The Eagles were clearly envious of the NFL having fun at the ‘Coaching Carousel’ so have decided to throw their own party. DL Coach Phillip Daniels tweeted what seemed to be a goodbye letter to the Philadelphia Eagles, with reports of his departure shortly following.
Daniels joins Cory Undlin and Carson Walch as positional coaches who are no longer with the team, but this move does come as a surprise.
Daniels took over from the coveted Chris Wilson at the start of 2019 after working as an assistant for the previous three seasons. Another internal hire, Daniels had a 15 year NFL resume behind him and plenty of experience to pick up where Wilson left off.
Daniels didn’t exactly have it easy in 2019. The Eagles ranked 15th in sacks per game, tallying 43 in total. While Sacks don’t tell the entire story, they’re at least something worth noting. They tallied 44 in 2018 and 38 during their Super Bowl-winning season, so it’s not like there was a dramatic decline in this area.
Then, there’s the run defense. The Eagles ranked third in that category, largely thanks to the bodies upfront and at the expense of the secondary. But even there, they went from allowing 97 yards per game in 2018, to 88 in 2019. That’s a stunning improvement considering the running backs faced.
It’s also worth noting that this didn’t exactly come easy for Daniels.
DT Malik Jackson: Injured in week 1, out for the season
DT Timmy Jernigan: Missed seven games with injury
DT Hassan Ridgeway: Placed on IR after eight games
DE Derek Barnett: Missed four games
DE Aziz Shittu & Joe Ostman: Started the year on IR.
Fletcher Cox was also coming off of an injury that arguably hampered his play. He wasn’t as statistically productive as he usually is, but that didn’t stop him being a monster in run defense.
If anything, Daniels deserves credit for turning UDFA behemoth Anthony Rush into a serviceable defensive tackle, and for helping spurts of production from Josh Sweat, who ended his year with 4 sacks.
But that’s where things do get misty…
It’s hard to really put too much on the shoulders of Daniels here since Derek Barnett’s development had been called into question before this season, but there wasn’t a significant step forward from many young players.
Derek Barnett did set a career-high in sacks, but as a former first-round pick in his third year, you’d expect nothing less than a 6+ sack season. He still showed the same tendencies to disappear as drives progressed, only to flash with a conveniently timed game-changing play later on. Later in the year, the former Vol showcased a tasty spin move, but outside of that, he remained the same player he’s always been.
Josh Sweat did take a step forward this season, but it wasn’t exactly a high bar to jump over given he barely saw the field as a rookie. The former fourth-round selection looked rapid off the line and nasty with his hand placement, but again, they were flashes and spurts in comparison to the consistency we see from names like Brandon Graham.
What was most concerning was the fact that Shareef Miller, who was drafted with a raw skillset, didn’t see the field at all. It was assumed his ceiling as a rookie would a rotational role, but he looked slow in preseason and was outshined by Daeshon Hall.
If the job of a positional coach is to develop young talent and turn potential into ability, I can see why the Eagles would want to pull the trigger. But it does seem a little unfair given that the overall production of the unit is about as close to last season as it could possibly be.
The Eagles may have an intent to bring in another name, hence the move, but the leap of faith seems premature. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side and this move doesn’t exactly exude conviction.
Mandatory Photo Credit: AP Photo/Matt Rourke