

21. Houston (6-6)
How is this team at .500? Offense has scored more than two touchdowns in a game just once this year. - Gunn (22)

Still in the AFC South race with three of their final four games against divisional opponents. - Boruk (18)

21. Arizona (5-6-1)
The Cardinals team that just beat Washington... where’s that team been all season? - Gunn (17)

Love watching David Johnson play. The Cards' RB is on pace for 2,300 yards from scrimmage. - Boruk (23)

23. Cincinnati (4-7-1)
Had to move Bengals ahead of Eagles for obvious reasons. - Gunn (23)

Dismantled the Eagles at one point, leading 29-0 just 34 minutes into the game. - Boruk (24)

24. New Orleans (5-7)
Drew Brees' record streak of home TD passes in 60 games has ended. - Gunn (26)

When was the last time Drew Brees didn’t throw a TD pass at home? It had been nearly 8 years. - Boruk (21)

25. Carolina (4-8)
How the mighty have fallen. The defending NFC champs are at the bottom looking up in NFC South. - Gunn (25)

A piece of advice for Cam Newton...wear a tie. Don’t show teammates the rules don’t apply to you. - Boruk (25)

25. Eagles (5-7)
Can't sustain drives. Can't get to the QB. Can't defend the pass. Can't get off the field on third down. Can't win! - Gunn (24)

Defense allowed five passing plays over 20 yards in Cincinnati’s first six possessions, and that’s an offense without A.J. Green. - Boruk (27)

27. L.A. Rams (4-8)
Rams Head coach Jeff Fisher says his team is close. I ask close to what!? - Gunn (27)

Rams managed just 25 yards in the first half, the fewest by a team in a game this season. Forget about having Eric Dickerson on the sideline, get him in the game. - Boruk (26)

28. Chicago (3-9)
When the Bears beat the 49ers, it was first time this season they held an opponent to single digit points. - Gunn (28)

Jordan Howard, a Fifth-round pick from Indiana, just another example why you don’t draft RBs early. - Boruk (29)

29. N.Y. Jets (3-9)
I Wish I could rank them lower after their embarrassing performance against the Colts. It’s the Bryce petty show for the rest of the season. - Gunn (30)

Jon Gruden’s dissection of the Jets' defensive line mailing it in was some of the best analysis I’ve seen this season. - Boruk (28)

30. Jacksonville (2-10)
The Blake Bortles era has been brutal. Could be coming to an end. - Gunn (29)

Jaguars fans deserve some sort of a refund on their tickets this season. Just dreadful to watch. - Boruk (30)

31. San Francisco (1-11)
The positive this season for chip Kelly is...thank goodness the Browns are worse. - Gunn (31)

Colin Kaepernick was sacked more times (5) than he had passing yards (4). - Boruk (31)

32. Cleveland (0-12)
If rumors are true that RG3 could be returning, does it enhance the Browns' chances of winning a game? - Gunn (32)

Battle of Ohio. Putting it out there: Browns get their first win of the season this week. - Boruk (32)

Eagles coordinators back up Zach Ertz and Rodney McLeod for faux pas vs. Bengals

Eagles coordinators back up Zach Ertz and Rodney McLeod for faux pas vs. Bengals

Two plays that looked terrible. Two plays that over the last couple days evolved into symbols for the Eagles’ lack of effort Sunday in Cincinnati. Two plays that drove Eagles fans crazy.

There was Zach Ertz seemingly playing toreador on Vontaze Burfict in the first quarter, and there was Rodney McLeod seemingly standing by and watching Jeremy Hill score from two yards out.

The Eagles fell behind a 3-7-1 Bengals team that hadn’t beaten anybody in six weeks 19-0 at halftime and 29-0 in the third quarter before losing 32-14.

That’s five losses in their last six games and a 5-7 record after a 3-0 start.

And the Ertz and McLeod plays looked like the worst offenders on a day when the Eagles’ overall level of energy and effort coud be questioned.

On Tuesday, two days after the Eagles lost their third straight game, offensive coordinator Frank Reich and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz defended Ertz and McLeod and explain what appeared to outsiders to be a lack of effort.

Ertz’s play appeared to be the worst offender. It looked like he simply elected to step out of the way instead of at least slowing down the 250-pound Burfict as he chased Carson Wentz, who was heading out of bounds on a keeper.

Wentz gained 10 yards on the scramble, which occurred 6½ minutes into the game with the Bengals up 3-0.

“I have learned over the years to trust the players' instincts,” Reich said Tuesday. “I look back on it after. It didn't really jump out at me, honestly, the first time, because Carson was so near to the sideline. The block was a non-factor in the play.

“Sometimes you get a shot like that and you take it. Other times, to be honest …

“I played with a guy, Hall of Famer Barry Sanders, who was famous for avoiding hits. That's why he played all the time. He was never hurt. You saw when Burfict hit DGB — he got hurt almost as DGB did. 

“So there was a side of me, when I look back on it, I want Zach playing the last four games. It was a non-factor in the play. You want to tell the player, ‘Hey, go ahead and knock him out,’ but sometimes you have an instinct as a player, and over the years I've just learned to trust the instinct of the player.”

McLeod, in his short period in an Eagles uniform, has never appeared to be a guy who shies away from contact.

But that’s exactly what it looked like on Hill’s touchdown run, which gave the Bengals a 10-0 lead with 1½ minutes left in the first quarter.

“Yeah, I don't [want to say] you're off base, but I looked at that play … and his fit on that play is not inside, his fit is outside,” Schwartz said. “And he got caught flatfooted. He's getting ready to fit backside. All of a sudden the ball pops out front side, and he wasn't expecting it right there.

“I'll tell you what, I'll put my name on Rodney McLeod any day. That guy plays the game the way it's supposed to be played. He's tough. He's not the biggest guy on the field but that guy is a warrior, and he's going to do anything he can to win that game.

“He got caught flatfooted, probably no different than a baseball player that's sitting on a fastball and you throw a change-up and he looks foolish on the play.

“That wasn't his best presentation. He didn't look good on that play. But I think that had a lot more to do with where he was expecting that ball than anything else. … 

“That guy is a warrior. Like I said, I'll put my name beside Rodney McLeod any time.”