Eagles Mailbag: First-rounder, close to playoffs, Seumalo's future

Eagles Mailbag: First-rounder, close to playoffs, Seumalo's future

Other teams are still playing and there are still months before free agency and the draft, but the NFL never sleeps. 

You have questions, we make up answers. 

Here's a look back at the week's first mailbag. Let's hop into this week's second here: 

OK, I'll play. I guess I'll try to put myself in the shoes of the GM. It's my team and I need to make sure I hit on this first-round pick. The problem is, it's not that easy. If it were me, I wouldn't just simply go best player available, but I would go BPA at several positions. So if the best player on the board is a corner, receiver or defensive lineman, that's what I'd do. I know by not going BPA with all positions might lead to a reach, but it won't be a Marcus Smith-type reach. There will be a player at one of those positions worthy of the 14th or 15th pick. 

Who? Well, that's where it gets trickier. We're so early in the process, so things could change. But right now, most people think there are clearly three receivers at the top: Mike Williams, Corey Davis and John Ross. 

There are also a few first-round type cornerbacks right now. Marlon Humphrey and Teez Tabor are probably the top two at the position. From what I've seen, I really like Tabor, but either one would be worth that first-round pick. Keep in mind, this draft is considered to be pretty deep at corner, so it's possible the Eagles could get great value in the second round. 

Then at defensive end, there are a few options and the Eagles could certainly use help from an edge rusher. If they lose Bennie Logan, they'll need a replacement there too. 

And then don't forget about running back Dalvin Cook. 

But if you're asking me to pick one right now. I'm saying Tabor. He's a top corner who's really aggressive, which means I think Jim Schwartz will like him a lot. 

I think it's a little dangerous to play the game the Eagles did at the end of this year. You know, "We lost close games, so we were a few plays away from being a good team." Bad teams find ways to lose those types of games and the Eagles proved themselves to be a bad team in 2016. 

With that said, sure. Sometimes all it takes for a team to become a playoff team is a few additions. There's plenty of parity in the league and the Eagles have some decent core players. 

Really, it all hinges on Carson Wentz. He's the key. If he improves in Year 2 (with some weapons), the Eagles could have a better season. Some of that depends on the Eagles' finally getting him some weapons. Howie Roseman talked about not aiming to go 10-6 anymore, that they want to aim to be a top team in the NFC, but they could certainly win 10 games next year and sneak into the playoffs. 

Sure, that's a thought and Seumalo might eventually be a center in the NFL, but for now he's a guard. In fact, I think he has a real chance to be the starter at left guard next season. He got a chance to start there in the season finale and played well, looked natural. 

I know a lot of people are ready to move on from Jason Kelce and I understand the frustration. He's never going to be a center who can take on nose guards 1-on-1. He is, however, great at getting downfield and blocking and the Eagles just have to play to his strengths more. 

Having the same center next season might help Wentz too. 

I hear what you're saying, but I think it's too early to make that statement about Wentz. While Wentz had some down moments during his rookie season, it's hard to judge him on it because of the talent he had around him. 

We really didn't see him take many shots this season, so I don't have a large enough sample size to say his accuracy deep is a huge problem. 

The thing that should worry some fans is that many of his misses come high. It's something we've seen from him since the spring and it showed up a lot during his rookie season. For years, people made fun of Donovan McNabb for throwing so many balls into the dirt, but balls in the dirt don't get picked off. Balls that soar do. 

I suppose there's a possibility Schwartz could leave for a head coaching job, but I don't think it happens. And even if a team is interested in him, I get the feeling he wouldn't take just anything. He's been a head coach before and he likely wouldn't want to be put in a bad situation. 

Aside from that, nearly all of the head coaches hired last offseason were offensive coaches. There are some hotter names among the defensive coaches than Schwartz right now: Lions DC Teryl Austin, Dolphins DC Vance Joseph, Panthers DC Sean McDermott and Patriots DC Matt Patricia, among others. 

With high expectations, Derek Barnett knows he still has plenty to learn

With high expectations, Derek Barnett knows he still has plenty to learn

Back near the far hedges of the NovaCare Complex's practice fields, a small group of defensive linemen in white jerseys and shorts participated in some drills. There were barely enough of them to even assemble a defensive line. More than half of the 90 men on the Eagles’ current roster were not at the team’s facilities. 

One of those few defensive linemen was Derek Barnett. On the first day of his first training camp, reporters later crowded around the first-round pick’s temporary locker as if he were the second-coming. Someone asked if he had any issues, considering his high-profile status, with the location of his locker, which is in the middle of the room and not one of the permanent stalls along the wall.

“I ain't made no plays yet,” Barnett said Monday, “so I'm cool with this locker until I make some plays.”

Good point. In terms of both Barnett’s career and this Eagles season, it is early. Very early. And to overhype the magnitude of Monday’s practice with rookies, quarterbacks and selected veterans would be silly. But Barnett knows where he stands, and he took the day as another opportunity to learn. He knows he must.

"Just keep on repping," Barnett said. "I come in and get better each day. It's not a sprint, it's a marathon."

Barnett has never lived anywhere outside of Tennessee. He hails from Brentwood, a suburb of Nashville. He attended the University of Tennessee, where his 33 sacks in three seasons broke Reggie White’s school record. Now the 21-year-old lives in Philadelphia, away from his family — especially his mother, whom he credits as his greatest influence — for the first time. They talk just about every day, and she’s been helpful in his move. Google Maps has been an aid, too. Barnett wants to know more about the city and its history.

He can absorb that knowledge over time, but the Eagles, of course, would prefer that he learns how to beat NFL offensive tackles as quickly as possible. Barnett joined a defensive end unit led by its only clear-cut starter in Brandon Graham. After that, Barnett, along with Chris Long and Vinny Curry, will get time. He might start, he might not. Any pressure that came along with going 14th overall, Barnett said, he doesn’t feel. But an internal force drives him.

“I have very high expectations for myself,” Barnett said. “And that's every year I go into a football season. I'm the biggest critic of myself.”

To get out on the field a few days early was good for Barnett, he said. After spending the time off over the last few weeks at home in Tennessee and working out with former All-Pro end Chuck Smith and Atlanta, he relished the opportunity. Given the limited numbers, Barnett lined up on both the right and left sides of the ball. He said he feels comfortable on either side. It was the not the game action he’s been anxious for, and it didn’t feel “real” without all the veterans, but it was a start.

The vets are on their way, though. The first full-team practice is Thursday, and with that will come the more polished Graham, Curry and Long. That’s three more sets of eyes to critique him, and three more sets of skills for him to watch; Barnett said observing their methods will help him get “mental reps.” The competition won’t hurt either.

The transition appears to be smooth so far. Barnett said he’s had to “unlearn” some of what he did in college, replacing it with a new set of muscle memory. The pace Monday was faster than during OTAs, but Barnett acknowledged that there are no days off in a league where everyone on the field is more capable. You can’t “slack mentally.”

"Coming in today, my coaches said, 'Just play, go, you can make mistakes, and if you do we'll correct them,'" Barnett said. "I didn't feel like there were many mistakes, but I still got some technique things … Things I need to do better."

All of it is new — the techniques, the coaches, the team and the city. Still, familiarity remains.

“It feels like I'm a freshman again, but I'm a rookie,” Barnett said. “I gotta come in and work hard and prove to my teammates that it's important to me and show the coaches they can trust me if they put me on the field.”

Eagles sign Canadian rugby star Adam Zaruba to be tight end

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AP Images

Eagles sign Canadian rugby star Adam Zaruba to be tight end

The Eagles didn't just look north of the border for their newest player. They looked to a completely different sport. 

On Monday afternoon, the Birds signed undrafted free agent and Canadian rugby star Adam Zaruba to a three-year contract, although the length of the contract is standard. 

Zaruba, a 26-year-old Vancouver native, had a tryout before being signed, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson confirmed earlier on Monday. 

Listed at 6-5, 265 pounds, Zaruba is the Eagles' biggest tight end, even bigger than Brent Celek (6-4, 255). While the Eagles have three tight end spots locked up — Celek, Zach Ertz and Trey Burton — Zaruba will likely need to shine on offense and as a special teamer if he has any chance to make the team. 

While this isn't Zaruba's first time playing football, it is his first time playing football in a while. His last competitive football game came in high school, according to TheProvince

Zaruba redshirted as a football player in his freshman year at college and then never played after that, becoming a full-time member of the Canadian national rugby team by 2014. 

He's apparently made a name for himself in the rugby world. Here are some highlights, including an impressive one-handed grab: 

It likely won't be an easy transition from rugby to American football, but the Eagles were probably impressed by Zaruba's athleticism. On June 29, he posted a video to his Instagram account claiming he ran a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash while weighting 260 pounds. To put that into perspective, that time would have ranked second among all tight end competitors at this year's combine and would have been faster than the time put up by 19th overall pick O.J. Howard. 

Zaruba isn't the first rugby player to attempt the conversion to the NFL. The most famous example is Patriots' special teamer Nate Ebner. The U.S. rugby player has played for the Patriots since 2012 and was a second-team All-Pro in 2016. 

After signing Zaruba, the Eagles' roster is full at 90 men.