The Philadelphia Eagles (6-5) are 11 games into their season, and with five weeks left, they are in control of their playoff destiny. In what has been a pitiful NFC East, the Eagles have rebounded from a midseason crisis to win their last three games and vault Dallas for first place.
This resurgence has been fueled by some of the younger guys, including draft picks Zach Ertz and Bennie Logan, who have seen increased roles over the past few weeks. So, just how is the 2013 draft shaping up as Howie Roseman fully takes control of this team’s future? I delve into it, pick-by-pick:
1st Round, 4th Overall: OT Lane Johnson
The Philadelphia Eagles had a position of need last season, and that was an offensive tackle. With Peters, Mathis, and Kelce returning and healthy, the left side of the offensive line was entering the 2013-2014 season rock solid. The right side . . . not so much. Todd Herremans had been struggling ever since he moved to tackle, and none of the guys on the roster besides him were quality starters. To run the Chip Kelly offense, the Eagles needed to build a strong, athletic offensive line, and drafting Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson has helped them do that.
In a “rebuilding” year, the Eagles did Johnson the service and disservice of starting him right away. While he struggled early on with his footwork in pass protection, he’s improved week-in week-out. Johnson’s athleticism makes him the perfect fit to execute the read-option running game, and as you can see in this film broken down by Brian Baldinger, he has been making key blocks in recent games to help the Eagles offense rebound with Nick Foles at the helm. His pass protection has also improved, giving Foles time to step up in the pocket and go through his progressions without committing back-breaking penalties.
Overall, Johnson has given his coaches much to be happy about this season; he will be a valuable piece of this offense for years to come.
2nd Round, 35th Overall: TE Zach Ertz
Eagles tight end Zach Ertz has talent; there is no question about that. The real question is, if Howie Roseman was looking at Ertz in the draft, then why did he sign free agent James Casey? Sure, he was committed to taking the best player available, but given the team’s desperate need at the safety position, one has to wonder why he didn’t consider using this pick to trade up and grab a safety like Jonathan Cyprien or Matt Elam.
Nonetheless, to fairly grade this pick, we also have to look at Ertz’s production this season. He hasn’t got 100% of the reps, instead splitting them mostly with Brent Celek, but he has put together a decent stat line: 21 receptions for 274 yards and a touchdown. He’s certainly struggled with drops, but has developed a rapport with Nick Foles that has made him one of Foles’ key reads on any given play. It is likely that he takes over as the team’s primary receiving tight end by next season, if not the end of this season, but he has just not been utilized enough to merit the 35th overall pick.
A starting safety or cornerback (Johnthan Banks?) would be nice, seeing as they are positions of need. This could be an example where a player ends up being a good player but not a good pick.
3rd Round, 67th Overall: NT Bennie Logan
Early in the season, Bennie Logan was somewhat invisible, playing behind veteran free agent signee Isaac Sopoaga in the Eagles now 3-4 defense. A defensive tackle in college, Logan took a little bit of time adapting to the style of being a nose tackle.
Since Sopoaga was traded to the Patriots, however, Logan has blossomed. With 2 sacks on the season and 8 tackles over the past three games, he has been a forced to be reckoned with in the middle of the Eagles defense. He has made everyone around him better, including middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, whose play has also improved (from its already impressive level) since the Sopoaga trade. Last week, he was finally rewarded statistically, graded as the best Eagles defender vs Washington by Pro Football Focus.
If he continues his impressive play, Logan could end up being a cornerstone of this 3-4 defense for a long time and one of the best defensive picks of the Howie Roseman era.
4th Round, 98th Overall: QB Matt Barkley
This was another strange pick by Howie Roseman, Chip Kelly, and Co: trading up to grab an immobile USC quarterback in the 4th round coming off of major shoulder surgery, no matter how high his stock was in 2012. Now, Barkley has been healthy, but he has a) been the third-stringer all season, and b) clearly does not fit in Chip Kelly’s system like Nick Foles and Michael Vick do. In three games, Barkley is 30-for-49 (62%), a very solid statistic for a rookie, but has thrown 4 interceptions with three fumbles and zero touchdowns.
Chip Kelly is afraid to run the read-option with Barkley, so while he can rack up yards through the air, he has struggled to finish drives and keep secondaries honest. While he has the tools to succeed in a more traditional offense, I just don’t see the fit in Philadelphia. Unless Barkley can pull a Foles and become more mobile, I do not know how much value he provides with this regime.
5th Round, 136th Overall: SS Earl Wolff
Although just recently injured, and likely to miss a couple more games, Earl Wolff has provided great value for a 5th-round pick this season. At a position of dire need, Wolff has stepped into the fire and performed since Week 1, admirably filling in for Patrick Chung and even taking his starting job a third of the way through the season. With 45 tackles, and interception, and four pass deflections, Wolff has been very solid in coverage. He’s made some key plays in the run game, although that area leaves a little bit to be desired.
All in all, however, the Eagles have gotten their pick’s worth with Wolff, who will definitely battle for, if not win outright, one of the starting safety positions next season as well.
7th Rounders: Kruger (212), Poyer (218), and King (239)
7th-round picks are what they are, and the Eagles haven’t gotten anything special out of this year’s crop (a la Bryce Brown from last year). Kruger, a developmental guy who could be a force at OLB in the future, has been on injured reserve.
After getting 3 tackles in his NFL debut, Jordan Poyer lost all of his playing time, eventually getting waived and picked up by Cleveland. David King was released at the end of training camp and is on the Bengals’ practice squad.