Eagles stressed speed and volume, trying to make their roster younger and faster

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PHILADELPHIA — Eagles general manager Howie Roseman held up a sheet of notebook paper Saturday evening on a video conference with reporters, after the Eagles added 10 rookies and traded for a veteran wide receiver in the 2020 NFL draft.

Roseman said the paper was where he wrote down three offseason objectives he took to Eagles coach Doug Pederson and player personnel vice president Andy Weidl the day after the team’s frustrating 17-9 wild-card round playoff loss to a more athletic Seattle team.

“I have this list that I shared with Coach Pederson, I walked into his office the day after the season ended, and there are three things there,” Roseman said. “ ‘Can he run? Is he healthy? Does he love to play?’ I said that was going to be our offseason motto.”

Roseman said Pederson “turned to me and he said, ‘I’m thinking the exact same way.’ ” Roseman said he then got the same response from Weidl.

The Eagles ended up equaling their haul from the 2018 and 2019 drafts combined. They also added speedy veteran wide receiver Marquise Goodwin in a trade with San Francisco that required only a move back from 190 to 210 in the draft’s sixth round. They drafted three wide receivers, a quarterback, two linebackers, two offensive tackles, a safety, and a defensive end. Speed was mentioned as an asset for just about all of them.

“I feel like today was a difference-making day for our organization, for our football team,” Roseman said. “I really feel like we added a lot of good players, a lot of Eagles mentality to our football team.”

Roseman wheeled and dealed through a series of move-downs, turning a compensatory pick, 146th overall, into the 196th, 200th, and 233rd picks in this draft, plus a fifth-rounder next year. He addressed just about every position of need except cornerback, but Roseman noted that he traded third- and fifth-round picks from the Eagles’ original list for corner Darius Slay earlier in the offseason.

“When we look at everyone we picked today, we tried to answer those three questions (on the list),” Roseman said. “We really wanted to have double-digit picks.”

The NFL’s Next Gen Stats ranked the Eagles’ draft haul as tied for tops in average athletic score, with Washington’s group.

“We have a good football team,” Roseman declared, after complimenting everyone involved in shepherding the organization through this strangest of drafts.

Coronavirus quarantining truncated the predraft process and led to team officials working remotely through the three-day draft; Roseman said they had 72 people connected through Microsoft Team as they made the selections. Pederson said the coaching staff was more involved than usual in draft preparation.

Pederson said he enjoyed “being able to bounce back and forth between the different chat rooms that we had open” during the draft. “Being able to see everybody in their home environment … You saw it actually, on TV, with the draft picks and their families.”

After baffling their fan base Friday night with the second-round selection of quarterback Jalen Hurts, the Eagles went a more conventional route when the draft resumed Saturday: They took Clemson safety K’Von Wallace, 127th overall, with the first of what originally were scheduled to be three fourth-round selections.

They executed a pair of trade-backs and ended up drafting only one more time in the fourth, nabbing offensive lineman Jack Driscoll, of Auburn, 146th overall.

Then the Eagles traded for Goodwin (5-foot-9, 183 pounds), who has played seven NFL seasons for Buffalo and San Francisco. Goodwin, who competed in the 2012 Olympics as a long jumper, is known for his 4.27-second 40, and also for having suffered an assortment of injuries. He has appeared in a full 16 games only once, in 2017 with the 49ers, when he caught 56 passes for 962 yards. Roseman called him “one of the fastest people in the world.”

First-round wideout Jalen Reagor and Goodwin started the move toward a speedier wide receiving corps, and the front office decided to go farther in that direction by drafting Boise State’s John Hightower 168th overall, in the fifth round, and Southern Mississippi’s Quez Watkins 200th, in the sixth. Hightower boasts a 4.43 40, and Watkins blazed to a 4.35 at the combine.

Between those picks, the Eagles added a local linebacker, Shaun Bradley, from Mount Holly, N.J., and Temple, at 196th overall, in the sixth.

Roseman reiterated that they wanted to “get more explosive, to get faster,” and then they “went over the top to make sure we had explosive athletes for our quarterback, for our play-caller. We’re real excited about what we did over the last couple of days.”

The Wallace pick was notable. The Eagles let Malcolm Jenkins walk in free agency and their other 2019 starter, Rodney McLeod, turns 30 in June. They hadn’t drafted a safety since Blake Countess in 2016. Wallace becomes their highest-drafted safety since Temple’s Jaiquawn Jarrett in 2011.

Wallace is known as a blitzer and a hitter, not so much for his pass coverage. NFL.com projected him as a fifth-round pick and a backup, special teams-type player. The Eagles obviously are hoping he can be more than that. Weidl lauded his physicality and his tackling, “his ability to play around the line of scrimmage … he’s a guy that likes contact.”

Driscoll finished up at Auburn after graduating from UMass. At 6-5, 306 pounds, Driscoll is known as a cerebral player who probably lacks the size to dominate at tackle in the NFL and might project as an athletic guard, something the Eagles prize. The Eagles let Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Jason Peters go into free agency this offseason.

They added more o-line depth with an intriguing prospect, also from Auburn: Prince Tega Wanogho, drafted 210th overall, in the sixth round, though he had been projected higher. Wanogho has quite the back story, having come to the United States from Nigeria to play basketball, with $20 in his pocket.

“It’s been a long journey. Like, a lot of people have made a lot of sacrifice for me to be here today, and just seeing that dream actually come true, it’s a blessing,” Wanogho said. “It’s great. I’m excited. I don’t even know the word to actually say, to tell people how excited I am. But it’s a blessing for me.”

With their final pick, 233rd overall, the Eagles took Stanford edge rusher Casey Toohill, a speedy late-bloomer.

Roseman noted that the draft was held during “an incredibly difficult time in our world.” Weidl called it “the draft we’ll always remember.”

The team began signing undrafted rookies as soon as the draft ended. The Eagles can convene with their players remotely starting Monday, but there is no schedule for the NFL to resume normal operations.


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