Greg Cosell of NFL Films recently joined John Hansen of FantasyGuru.com on a podcast that features discussion about all 32 teams. Cosell usually has good insight to offer and the fact that he has close ties to the Eagles makes what he has to say especially interesting. The team often features him on their website and he's regularly spotted at Eagles practices and games during the season.
One of the most interesting things Cosell had to say about the Eagles was regarding Philadelphia's running back situation. Cosell called it one of the two biggest issues on the team, and he's not wrong. Head coach Doug Pederson basically admitted the team doesn't have a real lead back by suggesting he's going to install a running-back-by-committee approach.
But just because the Eagles don't have an obvious lead back right now doesn't mean they won't have one at some point moving forward. In fact, the team seems to be pretty high on fifth round pick Wendell Smallwood.
"[Kenjon] Barner is a shorter back. The reason I think he’s Kenjon Barner is because he’s not quite as explosive as you’d like him to be for his size. I think ultimately that Barner and Smallwood are probably similar backs and Smallwood is bigger and probably can do a little more for you than Barner."
"I think [the Eagles] see Smallwood — in this offense, okay? In this offense, I think they see Smallwood progressing to the point where he can be a feature back in this offense. Andy Reid/Doug Pederson, they’re not a true run first offense in the sense that they’re going to have one back carry 320 times, but I think a Wendell Smallwood, for them, is a lower case Jamaal Charles. Good runner, good receiver. He’s not quite Charles, obviously. But I mean the kind of guy that if you gave it to him 240 times, that’s fine, and he’s going to catch the ball."
Smallwood appears to be a favorite of Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley. The West Virginia alumnus looked good during spring practices, especially when he was catching passes out of the backfield.
With that said, Smallwood is far from a shoo-in as the Eagles' lead back at this point. Veteran rusher Ryan Mathews still figures to be the first back up. The 33-year-old Darren Sproles is still expected to be a significant role-player as well. Along with these potential roadblocks, Smallwood has issues of his own. The rookie mightily struggled in pass protection during college.
While Smalllwood might not be ready to be an every-down player at this stage in his career, he still could end up being a significant contributor for the Eagles. Philadelphia needs all the help they can get on offense so Smallwood proving to be a good player would be huge for them.
Read below for more from Cosell's interview.
Cosell on Eagles quarterbacks and the offense in general
"Well, I can only go by what they say and, look, there was a report this week they’re not even going to have [Carson] Wentz active. Again, teams say a lot of stuff right now, so you just take it with a grain of salt, but it looks like [Sam] Bradford will be the starter. He is a professional quarterback. The big issue I have with this team is how … there are two big issues, which I know you have the same issues, is how the receiving corps is going to play out, because I think that’s totally up for grabs, by the way. And how their running back situation is going to play out. I’m not sure that they have — and again, Doug Pederson comes from a situation from Kansas City where they lost [Jamaal] Charles and they went with [Charcandrick] West, they went with [Knile] Davis, they went with Spencer Ware. So I think for Doug Pederson, I don’t think having one guy as a runner is really a priority […] I don’t think he sees his offense and his run game that way."
Cosell on Eagles wide receivers
"They probably have five slot receivers on their roster. Rueben Randle, to me, is the big question here because he can play outside. That’s where he’s played in his NFL career. He’s going to have to play [there]. Who else is going to play outside? This is a team that lacks receivers. Nelson Agholor is, again, I saw him coming out of college as primarily a slot guy as well. Now, he’s probably going to get an opportunity on the outside. There’s a lot of questions here."
Cosell on Eagles offensive line
"[Jason] Kelce has to play better but I think Brandon Brooks is a really good signing. He’s an upgrade. The big question is whether they can get another strong year out of Jason Peters. I think that’s a question mark. Peters has been a great, great player in his career. Now the question is how much of Peters’ drop-off, if you want to use that term, was a function of Chip Kelly in the sense that the practice was really fast paced and Peters could get tired and worn out. I’m sure that’s not going to happen this year. They’re going to cater to him much, which they should, because he’s an older player. That’s what we don’t know. Obviously they signed Lane Johnson to play left tackle. He’s going to be the left tackle at some point."
Cosell on Rodney McLeod and the Eagles defense
"Terrific player. I think their safeties, [Malcolm] Jenkins and McLeod, that’s a really good safety duo. Their questions are pass rush and corners. That’s what their issue is. Can they rush the quarterback on the edge? We need to find out who’s going to do that. I think Vinny Curry is a really good pass rusher. I just wonder if he may be better as an insider rusher, believe it or not. They could have two great inside rushers in their sub-packages with Fletcher Cox and Vinny Curry."