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In Roob's Observations: Would Roseman break from custom and pursue Saquon?

In Roob's Observations: Would Roseman break from custom and pursue Saquon? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Would Howie Roseman go after Saquon Barkley? Can Tanner McKee be the No. 2 quarterback? And can a former Eagles intern make it to the Hall of Fame?

With free agency rapidly approaching, here’s a fresh batch of Eagles Observations to tide you over until the legal tampering period at noon Monday and all the action begins.

1. The notion of signing Saquon Barkley if he hits free agency is an intriguing one, but it would be very out of character for Howie Roseman. He’s never signed a free agent running to a multi-year deal. The Ryan Mathews and DeMarco Murray deals were in 2015 and that was Chip Kelly’s year as GM. Roseman hasn’t signed any running back to a long-term deal since LeSean McCoy in 2012, and he was already here. Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount were budget contracts. He just believe in handing huge deals to running backs. So the notion of the Eagles doling out something around $25 million in guaranteed money for a 27-year-old running back with over 1,500 career touches is hard to imagine. Barkley has only had one elite season since his rookie year in 2018, and his 4.0 rushing average since 2020 ranks 21st of 27 running backs with at least 500 carries over the last four years. Of course, that was all behind a mostly shabby Giants offensive line on the worst turf in the NFL. In this offense – even without Jason Kelce – I think Barkley would be very good here. But the question is for how much and for how long? And does Roseman want to spend that kind of money when running backs have such a limited shelf life and when the Eagles’ real needs are on defense? I think it’s much more likely the Eagles go forward with Kenny Gainwell, a mid-round draft pick and maybe Boston Scott or a mid-level free agent than a big-ticket running back, and spend the big money on defense. But Barkley is an intriguing guy. Just two years ago, he ran for over 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns, caught 57 passes and was fifth among running backs with 1,650 scrimmage yards. But Roseman has never spent money on running backs and I’d be surprised if he starts now.

2. The Eagles have forced just two turnovers in their four Super Bowls – both Tom Brady fumbles. The first one came in the second quarter of Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville on a 2nd-and-4 on the Eagles’ 4-yard-line. Brady was sacked at the 10 and Darwin Walker recovered at the 13. The official stats credit the sack as a “team sack,” which is unusual. You don’t need me to tell you about the second Brady fumble. In those four games, the Eagles have committed 10 turnovers – eight interceptions and two fumbles. So they’re minus-8 in all-time Super Bowl turnover margin.

3. One thing that struck me during Jason Kelce’s retirement speech Monday was the presence of his brother Travis in the front row in the NovaCare Complex auditorium. Obviously, they’re extremely close and Travis was understandably quite emotional throughout his brother’s 41-minute speech. But it just makes you realize how rare this whole situation is because I’m not sure there’s ever been an active player from another team inside the NovaCare Complex before. That just doesn’t happen. Even when the Eagles have joint practices, the other team dresses out at the Linc and buses over. But it was cool to see Travis hugging Jeff Stoutland, who’s like a family member at this point, and greeting Kevin Patullo and Nick Sirianni after Jason’s talk. The NFL has some pretty strong customs and the notion of an active star player from another team – a team that beat the Eagles in a Super Bowl 13 months ago – spending time in that building is crazy. It’s unprecedented. But family is more important than any custom, and Monday was proof of that. It all seemed totally normal.

4A. One of the most remarkable quarterbacking feats in NFL history came at the hands of Sonny Jurgensen in 1962. On Dec. 16, in a game against the Cards at Busch Stadiun, Jurgensen became the first – and to this day, the only – quarterback in NFL history to throw FIVE touchdowns of at least 40 yards in a game. He started with a 56-yard TD pass to Tommy McDonald in the first quarter, added 60-yarders to McDonald and Timmy Brown and a 40-yarder to McDonald in the second quarter and then an 82-yarder to Brown in the third quarter. Jurgensen completed only 15 passes but threw for 419 yards. His 27.9 yards per completion is 2nd-highest in history by a quarterback completing at least 15 passes. Joe Namath once averaged 33.1 yards per completion – 496 yards on just 15 completions against the Colts in 1972. The Eagles lost that game to the Cards 45-35. Cards QB Charley Johnson threw for a then-franchise record 386 yards on just 17 completions for 22.7 yards per completion. That remains the only game in NFL history where both quarterbacks averaged 22 yards per completion. It was also the final game of Chuck Bednarik’s career.

4B. The last Eagles quarterback to throw five 40-yard touchdown passes in a SEASON was Carson Wentz in 2015: 53 yards to Alshon Jeffery, 58 and 72 yards to Nelson Agholor, 59 yards to Torrey Smith and 64 yards to Mack Hollins

5. Has an Eagles intern ever made it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame? It just might happen. Brett Veach grew up Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania, about an hour and a half north of Allentown, and played college football at Delaware – he was 3rd-team all-Atlantic 10 Conference wide receiver in 2000, catching passes from Matt Nagy. In 2004, Andy Reid hired the 26-year-old Veach as a coaching intern and after four years in that role he was finally promoted to coaches’ assistant in 2008. Veach moved over to the scouting side in 2010 and spent three years working under Howie Roseman. After the 2012 season, when Andy Reid was fired and hired by the Chiefs, he brought Veach with him to Kansas City to work in the scouting department under then-GM John Dorsey, first as a pro and college personnel assistant and then for two years as co-director of player personnel. It was during this period that Veach identified Texas Tech freshman quarterback Patrick Mahomes as a future star. When Dorsey was fired after the 2017 season, Veach was promoted to general manager, and the Chiefs have now won three Super Bowls with Veach as GM. He's only the sixth general manager in NFL history (or de facto GM) to win three Super Bowls, joining Bill Belichick (six), Art Rooney (four), Jerry Jones (three), Al Davis (three), and John McVay of the 49ers (three). Rooney, Davis and Jones are in the Hall of Fame and Belichick obviously will be. McVay – who won a total of five Super Bowls with the 49ers including three as GM – isn’t in Canton despite drafting Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Ronnie Lott and truly building that 49ers dynasty. The thing about Veach is that he’s only 46, which makes him the youngest GM to win a third Super Bowl. Belichick is next-youngest with his third coming when he was 52. And with Mahomes under contract for another eight years and Andy Reid expected to sign a contract extension soon, there’s no reason to think Veach won’t add to that total. One more Lombardi Trophy would put him alongside Belichick and Rooney as only the third GM with four titles. And it all began in obscurity as a lowly intern with the Eagles.

6. The Eagles were 13 ½-point favorites over the Giants in Week 16 and 12-point favorites over the Cards in Week 17 but didn’t cover either game. According to point spread data on Stathead, it was the first time they’ve failed to cover in back-to-back games as favorites of at least 12 points since 1954. On Oct. 3, they were 20 ½-point favorites over the Cards and won by 19 and six days later they were 12 ½-point favorites over the Steelers and won by two.

7. Backup quarterback is always one of the more intriguing positions on any football team, and it’s a critical position when you consider how much the No. 2 has to play. Jalen Hurts started every game last year but over the past few decades how many times has the Eagles’ opening-day starter played every game or even all the meaningful snaps? Carson Wentz started every game in 2019 but didn’t make it through the first quarter in the playoff game. He did start every game in 2016. Donovan McNabb started every game in 2008 but was benched in favor of Kevin Kolb at halftime of the Ravens game, which didn’t go so well. McNabb also started all the meaningful games in 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004. And before that Randall Cunningham played all the meaningful snaps in 1990. So in 27 of the last 33 years, the backup has either had to start a meaningful game or play extended meaningful snaps. Which brings us to 2024. Marcus Mariota is a free agent and not likely to return. The operative question is did Tanner McKee show the Eagles enough as a rookie to earn the No. 2 spot? I say yes. I was impressed with the kid, how he grew as training camp went on and how he performed – with 3rd-string receivers – in the preseason games. He’s a serious-minded no-nonsense kid with terrific size at 6-6, 230 pounds, and he showed those Stanford smarts in the preseason games with his ability to read defenses and get the ball to the open guy. For a rookie 6th-round pick to throw 72 passes in the preseason without an interception is rare. I like that he drove the ball down the field, averaging 11.6 yards per completion. For the sake of comparison, only five regular starting QBs averaged 11.6 during the regular season (Brock Purdy, C.J. Stroud, Matthew Stafford, Lamar Jackson, Tua Tagovailoa). And remember, he wasn’t out there with A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith. He was throwing to Joseph Ngata, Deon Cain, Tyrie Cleveland and Johnnie King. If it’s not going well in camp, you can always find a decent veteran on the street. But McKee showed me enough to get the first crack at No. 2 in camp.

8. Jason Kelce has always been an advocate of kids playing multiple sports, and in my favorite interview with him – back in 2017 – he spoke at length about how he never played youth football but participating in a variety of other sports that helped him become a more well-rounded athlete and ultimately the football player he became. I love this quote: “I played lacrosse, hockey, baseball, soccer, wrestled for a little bit, a little bit of karate, played a lot of basketball on the playgrounds and backyards, never competitively. I'm a big advocate of letting kids play as many sports as possible. I think it really helps build overall athleticism and coordination. I think it certainly helped my brother and me. … I think the more games you play the more you're able to draw different things from different sports and assimilate them to yours. Soccer you develop some great foot work. You have to have good feet in order to play. I wasn't the best soccer player but it definitely helped me play this game. Hockey, same thing. Everything happens so fast in hockey so you learn to think quicker because everything is happening so fast in hockey because the ice is quicker and you're moving so fast. Baseball, you learn hand-eye coordination. There's all sorts of things, and I think all of those things when you're younger  is developing habits and developing traits that build a foundation of coordination and athleticism and I don't think there's any question that that's helped me play the position of center in football better.”

9. In 2004, Donovan McNabb became the first quarterback ever to throw 30 touchdowns and single-digit interceptions in a season. It’s been done 31 times since.

10. During Kelce’s streak of 156 consecutive starts to end his career, 26 other offensive linemen started at least one game for the Eagles (Jack Anderson, Allen Barbre, Brandon Brooks, Jamon Brown, Le’Raven Clark, Landon Dickerson, Andre Dillard, Jack Driscoll, Andrew Gardner, Nate Herbig, Todd Herremans, Lane Johnson, Cam Jurgens, Dennis Kelly, Jordan Mailata, Evan Mathis, Sua Opeta, Jason Peters, Matt Pryor, Isaac Seumalo, Tyler Steen, Matt Tobin, Brett Toth, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Chance Warmack and Stefen Wisniewski.

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