Philadelphia Eagles

Why the Eagles should avoid drafting an offensive player in the first round

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The NFL Draft is rapidly approaching and for the Eagles, a sense of anxiety fills the air. With a barrel of offensive playmakers within reach at pick #6, it’s easy to get lost in the lights. Kyle Pitts and Ja’Maar Chase are undoubtedly incredible talents, but should the Eagles even be looking to bolster their offense at this point?

New face, same aim

If you look at the rise of the Colts defense over the last few years, you’ll notice it’s been built in a similar way to how the Eagles constructed their roster a few years back. Chris Ballard has been able to find a cornerstone player at each level in the way of DT DeForest Buckner, LB Darius Leonard, CB Kenny Moore, and S Malik Hooker (until his heartbreaking injury and the decline of his fifth-year option).

Philadelphia’s cornerstone plan worked well. The problem is that most of those players given hefty extensions in the years of 2016/2017 are either no longer with the team or headed towards the end of their tenure. The exceptions here are Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks, but both are coming off significant injury. Most other spots, however, especially on defense, is lacking stability.

A change of heart

It’s fair to assume that Jonathan Gannon will be running his version of the Tampa-2 scheme ran by Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus. What does this mean?

The Colts, like the Eagles, thrive when getting a lot of pressure up front. Unlike the Eagles, they can actually make plays on the ball and play a scheme that allows corners to play their man across the board, with some safety scaffolding, and their linebackers to wreak havoc.

For this to work in Philadelphia, three things need to happen:

  1. The Eagles really need a reliable MIKE linebacker…and while they’re at it, a SAM linebacker not named Nate Gerry.
  2. A cornerback opposite Darius Slay who can one day grow into his shoes is absolutely vital. Otherwise ‘big-play Slay’ will be making no plays at all because quarterbacks will continue to brutalize the opposite side of the field.
  3. The Safety position needs a ball-hawking menace to align with a strong downhill tackler. They may have one of these pieces already in K’Von Wallace, but with the uncertainty surrounding Jalen Mills and Rodney McLeod, it may be worth adding more help.

Obviously, these objectives will not be accomplished overnight, but the defense is oddly in a much more vulnerable state than the offense. Whether we’re talking cornerbacks in Patrick Surtain, Caleb Farley, or even someone like Penn State’s linebacking prospect Micah Parsons, there are plenty of avenues for a cap-strapped Eagles to begin adding those cornerstones again.

The Eagles clearly believe in their WR coach

I know what you’re thinking. ‘But what about DeVonta Smith??!’ ‘Have you not watched Ja’Marr Chase?!’ ‘Jalen Hurts needs playmakers’. I hear you, I do.

The Eagles cleaned house this offseason. Every single coach who failed to live up to expectations was promptly kicked out of the building…all but two. Jeff Stoutland’s retention was a no-brainer, but several people were surprised to hear that Aaron Moorehead was also staying.

It’s not like he had a lot to work with in his first year as the teams’ WR coach. A shortened offseason meant he couldn’t really get hands-on with his new players and then injuries decided to rip through the position just to keep things fun. Not that this is an excuse, but it’s hard to really get a gauge on ‘development’ if you’re throwing fifth and sixth-round picks into the deep end and expecting immediate results.

Moorehead was kept on for a reason. If you need a reminder of just how impressive his track record is, let me jog your memory:

2019: Kalijah Lipscomb: 511 yards, 4 TD, 13 games
2018: Kalijah Lipscomb: 916 yards, 9 TD, 10 games
2017: Christian Kirk: 919 yards, 10 TD, 13 games
2016: Christian Kirk: 928 yards, 9 TD, 13 games
2015: Christian Kirk: 1,009 yards, 7 TD, 13 games
2014: Sammie Coates, 741 yards, 4 TD, 13 games
2013: Sammie Coates, 902 yards, 7 TD, 13 games

He’s also coached up draft picks such as Josh Reynolds, Ricky Seals-Jones, and Damion Ratley.

The Eagles spent a first-round pick on Jalen Reagor and drafted a pair of speedsters later that same weekend. It would be asinine to assume that a rookie year in an offense so broken with a quarterback struggling so mightily with accuracy is a good enough reason to declare all three as lost causes.

Jalen Reagor might be living in the shadow of Justin Jefferson, but this is a new era now and there is a chance the Eagles believe he is their Z receiver of the future. If that’s the case, you can make the argument for Chase or maybe even Smith, but can the Eagles afford to risk spending another high draft pick on a wide receiver at such a crucial time of retooling?

Familiarity and foundation

The Eagles are not one piece away. After watching Carson Wentz carry a corpse of an offense to a playoff berth in 2019, many believed they were. This is much bigger than ‘get Jalen Hurts a receiver‘. You can make the case that Hurts actually has a wider array of skill sets (not necessarily production) at his disposal than Wentz did during his rookie year.

On top of that, we know coaching staffs like to bring on players with whom they have experience. Look no further than CB Shakial Taylor who was claimed off waivers by the Eagles just yesterday.

If you want Kyle Pitts, I present (RFA) Mo Allie-Cox. Ja’Maar Chase? Have you heard of (ERFA) Zach Pascal or T.Y Hilton? These players may not have the same upside as the upcoming rookies, but they tick a box…and right now that’s really what counts for a team that’s just trying to find an identity.

I am absolutely all for drafting an offensive playmaker with the sixth overall pick, but you can make a very strong argument that the pick would be better utilized on the defensive side of things while the offense is built back to a unit that can actually function – learning to walk before it can run.

Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire

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Liam is a 25-year old sports journalist from the UK and founder of the Philly Sports Network. In just five years he turned a hobby into one of the fastest-growing Philadelphia sports sites in the world, amassing 7,000,000 views and writing over 3,000 articles. Drawing attention from the likes of CSN, NJ.Com and Bleacher Report in the process, Liam is set on changing the way Philadelphia sports teams are reported on forever.

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1 comment

  • Dave says:

    Liam…the Eagles absolutely need to draft an offensive player with pick #6. Hopefully the new coaching staff will have a great deal of input when it comes to the draft…and Howie will have very little input. Liam, you have written articles about how the Eagles didn’t have any weapons around Wentz. Jeffrey and Jackson are as good as gone…JJAW so far has been as big of a bust as a player can be. Ertz is on the trading block. So you want to send basically a rookie QB to start the season with Fulgham, Reagor, Hightower, Watkins and Ward as the receiving core? Tell me you’re kidding? Even if all those guys take a huge leap forward, it still won’t be enough.

    Part of Wentz’s collapse this year is partly due to the fact that Ertz also had a horrible year. It’s no coincidence that a QB and TE who had a magical connection together, both suffered terrible years. Whether the D realized that taking Ertz out of every play allowed the D to get to Wentz and sack him 50 times, who knows. Ertz was injured for quite a few games and when he came back, he still sucked. So assuming Ertz is gone, the Eagles need another tight end. They also need another WR. Why not get two for one and draft Pitts. I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it again..Sirianni likes to run 2 TE sets a that supposed to happen with Goedert and Rogers or somebody from the practice squad? There’s a reason why Pitts is going in the top 10 and the Eagles need to get this guy.

    If you look at the team over the last 4 seasons, they were basically the same except for one thing…in 2017 they were deadly in the red zone….hence a SB. The Eagles have always been pretty good with the ball between the 20’s, but once inside the red zone, have often had to settle for field goals. Pitts is a Red Zone monster. The reason why everyone wants to draft Chase is because not only is he fast, he catches everything thrown his way and is great with 50/50 balls. Guess what…so is Pitts….and he is 6’6″ and 250lbs. Picture that going against a 6′ 190lb. CB…TD! If you want Hurts to be successful and you want the offense to score a lot of points, Pitts is the guy. You can argue for a CB like Surtain, or a LB like Micha Parsons. I don’t think the Eagles need LB’s as much as they need a CB.

    Assumedly this Wentz issue will be settled before March 19th. Howie will come to his senses and take what he can get to get out from under the Wentz contract and the possible QB controversy. We should wind up with picks and a player back. As much as Wentz wants to go to Indy, the Eagles need to take the best offer they can get, and if it’s Chicago, then that’s where it is. Wentz can whine all he wants, but the Eagles cannot cave and let Wentz dictate where he goes. Indy seems set on only 2 second round picks for Wentz. Whether the idea has been floated to Indy about Ertz and whether they might be interested is unknown. Interest for Ertz is coming from Seattle and a few other teams. The Eagles need draft picks. If they get 2 2nd rounders for Wentz and get out from under his contract, and get at least a 3rd and a 6th in 2021 and maybe a conditional 4th in 2022 for Ertz, then that means they pick up two more picks.

    It would be great to get a 1st for Wentz, but it doesn’t seem Indy or Chicago is willing to part with their 1st rounder. To get either the 20th or 21st pick, the Eagles could possibly pick up Farley from WV or Jaycee Horn from SC. Even Tyson Campbell from Georgia is expected to go at the end of the first or early 2nd. If they could get 20 or 21, that would be the place to take that CB. The Eagles would also have pick # 38. Parsons will be gone, but Zaven Collins from Tulsa would be a great MIKE .6’4″ 260lbs. Put him with Edwards and Singleton.

    The Eagles can load up on the DL and OL so we don’t have the same issues we have been having as players are injured. This new coaching staff will bring a whole new attitude to the building. There are only 2 coaches left form the previous staff, and with some good coaching, some of the players we already have in the building might surprise. Schwartz was famous for having a “doghouse” where if he didn’t like a player, no matter what they did, once you were there, it was hard to get out. Rasul was a good example of that. So was Jones. Look how they have flourished with better coaching in a new environment. We are going to see a D that functions better, and actually has schemes and blitzes, etc. Schwartz was a one trick pony…4 guys rush and disrupt the QB on every play. What happens when they don’t?…;.which happened a lot.

    They need to draft Pitts and from there they can get a CB and then load up on the D and OL. With a good coach and OC, they will look at each player and say “what are his strengths”? and how can we get him the ball? They will do that for each WR on the team. Sirianni has said he can design an offense with either Wentz or Hurts, so he can do the same with our WR. Don’t forget that we could draft another WR like Trevon Grimes from Florida as well. 6’5″ 215, and loaded with potential. He torched Surtain in the SEC championship game on a 50 yd. TD.

    If Wentz hadn’t played so bad last year and he was the presumed starter, and we weren’t moving on from Ertz, and Jeffrey and Jackson, I would say for sure to grab Surtain or Farley as the first pick, but that is not the case. We don’t have a shutdown D that can keep us in games. We have a good D that has potential, but we need to put points on the board. We need to be able to consistently move the ball. It will be a whole new offense this year and Sirianni and Steichen are already neck deep in the playbook, figuring out which plays they want to keep and which ones will hit the trash. Take a look at last years Charger offense and realize you will be seeing elements of that brought here.

    So Liam, IMHO, the Eagles do indeed need an offensive player with their first pick, and that pick should be Kyle Pitts. After that, go D and build up the trenches on both sides of the ball. Hurts and the offense need to be successful and start building something together

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