In Roob's Observations: What's the Eagles' plan at linebacker?

A concerning remark from Howie Roseman, Isaiah Rodgers finally addresses gambling suspension and an unreal Andy Reid stat.

We’ve conjured up a new Roob’s 10 Random Observations to help get you through the first Sunday without football in five months. And, no, the Pro Bowl Games aren’t football.

1. If you’re looking for a complete overhaul at linebacker – and I’m guessing I’m not alone there – something Howie Roseman said last week was a little concerning. Maybe a lot concerning. He spoke of the Eagles’ belief in Nakobe Dean, which I’m OK with. He’s under contract, he was a third-round pick, he was never really healthy last year, and there’s no reason not to at the very least give him a shot to compete for a starting job in training camp. But he also spoke highly of Zach Cunningham, whose play was barely adequate after signing a couple weeks into camp. Roseman seemed to be trying to convince people the Eagles will be OK running it back with the 29-year-old off-ball linebacker, and that’s the wrong approach:

“Zach Cunningham had a good year. He really did. He had a mentality that we like for that position.”

OK, I have no problem with his mentality. Cunningham played hard, and he was the Eagles’ best linebacker, although it was quite a low bar. But one of the biggest priorities of this offseason has to be getting younger and better on defense, and Cunningham isn’t good enough. He just didn’t make plays. Out of 91 NFL linebackers who started at least 10 games this year, Cunningham was one of just four with no interceptions, sacks or forced fumbles. And he was the first Eagles LB to start 10 games without a sack, interception or forced fumble since Keith Adams in 2005. The Eagles can’t rely on Dean or Cunningham. They’ve got to get better across the board at linebacker. If Cunningham is your worst linebacker, that’s fine. If he’s your best, you’re in trouble.

2. JALEN HURTS STAT OF THE WEEK: Even though he wasn’t a starter until the end of his rookie year, Jalen Hurts’ 34 wins as a starter are the most ever by an Eagles QB in his first four seasons. Carson Wentz won 32 games and Donovan McNabb won 30. The only other quarterbacks with at least 10 wins in their first four seasons were Randall Cunningham (19), Nick Foles (16) and Bobby Thomason (12).

3. It was such a grave mistake starting James Bradberry instead of Kelee Ringo in the wild-card game in Tampa. What on Earth were the Eagles’ defensive coaches thinking? Even the most casual football fan could see what was happening as the season went on. Bradberry’s struggles got worse and worse, and it wasn’t like he was magically going to turn the calendar back to 2022 in the biggest game of the year. The Eagles went with experience over youth and it backfired horribly. Ringo didn’t play much during the regular season, but as he got more and more playing time late in the season we all saw a young kid who was confident, aggressive, physical and instinctive. He made mistakes like any 21-year-old rookie. But he was clearly the best option to start at corner in Tampa. And it went about as you’d expect. Baker Mayfield was 4-for-5 for 86 yards and a touchdown targeting Bradberry. When Ringo finally replaced him it was too late. But Ringo allowed only one completion for nine yards after he did get in the game. Bradberry played 32 snaps and gave up 86 yards. Ringo played 35 snaps and allowed nine yards. Not second guessing. We said it all week leading up to the game. Ringo was the best option and everybody knew it. Almost everybody.

4. Through Week 10, the Eagles’ defense was 13th in the league in points allowed per game at 19.8. They allowed an NFL-worst 29.9 the rest of the season and finished 30th.

5. Isaiah Rodgers, forced to sit out all of 2023 after being suspended by the NFL for violating the league’s gambling policy, told ESPN recently that he didn’t make the bets for himself but for people who lived in Florida while he was playing for the Colts.

“Just trying to help friends and family out,” he said. “Just knowing that it wasn’t legal at the time in Florida and it was in Indiana.”

Rodgers said he made over 100 bets, some on the Colts and some made from the Colts’ practice facility. The NFL suspended him indefinitely, but Rodgers will be eligible to appeal for reinstatement after the Super Bowl. The Colts released Rodgers in June after he was suspended, and the Eagles signed him in August. Lately, Rodgers has been sharing photos of himself working out in Eagles gear. Rodgers had three INTs in three years with the Colts. He was a rookie in 2020 when Nick Sirianni was in Indy.

“He is a talented guy, and obviously he made a mistake, and he has apologized for that mistake,” Howie Roseman said in August. “We believe in second chances, and now it’s on him. So he’ll come in (and) be ready to go for the offseason program and training camp, I think.”

6. Just a reminder how good Mike Quick was: Quick had at least nine TD catches five straight years from 1983 through 1987. No Eagle has had nine TD catches in two straight seasons since. Quick had 51 touchdown catches during that span. Nobody else in the NFL had more than 46.

7A. The Associated Press has been selecting an NFL All-Pro team since 1940. In the first 74 years the award existed, the Eagles had 10 offensive linemen make First-Team All-Pro: Al Wistert in 1945, 1946 and 1947, Chuck Bednarik in 1950, Vic Lindskog in 1951, Bob Brown in 1965, 1966 and 1968, Shawn Andrews in 2006 and Jason Peters in 2011. In 11 years with Jeff Stoutland as offensive line coach, they’ve also had 10 First-Team All-Pro offensive linemen: Peters and Evan Mathis in 2013, Jason Kelce in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022 and 2023 and Lane Johnson in 2017 and 2022. (Bednarik is credited in some places with making First-Team All-Pro at center in 1954 and 1960, but he only made it as a center in 1950. In 1954, the Steelers’ Bill Walsh (a different one) from Phillipsburg, N.J., was the First-Team center and in 1960 it was Jim Ringo of the Packers.

7B. That other Bill Walsh was the Eagles’ offensive line coach under Buddy Ryan from 1987 through 1990 and Rich Kotite in 1991. Ringo finished his career playing for the Eagles from 1964 through 1967.

8. Andy Reid has been an NFL head coach for 25 years. He’s had three losing seasons. They’ve each been in different decades (1999, 2005, 2012).

9. When the Eagles quietly placed Devon Allen on Practice Squad Injured Reserve on Dec. 28 it didn’t seem like a huge deal. Allen had played in only two games – against the Bucs and Jets, his first two NFL appearances – and played 23 special teams snaps and none on offense. But it turns out the two-time Olympic hurdler and three-time U.S. champion had torn an ACL at practice, and the injury will make it a race against time to be ready for the Olympic Trials in June. Allen told Michael David Smith of NBC Sports he’s already had surgery on the knee and believed he was healing faster than he did after his first two torn ACLs – which also both happened when he was playing football.

“It’s not a death sentence anymore,” Allen told Smith. “Every time I’ve come back, I’ve come back faster and stronger, so that’s kind of what I’m hoping for with this next recovery. Obviously, it’s not ideal. But, hey, that’s sports.”

The Eagles didn’t sign him to a futures contract after the season, presumably because of the injury, so he’s a free agent. But Allen said he hopes to continue with both track and football. The Olympic Trials start June 21 in Eugene, Ore., Allen’s home track in college. Allen ranks third in world history in the 110-meter highs with his 12.84 in New York in June 2022.

10. During the 16 years from 1962 through 1977 the Eagles averaged 4.5 wins per season. They had five head coaches and one winning season.