New Eagles receiver Torrey Smith says he hasn't lost a step

New Eagles receiver Torrey Smith says he hasn't lost a step

New Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith is just as fast as ever. 

Just ask him. 

"Absolutely," Smith said before he broke into a smile at his Friday afternoon press conference at the NovaCare Complex. "You wanna race? We can go do it. 

"All jokes aside, I can still run. I haven't lost a step. I think because I was a part of an organization in Baltimore and we had a lot of success early that people think I'm super old. But I was really young when that was happening. I'm only 28. I just turned 28 in January. I take good care of my body. I'm ready to roll." 

The out-of-shape reporter who fired the question to Smith turned down the challenge, but it's pretty safe to say Smith would have smoked him. 

The real question is whether Smith will be able to smoke opposing cornerbacks in 2017. 

After all, that's what the Eagles desperately lacked last season. They had just six passes go for 40-plus yards. Since he entered the league in 2011, Smith has 25 receptions of 40-plus yards. Just six players have had more. Eagles de facto GM Howie Roseman was quick to point out that while Smith is a downfield threat, he's also 6-foot, 205 pounds. 

When he came out in the 2011 draft, Smith ran a 4.43 time in the 40-yard dash, the fourth-fastest time for a receiver that year. And he thinks he still has top-end speed six years later. 

Smith comes to the Eagles on a three-year deal that's reportedly structured in a way that makes it more like a one-year deal with two team options. It's not hard to figure out why that's the type of deal Smith needed to sign. 

After signing a huge five-year, $40 million deal to go to San Francisco just two years ago, Smith's production dropped dramatically and he was cut this offseason. Smith caught 33 passes for 663 yards and four touchdowns in 2015. But then in 2016, he caught just 20 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns, all career lows.

"There was a lot of reasons for it, but only one I can control, so I'll just say me," he said. "But I'll just tell you this: I haven't lost a step and I can still play. So don't be surprised."

While he tried to hide it some on Friday, the last two seasons were tough years for Smith. He had two head coaches and the 49ers didn't feature him in their offense. 

He admitted it was frustrating to have just 103 targets in his two seasons by the Bay. The fewest he ever had in a single season in Baltimore was 92. 

"I probably grew as a player due to those frustrations, experiencing those type of failures because I didn't do what I needed to do," he said. "And I didn't play the way I needed to play. And I take full responsibility for that but it helped me be better while I'm sitting here talking to you now. I'll be ready for whatever comes my way."

There were a few reasons Smith decided to come to Philadelphia. First, he's extremely familiar with vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas and assistant director of player personnel Andy Weidl. Both were in the Ravens' organization when Baltimore drafted Smith in the second round out of Maryland. 

Smith said that familiarity was a reason he came to the Eagles because he's confident the team is moving in the right direction. 

"Torrey's a player I've had my eye on ever since his Maryland days," Douglas said. "We drafted him in Baltimore in the second round. I hope the city knows they're getting a resilient person, a great teammate, a person that shows up in big games when it matters most, a guy that's definitely going to help this offense, especially with taking the top off defenses." 

The other two reasons Smith cited for coming to Philadelphia were that the Eagles really wanted him (they tried to trade for him during the 2016 season) and the chance to play with Carson Wentz. Smith said he's already texted with Wentz and had a chance to meet Jordan Matthews at the facility on Friday. 

When Smith left the facility on Thursday after striking a deal, he knew there was a chance the Eagles would sign Alshon Jeffery and was pretty excited when he heard the news. 

Smith is the oldest receiver on the Eagles' roster, so he's ready to assume the role of being a veteran leader for the relatively young group outside of Jeffery. 

"One thing from [Steve Smith and Anquan Boldin], you give everything you know knowledge-wise so that that person that you're competing with can take your spot," he said, "but you work hard so it doesn't happen." 

After all, Smith hasn't lost a step. Just ask him.  

Eagles should stay away from running backs in first round

Eagles should stay away from running backs in first round

Ezekiel Elliott was the fourth overall pick by the Cowboys in the 2016 NFL draft.

He went on to have a historic rookie season, leading the NFL in rushing behind the best offensive line in football.

But do you know who finished second in the league in rushing? That would be the Bears' Jordan Howard, another rookie, drafted in the fifth round. 

If you keep going down the list of the league's top rushers last season, nine out of the top 10 on the list were drafted after the first round. Only three backs in the top 10 were drafted in the first two rounds (Elliott, LeSean McCoy, Le'Veon Bell). 

Whether it's LSU's Leonard Fournette, Florida State's Dalvin Cook or Stanford's Christian McCaffrey, the Eagles should stay away from running backs in the first round.

We'll start with Fournette, considered by most to be the best running back in the class. He was also mocked to the Eagles in a trade-up scenario by Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke with the No. 5 overall pick. Burke is an excellent evaluator, but in this case, he's off the mark. Fournette's talent is real. His combination of size and speed is unmatched by any running back in the class and perhaps any running back in the NFL. He'll correctly be the first back off the board and go in the top 10. 

But would the Eagles give up a second-round pick to obtain Fournette? It's just hard to see as realistic. This team has too many holes and not enough draft picks to make a move like Burke suggests. Fournette looks like he'll be a special player, just not for the Eagles.

Then there's Cook, who seems to be the belle of the ball with Eagles fans. Watching the tape, it's undeniable: Cook is an extremely talented player. But evaluations aren't black and white. Cook has issues with injuries (multiple shoulder surgeries) and has had a couple issues off the field. 

He also tested poorly at the combine. In the biggest audition of his life, Cook's numbers didn't match what you saw on tape. That has to make you wonder if he was fully prepared for the combine. If the Eagles take Cook, there's no doubt he'll make their offense better. The biggest concern has to be his long-term success and the value you get taking him at 14 over another player at a more valuable position.

Lastly, there's McCaffrey. It's easy to see the fit here. McCaffrey is an explosive back who runs routes and has the ball skills of a receiver. He's also incredibly dangerous in the return game. Unlike Cook, McCaffrey tested off the charts in Indy. His strength (10 reps at 225) is the only real concern.

From a scheme perspective, McCaffrey is perfectly suited for Doug Pederson's offense. Pederson can use McCaffrey much like Andy Reid used Brian Westbrook over a decade ago. McCaffrey's struggles running between the tackles are a little overblown, but it still has to be a concern for a team that doesn't have a proven, primary back. 

This is also a strong running back class. Toledo's Kareem Hunt would fit nicely in this offense and should be available in the third round. Clemson's Wayne Gallman is a tough, versatile back that could be available in the third or fourth. There's also BYU's Jamaal Williams, Pitt's James Conner and Wyoming's Brian Hill, all of whom should be there in the middle rounds.

When you look at who else could be there at 14, it just doesn't make sense to draft a running back. If you're looking to give Carson Wentz more weapons, either Clemson's Mike Williams, Western Michigan's Corey Davis or Washington's John Ross should be there. Any of them could give Wentz a long-term receiving threat. 

If you're looking to improve the defense, there are plenty of options. In case you've been living under a rock this offseason, this cornerback draft class is crazy deep. Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore is the best of the bunch and will likely be gone by 14. His teammate, Gareon Conley, should still be around at 14. So should LSU's TreDavious White, Alabama's Marlon Humphrey, Clemson's Cordrea Tankersely and Florida's Quincy Wilson. 

Don't count out Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett as an option if he's on the board. With Vinny Curry's struggles and the Eagles' lack of depth, a pass rusher is a definite need. If Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster slips for a spat he had with a hospital worker during the combine, he's worth a long look. He's a game-changing 'backer.

Elliott was as close to a sure thing as you can get. There's a reason he was taken at No. 4 overall. If Cook and McCaffrey are there at 14, there's a reason for that, too. 

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie rails against political polarization in Washington

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie rails against political polarization in Washington

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie isn't often very outspoken on football or political matters. 

He has apparently made an exception. 

Just a few days before Lurie is tentatively scheduled to speak to Philadelphia reporters while in Phoenix for the league's annual meetings, the Eagles owner authored a story for Time Magazine railing against political polarization in Washington.

Lurie has not spoken to reporters publicly since last March in Boca Raton, Florida, at the 2016 owners meetings. 

The owner's essay was published just hours after House Republican leaders pulled legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act on Friday afternoon. Lurie, for the record, donated money to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign last year.

Lurie, the Eagles' 65-year-old billionaire owner, in the story, uses football as an example for which Washington should strive. 

Here's how Lurie begins the piece:

"What do football, political polarization and autism have in common? They all illuminate aspects of the human condition, explaining who we are, where we are headed and the hurdles along the way. As a sports team owner I rarely publicly discuss politics, but as a member of a family touched by autism, I often think about the unspoken millions of people who live with the daily challenges of this disorder."

Lurie then goes on to explain why football can act as a guide for Washington when it comes to united for the common good:

"What I have learned from football can be applied to society at large. Just as we intensely game-plan against an opponent in sports, we need to game plan for the reality and consequences of polarization. Extreme polarization is the opponent -- not each other. A football team is made up of players from a wide variety of backgrounds, experiences and political viewpoints. What unites them is grit, determination, and the desire to win. They join in a common goal and do what is necessary to transcend their differences for the greater good of their team.

"What unites Americans is far more negative. We are now in an age where communicating verifiable information becomes secondary to the goal of creating a common enemy that unifies people in fear, negativity and opposition. This masks our inability to solve serious domestic problems (poverty, violence and institutional racism to name three current examples) and diverts our attention from obvious suffering."

Lurie then writes that we, as Americans, have the "necessary resources" to tackle serious problems, like autism, but lack the leadership to put aside differences. 

The whole piece isn't very long and is worth reading in full to gain a better understanding of its context. 

Next week while in Phoenix, Lurie will surely be asked about what motivated him to write the piece.