It was announced today that the NFL Pro Writers Association voted Howie Roseman as NFL Executive of the Year. This should hardly come as a surprise. Roseman has flipped the fortunes of this rohttps://phillysportsnetwork.com/wp-admin/post-new.phpster upside down in the last two years, but in the last 12 months alone has made some groundbreaking moves that transformed this team from a 7-9 outfit to a team playing in the NFC Championship game. There is one man whoever who deserves a very special mention; Joe Douglas.
Douglas spent fifteen years with the Baltimore Ravens, first as an area scout where his work influenced the decision to draft Joe Flacco and then as a National Scout in 2012. He held this position for three years before moving to Chicago to become the Bears’ head of College Scouting in 2015. It was here where Douglas learned under Bears G.M Ryan Pace. At the beginning of the offseason, Douglas and close colleague Andy Weidl were both signed by the Eagles. Douglas would serve as Vice President of Player Personnel. Nearly one year later and his handprints can be seen all across this roster.
This will forever be underrated. Douglas spent time with Groh during the 2015 season in Chicago, watching Alshon Jeffery flourish under the guidance of his WR coach. One of the hottest commodities in the role, Grow spent 2016 with the Rams where he again helped elevate an under-achieving corps. Kenny Britt would breakout for a 1,000 yard season while the Eagles wideouts struggled with drops and confidence.
One year and a signing later, Groh has not only helped develop the Eagles receivers physically, but mentally. Nelson Agholor exploded in a season that could only be described as the ultimate comeback and the Birds were able to extract production from whomever lined up on the field, rookies included.
Perhaps the most impressive signing of the offseason was former Bears wideout Alshon Jeffery. With 789 yards and 9 touchdowns to his name, Jeffery heated up incredibly quickly during his first season in Philadelphia, enjoying a 7 game stretch in which he accumulated 8 scores.
Coincidentally, Douglas had familiarity with Jeffery as both were in Chicago together in 2015-2016. Douglas knew exactly what the prized free agent could bring to the roster and to a young quarterback. With a strong player evaluation background, the signing turned out to be a pivotal one.
Jeffery’s familiarity with Eagles new wide receivers coach, Mike Groh, definitely flew under the radar as well. Groh coached Jeffery for three seasons from 2013-2015, which led to Jeffery having 228 receptions for 3,361 yards and 21 touchdowns in 41 games.
The Eagles would later sign Alshon Jeffery to a long-term contract extension.
Both Douglas and Weidl members of the Baltimore Ravens front office (Douglas from 2000-2015; Weidl from 2005-2016) prior to the start of their Eagles tenure. This is how 28-year-old Torrey Smith comes into play. Weidl served as the Ravens’ West area scout prior to the 2011 NFL draft when the team selected Smith in the second-round. Weidl was credited for the discovery and eventual drafting of Smith by the Ravens.
During Smith’s four seasons in Baltimore, he never missed a game. Appearing in all 64 contests while catching 213 receptions for 3,591 yards, 16.9 yards per catch and 30 touchdowns, he grew hand-in-hand with Joe Flacco. Something certainly of note to Douglas, who had a shiny new Franchise quarterback to work with upon his arrival to Philadelphia.
Smith has had an inconsistent season. He even went to say himself that he endured the ‘worst stretch of his career’. The good news is however that the stretch is behind him, with the 28-year old notching his first 100 yard game as an Eagle in the win over the L.A. Rams.
One of the most overlooked signings this season, Ellerbe was signed in the heart of the season when the Eagles linebacker depth was being well and truly tested. Since then, he has gone on to be a stronghold over the middle, ensuring that the Eagles productive run defense doesn’t falter without Jordan Hicks.
Signed as a UDFA by the Baltimore Ravens back in 2009, the connection to Joe Douglas shines through. The Eagles continue to build on the culture that is flourishing within the locker room. Ellerbe spent four years with the Ravens prior to bouncing to Miami.
The man behind this year’s draft board was still with the Ravens at the time of drafting Jernigan in the second round. If there is anybody who knows just how dominant Jernigan can be, it’s Douglas. It’s clear the Eagles needed a legitimate starter after the departure of Bennie Logan..and the tie to Joe Douglas may have swung the pendulum into the Eagles favor, or at least planted the seed in the mind of Howie Roseman.
At 6’2, 300 lbs, Jernigan set a career high in sacks in 2017, starting in 15 games for the Ravens and playing in all for the first time in his tenure. During his first year for the Birds, Jernigan was a menace. Taking the pressure off of Cox on double-teams and helping the run defense penetrate just about every offense they ran into with dominance at heart.
The tradeoff for Jernigan was arguably the most impressive move of the offseason. His production on the field would later prompt a contract extension of his own, giving the Eagles two ruthless defensive tackles for years to come.
“Part of bringing him (Joe) in here, is trying to change what we’ve done and trying to get better.” Howie Roseman said during the draft process, when asked about the impact Douglas has had behind the scenes. “It started with using a different grading scale and getting us all acclimated with the way he talks about players and how he grades players. As we go through the free agent board and the draft board, we trust in Joe and his ability to put that together.”
That’s right, Douglas changed the way the Eagles grade players. While he set the board, ultimately it was Roseman who made the final call. However, it’s safe to say that the new ethos has turned out wonderfully for the Eagles.
“Gut instincts are taken out of the Draft. We have a great group of scouts, a great group of coaches.” Douglas told the media just after Roseman finished. “We’ve done so much work on these guys, it’s never going to be an exact science..but I think we’ve fine tuned it to a formula we’re looking for in a player”.
That formula was on full display this season.
First round pick, Derek Barnett? He had five sacks during his rotational role filled rookie season.
Second round pick, Sidney Jones? The Eagles may have picked the steal of the draft in Jones, who made his impressive debut in week 17.
Third round pick, Rasul Douglas? Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the season, Douglas filled in commendably when Darby went down with injury, flashing his ballhawk potential and ability to wrap up receivers.
Fourth round pick, Mack Hollins? He averaged over 14 yards per reception, the most of ANY Eagles wideout. The rookie also receivers for 226 yards and his first NFL touchdown.
Fourth round pick, Donnel Pumphrey? Okay, nobody is perfect…but he did suffer an injury and a year to marinate on the sideline without pressure may indeed help.
Fifth round pick, Shelton Gibson? He caught his first NFL pass in week 17 after a tumultuous offseason, but practiced with the team all season long. Don’t give up hope just yet…
With round pick, Nate Gerry? A key special teams performer who has carved a niche on this team and was eventually called up for some defensive snaps too.
Sixth round pick, Elijah Qualls? A crucial cog in the Eagles defensive tackle rotation.
“You’re really trying to gauge how much does this guy love Football? When you get to this level, everybody is talented. There’s a prerequisite of talent that’s required for every position. We’re trying to find the things you can’t really measure; Mind, Spirit, Soul, their will to win.”
Mind, spirit, soul. Can you think of anything that sums this team up better than that statement?!
OH. We didn’t even touch on undrafted free agents. Meet Corey Clement. The Wisconsin Badger who has totaled six touchdowns in his rookie season and proven to be one of the Birds’ most versatile and reliable weapons. Douglas had an average draft round of 4.62 on running backs during his time at Baltimore. Finding value later is his specialty and Clement fits that trend perfectly.
Surprisingly, cornerback was one of the Ravens biggest inconsistencies when it comes to drafting. The Ravens hadn’t drafted a corner in the first round since 2011, where Jimmy Smith has done nothing but flash talent before having his progress thwarted with injuries, playing in just one full season since entering the league. Finding two rookies with sky-high potential in his first season in Philadelphia? That’s no coincidence.
So, while Howie Roseman receives some much deserved praise…let’s not forget one of the most influential figures in the front office, Joe Douglas.
Mandatory Photo Credit: Ed Hille/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP