Eagles observations: Trying to end 40 years of terrible defensive picks
The world’s most startling Mike Mamula stat, a look at the biggest one-year improvements ever by Eagles wide receivers, and the crazy story of a player the Eagles drafted in 1959 who became the one of the greatest receivers in history … but not for the Eagles.
That’s a small sample of what awaits you in today’s 10 Roob Off-Season Random Sightings!
Here we are!
1. Since the official sack era began in 1982, the Eagles have drafted 13 defensive ends in the first four rounds. It didn’t go well, to put it mildly. Of those 13, do you know who had the most sacks per game during their Eagles career? Looked:
0.41 … Mike Mamula [1st, 1995]
0.37 … Brandon Graham [1st, 2010]
0.34 … Derek Barnett [1st, 2017]
0.32 … Josh Sweat [4th, 2018]
0.28 …Derrick Burgess [3rd, 2001]
0.27 … Vinny Curry [2nd, 2012]
0.24 … Greg Jefferson [3rd, 1995]
0.17 … Daniel Te’o-Nesheim [3rd, 2010]
0.14 … Victor Abiamiri [2nd, 2007]
0.13 … Jamal green [4th, 2004]
0.09 … Jerome McDougle [1st, 2003]
0.08 … Jon Harris [1st, 1997]
The idea that Mamula was a bust is pretty funny when you consider that in terms of sacks per game, he’s the most productive rusher the Eagles have drafted in the first four rounds of the last 40 years.
Perhaps Sweat will surpass him. He should. Given his contract, he’s better. If Sweat plays all 34 games over the next two seasons, he would need 10 sacks per season to leapfrog Mamula in career sacks per game going into the 2024 season. And Sweat has gotten better every year.
But those numbers illustrate how poorly the Eagles have drafted point rushers on Days 1 and 2, not just under Howie Roseman, but over the past few decades. The best defensive ends the Eagles have drafted – Clyde Simmons in 1986 and Trent Cole in 2005 – were a 9th round pick and a 5th round pick.
Brandon Graham made the game of the century and became a Pro Bowler late in his career and overcame a lot of adversity, but the bottom line is he’s averaged 4.9 sacks per season over his career and never hit double the numbers.
The last defensive end drafted by the Eagles in the first four rounds who had double-digit sacks in a season was Dennis Harrison, a 4th-round pick in 1978 who had 10½, 11½ and 12 sacks from 1982 to 1984, all three first sacks were an official statistic.
It was 44 years ago.
It all leads up to this year’s draft.
Derek Barnett won’t be back and obviously Ryan Kerrigan won’t be back, Graham will be 34 after an Achilles injury and that leaves Sweat and no one else.
There are a ton of edge rushers that could go to round one and a bunch more will go to round two. The Eagles will draft one, most likely two. They have to get it right for once.
2. There’s a chance that half of the 1st round picks on the Eagles roster in 2022 will come from the 2022 draft. The only former Eagles 1st round picks who are locks to be here next year are Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson and DeVonta Smith. Nothing is known about Brandon Graham’s condition, Andre Dillard could be traded, Barnett is expected to sign elsewhere and Jalen Reagor could very well be released. The only other former active first-round picks for the Eagles are Nelson Agholor and Carson Wentz, and I have a feeling neither of them will be back. Of course, there’s a chance the Eagles won’t choose three players in the 1st round, but they could.
3. Let’s take a moment to appreciate Keith Byars. No, he wasn’t the running back the Eagles expected when they made him the 10th pick in the 1986 draft. But he quickly became one of the greatest receivers in league history. NFL. Byars finished with 610 catches, the 5th most in NFL history among running backs. But focusing just on his seven years with the Eagles, Byars caught 371 passes for 3,532 yards, and even though he averaged just 382 rushing yards per season, he was still 10th among all RBs in the NFL in scrimmage yards during that seven-year span before he left for Miami as part of the Norman Braman-inspired Great Free Agent Exodus. Byars had five 50-take seasons as an Eagle, and Zach Ertz is the only player in franchise history to have more. And he had three 700-yard receiving seasons, as many as all the other Eagles RBs combined (Brian Westbrook 2, Timmy Brown 1). He is one of only three fullbacks in NFL history with three consecutive 700-yard receiving seasons. The others are Hall of Famers Lenny Moore and Marshall Faulk. And even though he only spent seven years here, he still ranks 8th in franchise history in receptions and 12th in scrimmage yards. Byars also averaged 9.3 yards per catch, which is 6th-highest of 42 running backs with at least 350 catches. Maybe not the career the Eagles expected, but one of the best receivers in NFL history.
4. The last five players the Eagles drafted in the second half of the 1st round: Danny Watkins, Marcus Smith, Nelson Agholor, Andre Dillard, Jalen Reagor.
5. Quez Watkins’ jump from 106 yards as a rookie to 647 in Year 2 got me wondering what are the biggest jumps ever by Eagles wide receivers from Year 1 through Year 2. Watkins is right up there. Here is an overview of all 400 yard increases:
1,253 yards…Mike Quick [156 in 1982, 1,409 in 1983]
1,122 yards…Ben Hawkins [143 in 1966, 1,265 in 1967]
997 yards…Bud Grant [0 in 1951, 997 in 1952]
799 yards … Chris T. Jones [61 in 1995, 859 in 1996]
677 yards … Cris Carter [84 in 1987, 761 in 1988]
541 yards … Quez Watkins [106 in 2020, 647 in 2021]
487 yards … Charlie Smith [28 in 1974, 515 in 1975]
405 yards… Todd Pinkston [181 in 2000, 586 in 2001]
Watkins’ 541-yard increase is therefore the most in Hall of Famer Carter’s first two years and the 6th most in Eagles history by a WR. Interestingly, 1952 was Grant’s last season with the Eagles. He spent two years with the Lakers in the NBA, then spent in 1951 as a defensive end with the Eagles before his only season as an offensive end. When he and the Eagles were in a contract stalemate after the season, he spent four years in the CFL before embarking on his Hall of Fame coaching career.
6. It’s also worth noting that Bud Grant, Bill Cowher, Mike Ditka and John Madden all had highly publicized coaching careers, but long before they became coaches, they all had fairly obscure careers playing for the Eagles. Another Hall of Fame coach – Guy Chamberlain – played for the Frankford Yellow Jackets and was part of the 1926 NFL championship team.
7. The Eagles have a lot of work to do at linebacker, but they’re very high on TJ Edwards, and while the rest of the linebacking corps is a bit confused heading into the offseason, Edwards is a lock to stay in a key role. Roseman brought up Edwards on his own on Wednesday when asked about linebackers — “TJ had a hell of a year, a really good year” — and didn’t mention anyone else. I don’t think anything is set in stone with Alex Singleton, Davion Taylor, Genard Avery or Patrick Johnson, but Edwards really took his game to another level in his third year as a free agent no drafted from Wisconsin, and everything points to him. remaining a key part of Jonathan Gannon’s defense going forward.
8. Michael Vick averaged an NFL-best 7.8 yards per carry in 2011 at age 30. This is by far the highest run average in NFL history by a player past his 30th birthday. Steve Young is the only other QB to go over 6.5. Overall, Vick averaged 6.7 yards per carry past his 30th birthday, another NFL best record. Among players with 500 or more rush attempts, Vick’s 7.0 career average is the highest in NFL history. More than half a yard per run ahead of No. 2 Randall Cunningham at 6.4. In other words: Vick had a higher running average in his 30s than anyone in NFL history in his 20s. Incredible.
9. Kenny Gainwell last year became just the 3rd rookie running back in the NFL in the past 50 years with at least 540 scrimmage yards and six touchdowns on 101 or fewer touches. The others are Bo Jackson of the Raiders in 1987 and Keith Jones of the Falcons in 1989.
ten. One of the biggest puffs in Eagles history is Art Powell, and his story is remarkable. The Eagles drafted Powell as a defensive back in 1959 in the 11th round from San Jose State. He played 12 games as a rookie as a backup corner and showed promise with three interceptions and a punt return average of 27.1, the 2nd highest in the NFL. But the following summer, the Eagles cut Powell. According to an August 27, 1960, article by Jack McKinney in the Philadelphia Daily News, “The move was seen as an indication of the Eagles’ growing confidence in their two rookie defensive backs, Jim Niemann and Bobby Jackson. McKinney also wrote, “Powell was reportedly overweight when he showed up for Hershey’s training camp and his play in (preseason) games with the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers was something less than inspired.” What happened next ? Powell signed with the AFL New York Titans (which became the Jets), converted to catcher, and over the next seven years with the Jets and Raiders caught 458 passes for 7,669 yards and 77 touchdowns. He had more yards and touchdowns in that seven-year span than any other AFL or NFL receiver. He made five Pro Bowls and led the league in yards and touchdowns twice. From 1962 to 1964, he averaged 1,265 yards in 14 games. He should be in the Hall of Fame. As for Jackson and Niemann, they played 12 games combined in Eagles uniforms, starting four. Both had disappeared in 1961.