The value of Marcus Mariota understanding why the Eagles moved away from Miles Sanders and how recent cornerback moves will affect Howie Roseman’s thinking in the draft.
As we navigate free agency with draft just five weeks away, here’s our latest installment of Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Offseason Observations.
1. I love Marcus Mariota as Jalen Hurts backup and what makes him better than Gardner Minshew is his skills. Mariota gives Nick Siriani and Brian Johnson the luxury of not having to tear up the playbook when substituting Hurts for a series, game or more. Mariota is a smart, solid, efficient, and experienced quarterback. He had a decent year as a footballer for the Falcons last year — 15 TDs, 9 INTs, 88.2 passer rating — but what matters most is he can direct and run the RPO game at a high level. In fact, Mariota had the second-most RPO games in the NFL last year with 133 — just 15 fewer than Hurts (on two fewer starts). Mariota started and ran twice as often as Hurts at RPOs (28 percent to 14 percent) and averaged exactly the same number of yards per RPO game as Hurts (7.8). Mariota actually had a higher rushing average than Hurts last year (5.2 to 4.8). He’s not Hurts and he’s not close, but his skills are a lot closer to Hurts’ skills than Minshew was. The things that Hurts is great at, Mariota is pretty good at, and that’s huge.
2. Rashaad Penny is such a Howie Roseman type move. Huge benefits and literally no downsides. Howie can’t lose. There’s no question that Penny is talented. His career rushing average of 5.7 with 200 carries is the fourth-highest in NFL history among running backs. It’s an explosive, hard-hitting playback with unlimited ceiling. But injuries have limited him to 8 ½ games a season and just 337 carries in five pro seasons. That’s less than 70 transmissions a year. But what if he stays healthy? Roseman just gave the Eagles an elite running back just above minimum wage. What if he doesn’t stay healthy? You only have a paltry $600,000 with no future cap impact. Penny’s injuries have been all over the map: a pulled knee and broken finger in 2018, a hamstring and cruciate ligament tear in 2019, a knee in 2020, a calf and hamstring in 2021, a broken leg last year. Behind that offensive line, he might have a better chance of staying healthy than he did in Seattle because he shouldn’t be hit as badly. And when he’s sharing time with a combination of Kenny Gainwell, Boston Scott, Trey Sermon, and possibly a draft pick, he can be an 8-for-10 carry-per-game guy and contribute without taking on an excessive workload take over, which would increase his risk of injury. Everything to gain, nothing to lose. HowieBall.
3. How explosive is Penny? He’s had 13 rushes for 30 yards or more in the last five years and only five players have had more (Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb, Saquon Barkley, Dalvin Cook, Aaron Jones). 64 backs had more carries in that span. Only five had more 30-yard runs.
4. Speaking of Mariota and Penny, in three days, the Eagles signed two of only 15 players in NFL history averaging 5.7 yards per carry (at least 300 carries). Mariota is 9th in the story with a 5.8 and Penny is 13th with a 5.7.
5. I bet analysis had a lot to do with the Eagles’ decision to leave Miles Sanders before his market value was even established. Sanders is near that magic number of career carriers — 795 including the postseason — where analysis says a running back is starting to decline. That doesn’t mean Sanders will let up, but it does mean that running backs with some level of wear and tear generally do. Not always, but enough that some teams just won’t give a starting running back a second contract. Penny, Gainwell, Scott and Sermon not only cost less than Sanders, they have 743 career carries combined – less than Sanders. I really like Sanders, although his lack of performance was a concern late in the season and in the Super Bowl. Running backs have such limited durability, and it’s understandable if a team doesn’t want to make a long-term investment in a man whose best days may be behind him.
6. There’s no way Bradberry’s contract, Slay’s reshuffle and the signing of Greedy Williams will suddenly mean Roseman won’t take a corner early in the draft. Nothing changes. This is a strong cornerback draft, and when there’s an available corner the Eagles love, they won’t hesitate to snap it up, whether it’s 10th or 30th, or with a trade up or down. Bradberry will turn 30 before the season starts, Slay is 32 and Williams has started nine games over the past three seasons. Think back to the 2002 design. Bobby Taylor was 29 and Troy Vincent was 32 and both were at the top of their game. But the Eagles drafted Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown, and it seemed like madness at the time, but it certainly worked out. Roseman won’t reach for a player in a distressed position, no matter how obvious the distress, so he’s no less likely to take a corner now than he was prior to these recent signings.
7. Crazy how the anticipated security market never materialized. Jessie Bates was getting $16 million a year from the Falcons, but what else? Vonn Bell, Juan Thornhill, Donovan Wilson, Jimmie Ward, Julian Love, Marcus Epps, and Jordan Poyer have all landed free agency deals in the $6 million to $7.5 million per year range. This had to surprise Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. Spotrac forecast him a deal worth an average of $13.3 million per year, but that obviously isn’t going to happen. If someone had offered a $10 million-a-year deal, Gardner-Johnson would have accepted it. There are fewer teams looking for collateral now than there were a few days ago, and as demand falls, supply falls. They only need one team — hard to imagine anyone other than the Falcons being willing to pay Bates $16 million a year — but so far, that team hasn’t surfaced for Gardner-Johnson. And with every day that goes by, the odds that he’ll return to the Eagles with a far lower number than expected increase.
8. How crazy is that: Jalen Hurts had 10 quick first downs in the Super Bowl. That’s the second-highest finish in Super Bowl history — Terrell Davis had 12 in Super Bowl XXXII against the Packers in San Diego after the 1997 season. It’s also the highest by an Eagle — in any game — since LeSean McCoy had his in 2011 185-yard game 12 against the Cowboys.
9. There are 30 active NFL players who have started at least 100 games for the same team and have never played for any other team. The Eagles are the only team with four of them – Jason Kelce (176), Fletcher Cox (167), Lane Johnson (127) and Brandon Graham (105). The only other team with three is the Cowboys with Tyron Smith (148), Zack Martin (137) and DeMarcus Lawrence (102).
10. With Mariota joining DeVonta Smith, this marks the first time the Eagles have had two Heisman Trophy winners on their active roster. The Eagles have had seven Heisman winners on the team over the years, but never two at a time. Her past Heisman winners are Davey O’Brien (1939-1940), Howard Cassady (1962), John Huarte (1968), Herschel Walker (1992-94), Ty Detmer (1996-97), Sam Bradford (2015), Smith (2021-22) and now Mariota. They had Tim Tebow and Bradford at training camp together in 2015 (seven years after Bradford’s Oklahoma Sooners defeated Tebow’s Florida Gators in the 2008 BCS Championship Game in Miami), but Tebow was fired after training camp.
Source : www.nbcsports.com