Roob’s Observations: What positions are the Eagles better than last year? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
What positions are the Eagles better than last year? Thoughts on Sean DeSai’s introductory presser. And a mind-blowing Jim Brown stat.
We’re off and running with this week’s Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Offseason Observations!
1. T.J. Edwards is out, Nakobe Dean is in. Kyzir White is out, Nick Morrow is in. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is out, Terrell Edmunds or Sydney Brown is in. Marcus Epps is out, Reed Blankenship is in. Javon Hargrave is out, Jalen Carter is in. Isaac Seumalo is out, Cam Jurgens is in. Miles Sanders is out, Rashad Penny, Kenny Gainwell and D’Andre Swift are in. The Eagles will have at least seven new starters in 2023, and while they have some very promising options, it’s important to remember 1) Dean played 34 snaps as a rookie, 2) Morrow ranked 38th on Pro Football Focus last year among 42 off-ball linebackers who played 750 snaps, 3) Edmunds had the 55th-highest defensive passer rating among 68 safeties targeted at least 20 times, 4) Brown is still an unknown rookie, 5) Blankenship looked solid but his resume is still only 4 ½ games long, 6) Carter has much to prove as the 9th pick, 7) Jurgens played one snap last year at right guard and 8) Penny and Swift are both gifted but have both been plagued by injuries, and as impressive as Kenny Gainwell has been, he’s still had only a handful of big games. Now, this is all natural for a Super Bowl team and a team that just locked up its superstar quarterback to a long-term deal. Things are going to change and you have to rely on some younger, cheaper players. But all the new starters are loaded with potential, and Howie Roseman has done a terrific job replacing everyone the Eagles lost. Still, there’s no guarantee they’ll all play at the same level as the guys who left. It’s a lot of change. A lot of projection. A lot of question marks. And you can make the case that it’s not a lock the Eagles have gotten better at any particular position. But if they all work out? If the new guys all turn out to be what the Eagles think they are? Look out.
2. DeVonta Smith is 24 and A.J. Brown is 25. And the Eagles last year became only the second team in NFL history with two players 25 or younger with 85 receptions, 1,100 yards and seven TDs in the same season. The first was the 2005 Cards with 25-year-old Anquan Boldin and 22-year-old Larry Fitzgerald.
3. It still seems like he’s the new guy, but with Doc Rivers fired, Nick Sirianni – hired 28 months ago today – is now the dean of Philadelphia coaches. The Phillies made Rob Thompson interim manager on June 3, 2022, and the Flyers hired John Tortorella two weeks later, on June 16, 2022. The last time Philly had (or will have) four skippers this new was 2014, which was Chip Kelly’s second year, Ryne Sandberg’s first year, Brett Brown’s first year and Craig Berube’s first year.
4. Alvin Haymond only played 11 games for the Eagles but he’s one of only four players in franchise history with both a punt return touchdown and a kick return touchdown. The others are Steve Van Buren, Timmy Brown and Brian Mitchell, who all played a lot more than 11 games here. Haymond spent most of his 10-year career with the Colts and Rams, but in an otherwise forgettable 1968 season – the Eagles lost their first 11 games, finished 2-12 and Joe Kuharich got fired – Haymond had a 98-yard kickoff return TD against the Giants at Franklin Field and two weeks later a 54-yard punt return TD against the Washington Football Team at District of Columbia Stadium (which became RFK a year later). The Eagles lost both games.
5. I thought Sean DeSai came across great in his introductory presser. I really liked what he said about how spending six years at Temple really helped shape him as a person and a coach. That sort of stuff can come across as pandering – and you know how I feel about pandering – but it was genuine. “We want to be able to run, we want to be able to hit and we want to play smart. I think that’s a reflection of who we are obviously as a Philadelphia Eagles defense, a reflection of really the history of the Philadelphia Eagles defense and a reflection of this city, and that’s what we want to be. We want to be an encompassing part of that.” Eagles fans are unique in that they get just as fired up when the defense is on the field as the offense. I’m not sure that’s true anywhere else. Maybe Chicago or Pittsburgh? Now, just being a Philly guy and understanding why defense is so important to Eagles fans doesn’t win you games. But I was impressed with his demeanor, his intelligence and his passion. Looking forward to seeing what a Sean DeSai defense looks like.
6. Every Penn State defensive player the Eagles have ever drafted in franchise history has played a combined total of two snaps in an Eagles uniform.
7. Miles Sanders in his first 13 games last year: 5.2 rushing average, 82 yards per game, 11 touchdowns. Miles Sanders in his last seven games last year: 3.9 average, 49 yards per game, 2 TDs. He was healthy, he was running behind the same offensive line, he wasn’t facing elite defenses (other than the 49ers). I honestly have no idea what happened. But as much as I like Sanders as a person and a player, if you can’t be at your best down the stretch of a Super Bowl run, I don’t think I can give you $6 ½ million per year and $13 million guaranteed. Good luck, Miles, but the Eagles had to move on.
8. We haven’t had a Jalen Hurts Stat of the Week lately, so here goes: The only quarterbacks in NFL history to throw at least 1,000 passes in their first three seasons but fewer than 20 interceptions are Patrick Mahomes (18 interceptions in 1,099 attempts) and Jalen Hurts (19 interceptions in 1,040 attempts).
9. One of the wildest stats ever: Nick Foles as an Eagle was 25-13 with 69 TDs, 28 interceptions and a 94.0 passer rating. With his other teams – the Rams, Chiefs, Jaguars, Bears and Colts – he was 8-18 with 24 TDs, 24 INTs and a 76.9 passer rating. As an Eagle, he’s the GOAT. Everywhere else, he’s just some guy. Some things are better left unexplained.
10. In his nine-year career, Jim Brown averaged 104 rushing yards per game, 5.2 yards per carry, 29 catches and 9.5 yards per catch and 11 TDs per season. Only five other running backs in NFL history have had one season with those numbers: Otis Armstrong in 1974, Priest Holmes in 2002, Larry Johnson and Tiki Barber in 2005 and Chris Johnson in 2009. RIP to the GOAT.