McMullen: ‘Building Big’ Mentality Could Foreshadow First-Round Direction for Eagles
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Dating back to Andy Reid's tenure in Philadelphia, the Eagles began subscribing to the thesis that you should build the foundation of your football team in the trenches on both sides of the football.
The transition from Joe Banner to Howie Roseman and Reid to Doug Pederson with only one Chip Kelly hiccup in between has resulted in similar DNA for the past two decades in South Philadelphia, a fact that makes defensive line or offensive line the odds-on-favorite when you're talking about No. 25 overall for Philadelphia in next week's draft.
“It’s something that stuck,” Roseman, the Eagles executive VP of football operations, told reporters earlier this week when discussing Reid's preferred footprint.
Daniel Jeremiah, the NFL Network's lead draft analyst, was once a college-area scout with the Eagles and understands the philosophy of the organization better than most.
These days Roseman and his vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas, someone Jeremiah also worked with in Baltimore, are calling the draft shots with Philadelphia and Jeremiah quickly defaulted to the Reid DNA when asked about the Eagles brass on his pre-draft conference call.
"That's one thing they share is building in the trenches, and that was something that having been with Joe in Baltimore, and that was something that was preached there, and having been with Andy and Howie, that was something that was shared," Jeremiah explained. "... I think they have a lot in common in that regard."
The Eagles don't necessarily have a need up front on either side. In fact the lines are arguably the strength of the football team right now.
Philadelphia ensured continuity on the offensive side by extending All-Pro center Jason Kelce and emerging left guard Isaac Seumalo while also bringing back future Hall of Fame left tackle Jason Peters back for 2019 with a re-worked deal. On defense, the Eagles re-signed star end Brandon Graham, brought back Vinny Curry and brought in Malik Jackson, a player who should make things easier for superstar Fletcher Cox inside.
So why look at the lines?
Well, Roseman for one called the defensive line talent in this draft "historic" back in January while the team still needs an heir apparent to Peters and a replacement for well-regarded interior backup Stefen Wisniewski on offense.
And that leaves players like Notre Dame defensive tackle Jerry Tillery and Oklahoma offensive lineman Cody Ford as likely options next Thursday if either trickles down to Philadelphia.
The Eagles have done plenty of homework on both as they try to sift through the best potential fits.
"I think when you look at Joe [Douglas], Joe is big on the player, not just the person -- the person, not just the player," Jeremiah said. "Really, really digging on those guys and finding out who are the real tough guys. That's something that's kind of been his calling card as a scout for a long time."
The knocks on Tillery seem manufactured and relate to a unique personality that usually doesn't translate to football. A very smart person who found C-Span at age 10 some old-school scouts have questioned whether Tillery loves the game and will do what's necessary to excel at the professional level or simply gravitate toward another interest if things get difficult. Few question his physical traits, however.
With Ford it's finding out what he is -- a guard or tackle -- but others have said that makes the OU product a safe bet with some Zack Martin-level comparisons to his projection.
"You know, we view Cody as a good offensive lineman. Again, it goes back and there is versatility with Cody as a guy that can play tackle and guard … we’ve done a lot of work on Cody,” Douglas admitted when asked about Ford earlier this week before perhaps slipping a bit when pressed if he viewed the prospect on the inside or outside. “We have a spot where we’d most likely start off, but you’ll have to stay tuned.”
For Roseman, who has the final say on draft night, it's always about the value.
"The thing that's great about Howie is he understands the value," Jeremiah said. "He understands kind of the board in terms of supply and demand at certain positions. He understands how to move around and just maximizing your value, and being able to say, Hey, I know we like this guy, but we can move, we can still get him or we can get somebody else we like just as much, and we can get a little something extra. He's just very good at kind of seeing the big picture and having a draft day strategy."
Value could turn the Eagles toward Ford's teammate at Oklahoma, receiver Marquise Brown, Florida safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson or have the team trading down but if you know even a little bit about Roseman or Douglas, the conversation always starts up front.
"I do think [Roseman and Douglas] have a lot more in common than people maybe realize in that they believe in building big." Jeremiah insisted. "You start with the big guys and you go from there."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen