Philadelphia Eagles

NFL draft prep: Risers and fallers

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NFL draft prep: Risers and fallers

We’re just a few weeks away from the NFL draft, and with prospects currently visiting and working out for teams, there have been some risers and fallers on my board.

Here’s a look at my current stock report:

*Denotes juniors

Risers

Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
The 6-foot-2, 214-pound Carr is one of my favorite prospects and is the most NFL-ready signal-caller in this year’s draft. He’s been extremely impressive during the draft process and has aced all of his tests.

One obstacle, however, stands in his way -- and it’s out of his control -- the perception others have about his brother David and how their careers will be intertwined. That kind of thinking is the harsh reality of this evaluation period. NFL decision makers have to do their due diligence and investigate every possible flaw that will affect their ROI (return on investment), and while the Carr brothers are similar in style (but different in makeup), the situation will determine the success of Derek -- not his bloodline.

With that said, teams will realize that, and don’t be surprised if Derek is the first quarterback selected in the draft.

*Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
At 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, Robinson has tremendous athleticism and play-making ability, but the 4.60-second 40 that he generated at the scouting combine didn’t sit well with scouts. Luckily, the combine is just one part of the draft process, and prospects have a few opportunities to showcase their skills.

Robinson redeemed himself at Penn State’s pro day, reportedly did very well during positional drills and was timed at a 4.48 and 4.50, which will dismiss any of the concerns teams had about his straight-line speed.

As we approach May 8, the talk won’t be about how far Robinson will be pushed back by the talented crop of wide receivers in this year’s class, but instead how many receivers did he surpass with his strong pro day display. Expect Robinson to be a top-40 lock.

Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
Blessed with great size, arm strength and accuracy, the 6-foot-5, 224-pound Mettenberger has future star written all over him. And just five months removed from ACL surgery, Mettenberger threw the ball for the first time since he tore the ACL in his left knee on Nov. 29 at LSU’s pro day last week.

The fact that Mettenberger was on the field and participating so soon after surgery will work in his favor on draft day. Teams in attendance were pleased with his performance, and the impression he made could ultimately propel Mettenberger to being an early Day 2 selection.

Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
In a similar position as Mettenberger health-wise, the 6-foot, 207-pound Murray, who also tore his ACL in late November, had an impressive performance at Georgia’s pro day this past Wednesday. Murray, who, like Mettenberger, is five months removed from major knee surgery, completed 48 of the 54 passes he threw in front of the assembled NFL evaluators and showed no ill effects with his knee.

Before he tore his ACL, there were mixed reviews on Murray mainly because of his size and arm strength. But as far as intelligence, competitiveness and leadership skills, he ranks off the charts. Once he returns to full health, Murray will prove to be one of the biggest steals from this class.

*Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
He’s not one of the highly touted receivers in this year’s class, but the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Latimer is quickly becoming one of the most intriguing receivers after his pro day workout.

Only able to participate in the bench press at the combine -- where he led all wide receivers with 23 reps -- due to a broken bone in his foot, Latimer had a sensational day at Indiana’s pro day and posted a 4.44 and 4.45 in the 40 and a 39-inch vertical.

Prior to his pro day performance, I had Latimer as a fifth-round prospect, but with the interest he’s currently receiving, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he were a Day 2 pick. Many teams want to take a closer look at him before the draft, and as we all know, it only takes one team to fall for a player and select him higher than expected. Latimer is one to watch.

5 previous risers still rising:
Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame
*Carl Bradford, OLB, Arizona State
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
*Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU
Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois

Fallers

*Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Has the draft process brought out the real Bridgewater? And was his play at Louisville an illusion helped by the cupcake schedule he competed against? That’s a question NFL executives are pondering.

There were many who were put off by Bridgewater’s decision not to perform at the combine, and after his disappointing showing at Louisville’s pro day, teams selecting in the top 10 and in need of a quarterback will have pause when considering the 6-foot-2, 214-pound quarterback.

It’s unclear when Bridgewater will come off the board, and it’s possible that he could experience a Geno Smith-like fall in the draft, but for this once well-thought-of prospect, nothing has seemed to go his way this offseason.

*Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
It’s been reported that the 6-foot-7, 322-pound Kouandjio has been downgraded by a handful of teams over concerns of an arthritic condition in his left knee. He had ACL surgery on the knee when he was a freshman.

Since his lackluster performance in Indianapolis, Kouandjio has steadily fallen on my board. However, he recently had a solid workout in front of a number of scouts at Alabama’s second pro day and showed improved athleticism.

If healthy, Kouandjio has a chance to be a very good tackle at the next level, but if there’s concern over the condition of his knee or uncertainty about longevity, selecting him in the early rounds is a major risk.

Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami
Certain players look like they were born to play football, and the 6-foot-7, 339-pound Henderson definitely has the size and skillset to be a dominant player.

But off the field, he’s a wild card. During his career at Miami, Henderson was an underachiever marred by disciplinary action and injuries, and while his workouts this offseason have been encouraging (5.04 in the 40, 28-inch vertical and 23 reps on the bench), the distractions he causes can’t be overlooked.

In terms of ability, Henderson could be a Day 2 selection, but for a team to invest that high of a selection in a player who lacks passion for the game is a no-win situation.

Chris Steuber has covered the NFL and NFL draft for multiple media outlets since 1999. He also served as director of player personnel for the Georgia Force of the Arena Football League from 2010-12.

Roob's 25 Random Points: Eagles' secondary, Isaac Seumalo, the Grateful Dead and more

Roob's 25 Random Points: Eagles' secondary, Isaac Seumalo, the Grateful Dead and more

Alex Chilton, Rasul Douglas, Mack Hollins, Isaac Seumalo, the Grateful Dead’s harmonies, Market East train station, Eli Manning, NFL RedZone and Wendell Smallwood.
 
There is only one place you can read about all those things at the same time. Welcome to Roob's 25 Random Points! 
 
1. Doug Pederson has been the subject of a lot of criticism this week, some of it from me. When you have a 56-13 pass-run ratio, you're going to get criticized. When you stand at the podium 18 games into your head-coaching career and say you're still learning, you're going to get criticized. When you don't give your de facto lead running back a single carry in a tough road game, yeah, you're going to get criticized. But it's important to recognize one thing — guys play hard for Doug Pederson. Every week. Since Pederson became the head coach, there's really only one game where the Eagles weren't competitive, and that was at Cincinnati last year, a game that just got away from the Eagles. Every other game they have really battled. They lost 27-13 to the Packers, but that was a four-point game in the fourth quarter. Seattle last year they were down 26-7 but scored late to make it an 11-point game. Plus, Seattle does that to a lot of people in their own building. Sunday's game in Kansas City demonstrated that no-quit mentality. The Eagles were down 27-13 late but drove 75 yards for a touchdown, recovered an onside kick and had a chance to tie in the game's final seconds. Pederson is a former player who understands what his players are going through, is able to connect with them, relate to them and listen to them, which is just as important as X's and O's. You can be a brilliant tactician but if your players don't like you and don't respect you, you're going to have no chance. (Hmmm. Who does that sound like?) Those three consecutive games last year — Seattle, Green Bay, Cincinnati — are the only games the Eagles have lost by more than eight points under Pederson. Since opening day last year, only five teams have had fewer lopsided losses — the Cowboys, Lions, Patriots, Falcons and Chiefs (who were all playoff teams last year and are a combined 67-23 during that span). Not that losing close games is a positive, but the fact the Eagles are in every game certainly is. Pederson has his weaknesses, and we can all see what they are. It is important to remember that he has some very notable strengths as well.
 
2. We spent so much time this past week talking about the run-pass ratio, it was easy to forget how encouraging the debuts of rookie draft picks Douglas and Hollins were. Hollins did play five snaps on offense against the Redskins, but Douglas was inactive so the Kansas City game was really a coming-out party for both of them. It's no secret the Eagles haven't drafted well for most of the past 15 years, but Derek Barnett seems to be on the right track, and Douglas and Hollins both looked much more polished and comfortable than you would expect from two guys getting their first real NFL playing time. Douglas played every defensive snap after Jaylen Watkins went out with a hamstring injury and was sound in coverage, physical tackling and mentally sharp. For a team that has had as many cornerback issues as the Eagles, it was definitely a promising debut. Hollins simply did what he did all summer: looked smooth and confident. He was targeted three times and caught all three passes — for 11, 13 and 8 yards — all in the second half. The Eagles desperately need elite young players. These two are off to an auspicious start. They looked like they belong.
 
3. My Zach Ertz note of the week: Ertz leads the NFL with 10 catches of 10 yards or more. Last year, Ertz didn't record his 10th catch of at least 10 yards until Week 9 — in his sixth game of the year.
 
4. One thing I don't think Carson Wentz has gotten credit for is his toughness. He's missed, what, six snaps in his career? Out of 1,277? The kid takes a beating. In fact, hopefully, he learns over time to avoid contact a little more. Get rid of the ball instead of taking a sack. But his eyes are always down the field trying to make a play, which you have to love. To put his first 18 games in context, did you know the last Eagles quarterback to start all 16 games one year and the first two games of the next season was Donovan McNabb in 2000 and 2001? Before that? Randall in 1989 and 1990 (and 1988 and 1989). Before that? How about Jaws in 1980 and 1981.
 
5. I didn't know much about Chris Long before this year. Knew his dad is Howie Long, the Hall of Famer who played at Villanova. Knew he had a few very good years on some very bad Rams teams a few years back. Knew he spent last year with the Patriots and got a Super Bowl ring. But getting to know him these last few months has been eye-opening. This is one of the most impressive, genuine, good-hearted guys I've met. Whether it's his symbolic gesture of resting his arm around Malcolm Jenkins' shoulder during the national anthem as a show of support for his teammate, his outspoken comments about bigotry, racism and hatred, or his recent decision to donate six game-day checks to fund two scholarships in his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia, ravaged recently by racial violence, Long has been impressive since he got here. Long is a lot like Connor Barwin. He doesn't just talk about it, he rolls up his sleeve and does it. That's rare.
 
6. We're always talking about how running backs need carries to get into a rhythm and show what they can do. Wendell Smallwood is proof of that. Smallwood last year got 10 carries three times — against the Seahawks, Steelers and Falcons, three very good teams. Playoff teams. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry in those three games. In his other career games? He’s averaged 3.0 yards per carry. This year, he only has seven rushing attempts in two games and if you're writing him off based on seven carries you're making a big mistake. I still think Smallwood is a solid back. But there's only been one quarter where he's had more than one carry — the fourth quarter in Washington, and by then, the 'Skins were stacking the box as the Eagles tried to run out the clock. Just remember, last year Smallwood ran 17 times for 79 yards against the Falcons, 13 for 70 against the Steelers and 13 for 48 against the Seahawks. Would like to see him get some serious carries Sunday against the Giants.
 
7. I will never call Market East "Jefferson Station."
 
8. My official prediction for Sunday is Eagles 20, Giants 0, and it's interesting to me the only Eagles defensive coordinator in the last 20 years to pitch a shutout was Bill Davis. The Eagles' only shutout the last two decades was a 27-0 win on a Sunday night over the Giants in October 2014 at the Linc. The Eagles held the Giants to 254 total yards and only 12 first downs. Barwin had three sacks, Vinny Curry two and Trent Cole, Brandon Bair and Brandon Graham had one each. I think this game will be a lot like that one. Before 2014, the Eagles' last shutout came in 1996 — also at home against the Giants. Their last shutout that wasn't against the Giants was a 30-0 win over John Elway and the Broncos at the Vet in 1992. The Eagles' last road shutouts were against the Cowboys at Texas Stadium — in 1989 and 1991.
 
9. Every time I tweet something about Carson Wentz (or anybody) not missing a game, I get all these tweets just flat-out blasting me for "jinxing" him. Guess what! Jinxes aren't real and sometimes a sportswriter's tweets actually doesn't affect what happens on the field. No, really!

10. Something to keep in mind Sunday: The Eagles have scored two or fewer offensive touchdowns in 14 of their last 15 games, the only exception being the meaningless home game against the Cowboys the last day of last season, when they had three against a defense largely comprised of Cowboys reserves.  
 
11. The Eagles have gone an NFL-high 30 straight games without three passing TDs in a game. That's only three shy of the franchise record of 33, set twice — from 1975 through 1978 and 1997 through 1999. The last time the Eagles had three passing TDs in a game was Oct. 4, 2015, when Sam Bradford threw three against the Redskins at FedEx Field. They've also gone 22 straight home games without a three-TD game. That goes back to Nick Foles' three touchdown passes against the Redskins on Sept. 21, 2014. That's the second-longest such streak in franchise history behind a 31-game streak from 1975 through 1979. League-wide, there have been 190 performances with three TD passes since the Eagles' last one.
 
12. I can't watch NFL RedZone. It's too much. I can't follow eight games at once. Maybe I'm stupid. But I'd much rather just watch one game for three hours and sort it all out later.
 
13. Let's talk about exactly how wretched the Giants' rushing attack is and has been for years. Through two games, the Giants have just 97 rushing yards and a 3.2 average with no touchdowns. They're only the 23rd team in NFL history with fewer than 100 yards and no rushing touchdowns after two games. They don't have a back with more than 31 yards, and the last time the Giants didn't have anybody with at least 35 rushing yards after two games was … well, never. At least not since 1940. Pro Football Reference's game-by-game database doesn't go back any further than that. The Giants have eight rushing touchdowns in their last 27 games. Last time they had a rushing TD longer than two yards was 20 games ago, a 38-yarder by Rashad Jennings. Last time they had a rushing TD longer than two yards on the road was Week 15 of 2015 when Orleans Darkwa had a 12-yarder at St. Louis, which doesn't even have a team anymore. The Giants have just four rushing TDs in their last 14 games against the Eagles, none of them longer than five yards, and their last rushing TD at the Linc was Ahmad Bradshaw's one-yarder in 2009. The Giants haven't had a rushing TD at the Linc longer than three yards in 13 years — since Tiki Barber's 72-yarder in the final minutes of a game in 2004 with the Eagles up 21 points. Going back to 1987, the Giants have just three rushing TDs longer than five yards in their last 30 games in Philadelphia — Barber's 31-yarder in 2000, Ron Dayne's 16-yarder in 2001 and Barber's 72-yarder in 2004. And finally this: In their last 47 road games, the Giants have one rushing TD of 20 yards or more — a 50-yarder by Andre Williams at Tennessee in 2014. And you thought the Eagles had problems running the ball?
 
14. Adam Abrashoff from the band SIMO is one of the best drummers I've ever seen.
 
15. Eli Manning's TD-INT ratio in 16 games against the Eagles from 2005 through 2012 was 34-16. In eight games since, it's 11-11. Eli's passer rating against the Eagles from 2005 through 2012 was 91.7. Since 2013, it's 74.2.
 
16. Ever notice there's just never an urgent care place around when you need one?
 
17. Darren Sproles has the highest career rushing average ever against the Giants by a running back with at least 40 carries at 6.3 yards a pop (48 for 301).
 
18. I was really surprised Doug Pederson benched left guard Isaac Seumalo after he struggled so badly in Kansas City. It was Pederson who preached patience Monday: "I don't want to push any panic buttons at this time." Offensive coordinator Frank Reich was even stronger Tuesday when he explained why the Eagles were sticking with Seumalo: "If that happens over five, six, seven games and it becomes a problem, then you evaluate it. When it happens in one game, you say, ‘OK, we take note of it, but we've got a lot of confidence (in him)." But nonetheless, it sure appears Chance Warmack will start at left guard Sunday against the Giants, a decision that did not go over well in the locker room: "It's just unfortunate, man, seeing a young guy like that after having a bad game," right guard Brandon Brooks told CSNPhilly's Dave Zangaro. "He's a young player, you don't want to kill his confidence this early in his career. A bad game, for that to happen, I wish he could work through it. I just wish he had a chance to bounce back." I think the right move would have been to get Seumalo out of there Sunday at halftime and — with Warmack inactive — use veteran Stefen Wisniewski to get through the game. Wiz is solid and played well at left guard in place of injured Allen Barbre last year for six games. Then go back to Seumalo on Sunday against the Giants. Whether it's Winston Justice or Halapoulivaati Vaitai, we've seen offensive linemen struggle early and bounce back. First priority Sunday was winning the game. In the big picture, Seumalo is a rookie third-round pick that needs to get back out there and try to do better.
 
19. The fascinating thing about the Grateful Dead: None of those guys were great singers. Let's face it: Bob Weir might be the worst pop vocalist ever from a major band. Phil Lesh isn't much better. I love Jerry Garcia’s voice but he wasn't exactly a classically trained vocalist. But when they harmonized? It was angelic. Those shaky voices somehow came together like a symphony. Listen to a 1970 or 1971 Cumberland Blues or Uncle John's Band and they absolutely nailed some really difficult, complex three-part harmonies. Just keep Donna away from the mic!
 
20. Somebody drove an SUV so far into the Starbucks in Birmingham Township in the Dilworthtown Shopping Center in Delaware County early one recent morning that the entire vehicle was actually inside the coffee shop. Yes, they drove over a concrete barrier and through an outer wall until their car rested fully inside. The car plowed through an area where people are usually sitting at 7 a.m. but miraculously all the tables that are normally occupied at that hour were empty. I was going to make a bad joke about how that Starbucks needed a drive-through anyway, but really I just can't believe that actually happened.
 
21. It blows my mind when I go into a restaurant in the middle of the day and everybody in there is like in their 80s, and the place is blasting the worst imaginable dance pop. Like, dude. Your restaurant is 90 percent empty, and the only people in there are senior citizens looking for the Early Bird pork chop special, and you're flat-out blasting Flo Rida, Shawn Mendes and freaking Meghan Trainor. Why?
 
22. Carson Wentz really struggled vs. the Giants last year, completing 40 of 71 passes for 516 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. His 66.4 passer rating against the Giants is 27th-best of 28 active quarterbacks, ahead of only Case Keenum's 50.1. Highest Eagles career passer ratings ever against the Giants (minimum 50 attempts): Rodney Peete (101.1), Nick Foles (94.2), Donovan McNabb (90.4), Sam Bradford (85.4) and Mike Boryla (83.2).
 
23. Kind of funny how so many people complained that Jordan Matthews "is always hurt," and he's missed two games in four seasons. Ronald Darby comes here in a trade for Matthews and in his first game suffers an injury that will shelve him for at least a month, but I'm still waiting for the first person to complain that Darby is "always hurt." Similarly, if Matthews ever had two drops as bad as Torrey Smith's in Kansas City, he would have been destroyed by fans. Yet I haven't heard a word from anybody criticizing Smith for those two drops. Guess it's just as simple as Jordan Matthews is a guy that fans were just never going to like. Period.
 
24. Six carries. Would love to see what Corey Clement can do Sunday with six carries.
 
25. If you're a fan of the legendary, influential band Big Star, you'll appreciate this. If not … sorry. You should be. Anyway, last Saturday during breakfast at Legal Seafood in the Philly Airport, I heard a cover of Jumpin' Jack Flash recorded by Big Star singer Alex Chilton in 1969, when he was still a reluctant member of the Box Tops. That night, 12 hours later at dinner out by the airport in Kansas City, I heard an actual Big Star song at the restaurant — Back of a Car. And this past Friday at Joe coffee shop in West Philly, I heard the entire "I Am the Cosmos" record, the only solo album release by Big Star guitarist Chris Bell. I found the guy who put the music on and told him that 30 years earlier I had actually seen Chilton perform on the "High Priest" tour literally three blocks away at the old Chestnut Cabaret. I don't know what any of this means. I'm not sure how Alex Chilton, who died in 2010, has gone from obscurity to being played at coffee shops and restaurants across the country. But I'm not complaining.

Rookie WR Mack Hollins seizing opportunity with Eagles

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Rookie WR Mack Hollins seizing opportunity with Eagles

Turns out that Mack Hollins is much more than a deep threat.

Hollins, the Eagles' rookie fourth-round pick from North Carolina, recorded the first three receptions of his brief NFL career Sunday in Kansas City, with second-half catches of 11, 8 and 13 yards from Carson Wentz in the Eagles' loss to the Chiefs.

Hollins, who got just five offensive snaps in the opener in Washington, earned 17 snaps against the Chiefs and made the best of his chances. Will be interesting to see what this leads to against the Giants Sunday at the Linc and moving forward.

“I think it went well for my opportunities, but as a player your goal is always to win," Hollins said.

"I’d rather have zero catches in a win than a bunch in a loss, but it’s a start. It’s a situation that (receivers coach Mike) Groh has been preparing me for since I got here. Prepare like you’re going to be in the game, so if you do go in, there’s no dropoff. 

"That was my plan when I got my opportunity. Just try to execute as well as I can."

All of Hollins' snaps so far have come in two- or three-wide sets filling in for Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor or Torrey Smith. He said he doesn't know if the increase in reps will continue.

“Really, whatever coach wants," he said. "If it goes to zero snaps this week and we win the game, then I played my role in what our goal as a team is to do, and that’s to win games. I’m ready for whatever coach (Dave) Fipp, coach (Pederson) and coach Groh throw at me. I’m ready to go."

At North Carolina, Hollins was known mainly as a deep threat. He led the NCAA with 24.8 yards per catch as a junior. From 2014 through 2016, his 20.6 yards-per-catch average was fourth-highest in Division I (just behind Shelton Gibson).

But he's shown since he got here he's much more than that.

“That’s something people have assumed since I was at Carolina," he said. "But I’ve been working at routes since I was at Carolina and I’ve been able to run routes since I was at Carolina. Obviously, I’m not the best route runner because you can only get better, so I’m always working on my routes. 

"But I think people assume I’m only a deep threat since that's  primarily what I was at Carolina, but I can do more than that. I’m more than just a one-trick pony."

At UNC last year, Hollins was overshadowed by Ryan Switzer, who caught 96 passes for 1,112 yards, and Bug Howard, who caught 53 for 827.

The Cowboys drafted Switzer in the fourth round, but he doesn't have any catches the first two weeks. Howard was in training camp with the Colts but didn't make the team.

“We had one of the best receiving corps in the country with me Bug and Switz and we were able to have Switz underneath and me take the top off," Hollins said. "If it works, do it, and it worked."

The most impressive thing about Hollins has been his comfort level. He really carries himself like a veteran, and on Sunday at Arrowhead, he played like a veteran.

“Had a little butterflies but once I get a snap on special teams or offense, they go away," he said. "It’s football. We’re all here for a reason. They’re good players, we’re good players. So just be confident in your skill set, and I am."