By Pete Baxter
It was reported on Saturday that Day 9 of Philadelphia Eagles training camp was by far the team’s worst performance so far. The defense looked decent by all accounts, but Jalen Hurts and his offense struggled to get anything going.
The first team offensive line was ineffective despite a shake-up to the lineup. Hurts struggled to stay on the same page with his receivers, namely Jalen Reagor. Reagor will be expected to the team’s top receiver in rookie first-round pick DeVonta Smith’s absence.
A bad day of training camp should not necessarily be a source of panic, but it was further evidence that the Eagles need help.
For starters, the Eagles need to improve their depth at wide receiver. This will be imperative to give Jalen Hurts a true opportunity to succeed this year.
While the defensive side of the ball was the lesser of the two evils today, there are still holes to be filled.
Entering the offseason it was evident that both the defensive back and linebacker ranks were thin. The early emergence of rookie cornerback Zech McPhearson will take the pressure off the defensive backfield. The linebacker core is still a question mark, however.
Let’s take a look at two trades that could move the needle for Philly and help patch some of the glaring holes on this squad.
Wide Receiver James Washington, Pittsburgh Steelers
News broke today that the Steelers’ fourth-year wide receiver James Washington has requested a trade. He is unhappy with his limited role in the team’s offense dating back to last year. The Eagles should move quickly to acquire the young wideout.
Washington showed promise in his second season, hauling in 44 passes for 735 yards with 3 touchdowns, at an impressive 16.7 yards per reception. He can work inside or outside and proved himself to be a potentially dangerous deep threat.
Unfortunately, he took a step back last season. While he caught an improved five touchdowns passes and did emerge as a red zone threat, he caught only 30 balls for 390 yards. As a result, the 25-year-old is seeking a fresh start.
Enter the Eagles. Despite a somewhat disappointing start to his career, Washington would have an excellent opportunity to compete for snaps in Philadelphia. With DeVonta Smith out of the lineup, he would likely walk in the door as the number three receiver behind Reagor and Travis Fulgham. He would potentially have an opportunity to surpass Fulgham and maintain his role even when Smith returns during the season.
Washington is young and has shown flashes of potential. This is probably why Steelers’ brass including Mike Tomlin have played dumb since the reports of his request emerged.
The 2018 second-round pick would provide an immediate upgrade to the Eagles’ receiving depth. They could likely acquire him for a mid-to-late round draft pick.
Pull the trigger, Howie Roseman.
Linebacker Mack Wilson, Cleveland Browns
Mack Wilson was a fifth-round draft pick in 2018 for the Browns. He made the most of his opportunities during his rookie year in 2019, greatly exceeding expectations. He recorded 82 tackles, one sack and interception and earned himself a chance to be a regular starter in year two.
Unfortunately, he was hampered by a knee injury in his second year. He started just eight games and his numbers and productivity fell off across the board.
The Cleveland Browns are loaded on defense. Despite the immense promise he showed as a rookie, Wilson will have an uphill battle to become a regular starter in Cleveland. He is a long shot to beat out second-round pick Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. He will face additional competition from Malcom Smith and Elijah Lee for time at the weak-side linebacker position. It was even reported in July that Wilson was at risk of being cut prior to training camp, though he remains on the team.
Like Washington, Wilson should be available for the price of a mid-to-late round draft pick. If he could build off the promise he showed in his rookie year, Wilson could be a steal.
Wilson showed the ability to be a starting linebacker in the league. He should have a great opportunity to battle for a starting role in Philadelphia. He could compete with Alex Singleton for the weakside role, or could step right in as a starter on the strongside by beating out second-year linebacker Shaun Bradley (primarily a special teamer during his rookie season).
Pull the trigger, Philly brass.
The two biggest holes on the Eagles’ roster are the wide receiver and linebacker positions. Fortunately, there are still some intriguing names potentially on the trade block. Howie Roseman is known as an aggressive executive when it comes to making trades, and now is the not the time to be shy.
The Eagles, despite their lack of experience at key positions, have a chance to make a run in an unpredictable, winnable NFC East. With a couple of low-risk, high-reward trades, they could gain the depth to help them get there in 2021.
More to come from Philly.