Philadelphia Eagles

Roob's 25 Random Points: Jordan Matthews' dislike, Brent Celek, Jason Isbell

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Roob's 25 Random Points: Jordan Matthews' dislike, Brent Celek, Jason Isbell

Welcome to yet another edition of Roob's 25 Random Points. Dive in!

1. Unlike his predecessor, Doug Pederson is very sensitive to the needs of his older players, making sure to give them time off from practice during training camp when they need it. Whether it's Torrey Smith, Alshon Jeffery, Chris Long or some other veteran, we've seen guys throughout camp get a personal day here and there to help them get through the grind of camp. Then there's Jason Peters and Darren Sproles, the two oldest position players on the roster. Peters is a future Hall of Famer, and Sproles is a two-time Pro Bowler. One of the biggest Eagles and one of the smallest. Peters is 35, Sproles is 34. Total combined days Peters and Sproles have missed through the first two weeks of camp? Zero. When I think about leadership, I don't think about rah-rah speeches and all that. I think about the two oldest guys on the team going out there every day — Peters is in his 14th training camp, Sproles is in his 13th — and going full-bore on these steamy hot days and 2½-hour practices without wanting or taking a day off. When the young guys — and even the older guys — see these two legends out there every day without a break, that's inspirational. That's leadership.  
2. I didn’t understand the Greg Lewis hiring when it happened and I still don't understand it. The Eagles didn't have very good receivers last year, but I don't think to have a novice NFL position coach for an unproven group made any sense. Now Lewis is gone — he's wide receivers coach for Andy Reid these days in Kansas City, believe it or not — and Mike Groh appears to be a huge upgrade. I was kind of surprised Pederson admitted as much the other day when he was asked if the improvement we've all seen in the Eagles' wide receivers can be attributed to the coaching change. "Yeah, I would say so," he responded. Obviously, they have more talent at wideout now, but they also seem to have somebody coaching these guys who can get the most out of them.
3. We've talked all summer about Smith and Jeffery, but I've been really impressed with the depth the Eagles have at wideout. Last year, you would probably rank the Eagles' receivers like this: 1) Jordan Matthews, 2) Dorial Green-Beckham, 3) Nelson Agholor, 4) Paul Turner, 5) Bryce Treggs, 6) Josh Huff. This year, it's probably something like 1) Jeffery, 2) Matthews, 3) Agholor, 4) Smith, 5) Mack Hollins, 6) Marcus Johnson, 7) Greg Ward, 8) Treggs, 9) David Watford, 10) Turner, 11) Shelton Gibson. Guys who played last year — DGB, Treggs, Turner and, of course, Huff — aren't even going to make the team this year. Those four combined for 1,056 offensive snaps last year! Close to 70 per game! None of them will even be on the team this year.
4. And as Eliot Shorr-Parks points out, there's actually a good chance none of them will even be in the league this year.
5. I feel like we're living in Backwards World sometimes. All of a sudden, everybody loves Agholor, whose career has been a colossal disappointment so far, and everybody can't wait to get rid of Matthews, who has done nothing other than delivering consistently solid production over the last three years. Maybe Agholor will build off his impressive training camp and have a fantastic season. He really does look terrific. But so far it's just a projection. It's just practice. Nobody knows what he's going to do on Sunday afternoons. Matthews, on the other hand, you can pretty much put down for 75 catches, 900 yards and six touchdowns — his NFL averages — every year. He's not a superstar, but that's OK. He's pretty good. Only six other guys — Randy Moss, Odell Beckham, A.J. Green, Mike Evans, DeAndre Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald — have had 225 catches, 2,500 yards and 19 TDs in their first three seasons. Maybe 900 yards doesn't seem like very much … until you're trying to replace them. Here's the thing: You're allowed to root for Agholor and Matthews. They're both Eagles. They'll both be Eagles this year. I would think real Eagles fans aren't playing this ridiculous game of Agholor vs. Matthews.
6. It's often faster to reach the sports complex area by taking I-95 to the Betsy Ross Bridge then zipping down Rte. 130 to the Walt Whitman Bridge and heading back across the river. It's just that you have to pay $5 for the convenience. There should be a rule that if you're in New Jersey for less than 30 minutes you don't have to pay the bridge toll. Kind of like when you're in a parking garage for under 10 minutes you don't have to pay?
7. If you take Zach Ertz's production over the last 11 games of last year, once he began recovering from that displaced rib cartilage injury and project it over a full season you get 100 catches for 1,048 yards. So that's my Ertz prediction for 2017.
8. Jason Witten's first four seasons: 252 catches, 2,538 yards, 14 TDs. Zach Ertz's first four seasons: 247 catches, 2,840 yards, 13 TDs. Just sayin'.
9. Always cracks me up when a waiter asks me, "Have you dined with us before?" Who freaking cares if I dined there before? Why does it matter? No, I haven't "dined" here before, but I am aware how the general concept of restaurants work.
10. Back to Matthews for a minute. It's been fascinating watching the Jordan Matthews backlash this summer. All of a sudden fans can't stand him, want him gone, traded, unloaded, not re-signed, etc. Not sure how we got to this point. What's his crime? A sore knee that he's practiced through all of training camp without missing a single rep? Not being DeSean Jackson? Six drops targets last year? He's not a superstar, but every team has about 50 guys who aren't superstars. He's a second-round pick who's been a consistent, steady, durable, productive receiver on a team where for at least the last two years he's been miscast as the No. 1 guy. Only nine wide receivers in history have more catches three years into their NFL career. Matthews has 85 more catches after three seasons than Mike Quick. He has 993 more yards after three seasons than Harold Carmichael. He even has three more TD catches after three seasons than DeSean Jackson. Did he drop a few more passes than he should have last year? Yeah. But he did rank 75th in the NFL with six drops in 117 targets. And a year earlier, he had one drop. This is a locker room leader, a solid citizen, a hard worker, a quality guy. He's exactly the kind of guy Philly usually embraces. Eagles fans were furious when Chip Kelly let Jeremy Maclin leave for the Chiefs. Maclin has averaged 59 catches, 799 yards and 5.8 touchdowns per year since entering the NFL. Matthews has averaged 75 catches, 891 yards and 6.3 TDs per year since entering the NFL. I don't get it. Every successful team has guys like Matthews, complementary pieces, guys who quietly and professionally do their job every day, guys with no ego, guys who go about their business without complaining, guys who unfailingly put team goals ahead of individual goals. If Matthews were on the Jaguars or Chargers, Eagles fans would be dying for a guy like him. But since he's already here, somehow his production is devalued. Classic grass-is-always-greener effect. Jordan Matthews is the least of the Eagles' problems.
11. There's a Philly band — and I swear I'm not making this up — called Lito and the Shepperds, and they played Kung Fu Necktie Saturday night. I listened to their stuff on their Bandcamp page … they're not bad! Kind of heavy bluesy rock. Made me wonder what other former Eagles would make good band names. Roderick and the Hoods? Woody and the Peoples? Jeremy and the Blooms? Ryan and the Moats? Casey and the Well-Dones?
12. Hey, do you guys think Brent Celek will ever be added to the Eagles Hall of Fame? I've been thinking a lot about this since chatting with him the other day about his career and his future. Celek will go down as one of the top five pass catchers at any position in Eagles history and if he stays healthy this year — and he's missed only one game since the start of high school — he'll be top five in franchise history in games played. There's a good chance he'll finish his career having played the second-most games in franchise history among those who've spent their whole career here. You can argue that he's the greatest tight end in Eagles history. But … he's never made a Pro Bowl, he's never had a 1,000-yard season — although he came within 29 yards once — and he's played on only one team in 10 seasons that's won a playoff game. But he's really been a solid Eagle for a long time, and I think his omnipresent team-first attitude, his gritty, physical style of play and his longevity push him over the top. Interesting call.
13. Speaking of tight ends … Trey Burton caught 23 passes the last six games of last season (he had 17 in his previous 40 NFL games). He actually had the seventh-most catches of any NFL tight end the last six weeks of last year (Zach Ertz was second with 43). At that pace, Burton would catch 61 passes in a season. He won't catch 61 with all the other weapons on this team, but I wouldn't be shocked if he catches 40 to 45. We don't talk about him too much, but the kid is such a tremendous athlete and has fantastic hands.
14. When have the Eagles had these many weapons on offense? They legit go four deep at wide receiver, assuming Agholor contributes the way I expect him to, with two very capable receiving tight ends plus a trio of running backs who all have a different skill set. And that doesn't even include people like Mack Hollins, Donnel Pumphrey and Marcus Johnson if the Eagles keep a sixth wideout. Put one of the NFL's most promising young quarterbacks behind center with those weapons? Honestly, I don't know how this offense won't score 25 points per game.
15. Only four shortstops in Phillies history have more RBIs than Freddy Galvis — and two of them played before 1930. Jimmy Rollins obviously leads the pack with 887, followed by Mickey Doolin, the Phils' shortstop from 1905 through 1913 (445); Larry Bowa (421); Heinie Sand, who played here from 1923 through 1928 (251); and then Galvis with 219. Don't think he'll catch Jimmy, though. At his current pace, he'd get there in 2028.
16. One of my favorite moments in open practice at the Linc Sunday was rookie Shelton Gibson's tumbling catch of a deep ball from Matt McGloin with Tra Sullivan in coverage, then crawling the last few yards into the end zone for a touchdown. Gibson had such a nightmarish first couple weeks of practicing, dropping just about everything that's come his way. So to see him make that play in front of that crowd was definitely encouraging. He followed that up with another encouraging day Monday. Give the kid credit for battling.
17. While his teammates were out on the field practicing Sunday at the Linc, Jon Dorenbos was on the sidelines signing autographs for everybody he could find. He even did a few impromptu magic tricks for kids and fans on the sideline. The guy is remarkable. I have never seen him turn down an autograph, but he doesn't just sign for people, he engages them, talks to them, jokes with them. And he's been doing this for 12 years now, since joining the Eagles in 2006. I don't think there's an Eagles fan in the city who doesn't have a Jon Dorenbos autograph. The guy is a treasure.
18. Ever drive around the Navy Yard? I'm always blown away by the ship sitting there. And the sheer size of the pieces of the ship they work on in the repair shops is mind-blowing. You'll see a section of hull off some massive ship propped up so workers can work on it, and it's up there for months and months. And that's just one section. The size of these vessels is hard to fathom, but if just one section takes months to become seaworthy, how long does it take to fix up an entire ship? It's insane just how enormous these things are. If you enter the Navy Yard off 26th Street and then wind around down Kitty Hawk and back to Broad Street, you can get a great view of the work they do. And, of course, the old moth-balled Navy ships, including the legendary aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy, can be seen right from Broad Street just south of the Schuylkill Expressway. Tons of history in that Navy Yard.
19. Hey, remember that time Nick Foles and Matt McGloin combined for seven touchdowns in an Eagles-Raiders game?
20. Why won't the Eagles trade Matthews for a cornerback? A few reasons. Remember when Howie Roseman said this: "You look at the cornerback position, and what we’ve done at the cornerback position is put band-aids on things.” In other words, instead of building through the draft at corner, the Eagles acquired veteran free agents such as Nnamdi Asomugha, Ellis Hobbs, Bradley Fletcher, Cary Williams, Nolan Carroll and Leodis McKelvin. We all know how that went. The Eagles haven't won a playoff game since Lito and Sheldon were starting, and Howie isn't going to change his philosophy now. The Eagles have a truckload of young, largely homegrown corners, and this year is about figuring out which ones — if any — can play. If you're going to get beat, you may as well get beat with young corners who have upside instead of those tired veteran additions. Secondly, teams are simply not giving away cornerbacks. It's a lot harder finding good corners than good receivers. Nobody's got extra corners. And thirdly, Matthews is a good player. It's easy to say, "Trade Matthews," but if you do, you've got to find a way to replace 75 catches for 900 yards, and that's tougher than it sounds. He's not going anywhere.
21. Jason Isbell has never written a bad song.
22. A couple young corners who've impressed me this summer are Aaron Grymes and C.J. Smith. Grymes, who spent three years in the CFL (and won a Grey Cup in 2015 with the Edmonton Eskimos), is actually 26 and shuttled between the Eagles' practice squad and 53-man roster last year. The 24-year-old Smith, Carson Wentz's former North Dakota State teammate, might be the Eagles' most improved corner this summer. Both have good size and are smart. Just a matter of being more consistent in their technique and putting it all together. But keep an eye on No. 38 (Grymes) and No. 37 (Smith) in the preseason opener Thursday night at Lambeau. In this wide-open cornerback competition, both have shown positive signs.
23. Here's a list of the most receptions in NFL history after four seasons by tight ends drafted in the second round: Zach Ertz (247), Rob Gronkowski (226), Zach Miller (226), Freddie Jones (225), Dan Ross (215).
24. Hey Sirius XMU — You actually went nine minutes without playing Sylvan Esso. Is everything OK?????
25. My XPoNential Festival Top 10: 1) Spoon, 2) Wilco, 3) Conor Oberst, 4) David Bromberg, 5) Foxygen, 6) Dave Hause, 7) Hardwork Movement, 8) Strand of Oaks, 9) Cliff Hillis, 10) Angel Olsen.

Ronald Darby has potential to change how frequent Eagles blitz

Ronald Darby has potential to change how frequent Eagles blitz

The Eagles blitzed early and often during their second exhibition game against the Bills last week, and unlike much of what we see in preseason, it actually could be a sign of what’s to come.

No NFL defense used a standard four-man pass rush with greater frequency than the Eagles in 2016 at 79.3 percent of the time, according to Football Outsiders Almanac. (Conversely, the team that rushed four the fewest was the Jets at 49.2 percent.) This has long been the philosophy of defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who prefers to generate pressure from the front four without drawing on help from linebackers and defensive backs.

Schwartz also may have been more hesitant to blitz than usual last season out of fear a weak secondary would not be able to hold up in coverage. Now that the Eagles acquired cornerback Ronald Darby in a trade, the defense may have the freedom to send additional pressure.

“A lot of times, your blitz really depends on how well your corners are going,” Schwartz said Monday after practice (see 10 observations). “The more help you're getting in the corners, obviously, the less guys that you can use to blitz, so they certainly both go hand in hand.”

The Bills game almost certainly does not represent a fundamental shift in Schwartz’s strategy. The Eagles are not expected to go from blitzing the least in the league to sending extra rushers on every other play.

It’s only preseason — a time when coaches are evaluating everything.

“We didn't scheme up, we used more of our scheme,” Schwartz said. “Everything that we ran in that game, we had run 50 times in training camp. It was all sort of base stuff, but there were some different things we were looking at.”

So nothing to see here, right? Maybe, but if nothing else, this goes to show Schwartz is working from a larger playbook than it might have seemed in '16, when the Eagles rigidly sent four rushers down after down.

Having a potential shutdown cornerback in Darby, or at least a competent tandem along with Jalen Mills, could provide the Eagles' defense with the flexibility it sorely lacked last season. It may merely be a matter of getting Darby up to speed in the system, considering his arrival was less than two weeks ago.

“He's pretty close,” Schwartz said. “There are some situations that don't come up very often where he's still maybe a step slow when a safety makes a call, but everything is installed.

“He has it. It's just a matter of repping it enough times that he feels comfortable with it, and we're still a work in progress there.”

Darby impressed in his Eagles debut last Thursday, recording one interception and letting another go through his fingertips (see story). However, the third-year defensive back is coming off of a down season in Buffalo, so it’s not necessarily a given he’ll continue producing at a high level.

In order for Schwartz to feel comfortable with getting creative, Darby must continue to demonstrate not only his individual ability, but that he’s also able to work in concert with the rest of the secondary.

“There is something with a corner and safety communication,” Schwartz said. “The safety is making calls, there’s a lot of moving parts — motion can change a technique the corner makes, and anticipating that motion, and sort of being one step ahead — so it certainly would help a corner to have that.”

Since his arrival, Darby has already changed the complexion of the defense, putting another playmaker in the secondary. The Eagles are making some tweaks to his technique — he’s working with legendary safety Brian Dawkins, and catching balls from the JUGS machine in the hopes of converting more pass breakups into picks.

And if Darby turns out to be everything the Eagles hope, he may even allow the Eagles' defense to get after the quarterback a bit more.

Eagles trade Matt Tobin to Seahawks

Eagles trade Matt Tobin to Seahawks

The Eagles have traded another backup offensive lineman.

This time, Howie Roseman sent veteran guard/tackle Matt Tobin and a 2018 seventh-round pick to Seattle in exchange for the Seahawks' 2018 fifth-round pick.

The move saves the Eagles $850,000 in cap room. The Eagles had $12.2 million coming into Monday, according to NFLPA records.

Tobin, 27, joined the Eagles in 2013 and played in 42 games, with 21 starts, over the last four seasons. In 2015, he started 13 games at right guard.

The move to trade Tobin comes just a little less than a month after the Eagles dealt Allen Barbre to Denver for a conditional seventh-round pick in 2019. (They were planning on releasing Barbre before the Broncos called.) Both Tobin and Barbre were versatile backups who could play guard and tackle for the Eagles.

Last summer, the Eagles traded another backup offensive lineman, Dennis Kelly, to Tennessee for Dorial Green-Beckham, who didn't even make it to training camp with the Eagles this year.

Because Jason Peters missed the second preseason game last Thursday for personal reasons, Lane Johnson started at left tackle. And because Halapoulivaati Vaitai missed the game with a knee injury, Tobin actually started at right tackle. Perhaps Seattle saw enough in that game to think he can help them this season.

Meanwhile, the two trades in the last month probably speak to the Eagles' confidence in their depth along the offensive line. They still have Stefen Wisniewski, Chance Warmack and Dallas Thomas as their top backups inside and Vaitai and Dillon Gordon as their top backups at tackle.