Philadelphia Eagles

Should Eagles take a top-3 WR in the first round?

Should Eagles take a top-3 WR in the first round?

As the Eagles fly to Indianapolis this week for the annual NFL combine, they'll do so with two needs that seem to outweigh all others. 

The Eagles need big-play makers and big-play stoppers. Receivers and cornerbacks.

Still well over a week away from the start of free agency, this could change some. The Eagles could hit the market and try to sign a player or two to shore up those positions. But even if they do, it's likely receiver and corner will still need to be upgraded when they're on the clock at 14 or 15 in late April. 

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock held his annual marathon conference call with reporters from around the country on Monday afternoon, about two months from the start of the 2017 draft. The highly-respected draft analyst said this year's draft is "one of the best defensive drafts I’ve seen."

That's high praise from someone who has been doing this a long time. And he didn't stop there. Mayock continued to praise both edge rusher and, wait for it, cornerbacks. 

"I can get through four rounds of quality corners and I've never been able to say that before," he said. 

That seems like awful good news for the Eagles (see storylines).

While this draft is really deep at corner, Mayock said it's not so deep at receiver. So when asked about what his plan would be, given that the Eagles are in desperate need of both positions, Mayock said the Eagles should seriously consider a top receiver for their first round pick. 

"I think the Eagles have to figure out what their order of preference is, what kind of style they want," Mayock said. "But they've got to be looking hard at all three of those guys and know up front if one or two or all three of them are available, who they're going to take. And then I think they can drop back in a later round and it wouldn't bother me at all if they drafted a couple corners. I think they could."

This seems like a pretty solid plan. Snag one of the top receivers, then pick up value in the second round (and later rounds) by adding cornerbacks who would have gone much higher in a more ordinary year for that position. 

But last month in Mobile, Alabama, for the Senior Bowl, Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman brought up a thought-provoking point about the depth of cornerbacks in this year's draft. 

"It's interesting, because last year we sat there and said defensive tackles in this draft are unreal," Roseman said in January. "You're going to get an opportunity to be there in the fourth or fifth round and there's going to be a second- or- third-round guy. And what happened was they all went. And we had looked at it before and in years where there's positions of strength, when you think you can get guys later, what typically happens is there's a run on those guys and [teams] want to get their own guys. So you just have to be careful that you're not sitting there going, 'This is a great draft at position X and we'll be sitting there in the sixth round and we'll get a great guy.' That's why just sticking to your board and not getting cute and just making sure you just get the best player for the Philadelphia Eagles."

So maybe the Eagles won't get cute. Perhaps when they pick at 14 or 15, they'll have a corner ranked high enough to say, "To heck with value, let's take our guy." Now, maybe that wouldn't create the best value overall, but if it gets the best player, it's unlikely Eagles fans will care. And they shouldn't. 

But what if one of the top three receivers is on the board and is their highest ranked player? Mayock seems to think they should pull the trigger. The top three, according to him, are Western Michigan's Corey Davis, Clemson's Mike Williams and Washington's John Ross. Mayock said he could see all three going from picks 10-20. 

While Ross has some medical concerns, Mayock seemed really intrigued about the idea of the Eagles' taking him. He compared Ross to Will Fuller, whom the Texans took at No. 21 out of Notre Dame last year. In fact, he said he expects Ross to run just as fast as Fuller (4.32), but is quicker and a better natural catcher. 

"He's probably the best vertical threat in the draft and I think that would help the rest of the Eagles underneath," he said. "They desperately need speed. So if you're talking about a guy that's going to run a 4.35, which I think he will."

Or how about Williams from Clemson? On his way to a national title, Williams impressed on the biggest stage and could become a huge target for Carson Wentz and the Eagles. 

"He's a big, physical dude," Mayock said. "I think he welcomes press coverage. He uses his physicality, he catches back shoulder. And again, if you're looking from an Eagles perspective, scoring and red-zone opportunities, he's probably the best guy at the wide receiver position in this draft in the red zone because of his catching radius and his physicality."

And then there's still Davis, whom Mayock ranks as the best receiver in the draft. Davis won’t be able to compete at the combine with an ankle injury, but he's still a first-rounder. 

Based on the evaluations given by Mayock on Monday, it seems like any three of these receivers could come in and make an immediate impact with the Eagles on Day 1. That isn’t always the case with receivers. 

In January, Roseman talked about how the great receiver draft of 2014 had really altered expectations for rookies, saying in the past receiver hasn't been a "plug and play" position. Some ran with those comments and took them to mean that the Eagles would try to fill the receiver hole through free agency. 

And, besides, the Eagles were burnt by a first-round receiver not too long ago, when they took Nelson Agholor with the 20th pick in the 2015 draft. In his two seasons, Agholor has been a disappointment in the NFL. 

Still, that miss wouldn't make Mayock hesitate this year. If Davis, Williams or Ross are there, one of them could be the Eagles' pick. 

"I struggle thinking that the three of them (top receivers) will struggle like Nelson Agholor did, who was also a first-round pick," he said. "I think they're going to be fine."

Eagles-Giants 5 matchups to watch

Eagles-Giants 5 matchups to watch

The Eagles have a chance this week to improve to 2-1 and start their season with two division wins. That would be huge for them. 

They should have a pretty good chance. The Giants have been a dumpster fire through two games. They're 0-2 and have been outscored by 30 points. 

With that said, they're an absolutely desperate team. And desperate teams can be dangerous teams. 

Here are five matchups to watch on Sunday at the Linc: 

Ereck Flowers vs. Vinny Curry and Derek Barnett
For as bad as Isaac Seumalo has been through two games with the Eagles, Ereck Flowers has been even worse for the Giants. The former first-round pick has been a disaster. He gave up three sacks to Ziggy Ansah and was basically a turnstile. Things won't get much easier. With Brandon Graham on the other side, Curry and Barnett should have a chance to do some damage. And Graham should feast on Bobby Hart on the other side. This could be the week when Barnett picks up his first NFL sack. 

But just because the Giants' O-line has struggled, it doesn't mean the Eagles can abandon their technique. 

"You still have to be disciplined," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "You still have to read your keys, and you still have to be able to execute. Just because they haven't been very successful in the first two weeks running the ball doesn't mean they're not going to come out in this game and try to run the ball. So we have to play good technique there."

Odell Beckham Jr. vs. Eagles corners
The Giants' top receiver is still hampered by that ankle injury he suffered in August. Beckham played just 34 snaps (61 percent) against the Lions and now has a short week to recover. Beckham sure doesn't appear to be 100 percent, but Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said they have to prepare as if he is. 

In six career games against the Eagles, Beckham has 41 catches for 524 yards and four touchdowns. Not bad. 

"He's another week away from that [injury], another week ahead of his rehab and things like that, so we'll have to be ready for (No.) 13, and we're going to have to be ready for him being the same guy we remember from last year," Schwartz said. "And he's a very difficult player to handle, and their offense has missed him the first couple weeks. It's our job to keep him from being a factor — well, he's going to be a factor, but keep him from being a game-changing factor. It's going to take good team defense to do it. It's not going to be one guy that'll do it."

Chance Warmack vs. Damon Harrison
We already talked about the Giants' offensive line. Well, the Eagles haven't been that much better. Seumalo was a big enough problem in the first two weeks that he's now been benched. That means former first-round pick Warmack is the new starting left guard. And he'll have a tough task against "Snacks" Harrison. At 6-4, 350 pounds, Harrison is a load in the middle of that line and one of the biggest players in the NFL. Harrison is great against the run, but Warmack has a reputation for being a good run-blocker. Should be a good battle. 

Nelson Agholor vs. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Remember when Agholor was heading for the Pro Bowl after a big Week 1 performance? Well, he didn't have a great game in Week 2. Although, he did pull in his second touchdown of the season. It's the first time in his career he's had touchdowns in back-to-back games. He'll get to face off against old friend DRC on Sunday. 

It sounds like Janoris Jenkins will be back for the Giants in Week 3; that'll be a big boost for them. But either way, DC Steve Spagnuolo likes having Rodgers-Cromartie as their nickel corner. That will leave this matchup for most of the game. 

DRC fact from the 2012 Eagles media guide: his nickname is "Sexy Bologna." 

Evan Engram vs. Malcolm Jenkins
The Giants' first-round pick is off to a pretty good start. He has eight catches for 93 yards and a touchdown in his first two NFL games. He's going to face a tough test on Sunday, though. The Eagles are pretty good against tight ends. I know, I know, 'They weren't very good against Travis Kelce.' But Engram isn't Kelce ... not yet anyway. 

Schwartz said Engram is looking like a Kelce or Jordan Reed-type player so far and mentioned that the Giants are finding ways to get him involved. 

The Eagles will likely be without Rodney McLeod in this game, but Jenkins will need to have a big game against Engram. 

NFL Notes: Aaron Hernandez had severe CTE; daughter sues NFL, Patriots

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NFL Notes: Aaron Hernandez had severe CTE; daughter sues NFL, Patriots

BOSTON -- Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez had a severe case of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, his lawyer said on Thursday in announcing a lawsuit against the NFL and the team for hiding the true dangers of the sport.

Dr. Ann McKee, the director of the CTE Center at Boston University, said Hernandez had Stage 3 (out of 4) of the disease, which can cause violent mood swings, depression and other cognitive disorders.

"We're told it was the most severe case they had ever seen for someone of Aaron's age," attorney Jose Baez said.

Hernandez killed himself in April in the prison cell where he was serving a life-without-parole sentence for murder. Baez said Hernandez had shown signs of memory loss, impulsivity and aggression that could be attributed to CTE (see full story).

Jets: Williams limited with bone bruise in wrist
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams was limited at practice with a wrist injury that he says is a bone bruise.

Williams was originally injured during the preseason, and says Thursday that his wrist is bothering him at times. It doesn't appear that the injury will keep him out of the Jets' home opener Sunday against Miami, but Williams might have to play through it.

Defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson sat out practice for the second straight day with a sore shoulder. He said Wednesday that it wasn't a big deal, and coach Todd Bowles says the Jets will see how it feels as the week goes along.

Starting right guard Brian Winters (abdomen) and tight ends Jordan Leggett (knee) and Eric Tomlinson (elbow) also didn't practice. Fourth-year backup Dakota Dozier would start if Winters is unable to play (see full story).

Packers: Perry latest key player to go down with injury
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The banged-up Green Bay Packers have lost another key player to injury with outside linebacker Nick Perry scheduled to have hand surgery.

Coach Mike McCarthy says he doesn't know how much time Perry will miss. He was off to a good start as the bookend to fellow edge rusher Clay Matthews with 1 sacks.

The Packers' first-round draft pick in 2012, Perry had a breakout 2016 last season with 11 sacks in 14 games.

The loss of Perry places added importance on the return of Ahmad Brooks, who was a full participant in practice on Wednesday after missing the Week 2 loss at Atlanta because of a concussion (see full story).

Broncos: Miller baffled by low hit from Cowboys receiver
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Von Miller says he's baffled by Cowboys wide receiver Noah Brown's low hit on him Sunday.

The Broncos linebacker pushed through Brown's block on the game's second snap and Brown got up and dived at Miller's knees as Denver's star chased down Ezekiel Elliott on a hand-off from Dak Prescott.

Miller shook off the hit to have a monster game in Denver's 42-17 win , but he has dealt with soreness in his left knee this week.

"My stance is as a player I've always tried to take care of my players on my football team and opponents as well, whether it's the quarterbacks, receivers, the running backs. So, when it's the other way around, it's just baffling," Miller said Thursday after returning to practice full-time following a limited practice Wednesday.

"But you can't really spend too much time on it," Miller added. "Everybody's situation in the National Football League is different. Everybody doesn't have the same outlook that I have and some of my comrades in the National Football League (have). Everybody doesn't see it that way. Everybody doesn't play the game like I play the game. You've got to respect that."

Earlier in the week, Broncos coach Vance Joseph declined to criticize the Cowboys wide receiver for his low hit, saying, "I saw it. It wasn't called. I'm OK with it."

Miller shook off the low hit and finished the afternoon with two sacks, five quarterback hits, two tackles for loss and a pass breakup.