This feature is a weekly piece on BleedingGreenNation.com titled From The Eagles, featuring Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro. The intention is to provide a perspective directly from the Philadelphia Eagles in this forum for the great fans who visit BGN.
From the time the 2016 NFL season ended, the speculation began. The questions started. How would the Eagles attack the offseason? What would the plan be? So with that came a list of “These-are-going-to-happen” events for the Eagles in free agency, the draft and the season. How many of them have come true? Here is a mini-list as well as some post-draft thoughts about the Eagles.
1. Trading LB Mychal Kendricks
How many rumors did we hear about Kendricks being traded? How many times was Howie Roseman asked about Kendricks and the linebacker’s future in Philadelphia? All of those whispers down the lane meant … nothing. Kendricks remains. He’s the starting WILL linebacker here. Kendricks played only 27 percent of the defensive snaps in 2016, the fourth straight year his playing time has decreased. To be fair, some of those reductions were due to injuries, but in 2016 Kendricks was healthy all the way through. He just didn’t play all that much.
So the prevailing thinking out there was that Kendricks would be traded or released. Anything. Just not on the roster on May 2. Kendricks is here and remains the starter at WILL.
2. Running back would be a high priority in the 2017 NFL Draft
I thought so, too! It just seemed logical to conclude that in a draft filled with running backs, the Eagles would get one very high in the draft. Maybe as early as Day 2. But it didn’t happen, as the Eagles went defense with their first three picks, and then traded in the fourth round and took a wide receiver (Mack Hollins) with the first pick of Day 3. The Eagles did use a fourth-round pick on the record-setting Donnel Pumphrey, but he is not, at first glance, an every-down back in the NFL.
Running back remains a position to watch, because the Eagles just don’t have a go-to running back on the roster who is going to carry the football 20 times a game. What happens here? We’ll see. The coaching staff will use Pumphrey creatively. It’s going to be really interesting to watch. Running back, remember, is only as good as the players around him. The Eagles are strong up front and they have weapons in the passing game. Maybe they add to the position. Maybe they go with what they’ve got. In 2000, when Duce Staley was injured, the Eagles turned to Darnell Autry for, gulp, 112 carries. Late-season addition Chris Warren had 85 rushing yards as the starting running back in the playoff win over Tampa Bay that season. It can be done, even with less-than-ideal personnel.
3. The Eagles would trade C Jason Kelce
Maybe the questions will stop now, although Howie Roseman was asked about Kelce on Sunday. The Eagles believe in Kelce. He’s here. He’s going to be here. Kelce is the starting center.
Will the questions stop? Probably not. The Eagles are stacked pretty darn nicely along the offensive line. There is going to be competition at every position, center included.
4. Eagles would not be major players in free agency
I sure didn’t think the Eagles would sign Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and Chance Warmack on the first day of free agency. I didn’t think they would trade for Tim Jernigan. Chris Long and Patrick Robinson? Yeah, I felt those kinds of short-term investments would be just about right for a tight-to-the-salary-cap team, as the Eagles were, and are. Roseman pulled off the deals to add some star power to the free-agency class, though. He made it happen. The Eagles did a whole lot more in free agency than I expected.
5. First-round pick would be a splashy selection
A running back? Maybe. A cornerback? I think there were many convinced that the Eagles would take a corner in the first round, and maybe in the second round as well. And if a player like tight end O.J. Howard slipped through the cracks, perhaps the Eagles would make a surprising selection.
No doubt there was a strong school of thought that the Eagles were going to make a “splashy” pick at 14 overall. Instead, they stayed true to their board, selecting defensive end Derek Barnett from Tennessee. The Eagles fans’ reaction was mild, at best. Barnett was anything but splashy. But he was among the team’s top eight players on the board when the draft started and the Eagles liked Barnett too much to pass on. So he’s here and could be a Day 1 starter, and if he plays the way the Eagles think he can play, Barnett makes the entire defense better.
6. Team would play back-to-back games in California
It didn’t quite work out that way. Instead of playing in California on back-to-back weekends to lighten the travel load, the Eagles play in Seattle and then California, so it’s back-to-back travel games no matter how you slice it. The air travel time from Seattle to Los Angeles is 2 hours, 40 minutes. This ain’t going to be a picnic. And there is no etched-in-stone plane to spend that week in either Seattle or Los Angeles.
Sometimes, reality just doesn’t follow the script.