Intros to any sports league prediction article is like the opening of a stand-up comedians special-it gets skipped over. So I’ll be quick here. I went through each game and picked winners, keeping track of winners and losers until I finished the entire 2017 season. So when I say the ____s are going 11-5, I say so because I went through their schedule and felt confident in them winning 11 games. I also wrote a short blurb about each team, what direction they are headed and a bold prediction for how their season will go.
We may only be halfway through preseason, but by now we have a pretty good idea of who will be on the Philadelphia Eagles final 53 man roster. The players running with the first team are pretty safe bets, the early to mid-round drafts picks are also pretty safe and the players who are playing well with the second team are also likely to make the final roster. It’s those final few spots that are tricky.
Do the Eagles keep those last few players that have more upside, performed the best in preseason or offer the biggest contributions on special teams? I tend to go for upside with these spots as the final roster spots tend to go to players who won’t be active on gameday. So if you like what you’ve seen from Greg Ward during preseason then don’t expect to see him win the spot as the 6th wide receiver over a player like Shelton Gibson who has a higher ceiling.
Thanks to the heroics of new Philadelphia Eagles fan favorite Dane Evans, the Eagles defeated the Buffalo Bills in their preseason home opener. It was a sloppy performance from the offense, as more preseason games are, but there was a lot of positives to take away from this one.
The defense was the real story in this one as they held Buffalo to 16 points and were in the face of the quarterback on just about every single drop back. It’s crazy to think just a week ago some of us were wondering how many points Carson Wentz would have to put up each week to bail out this defense, but no we are pretty confident that it’s the defense that will carry this team.
Let me just start this post off by proclaiming that this quarterback class is the best we have seen since the Elway-Marino class of 1983. That class featured three future Hall of Fame quarterbacks in the first round(Jim Kelly also went in the first round that year) and this class has a chance to equal that. I’m not guaranteeing that the top three quarterbacks will be Hall of Famers, but they have that kind of potential if things go right at the next level.
This class is top heavy with a strong middle and good depth at the bottom. In my top 10 I have 3 QBs I know will be franchise players, 2 more than could be franchise QBs, two wildcards that could be starters or not get drafted at all and three quarterbacks who project to be outstanding backup quarterbacks in this league for a long time.
This list will change throughout the draft process, as will any pre-season draft ranking list at any position. Some guys get hurt, some unknowns show great growth and some of the top guys completely fade out. I remember thinking that Christian Hackenberg was going to be a top 5 pick going into his final season at Penn State, but now I wonder why he is still in the NFL.
In the last 24 hours the Philadelphia Eagles have played a preseason game, rookies Mack Hollins and Derek Barnett became Hall of Famers, Howie Roseman traded for Lito Sheppard 2.0 and Ezekiel Elliott was suspended for 6 games by the league.
First let’s get to the Zeke suspension. The league loves the Dallas Cowboys. They draw in crazy ratings and owner Jerry Jones has a major influence over other owners. Roger Goodell works for the owners and this isn’t a decision he made lightly. Ezekiel Elliott probably deserved an even bigger punishment and the Cowboys front office should probably just let this go.
Right now Zeke is threatening to appeal, which could lead to a long legal process, but delay the suspension. The problem appealing and possibly suing the league that all the evidence could be made public and it could turn into a PR nightmare for the team.
The league didn’t come to this decision because of just testimony from one witness. Elliott and Jones really need to let this one go, deal with the suspension and learn from it, but we all know that isn’t happening.
The Eagles got aggressive Friday morning and got a proven starting cornerback to pair with Jalen Mills. They sent their 2018 3rd round pick and slot receiver Jordan Matthews for Buffalo Bills corner Ronald Darby.
Two things lead to this trade. One, Patrick Robinson has looked awful in practice and two, Rasul Douglas isn’t ready to be a starter and may not be until year two at the earliest.
Pro Football Focus ranked Darby as the 8th best corner in 2015 and 66th last year. He’s a pure speed corner who has shown outstanding growth in run support. He’s still a little raw jamming at the line and with his footwork, but he’s definitely a capable starter. The Eagles are still incredibly young, but they have four corners with a ton of potential, and all are on cheaper rookie contracts through at least 2018(2019 for Mills, 2020 for Douglas and Jones).
Now onto the actual preseason game. Carson Wentz was outstanding on his only series. He marched the Eagles down the field, despite getting very little protection and help from his run game. He was also missing his top three receivers, starting right guard and all-everything back Darren Sproles.
Mack Hollins looks like the real deal. He caught the ball naturally, something he didn’t do much in college, and he was dangerous after each catch. He has 4.4 speed and the strength to shove defenders off him as he did on his touchdown.
Derek Barnett was dominant against 2016 second round draft pick Jason Spriggs at left tackle. He bent, used his hands well and blew him away with natural speed. He’s going to do a ton of damage off the edge with more space in sub-packages.
Jalen Mills was also outstanding against the Packers. He looks the part and if Darby picks up the defense quickly over the next 4 weeks then we can stop worrying about the secondary.
I wouldn’t take away much else from the first preseason game. The Packers went blitz heavy, which is super rare for a preseason game. My guess is the offense wasn’t prepared for that and it totally disrupted the game plan. Most defenses are pretty vanilla before the regular season. If the offensive line struggles again against Buffalo(yeah that’s right, they face Jordan Matthews 6 days after the trade) then I would start to panic a little bit.
So let me start off by saying I am not at training camp . If you want to read detailed training camp reports, go check out bleedinggreennation.com, they do an amazing job. What I do here on my site is I read, watch and soak up as much info as I can get a hold of from the camp practices and I use that as a guide during the actual preseason games.
If I keep hearing about a player lighting it up or getting torched in camp, I want to see if that translates in an actual game. Watching a wide receiver torch a defensive back in a one-on-one drill in practice is one thing, but doing it on actual plays in a real game against a unfamiliar team is a whole other dimension.
I picked 15 Eagles player to keep an eye on during the first preseason game. 7 of the 15 are either wide receivers or defensive backs, the two biggest weak spots on this team last season. Most of the players on this list are getting rave reviews in practice, but one veteran is having an awful summer and may go from projected starter to victim of the first round of cuts.
It’s a really fascinating group of 15 and none of these guys are locks to start or have major roles early in the season. They all have a ton to play for over the next month.
When I was a kid I was a sports video game fanatic, specifically tinkering with every team’s roster. I’ve been a wannabe GM since the NBA Live with Mitch Richmond on the cover game out(NBA LIVE ’97 PC EDITION!!!). It used to drive my dad crazy watching me play on our only tv every Saturday morning. “Just play a damn game!” he’d yell as I rebuilt a random team’s roster for 2 straight hours. It get much worse as NBA and NFL games came out with franchise modes that included drafts.
The Sixers teardown and rebuild was right up my alley and I was all-in the second they traded Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel and Dario Saric. Not only do I love studying drafts and talking about rebuilding a roster, but the thought of being stuck as a middle of the road team for an entire decade makes me ill. I want to see the teams I root for and invest in either competing for titles are taking the appropriate steps in order to do so.
What the Sixers did 4 years ago up through the 2017 NBA Draft is vindication for every Process Truster. The team isn’t overloaded with centers and desperate for guards anymore. There is depth everywhere, the players they have project to fit very well together on the court and they still have at least one future lottery pick from another team.
Here is my review on the Sixers 2017 draft class which should end the need for tanking and immediately begin the era of winning: