Howie Roseman’s current elite status as a general manager is going to face two major tests before the season begins in September.
It’s all about the draft — this year’s and last year’s.
Roseman’s draft prowess is on the clock. The Eagles have two first-round picks — rare for a Super Bowl team. They also have the 62nd and 94th picks and two seventh-rounders.
The two first-rounders should be impact players, ready to start in Week One. The second- and third-rounders should be of starter-quality. Great teams maintain excellence with successful drafts that plug holes and build depth.
With four of the top 94 picks, Roseman will be under a critical microscope.
But Roseman’s greatest challenge will be on full display starting with mini-camps and continuing through training camp. Can his 2022 draft class, highly regarded without much empirical evidence, become the starters the Eagles need? The Eagles have lost nine free agents, seven of them starters.
The top three draft picks — Jordan Davis, Cam Jurgens and Nakobe Dean — created a buzz and hope for the future. Eagles coaches and teammates praised them without hesitation. Each seemed to be the right pick at the right time for a team brimming with free agents and some potential weak spots.
The actual 2022 season was a different story. Davis only played 224 defensive snaps. Jurgens and Dean essentially took a redshirt year. Jurgens played 35 offensive snaps and Dean 34 played defensive snaps.
Well, freshman year is over, fellas. It’s time to earn that big signing bonus and kick-start your career. The season of reckoning is here. There are notable holes on the roster and you, you and you are the natural replacements.
This is, literally, why the Eagles drafted you. You are rookies no more.
DAVIS REPLACING HARGRAVE
Javon Hargrave (now with the 49ers) played 712 snaps. He had 60 tackles and 11 sacks. His bull-rushes gave quarterbacks real problems and often steered them into the charging edge rushers.
The Eagles had the NFL’s second-ranked defense and led the league with 70 sacks. Losing Hargrave was a blow but that doesn’t change what the Eagles want out of defensive tackle.
It’s get-real time.
- “But, I mean, golly, they have such a deep group there [defensive tackle], and it’s one of the reasons why they went to the Super Bowl,” NFL Network senior draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said on a recent conference call.
- “I’m still bullish on him [Davis]. I think he is going to be really, really good.”
Davis had 18 tackles. He suffered two injuries (high ankle sprain and concussion) and missed four games. He was the 13th overall pick. He was selected for this assignment.
JURGENS REPLACING SEUMALO
Jurgens, a natural center, is the presumed favorite to replace Isaac Seumalo (Steelers) at right guard. Jurgens spent his rookie year learning under Jason Kelce’s wing, who at 35 certainly could have retired after the Super Bowl.
Through most of training camp and in preseason games, Jurgens took first-team reps while Kelce recovered from elbow surgery.
After the Eagles’ first preseason game against the Jets, coach Nick Sirianni talked about Jurgens:
- “He played a good game. Obviously, I don’t want to compare him to Jason Kelce at this particular time. Jason Kelce has been playing at a high level for so long.
- “There definitely are comparisons, and we saw that. Any time you evaluate a guy on college tape, you try to make a comparison to paint a picture of what you see.
- “So that was the comparison we saw at Nebraska. And of course, yes, the way he kind of moves around, pulls, gets to the second level, a lot of similarities.”
The Eagles hope Jurgens can keep the NFL’s best offensive line playing at that level. With so few snaps under his belt, there might be a learning curve. No matter what he learned from his Jeff Stoutland University professors.
DEAN STEPPING IN AT LINEBACKER
The “steal of the draft” excelled on special teams but we didn’t see him on defense.
Dean was the nation’s top linebacker in 2021 as Georgia won the national championship. He is known for his speed, relentless pursuit and tackling ability — everything you want in a linebacker.
Given the loss of T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White, Dean might face the most pressure to succeed. Dean arrived as the most heralded. Now, it’s time to live up to the hype.
Edwards called the defensive signals and was the team’s leading tackler with 159. He played 1,041-of-1,106 defensive snaps. White played 844 snaps and had 110 tackles.
- “We are looking for guys that are tough,” Sirianni said about Dean after the draft. “We are looking for guys that have high football IQ. And competitive …
- “He checks every one of those boxes. He’s a leader on the field for Georgia. His football IQ is so high. His instincts are so high.”
Along with Roseman, the three former rookies are on the clock, too.