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Lawlor: Personnel Staff Hitting All The Right Buttons

Posted Nov 1, 2017

The Eagles are 7-1 at midseason. They have the best record in the NFL and life seems pretty good. There is talk of Carson Wentz being the league's MVP. Doug Pederson will certainly get plenty of support for Coach of the Year if the team continues to win.

We also have to give credit to Howie Roseman, Joe Douglas, Andy Weidl, and Dwayne Joseph - the men who built the roster. Roseman pulled off the key trades when he moved the Eagles up in the draft twice during the 2016 offseason. That put the team in position to draft Carson Wentz. This team would be solid without Wentz but it can be special with him. If you watched the Monday night game between the Broncos and the Chiefs, you saw the value of a good quarterback. Denver's defense played well, but quarterback Trevor Siemian struggled and the team lost.

Wentz isn't the only reason the Eagles are winning and Sunday was a great example of that. The Eagles beat the 49ers 33-10 without Wentz having a great game. The whole roster had to contribute on a day when things weren't going smoothly.

The Eagles knew they had to address the cornerback position after last season. Joseph and his pro personnel staff identified Patrick Robinson as a player who could help the Eagles. They signed him in March. Robinson was up and down in the spring but started playing well in the preseason. He has carried that over to the regular season, helping the Eagles in the slot and on the outside.

Robinson played well against the 49ers. He had a pair of solo tackles, one of them a tackle for loss. He broke up a pass that Rodney McLeod actually picked off. Robinson covered well but really stood out as a run defender. He was aggressive in getting to the ball and even taking on blockers. He got hurt and missed part of the game, but his play early on helped set the tone for the defense.

Roseman drafted Jalen Mills in the seventh round a year ago. Mills played as a rookie, but was highly inconsistent, as most rookies are. He has played well this year, against both the run and the pass. Mills made the play of the game on Sunday, picking off C.J. Beathard late in the half and then running that back for a touchdown. The score went from 9-0 to 17-0 (with a two-point conversion) and you basically knew the game was over.

With Jason Peters out, the Eagles turned to Halapoulivaati Vaitai, another Roseman pick from 2016, to man the left tackle position. Vaitai did give up a sack but played well overall. Some teams don't have a good starting left tackle. Very few have a good backup. Vaitai did a good job and showed his value.

The Eagles' pass rush was dominant on Sunday. One of the key players was Derek Barnett, the Eagles' first-round pick. You can thank Douglas, Weidl, and the college scouts for Barnett being an Eagle. He blocked a field goal, had a tackle for loss and helped keep relentless pressure on Beathard.

Free agent additions Alshon Jeffery and LeGarrette Blount both scored touchdowns against the 49ers. Jeffery was a primary target in the offseason. The team went after him aggressively. The pro personnel staff kept their eyes on Blount. After the draft, they decided to add a free agent and signed Blount. Both players have been a big help to Wentz and the offense.

Jake Elliott has been a tremendous find. He looks like the best Eagles kicker I have ever seen. The ball just explodes off his foot. Elliott nailed two field goals on Sunday, including a 51-yarder. He makes those kicks seem routine. Elliott is a rookie so he was graded by the college scouts last season. Elliott was with the Bengals this summer so he was graded by the pro scouts. Both groups get credit for bringing him on board.

The personnel department did a tremendous job in putting this roster together. The Eagles aren't loaded with stars at every position, but they have enough key players that it allows for the role players to do their part and for the team to keep winning games.

I think you also have to give a ton of credit to the assistant coaches. Just look at Elliott. He was cut by the Bengals after the preseason. Dave Fipp and his staff got instant production from Elliott and have him playing at a very high level.

Robinson is playing some of the best football in his career. Defensive backs coach Cory Undlin gets some credit for that. Rookie receiver Mack Hollins has played really well. Kudos to receivers coach Mike Groh for getting the most out of him. Chris Wilson has the entire defensive line playing well.

Dave Spadaro mentioned in his postgame comments that it feels like all 53 players have a part in the team's success. That's a great point and it feels right on the money. Carson Wentz isn't carrying the Eagles. The offense isn't carrying the team. The defense isn't carrying the team.

This really is a team effort.

The Eagles made a move on Tuesday to add another talented piece, acquiring running back Jay Ajayi in a trade with the Dolphins. We'll have to wait and see how this move works out, but it sure looks like another terrific deal from Roseman and the front office.

Ajayi is 24 years old and a gifted runner combing speed, power, and lateral agility. He ran for 1,272 yards last season and has a pair of games this year with more than 120 on the ground. Ajayi can catch the ball and is a solid pass protector. He makes a talented group of running backs even deeper.

Ajayi cost the team a fourth-round pick but could prove to be a great investment if he can help this team continue to win. Roseman, Douglas, Weidl, Joseph, and the rest of the personnel department have certainly earned the benefit of the doubt with the job they have done this year, assembling the roster with the league's best record.

Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Eagles Message Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He is the editor of IgglesBlitz.com.

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