Grading the Eagles’ moves: WR Torrey Smith

Grading the Eagles’ moves: WR Torrey Smith

The Eagles didn’t need a wide receiver. What the offense was missing specifically was speed on the outside – a deep threat, if you will.

Torrey Smith checks that box and comes at a bargain.

Critics can point to two disappointing seasons in San Francisco for Smith, whose production bottomed out with 20 receptions for 267 yards and three touchdowns in 2016. Yet, despite the down year (as part of a directionless franchise with terrible quarterbacks), his career 17.0 yards per reception ranks third among active NFL players.

Smith is only a year removed from averaging a league-leading 20.1 yards per reception. In 2014, he caught 11 touchdown passes as a member of the Ravens. In 2013, he totaled 1,128 yards receiving. And in 2012, he helped the franchise win a Super Bowl.

In four seasons with Baltimore and a competent quarterback in Joe Flacco, Smith averaged 53 receptions, 898 yards and 7.5 touchdowns per year. And what those numbers don’t account for is the fear he put in defensive backs. Once referred to as “king of drawing pass interference,” defenders were flagged 12 times for a whopping 261 yards in ’14 alone.

While that seems like a long time ago, Smith is only 28 and has avoided serious injury throughout his six-year career. There’s no reason to believe his abilities have eroded that much.

Then there’s his extremely team-friendly contract. The Eagles will pay Smith $5 million in 2017, which will be well worth it if he returns to form. Then there are team options worth $5 million in ’18 and ’19 as well, giving the club the opportunity to keep Smith should he perform while simultaneously eliminating all of the risks.

What’s not to like?

Even had the Eagles had done nothing else to address the receiver position in free agency, Smith would’ve been a significant addition. The offense’s 6.2 yards per pass attempt were tied for 30th in the NFL last season, while only four teams had fewer than six completions of 40 yards or more.

Smith brings an element to the offense that the Eagles were sorely lacking last year. Not only will Carson Wentz be able to take more shots downfield, but opposing safeties will have to back off to account for the deep threat, opening up the middle of the field for the passing attack and giving ball carriers more room to run.

Grade: A+

Related: Grading the Eagles' moves: WR Alshon Jeffery

Catching up on some big Eagles stories from Week 1 of OTAs

Catching up on some big Eagles stories from Week 1 of OTAs

It was great to be back at the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday and take in an Eagles practice, even if it was non-contact. There’s a lot of buzz around the team right now, and minimal time to cover everything, so let’s dive into some of the storylines that slipped through the cracks during the first week of OTAs.

The thought that the Eagles are secretly fuming over Carson Wentz seeing a private quarterback guru seems ridiculous. It’s not uncommon for NFL players -- even quarterbacks -- to seek council during the offseason. Tom Brady did it, and I don’t recall any drama ever unfolding with the Patriots as a result of that. Perhaps some mild concern has been expressed behind closed doors, as Wentz’s mechanics are a constant work in progress, and Eagles coaches surely prefer he learn the methods they’re teaching. Then again, I highly doubt somebody earned the title of “quarterback guru” if they’re not passing along standard NFL techniques. It was an even bigger reach to suggest Doug Pederson’s displeasure over this development was on display during his press conference on Tuesday.

I’m not one to place a whole lot of stock into OTAs, but seeing rookie cornerback Rasul Douglas on the field with the first-team defense in nickel situations is a promising sign. He didn’t look out of place, either. At 6-foot-2, 209 pounds, Douglas matched up well with Alshon Jeffery. I could see his size being an asset against NFC East rivals like Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall and Terrelle Pryor -- bigger receivers the Eagles will face two times each this season. While performance in OTAs typically means squat, it was about this time last year when Jalen Mills began ascending the depth chart, and he wound up playing quite a bit. It’s early, but given the situation at cornerback, not at all far-fetched to anticipate a similar role coming for Douglas.

While I agree with the premise Nelson Agholor could improve and go on to have a respectable NFL career, Eagles teammate Brandon Graham isn’t really the most relatable example. It’s time for the seemingly annual reminder that Graham’s progression was derailed by a major knee injury as a rookie. He essentially missed the following season, and was buried on the depth chart upon returning. A year later, the defense switched to a 3-4, which was an adjustment as well. Yet, time and time again, Graham would perform at a high level whenever he got into games, finally earning his starting job back in 2015. Agholor has been a starter the past two seasons, and aside from a high ankle sprain his rookie year, he’s been relatively healthy. What’s the excuse here? Agholor may be a late bloomer, but Graham’s experience breaking into the league was vastly different.

The revelation that Vinny Curry was affected by a knee injury last season can be taken one of two ways. Some may see it as an excuse for his modest performance after signing a massive contract extension a year ago, which currently looks like an expensive mistake. I prefer to view the injury news as another reason to give Curry a slight pass. We’ve all seen what an explosive pass rusher he could be, racking up 9.0 sacks in 2014 while playing only one-third of the Eagles’ defensive snaps. If he was hampered by the knee -- Curry admitted wearing a brace for much of the season -- that could certainly help explain why he often seemed invisible. Even if he simply wasn’t very good, Curry has another opportunity to prove himself in 2017. Might as well take the optimistic outlook.

Mike Schmidt shows off new sunscreen dispensers at Citizens Bank Park

Mike Schmidt shows off new sunscreen dispensers at Citizens Bank Park

Phillies legend Mike Schmidt is teaming up with Mayor Kenney, the city of Philadelphia, Independence Blue Cross, and the Richard David Kann Melanoma Foundation to help protect you from the sun's harmful rays.

As part of the Sun Smart America initiative, the Phillies will place 12 sunscreen dispensers around Citizens Bank Park in addition to 6 dispensers located elsewhere around the city. 

This Sunday, May 28th, is also Melanoma Awareness Day at the ballpark when the Phillies host the Cincinnati Reds at 1:35. 

Schmidt will throw out the ceremonial first pitch and try to promote the importance of protecting one's skin from the sun. He knows from a trying personal experience.

"The sun almost took my life," Schmidt told the Palm Beach Post after his battle with skin cancer. He spent months going through heavy radiation and chemotherapy and is currently cancer free.

The sunscreen dispensers at the ballpark can be found at all entry gates as well as on the Rooftop, Pavillion, and Terrace levels beginning on Sunday.