With it being Christmas and wish lists so prevalent at this time of year, I thought I’d share my list of Eagles players I’d keep after what has been the worst season I’ve seen since I became an Eagles fan in 1988.
It’s been clear for months that Andy Reid won’t be back for a 15th season as the Eagles head coach. There are some people trying to sell the theory that he will return because of the $6 million he’s owed next year, but if Jeff Lurie does allow Reid to stick around then he will garner Norman Braman levels of ire from Eagles fans.
Let’s get this clear, I like Reid. I think he’s a good coach and he’s done a lot of great things in Philadelphia, but he’s made some epic errors over the past few seasons. It started when he pulled the rug out from Kevin Kolb and handed the keys to his offense to Michael Vick early in the 2010 season. I don’t know how Kolb would have panned out, but I knew then that Vick was a turnover machine and, although he conned Reid into thinking he wasn’t, that’s exactly what he’s been. It got worse when he hired a defensive line coach (Jim Washburn) before hiring a defensive coordinator, meaning that anyone interested in being the Eagles defensive coordinator would have to use Washburn’s gimmicky Wide-9 scheme. That led Reid to moving offensive line coach Juan Castillo, who hadn’t coached defense since doing so at a Texas High School in 1989, to defensive coordinator, a move that reeked of desperation and cluelessness. The last miscalculation came after the Eagles blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead to the Lions this year, which prompted Reid to fire Castillo and promote secondary coach Todd Bowles to defensive coordinator. Since Bowles took over the Eagles have played some of the worst defense in NFL history thanks to players who either aged rapidly (Trent Cole), had little experience (Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks) or just didn’t try all that hard (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie).
Along with Reid, all of his coaches will be fired, too. If you ask Eagles fans, they might be happier to see special teams coach Bobby April go than to see Reid canned.
So without further ado, I’ll go through each position group and list the players I’d keep and why I would jettison others.
Quarterback – Nick Foles has earned the right to start in 2013, but who knows what kind of offense the new coaching staff will install. It’s clear Foles has talent, but he is extremely limited athletically. He’ll need a very good offensive line protecting him to succeed and if the Eagles get some players back from injury their line can be very good. We’ll get to that later. Still, I might bring someone in to challenge Foles for the starting job. Having Trent Edwards be the backup wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Vick’s time in Philadelphia is over. He fooled the Eagles into thinking he had become an actual quarterback, one who put protecting the ball at a premium. Instead, in his last 30 games Vick has played four turnover-free games. FOUR! If he had played only 15 games without a turnover in that stretch it would be bad. The best part of cutting Vick is if the Eagles do so within three days after the Super Bowl they owe him nothing. That’s if he doesn’t get injured against the Giants on Sunday, which if he does he could net $3 million.
Running backs – I’d keep everyone on the roster. LeSean McCoy is a star, Bryce Brown has worlds of potential and just needs to go to the Tiki Barber school of protecting the ball and Dion Lewis has been underused in my eyes. I’ll lump fullback into this group, too, so come on down Stanley Havili. He’s not as big as Leonard Weaver, but I think he can be used in a similar way in the passing game.
Offensive line – Jason Peters, Todd Herremans (if he kicks inside to guard), Jason Kelce, Evan Mathis and Dennis Kelly are definite keepers. I think Jake Scott could be a valuable backup at both guard spots. I’m hesitant to keep Danny Watkins because I don’t think he’s all that good and now it’s been revealed that he has a chronic ankle problem, but since he’s a first-round pick that probably buys him another offseason with the team. He’ll have to perform well to earn a roster spot, though. You can’t even say King Dunlap would be a good backup because backup offensive linemen usually end up playing and Dunlap is no good. Dallas Reynolds, Matt Tennant and Matt Kopa, it was nice knowing you. Demetress Bell, it was awful knowing you.
Tight ends – I’d keep Brent Celek and Clay Harbor, let them fight for the starting job and then trade the loser. In that battle I’d pick Celek because he just tries so damn hard. Evan Moore, well, you could have caught a touchdown late in the Redskins game and dropped it. And you had a false start. See ya.
Receivers – Some people don’t like Jeremy Maclin because he seems to be hurt all the time, but he’s been very productive in four years. He’ll be playing for a contract next year, either from the Eagles or someone else. Jason Avant is one of the best third-down receivers in football. DeSean Jackson isn’t the same player he was a couple years ago and that’s too bad. I thought getting paid would make him care more, but he’s big on talking and not so big on walking. Still, he’s ultra-talented and I’d put him back to catch punts, throw a couple deep balls and run at least one reverse a game to him. Riley Cooper is so so and I think he’s comfortable, which is not a good thing in professional football. Damaris Johnson has a lot of potential to be a good slot receiver. I’d bring Greg Salas to camp to give him a look. Marvin McNutt and Ronald Johnson would not be so lucky.
Defensive line – Here’s where I’m making changes. I want a 3-4 defense because I still don’t think the Eagles have the linebackers to play a 4-3. If Cullen Jenkins is cool with it I’m moving him to nose tackle and making Cox an end. I’d like to see what Cedric Thornton could do as a 3-4 end, but I’m probably drafting someone in the second or third round to compete with him. Trent Cole, you’ve been a great Eagle and have so overachieved as a pro it’s not even funny, but I don’t see you being a 3-4 OLB and you make too much money. Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham and Phillip Hunt all get shots to be 3-4 OLBs. Darryl Tapp has been awful and Derek Landri has been a big disappointment this year. I like Mike Patterson as a person and if he can get back into shape I’d bring him to camp and let him fight for a job. He has the size to be a 3-4 nose guard, but he’s kind of short.
Linebackers – I know he struggled to be a 3-4 ILB in Houston, but I think DeMeco Ryans can do it now because he’s healthy. He wasn’t with the Texans last year. Jamar Chaney is gone. He seems to never know what to do and, after I saw him give up on chasing a Redskin who was nearing the end zone on Sunday, Chaney’s ticket out of town is punched. Kendricks might be too short to be a 3-4 ILB and I don’t know what his pass rushing skills are like, but he’s back because he’s so athletic and young. Akeem Jordan is back, but only as a special teamer. Casey Matthews does nothing for me at all. Gone.
Defensive backs – More sweeping changes. I’m only bringing back Brandon Boykin, Curtis Marsh and Brandon Hughes. That’s it. Everyone else is gone (I’m keeping Colt Anderson, but only to play special teams). DRC has been awful this year. Doesn’t try. Can’t tackle. Gives up on plays too often. Nnamdi Asomugha has been a fraud since he came to Philadelphia. Great person, below average player anymore. Kurt Coleman can stay, but only as a special teamer. I can’t bare to watch him miss anymore tackles on tight ends or slow receivers. Nate Allen is another player who I think is comfortable. I don’t like comfortable players. I don’t know if Marsh can play, but that’s because he’s barley played. Put him on the field and we’ll see. Boykin is a slot guy only because of height, but I think he can be a good one. Hughes I like as a dime back and special teamer. David Sims, maybe you come to camp, but you’ll have an uphill battle. Maybe special teams for him.
Special teams – Alex Henery may have been the Eagles MVP this year and that’s just sad. Still, he’s accurate and I think there’s more leg there than he’s been allowed to show so far. Punter is a place I’m bringing in a couple guys and let them fight for the job. If former East Stroudsburg South and East Stroudsburg University standout Ken Parrish is still interested, I’d bring him to camp and give him an honest shot (something I don’t think he was ever given). And unless Jon Dorenbos magically turns into a tight end I’m not bringing him back. I need a long snapper to be able to do something other than snap. Even it’s be a third tight end. Anything really. And magic tricks don’t count.
I won’t even touch the practice squad. Don’t know much about them. If I have to say something, I’d given former Penn State linebacker Nate Stupar a shot at a special teams job.
So there you have it. Lots of changes, lots of cuts and lots of job openings. Now, I’ll say this after you’ve read everything, I’m not sure on salary cap hits for some guys. Some guys I cut might cause a lot of damage to the cap if released. I’d renegotiate those guys’ contracts and give them another shot with good faith from a new coaching staff.
Oh yeah, one more change, but not to the team. Get rid of Howie Roseman, who has zero background in evaluating talent and had a lot of say in the 2010 and 2011 drafts, both of which were putrid. I know he just signed a contract extension, but Roseman has no business being an NFL general manager. And I know with Reid as the Executive Vice President of Football Operations that he has final say on personnel, but for some reason Roseman has Reid’s ear and that’s really hurt this team.