Eagles love 1st-round linemen; results not great

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Eagles love 1st-round linemen; results not great

It’s fun to draft quarterbacks, running backs and receivers. Cornerbacks and linebackers, too.

Linemen?

For fans, they’re boring.

You study all the draft guides, read all the mock drafts, memorize the combine results, and sit there glued to the TV and your computer as the Eagles’ first-round pick gets closer and closer.

Which receiver will they take? Which cornerback? Which linebacker?

Eight of the last nine years, you’ve been disappointed.

Because only once in the last nine years have the Eagles drafted something other than a lineman in the first round.

In fact, going back to 1991, an incredible 17 of their 21 first-round picks have been offensive or defensive linemen.

The exceptions: Donovan McNabb in 1999, Freddie Mitchell in 2001, Lito Sheppard in 2002 and Jeremy Maclin in 2009.

That’s four non-linemen in the first round since Buddy Ryan was fired.

Eagles fans know those linemen are important picks, but they’re boring. After all the buildup for the draft, you just want something more interesting.

Since 1991 -- nearly a quarter of a century -- the Eagles have drafted more linemen in the first round than any other NFL team.

They’ve taken 17, ahead of the Rams (14), Seahawks (13) and Vikings and 49ers (12).

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said there’s a simple reason for this 23-year trend.

“When you talk about getting those guys later in the draft, they just don’t exist,” he said. “There are other positions you look at it and can find a starter in the third, fourth or fifth round, but it’s very hard to find those guys, because there aren’t a lot of men on this Earth who are 330 pounds with 34-inch arms and who can move their bodies.

“We don’t go in saying we have to get a lineman, especially now. We’re talking about getting the best player, no matter what position that player is, we would take him. I think it’s just worked out that way.”

What about those 17 linemen?

The results have been mixed. Actually, worse than mixed.

Of the 17, eight have been offensive linemen, and of that group, three became Pro Bowlers -- Jermane Mayberry had a solid career and went to one Pro Bowl, Shawn Andrews was very good and a first-team All-Pro with two Pro Bowls before all sorts of weird things derailed his career, and Tra Thomas was simply the best offensive tackle in franchise history.

The rest? Antone Davis, Lester Holmes, Bernard Williams and Danny Watkins were all either disasters or close to it, althought last year’s first-round pick, Lane Johnson, appears to be a very promising tackle.

On the defensive side, the results are worse.

Leonard Renfro, Jon Harris and Jerome McDougle were catastrophes, Brodrick Bunkley never panned out, at least not here, and Brandon Graham has yet to pan out and could be traded to a team needing a 4-3 end this weekend.

Mike Mamula started for a few years but certainly didn’t perform like you’d expect from the No. 7 pick. Corey Simon made a Pro Bowl but had a short career. Mike Patterson was solid for a long time. Fletcher Cox, after two years, certainly also shows a lot of promise.

Perhaps Cox and Johnson will end what has really been, for the most part, a two-decade slump for the Eagles when it comes to drafting linemen in the first round.

“I look at the last two years -- Fletcher Cox for us, is a very rare guy -- 6-4, 34-inch arms, runs a 4.9, had a running back background in high school, elite athlete, explosive athlete, powerful player,” Roseman said. “Then Lane was a unique cat, too.

“I think that’s just how it worked out. We’re not going in [saying], 'We gotta get a lineman in the first round.'”

A good chunk of the sample group -- 14 years -- was with Andy Reid as head coach, and he certainly put a premium on building along both lines. Of Reid’s 12 first-round picks, eight were linemen.

“Just being around Andy for so long and just talking to him about philosophy, it’s understandable,” Roseman said. “I do believe games are won and lost along the line of scrimmage on the offensive and defensive lines.”

Eagles Injury Update: Mathews and Matthews to return to practice

Eagles Injury Update: Mathews and Matthews to return to practice

If you're searching for some good news following the Eagles' dismal 32-14 loss to the Bengals on Sunday afternoon, here it is. 

Jordan Matthews (ankle) and Ryan Mathews (knee) are going to return to practice this week, head coach Doug Pederson said on Monday. 

Ryan Mathews, who suffered an MCL sprain against Seattle, has missed the last two weeks. The Eagles averaged just 77 yards rushing in those two losses, going with Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles and Kenjon Barner. 

Jordan Matthews, who has been the Eagles' best and most consistent receiver this season, suffered an ankle sprain against the Packers and was inactive on Sunday against the Bengals. It was the first game he ever missed in college or in the NFL. 

Wideout Dorial Green-Beckham, who injured his midsection and got X-rays during the game, has an oblique contusion, according to Pederson. Green-Beckham is sore and will be held from practice on Wednesday, but Pederson expects him to be "OK" for the Washington game on Sunday. 

Pederson said right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai is "coming along," but isn't yet ready to return. 

"He's going to do a little more this week, not from a practice standpoint but from a rehab standpoint, and he's doing good," Pederson said. "But we'll see where he is again later in the week."

In Vaitai's absence, left guard Allen Barbre has shifted from left guard to right tackle and Stefen Wisniewski has replaced him at left guard. 

Doug Pederson admits 'not everybody' played hard in Eagles' loss

Doug Pederson admits 'not everybody' played hard in Eagles' loss

Doug Pederson’s press conference was humming along as expected on Monday morning, the day after the team’s 32-14 loss to the Bengals in Cincinnati. 

Like he did minutes after the game, Pederson again expressed the idea that the Eagles didn’t lose for lack of effort. 

“I didn’t see any quit in the guys,” he said several different ways throughout the 19-minute session with reporters. 

The effort’s there. There’s no quit. 

Those are the types of responses we’ve become accustomed to hearing from Pederson over the last couple of weeks after embarrassing losses. And it looked like that was how Monday was going to end, with that same message being repeated ad nauseum. 

Until Pederson made a shocking admission. 

Could he honestly say every one of his players played hard against Cincinnati?

“Not everybody,” he said. “Not everybody, and that's the accountability that I talk about. You know, I hold coaches accountable for that. I hold myself accountable for that because it all starts with me and I pride myself each week to make sure the guys are ready to go. 
 
“But at the same time, it comes down to a mentality by each individual player. You know, this is a business where we have to be ready to go every single weekend because every team in the league -- I mean, there's some teams that are better than others, obviously -- but for the most part, anything can happen each weekend.”
 
Not everybody. The admission of that fact is far more shocking than the reality. Fans who watched Sunday’s game will probably be able to pinpoint several plays where one or more Eagles might not have given full effort. 
 
But for a first-year head coach to come out and admit it in public is rare. Perhaps Pederson felt emboldened to say something because he’s been assured of his status within the organization (see story). On Monday, he said he “for sure” thinks his job is secure after this season based on reassurance from Jeff Lurie and Howie Roseman. 
 
While Pederson said it publicly, the conversation between him and his players about accountability will continue. It seems unlikely Pederson will take it a step further by cutting or benching players, but his team will definitely hear the message its head coach put out on Monday. 
 
While Pederson commented that “not everybody” played hard, it seems like he’s convinced that portion of the team is the minority. Overall, he’s still convinced that guys are buying in. The reason he gave was the feedback he’s been getting back from his leadership council (a group of veteran leaders he has depended on throughout the season). 
 
Earlier in the press conference, Pederson was asked about one play in particular, when Zach Ertz failed to block Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict as Carson Wentz scrambled for a 10-yard gain in the first quarter. The video shows Ertz making an effort to avoid the linebacker.
 
“Looking at the tape and watching where Carson was scrambling of course he was heading toward out of bounds and I think he just pulled off at that point,” Pederson said. “That’s all I can say. But I’m definitely going to ask him why.”

With a 5-7 record, the Eagles’ playoff chances are all but completely gone, so the last quarter of the season will be about effort, pride and finding out who wants to be back on the team in 2017. 

To end his press conference, Pederson was asked if this Eagles team needs to be “loved up” or if it’s time for some tough love.  

“I think it's both. I think it's both,” he said. “I think there's a level of that tough love. There's got to be that accountability that I was talking about. You know, I implore and I challenge the leaders of the football team to stand up and really not only hold themselves [accountable] but the rest of the team. Listen, it's not a panic move or anything like that, but just, ‘Hey, let's just make sure we're doing things right.’ Everybody just do things right, do their jobs, do their assignments, you know, and good things are going to happen. 

“Obviously, again, it starts with me, and I've got to make sure that I'm doing it right and I'm holding myself accountable, and as you mentioned earlier with Jeffrey and Howie, if they're holding me accountable and all that, that's where it starts, and then I relay that message to the assistants and on to the team.”