Miles Sanders Jersey

Imagine being the head football coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions, having a generational type of talent like Saquon Barkley, and knowing you have the former number-one running back recruit in the country, Miles Sanders. That’s exactly the situation James Franklin was in two seasons ago. Following the most recent NFL Draft, where the Eagles took two Nittany Lions with their five picks (they’d sign two more after the draft’s conclusion), PSU’s head coach, James Franklin spoke with Fran Duffy and Amy Franklin of Eagles Draft Central.

Two Pennsylvania guys, who were former teammates, now play on opposite sides, and hopefully, we’ll see some great duels over the next few seasons with Sanders donning the midnight green.

‘You’re going to love them (both Sanders and defensive end Shareef Miller). They’re great players, but they’re better people and you’re going to really enjoy getting to know these guys over the next couple of years’ Franklin said on Saturday.

Sanders didn’t earn a starting spot in the Nittany Lions offense until this past season when he was a junior. Once he was given his opportunity, he responded with 220 rushing attempts, 1,274 yards, and nine touchdowns.

These days, the NFL doesn’t seem as excited as they once were to go with running backs early unless they’re certain they’re once in a generation types of tailbacks. Sanders may not be seen as that, which is why he slipped to Round 2, but by joining a nice stable with Philadelphia, and by having Duce Staley to guide him, we may be looking at one of those ‘steals’ a la Alvin Kamara.

Philly’s style of play seems to be suited for Sanders’ skill set. Might he flourish in Year 4 of the Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz era? We say he’s got an awesome shot to do so.

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside Jersey

Senior wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside and senior inside linebacker Bobby Okereke were picked on Friday’s day two of the 2019 NFL Draft, joining a long and heralded list of Stanford players in the NFL. Arcega-Whiteside was drafted in the second round by the Philadelphia Eagles, where he will join fellow former Cardinal Zach Ertz in an already stacked pass-catching corps. Picked in the third round, Okereke will head to Indianapolis to play alongside 2018 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Darius Leonard.

An All-Pac-12 Second Team honoree and 2018 semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award given to college football’s top wide receiver, Arcega-Whiteside was one of the Pac-12’s most highly decorated players entering this year’s draft. However, most scouts projected him to go no earlier than the third round.

“I just have to take the mentality of being a fan watching and having my phone real tight to me, whether it’s the first or sixth round,” he said before the draft. “Any team that drafts me I’m going to be excited to play for. It’s an exciting time, but you also have to stay calm and not get your hopes up … I know the team that drafts me is the team I want to go to because they want me.”

The standout from South Carolina tied NFL Hall of Famer James Lofton’s school record of 14 touchdowns this past season, and his 1059 receiving yards ranked fifth-most in a single season in Stanford football history.

“I would say the two things I know for sure are that JJ Arcega-Whiteside can change field position and he can score touchdowns,” said Stanford head coach David Shaw. “You can look at his game and pick it apart, but those are two things that have been consistent on this level, in high school, and will be consistent on the next level.”

Standing at 6-foot-2 and weighing in at 225-pounds, Arcega-Whiteside is bigger than most of the receivers in his class and in the NFL as a whole. However, he put to rest any concerns scouts had about his speed and athleticism at Stanford’s Pro Timing Day when he ran a 4.49-second 40-yard dash.

“I’m a complete receiver,” Arcega-Whiteside said shortly after the run. “I compare myself to Mike Thomas,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “He’s not the strongest, biggest, fastest guy on the field, but he plays football. He’s one of the best, if not the best, football players on the field. He’s smooth and a great route runner. Every time the ball is thrown his way, he catches it. That’s how I want to be.”

Though reports before the draft revealed that he had been invited for individual workouts with the San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans, Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens, Arcega-Whiteside will kick off his professional career with the Eagles. He fits right in with a receiver group that includes 6-foot-3 wideout Alshon Jeffery, three-time Pro Bowler DeSean Jackson and 2015 USC first-round pick Nelson Agholor.

“Even when he’s being held or grabbed or tugged or pulled, it does not matter,” said NFL scouting analyst Daniel Jeremiah about Arcega-Whiteside after he was picked. “He finds a way to get it done down the field. Look at the way that the Eagles have used Alshon Jeffery — the plays he makes above the rim — they got a younger version of Jeffery.”

Whiteside was the sixth receiver off the board in the draft, selected at the 57th overall pick.

Bobby Okereke shot up draft board over the past few weeks, showing off incredible athleticism at the NFL Combine and Stanford’s pro day with a 4.58-second 40-yard dash time good for seventh-best among linebackers at the combine and a position-leading 37 on the Wonderlic (the NFL’s pre-draft intelligence test administered to prospects coming out of college).

Standing at 6-foot-1 and weighing 239 pounds, the senior has prototypical size for the inside linebacker position and is coming off of a 2018 campaign at Stanford that saw him lead the team with 96 total tackles (7.5 for loss) en route to All-Pac-12 honorable mention honors.

“Undersized but instinctive and rangy, Okereke plays fast and is generally on the right track with his initial reads and response to play development,” said NFL scouting analyst Lance Zierlein.

“Really good senior bowl and really good combine,” tweeted draft analyst Matt Miller shortly after the pick was made. “He fits what NFL wants in a three-down linebacker. Has range to go sidelines and can cover.”

Selected at the 89th overall pick, Okereke joins an young, ascending defense with the Indianapolis Colts that ranked eleventh in yards per game allowed and eighth in rushing yards allowed. The group boasts the NFL’s 2018 tackles leader, First Team All-Pro and Defensive Rookie of the Year in former South Carolina linebacker Darius Leonard, picked in the second round of the 2018 draft by the Colts one year ago.

“I’ve compared him to Darius Leonard for the past six months, and now they’re teammates,” tweeted former Seattle Seahawks scout and current Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy shortly after the pick. “Both are long and fast. Leonard more instinctive and Okereke more physical.”

Both team captains in 2018, Arcega-Whiteside and Okereke will certainly be missed on the Stanford football team and by the Cardinal faithful next season. Their former teammates on campus are no doubt looking forward to cheering them on next season as they take the next steps in their football journeys.

“It’s something I dreamed of as a kid so you just have to live in the moment,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “You only do this once in your life and I’m going to enjoy it. It’s an exciting experience to be part of this process.”

Andre Dillard Jersey

The Eagles were aggressive in their pursuit of Washington State offensive tackle Andre Dillard on Thursday during the first round of the NFL Draft.

Dillard was the team’s top-graded offensive tackle and a Top 10 player on their draft board. Following the selection, the Eagles were effusive in their praise of Dillard’s athleticism and upside.

The Eagles’ front office isn’t the only group that’s very high on its new blindside blocker. Former Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas is also a member of Dillard’s fan club.

“He has really impressive technique,” Thomas said to BrownsWire’s Jeff Risdon on Thursday. “He really impressed me with his technique, his quickness, his flexibility and mobility as an offensive lineman. I think all those things are really important to be able to execute his technique properly.”

Thomas’ praise is noteworthy. He retired prior to last season after spending 11 years with the Cleveland Browns. During his career, Thomas was named a 10-time Pro Bowl selection and a seven-time first-team All-Pro.

Thomas was one of the best offensive linemen of his generation. Dillard will now look to follow in his footsteps at the left tackle position.

However, before Dillard can earn playing time, he will need to sit and watch another legend finish out his career. Former All-Pro Jason Peters is set for one more season with the Eagles after signing a new pact in the offseason.

Dillard is looking forward to learning from one of the best.

“It’s just a huge honor to be on the same team as a great veteran player like that,” Dillard said Thursday. “I’m looking forward to competing with him, getting better with him and learning a lot from him and everybody else there.”

Ronald Darby Jersey

Ronald Darby knew the Philadelphia Eagles wanted him back, which is why Darby decided to return to the Eagles on a one-year deal last month. The biggest supporter in Darby’s corner (no pun intended) may have been Eagles head coach Doug Pederson).

Pederson knew the Eagles secondary would be better off with Darby in it, which is why he’s excited to have him back in the NovaCare Complex for another year.

“Ronald was having a really good season before the injury,” Pederson said at the NFL Coaches Breakfast last week. “He’s a really good corner. And he gives us depth at that spot.

“I was excited that he wanted to come back and sign with us, even though it’s a one-year deal, I’m excited to have him back. I look forward to getting him out there when he’s ready. It really solidifies that corner position.”

Philadelphia has plenty of depth at cornerback and could have survived without Darby, but the fifth-year cornerback is an upper echelon starter when 100 percent.

When Darby returned from his ankle injury in 2017 (that caused them to miss eight games), he made an impact with 34 tackles, three interceptions, and nine pass deflections in just eight games.

Darby was one of the best cornerbacks lined up in off coverage, allowing a passer rating of just 34.5 (third in the NFL). Darby was ranked 24th by Pro Football Focus among cornerbacks, grading at 84.2 (83.8 in coverage).

Darby led the Eagles with 22 tackles (17 solo) and seven pass deflections during their Super Bowl 52-winning playoff run. He produced a career-high-tying four pass deflections in the NFC Championship Game and also registered a career-high-tying 10 tackles (eight solo) against the Atlanta Falcons the week before. Despite missing eight games due to injury, Darby ranked second on the Eagles defense with a career-high three interceptions.

Opposing quarterbacks had a 57.2 passer rating when targeting Darby in his first season with the Eagles. Darby took that 2017 momentum into 2018, having 43 tackles, 12 pass deflections and an interception in nine games.

Darby allowed 44 catches for 418 yards (9.5 yards per catch) and three touchdowns, 102 yards of which were after the catch. Opposing quarterbacks had just an 86.5 passer rating when targeting Darby.

In 2017, Darby allowed 26 catches for 322 yards (12.4 yards per catch) and just one touchdown. Combining the two seasons, opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating below 70 when targeting Darby, who just turned 25 this January.

The Eagles secondary is clearly better with Darby on the field than they are when he’s off it. Darby has a spot solidified at outside cornerback for 2019, as the Eagles have him at a bargain for $2,825,000, with four dead years to save cap space. The Eagles have a contract trigger for February 17, 2020 that has an option for Darby, giving them some flexibility to re-sign him in case Darby plays at a high level (just like the last two years with the Eagles).

If Darby plays at a level he’s capable of, Pederson will likely be at the forefront for the Eagles to sign him long term.

Chris Long Jersey

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Chris Long is one of the more enjoyable Philadelphia athletes to cover in recent years. He’s outspoken, does incredible charity work, and helped bring a Super Bowl championship back to Philly. Oh, and he wore an Allen Iverson jersey under a faux fur coat to the parade. Legendary.

All of that and he just seems like relatable guy you’d want to have beers with and watch a big sports game. Like, say, the NCAA National Championship.

Long, a University of Virginia alum, was lucky enough to attend the big game out in Minnesota last week and it helped land him on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Sort of!

Check out his pretty hilarious tweet about the cover.

Long is indeed on the cover of SI that features the championship Cavaliers. He just happens to be a fan in the background. And he is caught in a perfectly joyous pose.

If you can’t see it, click the second photo in his tweet and zoom in right under the second ‘A’.

For months, we’ve been so focused on the Eagles’ plan going into the draft without even thinking about another huge factor that should help them:

The rest of the division might be an inept mess at the front office level.So the Eagles have a power structure with a supportive owner in Jeffrey Lurie who has delegated power to a front office with Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas. Both seem to get along great with each other and with head coach Doug Pederson, creating a sound and cohesive environment.

Meanwhile, the Eagles share a division with two overbearing and meddlesome owners in Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones, not to mention a general manager in New York’s Dave Gentleman, who doesn’t seem to know what the hell he’s doing.

At least you have to give the Cowboys a little credit. Jones is meddlesome, but they’ve had plenty of good draft picks over the last few years.

But the Giants have picks No. 6 and 17, while the Skins have No. 15 and might move on up into the top five. Neither of those fanbases should have a high level of confidence those front offices will nail those picks.

Mike Wallace Jersey

Kicking off this year’s fest was Mike Wallace is Here, a new documentary focused on the 60 Minutes journalist and how he shifted the entire television news game. What’s unique for this documentary is that all of Wallace’s life is told in his own words, through interviews prior to his death in 2012.

At first, that decision feels a little devoid of emotion, violently whipping the viewer from one period of time to another. Once the audience falls into its groove, though, the flow begins to take form. After Wallace finishes one answer, the next shot may find him 20 years later with no warning, being asked a follow-up question strikingly similar to what came before. All of these edits bring together a story not limited by time or scope, and able to cover a surprising amount ground.

The film also does a great of job contextualizing Wallace’s impact on today’s climate, and it’s far from a positive outlook. Viewers interested in an in-depth look at Wallace may not find quite what they’re looking for, but what’s here is a swift, calculated experience that never lets up.

Some of the jabs at the townsfolk still sleepwalking through life devoid of that creative energy can feel a bit obvious (i.e. selfie sticks, youth glued to their smartphones), but at least tries to verbalize an ultimately altruistic message. Saying you are not a writer, not an actor, not a journalist is often the first step in actually becoming these things, and it can just be another piece of you, not your whole identity.

The heavy length of this two-parter wore on me at times, and it’s execution sometimes questionable, but the themes certainly resonate. The only hurdle is that for the audiences who actually dive into A Bread Factory, it may be preaching to the choir.

Nate Gerry Jersey

Consensus is the Philadelphia Eagles “need” a linebacker in the 2019 NFL Draft, but the Eagles front office feels they have the linebackers they need on the roster. The Eagles made it a priority to sign L.J. Fort early in free agency and have talented young linebackers in Kamu Grugier-Hill and Nate Gerry to go with Nigel Bradham.

Philadelphia doesn’t have a “need” at linebacker, but that won’t stop the Eagles from actually drafting one in the 2019 draft.

“You know there’s a lot of guys I think that can play four downs,” Eagles Executive Vice President of Player Personnel Douglas said Tuesday. “The linebacker position has probably evolved a lot over the last few years with the spread offenses. They’re being asked to be put in a lot of difficult situations and whatever they do they’re wrong in the RPO game. This is a group of highly skilled and talented guys.”

The Eagles have converted safeties to linebackers over the past few seasons, drafting Nate Gerry in 2017 and converting him into a linebacker. It took Gerry a year to learn the position, but he showed strides in 2017 by starting two games (played 13) and finished with 23 tackles, two pass breakups and an interception in 12.91 percent of the defensive snaps. Opposing quarterbacks had a 93.8 passer rating when targeting Gerry, who was solid in coverage.

The Eagles didn’t draft Grugier-Hill, but claimed him off waivers from the New England Patriots in 2016. The sixth-round pick was a converted safety and a special team standout his first two years with the Eagles.

Grugier-Hill had 45 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble in 10 starts for the Eagles at the WILL and can play all three linebacker positions. Opposing quarterbacks had just a 68.3 passer rating targeting Grugier-Hill, proving he’s one of the better coverage linebackers in the game.

With the NFL evolving into a passing league with no set positions, the Eagles were ahead of the curve in drafting Grugier-Hill and Gerry. Look at Malcolm Jenkins, who is listed as a “safety” but plays multiple positions on the defense based on the scheme.

So which players could the Eagles draft as a “linebacker” in 2019? Juan Thornhill is certainly a candidate.

Thornhill could be the best in a vast crop of do-it-all safeties in this year’s draft. He was used everywhere at Virginia – both spots in the back end, in the slot, and on third downs as the dime linebacker. Scouts say he could move to cornerback in the NFL, but Virginia didn’t want to limit him to one side.

Thornhill was the runaway top safety to take part in the combine. At 6-foot, 205 pounds he posted some of the best leaping numbers in recent years with a 44-inch vertical and 11’9” broad jump. Vertical and broad jumps hold the strongest statistical correlation to the safety position, further emphasizing Thornhill’s performance. Thornhill also ran a 4.42 second 40 (fifth among safeties). In high school he was a two-sport state champion as quarterback and basketball player.

Thornhill finished with 94 tackles, 30 stops, three interceptions and five passes defensed. He allowed 18 catches (on 43 targets) for 239 yards as opposing quarterbacks had a 54.3 passer rating against him.

Maryland’s Darnell Savage is an excellent cover safety, who has allowed 28 catches for 239 yards and no touchdowns in 2018 as opposing quarterbacks had a 43.7 passer rating when targeting him.

Savage needs work in single-high coverage, but is an aggressive tackler and plays well in basic zone.

The Eagles could get a linebacker in the early rounds of this draft, just not the one in the traditional sense. That’s not the line of thinking in the Eagles front office…and hasn’t been for years.

Destiny Vaeao Jersey

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Destiny Vaeao has proven himself to be a solid back-up defensive lineman in his three seasons with the Birds. Now he will get an opportunity to play for the Panthers.

Vaeao will join fellow ex-Eagle Elijah Qualls in Carolina and will serve as a backup to Dontari Poe and Kwann Short. It is a situation where he should be able to contribute much more than he was able to with a depleted position with the Eagles in 2018 or a stacked one in 2017.

Destiny Vaeao joined the Eagles as an undrafted free agent in 2016 and didn’t take long to make an impact.

Vaeao made the 53-man roster in Doug Pederson’s first year as head coach and appeared in all 16 games for the team. In a backup role, he managed to contribute 15 tackles, a forced fumble and two sacks.

With the acquisition of Jernigan in 2017, Vaeao’s playing time was limited even further as Beau Allen was also pushed into a backup role. With Allen departed via free agency and Jernigan on IR for much of the season, Vaeao was expected to see more time behind veteran Haloti Ngata in 2018.

Vaeao ended up starting three games, but was unproductive in the increased role, contributing just one sack and a total of two tackles. He suffered an injury after week six and was placed on IR, becoming one of 38 Eagles to miss significant time in 2018. He was waived with an injury settlement a few days later.

Cameron Johnston Jersey

Back in 2017, when Cameron Johnston signed with the Eagles as an undrafted free agent, I long called for the Australian out of Ohio State to be the next franchise punter. Now, I don’t seem as crazy.

We don’t really talk about punting enough — in part because the mark of a good team is not having to do it very often. But, having someone on the sideline you can rely on to pin the opponent deep down the field is extremely important, especially if you’re struggling in other phases of the game.

And that’s exactly what the Eagles have in Johnston.

Through 14 games, Johnston has punted 56 times for 2,718 yards — which is pretty much in line with what Donnie Jones was doing the past five seasons, averaging 75 punts for 3,394 a year during his tenure.

Johnston is averaging 48.5 yards per punt, good for No. 2 in the NFL, and has dropped 41.1% of his punts this season inside the 20. Pretty good for his first season on an active roster — a spot I’m convinced he earned in the preseason with an 81-yard bomb.

In Sunday’s win over the Rams, Johnston had three punts for 155 yards, with two landing inside the 20.

DeAndre Carter Jersey

If the Eagles were planning on bringing DeAndre Carter back to their practice squad, they won’t be able to now.

Because of his status in the league, Carter was subject to waivers and the Houston Texans have claimed the 25-year-old receiver/return man.

Carter had never been on an NFL 53-man roster before this season and now he was valuable enough that a different team wanted to claim him. Unfortunately for the Eagles, it means he won’t be back right now.

The Eagles waived Carter on Tuesday, which signaled that Darren Sproles is set to return. Doug Pederson said on Wednesday that he expects Sproles to play Sunday, which means the Eagles no longer needed Carter as a punt returner. And after signing Golden Tate, they were carrying six receivers instead of five.

During his time with the Eagles this season, Carter caught two passes for 21 yards, but became the team’s primary punt and kick returner. He averaged 20.4 yards per kick return and 10.3 yards per punt return.

As the Texans claimed Carter, they released return man Tyler Ervin, who had been averaging just 8.3 yards per punt return. It seems like the Texans think they found an upgrade.

Earlier in the season when the Eagles waived Carter, he cleared waivers and was then added to their practice squad. That won’t happen this time, but he’ll be able to get some playing time with a different NFL team, one that has won six straight games.

The Eagles host the Texans in Week 16 at the Linc.