Mosher's Mailbag: Vets with shaky job security


Mosher's Mailbag: Vets with shaky job security

In this edition of “Mosher’s Mailbag,” I answer a question about veterans with shaky job security.

Q. What veteran doesn't make the final roster?

-- Mike (@MikeLusch)

A. Good question, because several high-priced veterans on the team should be looking over their shoulders this camp.

Before I answer, let’s go through some notable veterans whose jobs are potentially on the line and examine why each could get pushed out the door:

Right guard Todd Herremans: Herremans picked up his play after a slow start last year, but he turns 32 this season (his 10th) and will make $3.2 million. Plus, the Eagles just signed backup Allen Barbre to a three-year extension.

Outside linebacker Trent Cole: He turns 32 in October and had just eight sacks last year after going without one for the first eight weeks. The Eagles used their first-round pick on outside linebacker Marcus Smith.

Tight end Brent Celek: He turns 29 after the season and had his role changed in Chip Kelly’s offense, catching just 32 passes last year, his fewest since his second season. Kelly drafted Zach Ertz with a high second-round pick last year. Ertz caught 36 passes for 469 yards last year and is expected to have an increased role this season.

Left cornerback Bradley Fletcher: He belonged to a pass defense that ranked as the NFL’s worst last year. The Eagles signed free-agent corner Nolan Carroll to push him for the starting job.

Outside linebacker Brandon Graham: Like Cole, Graham is more of a 4-3 D-end than 3-4 ’backer. He’s also in the last year of his rookie deal and stands to make $1.25 million, a high salary for a backup.

Most of these veterans are very likely headed for their final season in an Eagles uniform. It’s possible that one or more won’t even see this season. From here, I can narrow down the most likely guy to get his walking papers.

I can’t see the Eagles getting rid of Herremans, especially with Lane Johnson suspended for the first four games of the season. Herremans, who played two years of right tackle before moving back to guard last year, could play tackle until Johnson’s suspension is over.

Cole’s days are numbered, but the Eagles don’t seem ready to hand the starting job over to Smith, who worked mainly on the third team during spring camps. Cutting Cole would save $5 million in base salary in 2014, but $4.8 million of his pro-rated signing bonus remains on the books, so they might as well hang onto him for one more year.

Celek has turned himself into an above-average blocker and I have a hunch Kelly wants to feature more two-tight end formations with Celek and Ertz until rookie wideout Jordan Matthews is ready to see an uptick in playing time. I highly doubt the Eagles are ready to cut ties.

That leaves Graham and Fletcher, both of whom who are in jeopardy of not making the team because of salary and competition. Graham is an expensive reserve at $1.2 million and the Eagles have Smith, Bryan Braman and Travis Long looking to make the team. If Fletcher loses his job to Carroll, he’s probably not going to be a backup making $3.275 million, especially if fourth-round pick Jaylen Watkins can do the job.

At this moment, Graham and Fletcher are the two veterans with the loosest grip on a roster spot. But, hey, stranger things have happened.

Send questions for the next Mosher’s Mailbag to or on Twitter (@GeoffMosherCSN).

Eagles bring back Taylor Hart after stint with Chip Kelly

Eagles bring back Taylor Hart after stint with Chip Kelly

The Eagles have brought back a familiar face to take Ron Brooks' roster spot.

On Monday, the team claimed defensive tackle Taylor Hart off waivers from San Francisco. Hart was just waived on Saturday by the 49ers, who claimed him after the Eagles waived him at final cuts.

So, Hart is coming back to Philly after a stint with Chip Kelly in San Francisco.

Hart, 25, played in one game for the 49ers this year. The Eagles are light at defensive tackle thanks to Bennie Logan's groin injury. While head coach Doug Pederson on Monday said Logan was getting better, the Eagles still brought in more depth by claiming Hart.

While still with the Eagles, Kelly had a hand in drafting Hart, an Oregon product, in the fifth round of 2014.

Hart worked hard this offseason to learn how to play in Jim Schwartz's aggressive 4-3 defense, which is very unlike the ones he had played in during college and in the NFL.

Brooks has been placed on IR after rupturing a quad tendon during Sunday's game against the Vikings. He'll have surgery this week.

In addition to adding Hart to the active roster, the Eagles also added cornerback Aaron Grymes to their practice squad.

Grymes, 25, was having an impressive training camp and preseason with the Eagles before injuring his right shoulder. He was waived shortly after that.

After coming out of the University of Idaho in 2013, Grymes didn't make an NFL team so he went to Canada. He ended up as a starter and All-Star on the Edmonton Eskimos and won a Grey Cup in 2015.

To make room for Grymes, the Eagles cut OL Matt Rotheram from the practice squad.

Vikings learn why Eagles are among NFL's best in red zone

Vikings learn why Eagles are among NFL's best in red zone

Three times they drove inside the 20, three times they were denied.

The Vikings opened Sunday's game against the Eagles at the Linc by driving to the 6-yard line and the 17-yard line in the first quarter and then added another drive to the 6-yard line in the fourth quarter.

Each time, the Eagles' defense stopped them.

The Vikings got the ball at the 2-yard line 5½ minutes into the game after Andrew Sendejo's interception and 16-yard return. But two plays later, Rodney McLeod picked off Sam Bradford in the end zone, ending that threat.

On the Vikings' next drive, after Carson Wentz's fumble and Anthony Barr's recovery, the Vikings had a 1st-and-10 on the Eagles' 17. But on the very next play, Connor Barwin stripped Bradford and Malcolm Jenkins recovered.

Then early in the fourth quarter, the Vikings had a 1st-and-Goal on the Eagles' 15, but the Eagles stopped the Vikings on downs, with Jordan Hicks stuffing fullback Zach Line on 3rd-and-1 from the 6 and Beau Allen stuffing Matt Asiata on 4th-and-1.

Three red-zone drives. Zero points.

"It's huge, man," McLeod said. "The past few weeks we've been giving up touchdowns, (which is) uncharacteristic of us. So we just locked in and we just played sound defense. And fundamentals and technique showed up huge. 

"The defensive line did a great job and guys in the back end covered up and we were able to make a lot of plays because of that."

Sunday marked the first time in 12 years the Eagles have held an opponent scoreless on three separate red-zone drives.

On Sept. 12, 2004 — opening day of the Super Bowl season — the Eagles beat the Giants 31-17 at the Linc, and the Giants had three late drives inside the 20 that resulted in no points:

• On a 3rd-and-Goal from the Eagles' 1-yard line late in the third quarter, quarterback Kurt Warner fumbled on an aborted play and Jevon Kearse recovered at the 4-yard-line;

• On a 4th-and-Goal from the Eagles' 5-yard line early in the fourth quarter, Warner threw incomplete to Ike Hillliard with Ike Reese in coverage;

• And at the end of the game, relief quarterback Eli Manning, playing in his first NFL game, was sacked by Jerome McDougle — the first of his three career sacks — at the Eagles' 19-yard line.

The Vikings did score in the red zone Sunday at the end of the game, but the bottom line is the Eagles allowed only seven of a possible 28 red-zone points in a game they won by 11.

"It's huge, it is huge," head coach Doug Pederson said. "Our defense — you look at Minnesota, interception, a fumble on downs, they had a touchdown late in the game. Our defense playing as well as they did down there and stopping them — again, it does start up front, and the pressure on the quarterback.

"I'll tell you what, it was fun to watch our defense (against the Vikings). That's the defense that we expect every week going forward."

The Eagles have faced 20 red-zone drives this year and allowed nine touchdowns and four field goals.

That's 3.75 points per possession, which is second-best in the NFL behind only the Seahawks (3.69 points per possession).

They're No. 1 in red-zone scoring efficiency, allowing those 13 scores on 20 drives (65 percent), and they're No. 5 in TDs allowed with nine on 20 drives (45 percent).

"First thing is stopping the run and we did a good job of that," Malcolm Jenkins said. "And then once you stop the run, you pack the middle of the field and you've got to make them throw outside and if they make a mistake you've got to come up with a turnover.

"There was the one good pressure we stopped them running it, the one I batted the ball up in the air and Rodney comes up with the pick, and the other one we get a fumble recovery. Those are all big. Those plays, you can't scheme them up, you've just got to go down there and make something happen."

The Eagles are allowing 2.4 yards per pass play in the red zone, which is sixth-best in the league this year, and they're allowing 1.0 yards per rushing play, which is — by far — best in the NFL.

Overall, they're allowing 1.81 yards per play inside the 20, second-best in the league behind the Panthers (1.77). The league average is 3.0.

There's no magic to it.

"It's just bowing up," Hicks said. "It's toughness down there. We knew they like to run the ball and we shut them down. Make them one-dimensional and force them to pass. When they did run it, we stopped them.

"Just shows the character of this defense and the toughness and mindset of this defense as well."