The great thing about being the defending champs is not only the pressure it relieves on a front office, but also the confidence it gives them to keep doing what they’ve been doing and trust their instincts.Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman, who is clearly (and rightfully!) feeling himself after ending the Eagles’ playoff curse in February, made a Big Boy Move before Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline by dealing a 2019 third-round pick for Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate, bolstering a receiving corps that already includes Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Jordan Matthews.
But while the price for a two-month (hopefully three-month) rental was steep, Tate brings some real plusses to the table for the Eagles, who are right in the thick of the NFC East race.
1. Golden Tate’s run-after-the-catch ability
With promising second-year receiver Kenny Golladay and big-money veteran Marvin Jones Jr. already in the fold, the Lions (3-4) knew they didn’t want to pay Tate, who is 30 years old, when he hits free agency this offseason. The Eagles were ready to pounce on a player who fits what they do very well and provides insurance for Jeffery, their best receiver who has been banged up all year.
One of Tate’s best strengths is his run-after-the catch ability. Tate currently leads receivers in broken tackles with 21, according to Football Outsiders, and hasn’t finished lower than third in that stat since Football Outsiders started tracking it in 2015. Here’s an example of how Tate’s run-after-the-catch ability helped the Lions in their 28-14 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday:
Tate will also help the Eagles on third down, as he was the Lions’ most consistent (and trusted) target:
Tate is also a legitimate weapon in the slot, where nearly two-thirds of his targets in Detroit this year came from. The Eagles already have a receiver who is effective operating in the slot in Agholor — the two’s advanced stats at the position this year are similar — but they are interchangeable and it’s easy to see Tate helping the Eagles on the outside as well:
Finally, here’s a nice bonus for you, Eagles fans — Tate is also a better run blocker than you think. Like most receivers, he’s not above taking a play off. But when a run is called to his side, he shows toughness and aggression, and was even occasionally called on to be a lead blocker on the goal line in Detroit:
Tate has dropped a considerable number of passes this year — five according to Football Outsiders, tied for the third-most in the league — but that’s an aberration. He has dealt with hip and ankle injuries this season, and he had only two drops on 122 targets all of last season.
His acquisition was a worthy gamble for the Eagles, one that could pay big dividends on their push to repeat.
2. What Josh Rosen can do with the one thing he really needs
In the video at the top of this page, you can find a finely produced highlight — shout out to my video producer Brian Caruso! — of Arizona Cardinals rookie quarterback Josh Rosen ripping up the San Francisco 49ers during the home stretch of their 18-15 win on Sunday.
During that game-winning, 12-play, 73-yard scoring march, I noticed one trend throughout the entire drive that showed what the 10th overall pick can do when the Cardinals provide him with the one thing he really needs to succeed. Please check it out.
3. Dante Fowler flashing vs. the run
On paper and in real life, the Los Angeles Rams’ defensive line is scary. Between Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, Michael Brockers and newly acquired edge rusher Dante Fowler Jr., they boast a front that features four former first-round draft picks and way more ass-kicking potential than any other line in football.
The price to acquire Fowler, a former No. 3 overall draft pick in 2015, wasn’t cheap. The Rams surrendered a 2019 third and a 2020 fifth for the 24-year-old, which sounds like a lot for a player with two sacks and one hurry all season.
But on tape, Fowler has more pass-rush ability than the two players he’ll likely take snaps from, Samson Ebukam and Matt Longacre. And as my colleague and pal Charles Robinson mentioned on the most recent episode of “The Yahoo NFL Podcast” on Wednesday (give us a listen sometime), he seems as good a candidate to benefit from a “Wade Bump” — a nod to their creative, respected and outstanding defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips.
I’d tend to agree. Phillips asks his unit to play aggressively and make plays, and that often frees up guys to go get the football and have fun. In turn, he often gets the best out of players, and there’s no doubting Fowler’s physical ability; he simply got nudged out of a starting job in Jacksonville by the 2017 signing of Calais Campbell (an All-Pro) and the arrival of 2016 third-round pick Yannick Ngakoue, a superior pass rusher who is also better against the run.
In Los Angeles, Fowler — who is slated to be a free agent in March — will be motivated to play his best football, and he’ll see a lot of single blocking next to Suh, Donald and Brockers. But for him to get the payday he wants, he’ll need to be more disciplined and sound against the run. He’s been better in recent weeks, though, as the following plays from the Jaguars’ 24-18 loss to the Eagles show:
This was as good as Fowler has looked against the run all season. If he keeps it up down the stretch for a Los Angeles team with Super Bowl aspirations, it will likely pay off this offseason.
4. Ha Ha, when he decides to tackle
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is not a perfect player, but for a Washington team that finds itself in the mix for a division crown with a 5-2 record, the decision to send a 2019 fourth-round pick to Green Bay is sound. Clinton-Dix, 25, is a clear upgrade over youngster Montae Nicholson, and he’ll team with D.J. Swearinger to give Washington arguably the best safety tandem in the division.
Clinton-Dix is a smooth back-end defender with single-high ability and ball skills. He also closes in on ballcarriers pretty fast, which looks awesome when he finishes the tackle like he did in the plays below from the Packers’ 29-27 loss to the Rams on Sunday:
It doesn’t always look like this, though. Clinton-Dix’s tackling has been inconsistent as a pro, which the Packers apparently grew wary of enough to dispense of him in the middle of a season in which they sit with a 3-3-1 record. Considering his skills and age, it would concern me that Green Bay didn’t decide he was worth extending.
But that’s a problem for whatever team signs Clinton-Dix this offseason. For Washington, it’ll be getting a motivated player who is thrust into a divisional race. It’ll probably get the best out of him, or at least enough that when the third day of the 2019 NFL draft rolls around, it won’t be grimacing about the fourth-round pick it no longer has.
5. Demaryius’ contested-ball ability
Houston (5-3) is rolling after winning five straight, and instead of just sitting in a corner after the devastating injury to Will Fuller — their best true deep threat — the Texans acquired an adequate replacement in Denver’s Demaryius Thomas for a fourth- and a seventh-round pick.
Thomas, 30, is no longer as dynamic as he used to be, and he’s not the field-stretching speed merchant Fuller is. But he is still a good outside receiver, someone capable of running with power after the catch, create space in short to intermediate areas and winning enough contested balls downfield to keep defenses honest.
Here’s an example of the latter from the Broncos’ 30-23 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, which ended with an incompletion but was more the result of an inaccurate throw by quarterback Case Keenum than anything:
Here’s a better example of Thomas winning downfield, from the Broncos’ 34-16 loss to the Jets in early October:
Two concerns about Thomas: His new quarterback, Deshaun Watson, hasn’t been more accurate than Keenum on downfield passes, at least according to Pro Football Focus. Also, he has an annoying tendency to drop passes, as he’s tied for the league lead with seven, according to Football Outsiders.
He’s still an upgrade over the likes of Sammie Coates and Vyncint Smith — the Texans’ other outside receivers behind DeAndre Hopkins — and he’s a proven playoff performer and Super Bowl champion. His addition should add a little juice to the locker room as the Texans continue their push to win the AFC South for the third time in four years.
THINGS I ENJOYED ARCHIVE
WEEK 7: These Amari Cooper plays can help Dak Prescott, Cowboys soar
WEEK 6: Flying to the football, Steelers’ nasty blocking & Matt Nagy channeling Andy Reid
WEEK 5: A Tale of two Cams (Newton and Erving)
WEEK 4: The juice of Patriots RB Sony Michel and lineman who slowed down Von Miller
WEEK 3: Mahomes magic and Lane Johnson’s acting chops
WEEK 2: Dallas’ deep ball, and the ridiculousness of Mahomes and Saquon
WEEK 1: Andy Reid’s goal-line circus and more
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• Winners and losers at the NFL trade deadline
• Terez Paylor: Why KC stood pat at trade deadline