The Eagles made many headlines this past offseason with plenty of trades and signings. From the moment the lockout ended to the beginning of the year, plenty of players had been signed, traded, and cut. At the time of the changes, it was hard to see if the moves were smart and would pay off. For that reason, I will review plenty of their main acquisitions, with enough football this year to properly asses the moves. The letter grades simply represent how good of a move each was by the front office.
Nnamdi Asomugha- Easily the Eagle's biggest acquisition, Nnamdi Asomugha was signed to a 5 year, $60 million deal. Through the first few games, it was often questioned around here whether it was a good idea to have signed him. Many said he was a waste of money after somewhat struggling. I maintained the belief that the acquisition was still worth it, arguing that Nnamdi 'struggling' was still most people playing amazing; he wasn't giving up more than a couple receptions to his opponents and the few times he got burned were not entirely his fault. Eventually, it became obvious that defensive coordinator Juan Castillo was seriously mis-using Asomugha. Nnamdi, one of the best press-man corners of the past decade, was often put in zone coverage. Castillo tried to force Nnamdi into a role he simply has not been accustomed to at all in his career and it was obviously a mistake. In their most recent game against the Redskins, it seemed to me like Nnamdi was in press often. I could be wrong because I don't have numbers on the amount of time he spent in each type of coverage, but it seemed to be more of Nnamdi in press. Be it that the Redskins and Rex Grossman are horrendous, the Redskins wide recievers suck, or that Nnamdi truley was beginning to be used correctly, Nnamdi allowed one reception for negative yards and delivered a crushing hit to Chris Cooley on the play.
To wrap up, I still love the signing of Asomugha. He has shown that when he's used correctly, he can be as much of a lights-out cornerback as in his days in Oakland. It remains unknown if Juan Castillo has actually learned that he has misused his best corner and will change it, or if his recent great game against Washington was just a result of the opposition. So for now, I give this acquisition an A -. It'd easily be an A+ if the Eagle's coaches put him into his proper position, but his play has still warranted a good grade. If Castillo put Nnamdi on one receiver and simply said, "take him out of the game," I'm sure he would be up to the task. The A- grade is not an indication at all that Nnamdi is anything but an A+ corner, but more that the coaches have not used him as they should, and which I must take partly in account while considering the grade: A-
Jason Babin- This has been one of my favorite moves the Eagles made. He returned to Philly after a Pro-Bowl year in Tennessee, where he fit into Jim Washburn's wide-9 system perfectly. Spending most of his career as a hyped player who never lived up to it, Jason finally succeeded with 12 and a half sacks. After Washburn became the defensive line coach of the Eagles, Babin came here as well, as brought with him the performance that made him one of the best defensive ends in 2010. With an amazing 7 sacks through 6.5 games, Babin has proved to doubters that he was not just a one year wonder. What I love about Babin is that he's always around the ball. He goes 100% ever play, often starting on one side of the field and sprinting to the other just to get a tackle. He plays with alot of emotion and I could definitely see him develop into a must-needed leader on our defense as the season progresses. My only worry with Babin is that in the Eagles' recent game, they showed a tendency to shy away from the wide-9 setup on defense, and this could result in a dip in productivity from Babin. We know he's a monster in the wide-9, so if they start to make him line up tighter than we'll have to see if he can continue racking up the sacks.Overall, he's a beast in a perfect position on this Jim Washburn line, and I love his hustle to get to the ball: A+
Cullen Jenkins- Like Jason Babin, another Pro-Bowler who has really solidified our line at the tackle position. Jenkins shows a great ability to get to the quarterback, and his 5 sacks this year reflects the success he's had. Although the wide-9 mainly effects the defensive ends, his "get to the quarterback" mentality has seemed to rub off on Jenkins. In a situation where his main job is to disrupt the QB, Jenkins has lived up to the signing. With my initial worry about him being his injury problems in the past, he has managed to stay on the field for every game. I give Jenkins an A- for his pure ability to rush the passer, but he certainly is not great against the run and that is the general problem with our defense. It would be nice to have someone better against the run to at least slow up opposing running backs so our linebackers have a better chance of stopping them. That said, I still love the signing because Jenkins has been an absolute force in the pass-stopping game and has been a huge asset to our line: A-
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie- In one of the first moves the Eagles made, they traded Kevin Kolb for Dominique Rodgers Cromartie and a 2nd round pick from Arizona. It is hard for me to determine how DRC has played this year, because he has had his ups and downs. For a while it seemed like he was not even trying, often just jogging after receivers and not trying to make a tackle. I began to think that DRC was becoming frustrated, being in a defense where he not only doesn't see the field as often as he used to, but rarely gets lined up outside on opponents' wide outs. Considering that this is what he was used to in Arizona, I was worried that he was uninspired to play in Philly and didn't fit into our defense. That is, until the Redskins game. I thought DRC played amazing this past Sunday. He broke up multiple passes and, to me, seemed to be putting in alot more effort than before. In one play, he followed a WR into the endzone, running right with him. When Rex Grossman threw what seemed like a decent pass, Cromartie jumped high over the receiver, got his hands onto the ball, and broke up the pass. I was impressed with Cromartie on Sunday, when it seemed like showed the athleticism that we all expected.
Since this was also a trade, not just a signing, it is also important to analyze the trade as a whole, not just DRC's performance. Kevin Kolb has been averaging about 200 yards per game and has thrown 5 touchdowns though as many games. Being a former Kolb doubter, I found it perplexing that the Cardinals gave up so much for him and then signed him to such a large contract. Considering DRC recent performance and Kolb's play this year, along with the fact that we got a 2nd round draft pick, I find this to be an unbelievably smart trade from an Eagles standpoint. I give this trade a B+, because I think it is great what we got for a quarterback who I refuse to believe is anything special, but I also remain skeptical about the effort DRC will be willing to put in on our defense: B+
Evan Mathis- Wow, do I love this signing. It was totally under the radar- I, myself, didn't really think too much of it at the time. Mathis, who came from the Bengals, didn't play that much in Cincinnati, and I didn't except to have stumbled across such a good LG. I am trying not to overreact, but Mathis' play has been incredible, at least compared to what I thought it'd be. When Herremans was moved to right tackle and Mathis became the starting left guard, he stepped up and played as good as most linemen in the NFL; in fact, Pro Football Focus ranked him at 2nd among others that play the same position through the first 5 weeks of the 2012 season. Mathis has been the main reason for our somewhat improving line. With our 1st round pick, Danny Watkins, on the other side, Mathis has provided hope that our offensive line will become better than most of us expected. A great acquisition from the Eagles; he was inexpensive and, in my opinion, his performance has been one of the most important to the little amount of success we've had this year. Not to mention he's awesome on Twitter, interacts alot with fans via email, and his whole confrontation with the fans who put up the Andy Reid sign might show he's becoming a leader on this team: A
Vince Young, Ronnie Brown, and Steve Smith- I will talk about all of our three other main moves at once. All 3 have been irrelevant to our team. In fact, they have been very relevant, but for the wrong reasons. Lets start off with Vince Young singe handedly putting a target on our team after the "Dream Team" comment. All 3 of these players have probably seen less than 15 snaps of football this regular season. Ronnie Brown had the very costly fumble against the 49ers, Steve Smith helped create a costly interception against the Giants, and Vince Young came in yesterday and threw an ugly interception, which could have easily changed the entire outcome of the game. I know it's not completely fair to call them all wastes; we're 6 games in and none of them have had enough time to prove anything. My insults are not exactly towards the players (mistakes will happen when you're seeing one snap a game), but more towards the from office for acquiring these players. I don't understand the point of paying so much money for one backup quarterback who is on the verge of being third string, a running back who also seems that he might take a backseat to a rookie runningback, and a wide receiver who is not even our 4th WR. Brown and Smith were fairly inexpensive, but Vince Young was not cheap and when combined, the money used for these three (worthless) players took away money that could have been used for a much more necessary position: linebacker.
The Eagles are paying Young more money this year than it would have taken to get Stephen Tulloch, a very solid linebacker. Was getting all of these backup players so necessary that we had to spend so much money on them and ignore our real needs? I give the front office a big fat F on this one. As for the players themselves, I withhold judgement, because they have not had a chance to prove themselves. That doesn't entirely reflect that they're bad players but that it was a bad move to spend money on them instead of elsewhere and that is why I am so angered by these three acquisitions. The Eagles are a team where one hole (LB) has seemed to be the cause of the majority of their problems. With just one good linebacker up the middle, they'd be much more solid on defense. In a domino effect, a better rush defense could have gotten them a couple more wins and we'd be looking at a much better record. I don't want to place all of the blame of our bad start on these 3 signings, but they certainly didn't help and took money away from where we really should have spent it: F
And this leads me into the biggest F of them all; the move that has effected this team worse than any other. Of course, it is their inability to get a good linebacker. As I said just before, a good linebacker would have completely changed the performance of our defense and maybe our record as well. If I could attribute one problem that has been the reason we've struggled, I, as well as many other fans, would say our linebackers, with coaching coming at a close second. For some reason our front office thought drafting Casey Matthews, and having 2 other inexperienced linebackers next to him would seal up our defense, and I'm quite embarrassed that I bought into the hype. There's not much to say regarding linebackers that hasn't been said already. Most linebackers we could or should have gotten are good; our's suck. Alot. Although Brian Rolle has seemed to be an improvement to our linebacker core, I'm still extremely worried that we will continue to get gashed by the run. If I have to see one of our linebackers bite for a play action only to be beat by a tight end or running back running a wheel route I'll lose my mind. For their lack of focus on our linebackers, I give the front office a huge F for this one. No, not even just an F. An F minus. I'd give lower letters of the alphabet if it were possible.