Philadelphia Eagles: DeMarcus Ware

So far the Philadelphia Eagles have re-signed key their own players, such as Jason Kelce, Riley Cooper, Jeremy Maclin and Nate Allen, and added pieces like Malcolm Jenkins and Nolan Carroll.

They have not, however, added any pieces to help the pass rush.

[+] EnlargeTrent Cole
AP Photo/Michael PerezTrent Cole led the Eagles in sacks last season, but the team's pass rush could use reinforcements.
The Eagles recorded 37 sacks in 2013, which ranked 20th in the NFL. Trent Cole led the team with eight sacks. Connor Barwin had five and three players -- DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks and Vinny Curry -- had four apiece.


"It's hard to find pass rushers, especially on the open market," Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said in this Philadelphia Daily News story. "There aren't a lot of teams letting them go. And then you look at the draft and where those guys go, they go high.

"Certainly, you want to continue to add pass rushers. But we feel we have some guys we think can rush the passer and fit what we're doing at the outside linebacker position."

Philadelphia had interest in DeMarcus Ware, and the Cowboys were not keen on possibly seeing their all-time leader in sacks twice a year, but the Denver Broncos swooped in with an offer Ware could not refuse ($20 million guaranteed).

In free agency, Shaun Phillips has 3-4 experience from his time with the San Diego Chargers, but the pickings are thin.

As the Eagles move into their second year in the 3-4 scheme, they will have a better feel for what they want in an outside linebacker. Projecting a college defensive end to outside linebacker in a 3-4 is never easy, but it is something the Pittsburgh Steelers have excelled at for years.

The two best in this year's draft, Buffalo's Khalil Mack and UCLA's Anthony Barr, figure to be gone by the time the Eagles pick in the first round.

In a division with quarterbacks such as Eli Manning, Tony Romo and Robert Griffin III, finding pass rushers is more important than pass defenders.
The Denver Broncos have won the offseason title and free agency is not even four days old.

John Elway signed safety T.J. Ward to a four-year, $23 million deal that guarantees him $14 million. He stole cornerback Aqib Talib away from the New England Patriots with a six-year, $57 million deal that guarantees him $26 million. Then he thanked the Dallas Cowboys for their cap woes and unwillingness to pay DeMarcus Ware and signed Ware to a three-year, $30 million deal that includes $20 million guaranteed.

Ware will make $250,000 more with the Broncos this year than he would have with the Cowboys.

Add those three to an offense that will still put up points even if Eric Decker leaves and Denver should be viewed as the favorites in the AFC.

In fact, they might look like a "Dream …" Sorry. Got something stuck in my throat. "A Dream …" Man, there it goes again.

One more time: A dream team.

Could the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles serve as a reminder that a "dream team" doesn’t mean a Super Bowl team?

To refresh: The Eagles loaded up with Jason Babin (five years, $28 million), Cullen Jenkins (five years, $25 million) and Nnamdi Asomugha (five years, $60 million). They traded Kevin Kolb and got Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in return. They added serviceable pieces in Ronnie Brown and Evan Mathis turned out to be a steal.

Then they signed Vince Young, who came up with the dream-team tag.

And Philadelphia finished 8-8.

The Broncos have Peyton Manning, so it’s hard to see an 8-8 season. But what happens if Manning gets hurt?
IRVING, Texas -- It was not surprising that the Dallas Cowboys parted ways with DeMarcus Ware, but it's still strange to believe he will no longer be with the club that drafted him in 2005.

But could the Cowboys end up seeing Ware twice a year?

ESPN NFL analyst Louis Riddick wonders if Ware could end up with the Philadelphia Eagles.



Now wouldn't that be a kick to the Cowboys and their fans to see Ware end up in Philadelphia?

The Eagles play a 3-4, which might be a better fit for Ware than playing defensive end in a 4-3. They have Trent Cole playing outside linebacker and he had eight sacks in 2013, but he seems to be more of a defensive end playing outside linebacker than a true outside linebacker.

Cole has been solid. Ware has been special.

According to a source close to Ware, the seven-time Pro Bowler will be selective in where he looks and would like to make a decision quickly. The Eagles have cap space. They have a team that looks to be on the rise with Chip Kelly.

It might be something to keep watching.

Top free-agent roundup: NFC East

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Here are the top 15 free agents, followed by their rankings, entering Tuesday's signing period as compiled by NFC East reporters Dan Graziano, Todd Archer, Phil Sheridan and John Keim. There are some strong options at the top, but there is not a lot of depth in the NFC East when it comes to free agency. And if Dallas' DeMarcus Ware gets released, he vaults to a top spot on this list. As always, ESPN's free-agent tracker will keep you updated during this period.

1. LB Brian Orakpo, 8.5: The Redskins used the franchise tag on him, so barring a surprise, he’ll be back. It’s a controversial move among fans, but the Redskins need his pass rush and promise to unleash him more often. His career best for a single season is 11 sacks.

2. DT Linval Joseph, 8: A very big, strong and young (25) interior run-stuffer who has also shown the ability to create pressure from the interior, Joseph could be available because of the Giants’ depth at defensive tackle and their many needs.

3. DT Jason Hatcher, 8: He is coming off an 11-sack season, but he turns 32 in July and Dallas doesn’t have much cap space.

4. LB Jon Beason, 7: The Giants are working hard to sign him before free agency opens, as his leadership and high-energy play at middle linebacker helped transform their defense during the 2013 season.

Nicks
5. WR Hakeem Nicks, 7: This grade is based on talent and past accomplishments, and a feeling that he was being overly careful in 2013 in order to hit free agency healthy. Lacks his early career speed, but knows how to play the position as well as anyone.

6. WR Jason Avant, 7: For a team in need of a third-down possession guy, the sure-handed Avant will be a great value.

7. P Donnie Jones, 7: The Eagles are expected to re-sign Jones, who was an underrated contributor to their NFC East title team.

8. DE Anthony Spencer, 6: He is coming back from microfracture surgery, so the cost won’t be high.

9. LB Perry Riley, 6: The Redskins need to re-sign him because they already have a hole at inside linebacker after London Fletcher retired. But they won’t break the bank for Riley, who needs to improve in coverage.

10. DE Justin Tuck, 6: Coming off an 11-sack season that came out of nowhere after two down years, Tuck turns 31 later this month but is a locker-room leader and a 4-3 defensive end who can set the edge against the run.

Vick
Vick
11. QB Michael Vick, 6: With Nick Foles' ascension, Vick is looking for a chance to start elsewhere.

12. RB Andre Brown, 5: He played very well in his first few games back off a broken leg, but faded down the stretch and fumbled too much in the final few games. He is likely not a guy who can be relied on as a starter, but potentially a valuable piece.

13. TE Brandon Myers, 5: A huge disappointment in New York after catching 79 passes as a Raider in 2012, Myers also contributed little as a blocker. The Giants are likely to let him go. He could fit better with a different system.

14. CB Terrell Thomas, 5: He played all 16 games after missing the previous two seasons because of ACL tears in the same knee. Thomas believes he can hold up as a starter off a real offseason, and would like to cash in.

15. S Danny McCray, 5: He is a core special teamer only, so the Cowboys could find value here.
We got so many good questions and comments, we broke the Twitter mailbag up into two sections. Thanks very much to everyone who chimed in. Here's Part 2: 
PHILADELPHIA -- Welcome to March. Within a couple weeks, we should start to have real answers to many of our questions about what the Philadelphia Eagles might do in free agency.

Until then, we get to speculate and discuss. Let’s get right to some questions delivered in our Twitter mailbag (hashtag 'em #espneagles so I can find them). Thanks to everyone who participated. Some good stuff to tackle:
.

Film theory: Saints could copy Dallas

December, 31, 2013
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PHILADELPHIA -- Rob Ryan's old team gave Eagles quarterback Nick Foles trouble in his two games against them. Sunday night, the Dallas Cowboys sacked Foles five times, forced an intentional grounding penalty and generally shut down the Eagles' passing game in the second half.

Whether or not the Cowboys have Foles' number is a matter for 2014. Ryan, now the defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints, has already burned holes through Sunday's game film with his eyes.

[+] Enlarge Nick Foles
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesThe Dallas Cowboys sacked Nick Foles five times on Sunday.
The Eagles can expect Ryan to try some similar tactics, with some wrinkles of his own mixed in.

Eagles coach Chip Kelly said his offense experienced a "combination" of problems.

"A tackle may have stepped in the wrong direction, back didn't hit the hole at the right time, receiver didn't get off the jam properly," Kelly said. "There's not one thing that's, aha, fix it and move on. It was just a combination of not all 11 guys clicking on the same team."

Focusing on the third quarter, it was apparent that Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin found a few ways to confound the Eagles' offensive line.

On the very first play of the quarter, DeMarcus Ware bull-rushed to the inside of left tackle Jason Peters. Running back LeSean McCoy stepped up to help with Ware. That left the outside open for linebacker DeVonte Holloman to blitz. He dropped Foles for a 9-yard loss.

"LeSean got stuck inside running into the twist on the D-line but didn't come off on the linebacker," Kelly said.

The Cowboys didn't blitz all that much, though. Instead they used stunts or twists, sending one of their defensive linemen around an otherwise engaged blocker. Usually, that blocker was rookie right tackle Lane Johnson. It often looked as if Johnson was being beaten one-on-one, but he was frequently leaving one defender too late to get in the way of one he didn't know was coming.

Example: On the play that resulted in Foles' fumble, defensive end George Selvie rushed to the inside of Johnson, forcing right guard Todd Herremans to help out. Defensive tackle Nick Hayden looped around to his left and past Johnson. Meanwhile, Ware and Jason Hatcher ran a similar stunt on the other side.

Hayden pressured Foles into stepping to his left. Hatcher hit the quarterback from behind, knocking the ball free.

While all that chaos was unfolding, left guard Evan Mathis and center Jason Kelce were more or less alone, with no one to block. The defensive maneuvering put all the pressure on the tackles.

Foles held the ball too long at times. Other times, the coverage was very good.

"Sometimes there was a guy open, he probably could have gotten it out of his hand a little quicker," Kelly said. "There were some other times where he's waiting for guys to get open and they didn't come out of the jam."

That's something else Ryan will surely pick up on. When defensive backs get physical with DeSean Jackson, he can be slowed down. The NBC cameras caught cornerback Brandon Carr holding Jackson back on a go route down the right sideline. Foles' throw was too deep, but that's because it was timed for Jackson to be running at full speed, not dragging a cornerback with him.

Much of the focus this week will be on the Saints' explosive offense and the Eagles' defensive challenges. But there's a good chance Foles and the offense will have to keep pace. To do that, they're probably going to have to fix the flaws exposed by the Cowboys, as well as the ones Ryan finds on his own.

Good health a good sign for Eagles

November, 29, 2013
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PHILADELPHIA -- As expected, the Eagles will go into Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals with only one notable injury. Safety Earl Wolff, who hyperextended his right knee in Green Bay Nov. 10, was listed as out on the team’s Friday injury report.

The relative health of the Eagles in Week 13 could have a significant impact on the NFC East race. The Eagles (6-5) are a half-game behind the Dallas Cowboys, who beat Oakland 31-24 on Thanksgiving Day to get to 7-5.

But Dallas was without three defensive starters – cornerback Morris Claiborne and linebackers Sean Lee and Justin Durant – for that game. They have been without defensive end Anthony Spencer all season. Defensive end DeMarcus Ware, who has missed three games, played after saying he is at “97 percent” healthy.

The Eagles and Cowboys meet in the season finale on Dec. 29. Between now and then, the Eagles face Arizona (7-4), Detroit (7-5), Minnesota (2-8-1) and Chicago (6-5). Dallas plays Chicago, Green Bay (5-6-1) and Washington (3-8). The strength of schedule and chance to play the Eagles at home would slightly favor the Cowboys.

But the battle of attrition seems to give the Eagles an edge.

“When you have starters with games lost, I think it’s always a difficult deal, just because of the preparation part of it and getting guys ready to play in games,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. “It’s a huge thing for us, not only in the (offensive) line but a lot of our positions because we haven’t lost many guys, especially starters to injuries that have had them out. It’s really helped us.”

Wolff, safety Patrick Chung, cornerback Bradley Fletcher, linebacker Mychal Kendricks and quarterbacks Michael Vick and Nick Foles are the only starters to miss games with in-season injuries. That’s a total of 14 games missed by starters (Wolff replaced Chung as a starter while he was out with a shoulder injury).

Chung has returned to the lineup to replace Wolff. Fletcher (pectoral muscle) and Kendricks (knee) are expected to return to their spots Sunday.

The Eagles lost three players, including starting wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, to ACL tears early in training camp. They have not placed a player on injured reserve since the season began.

Eagles let Cowboys shut down McCoy

October, 20, 2013
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PHILADELPHIA -- Somebody made LeSean McCoy, the NFL’s leading rusher, look average. It can be debated whether it was the Dallas Cowboys defense, the Eagles' offensive line or Chip Kelly’s game plan.

“We will have to go back and watch film and see exactly what the reason was that we weren’t successful running the ball,” center Jason Kelce said after the Cowboys smothered the Eagles’ offense, 17-3. “But it was a poor game for us running the ball.”

[+] EnlargeLeSean McCoy
Howard Smith/USA TODAY SportsLeSean McCoy couldn't get on track against the Cowboys, gaining just 55 yards in 18 carries.
McCoy carried 18 times for 55 yards, just a 3.1-yard average. Bryce Brown carried twice for 4 yards.

A week ago, McCoy rushed for 116 yards with Nick Foles at quarterback, apparently debunking the idea that the run game relied on the threat of Michael Vick. After Sunday’s anemic performance, that question was inevitable.

“We ran a lot of power, a lot of sweeps,” Kelly said. “Go through the amount of plays we ran, we really didn’t run a ton of zone read at all. So I think running power plays and sweep plays, it’s just executing your blocks and finish(ing) things, and we didn’t do that.”

It would not reflect well on Kelly if his running game relied on his quarterback, especially with a talented back like McCoy at his disposal.

“We pride ourselves on being a good running team,” Kelce said. “That was embarrassing.”

Turns out, the Cowboys felt embarrassed by their previous games against McCoy and the Eagles. So even without defensive end DeMarcus Ware, they were determined to make a statement Sunday.

“I remember the last time I came up here, two years ago, (McCoy) went for 180 and he ran all over us,” Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee said. “So all week during practice, we worked on finding a way to stop him and I think we did that.”

Time after time, the Cowboys would get to McCoy in the backfield or prevent him from getting into their secondary. He is remarkably elusive and hard to tackle once he gets moving.

“They weren’t loading extra guys in the box,” Kelly said. “They did exactly what they did coming into the game.”

“They had similar looks to what they had done leading up to today,” Kelce said. “Their safety had a few tackles where he came down late and was not accounted for. Usually, LeSean on a safety is a missed tackle, for the most part. They did a lot of slanting and angling, but they did that on tape. We knew that was coming.”

The Eagles just couldn’t get McCoy free. Or he couldn’t find his way to freedom.

“I think that this was one of my worst performances since being a rookie,” McCoy said. “We have to get better. There was so much to gain from this game. We just didn’t get it done today.”


There was a time when the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys both had a good chance of being undefeated going into an October showdown. That time may be long gone, but this meeting between a pair of 3-3 teams still has a lot of cachet.

The winner will have sole possession of first place in the NFC East. With Washington (1-4) and the New York Giants (0-6) already wrecked on the side of the road, this game will establish pole position for the race ahead.

Todd Archer, who covers the Cowboys for ESPN.com's NFL Nation, and Philadelphia counterpart Phil Sheridan discussed some of the big questions going into the game.

Sheridan: DeMarcus Ware and DeMarco Murray -- whether they're out or just limited by injury -- which can the Cowboys least afford to lose and why?

Archer: To me, the easy answer is Ware because they really don't have much of a pass rush without him. The Cowboys can get by without Murray because of Tony Romo and the passing game. Ware has several little injuries this year with a stinger, a back strain, dehydration, getting poked in the eye and now this quad strain. He says he is a fast healer, but I don't think he'll heal fast enough for this week and the Cowboys will have to get by with what Jerry Jones called the "no-names," like George Selvie, Kyle Wilber and Caesar Rayford.

I'll go with the either/or as well: Michael Vick or Nick Foles? If both are healthy, whom does Chip Kelly eventually roll with?

Sheridan: I wish I knew what Chipper is really thinking. Ultimately, I think he has to get an extended look at Foles this season. Vick's injury opened the door, and Foles certainly took a confident stride through it Sunday, earning NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors in Tampa. But part of being a successful NFL quarterback is coming back, week after week, through nagging injuries and fatigue. Kelly has to know whether Foles can do that before this season is over. Combine that with the fact that Foles may actually run the offense more effectively and I think it may be a while before we see Vick again.

Foles had a good day in Tampa. Now he faces the godfather of the Tampa 2. How is Monte Kiffin's defense coming together after six games?

Archer: To be kind, not well. The Cowboys have allowed three 400-yard passers this season. They allowed 216 rushing yards last week against Washington. They likely won't have Ware, so that will hinder the pass rush. The Cowboys aren't really the true Tampa 2 scheme that Kiffin ran so well in Tampa. First off, he doesn't have Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks or John Lynch, but the Cowboys are mixing their coverages a lot more because of their cornerbacks. They paid a lot of money for Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and Orlando Scandrick and have tried to play more man-to-man lately. They were fairly effective against the Redskins, and that helped the pass rush. They'll have to be that effective this week too.

I mentioned the 216 rushing yards, and LeSean McCoy is on the docket for the Dallas D. He's off to a great start and seems to be a perfect fit in this offense. True?

Sheridan: One hundred percent true, although McCoy might be a pretty good fit in any offense that involves a football. Some of the Broncos, who don't see him often, were comparing him to Barry Sanders, and it's not as big a reach as you might think at first. He's quick, he's strong, he changes direction almost magically, and his instincts are remarkable. For a few weeks, the Eagles were piling up rushing yards without getting enough points. Against Tampa Bay, McCoy went for 116 yards and there was a 31 on the scoreboard. That's where the Eagles need to be.

Let's turn to the Dallas offense. Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said this week what a lot of people think, that Romo is capable of making a big play or a big mistake at any time. How is the franchise quarterback's confidence this year?

Archer: I wonder if Davis has seen Romo play much this year. Maybe he just saw the end of the Broncos game when he had the interception, but Romo has only three picks on the year. One was a busted route by a rookie receiver, and another was a tipped ball. I think his involvement in the game plan really has Romo tuned into the opposing defenses and what they're trying to do. He is not forcing throws (no, I'm not forgetting the late Broncos interception), and he is being more patient than ever. This is his offense in a lot of ways, and he doesn't want to screw it up. That being said, the offense has not performed well in its first two road games, scoring 16 and 14 points against Kansas City and San Diego. In the last two games, the Cowboys have spread it out more, and without Murray this week, I think you'll see more spread looks Sunday.

For so long we've been used to seeing a Jim Johnson-type defense in Philly, but Davis has a different style. What has or hasn't happened so far in the Eagles' move to the 3-4?

Sheridan: It is a process, as Davis and Kelly constantly remind us. It's a tough transition when you have players better suited to a 4-3. It's even tougher with players who aren't suited to any defensive scheme at all. The Eagles seemed to have a few of those while giving up 33 passing touchdowns last year. They made a lot of changes in the secondary, but it has still been vulnerable -- especially on third down. The defense seemed to make progress against the Giants and Bucs, but those are two winless teams. It will be a big deal if the Eagles can continue to make progress against a quarterback like Romo.

How good is Dez Bryant right now, and how much more potent can this offense be if and when Miles Austin gets it going?

Archer: Bryant has carried over his success from the second half of last season to this season, at least in terms of touchdowns. He is a nightmare for cornerbacks in the red zone. He's just too big and physical down there for them to handle. He's almost too physical and might get a pass interference penalty one of these days. But Romo is so confident in him down tight that he'll just throw it up knowing Bryant will get it or nobody else will. What's strange, however, is that Bryant has had three games in which he has averaged less than 10 yards per catch. If teams want to take him out with help, they can. And that's where Austin comes in. He's just not healthy yet but was off to a good start before injuring his hamstring. Rookie Terrance Williams has really caught on lately and helped make up for Austin's absence/lack of production. When he's right, Austin is dangerous in the slot and outside and is a tough matchup.

Let's stick with the receivers. Is DeSean Jackson, well, DeSean Jackson again?

Sheridan: DeSean Jackson is DeSean Jackson, only better. He seems to have matured almost overnight. He says he worked out and added a little muscle mass during the offseason. Not sure whether it's that or Foles or Kelly's offensive approach, but Jackson is suddenly a factor in the red zone. He was always a deep threat but disappeared inside the 20. He has red zone scores in each of the last two games. He'll never be the kind of receiver you described Bryant as being, but he's added a better understanding of the game to his gift of speed.

Both teams are 3-3. It's not exactly the 1990s, when they might both be undefeated when they met in October, but this will still decide who is in first place in the NFC East. Do you think the Cowboys have what it takes to knuckle down and win the division in a decidedly down year?

Archer: I think they do, but if there's one thing I've figured out in covering this team, it is to never come to expect anything. They are just too up and down. There's no doubt the NFC East is down, but the prevailing wisdom is that the Cowboys are infinitely more talented than every other team in the division, so they should run away with it. I don't know about that. They're good at the top but not so much in the middle and bottom. They have a ton of questions on defense. They can't afford injuries. They might have the best chance to win the NFC East, but it's not a lock. This game, to me, is huge. If they can get to 3-0 in the division, it gets a little easier. If they lose, they're riding that 8-8 bus again.

Is Kelly in this for the long haul?

Sheridan: Here's another case where I wish I knew what was going on inside Kelly's head. He's good at talking about football, what he's trying to do and why. He doesn't entertain any questions that appear to be probing into his personal life or his feelings about anything. I think he's learned the NFL is difficult in different ways from the college game. Whether he enjoys being out of his comfort zone and sees it as a challenge to excel at this level or whether he can't wait to get back to a college gig, I have no idea. He just doesn't share that kind of thing. I can say that neither extreme would surprise me. More to the point, I think he can be a very good NFL coach. His offense certainly works in the league.

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