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Eagles Mailbag: Everyone is RB1

All for one and one for all

NFL: AUG 12 Preseason - Eagles at Ravens Photo by Charles Brock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Before we get to the questions, let’s check the poll from the submittal post.


Who are you most excited about this season?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    Devonta Smith
    (47 votes)
  • 13%
    D’Andre Swift
    (28 votes)
  • 0%
    Kenneth Gainwell
    (2 votes)
  • 58%
    Jalen Carter
    (122 votes)
  • 4%
    Jordan Davis
    (10 votes)
209 votes total Vote Now

The winner is Jalen Carter, which is not a surprise. But I think we should temper our short term expectations. Aaron Donald played 44% of his teams snaps in the first four games of his career, after that he played at least 70% in all but two games. With the volume of bodies the Eagles have at DT, Carter’s early season workload will probably be relatively low. Which is one of the reasons the Eagles felt comfortable drafting him, they don’t have to throw him into the deep end.

Is there a true RB1 on the Eagles? How do you believe the distribution of carries will play out? Are any of them worth fantasy consideration? - TheRoots

Any chance the Eagles do the opposite of the “Carson Wentz 1st QB ever w/4000 yards with no receivers over 500” but for RBs this year? Could we see the Eagles lead the league in rushing yards but split between Hurts, D’Andre Swift, Rashaad Penny, Kenneth Gainwell, and BostonScott? - sssetz

The Eagles depth chart-which they clearly state is made by the PR department and not the coaches-lists four starting running backs.

They also list two starting weakside linebackers and two players at one safety spot. Does the marketing team know that you can’t put 14 players on the field? Well you can, but you’ll get penalized. Which can work on defense in the right situation.

The Eagles are going to go with running back by committee until someone gets hurt, someone shows they aren’t effective, or someone takes over as the clear #1. And of course part of that committee is the QB, who is the team’s short yardage back and always a threat to run.

Assuming everyone is relatively healthy, D’Andre Swift will lead the backs in touches and yards from scrimmage. But the second question is about rushing yards, and they’ve got a good chance of big collective production without strong individual production.

Last year Miles Sanders had 48% of the Eagles rushing attempts. It’s hard to see either D’Andre Swift or Kenneth Gainwell getting a workload like that unless one of them is out for an extended period and the other has to shoulder the load. High usage back is not the type of player they are. Swift’s career high in carries was 151 in 2021, which was 35% of his team’s carries that year and would have been 28% of the Eagles rushing attempts last year. Gainwell has 155 in his career including the playoffs. Jalen Hurts, Rashaad Penny, and Boston Scott are going to combine for 20-30% of rushing attempts, almost certainly on the higher end of that range, capping the number of carries available to Swift and Gainwell.

We’re not going to get something like how in 2019 Wentz was top 10 in passing but their most productive WR was 88th in receiving yards. But top 5 in rushing without a top 32 running back in rushing yardage is very possible. 2500 rushing yards will put an offense in the top 5, and 750 rushing yards would have been 33rd among RBs last year.

Swift and Gainwell combining for about 1500 rushing yards and Hurts, Penny, and Scott combining for about 1000 is realistic. Something like Swift 750, Gainwell 650, Hurts 650, Penny 350, and Scott 200 feels possible, that gets them over 2500 yards with a player in the top 32 of rushing yards. The combined career highs of the five backfield players is 2815 yards: Hurts 784, Penny 749, Swift 617, Scott 374, Gainwell 291. And neither of those are factoring in anything from Marcus Mariota or rushing attempts from a WR.

Am I the only one that sees Nakobe Dean and thinks he’s entirely too small to last as an effective NFL MLB? He just looks so tiny out there. I hope I’m wrong. - WiltsJunk

I’m not worried about Dean’s size. Jessie Tuggle, Zach Thomas, and London Fletcher were all 5’11” or smaller, their size didn’t prevent them from succeeding.

Size is not what is going to make or break him at the NFL level, his instincts and speed are. If they’re good enough, his size won’t be a factor, just like Devonta Smith’s weight isn’t stopping him from being excellent. If Dean’s instincts and speed aren’t good enough, well, his size won’t be a factor either because he won’t/shouldn’t be starting. Speaking of make or break…

I’ll go for a basic question: which players are on the “make or break” radar for this year? Excluding rookies, I’m thinking Jordan Davis. Granted it’s only his second season but I think if we are 1/3rd or half way through the year and waiting for him to make some kind of tangible impact for his position, then you’ll start to see some worry around here. - Makarp

I agree with you about Davis. Too early to make a call on him but if we’re six games into the season and he isn’t showing a leap, we can turn up the concern dial.

Quez Watkins’ need for a rebound season in the final year of his contract puts him on the make or break watch. I’d put D’Andre Swift on there as well, because he’s also a free agent to be after the Eagles didn’t extend his contract after trading for him. But everyone else on the final year of their contract/one year deal is either a legend (Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox) or a rotation player at best.

The guy to watch out for is Avonte Maddox. He has a cap hit next year of $10M (it’s $4M this year), there’s no way he plays on that. He’s missed time in every season except 2021. If he stays healthy and plays well, they’ll redo his contract. But if misses significant time again this year and Mario Goodrich looks competent in his stead and Sean Desai’s big nickel holds up, the team might just move on from Maddox. No player gives them more cap savings with an outright cut next year than he does. Maddox is a good player but the best ability is availability.

We keep hearing that the Eagles have one of top rosters in football, if not the best. I see the incredibly talented and deep OL and DL, and I like the TE and RB groups. Do you think the Eagles have overcommitted to the two lines, at the expense of depth at WR or CB? Have they gone too far? (I think weakness at LB, S, and STs seem more like strategic choices, and the QB room is a question mark because Marcus Mariota has looked so poor). - mofwood

I don’t think they have overcommitted to the lines at the expense of WR and CB, they just haven’t been good at drafting and developing those positions. When a team succeeds at drafting and developing at certain positions it makes the duds look and be less of a concern; the opposite is also true, if a team keeps missing at certain positions it makes the successes look even better.

The Eagles spent a 1st round pick on a WR in three straight drafts. If they had drafted Justin Jefferson instead of Jalen Reagor, then they wouldn’t have used one to trade for AJ Brown. They might not have used the other on Devonta Smith. But because they screwed up the Reagor pick, they had to keep digging.

The highest draft pick Howie Roseman has used on a defensive back was Sidney Jones, the second highest pick he used on a defensive back was in the trade for Darius Slay, if Sidney Jones could play maybe the Eagles don’t trade for Slay.

It also didn’t help that they had three drafts in a five year span where they selected only five players.

Of the Georgia defensive players, who gets the first sack of the season and who has the highest season sack total? My take is that Nakobe Dean will get the first sack in the first quarter against the Patriots, but Nolan Smith will finish the season with the most sacks. - BroadSt.Bulldogs

Sidenote: Good user name.

Highest total: Jalen Carter because he’ll be on the field more than Nolan Smith and going after the QB more than Nakobe Dean. Carter with, say, 4 sacks, Smith with 3, and Dean with 2 feels realistic. Last year top five picks Travon Walker had 3.5 and Kayvon Thibodeaux had 4, and they were starters on the edge. Smith just isn’t going to get the opportunities this year to rack up the sacks as a backup. In his one season as a DC in Chicago, Sean Desai blitzed more than Jonathan Gannon did but he wasn’t a big blitzer, so Dean probably doesn’t get a lot of chances either.

First sack: Again I’ll go Carter. I know I said to lower expectations on Carter out of the gate. But Smith is returning from injury, (as is Haason Reddick) so he might be eased into Week 1. Maybe it’s Dean on a blitz. But I’m going with Carter because he seems to have a chip on his shoulder. I don’t want to overthink a preseason game, but I think it was a little telling that after an offseason where everyone questioned him in his first action he destroyed the guy in front of him. It was sort of a defensive version of McNabb to TO to start the 2004 preseason.

Will Jonathan Gannon still be the head coach of the Cardinals in Week 17 when they face the Eagles and is it even safe for him to come to the Linc? - JemTheRocker

The high score for sacks in a game last season was 9 in Washington. Is there a team on the schedule this year that this D-line can break double digit sacks against? Conversely, are there any teams that could hold them to a shutout? - JemTheRocker

Gannon will be the Cardinals head coach all season. Their goal is to lose as many games as possible, and he’s the man for that. Next season? I have my doubts. It’s hard to fire a coach who loses a ton of games when you set your roster up to lose a ton of games. But I expect that team to go winless and it’s hard to bring a coach back after that even if that’s what the team wanted, though Hue Jackson did go 0-16 after going 1-15 and kept his job.

Who could the Eagles get 10 sacks on this year? We need a combo of a not good offensive line, a sack prone QB(s), and a team that needs to pass a lot to keep up with the Eagles. Three teams stand out to me, coincidentally all in the same division.

-The Cardinals. They’re so bad they could easily go winless. Their starting QB for Week 1 is either 5th round rookie Clayton Tune (which sounds like a newgen name in Madden) or Josh Dobbs, who is on his fifth team in two years. By the time Week 17 rolls around their starting QB will probably be someone currently unemployed.

-The Rams. They had the second worst sack rate last year and only brought in help through the draft; Matthew Stafford has always taken more than his fair share of sacks and isn’t getting more elusive; and the Rams are going to have to throw a lot because their defense is Aaron Donald and ten guys, while their offense is 35 year old Stafford, already injured Cooper Kupp, and nine guys. Other than when they play the Cardinals the Rams are not set up to win games when they score only 17 points.

-The 49ers. Brock Purdy and Josh Johnson combined for 3 sacks on just 17 attempts in the NFC Championship Game. Blocking pass rushers has never been Kyle Shanahan’s thing, their offensive line is suspect, and both Purdy and Sam Darnold don’t handle pressure well.

Who could shut them out? The Chiefs, because Patrick Mahomes is Patrick Mahomes, he had seven games (including playoffs) last year where he wasn’t sacked.

Why not sign Malik Cunningham and drop Mariota? It would keep the Pats from practicing with a running QB and allow for an in-house evaluation of a higher ceiling prospect with the desired skills for the offense by the QB Factory. Mariota would be available to resign in Week 2 if he was needed. - HouseofCrowth

Because if you sign a player off a team’s practice squad you have to pay them for three games, and the Eagles would have to cut someone to make room for him. (To say nothing of the player has to agree to it.) Neither of those are worth it to prepare to play the Patriots in Week 1.

[BLG Note: Teams also can’t sign players from their upcoming opponent within six days of playing them.]

Am I crazy for being more bullish on the soon-to-be-renamed “Commanders” than the Giants? To me, they feel more likely to exceed (modest) expectations than the Giants due to their talent at important positions (WR, DL, secondary). Conversely, it seems a lot of national folks are still buying Giants stock despite regression flags (2022 W/L way above DVOA, Danny Dimes ‘good season’ was extremely low ADoT but still lots of turnover-worthy plays). How much would it surprise you to see WAS finish third in the division and the Giants bringing up the rear? - StoneColeKiller58

You are not crazy. The Giants are overhyped, while the Commanders might be under the radar. I would not at all be surprised to see the Commanders finish 3rd, though for me that’s more about the Giants being frauds than the Commanders being good. Both teams finishing the season with double digit losses and the Giants being 4th is possible.

We know the Giants were not good last year, but the Giants don’t seem to realize it. They added some bodies on a defense that was really low on talent, but on offense they are basically running it back, their only notable additions are Darren Waller for however many games he’s available for; and Jalin Hyatt, who does give them a deep threat but how much does that matter when your QB is Daniel Jones. I’m not sure how this team, which went 9-5-1 in one score games, improves this season beyond catching more than a league low 6 interceptions.

The Washington Football Team Commanders could make some noise. Their defense is certainly capable of keeping them in games. I think their WRs are a little overrated but they definitely have an above average WR group with potential for more if Jahan Dotson steps up. If Sam Howell is even mid-and he probably stinks-they could be a playoff team, in part because the NFC is weak. If he stinks, time for everyone there to update their resumes.

We’ve heard over and over how unfair our short yardage QB sneak is and how it’s basically unstoppable. But if we were to take our whole offensive line and reverse it against itself (maybe Hurts at linebacker?) Could our offensive line defensively stop a QB sneak with the push that they can create? - Jeffrp

I love your out of the box thinking. But I don’t want to take Jordan Davis off the field to put in Jason Kelce in this situation. So give me Jordan Davis, Jalen Carter, and Fletcher Cox and add in 365 lb Jordan Mailata and 332 lb Landon Dickerson as the linemen. I’m not wild about asking Jalen Hurts to cut through the pile and stop the runner, but if he wants to do it I’m not telling him no. Whatever it takes to win.

On the subject of “the push sneak is unstoppable” for those keeping track at home, NC State tried it against UConn, and failed, proving that it is not automatic.

I have excess brisket to get rid of but not enough to run it as just brisket so I’m doing a sandwich with brisket and pulled pork (pickles/slaw/onion if desired). What’s a good name for a sandwich with both brisket and pulled pork? - Cravin’ LeBlanc

If you only have a little leftover brisket and no other meats, I would recommend doing a wedge salad with brisket. Delicious.

But you’ve got brisket and pulled pork. I don’t know if I would cross those streams myself, but if you’re going to go for it, I say go all the way. Get some slaw, mac and cheese, and bacon on there. Maybe make it a double decker to separate the meats? If this was a restaurant I would say throw in some pastrami because why not. And then as you ask, give it a name befitting its grandeur.

I bet Jason Kelce could devour a brisket-pulled pork sandwich like a champ. So The Kelce?

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