Eagles mailbag: An Eagles backup who’s likely to become a starter

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Dave Zangaro
·6 min read
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Eagles mailbag: An Eagles backup who’s likely to become a starter originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

As we wait for a Carson Wentz trade, I asked for questions and you guys came through.

I let a couple Wentz questions sneak in but there’s not much else to say until there’s movement.

So let’s get to it:

For this exercise you took QB out of the equation. I’ll go one step further and take tight end out of the equation too. That would be the easiest answer. If you consider Zach Ertz to be the starter and Dallas Goedert the backup, then that’s going to change. I don’t anticipate Ertz returning and Goedert would obviously step into the No. 1 tight end spot.

But because that is too easy, it feels like cheating. Instead, I’ll give you two names on the defensive side of the ball: K’Von Wallace and Josh Sweat.

The Eagles have some questions at safety, where Rodney McLeod is coming back from an ACL injury and Jalen Mills is set to be an unrestricted free agent. I think there’s a decent chance those two will again be the starters in 2021 but if not, then Wallace should get the bump. He was a fourth-round pick out of Clemson last year and played significant snaps at times. I liked him out of college and many people felt the Eagles got a steal, although there wasn’t unanimous love for the pick inside the building. Still, he did some good things in his rookie year and I’d really like to see him get a chance to play more in Year 2.

The question with Sweat revolves around the future of Derek Barnett. Right now, Barnett is scheduled to make around $10 million with a matching cap figure on his fifth-year option. It’s hard to imagine him playing for that much in 2021. The realistic solution would be to sign him to a modest extension and lower that cap hit. But you could almost make the case that Sweat deserves that spot. I generally think Barnett is underrated, especially because he hasn’t lived up to his draft status. But Sweat has always shown flashes and has started to show more consistency. Entering Year 4, maybe it’s his time.

No, they shouldn’t waste their time. Watt isn’t coming here and there’s nothing Lane Johnson can tweet to change that. Watt’s best landing spots are teams in contention. I’d start with teams like the Steelers to reunite him with his brother, the Packers to get to his home state or the Bills, who have a good defense and a legit chance to win in 2021. The Eagles don’t have cap space either, so it wouldn’t be wise to spend a lot of money on an aging player during this transition period.

All that said, Watt is an all-time great player. I got to cover him for a couple years in Houston and when I was down there, he was playing as well as just about any defensive player ever. He was Aaron Donald before Aaron Donald and I’d put his peak up there with Donald’s.

This is a question about Jay Valai, whom the Eagles hired as their assistant defensive backs coach. On Friday, it was reported that he was taking a job at Alabama to coach cornerbacks. I get that this looks bad, that a guy the Eagles hired is already bailing. But this looks like a promotion for Valai. And before he took the Eagles gig, he was at Houston for like two weeks. He has had three jobs this offseason.

Hey, how’d you sneak a Wentz question in here? I don’t. It’s pretty clear Wentz would rather not play here anymore and the Eagles are very willing to make that happen. The damage has been done. In a perfect world, the Eagles and Wentz would have figured it out and continued their marriage but that isn’t going to happen.

I don’t know about favorite but I did come up with five players around the league I just really enjoy watching. I picked five different positions:

Patrick Mahomes: This one almost goes without saying but it’s incredible to watch him play. For me, it’s appointment viewing. I know there are other great QBs, but guys aren’t doing the things he does on a consistent basis. The last QB I enjoyed watching this much was Peyton Manning.

Aaron Donald: Another obvious one but there’s just something about watching greatness. It’s so rare for an interior DL to affect just about every snap. Even when Donald doesn’t make a play on the stat sheet, he’s changing the play and giving a QB nightmares.

DeAndre Hopkins: Whenever you watch Nuk, there’s a chance that he’s going to do something special. He has made some of the most ridiculous catches ever.

Derrick Henry: Pretty obvious here. Dude is a beast and I thoroughly enjoy watching him run over grown men.

Tyrann Mathieu: He didn’t have a very good Super Bowl but I have always been a fan of his game. He’s super emotional and always seems to be around the ball. Not saying he’s the best safety in the NFL, but he’s the DB I enjoy watching the most.

I feel legally obligated to tell you that there are obviously superior hoagie places in the area, but if you’re in a pinch of convenience is the deciding factor, it’s pretty great to have Wawa around.

Here’s my go-to: Italian hoagie, oil, lettuce, tomato, onion, provolone, salt, pepper, oregano, sweet peppers, pickles on the side just for a snack. I think I could go up to one of those touch screens and order this blindfolded.

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