Howie Roseman: 'Doesn't serve us any purpose' to say if Joe Mixon is on our draft board

Howie Roseman: 'Doesn't serve us any purpose' to say if Joe Mixon is on our draft board

There was an interesting exchange about halfway through Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas' pre-draft media session Thursday morning.
 
Well after both had already been asked about how teams evaluate draft prospects with character concerns, Douglas was asked about Joe Mixon, taking the off-the-field concerns out of the picture.
 
Douglas, who doesn't ever seem to be very boisterous, lowered his tone to an almost whisper while talking about the prospect, who once punched a woman in the face. 
 
"A lot of people feel that he is one of the top backs in this draft, so if you take character out of the equation, physically, a very gifted player," Douglas said. "But … most teams aren't doing that."
 
That's when Roseman, the more seasoned of the two in dealing with the media, interjected with lavish praise for Mixon as a football player.
 
"Yeah, I think you talk about the things you look for in a three-down back, there's not much he can't do," Roseman said. "He's incredible with the ball in his hands, you can split him out, he's got really good hands, he can pass protect, he can make people miss. He's an extremely talented guy. But everyone we talk about, the total package comes into the equation."
 
So what does that brief exchange mean?
 
Well, we hear plenty of talk about "smokescreens" around this time of year and a press conference exactly a week before the start of the draft is a perfect example. It would be foolish to take everything the duo said Thursday on its face. After all, they certainly don't want to telegraph their thoughts to the rest of the league.

But how do we read into this exchange? One point of view is this: Roseman simply wants to continue to the conversation about Mixon's being a possibility for the Eagles. The other: Roseman wants to prepare folks for the possibility of Mixon's becoming an Eagle.
 
Both thought processes have some merit and, sorry to disappoint, there's no correct answer.
 
If you believe draft pundits, Mixon, it seems, will be drafted sometime in the second round next Friday. The Eagles hold the 11th pick in the second round (43rd overall).
 
For what it's worth (not a lot), Roseman was asked directly if Mixon is still on the Eagles' board.
 
"It doesn't serve us any purpose to talk about particular guys and whether they're on our board or not," he answered. 
 
The Eagles have said over and over that they judge each player on an individual basis. They don't have non-starters for things like domestic abuse that would take a player off their board at the onset. Some teams do. Instead, the Eagles choose to do their own research, getting to know the player and weighing the positives and negatives.
 
The most obvious example of the Eagles' bringing in a player despite character concerns came in 2009 when the team signed Mike Vick.
 
"I think Mike, where he was and where we were was unique," Roseman said. "And Mike had a tremendous support system, which is important to all these players we're talking about. Who's their support system? Who are they going to, to ask advice? When you met Mike and you saw how Mike dealt with people, he had an amazing ability to connect with people, not only on the field and off the field. He could tell his story and speak about his story and try to help others. I think that was a lot of the parts that attracted us to Mike, how much together he was and had learned from his past mistakes."
 
In addition to the situations with the two individuals -- Vick and Mixon -- being very different, there are also several differences between the state of the organization.
 
Back in 2009, the Eagles had an established head coach in Andy Reid and an established group of leaders, including a quarterback. The team had also made it to a conference championship the year before.
 
While Roseman praised the leadership of Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz, they're still in their second years and the team is coming off a 7-9 season.
 
"Each case, you have to judge individually," Roseman said. "You gotta do your research, you gotta go through the whole process. We talked about having an unbelievable security team led by Dom (DiSandro). And so we get all the information and we make the decision."

'Highly respected' Zach Ertz important piece of Eagles' offense

'Highly respected' Zach Ertz important piece of Eagles' offense

It doesn't take long in any conversation about Zach Ertz in Philadelphia before the words "breakout season" are tossed around.
 
Again.
 
But while a good portion of Eagles fans have been impatiently waiting for Ertz to "break out," the 2013 draft pick has quietly put together an extremely impressive start to his career.
 
In four seasons, Ertz has caught 247 passes for 2,840 yards and 13 touchdowns. He's one of just seven tight ends in NFL history to put up those numbers in the first four seasons of a career. The other six: Jimmy Graham, Antonio Gates, Jeremy Shockey, Tony Gonzalez, Kellen Winslow and Mike Ditka.
 
Not bad company.
 
But for whatever reason, Ertz hasn't become a real fan favorite. Fans have questioned his talent, his play-making ability and even his toughness.
 
Why the indifference?
 
"I don't know," tight ends coach Justin Peele said. "I love coaching him. I think he's good for this team. Every day he comes to work with the right attitude, trying to get better. He's had some success. I don't know. He's a pleasure to coach and I know he's very highly respected in this organization."
 
Ertz, 26, admitted this spring that the constant criticism from fans used to bother him when he was younger. But now entering his fifth season with the Eagles, he's gotten used to it.
 
Does Ertz think he's underrated or overrated?
 
"Whatever people think, people think," Ertz said earlier this spring on Quick Slants on CSN. "I'm not going to get caught up in people's opinions. It's the guys in this building, their opinions of me. I'm really happy with how I progressed this spring and I think I'm setting the stage for a good season."
 
The one thing Ertz admitted he needs to improve is his production in the end zone. He has just 13 touchdown catches in four years and has never had more than four in a season.
 
To put that in perspective, only two players over the last four years — Matt Forte and Jarvis Landry — have had more catches with 13 or fewer touchdowns. 
 
"That falls on me to go out there every Sunday to make plays," Ertz said. "Show I can do it in the spring and in the summer leading into the season and I'm working really hard at it."
 
The height of Ertz criticism came during a 32-14 Week 13 loss at Cincinnati last season. There was an infamous play where Carson Wentz went scrambling and Ertz failed to block a charging Vontaze Burfict, who was in pursuit. The play actually looked like Ertz got out of the way.
 
It was a bad look.
 
And Ertz knew it. He heard the criticism loudly and went out the next week and had a tough, physical game. But the damage was done. A lot of the fanbase turned on him.
 
"One play is not going to define him," Peele said. "The kid played through injury, he came back quick off of surgery a few years ago. He practices every day. This team is important to him. The game of football is important to him."
 
One way Ertz can win back Eagles fans this year is by having a big season. And that isn't out of the realm of possibility for one big reason. He's entering Year 2 with Wentz.
 
Since he entered the league in 2013, he's played with a new quarterback every season. So for this upcoming year, he's worked hard to build a rapport with Wentz and hopes the two of them can build something (see story).
 
How big of a season can Ertz have in 2017?
 
"It just really depends on the health," Peele said. "He's really talented. He can do a lot of things. He can help this offense in a lot of ways. I'm looking forward to it. He's doing well right now."

Seumalo, Vaitai comfortable heading into Year 2 after busy rookie seasons

Seumalo, Vaitai comfortable heading into Year 2 after busy rookie seasons

Had everything gone to plan in 2016, Isaac Seumalo and Halapoulivaati Vaitai would have spent their rookie seasons watching from the sideline. 

Everything didn't go to plan. 

Allen Barbre had a hamstring injury, Lane Johnson was suspended for 10 games and Brandon Brooks lost two games as he dealt with anxiety issues. 

As a result, Seumalo and Vaitai, third- and fifth-round draft picks, respectively, aren't just one year into their NFL careers. They've also played significant NFL snaps. 

And this year, they'll arrive at training camp as seasoned veterans, not green rookies. So which has had the greater impact: the year or playing time? 

"It’s both," head coach Doug Pederson said. "It's a combination of both. But the biggest thing is the actual playing time last year has really put them in good position this year."

Vaitai ended up playing in seven games with six starts. He played a total of 423 snaps as a rookie and filled in for Johnson until he went down with a knee injury. After a rough start — really rough — Vaitai settled in and showed signs that he could possibly be the Eagles' right tackle of the future. 

When asked about the difference in Vaitai from last year to this year, offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland laughed before answering. 

"Night and day, apples and oranges," Stoutland said. "Just his understanding of the position, his balance, his body control, the way he uses his hands. This is a lot faster game than college."

Vaitai found out about the speed of the game first-hand in Week 6 last year. Thanks to Johnson's suspension, Vaitai started at right tackle and didn't have a bad game. He had a horrible game. 

He didn't need to think very long when he was asked what his "welcome to the NFL" moment was. 

"It was that game," he said. "Because in camp I'm going with the threes and twos. I was still a rookie, but when I got thrown into the fire, I learned real quick that if you're not doing great, then you're out. I didn't want to be a disappointment to my family and be that guy who gets drafted and then is out the next year."

Seumalo ended up playing in nine games with four starts and a total of 335 snaps. He played four positions along the offensive line; the only one he didn't play was his most natural spot at center. 

"It's not just the year, it's the playing experience," Stoutland said. "He's played in nine games I think he started four of those games. ... He played a lot of football in his first year. Just that experience in playing those positions and understanding the angles we need to take. He's a very intelligent player. I love coaching players of his magnitude. They have talent, they're smart. Really all you do is coach him one time on something and he pretty much has it."

Seumalo didn't get to play at center last year because veteran Jason Kelce didn't miss any of the 1,133 snaps in 2016. Kelce is still on the team, but it seems like the Eagles are grooming Seumalo to eventually take over. Even this spring, the second-year lineman has been taking some first-team reps at center. 

That's actually how Seumalo thinks he got better. By learning the center position, he gained a better grasp of the offense. That, combined with a year under his belt and significant playing time, have him feeling much more confident heading into Year 2.

"Training camp was tough and a grind and the season is just long," Seumalo said. "Now, I know what to expect a little bit more."