The Eagles fly out of Nashville with five shiny new players to develop ahead of the 2019 season and a renewed sense of optimism. The NFL Draft was a rollercoaster for many, but all it did for the Eagles was push talents who were thought to be ‘unreachable’ safely into their laps. But if there’s one thing we can take away from the eventful weekend, it’s that the Eagles have placed a lot of faith in their coaching staff…and with good reason.
Acquiring talent through the draft is one thing, but helping players realize that lofty potential is a different beast altogether. How many times have we seen players who seemed destined to become the face of an NFL franchise, fail to live up to the potential?
The Eagles didn’t need to reach for talent this year, that’s the beauty of surviving a very adverse Super Bowl hangover and keeping the cornerstones on the team through backloaded contracts. Instead, it was a case of planning for the step ahead of the step ahead.
Andre Dillard, for example, is widely regarded as the most prolific pass-protector in this year’s class, but his run-blocking needs some substantial work. However, he has the frame and athleticism that the Eagles and just about every other NFL team covet in a franchise tackle. The footwork, the intelligence, the fundamentals. The man responsible for ticking the rest of the boxes is offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland.
Since joining the Eagles in the same year as Lane Johnson, Stoutland has nurtured a pair of Pro Bowl seasons from Jason Kelce, helped develop Lane Johnson’s mauling skillset into that of an elite right tackle, developed Halapoulivaati Vaitai into a very serviceable backup that’s played on both sides of the bookshelf, and of course helped Isaac Seumalo’s versatility solidify the trenches in a dire time of need and for the long-term future. it would be safe to say that if Dillard was ever going to meet his ceiling and even grow through it, Philadelphia would be the city to help him do just that.
As for running back Miles Sanders, he, like Dillard, may have one of the highest ceilings at his position this draft class. With just 278 carries, Sanders doesn’t have the tire wear that some of the other backs do and it didn’t take him long to flash the elusiveness and production needed to fly at the next level. But lapses in pass protection and ball security are chained to his ankles, weighing him down for the time being. But if he’s able to break free from those chains, there’s no reason why he can’t become the most productive back in his class…and the man tasked with helping him do so, happens to be Duce Staley.
You need to look no further than Wendell Smallwood for an example of how Staley’s coaching has impacted this team. While the WVU product hasn’t exploded into a top-5 running back, his development in going from a very hesitant runner, to someone who lowers his pads before contact, now excels in pass protection and set a career-high in receiving yards last year after being labelled a weakness in the season beforehand, is just staggering.
The same patterns can be seen throughout every draft pick. Shareef Miller for example has tremendous get-off, but can burn out fairly quickly and doesn’t have a lot of pass-rushing moves at his disposal. That’s where Phillip Daniels, a man who joined the Eagles in 2016 and has been promoted to defensive line coach in the absence of Chris Wilson. Daniels is a 15-year NFL vet who has been praised for his gritty mentality and getting the best out of his players.
We could go into the remarkable coaching tree at quarterback that the Eagles have been able to build, or how their new wide receiver’s coached worked with Mike Groh and Alshon Jeffery in Chicago, likely playing perfectly into the hands of JJ Arcega-Whiteside, but we don’t need to.
The Eagles didn’t need to reach for talent, because they believe whole-heartedly in their coaching staff’s ability to get the best out of every player in that locker room. The scouting staff works symbiotically with the coaching staff to ensure the team sign the best fits for their locker room, not just production on the field. Cre’Von LeBlanc’s signing was a perfect example of that and it was a sentiment echoed by both Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson after the Draft.
“This is a high-character class and it’s a group of playmakers, and I’m so proud of the job that our scouts did and the way that we worked together with the coaching staff. “Howie Roseman
“The scouts go in there and they do a lot of the preliminary work for us and then a coach goes in after that and has a chance to sit down one-on-one or work them out or be there at a pro day and that’s just another set of eye balls on that particular player.Doug Pederson
The Eagles have marinated a culture that is unrivaled. From the top down, everybody is on the same page. While the coaching staff reap the benefits of that on the field, working with a group of men who just will not back down, they also reap the rewards from the front office. The Eagles don’t need to reach for those with higher ‘current ability’, because their coaching staff is able to maximize the potential of everyone in the building…and when it comes to Draft night, that’s the difference between 5 high-quality, high-character picks, and 9 sporadic picks with mixed success.
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