Eagles Mailbag: Alshon Jeffery, running backs, offensive struggles

Eagles Mailbag: Alshon Jeffery, running backs, offensive struggles

We're less than a month away from the start of free agency — March 9 at 4 p.m. So we're really getting closer to the time of year where things get really interesting. 

From there, we're right into the draft and then after that, spring workouts won't be far behind. 

What offseason? 

Once again, we asked for your questions and you came through. Let's hop into this edition of the mailbag:

I'm not exactly sure if you're looking for a percentage, but I think there's a small chance. Now, Jeffery is going to be expensive and I understand why some folks are terrified about that PED suspension after what happened with Lane Johnson last year. 

But despite that, Jeffery is going to get paid. He's pretty darn good and a change of scenery could do wonders for his career. The price might force the Eagles out of the bidding, but I'd expect them to at least be in the running. 

Jeffery will turn 27 on Tuesday and the 6-foot-3, 218-pounder has been productive during his career. He actually uses that frame the way he's supposed to, unlike Dorial Green-Beckham. In Jeffery's two 16-game seasons (2013 and 2014), he caught 174 passes for 2,554 yards and 17 touchdowns. If he had done that in the last two years, his price tag would be even higher. 

In the last two years, he played nine games in 2015 and 12 in 2016 and hasn't eclipsed the 1,000-yard barrier in either. But we all know he's more than capable and he would be a great weapon for Carson Wentz. 

So how likely is it? Well, there's probably not a great chance because of the price tag that will be attached to him. A cheaper, mid-tier option seems more feasible, but don't completely rule the Eagles out. 

I tend to think the Eagles will try to find a running back in the draft, but that doesn't necessarily mean Dalvin Cook at No. 14 or 15. (Sorry!) The thing with running backs is it's a position in which teams can find guys, draft them, and save money by using young players instead of veterans. 

Signing a veteran running back to an expensive contract just doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. 

With that said, I'm not sure how much the Eagles actually value the running back position when it comes to the draft. Last year, Howie Roseman made it a point to praise Ezekiel Elliott and talk about how he would be a possibility with their first pick (that was before they moved up again), but this offseason he admitted everything he said last year was nonsense. That rings true with my belief that his comments on a first-round running back were nonsense. 

OK, here's an option. This year there are clearly two top guys in Leonard Fournette and Cook. They're likely both going to be first-rounders. After that, there are a few guys in the second tier. Christian McCaffrey, D'Onta Foreman, Curtis Samuel, Kareem Hunt and even Jamaal Williams or local product Corey Clement. 

Samuel is certainly in that group and the last Ohio State running back to come out has done alright. But Samuel isn't really a running back and he isn't really a receiver. He does both. Do you have faith that the Eagles' coaching staff will be able to get the most out of a player like this?

This year is a lot like what we saw in the draft last year. Wendell Smallwood was among a group of running backs that came off the board around the same time. He went three picks after Jordan Howard went to the Bears. Howard became a Pro Bowler as a rookie. 

The Eagles have always claimed Smallwood was the guy they wanted, but it's fair to wonder if that's the truth. This year, it's up to the Eagles to pinpoint their mid-round guy and try to get him. It's not always easy when trying to draft for value too. 

Interesting question. Sort of a chicken or the egg thing in my view. The receivers were horrible. There's really no debating that. 

But you're right. At times the play-calling was questionable, especially the lack of downfield attack. But if the receivers were better, perhaps Doug Pederson would have dialed up more plays to go downfield. 

The only reason I question that, is Green-Beckham. Now, obviously, he didn't have a full offseason with the team, so he was playing catch-up. But in his rookie season with the Titans, he averaged over 17 yards per reception. That was down to under 11 with the Eagles. 

So probably a bit of both. 

I'm not going to blame Wentz, though. While he certainly had his bad moments in 2016, at times he had to overcome bad receiver play and questionable play-calling. 

NFL Notes: Patriots reach deal with former Jets LB David Harris

NFL Notes: Patriots reach deal with former Jets LB David Harris

BOSTON -- A person familiar with the situation says the New England Patriots have agreed to terms on a deal with former New York Jets linebacker David Harris.

The new two-year pact could be worth as much as $6.75 million, the person told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the deal has not yet been announced.

Harris, a 2007 second-round pick from Michigan who has spent all 10 of his NFL seasons in New York, was released earlier this month by the Jets in a series of offseason moves to cut high-priced veterans. He was the franchise's second-leading tackler.

He now moves within the division to play for Bill Belichick, who has lauded Harris' play in the past. It also gives the Patriots some veteran depth to pair with Dont'a Hightower.

Jaguars: Rhaney claimed off waivers
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars have claimed offensive lineman Demetrius Rhaney off waivers from the Los Angeles Rams.

The Jaguars announced the move Wednesday and said they released rookie offensive lineman Parker Collins to make room on the roster for Rhaney.

The 6-foot-2, 301-pound Rhaney was a seventh-round draft pick out of Tennessee State by the Rams in 2014. He spent his first season on injured reserve but played in every regular-season game the past two seasons, starting once at left guard in 2015.

Packers: Guion arrested on suspicion of DUI
HONOLULU -- Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Letroy Guion has been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of an intoxicant in Hawaii.

Honolulu police booking records show Guion was arrested early Wednesday in Waikiki. He was released after posting $500 bail.

Packers spokesman Aaron Popkey says in a statement that the team is aware and will refrain from making further comment because it's a legal matter. He says he doesn't know what Guion was doing in Waikiki.

Guion was suspended without pay by the NFL for the first four games of the 2017 season for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

He started 15 games last season, making 30 tackles. The nine-year veteran agreed to a three-year deal worth $11.25 million in February 2016.

NFL: Former player Ryan Jones shot dead
RENO, Nev. -- Nevada authorities say former NFL linebacker Ryan Jones was shot dead over the weekend in a Reno apartment and two other people suffered non-life threatening gunshot wounds.

Reno Police Department spokesman Officer Tim Broadway declined comment Tuesday on the circumstances that led to Sunday's shooting because detectives were still interviewing people for their investigation.

Jones, 26, signed a free-agent deal with the Baltimore Ravens in 2014 and had a stint with the New York Giants before becoming a mixed martial arts fighter.

He was the first Montana Tech football player in the college's history to sign an NFL contract.

Jones graduated from Hug High School in Nevada before attending Sierra College and then Montana Tech in 2011.

Eagles LBs coach thinks there's more ceiling for Jordan Hicks

Eagles LBs coach thinks there's more ceiling for Jordan Hicks

Jordan Hicks is a good middle linebacker. 

After his first two seasons in the NFL, the former third-round pick has piled up some eye-popping numbers. 

In his first 24 games in the league (his rookie season was cut short with a pec injury), he has seven interceptions, 14 passes defensed, four fumble recoveries, a forced fumble and two sacks. 

He's just the fifth player in NFL history — and only linebacker — to have that many INTs, fumble recoveries and forced fumbles in the first two years of his career. 

Hicks, who turns 25 later this month, is already really good. The next step is to become great. 

Is there room for more growth? 

"I would hope so," Eagles linebackers coach Ken Flajole said last week. "We're all emotionally tied in with our guys. I think he's done a great job for us. Is there room for improvement? No question. But he works at it. It's important to him. I know it's important for him that he puts the team success above himself. 

"I would suspect that there's more ceiling for him at linebacker. And I expect him to work at those things." 

Hicks actually had a chance to work on some of those things this offseason. As he exited last year, it was clear Hicks possessed ball-hawk traits, but admittedly needed to get better against the run. 

After his first NFL season, Hicks was stuck recovering from his torn pectoral and subsequent surgery. The rehab didn't allow him to strength train as much as he would have liked. 

This year, it's been a different story. He's hit the weight room hard, put on some extra weight, and hasn't been hamstrung by a tedious rehab process. 

"It's been great, man," Hicks said. "Having a full offseason to get in rhythm, having a full offseason to lift and get stronger and not have to take a step back to rehab and do everything over again, it's huge. Huge. To just build and stack and stack on top of each other."

Flajole agrees with Hicks, that the extra time in the weight room will help him against the run, specifically at the point of attack.  

Flajole isn't the only person in the NovaCare Complex who thinks big things are still ahead for Hicks. After the season finale against the Cowboys last season, Malcolm Jenkins said he thought Hicks is "trending to be one of the better linebackers in this league."

While Hicks wants to improve his run defense, it's undeniable that the strength of his game — to this point — is his knack for being around the ball. He always seems to be making a big play, whether it's an interception or a fumble recovery. 

It might seem like chance, but Flajole doesn't discount it as such. 

"He's a very instinctual guy and I think he understands the game," Flajole said. "The thing that can't be discounted for Jordan is that he works at it. He watches a lot of tape and because of those things, he feeds off of tendencies that the offense would give him, either by down and distance or formation. And he uses those to his advantage." 

For the second straight year, Hicks will be in the same defense under Jim Schwartz and will have the same battery mate in Nigel Bradham, who enters the second year of his two-year deal. 

At some point before the 2017 season starts, Hicks will set some personal goals for himself, like he does every year. While he hasn't set them yet, Hicks said they are normally leadership-based or stat-based. 

"It definitely gives you something to reach for and keep you on track," Hicks said. "Just like you set team goals. If you're not setting goals, you're just working towards nothing, just shooting in the air at nothing." 

One thing the goals won't be is accolade-based. Sure, Hicks would like to be named to his first Pro Bowl, but that won't be on the checklist. 

If he gets better than he's been in Year 1 and 2, it'll only be a matter of time before the recognition catches up with his stats. 

"I'm not really worried about the accolades at this point," he said. "It's not really what I'm focused on. I believe that if you're doing what you need to do, day in and day out, you're giving it everything you got, the rest will come. I'm focused on what I can do for this team, what I can do to make this team the best it can be. And let the rest fall in place."