Eagles mailbag: Jordan Mailata’s future, Jonathan Gannon’s HC chances

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Eagles mailbag: Can Mailata turn into a Pro Bowler? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

It’ll be a little weird this weekend, not watching the Eagles play.

After their 31-15 loss last Sunday in Tampa, the Eagles are now officially in offseason mode and so are we. It’s time to start looking ahead to the future.

But in the meantime, you guys had a lot of great questions. Here’s the first chunk of them for the weekend:

Jordan Mailata is a future Pro Bowler and I don’t think we’ll have to wait very long to see it. I was actually a little surprised when neither Mailata nor Lane Johnson were named Pro Bowl alternates in 2021. But this past season was Mailata’s first full season as a starting left tackle and sometimes recognition comes a year later than it should for offensive linemen.

In 2021, Mailata was already playing at a Pro Bowl level. The scary thing happens when you remember he hasn’t even turned 24 yet and is just a few years into learning the spot. He’s 6-8, 365 and when you watch him move the way he does, it’s impossible to not think about just how good this guy can become.

ProFootballFocus had Mailata ranked as their No. 3 overall tackle in the NFL this season. In 980 snaps (including playoffs), Mailata gave up just 25 total pressures with just 3 sacks and 2 QB hits. This guy started playing football a few years ago!

And if anything, I think his story might help him. Sometimes it’s tough for offensive linemen who aren’t top picks in the draft to get their due. But Mailata is at least on people’s radar because of his unique backstory. Maybe that won’t help him as much when it comes to player and coach voting, but it should help him in fan voting. They each count a third toward the total vote.

Yeah, we can do that using some advanced passing stats from ProFootballReference. Eagles receivers in 2021 dropped 22 of Hurts’ passes. That ranked 17th in the NFL. But, remember, he didn’t throw the ball as much as some other QBs around the league. So his drop percentage of 5.4% actually ranked ninth in the NFL.

Here’s a look at the top 10:

1. Sam Darnold: 7%

2. Justin Fields: 6.9%

3. Zach Wilson: 6.8%

4. Justin Herbert: 5.8%

t-5. Josh Allen: 5.7%

t-5. Trevor Lawrence: 5.7%

7. Daniel Jones: 5.5%

t-8. Jimmy Garoppolo: 5.4%

t-8. Jalen Hurts: 5.4%

10. Matthew Stafford: 5.2%

To put this in perspective, Hurts’ drop percentage in 2021 is pretty similar to Carson Wentz’s drop percentage (5.5%) with the Eagles in 2020.

Jonathan Gannon has interviewed for three head coaching jobs this week and I’ve seen a lot of Eagles fans celebrate his possible departure. But this question from Alex is a valid one because clearly these three teams — Texans, Broncos and Vikings — see something in Gannon.

First off, I was plenty critical of Gannon throughout the year. Sometimes I thought his game plans left a little to be desired and there were other times when he adjusted but it took too long. But ultimately, the Eagles ended up with the No. 10 ranked defense in the NFL without much talent on that side of the ball. This year, the Eagles had an elite cornerback in Darius Slay and some other good players like Javon Hargrave, Josh Sweat and Avonte Maddox. But there’s a clear lack of playmakers on that side of the ball. If there were a couple more, Gannon’s defense would have looked much better.

You have to remember that these three teams that interviewed Gannon aren’t just looking for a defensive coordinator. They’re looking for a head coach. And, really, Gannon and Nick Sirianni have a lot in common when it comes to their brand of leadership. Gannon connects easily with people and that’s a really important part of being a head coach. When the Eagles hired him, there were already plenty of folks that thought Gannon was a future head coach. The time might have gotten here a little quicker than we anticipated but I’m not surprised to hear of interest and I’m not surprised to hear he’s doing well in interviews.

We got a few different questions about that DC role and what happens if Gannon gets a head coaching job (which I think is possible). I put together a list of 10 candidates for the job if Gannon does indeed move on. The top internal candidate would be DBs coach Dennard Wilson.

I get what you’re saying about bringing in a former head coach as a DC, especially under a head coach as new as Sirianni. There could be some downside with that. Think back to when the Eagles hired Jim Schwartz under Doug Pederson. Obviously, that worked when the Eagles won a Super Bowl but it created a dynamic that wasn’t always perfect. The personality fit means a lot here and that’s what you’d need to know before hiring someone. You’d really have to figure out how that DC would work under Sirianni. I still think it could work with the right person.

As far as the Dallas scenario, yes, Fangio is a good coach and he’d be a very good replacement if Dan Quinn leaves. But I’d bet you right now the Cowboys are hoping Quinn sticks around.

It’s a position we probably didn’t talk about enough this season. Because when the Eagles traded Zach Ertz in October, we all assumed the Eagles would use less 12 personnel (two tight ends) but instead they became a running team and used it even more. Here’s a look at the percentage of 12 personnel usage this season, per SharpFootball:

Before Ertz trade: 21% (t-16th in NFL)

After Ertz trade: 30% (2nd in NFL)

So undrafted rookie Jack Stoll from Nebraska ended up playing 331 offensive snaps this year.

This is a spot where the Eagles could look to find some sort of upgrade, especially after Tyree Jackson tore his ACL in the regular season finale. But it’s also not the most pressing need on the roster. In fact, I ranked it 10th.

Stoll caught just four passes all season but he showed good hands last training camp and it’s not like the Eagles went into their game plan thinking of ways to get him involved. Besides, Stoll is a pretty good blocker. According to PFF, he was the second-best pass-blocking tight end in the NFL in 2021.

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