Welcome to the latest edition of the Bleeding Green Nation mailbag! Each weekend I'll be taking some of your Philadelphia Eagles questions and answering them here in this post. As always, thanks to everyone who sent in a question. We already answered some of your questions during the BGN Facebook Live session I hosted. (Shameless plug: please like on the BGN Facebook page and the BGN Radio Facebook page.) Watch the Q&A below:
Now it's time for some of the questions I didn’t get a chance to answer (contact me: @BrandonGowton). Let's get started.
Question: Is Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon worth taking a gamble on?
Multiple people ask this question in my Q&A chats every week. The short answer for me is: no.
I get why this question comes up so frequently. Fans are always excited by the idea of getting a "steal" in the draft. Every year there are talented prospects who get drafted later than they would have if they didn’t have characters concerns.
In theory, it makes sense for the Eagles to take chances of these type of players. Philadelphia needs a lot more talent on their roster (especially at running back) and they have relatively limited resources to work with. Therefore, the Eagles might have to take risks in order to push themselves over the top. The Eagles are aware of this and employed this strategy with some of their late round picks last year.
But not all character concerns are the same. And with Mixon, it’s really difficult to overlook his past.
My buddy James Seltzer said it well when writing about Mixon recently.
And I know that people can change, and I truly do believe in second chances – I hope Mixon feels real remorse and has reformed his life as a result. But I can never be ok with something like this. Maybe people have different thresholds for what they can forgive when it comes to things like domestic violence, but for me that line was crossed. I was taught that you never, ever purposely cause physical harm to a woman, or anyone for that matter, but especially a woman. In my mind, provided your life isn’t in danger, it’s never ok; you can always walk away. Joe Mixon chose to not walk away. And for me, personally, I can’t get over that – no matter how contrite he may be. More so, getting back to the heart of the question I posed, sports are supposed to be fun, right? I know we get intense and all that, but ultimately it’s just a game – a game that we choose to watch and follow because we enjoy it; and we are passionate about it. We root for the Eagles with all our hearts, and bleed green when things don’t go our way. More than anything, we all want to win a Super Bowl — desperately. And I understand that a lot of athletes aren’t saints, and that I’ve probably cheered on assholes many times in the past, but that doesn’t mean that I can (or should) be ok with it moving forward. Especially when the reality of who Joe Mixon is, is staring us right in the face. As Jerry Seinfeld once so eloquently put it, "we’re actually rooting for the clothes," not the people wearing them. I root for the Eagles. And if you’re a player on the Eagles, I’m likely always rooting for you – even when you piss me off. But we have to draw a line somewhere. So, to answer my own question, when it comes to Joe Mixon — No. I don’t want to root for this guy.
I’d just rather not have Mixon on the Eagles. Though clearly talented, it’s not like he’s this can’t-miss prospect. Take him off the board and there’s still no shortage of quality running back options for the Eagles in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Another thing to remember is that these talented players with concerns don’t always work out. Yes, some teams take risks and end up with steals like Tyrann Mathieu, Vontaze Burfict, etc. But there are a lot of busts as well.
Remember how a lot of people wanted Colt Lyerla? He amounted to nothing in the NFL. His situation isn’t exactly comparable to Mixon’s, but the point remains: some people get too excited about the idea of a "steal" without giving enough weight to the character concerns. Just a few other examples of these busts include: Johnny Manziel, Cliff Harris, Dorial Green-Beckham (oh hey!), and so on.
Ultimately, if you want the Eagles to get Mixon, my opinion probably isn’t going to change your mind. But since I get asked a lot, now you know my answer.
@PhillyProud12 asks: In your opinion, what do you think the Eagles should do at the running back position this upcoming year?
So far, I think the Eagles have done a good job of ignoring the running back position in free agency. It doesn’t make sense for this team to hand out big money to a veteran rusher. I still wouldn’t mind taking a flier on Jamaal Charles if he signed for the minimum, but I don’t expect that to happen.
The focus, then, shifts to the 2017 NFL Draft. As previously mentioned, there are a lot of talented rushers in this draft. Howie Roseman used the word "historic" to describe this year’s crop of running backs. It goes without saying the Eagles will draft at least one ball carrier this year.
Could the Eagles draft their new lead running back at No. 14? I’d say there’s a 99% chance it doesn’t happen, though it’s interesting to see the Eagles recently hosted top prospects Leonard Fournette (click here) and Dalvin Cook (click here) on official pre-draft visits. The Fournette visit is especially curious since it’s expected he’ll be off the board before the Eagles’ first-round selection. These visits were announced shortly after a rumor emerged claiming an Eagles coaching staff source said the team is going to be "very aggressive" when it comes to drafting a running back.
Still, I don’t really buy the Eagles drafting a running back in the first. I wouldn’t hate it because I want them to get serious about fixing the position, but I think the history of Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas indicates they won’t do it.
Assuming the first round running back isn’t in play, I’d ideally prefer the Eagles to get their rusher on Day 2. It depends on how the board shakes out, of course, but Philadelphia needs to find a real lead rusher. Not just some late-round project (ex: Bryce Brown) or Day 3 rotational player (ex: Wendell Smallwood).
I’d prefer the Eagles to get at least one of these players: Fournette, Cook, Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Samaje Perine, Kareem Hunt, James Connor.
@RobIsAWriter asks: What's your ideal (realistic) Eagles backfield unit for this coming season?
Since we’re making this realistic, let’s start with the obvious: Darren Sproles will be here. The team is high on Wendell Smallwood (Duce Staley loves him) so I’m fairly confident he’ll be on the roster as well. Sproles is Sproles and I think Smallwood has the potential to be a nice rotational back (the next Correll Buckhalter, if you will). But neither of them are feature players, so it’d be great to get a rookie (such as one of the players listed in the last answer) to be the lead ball carrier.
This potential depth chart looks fun, right?
(Maybe: Byron Marshall)
@DevilDan09 asks: Curtis Samuel the Ohio State slash player - like him as a running back for the Eagles?
Samuel participated in the 2017 NFL Combine as a wide receiver. I think more people project him at that position as opposed to running back, but some people believe in him as a rusher. Take BGN’s Ben Natan, for example.
There is some debate as to what position Curtis Samuel will play in the NFL. While he would be an excellent receiver, his advantage at running back is too great to ignore. His speed is incredible and matching him up with safeties and linebackers in the passing game is just unfair. Regardless where an offense puts him, he is a weapon.
Samuel’s a very talented player, but the sense here is the Eagles will be looking for more of a conventional lead back.
@Juslisun2DaMsg asks: Big thanks to the BGN Radio podcast. Great work ... Chances Eagles make it to the post-season this year? Cut Jason Peters in 2018?
Thanks! Glad to hear you enjoy BGN Radio.
I’ll start with the Peters question first. It’s just a tad premature to be thinking about this, but Peters will turn 36 next January. The Eagles will be able to cut him to save $10.5 million. If he doesn’t play well/doesn’t stay healthy, the Eagles will have to move on. Or maybe he’ll just retire. If Peters does play well this season, however, the team might actually consider signing him to a one-year extension in order to keep him and lower his 2018 cap number. The Eagles showed they’re not afraid to extend older players by tacking on an extra year to Sproles’ contract last summer.
Now, the playoff question.
I’ve already written about how I feel like the 2016 Eagles were better than their record indicated. Historically, these kind of under-performing teams are poised for a leap the next season. From this general perspective, I feel like the Eagles have a reasonable chance to make the playoffs.
When you take a closer look, however, it’s clear the Eagles have a lot of work to do. They having glaring holes at the cornerback position right now. If the season started today, their outside cornerbacks would be ... Jalen Mills and Ron Brooks? And Brooks still might get cut this offseason. So maybe Mills and ... Dwayne Gratz? Not very good. There’s obviously still time for the Eagles to address their weaknesses before the season so the team deserves some more time before people start to panic.
Despite having a bunch of roster needs, there are some reasons for optimism. The biggest one is Wentz. If he can take a really big step forward in 2017, the Eagles will absolutely be in playoff contention. The good news is the Eagles got some actual NFL receivers for Wentz to work with. If they can just get him a good running back, he’d be set. Having improved weapons doesn’t guarantee Wentz will be successful, but at the very least it should help him out.
I wouldn’t call the 2017 Eagles a lock for the playoffs by any means, but I do believe they’re in the mix. It really does come down to how Wentz performs this year.