In Roob's Observations: How could Isaiah Rodgers look this good?

In Roob's Observations: How could Isaiah Rodgers look this good? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

A glimpse finally at Isaiah Rodgers, expectations of Jalen Carter and waiting for Nakobe Dean. It’s a Roob’s Random Offseason Eagles Observations in the thick of spring OTAs, and we actually have some football to talk about.

1. The guy I wanted to see most of all at OTA practice was Isaiah Rodgers. I’m fascinated by his story, intrigued by the signing, fascinated by the possibilities. Until these practices at the NovaCare, Rodgers hadn’t stepped on a football field since suffering a knee injury on Dec. 26, 2022, while playing for the Colts against the Chargers at Lucas Oil Stadium. That’s 512 days without stepping onto a football field. And it’s not like he was in an NFL facility in meetings and watching film and chatting with his coaches. Even after he signed with the Eagles in April of 2023 he wasn’t allowed to be with the team, so he was back home in Tampa, working out on his own and counting down the days till his suspension was over. So on Wednesday for the first time we got to see the 26-year-old Rodgers in an Eagles uniform and while you don’t want to get carried away with one no-pads OTA practice, it was definitely an encouraging glimpse at the cornerback who had the 5th-highest PFF grade of 105 corners who played at least 400 snaps in 2022. He looked confident. He looked comfortable. He looked fluid. He looked sticky. He was communicating with the other DBs. He looked nothing like someone who just went 512 days without football. Where does he fit in? I have no idea. It’s May and we’ll see this summer how all the pieces fit together. Darius Slay is CB1 and Quinyon Mitchell and Cooper DeJean were high picks and impressive kids, and last time we checked James Bradberry is still here as well. But it’s May and where Rodgers fits in doesn’t matter. What matters is that at first glance he looks like a guy who’s going to help this team.

2. Not only are Dak Prescott’s 189 passes without an interception the most by a quarterback at the Linc, it’s 2nd-most by any quarterback ever at any stadium. Kirk Cousins has thrown 222 passes at Ford Field without an INT, and he’s the only QB to throw more passes in any stadium without getting picked off than Prescott at the Linc. Next on that list is Drew Brees, with 177 passes at Levi’s Stadium without an interception. The most INTs at the Vet without an INT? That’s 136 by Kerry Collins. The most at Franklin Field? Rick Arrington with 39. And the most at Shibe Park? Paul Christman had 66. Now you know.

3. I liked what I heard from Jalen Carter Wednesday. I like that he was disappointed with his 2023 season. I like that he embraces old-school coaches like Vic Fangio. I like that he wants to be pushed hard. He said all the right stuff, but ultimately all that matters is that Carter does the things he talked about and gets in the best shape of his life and finds a way to maintain the way he played early last season for a whole year. If he can do that – and I believe he can – he’s going to be a 1st-team all-pro sooner than later. Six weeks into his NFL career, Carter had a ridiculous six hurries, four tackles for loss, four QB hits and 3 ½ sacks, the first rookie defensive tackle with those numbers six games into his career since one-time Eagle Ndamukong Suh back in 2010. Imagine if Carter sustained that over 17 games? You’re looking at an all-time kind of season. And he can be that good. Carter is so talented. The possibilities are frightening. He’s just got to commit to doing it.

4. It’s hilarious to me that Jalen Hurts can go 29-3 over a 32-game stretch from December 2021 to November of 2023 while throwing 46 touchdowns and 17 interceptions and rushing for another 32 touchdowns – with a nearly flawless Super Bowl run in the middle of that – and then thanks to an ugly finish under a lame duck offensive coordinator on a lost team playing a “stale” offense in the head coach’s own words all of a sudden people are questioning him? And even down the stretch last year, Hurts only had two legitimately bad games – the Seattle loss and the Giants loss. He’s about the last guy on this roster I worry about.

5. Only two wide receivers in the last 25 years drafted in the fifth round or later have had 800 yards, 17.5 yards per catch and eight touchdowns in a season: The Bengals’ Marvin Jones in 2017 and the Eagles’ Riley Cooper in 2013.

6. Zach Baun may have been taking 1st-team reps at off-ball linebacker during last week’s open practice, but I just don’t see him as a viable off-ball linebacker in any role beyond just a few snaps here or there. Baun played 660 defensive snaps in four years with the Saints and according to Pro Football Focus, 170 were at linebacker. And over the last two years he played 320 snaps as an edge rusher and 39 at linebacker. He’s not the guy. The reality is Nakobe Dean remains the Eagles’ best hope for a viable starting off-ball linebacker opposite Devin White. Unfortunately, as of last week, Dean wasn’t fully cleared yet after dealing with two foot injuries last year and undergoing surgery in November. Dean told me on locker clean-out day he hoped to be cleared by now – “I can’t wait for OTAs, I can’t wait for training camp, I can’t wait till next year,” he said on Jan. 27. But here we are. Dean did some individual work last week but we haven’t seen him on the field for team drills yet. Hopefully, Dean is back either this week or next month for mandatory minicamp. This is a huge year for him and he’s got a lot to prove. We’ve all seen his potential and while I get why some people are down on him, it’s too early to give up on the former Georgia star. Dean has played significant snaps in five games in his life. He’s left two early with foot injuries, and he wasn’t 100 percent for the three others. Dean was never hurt at Georgia, so it’s not like he's injury prone. We just need to see him play healthy and find out who he is and what kind of player he can be. And it would be nice if that process began very soon.

7. Never understood why Asante Samuel’s Hall of Fame candidacy hasn’t gotten any traction. In addition to 51 career interceptions and seven pick-6’s, he had seven more INTs in the postseason and an NFL-record four more pick-6’s. He’s one of only five players in NFL history with 50 interceptions and 10 pick-6’s, and the only other one who’s not in the Hall of Fame is Darren Sharper, and that’s for non-football reasons. Samuel hasn’t even been a finalist, which is absurd. Eric Allen finally made it to the final round before ridiculously being bypassed for the Hall. He’s not the only former Eagles corner who deserves a much longer look.

8. The only Hall of Fame quarterbacks the Eagles have beaten in the postseason in the last 70 years are Packers – Bart Starr at Franklin Field in the 1960 NFL Championship Game and Brett Favre at the Linc in the 2003 4th-and-26 conference semifinal. This stat will disappear in 2028.

9. Remember when Bobby Hoying and Boomer Esiason locked up in that wild Eagles-Bengals game at the Vet in 1997? Hoying out-dueled Esiason with four TDs - to Kevin Turner, Michael Timpson, Jimmie Johnson and Chad Lewis – and just one interception, and the Eagles won 44-42. After that game, Hoying threw four TD passes and 14 interceptions the rest of his career.

10. Parris Campbell is one of only four WRs in NFL history drafted in the first two rounds with at least 100 career targets to average below 25 yards per game and below 10 yards per catch. The others are David Palmer, Dexter McCluster and Tavon Austin.

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