Eagles mailbag: Which newcomer could Eagles least afford to lose?

·7 min read

Eagles mailbag: Which newcomer could Eagles least afford to lose? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Training camp is over, the Eagles finalized their initial 53-man roster and now they’re getting ready for Week 1.

It’s football season.

But it’s also been a long time since our last mailbag. We got a ton of questions that I’ll be answering over the next few days. As always, thanks for all the thoughtful questions.

Let’s get to it:

The Eagles added plenty of high-impact players this offseason, but most of them were on the defensive side of the ball. The one starter they added on offense was A.J. Brown. So I’ll give him a slight edge over Haason Reddick as the answer to this question.

The Eagles had the 25th-ranked passing offense in the NFL last year. Everyone expects them to be much better in 2022 — myself included — and Brown is a big reason why. Howie Roseman traded away a first-round pick and handed out a $100 million contract for the reason. And this summer Brown has already shown me he’s the real deal. Sure, DeVonta Smith will be better in Year 2 and Zach Pascal was a nice addition, an even more important one than I thought originally.

But so much of this team’s success this season will hinge on the play of Jalen Hurts. And the biggest move to help Hurts improve was bringing in his best friend, who just happens to be a dynamic receiver. We should point out that Brown played all 16 games as a rookie but missed two games in 2020 and four games in 2021. The Eagles could get by if he misses a couple games in 2022, but they really need him out there.

The news that Andre Dillard broke his forearm is a shame, especially because he was the insurance policy for Jordan Mailata. Yeah, I’m a little concerned about the depth at tackle, specifically left tackle, after this injury. But it’s also important to note that there aren’t many teams three-deep at that position. And having Dillard as a backup in the first place is a bit of a luxury.

We’ll see what happens, but it certainly seems like Dillard is heading for IR. The top backup tackles on the 53-man roster are Jack Driscoll and Josh Sills. Driscoll played exclusively right tackle all summer. Sills played guard and tackle, getting work at left tackle with the second and third teams. But would the Eagles really toss in an undrafted rookie if Mailata goes down? Probably not.

That’s why the most likely backup for Mailata is on the practice squad. Veteran Le’Raven Clark didn’t have a great training camp or preseason but he’s at least played in the NFL and the coaches would probably feel more comfortable with him out there than a rookie. The Eagles also have Kayode Awosika on their practice squad. Awosika didn’t make the roster but at least he’s been around the NFL for a year.

This was one of the roster surprises at final cuts. The Eagles kept UDFA Sills from Oklahoma State over Anderson, who was on the roster last year. The Giants quickly claimed Anderson off waivers. I agree with you that Anderson is definitely a more advanced player right now; heck, I’d simply say he’s a better player right now. But in hindsight I get why the Eagles kept Sills. He played every position on the line in his college career and offered guard/tackle versatility instead of guard/center like Anderson. The Eagles probably saw more value in that backup tackle versatility.

Nah, not nervous about having just four receivers on the roster (for now) because the Eagles have Deon Cain, Devon Allen and Britain Covey on their practice squad. And I didn’t have high expectations for Jalen Reagor this season anyway, so it’s not a huge loss. The way practice squads work now, they’re basically like extensions of the active roster and the Eagles treat them as such. Honestly, Cain deserved that roster spot more than Reagor anyway. And Covey could be an upgrade in the return game.

Carter had a lot more going on than just poor play on the field; he was dealing with substance abuse issues and really credits getting released with turning his life around. Reagor is just struggling with poor play and a likely loss of confidence.

I suppose there’s a chance Reagor could go to Minnesota and the fresh start could jumpstart his career. I’ll believe it when I see it. Even if he does turn around his career, don’t fret. I think it’s safe to say it was never going to happen here.

You may call me Dave. Honestly, the only person who calls me David is Ray Didinger. It’s a fair question about Sanders, especially because he’s entering a contract season. The Eagles really like him and Sanders has been a good runner when healthy, but the injuries are obviously a concern. It would be tough to pay him on a huge contract with that issue hovering over him. It’s still possible if the money’s right, though, that Sanders could be back in 2022.

But it also might be time to use a relatively high pick on a running back next year. The Eagles drafted Kenny Gainwell in the fifth last season and he’s a nice piece but probably not a feature back. There’s the thought that you can simply find running backs in any round of the draft and that’s somewhat true. But most of the elite backs in the NFL were taken pretty early.

Over the last five years, here’s a look 1,000-yard rushers by draft round:

First round: 10
Second round: 8
Third round: 3
Fourth round: 1
Fifth round: 2
Sixth round: 0
Seventh round: 1
UDFA: 3

To be clear, I’m not advocating using first-round picks on running backs. But it also doesn’t usually make sense to pay running backs a ton either, especially if they’re not special.

Always happy to talk special teams. By the end of last season, cornerback Zech McPhearson became a pretty decent gunner and Josiah Scott ended up playing that role in the playoff game. Both are on the roster again, so that’s a good place to start.

Shaun Bradley and Patrick Johnson return as key special teams contributors. We know that Bradley was one of the better teams players in the NFC last year. The Eagles also added a guy who could become a start on these units in sixth-round pick Kyron Johnson. The Kansas product was a big-time player for the Jayhawks but also excelled on teams. He’s a 6-foot, 235-pound edge rusher who ran a sub-4.4 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day. That’s a good start for Johnson to be great on the coverage units.

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