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State of the Eagles: New League Year 2019

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Welcome to the first edition of my new quasi-regular series, “State of the Eagles,” where I offer my takes on what’s currently going on with the team.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

With the new league year right around the corner, I thought this would be as good time as ever to introduce my newest semi-periodical contribution to Bleeding Green Nation, “State of the Eagles.” Essentially, I’ll just be riffing off of whatever news and narratives are circulating around the Eagles at the time I’m writing an edition. It’s a little less demanding on me than Crunching The Numbers (which I retired at the end of last season), but I think it still gives me a good avenue to produce high quality content for you loyal readers.

Anyway, enough chit-chat. Let’s start off with a bang by beating a dead horse!

The Ballad of Nick Foles

So long, Nick, and thanks for all the fish everything you’ve done for the city of Philadelphia. A lot has been said about Nick over the past few months, so I’ll do my best not to rehash anything too much. But I think it’s hard to overstate just how weird Foles’ career has been, from 2013 phenom to 2015 trade chip to 2016 almost-pastor-turned-backup to 2017 and 2018 Super Bowl and playoff hero. He will undoubtedly get a “30 for 30” special about him someday, or an episode of “A Football Life” dedicated to him at the very least, and I wouldn’t really be shocked if he eventually got a feature film based on his life and career. Stories like BDN’s simply don’t happen, and yet there we all were, witnessing it together, like one of the few and bizarre episodes of The Twilight Zone that actually have a happy ending.

There was one other thing I wanted to address about Nick – something that I believe helps explain our fascination with him, and the untenable, almost transcendent connection we all seem to have with him. Yes, the “Foles truthers” wax poetic about how he’s a “winner” and a “leader of men” with a mature, calming presence, and how these intangibles outweigh the talent shortcomings that Carson Wentz does not have. But I think there’s a deeper reason why so many of us are reluctant to see Howie do the right thing and relinquish Foles to free agency: Nick Foles plays football the way we, as fans, would play football.

I don’t mean to say that Foles plays like your average armchair quarterback. Far from it. It’s more of the charismatic, laissez-faire, zero-shits-given attitude he adopts when he approaches the game. Ever since he was brought back from the edge of retirement he’s been playing with house money, and acting like it.

Let’s say you’re playing a game of two-hand-touch with your friends. It’s your series to play QB, and you see that two of your receivers are wide open downfield. What are you gonna do, lead one receiver away from the nearest coverage, maybe look off your cousin Jeff playing safety for good measure? Fuck no. You’re gonna chuck it up there while thinking, “There’s two of them – someone will come down with it.”

You already know where I’m going with this:

There is NO WAY Foles wasn’t thinking, “Fuck it, one of them will catch this” as he lobbed that ball into the air. And indeed, both Alshon and Aggy converged on the ball, with Alshon making the grab and Agholor looking rather frustrated for coming in second place. This is exactly how any of us would have approached that play, and you can feel that when watching Nick play football. He goes out there and does what he does, seizing every opportunity with an unshakeable belief that it’ll all pan out in the end as long as he keeps taking chances. If he were British, I’m confident he’d be shouting “TALLY HO!” before attempting at least 60% of his passes.

Now compare that play above to the way Carson would have approached it. He most likely would have zeroed in on the receiver he felt would most likely not drop the ball (Alshon) and led him away from coverage for a would-be touchdown. Afterwards, Collinsworth would have pointed out how Agholor was also wide-open, and that the entire play was a textbook example of how not to cover receivers deep. And it would have been a great play, but it would have been remembered as simply a big play that professional quarterbacks make. When not scrambling, Wentz is methodical, precise, and surgical, and it’s those very qualities that makes him the clearer choice for the future. But what it doesn’t make him is more relatable to the fans. Instead, he sits in a higher echelon, one that we could only get a glimpse of by playing Madden. Foles, on the other hand, is more of a kindred spirit, the man who managed to take the “fuck it, I’m going deep” attitude of the sandlot football games we’ve lived to the professional level and win a Super Bowl while doing it.

This is why it’s so hard to watch him leave, even if it’s what must be done. And Nick, I know you’re not reading this, but in the alternate universe in which you are, thank you for bringing the brand of football with which we’re the most intimately familiar to the grass of Lincoln Financial Field. Thank you for being the consummate teammate and locker room leader that, at times, this team sorely needed. And thank you for doing the almost unimaginable by outdueling Tom Brady in the Super Bowl and bringing the first Lombardi to Philadelphia. But mostly, thank you for simply being you, and winning a lot of football games for the Eagles in the process.

Godspeed, Nick, with whatever adventure lies ahead for you and your family.

Howie Roseman: Mastermind

The Eagles’ de facto general manager has been busy of late, making sure Brandon Graham stays in Philly with a big deal and inking Isaac Seumalo to what I assume is a modest contract extension (details have not been released at the time of writing). From a sentimental standpoint, it is EXCEPTIONAL that Brandon Graham is staying in midnight green. At his age, there is now a real chance he plays out his entire career with the Eagles. There have been a lot of Eagles players I’ve liked over the years, but few that would really make me happy to see them never leave the City of Brotherly Love. Graham is one of those players. His (sometimes tortured) career path is a parable of persistence, and it gives me chills thinking the player that so many fans booed on draft day - a player Andy Reid moved up significantly to grab - for the crime of not being Earl Thomas wound up making the biggest play in franchise history when he all but sealed the Eagles’ first Super Bowl victory. Unreal.

From a practical standpoint, I’m on the fence about how to feel about Howie’s constant manipulation of the salary cap. On one hand, nobody gets a trophy for having the most cap space. On the other hand, it’s only been a few short years since we were all mocking Jerry Jones for doing pretty much exactly what Howie has been doing for the past two seasons. He’s continued that trend this year, as I have no idea how he’s going to address the team’s considerable needs and pay Graham all of that money, but I’ve also stopped portending to have the slightest idea of what “the Bear Jew” is planning. Howie is a professional, and the ultimate big picture guy who plans out every move far in advance and then meticulously ensuring all of the pieces fall into place. He is truly a roster management mastermind, even if his player evaluation skills were somewhat lacking prior to the hiring of Joe Douglas.

Ultimately, until he gives me reason to doubt him, In Howie I Trust. But that doesn’t mean I won’t have a nagging (if distant) fear that the other shoe will drop when Carson is in his prime and needs the “win now” pieces to make a second (third? fourth? fifth?) run at a Lombardi Trophy.

Odds and Ends

Here’s a few other things about the Eagles that I’m packaging in bullet form so this doesn’t ramble on for 1800 words:

  • Unlike last season, the Eagles have quite a few offseason needs, including (in no particular order): running back, deep threat, defensive line depth (bye bye Tim), offensive line depth, and linebacker. I think they should give their current secondary a shot for next season and I’m totally fine if they only roll 2-deep at QB, although with Carson’s injuries I wouldn’t blame them for bringing in another arm, which they are reportedly trying to do.
  • Howie loves to trade, so what’s in store? So far there are rumors that Agholor is available (I can get behind that at the right price), along with Bennett (ummmm.... no). There are also rumors they want to trade for Duke Johnson (yes please). My guess is that Howie sees two problems: (1) low cap space, and (2) pressing needs, and sees trades as a way to kill two birds with one stone. Don’t be surprised if more new veteran talent is acquired via trade than free agency, as picks are more expendable than cap space (especially future picks) and addressing needs through trades frees up the draft for best player available.
  • Reading through Brandon Graham’s statement on wanting to stay in Philadelphia had me thinking: when was the last time a productive veteran actually wanted to leave the Eagles? We hear lots of stories from other teams (especially the one on the other side of the state) with disgruntled star players who want out. This is something that seemingly never occurs in Philadelphia, and players go out of their way to praise the organization, Lurie, the city, and especially the fans (that’s us!) when discussing why they stayed. Really goes to show how much class the team has and just how awesome it is to play professional sports in Philadelphia.

Well I’ve ranted long enough, so that’s all for now. Be on the lookout for another edition of State of the Eagles before minicamp, where I’ll be back to rescue us all from one of the many offseason lulls in the news cycle! In the meantime, add your thoughts in the comments below and Fly Eagles Fly!