Eagles' pass-rushing need may not be addressed

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Eagles' pass-rushing need may not be addressed

You know the Eagles need pass rushers. I know the Eagles need pass rushers. Howie Roseman and Chip Kelly certainly know the Eagles need pass rushers.
 
Only problem is, good ones are really hard to find.
 
Going into the offseason, adding a pass rusher or two was at the top of everybody’s list of Eagles needs. They didn’t sign one in free agency, because they just didn’t feel there was good value there, and there’s a sobering chance they won’t draft one, at least not in the early rounds.
 
Which leaves them … with the same guys as last year?
 
“You’re always looking to add pass rushers,” Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said. “There’s no doubt about it.
 
“But at the same time, you don’t want to sign or draft someone that you don’t think is a good player and that you don’t think is worth the resource that you put out there -- whether it’s a pick or money. Those are hard guys to find.”
 
The top 3-4 pass-rushing outside linebackers in this year’s draft are Khalil Mack from Buffalo and Anthony Barr from UCLA, who are both expected to be long gone by the time the Eagles pick at No. 22.
 
Ryan Shazier of Ohio State and Kyle Van Noy of BYU are potential late first-round picks the Eagles could target, as is Missouri’s Kony Ealy, a 4-3 defensive end who should be able to convert to 3-4 linebacker in the NFL.
 
But Roseman indicated Thursday that there’s a good chance the Eagles will simply stick with what they have: veteran Trent Cole, who goes into his second year as a 3-4 linebacker after nearly a decade playing 4-3 defensive end; Connor Barwin, who once had an 11 1/2-sack season with the Texans; one-time first-round pick Brandon Graham; and whoever else they can scrounge up.
 
“When you look at every draft, we’ll be sitting here saying the pass rushers are going to go early,” Roseman said. “That’s normally what happens. You don’t sit in the third and fourth round and go, ‘Man, I can’t believe that pass rusher is still on the board.’ Because it’s hard to find. Those are guys that every team is looking for [to find] ways to get pressure on the quarterback.
 
“Obviously, we just saw the Seahawks. That was one of their claims of fame in the season, their ability to get pressure and have multiple pass rushers.”
 
The Eagles recorded just 37 sacks last year, 20th in the NFL. More than half (19) came in four games. They had seven games with one or no sacks and five more with three or fewer.
 
So the obvious reaction to that is to stockpile pass rushers. But Roseman said one more year in Billy Davis’s defense could be a smarter solution than just adding new players.
 
Cole had no sacks through eight games a year ago as he transitioned to a new position, but he recorded eight over the last eight games of the season, and during that stretch only four players in the entire NFL -- none of them linebackers -- had more sacks than Cole.
 
“Trent Cole was a 4-3 defensive end who came in his first year and had eight sacks and most of them were in the second half of the season when everyone would say, ‘Well maybe he’s gonna start to wear down,’” Roseman said.
 
“When you look at his production over the last couple of years vs. the better pass-rushers in the NFL, it’s pretty good. I don’t think he gets enough credit for his transition into this defense and the production he had.
 
“And then Brandon Graham has shown he can play in a 4-3 or a 3-4. We’re always gonna be looking for those guys. Obviously we brought in Connor, who we think is a really good fit. And we have some young guys that are here in the offseason that we’re excited to see, that we almost feel like are extra draft picks.”
 
At the top of that list is Travis Long, a 6-foot-4, 250-pounder who the Eagles signed as an undrafted free agent just before training camp. Long had 20½ sacks at Washington State, including 9½ as a senior.
 
“He’s one of the guys that when we came back after the June/July break, and we looked at our list of guys still [available], we said, ‘Man, he’s not on a team,’” Roseman said. “And we had him work out and he did a tremendous job and he’s bulked up this offseason.
 
“We had a chance before the games to watch him every week get better in his drops, he’s shown the ability to rush the passer in the Pac-12.”
 
So would the Eagles move forward with Cole, Barwin, Graham and Long and no new outside linebackers?
 
It’s not that far-fetched.
 
“It’s something we’re going to constantly be looking at,” Roseman said. “But we also think we have some guys in the building who can do the job.”

NFL Notes: Dolphins' Dion Jordan reinstated by NFL after sitting out 2015

NFL Notes: Dolphins' Dion Jordan reinstated by NFL after sitting out 2015

DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan has been reinstated by the NFL after sitting out last season for his latest violation of the league's substance abuse policy.

Jordan applied to the league in May for reinstatement, and he was cleared to return Friday as the Dolphins held their first training camp practice.

The overall No. 3 selection in the 2013 draft out of Oregon, Jordan has contributed little so far in his career. He's coming back from his second suspension under the NFL substance abuse policy.

Jordan has played in only 26 games with one start, totaling 46 tackles and three sacks. The Miami group that drafted Jordan is gone, and he returns to a new coaching staff led by head coach Adam Gase.

JAGUARS: Lee sidelined with hamstring injury
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Oft-injured receiver Marqise Lee stayed healthy for one day in training camp.

The Jacksonville Jaguars held Lee out of practice Friday with a left hamstring injury, the latest setback for a third-year pro who can't seem to stay on the field.

Lee has missed significant time with ankle, hamstring and knee injuries. He practiced so little last summer that offensive coordinator Greg Olson said Lee was "like the albino tiger at the zoo. If you get there and you're lucky enough to get him to come out of the cave and see him, it's a good day."

Lee embraced the nickname, but had hoped to make it part of his past and not a pattern. Now, he's back on the sideline.

Running back T.J. Yeldon (right ankle) also was held out.

SAINTS: Nicks joins camp roster
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Former New York Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks has joined the New Orleans Saints at training camp.

Nicks, who practiced with New Orleans for the first time on Friday, is taking a spot on the 90-man preseason roster that opened up when the Saints placed Vincent Brown on injured reserve.

The 28-year-old Nicks, who posted 1,000-yard seasons in 2010 and 2011, has been far less productive since and likely will need to demonstrate the promise of a significant resurgence to make the regular season roster.

Last season, he played in only six games with the Giants, catching seven passes for 54 yards and no touchdowns.

Now he'll try to carve out a role on a New Orleans receiver corps led by Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead, Brandon Coleman and rookie Michael Thomas.

DOLPHINS: Team confident stadium renovations will be completed on time
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins say their $500 million stadium renovation will be completed as scheduled and in time for the team's final exhibition game Sept. 1.

Work continues 24 hours a day on upgrades that include a canopy. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said Friday the stadium will be ready for the preseason finale against the Tennessee Titans.

The Dolphins say the Miami Hurricanes will open their season at the stadium as scheduled Sept. 3 against Florida A&M.

Ross says the Dolphins' 2015 and 2016 seasons left an eight-month window for the renovation, which normally would have taken about 12 months.

He says there's no backup plan for a Dolphins game site if the stadium isn't ready on time.

Jason Peters: 'So long as I'm healthy, I'm going to be a dominant force'

Jason Peters: 'So long as I'm healthy, I'm going to be a dominant force'

Jason Peters long has been the foundation of the Eagles' offense, so much so its success seems to be tied to his play. At least, it's probably no coincidence the club's last two losing seasons -- 2012 and 2015 -- corresponded with injuries to the left tackle.

To the extent quad and back injuries hurt Peters' performance last year, or how much of his decline can be traced to the fact that he turned 34 in January, nobody can say for sure. Either way, there's plenty of skepticism as to whether he's still reliable, much less if he can return to his All-Pro form.

For what it's worth, Peters doesn't sound like he shares those concerns. He arrived at training camp feeling rejuvenated and believes he has some good years left.

"I feel like I have gas in the tank," said Peters following Thursday's first full-team practice. "Before I got hurt, I wasn't even getting beat. At the same time, we were 1 on 1 on every play. Those guys get paid too, so you're gonna win some, you're gonna lose some."

Peters described himself as being at 75 percent for much of last season, adding that he doesn't need any extra motivation or feel as though he has anything to prove.

"No, I'm in Philly," said Peters. "Y'all get on me every year. I've been here since '09, and I've had a chip on my shoulder ever since I [came into the league] in '04, so I just come to play. The fans deserve championships and division titles, so that's what I'm striving for."

The eight-time Pro Bowler used the Eagles' Week 17 finale against the New York Giants -- a game in which he kept veteran defensive end Robert Ayers (now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) at bay -- as evidence he can still play.

"I show them every year," Peters says of his critics. "I got banged up last year, and then we finished with a win against the Giants. If you put the tape on, Ayers was trying to beat me. He was a free agent and he's a good rusher.

"So as long as I'm healthy, I'm going to be a dominant force."

Strong words, but Peters has reasons to feel confident beyond recovering from injuries.

Last season, he showed up for camp at a reduced weight, a decision offensive linemen often make in an effort to prolong their careers. While it's worked for others, Peters now believes it wasn't the right move for him.

"I tapered down last year and I felt like it took away from some of my game a little bit. This year I put on about 10 to 12 (pounds) and I feel real good. I feel stronger and I'm ready to go," said Peters, adding that he's back back to his preferred playing weight of 345.

But perhaps the aspect Peters is most optimistic for in 2016 is the head coaching change to Doug Pederson and how that equates to a return to a familiar offensive system and approach.

Peters is incredibly versatile and could've played in any scheme, at least he could in his prime. Based on some of the other comments he made however, clearly he did not find Chip Kelly's methods to be ideal (see story). More specifically, he made no secret of his affinity for Pederson's mentor and long-time Eagles head coach Andy Reid.

"Just getting back into this, the ground and pound, the old Andy Reid offense, I'm excited," said Peters.

"I can adjust to any offense, you've seen that," Peters continued. "From (offensive line coaches) Howard Mudd to (Jeff Stoutland) to (Juan Castillo), they all teach different schemes and different techniques, and it really doesn't matter. I'm happy to have the Andy Reid era back, which is Doug, and I'm ready to go."

Pederson also plans to rest Peters during the season in an effort to keep the aging left tackle ready for gameday, which he admits "caught up to" him last season.

Despite his confidence level remaining high, Peters is realistic too and understands he can't play in the NFL forever. While he wouldn't go so far as to put an expiration date on his career, he knows at this point that any season could be his last.

"I'm year to year," Peters admitted. "I don't want to put a number on it. You can watch me out here, watch some of the younger guys, and you can be the judge."

Maybe that's why 2015 under Kelly was an especially tough year.

"It was frustrating," admitted Peters. "An older guy like me, I'm just trying to get that ring, and to keep losing like that, it was hurtful."

Beyond getting healthy, most of all Peters just sounds happy to put the drama of the past year behind him. And despite all of the concerns over what he has left, there's little doubt he still gives the Eagles to win on Sundays when he's in the lineup.

Eagles camp Day 5 observations: Rough day for the quarterbacks

Eagles camp Day 5 observations: Rough day for the quarterbacks

The Eagles were forced to practice inside the bubble for the second straight day, even though the rain subsided shortly after it began.

Still, with how sloppy the quarterbacks were indoors, it’s probably a good thing the team wasn’t outside. It might have been even worse.

This was the first real full-team practice of camp, but tomorrow morning will mark the first day in pads, followed by Sunday’s open practice at the Linc.

Here are some observations from Friday:

• Brandon Brooks (hamstring) and Ryan Mathews (ankle) were still out. In their places, Stefen Wisniewski and Darren Sproles took most of the first-team reps. Head coach Doug Pederson said Brooks and Mathews are day to day and he expects to have them back next week.

• The quarterbacks looked bad in 11-on-11s. All of them. Overthrows, underthrows, balls behind receivers – this morning’s practice really had it all. They all struggled.  

• Sam Bradford overthrew his receivers several times and opened up 11-on-11s with an underthrown ball that was picked off. He also threw the ball behind a few players.  

• Chase Daniel had one bad overthrow to Chris Givens that forced him out of bounds in 11-on-11s just about a minute after Bradford did the same thing to him. After the second one, Givens turned around and was visibly frustrated by the throws.

• Carson Wentz continues to struggle finding timing with some of the third-string receivers. No, many of these guys won’t make the team, but after a week of throwing to these guys, you’d figure they’d be on the same page a little more.

• One impressive play Wentz did make, though, came when he was forced up in the pocket. Clearly the most athletic quarterback on the roster, Wentz moved up and found tight end M.J. McFarland on the run. It was a big play because we know Wentz can take off and run, but here he had the presence of mind to keep his eyes downfield.

• It seemed like Jordan Matthews, Chris Givens and Nelson Agholor were the three receivers who were on the field most with the first team. But Josh Huff and Rueben Randle did get some first-team snaps. Agholor had a pretty good day and made a great diving catch during the individual portion of practice. And Huff got some work in the slot.  

• It wasn’t just the receivers who rotated with the first team on Friday. On defense, while Leodis McKelvin, Ron Brooks and Nolan Carroll got most of the reps with the ones, Eric Rowe and Jalen Mills got a couple too.

• And Rowe made the best of it. His “hiccups” this spring were well documented (see story), but on the first play of 11-on-11s, he made a nice leaping interception on an underthrown ball from Bradford. Earlier this week, he said he thinks he corrected his problems and is looking forward to proving himself when the pads come on.  

• The offense spent some time working on end-arounds. Matthews got one, Huff got another. They also played around with some fake end-arounds. Maybe they’ll never use them in a game, but they exist as a reminder that this playbook is significantly more in-depth than Chip Kelly’s.

• Many fans I’ve heard from just expect Cody Parkey to easily win the kicker job over Caleb Sturgis. Well, that’s not happening so far. I thought, at least in the practices we saw, Sturgis was much better than Parkey this spring. That has now continued into camp. Sturgis was perfect on Friday, while Parkey missed two makeable field goals. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Sturgis beats him out.

• On one play in 11-on-11s, it looked like Nigel Bradham screwed up his assignment, which left Zach Ertz wide open in the middle of the field. Ertz tripped over his feet, but it had the potential to be a touchdown play. Afterward, Malcolm Jenkins went over the play with Bradham on the field. That tells you how smart Jenkins is. Bradham has played in this defense before, but Jenkins is the one there to help him go over the play. Jenkins is a Pro Bowl caliber player, but means more to the team than his individual play.

• The orange linebacker donuts were back today. This time, they were paired with a giant ball. I don’t tire of watching these drills. I can’t think of any relevant reason to do so, but I’d like to see the linebackers dive through the donut one time.