Some notes, quotes, and a look ahead to Day 2 of the 2020 NFL Draft, still virtual and still a wonderful slice of the NFL in these trying times …
- To get a full understanding of what made wide receiver Jalen Reagor stand out to the Eagles in Round 1, it's important to look far beyond the raw statistics. Reagor's numbers dropped in his final season at TCU, attributed largely to inconsistent quarterback play. The ball placement and the timing just wasn't there. Reagor had some drops. Everybody saw them, studied them, considered them. But in the end, what made Reagor so appealing was his explosiveness, his speed, and, very much as important, what he can do given the way the Eagles plan to use him.
"He's a perfect fit," Eagles Hall of Famer Mike Quick said. "The way Doug Pederson wants to use him, with the ability to get behind defensive backs, on jet sweeps, screens, getting him the ball creatively, he's perfect."
Here is what Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman said about Reagor in the post-pick press conference: "I think that you see the separation on tape. You see the vertical separation as an outside receiver, and those things are hard to find. When you look at kind of this draft about guys who can just separate as an outside vertical receiver, there are not a lot of those guys. Those guys are hard to find and they're hard to find in this league. You see it, that it really fits our quarterback skill set. Our quarterback likes to throw the ball down the field and make vertical throws."
- Yes, Wentz does. And his numbers throwing the ball deep certainly were impressive in Week 1 last season when DeSean Jackson was on the field, because Jackson, in that game against Washington, was able to separate from defensive backs and give Wentz a larger target area. Without Jackson, Wentz had to be so … ridiculously … precise with his deep game. And that just doesn't work in the NFL. The Eagles needed another weapon for the deep passing game. They needed a player who could be utilized in a lot of ways in various spots in the formation. And they felt Reagor, who could also inject some playmaking ability into a punt return game (more on that below), was the right player at 21, ahead of anyone else still on the board.
- The selection of Reagor doesn't necessarily mean the Eagles are finished addressing wide receiver, given the depth of the receiver class in this draft. It's something to keep an eye on as the draft gets rolling. There were only a handful of deals in the first round, and that's going to change tonight as teams balance the desire for acquiring additional draft picks and selecting the players they want. Where will the Eagles look? They could go back to the defensive side of the football, where the roster lacks numbers at linebacker. At safety, the Eagles have Rodney McLeod in on a two-year contract, Will Parks on a one-year deal, and Jalen Mills, listed as a defensive back now, on a one-year contract. Are the Eagles looking for more long-term stability there? We shall see. The reality is that the Eagles have options with seven remaining draft picks. This is going to be very interesting.
- On the punt-return game: The longest punt return the Eagles had last season? All of 17 yards, from the now-retired Darren Sproles. Boston Scott has some upside, and he will be in the mix in 2020. Nelson Agholor didn't offer much. Greg Ward was reliable, but he didn't rip off any explosive returns -- he had a long return of 16 yards. If -- and everything is an "if" with a rookie until he proves it in the NFL -- Reagor can bring some big-play returns to the table, boy, that adds an entirely new dimension to the special teams.
- My reaction to the Dallas selection of wide receiver CeeDee Lamb in the first round is that the Cowboys got themselves a good football player, adding to a dangerous group of receivers. Understanding that, it's important to note the versatility the Eagles added in the offseason in their secondary. The NFL is a spread-it-out, win-one-on-one matchups league in the passing game, so the counter for defenses is to have as much speed and coverage ability on the field as possible. Kansas City won a Super Bowl using four cornerbacks on the field for much of the time. The Eagles brought in cornerback Darius Slay, a Pro Bowl player. They've got Nickell Robey-Coleman, one of the league's best nickel corners. Mills is a cornerback who could play in a quasi-linebacker role. McLeod can cover. Parks is a hybrid safety who plays in coverage. Cre'Von LeBlanc is a strong option inside. Avonte Maddox provides all kinds of versatility – he has played outside cornerback, nickel corner, and safety in his career. You get the idea. If you don't have speed and flexibility in the secondary, you're in trouble. The Eagles have done an excellent job adjusting to the new world of the NFL seamlessly.
- This doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the 2020 NFL Draft, but in a way it does. The Eagles traded a 2021 fourth-round draft pick last season and acquired defensive end Genard Avery from Cleveland and then Avery played only 33 defensive snaps in eight games. As the team is always looking for more from the edge pass rush, how will Avery fit into the equation this season? He has a high motor and he's fast off the football. Can the Eagles move him up and down the line of scrimmage and give Avery a chance to blow up blocking schemes with his speed? Whenever the team hits the field, Avery is a player to watch. So is, for that matter, 2019 fourth-round draft pick Shareef Miller, who spent last season developing. He needs to be in great shape and be prepared to contribute in 2020.
- There is no question the Eagles are going to add a running back – more likely a few since they only have three on the current roster – so will the Eagles invest in a draft pick or will they sign some backs after the draft and maybe add a veteran player at a favorable number? Miles Sanders is in his second season. Boston Scott is in his third season. Elijah Holyfield is in his second season. There is talent there, but will the Eagles feel they need to add some experience?
- Along with seven draft picks and the opportunity to address various positions on the roster, the Eagles are going to keep the lines of communication open with available veterans on the streets – and there is some real talent there in this buyer's market – and they're going to be presented with opportunities to make trades. Roseman has been working the phones for weeks. As exciting as the first round of the NFL Draft was – and it sure was a welcomed respite for everyone – these next two days are just as action-packed and defining for teams. Stay tuned! You're going to really love the way this roster looks when the weekend is complete.