This time, Eagles' Musgrave has talent to work with

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This time, Eagles' Musgrave has talent to work with

In August of 1998, the Colts released veteran quarterback Bill Musgrave after he was beaten out by Kelly Holcomb in a training camp battle to back up rookie Peyton Manning.

Two months later, Musgrave improbably found himself as the Eagles' de facto offensive coordinator.

Musgrave returned to the Eagles this year to replace Bill Lazor as quarterbacks coach after Lazor was named the Dolphins' offensive coordinator.

These days, Musgrave is a grizzled veteran offensive coach whose job is to work with Nick Foles and the other quarterbacks on a playoff team bursting with offensive talent.

Sixteen years ago, things were a bit different.

The Eagles didn’t have Foles; they had Rodney Peete, Ty Detmer and Bobby Hoying. They didn’t have Chip Kelly running the offense; they had Dana Bible. And they didn’t have LeSean McCoy; they had a running back named Duce Staley.

“It was a difficult situation for Bill,” said Staley, now on Kelly’s staff with Musgrave. “But like the true champ that he is, he was able to jump in there and kind of keep it rolling.”

Musgrave’s first Eagles career lasted just five months. He was hired in August of 1998 as an anonymous entry-level quality control coach soon after the Colts released him, and he was fired along with head coach Ray Rhodes and most of his staff in January.

In between, he was at the helm of one of the worst offenses ever assembled.

“I learned a lot that year,” said the soft-spoken Musgrave. “I learned a lot about the men on that team. The record wasn’t what any of us wanted, especially Coach Rhodes, but it was great to work for Ray Bob, and great to be around those players.

“They never quit, never quit fighting, and stayed competitive throughout. ... It was an experience that I learned from. I learned from all my experiences, and I’m thankful for all of them.”

In 1995 and 1996, the Eagles went to the playoffs under Rhodes, with Jon Gruden running the offense. But by 1998, Gruden was gone, Bible was the overmatched offensive coordinator, there was little talent remaining on offense, and the Eagles found themselves with one of the worst offenses in NFL history.

Those 1998 Eagles scored 12 or fewer points in 10 of 16 games and finished the season scoring just 161 points.

No NFL team in the last 20 years has scored fewer points.

Six weeks into the season, with the Eagles 1-5 and getting outscored by an average of 25-11, Rhodes shuffled his coaching staff, demoting Bible and without changing his title, making Musgrave the offensive coordinator and play caller.

Two months after his playing career ended.

Things didn’t get much better. The Eagles went 2-8 with Musgrave running the offense, averaging 9.2 points the rest of the season.

Musgrave went on to spent two years with the Panthers, then two years at Virginia, before stints with the Jaguars, Redskins, Falcons and Vikings.

Now he’s back with the Eagles, 16 years after being part of the NFL’s sixth-lowest-scoring offense since 1960.

“You rememeber the season we were going through,” Staley said. “I remember the things we were going through. He came straight out of training camp to our staff. He wasn’t that far removed from being a player.

“He was a quality control guy, had some West Coast [offense] background [with the 49ers], so he brought that to the table, and he was a teacher.

“That was a tough year, but Bill ... you know if a guy has it or not, and he’s had it since Day 1.”

That had to be an incredibly difficult year for Musgrave. He wasn’t even with the Eagles in training camp, but by Week 7 he was being asked to call the plays.

But if it left him with a bad taste in his mouth, he isn’t letting on.

“Every season in the NFL is challenging,” he said. “We were putting our best foot forward each and every week. I was really proud of that group because they kept fighting.”

That was a remarkable coaching staff for a 3-13 team. Sean Payton and John Harbaugh both went on to win Super Bowls as head coaches, Emmitt Thomas is a Hall of Famer, Mike Trgovac is a terrific defensive coach, Juan Castillo was a highly regarded offensive line coach, and so on.

“We had a terrific staff,” Musgrave said. “We all worked together. Sean Peyton was the quarterbacks coach, Juan Castillo was here, had just gotten run over by the golf cart, Emmitt Thomas being the defensive coordinator, and Danny Smith coaching the linebackers and John Harbaugh doing the special teams.

“I just think the world of Ray Bob and I learned a lot. I wouldn’t trade the expreience for anything. Not at all. I felt like we had a good coaching staff and good players. We definitely wanted to win more games, that’s for sure.”

These days, Musgrave has a quarterback who threw nearly twice as many touchdowns in 10 starts last year than that entire 1998 team scored all year. He’s with an offense that set records for most yards and points instead of fewest. And now he’s a veteran coach with a decade and a half of experience instead of a recently retired quarterback just starting out.

“It’s a tremendous organization, tremendous coaching staff, and they have talent on the football field,” Musgrave said.

“To see what they did last year -- winning seven of the last eight and have momentum going into the playoffs -- I feel like it’s a program that I can contribute to and also can learn from at the same time.

“I was excited to [come here and] learn this system, learn this culture, be a contributing factor on a team that’s really on the rise.”

Options for Eagles in Rounds 4-7 of NFL draft

Options for Eagles in Rounds 4-7 of NFL draft

Here is a breakdown of players that should interest the Eagles on Saturday, the final day of the NFL draft. The Eagles have five more picks left — two in the fourth and one in the fifth, sixth and seven.

Options in the fourth and fifth round

Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma
Perine is an old school power back. He'd be a great complement to Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood although not necessarily a fit in this offense.

Jamaal Williams, RB, BYU
Williams has ideal size but not breakaway speed. He also has good vision and cutback ability.

Wayne Gallman, RB, Clemson
The forgotten man in Clemson's star-studded offense. Gallman is tough and versatile with the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.

Anthony Walker, LB, Northwestern
Walker had a breakout sophomore season but gained too much muscle the following offseason. If the 2015 version returns, he could be a solid player.

Shelton Gipson, WR, West Virginia
Gipson is a one-trick pony but his speed is legit. The Eagles could use a young burner.

Julie'n Davenport, OT, Bucknell
Jason Peters can't play forever. Davenport dominated at Bucknell. He's still a bit of a project, but he has tools to work with.

Roderick Johnson, OT, Florida State
Before the season, Johnson was a player to keep an eye on as a fringe first-rounder. He struggled at times this season but is still athletic and intriguing.

Jaleel Johnson, DT, Iowa
Johnson really flashes at times. Other times, his pad level is too high and he loses to offensive linemen despite outmuscling them.

Options in the sixth and seventh rounds

Chad Wheeler, OT, USC
Wheeler has had issues on and off the field but has shown flashes of being a decent tackle. He may not have the athleticism to hang at left tackle at the next level.

Charles Walker, DT, Oklahoma
He's had concussion issues and questions about his passion. But when Walker is in the lineup and focused, he can play.

Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB, Tennessee
Reeves-Maybin is undersized but instinctive and fast. At worst, he becomes a special team's ace.

Tedric Thompson, S, Colorado
Thompson is a ball hawking safety, pulling in seven interceptions last season. It's not a position of need, but again, Thompson could help out on special teams and maybe develop into something more.

Eagles draft CB Rasul Douglas with 3rd-round pick

Eagles draft CB Rasul Douglas with 3rd-round pick

Eagles Draft Tracker

The Eagles doubled down on cornerbacks on Day 2.

The round after taking Washington's Sidney Jones in the second, the Eagles took a cornerback who can actually play this season, selecting West Virginia cornerback Rasul Douglas with their third-round pick (99th overall).

The Eagles had the 99th pick after the trade with the Ravens to get Timmy Jernigan. In that trade, the Eagles gave up the 74th pick and took back the 99th. They thought Douglas was a player they would miss out on because of the move.

Luckily for them, he was still available at 99.

"It was a long way to go from (second-round pick) 43 to 99 but we feel that this guy fits our system, tremendous ball skills, length, and someone who really was on our radar for a long time and had a really good process including at the Senior Bowl," Eagles VP of football operations Howie Roseman said.

The Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, was where the Eagles really started to like Douglas. While he was on their radar before, after being scouted by East Coast scout Ryan Myers, they were very impressed in Mobile.

"The thing that really stood out at his week at the Senior Bowl, you probably hear me talk about it all the time, this guy is tough," VP of player personnel Joe Douglas said. "And very competitive. You saw it all week. Every rep was like the last rep he was playing. I love the way this guy competes."

Rasul Douglas, who ran a 4.59 time in the 40 at the combine, had eight interceptions in the 2016 season. While that 40 time is slower than ideal, Roseman praised Douglas' 10-yard split and said his length and ball skills help to make up for it.

The 6-foot-2, 203-pound corner was once a junior college player who became a first-teamer on the All-Big 12 team. At 6-2, Douglas is the Eagles' tallest corner by two inches. In the past, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has used smaller CBs.

While Douglas will be able to play early this season unlike Jones, the Eagles claim that wasn't the reason they came back with another cornerback pick so quickly.

"It didn't matter the position, it was just the ability to pick the best player," head coach Doug Peterson. "And it just so happened it fit a need and we were fortunate there. This is a good player coming in here."

The last time the Eagles took two corners within the first three rounds was in 2002 when they double-dipped by taking Lito Sheppard in the first round and Sheldon Brown in the second.

This is the first time since 2012, the Eagles have picked a defensive player three times to start a draft.

The Eagles took defensive end Derek Barnett in the first round (43) and cornerback Jones in the second (43).

The draft will wrap up Saturday when the Eagles have five more picks in the fourth through seventh rounds. They have two in the fourth (118, 139) and one in the fifth (155), sixth (194) and seventh (230).

A huge need the Eagles have not addressed yet is at the running back position. Pederson said there are still one or two guys on the board who they like. A key for the Eagles is a back with three-down potential.