Friday was a huge day for the Philadelphia Eagles. Coming a day after Carson Wentz went 4/4 with a touchdown in the team’s first preseason game, two stories broke that will hopefully elevate the trajectory of the Eagles season.
The first story broke shortly before lunchtime on Friday, that Dallas Cowboys stud running back, Ezekiel Elliott, will serve a 6 game suspension. Elliott will appeal, but even he gets his suspension reduced it will not change the fact that the Cowboys will have to play at least some meaningful football with out their most talented offensive weapon. If Elliott’s appeal is a long one, which I suspect it will be, he will be eligible to play until the appeal process is over, similar to Eagles LT Lane Johnson’s situation last year. If you’ll recall, Johnson was able to play the first 4 games of the season before serving his suspension, which was not reduced by the league. If the same thing happens with Elliott and he plays the first 4 games before serving his suspension, then he will miss a Sunday Night Football game Nov. 19th against the Eagles. But even if the Eagles have to play Elliott twice this season, his absence still negatively affects a team in the Eagles division that clearly has more talent then they do. This suspension was great news for Eagles fans, it makes the Cowboys a worse football team and it showed a previously unseen commitment by the league to legitimately punish domestic abusers.
The second big story that broke Friday was the news that the Eagles traded wide receiver Jordan Matthews and a 2018 3rd round pick for Bills Cornerback Ronald Darby. Howie Roseman is a genius. First let me say this, Jordan Matthews is obviously a talented wide receiver. He led the Eagles in receptions and receiving yards in 2015 and was second on the team in 2016. Matthews and Carson Wentz had tremendous chemistry together, which can be extremely beneficial for a young quarterback to have. That being said, the Eagles have a strong arsenal of receivers and it was extremely unlikely that the team would be shelling out the money to resign Matthews after this season. So Howie Roseman made a bold decision to move on from Matthews and bring in a legitimate #1 cornerback. He essentially made his offensive marginally worse to make his defense demonstrably better.
This trade puts a lot of pressure on Nelson “Illegal Formation” Agholor and rookie Mack Hollins to pick up the slack from the slot position. If Agholor can figure out how to use his hands this season then he could be a perfect fit to play in the middle, if not, Mack Hollins looked solid in his first game action and could potentially fill that role.
Acquiring Darby cannot be understated. This team needed a corner and Howie Roseman went out and got a damn good one. Darby was ranked as the 11th best corner against the run by Pro Football Focus last season. He had a down year in 2016, but in is rookie campaign in 2015. Darby was a lockdown corner. With an elite pass rush, which the Eagles hope to have, Darby should have a successful 2017 season.
This trade was without a doubt a win now move. Howie addressed a pressing need by acquiring Darby and should be given credit for not being afraid to give up a valuable asset to do so. A slot receiver is a much easier position to fill then starting Corner is. 23 year old starting Corners with two years left on their rookie deal don’t just fall in your lap like this. Teams almost never let starting corners leave because it is such a valuable position.
Roseman has made more player for player trades then any GM since 2010 and its not even close. Not all those trades have been winners, but getting a first round pick for Sam Bradford, trading up for Wentz, that alone makes up for any mistakes he may have made. There is something to be said about continuity within an organization. It is obviously not a sustainable strategy to continue to move players out instead of developing them. Jordan Matthews, however, is replaceable and was unlikely to return after this season. Jordan Matthews was one of my favorite Eagles, but I have no problem shipping him to Buffalo if it improves our defense considerably. The way I look at it is the Eagles haven’t won a playoff game since 2009. Anyone on this roster, with the exception of Wentz, Cox, and Lane Johnson are expendable no matter how likable or talented the player is.With Ezekiel sidelined and the acquisition of Darby, the Eagles playoff chance are greatly improved.