FIXING THE EAGLES: CORNERBACK & WIDE RECEIVER
By: Alex Matteo (Twitter: @AlexMatteo94)
When a team goes 4-11-1 a LOT must go wrong and that was certainly the case for the 2020 Philadelphia Eagles. From injuries, poor quarterback play, and awful roster management the Eagles dealt with it all. So far we have seen Doug Pederson be replaced by former Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni, but that’s just a surface level need.
The biggest needs for the team are addressing the skilled positions on the outside both offensively and defensively. With minimal success in the past offseason Philadelphia addressed both the cornerback and wide receiver positions. While first round pick Jalen Reagor shown flashes and Darius Slay was a significant upgrade; the position groups as a whole had porous play.
Expect the Eagles to address both positions through the draft and free agency AGAIN! This time with hopefully different results; let’s see who the Eagles should target to flip the script.
Patrick Surtain II
‘With the sixth pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles select cornerback Patrick Surtain II from the University of Alabama.’ The Surtain is already recognizable because his father spent 10 years in the league with the Dolphins and Chiefs. Expectations were lofty for Surtain II from the second he stepped onto campus and he lived up to them. As a 3 year starter, which is VERY rare for the Crimson Tide, Surtain played in a total of 40 games! In those games he tallied 116 tackles (6 for loss) 4 interceptions, 24 passes defended, 4 forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. Talk about stuffing the stat sheet!
Drafting Surtain would certainly be the big splash that the Eagles are looking for. With ideal size (6’ 2”) and length Surtain has the physical tools to thrive in any scheme. One of my biggest takeaways is his willingness to get in the box and play the run. Regardless where Surtain is drafted he will immediately be one of if not the best defensive backs in the room and a significant upgrade. If that happens to be Philadelphia, expect Surtain to start on the outside opposite of Slay from day 1.
In his final year in Minnesota, Rhodes looked like a shell of himself… This past year on the other hand, he looked rejuvenated with the Colts. As an eight year vet, Rhodes has played in 120 games with 12 interceptions and 414 tackles. Rhodes allowed a mere 53.8% catch rate and 11 pass break-ups ranking 11th and 15th respectively in the league per Player Profiler.
Given the fact that Rhodes is going into his age 31 season this would not be a long term fix, a one to two year deal at most. Rhodes has had success playing under, Eagles new Defensive Coordinator, Jonathan Gannon. If Rhodes can maintain similar production this upcoming season he will be a value.
Coming off of a season only playing 12 games Griffin is set to hit the open market. Griffin had 63 tackles (2 for loss), career high 3 interceptions and 12 passes defended. While Philadelphia should be suitors for almost all defensive backs this offseason Griffin makes a lot of sense. He is going into his age 26 season and athletically has not declined battling various injuries. While he is not a lockdown corner his floor is a very safe and stable which the Eagles desperately need. They cannot keep trotting out the same group of guys week in and week out next year and expect any type of improvement.
Griffin won’t be the flashiest name on the market but he is one of the safest. If I was on in charge of the Eagles adding a player like Griffin would be one of my top priorities.
Chase should be one of two names in consideration for the sixth pick. After opting out of this season, people began to forget how incredible the 2019 Biletnikoff award winner was. The 19-year-old sophomore posted a stat line of 1780 yards and 20 touchdowns on 84 catches. He is extremely dangerous with the ball in his hands and even if the throw is contested you can expect him to come down with it. If he continues to stay healthy, I would not be shocked if he has a 1000 yard season out of the gate. Something the Eagles have not had since Jeremy Maclin all the way back in 2014.
Amon-Ra St. Brown
Unless you have been plugged into the College Football season you may not have heard of Amon-Ra St. Brown. St. Brown was a junior at The University of Southern California (USC). As a three year starter he played the role of a big slot receiver, but showed ability to excel on the outside. During that three year span St. Brown had a total of 178 receptions for 2270 yards and 16 scores. In a shortened 2020 season, he was pacing for over 1,000 yards and already had a career high 7 touchdowns.
Should the Eagles move on from Zach Ertz, St. Brown would be a perfect replacement. Both Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts favored the tight ends and slot receivers. St. Brown has the ability to command the middle of the field as well as the outside. He may not be a first round pick, but St. Brown is going to have a very solid career.
What if I could tell you that there is a receiver in his prime hitting free agency coming off of back-to-back 1,100-yard seasons? Well, that’s going to happen when Allen Robinson hits the market. In 2020 Robinson finished with 102 receptions, 1250 yards, and 6 scores. Robinson is what a true number one receiver is; seeing the 3rd most targets with 151(19 red zone) and a 25.4% target rate. Signing Robinson would give Philadelphia instant stability at receiver with a Top-10 ceiling.
Philadelphia should be moving on from Alshon Jeffery and with that there will be a vacated receiver role. Travis Fulgham was a good story but faded as soon as Jeffery came back into the fold. Robinson would be a target hog and see close to 140-150 targets. Adding a playmaker like him would instantly bring this offense back from obscurity.
No matter what moves Philadelphia makes this offseason, they must address both the cornerback and wide receiver positions if they want to rebound next year.