“No Fly Zone” no longer just a cute term for Eagles pass defense…

The war in Ukraine still overrides the NFL New Year in my daily awareness of what really matters.  EYE can’t get excited over Eagles stuff when witnessing daily carnage of a free nation’s defending itself against a mad conquistador.  Why the USA is underplaying its strong hand role and delaying humanitarian air support is mystifying.

We’ve always tried to separate politics from sports in this column.  We’ve done 14 years of Eagles coverage here and always danced around horrifying world events for the sake of hope— hoping that if you act like everything is going to go back to normal, it eventually will, and that the only constant paramilitary conflict worthy of our attention would still be football.

Maybe it’s because this is the first war in my lifetime where you can get 24-7 video coverage of the war on your smartphone… or maybe because we have had unprecedented cable TV coverage of the inept policy decisions made by our past and current administrations which have set the stage for the rape of Ukraine.

For me it’s also personal.  I have friends in Ukraine and in Moscow from my independent cultural exchange travels in 1996 and 1997.  My Ukrainian friends wanted a life based on the American dream of freedom of speech and prosperity based upon merit.  My Russian friends wanted the same.  All of them spoke of a future where Ukrainians and Russians and North Americans traded ideas, commerce and education freely.  Sharing music and sports and sporting heroes among us was the icing on the cake.

The current situation is dehumanizing based on the actions of a maniac low-forehead and the slow reactions of the designated safety patrol which was charged with protecting the schoolyard from the bully.

Anyway, here we are, there is still hope for a rally by NATO to stand up for Ukraine, and still hope for the NFL and the Eagles to emerge as post-war entertainment options.  It’s just hard to take war games played by pro athletes seriously right now.

Looking at what the Eagles are doing right now, they have accepted the reality that they are not going to jump-start their offense with a big-name free agent QB. All the big names have signed with other teams.  Rodgers, Wilson, Watson, Ryan, heck even Brady, are all now off the market.

As Matt Harkenreader said in one of his final posts for BGN,  the 2021 Eagles were a team with so-so depth that managed to stay healthy and was talented enough to beat really, really bad teams. “That was sufficient to squeeze into a playoff spot, which is objectively more entertaining than not making the playoffs, but now is the time for Howie to show his rebuilding prowess in 2016-2017 wasn’t just a fluke (we can probably say at this point his ability to maintain a competitive roster leads a lot to be desired). And he has ample opportunity to do so. Here are how I see the Eagles’ non-QB needs, with the signing of Reddick factored in:

  1. Safety
  2. Linebacker
  3. Cornerback
  4. Wide Receiver
  5. Defensive End
  6. Defensive Tackle
  7. Offensive Guard/Center
  8. Punter “
  • Linebacker would be #1 due to Gannon’s scheme if the Eagles had literally any safety not named Marcus Epps that they could trot out on the field. Alex Singleton – their two-time leading tackler – is being allowed to hit the market. Could this mean Howie is ready to invest in a sideline-to-sideline linebacker that can defend the short pass in Gannon’s bend-but-don’t-break defense? I’m not optimistic, but wilder things have happened.
  • All needs after the top 4 are mostly for depth, outside of punter.
  • Defensive end at #5 might seem odd with the Hassan Reddick signing, but Sweat is still inconsistent and we don’t know how effective Graham will be in his return from injury at age 34. Who else is going to come off the edge?
  • Guard and center go together to prepare for Kelce’s inevitable retirement. Does Seumalo move to center, leaving a hole at guard? Or Dickerson? Or do they just replace center outright?
  • As for punters, Johnny Hekker is available… he might be a better passer than Hurts! (Kidding. Sort of.)

“I won’t go too much into the draft here – too much will change in free agency, and honestly I can’t add too much more to what has already been said. The plan should be straightforward: draft defense Day 1, target offensive positions that are deep on Day 2 (like interior OL and WR), and do anything imaginable to trade back out of 15 and pick up a first in 2023. I’m not sure if any of the QB prospects have enough upside to justify not running it back with Jalen Hurts, especially if you can put yourself in a position to enter the Bryce Young sweepstakes. But as I said before, I’m not a GM and the draft is a crap shoot, so who knows. Take enough flyers on mid-round QBs and maybe one of them pans out?

“Regardless of what happens in the draft, we’re in for an exciting roller coaster ride this offseason with three first-round picks at Howie’s disposal. The man likes to wheel and deal, and I have a feeling we’re in for more than one move that we really didn’t see coming. So buckle up, keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times, and brace yourself for yet another go on Mr. Roseman’s Wild Ride.”