Howie Roseman, Andy Weidl and Nick Sirianni
HOWIE ROSEMAN: I want to start by thanking the staff, [Eagles head coach] Nick [Sirianni] and his coaching staff, [Eagles Vice President of Player Personnel] Andy [Weidl] and his scouting staff. All of football operations had a huge hand in this process. We had a chance safely to get together outside and thank everyone and just seeing the amount of people who are part of this, it’s always humbling. And we talk about being part of a team how special it is to be part of a team. You see it in moments like this.
This whole process has taken us from last spring through last season and a lot has changed throughout that process. And just really appreciative that we have a lot of people who can deal with adversity and continue to come out the other side with a positive attitude.
And when we look at this draft class, it’s hard to make judgments tonight. It’s hard to know anything other than we went into it with a process and a plan, to bring the right people into this organization, the right people into the building. And that started with the work that our scouts do on the road, [what] the people in this building do to vet [the draft prospects], [what] our trainers and medical staff do to make sure in uncertain times they were getting all the right information for all of us, that everyone in the front office was making sure we got the people into the building, whether that was bringing in [Eagles second-round draft pick] Landon [Dickerson] or [Eagles first-round draft pick] DeVonta [Smith] and hopefully all those other people as we went forward.
I think that when we start talking about this draft, I know you guys are going to talk about the things that maybe you look at our depth chart and see that we didn’t address. But we wanted to stay true to our board. We wanted to make sure we weren’t drafting for need; that we were drafting for what we felt was the long-term interests of our football team, and I think anytime that we were in the draft room over the last couple of days — Andy can confirm this — we went back to that, we went back to where the guys were on the board and making sure we weren’t missing opportunities to get players that were higher grated.
We don’t start playing until September. There’s a lot of work to be done on this roster. That’s an everyday process. That doesn’t end today. And it really won’t end up until really the trade deadline when we have opportunities to add to this team.
So we’ll continue to try to do that. We’ll look forward to those opportunities and just really appreciative and thankful of what we did this weekend with the people we did it. So thank you again.
Q. Howie, I know you talked yesterday about Landon Dickerson and his injury history. But I wanted to go back to it. Last year you told us hope is not a strategy with respect to guys that have been frequently hurt. I mean, this is a guy with a significant injury history. How is he different from [former Eagles CB] Sidney Jones in that you were willing to go with him in the second round even though he was considered a first-round talent. (Paul Domowitch)
HOWIE ROSEMAN: When we look at Sidney, the position he plays, I think that factors into the evaluation of him and Landon. And again we rely on our team of experts in that field, our medical experts, we know in this game anyone can get hurt. And obviously the history is that guys have been hurt, get hurt more often than guys who have a cleaner injury history.
But we also don’t want to be risk-averse. We want to take chances. When we think about Landon, think about what kind of player we think he is and what kind of player we think he can be in the National Football League. And then again our medical group giving us comps of guys of linemen with these injuries and how long their careers last and what they’re playing, how many games they’re starting.
We knew all that. But we just felt like this player is unique. To quote [Eagles run game coordinator/offensive line] coach [Jeff] Stoutland, he’s unusual. He’s an unusual player with an unusual personality. And we think that the upside of what he can do not only as a player but as a person and the people he can bring along with that, with some of our young linemen, can make a huge difference in our football team going forward.
And although hope isn’t a strategy, and I definitely say that, it’s also, we also know the hit rates in the draft. We know it’s hard to hit in the draft. We know in the first round 50 percent of the players are not going to work out.
So, when you have a guy with this kind of character and this kind of physical ability. He’s a person you want to bet on. Especially as we start this program, we thought he was special enough. And I know I’m using that word, because he is a special player and a special person. And that it was worth the risk.
Q. [Eagles TE] Zach Ertz is still on the roster. What’s the thought process of holding onto him through free agency and the draft? In your opinion at what point does it become a disservice to the player to hold on to him? (Tim McManus)
HOWIE ROSEMAN: Zach’s a really good player and a really good person, and he’s under contract with the Eagles. At the same time, we have a lot of respect for him and what kind of player he is and what he’s done for our team.
But this isn’t a guy in the twilight of his career. He’s a guy still in his prime. A year ago at this time everyone was talking about where he ranked with the top tight ends in the league.
So we feel really good about the kind of player he is and we have to do what’s best for our team as well and again we have a lot of respect for him and continue to remain a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, if something changes, we’ll update you guys.
Q. Want to talk a little bit about the day three picks. Specifically I guess for Howie and Andy, you look at [Eagles sixth-round draft pick] JaCoby [Stevens] and [Eagles seventh-round draft pick] Patrick [Johnson], bit of tweeners. JaCoby played safety, you listed him as a linebacker. And Patrick was kind of an edge rusher. For Nick, is that kind of hybrid what [Eagles defensive coordinator] Jonathan Gannon wants on defense? (John McMullen)
ANDY WEIDL: I’ll start with the picks today in regard to that, we’re excited about these guys. Six picks. And three of these guys were team captains. Four of the six we were able to see at the Senior Bowl in person and spend time with them and talk to them down there.
With regard to what Howie was talking about earlier with [Eagles fourth-round draft pick] Zech McPhearson, the board fell — the way that fell to us was outstanding, and exciting how it came to be. We like him, his versatility, ability to play outside, his ability to play inside, his ball skills, football intelligence. He’s a team captain. He’s a guy we got on [Eagles southwest area scout] Shawn Heinlen, does an excellent job mining the information on Zech and really brought him to the surface with us.
As we went through the process, he was a guy that we liked. And we were just excited to add him to our football team. [Eagles fifth-round draft pick] Kenneth Gainwell, running back from Memphis. Explosive. He was an opt out guy this year, but in 2019 he rushed for over 1,400 yards, over 600 yards receiving.
Contact balance, his hands, he’s a guy we really liked. And we’re fired up about. [Eagles sixth-round draft pick] Tarron Jackson, another guy we got to see at the Senior Bowl, spent time with him, Coastal Carolina.
Team captain. A lot of negative plays. Got to interview him down in Mobile, watch him practice for the week. Really comfortable with the person. Got to bring him back here and hand him off to Howie and coach and the staff and they took it from there in terms of spending their time with him.
[Eagles sixth-round draft pick] JaCoby Stevens, LSU guy. Played safety and linebacker. We saw him in Mobile. Played linebacker. Another guy that we were fortunate enough to spend time with in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, took advantage of the opportunity. He’s a very productive blitzer, he’s a very productive tackler. He’s tough, he’s physical. And he’s a guy we’re excited to add. And finally [Eagles seventh-round draft pick] Patrick Johnson, linebacker from Tulane, two-time team captain. Made a lot of negative plays in his career there. Strong at the point of attack.
Edge rush ability. We think he’s going to be a good fit in Coach [Jonathan] Gannon’s scheme. We were really excited to end the day with that pick. [Eagles sixth-round draft pick] Marlin [Tuipulotu], another guy — defensive tackle from USC. He was at the Senior Bowl. Had a really strong week. Really heavy handed guy. Can play the run. Get off blocks. Got to spend time with him down there. He made a really favorable impression with us in a young defensive tackle that we’re excited to add to our group.
Q. Those hybrid guys, Nick, is that what Jonathan Gannon is looking for? (John McMullen)
NICK SIRIANNI: He’s got a good plan for where he thinks these guys fit. Again, we’ve got to get our hands on them and get them in here, but they definitely have versatility in what they can do. We like the players, we like their character – everything about them. So, again, the more they can do, the better, and that’s the way we look at them there with the defensive side.
Q. I wanted to go back to something that we did not discuss on Thursday night. This was a year with five quarterbacks in the top 15, and you originally had the sixth pick, obviously were on the board at 10 with two quarterbacks there. Why didn’t you go quarterback this year? How much did the evaluation of Jalen Hurts factor into that? (Zach Berman)
HOWIE ROSEMAN: In terms of our quarterback evaluations, you take each of those guys individually and you make the evaluation on what you think those guys can do, and then you evaluate the players on your team, and you make the best decision for your franchise.
I think when we look back at the opportunity to move back and get an extra one in a year that’s probably a little bit more certain, in a draft process that is probably a little more certain. There was a risk in doing that. We had to weigh the benefits of that and who we thought would be there at the sixth pick and take those risks. When teams are picking four and five, you’re kind of going through it and you’re going, ‘Am I going to be right here?’ because you don’t know and you’re making those decisions — what day did we make the trade? I don’t even know — March 26. So, you’re making a prediction on March 26, what you’re going to do and what you think is going to be there.
So, we had to do that at that moment and we had to be very comfortable with it. And then as we went through the process, we try to target guys that we felt like could make a huge difference in our football team as players and people. We had a list of those guys. We felt like although there were opportunities to maybe stay at our spot or move back, we just felt like as we started this program with the people that we started with, we wanted to get a difference maker.
I think this was about the effect that we thought the players that we drafted had and not really a judgment on some of the other players that we didn’t take.
Q. Nick, when you look at this draft class and the roster as it sits now, do you feel like you have some comparable talent to what you had in Indy and can you use them in similar roles in your offense? Specifically, when you look at somebody like Kenneth Gainwell, maybe a Nyheim Hines type of player, can you talk about that a little bit? (Mike Kaye)
NICK SIRIANNI: Yeah, that’s a good comparison. We like a lot of the things that Kenneth can do. He does have a little bit of the things that you’re saying right there — the ability to go outside and win one-on-one outside against the linebackers, against safeties, to come out of the backfield and be able to do that as well. But then again not always having to do that with him.
He’s shown that he’s been really good in protection aspects of it as well and that every time he’s going in it’s not [just] a pass play right to him. So, he can protect. He can run the ball. I think that’s a good comparison. Not to say that we would use him exactly the same way because no two players are exactly alike, but we do see the ability to create those mismatches with the linebackers and the safeties, whether inside or outside, with that player; whether he’s in the slot, whether he’s in the backfield, whether he’s outside. That’s a really good comparison.
And of course, when you’re watching guys that are on your roster or you’re watching guys with the draft, you’re constantly doing that. You’re constantly saying how will I use this guy and how have we used this guy in the past. And so, when you watch a player on our roster or that we’re getting ready to work with, those are things that are going through your mind. Okay, who have we thrown this shallow cross to in the pass? Do they have a similar skill set to the player that we’re thinking about drafting, or that is currently on our roster? Those things are constantly going through our heads and, yeah, I’m really excited about working with these guys about the roster we have to do the things that we want to do on offense.
HOWIE ROSEMAN: We have a cool story about Gainwell, don’t we? I was circling back on him and it was a Sunday night during the NCAA Tournament. I was watching him. It was a game I hadn’t seen. There were a couple plays that kind of hit me, and my phone was a little bit away — and Andy knows this story, I told him the next morning. And I picked up my phone to text Nick, and I had a text from him. He was watching the same game I was. It was his first exposure to him and he was talking about this guy and how he would use him. So, it was pretty cool.
NICK SIRIANNI: Equal excitement. Both our excitement was high. High excitement level with Kenneth. (laughter)
Q. Andy, this is your second year basically running the scouting department and the draft board. Do you feel like this process … Obviously, Howie has to consider a lot of different people and a lot of different voices, but do you feel your voice was heard and that of your scouts more this year than previously, or was there some difference between this year versus last? (Jeff McLane)
ANDY WEIDL: The main difference is we’re together this year, and we’re in the room together, and you can’t replace that dynamic. We all have a voice and Howie does a great job listening to everybody. I think that’s the key in my role too is just being a good listener, listening to scouts, listening to coaches, and the conversations and communications that we have daily are outstanding, and it’s key.
With this draft class here, the nine guys that we took, six of our nine picks are team captains. Six of the nine guys are at the Senior Bowl. Just the constant communication from when we were in Mobile daily talking about the players down there, who is performing well, interviews. You’ve got to stay on top of it.
I think the one thing I learned, and I learned it a long time ago being around [former Baltimore Ravens general manager] Ozzie Newsome, is be a good listener. Be a good listener, listen to your scouts and communicate. I think we did an outstanding job that I really felt through this whole process these last three days.
HOWIE ROSEMAN: And I think you’ve got a lot of constituents. You’re talking about — we’ve got a scouting staff, we’ve got a coaching staff, we’ve got a medical staff as well, and everyone is weighing in with all that information. Not every decision is just clear-cut. You’re trying to balance all those factors together to make good decisions. It’s not a process where everyone necessarily is going to be perfect in it, because not everyone has all the same information.
Andy and I talk about that a lot. Like there are decisions that you make — I may love a player, but if it doesn’t fit coach’s vision, that’s not going to work. It’s not going to be a successful process.
We talk a lot about that and about making the best decision for the team, not the best decision for just Coach, or just myself, or Andy, but also weighing the fact that maybe there’s a medical issue that doesn’t allow this guy to have a long career. Now, is that the best decision for the long-term interests of the organization? I think those are all the things we weigh. It’s the same thing tonight. We made a trade for a future pick. And so, when you do that, now you know you’re missing on a couple of players in this draft and your scouts work all year to get those picks and there’s a little bit like, ‘I want to pick tonight.’
But you try to make decisions that are in the best interests of the football team. These jobs, we have these responsibilities for a reason and they’re not to make everyone necessarily happy. They’re to do what’s right for the team. That’s what it’s about. It’s about doing what’s right for the team, always.
ANDY WEIDL: I want to say I was really happy with how everything came together. We have a new coaching staff that came on board with the process, and you’re getting to know each other. And as you go through the process and you do things, you get to know people. Nick and his staff and how they came together with us and the scouts, and we got to a point on a player, on each player, we placed them on the board and everybody had a voice. I think that’s key. Everybody has a voice, and we do it together. And it really was awesome how it came together the last three days and how we were able to execute this draft. So, couldn’t be happier and excited once we get these guys in here and get going.
Q. Nick, earlier today LB JaCoby Stevens gave us a pretty in-depth scouting report on WR DeVonta Smith. One of the things he mentioned was every route he runs he makes look the same. I wanted to get your take on that and how important that is and how special that might be from DeVonta? (Dave Zangaro)
NICK SIRIANNI: To know that, to be able to do that at the college level and already have that ability to, the knowledge, the football IQ to do that, that’s pretty impressive. Because that’s exactly what we’re trying to do with receivers.
Hey, you go inside and you’re in the slot. Make your deep crossing route look like your deep sale route look like your stick route look like your through route. It’s exactly what we want to do. Because we want to put deception into the defensive back’s mind. We don’t want them to know what we’re doing.
Then when you’re running up into this route, give a little head fake this way then break this way or give a little head fake this way, and break this way. The way that head fake works is when everything looks alike. So boom, boom, and then breaking out. That’s great insight. You can definitely see that on DeVonta’s tape and that’s a sign that he was well-coached and that he’s a great student of the game.
I asked him a couple times of who he liked to study, and he said, ‘I like to study [Chargers WR] Keenan Allen. I like to study [Packers WR] Davante Adams.’ Those are two pretty good guys to study to perform your game after.
And that’s great to hear JaCoby say that same thing. And I saw that too that LSU put JaCoby on DeVonta a couple times, because JaCoby said that was one of his hardest covers. I don’t think we’re going to do something like that to make JaCoby play against the number one receiver on the other team. I’ll say that, I’ll put [defensive coordinator Jonathan] Gannon on the spot right now, that’s not happening.
But that is great, just really good for receivers to be able to do and know how to do. And that just shows you again the high football IQ of DeVonta.
Q. Getting back to Zach Ertz for a minute, if you were to move on from him, there would be some salary cap benefits if you waited until after June 1. Is that a consideration when you weigh offers and what’s best for the team? (Jimmy Kempski)
HOWIE ROSEMAN: We’re always going to try to do what’s best for the Philadelphia Eagles and we balance that with our relationships with players that we care about. But that’s again like we started this conversation talking about our responsibility is to do what’s best for the team and that’s what it’s about. So I think when you’re talking about this specific situation, that’s not really the consideration. We think Zach’s a good player, a good person and he’s under contract.
Q. Howie, you mentioned earlier about staying true to your board perhaps is why you didn’t draft a cornerback on day one or day two. When you did draft CB Zech McPhearson, how does he fit into the what the plan is at cornerback and you mentioned other ways to skin the cat. What else can you do in the summer, I guess, or during the offseason to address the position? (Martin Frank)
HOWIE ROSEMAN: I’ll start at the beginning where we were picking and who the best player on the board was in our opinion, taking DeVonta in the first round. So I don’t know that there was a conversation really about anyone else there for us. And then we went into the second round again. We just felt like there was a potential difference maker on the board as a player and a person. And we felt like it was somebody that — it was a person and player worth gambling on in Landon. And when you get around Landon and you talk to him and you really study his tape and you study who he is, you kind of don’t feel like it’s as big a gamble because you just feel like this is a person who understands what it takes to overcome adversity and play at a high-level and have people rally around him. And being in this league for as long as I have, and it’s been a long time, those are special things. Those are hard things to find. And they’re hard things to find certainly in the second round. And so that’s why we took him.
And then when we went into the third round, you know, listen, we’re always going to build this football team and we’re going to start with the line of scrimmage. Right or wrong, as long as I’m here, that’s going to be the priority. And I think the great things about the two guys next to me is that’s what they believe too. And you could say it all you want, but it better show in your actions. If we have an offensive lineman or defensive lineman sticking out on our board and they’re the highest guy, I promise you we’re going to take them. You saw that in the last couple of days.
I’m sure there’s some people sick and tired of seeing the Philadelphia Eagles take linemen but that’s how we won a championship and that’s how we’re going to win another championship.
So for us we weren’t going to get into a situation where we were going to force a position. We promised ourselves that, and those weren’t the conversations in the third round either. In the third round we feel like we’ve got a guy who is explosive and twitched up and has great character and can play inside or out. And he can get after quarterbacks. And that excites us. That’s why we picked Milton Williams. Towards the end of the third round, we saw another player sticking on our board and that was Zech McPhearson. We had conversations — I don’t know if you realize if you go back to the tape Andy and I got a little anxious. We were sitting up here and I looked at [Eagles senior vice president, communications] Bob [Lange] a couple times. He wasn’t looking at me. Looked at [Eagles Insider] Dave [Spadaro] a little bit to get Bob’s attention. We thought about going back up, because we had Zech McPhearson right there. We wanted to get him because of the player he was, not because he was a corner and we needed a corner.
You asked a final question, how do you go and address that? Well, I know in 2017 that we needed a corner too. And we got to August and we had a preseason game in Green Bay, Wisconsin and we made a trade with the Buffalo Bills and got a corner that helped us win a Super Bowl.
We’ve had experiences about getting guys late in the process. And in that same year we needed a running back at the trade deadline, we made a trade at the trade deadline. I promise you and the fans we’ll do whatever it takes at any time of the year to improve the roster.
Q. One more on Zach Ertz. I wanted to follow up. How do you balance doing right by a player who has meant so much to this organization versus doing purely what’s best for the Philadelphia Eagles? How difficult is that process for you when it’s a guy like Zach and also have you talked to him? Is there a scenario where you would try to bring him back? (Rob Maaddi)
HOWIE ROSEMAN: Someone told me this a while back. They said the President of the United States wins the presidency sometimes with a little bit more than 50% of the votes. That’s a lot of people who didn’t vote for him. Certainly, when you’re in leadership positions not everyone’s going to like the decisions you make. We start this process before we start the regular season, and we tell 37 guys that they’re not going to be part of the journey with us. So that’s how we start this.
So they’re not fun situations when you have people that you care about and who have done a lot for you and we have a Super Bowl trophy in part from some of these guys. And there’s no doubt about it. Big part because of some of those guys.
You just want to be fair. You just want to find outcomes that not necessarily are great for the team and not good for the player, but just fair. Just stuff that everyone can kind of feel like you know what, this works for everyone. And not only in this situation with Zach, just generally I think that’s the most important thing. Just knowing like we’re going to be fair. We’re going to work through things together. We’re going to communicate. We’re going to discuss them. And we’re going to be up front with everybody about what we’re thinking.
Q. Howie, I think eight of your 10 picks in the first two rounds since 2018 have been on the offensive side. Do you feel like you can get the impact players you need on defense without really addressing that in the first or second round? Obviously, there’s a lot, the hit rate is a lot higher early on? (Reuben Frank)
HOWIE ROSEMAN: I think when we think about where we were in those years, we had drafted a young quarterback. And we had studied a lot how like a young quarterback with young players growing together and how that looks and how that works. And that was really the vision when we talk about a vision and plan. We had drafted this young quarterback, put a lot of picks into this young quarterback. And so let’s surround this guy with players they can grow with and get chemistry with throughout it. And at some point kind of pivot a little bit. Maybe that means sign some guys in free agency or make some trades or draft some guys. I think that was the plan there and obviously a lot has changed since 2017. Now we’re at a point where we want to get as many good players as we possibly can. Again, a big focus today was on the defensive side not because we woke up this morning and said let’s just draft defense, it was because of how the board fell.
Q. I wanted to ask one more time about the cornerback position, and I understood what you said about Zech. There were a lot of guys, the first two went before you had a chance to do anything. Then there were some who went in the 20s and the top of the second round. Did you consider Zech comparable to those players or did you think about maybe trying to get up into the bottom of the first round? How did you see that situation? (Les Bowen)
HOWIE ROSEMAN: If we had a grade on a corner that was at the top of the first round and we were picking in the top of the third round, we probably wouldn’t have taken that player, to be honest with you. We don’t see many first-round grades on any position in the top of the third round. When we’re picking a guy in the fourth round, we’re not expecting that guy to have a grade of a guy we would look at when we’re picking at 37. Did I answer your question? I’m not trying to be cute.
Q. I meant the guys in the 20s at the top of the second, are they necessarily a lot better than Zech or did you see Zech as kind of comparable to those guys? (Les Bowen)
HOWIE ROSEMAN: I think it depends on the player that you’re talking about to compare. But I think that when you look at the traits that he has and some of the guys that went there, he’s got the ability to play inside or out. Andy talks about his ability to take away the ball and the ball skills that he has and the competitiveness he has. And certainly, great football character.
But he’s got a long road ahead of him as we hand him off to the coaches.