Good morning, Eagles fans. The Eagles were back for another week of organized team activities on Tuesday. They have two more sessions this week before a busy two weeks to follow. In addition to practices next week, the Eagles will visit the White House on June 5. They finish their offseason program with a mandatory minicamp from June 12-14.
This is an offseason edition of the Early Birds newsletter, which will come every Wednesday and Friday for the next few weeks. If your friends haven't subscribed to Early Birds, it's free to sign up here. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ZBerm. Thank you for reading.
— Zach Berman
Since the Super Bowl, you haven't read a fresh quote from defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. That's because Schwartz had not yet discussed the game with reporters. Tom Brady threw for 505 yards against Schwartz's defense that night. Then again, it's Tom Brady. Plus, the defense also had the game-changing sack in the fourth quarter to help clinch the victory. And they won the Super Bowl. So even if it was ugly at times, the game included the ending he wanted.
"We won the game, that's our objective," Schwartz said.
He's right about that, and he's consistent — even when the Eagles defense carried the team at times during the season and postseason, Schwartz emphasized points scored and the win/loss were all that mattered. But it's still worth analyzing what happened in the Super Bowl, when Patriots receivers too often ran free and the pass rush struggled sacking Brady. The Patriots do that to opponents, but if it happened in Week 12, the Eagles would study it.
"We won the game. So we don't want to dissect that any farther than that," Schwartz said. "But at the end of the year, we divide all our games up and look at cut ups. It's not just the Super Bowl, but the championship game, division round, week one. They all sort of count the same as we look for trends, scheme, things we can do better, and adjustments we need to make. Some things were a work in progress over the course of the season. Some things show up at the end of the year. And that's sort of what we do at this time of the year with scheme is we try to anticipate changes that we need to make, [and] gear them more toward anticipations and personnel and things like that. So really, it was no different than week four, whoever that was last year."
It's been one week since Mychal Kendricks was released. Schwartz didn't delve into detail about why Kendricks was released nor who would replace him. He deferred comment about Kendricks' release to Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson, but acknowledged that every year is different and put Kendricks in the category with Patrick Robinson, Beau Allen, and Vinny Curry as contributing players who will play elsewhere in 2018.
"I dare say all those guys, if we didn't have them, if they didn't contribute, we probably weren't the NFL champions last year, and we value all those contributions," Schwartz said.
When asked if Corey Nelson is first in line for Kendricks' spot, Schwartz said the Eagles are using this time of year more for development and introduction. The goal is individual improvement. The competition for roster spots and lineup spots becomes more intense during training camp.
Interestingly, Nate Gerry took his share of first-team snaps on Tuesday. For more on what happened in practice, check out Jeff McLane's practice observations.
Tuesday was the first time Mike Groh met with reporters since becoming the offensive coordinator earlier this offseason. Groh emphasized that even as the offensive coordinator, it's not his offense — it's Pederson's offense and the Eagles offense. That's the reality of the Eagles' offensive coordinator job, which is different than most other teams because the coordinator does not get to call plays or install his system. So his offensive philosophy must be the Eagles' philosophy.
"It all starts with" Pederson, Groh said. "We want to be multiple in what we do and utilize our personnel and create matchups that we feel are advantageous for ourselves and continue to build on what we did last year."
Groh's objective will be to bring ideas from the offensive staff together and help devise the game plan with Pederson. It's what Frank Reich did well during the past two seasons.
"I've learned a significant amount from Coach Reich," Groh said. "He and I worked very closely together last season, and I was able to watch how he and Doug worked together. So, hopefully I was observing the right things. I obviously want to take a lot of what he did that helped us be successful. I know they're big shoes to fill, but try to fill those shoes."
My guess is Josh Sweat doesn't have a big role in his first season. The Eagles are deep at defensive end and unless there are an injuries, it will be tough for Sweat to crack the rotation. With that said, there's a lot of talent and athleticism for the Eagles to develop. He has all the tools you want. I liked the pick quite a bit. And you're right, Schwartz had good things to say about him on Tuesday.
"He's a young player. He's explosive. He fits what we're trying to do defensively, which is get off the ball and create a little penetration and some pass rush," Schwartz said. "He's long. I think he's got a great future. He's got his challenges also. Number one, being a rookie and trying to learn and overcoming the knee injury that he had when he was in high school. So everybody's got a little bit different challenge. But we're excited about him. We think he fits really well."
The quick answer: Yes. You'll see Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert on the field at the same time and the Eagles will attack teams with that size to create mismatches. (Jeff McLane wrote more about this after the draft.) It's a look the Eagles have used in recent years, and you'll continue to see it more as Goedert develops. Of course, it takes a slot receiver (or running back) off the field, but the two-tight end set also forces defenses to play differently.
"It's beneficial for a couple reasons," Doug Pederson said. "One, it's in the run game. You've got some bigger bodies. A lot of times you see the fullback position, it's kind of a few teams have a fullback position and they're using a second or third tight end, so it gives you the ability to run more power schemes and gap schemes and move that second tight end around a little bit and utilize him in the run game.
"Then it creates matchups. If he's an athletic guy, like a Zach Ertz, we can move him around, spread him out. He's good in space and understands a spacial awareness. He's great in man coverage because he can separate at the top of the route. Those become big bodies on smaller bodies. Those are the match-ups that we try to create through game planning and through studying our opponents. That's what having two tight ends and having that 12 personnel, we call it "tiger personnel" on the field allows us to do. And that's what we've been able to do the first two years and we'll continue that now with the complement of players that we have in that tight end room."
Brandon Graham is one of their best players and he plays a premium position. The Eagles are Super Bowl contenders. I'd want him in the lineup this year. They've prepared for the salary cap next year. The cap space might affect whether Graham gets a future contract. I don't think it affects his 2018 status.
What that said, I'd be surprised if a team would give up a first-round pick for a 30-year-old defensive end with one year remaining on his contract. So I don't think that offer would cross their table.