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. 

Doug Pederson Notes: Eagles' replacements on DL, West Coast, upcoming draft

Doug Pederson Notes: Eagles' replacements on DL, West Coast, upcoming draft

PHOENIX -- Doug Pederson, wearing a light blue golf shirt, walked up to the 10-seat round table full of Philadelphia reporters with a smile. 

He slowly sat down and waited. The breakfast and hour-long media session at the league's annual meetings was scheduled to begin at 8:15 a.m. at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel and he arrived at 8:13 and sat down at 8:14. 

He took a peak at the notebook belonging to the reporter closest to him to see the word "Mixon" scribbled in pencil. Eventually, another reporter lobbed in a question about Alshon Jeffery, but Pederson wasn't ready yet.  

The Eagles' head coach, who hadn't spoken publicly since the last day of the Eagles' 2016 season, looked down at his watch with a smile; it still said 8:14. 

But eventually, that minute hand moved and the hour-long session began. Pederson, entrapped by reporters and fresh fruit, answered around 63 questions, ranging in topics from Carson Wentz, to the team's free agent pickups and this year's draft. 

We already got into the looming competition at left guard, Pederson's view on the new free agents and his thoughts on Wentz's offseason, but there was plenty more during the session. 

Let's clean out the notebook: 

The Replacements
This offseason, the Eagles lost two of their four starters on the defensive line. Bennie Logan left for Andy Reid and the Chiefs during free agency, and the Eagles cut Connor Barwin in a cap-saving move before Barwin latched on with the Los Angeles Rams. 

For a team that entered last season thinking its defensive line was its strength, losing two starters isn't easy.

On Wednesday morning, Pederson was asked about the two guys -- at least before the draft -- who appear to be their replacements. 

The obvious replacement for Barwin is Vinny Curry, who signed a $46.25 million deal last offseason and didn't live up to the contract during the 2016 season. Curry was pegged as a starter during the spring, but Brandon Graham simply outperformed him and earned a starting role, becoming the team's best pass-rusher last year. 

Curry, meanwhile, managed just 2.5 sacks while playing just 43 percent of the team's defensive snaps. 

The Eagles simply need more out of him in 2017. 

"I love Vinny," Pederson said. "He's a tremendous leader. He’s good for our football team. We're excited to have him. With any player we have, though -- we're talking about Carson having a big year this year, and all of the guys. But Vinny’s a guy that’s going to come in and do what you ask him to do and compete. I think if you asked him, that’s probably his focus, is to come in and be that guy, be the guy that sort of takes that next step. You want to see steps being made, that they're performing at a high level. From that standpoint, expect him to come in ready to go in April."

As for Logan's vacated position, Beau Allen seems like the likely candidate to replace him. In fact, the Eagles' previous work on a contract extension for the former seventh-round pick signaled the end of Logan in Philly. 

Allen ended up starting three games in Logan's absence last year and ultimately played 28 percent of the team's defensive snaps, while Logan played 46 percent. Pederson made sure to mention that DC Jim Schwartz utilizes an eight-man rotation on the line, but Allen will need to be a big part of that. 

"Obviously, with free agency and Bennie not being here, yeah it gives him an opportunity to step in there and really show what he can do, if he can be the guy and compete and handle that load," he said. 

Kendricks still around? 
As of Thursday morning, Mychal Kendricks was still on the Eagles' roster. It just seems unlikely that's going to be the case in a few months. The team has actively been trying to trade Kendricks and he might bring in a slight return because of his age and untapped potential. 

Pederson, for his part, said he expects Kendricks on the roster to start the season. 

"For sure," he said. "Mychal's a big part of the team and I expect him there."

Until he isn't. 

A week out West? 
The 2017 NFL schedule hasn't yet been released -- that's likely to come in late April -- but we already know the Eagles' home and road opponents. And three of their road games happen way out west -- twice in Los Angeles against the Rams and Chargers and once in Seattle against the Seahawks. 

Because cross-country travel can be a pain, Pederson said the team has requested to have two of its West Coast games in back-to-back weeks so the team could stay out there and cut down on travel. 

"Yeah, looking at the schedule, one of the proposals was to try to stay out on the West Coast twice, or for two games," he said. "So we'll see next month when it comes out if we get it."

Oh yeah ... Mixon 
It didn't take long in the media session to get back to the word scribbled in that reporter's notebook. 

Joe Mixon, the Oklahoma running back, has been a hot topic around the NFL not just for his play on the field but because of a huge "red flag" that comes in the form of a video showing Mixon punching a woman and breaking her jaw. 

A team will draft Mixon in April and it will most likely be in a high round -- he's too talented to be completely written off. And, from a football standpoint, he would make sense for the Eagles. 

"As a player, I've watched him a little bit this offseason, and you know, talented player, very explosive," said Pederson, when asked to simply evaluate Mixon as a player. "He has good hands out of the backfield. You put him in there with a lot of these backs that are coming out. Dynamic, exciting back to watch."

But the evaluation of Mixon can't end there. A decision to bring in a player like Mixon would need to come from the top. In this case, it would have to be decided by owner Jeffrey Lurie, who was also asked for his thoughts this week (see story)

So how does Pederson weigh talent against character concerns? 

"It's a fine line. It's a fine line," he said. "And it's tough. It's tough, because again, you're looking for guys that can fit into your system, and you're always looking to add talent to your roster, but at the same time you have to make sure you're doing your homework on these players, again, whether it's free agency or the draft that they're the right fit for you."

Need for speed
The Eagles improved at the wideout position this offseason by signing Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, but those contracts shouldn't stop the team from taking a receiver high in the draft if it wants. 

One of those guys is a pretty intriguing prospect: John Ross. Ross is the fastest player ever at the combine. He ran a 4.22 earlier this month and isn't just a speed guy. He's shifty and extremely talented. 

While Ross has some medical red flags, Pederson said he isn't concerned about Ross' injury history. It sure seems like the speedy Washington wideout could be a possibility at 14. 

"Well, a guy like that, he's dynamic, has good speed, elusive, quick, short-area quickness is the things you see on film with him and on tape," Pederson said. 

"He's a guy, I think, wherever he ends up, could potentially be a difference maker because of the speed and that elusive quickness with the ball in his hand."

Sorry, old school guys
It doesn't look like Pederson wants to use a roster spot on a fullback. 

While he came up in a traditional West Coast system that used the dying position, last year Pederson elected to use offensive and defensive linemen and tight ends in that lead blocker spot. 

That doesn't look like it's going to change in 2017. 

"The game has changed. If you're not adjusting to the times, those positions can sometimes be filled by other role players. That's something that we'll look at, that I'll look at. ... You're seeing the game a lot more in the shotgun, the backs are offset. Pistol formation. I might be leaning toward using that position a little bit more differently."

With future tethered to Carson Wentz, Doug Pederson not in complete control of QB

With future tethered to Carson Wentz, Doug Pederson not in complete control of QB

PHOENIX -- During his hour-long media session at the NFC coaches breakfast on Wednesday morning in Arizona, Doug Pederson was asked a simple question. 

Where is Carson Wentz right now? 

"I don't know where he is right now," Pederson said, surrounded by a pack of both national and local reporters. 

Pederson was joking. The question from a national reporter wasn't about Wentz's location, but rather about where the young quarterback is in terms of development and the head coach had some fun. 

But Pederson's answer seemed fitting. Because of league rules, coaches have to be hands-off with their players until April 17. That has to be difficult for Pederson, whose success is so greatly connected with the progress of his young star quarterback. 

"It's always the head coach and the quarterback, right? At this level?" Pederson said. "So I think that answers it. The ... success of Carson, then we all have success."

That seems to be pretty true. For now, though, Pederson simply doesn't have any control over Wentz, who has worked with private quarterback guru Adam Dedeaux this offseason. 

While Pederson didn't come out and say it on Wednesday, it would be understandable if he wasn't too thrilled about the idea of Wentz's working with a private quarterback guru on mechanics. Coaches normally like to be in control of everything -- in this case, Pederson is completely powerless. 

What changes does he expect to see in Wentz's mechanics upon his return to the NovaCare Complex in April? 

"Probably not much really," he said. "It'll be interesting when we finally get him in here to talk to him and just see how he felt about that. We just can't wait to get our hands on him, too, to begin and continue to work."

Pederson has not spoken to Dedeaux and has "no idea" about what Dedeaux and Wentz have worked on. 

When asked if he specifically told Wentz that he needed help with his mechanics, Pederson said he did not, but said he encourages all his players to develop their talent, "and if they seek out help, then they seek out help." 

Is Pederson concerned that this outside instruction could undo some of the teachings from the Eagles

"I'm not concerned with that at all," Pederson said. "I know Carson. I know his confidence, his makeup. He's got a lot of confidence in Coach (John) DeFilippo and Frank (Reich), so I'm not concerned about that."

Either way, this offseason will be much different than the last for Wentz. This time last year, the quarterback was finished with the combine and his pro day and was eagerly waiting to find out which team would draft him. The Eagles didn't even have the No. 2 pick by this point in the offseason. 

This year, Wentz is not just on the team, but is a starting franchise quarterback and the face of the entire organization. He's the focal point of everything the team now does in an effort to build around him for the future. 

"So now for him, just to be able to exhale, catch his breath and come into this offseason, knowing that he's the starter, not having to guess if he's going to be the starter is big for him," Pederson said. "It's part of his maturity, it's part of his growth at that position. We definitely want to see incremental progress. I mean, it's not going to be an overnight change, obviously. But ... each day we've got to make sure that we're getting him ready to go for Day 1, for opening day. And I know he's excited to get back, all the guys are excited to get back."

The Eagles' offseason program will begin on April 17, the first day allowed for teams with returning head coaches. At that time, Pederson will finally be able to talk to Wentz and discover what he's been up to for three and a half months. 

Until then, the head coach won't know where he is.