We’ve all heard the noise by now. Over the last few years, Howie Roseman hasn’t exactly had a glowing track record when it comes to drafting outside of a few big names. Admittedly, the Draft is a total roulette where finding value is just as likely as missing on a prospect. But while Roseman has faced a lot of heat for picks not panning out, it’s just as much on the team’s coaching staff who clearly haven’t turned potential into ability…and that’s a problem that the Eagles will hope to have rectified with their recent flurry of moves.
It’s hard to expect every draft pick to pan out, but there are definitely patterns that we can spot.
Let’s take cornerback for example:
2016 Round 7: Jalen Mills
2017 Round 2: Sidney Jones
2017 Round 3: Rasul Douglas
2018 Round 4: Avonte Maddox
Jalen Mills was forced into a starting role due to a Leodis McKelvin injury and never gave it up. But to say that his growth has been slow would be accurate.
Sidney Jones has been haunted by injury setbacks throughout his career and despite several flashes of elite play, questions over his ‘toughness’ and consistency continue to rise.
Rasul Douglas arguably took the biggest strides of the bunch, becoming a firm tackler and a thunderous hitter, but his struggles lie with getting on the field in what looks from the outside to be a battle between front office admiration and coaching concern.
Avonte Maddox had a stellar rookie season but took a step back in 2019.
Cory Undlin left the Eagles in order to take on a defensive coordinator role in Detroit, pushing the Eagles to hire his replacement, Marquand Manuel.
Despite the struggles of the Falcons defense in 2018, young corners on the team seemed to develop nicely under Manuel’s teachings and he was known to connect with his players. Isaiah Oliver garnered 7 passes defensed, while Safety Damonte Kazee reached 10. The development of Keanu Neal meanwhile, speaks for itself.
Manuel will bring a more vocal and intense style of coaching that may finally bring the best out of a group of very young corners who still have high ceilings that are nowhere near being reached.
At Wide receiver, the situation remains just as confusing:
2017 round 4: Mack Hollins
2017 round 4: Shelton Gibson
2019 round 2: JJ Arcega-Whiteside
Had it not been for a return in 2019 and a PI call becoming the biggest play of his career, Shelton Gibson would’ve been a forgotten Eagle. Mack Hollins was one of the team’s most bizarre cases as a special teamer who openly he stated he prefers playing on that unit over offense, then continued to line up in a myriad of incorrect ways and get flagged at the worst possible times.
JJ Arcega-Whiteside was asked to learn the playbook from all three wideout positions (which I still don’t understand, it’s like breaking down the shot of Markelle Fultz…) and when the team needed someone to fill in for Alshon Jeffery, the clone they had drafted was nowhere to be seen.
The Eagles have had five wide receivers coaches in as many years now and they simply have to find stability here. Aaron Moorehead has a decent track record at the collegiate level and has coached up some notable draft picks such as Josh Reynolds and Christian Kirk. The important thing here is that again, the Eagles establish stability. It’s really hard to develop players when the man responsible for coaching them changes his face every season and brings a slightly different way of doing things. It’s not the sole reason that names like Hollins and even Nelson Agholor have struggled to progress, but it definitely plays a factor worth noting.
With a wide receiver class stacked to the brim with talent, the importance of turning that potential into current ability is paramount, if the Eagles decide to indulge in an early-round selection.
Many have also questioned the long-term development of Derek Barnett, which is often a tale of two halves. On one hand, you have a player who set a career-high in sacks this year, has started to develop a spin-move, and is becoming far more consistent. On the other, a young player hampered by injuries entering a critical year in his contract in a situation where he hasn’t taken the necessary step forward to become an EDGE1 just yet.
The Eagles surprisingly appointed Matt Burke as their new defensive line coach and defensive run-game coordinator and while development wasn’t the only reason behind his decision, it may have played a factor. 4th-round pick Shareef Miller was invisible in his rookie year due to being such a raw prospect and Josh Sweat had a few flashes in the pan.
You can apply the same logic to every position. Take linebacker for example. This went unaddressed during the recent changes, but it’s another position filled with young talent like T.J Edwards, Nate Gerry, and Kamu Grugier-Hill. But the four linebackers who played the most defensive snaps in 2019 all ranked among the worst tacklers in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus.
The Eagles seem to have the right formula, in theory. Draft cornerstone players to develop, and acquire cheap older players who can fill the hole until they’re ready to take over. Outside of Andre Dillard and Miles Sanders (working under the team’s most established two positional coaches), it’s been a bumpy process at the best of times.
Perhaps a coaching shakeup that sees more eyes in the room and more responsibility shared on both sides of the ball is what the Eagles need to dispell the notion that Howie has struggled to hit consistently in the draft, instead focusing on the development of a youth infusion that arguably sparked the team’s third consecutive playoff run when all seemed lost.
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