Roseman and Sirianni kind of cocky as their Eagles boast rare roster depth

Marcus Hayes
Marcus Hayes The Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)

Howie Roseman and Nick Sirianni aren't selling themselves anymore.

They're not asking for time. They're not seeking your approval. They're confident. Cocky, even. They have a very good team, it's ready to win, it's deep, and they know it.

In the two years after the Eagles won Super Bowl LII, Howie's hubris was suffocating. Then the Birds missed the playoffs in 2020. Carson Wentz forced Roseman to fire coach Doug Pederson. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie hired a nobody to replace Pederson, but Wentz still forced a bad trade. All of this fostered a measure of humility in Roseman. As such, Lurie endorsed and empowered him, and Roseman pleaded with the public for patience.

The nobody Lurie hired was Sirianni, Frank Reich's figurehead offensive coordinator who'd never even called plays. Sirianni dripped with charisma, if not credentials. As such, he spent the past calendar year, in plaintive tones, fabricating a personality — playing children's games with draft prospects, comparing his roster to a flower garden, and insisting, despite loads of evidence to the contrary, that Jalen Hurts can be a winning NFL quarterback.

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Howie's not pleading and Nick's not fabricating anymore. That was the biggest takeaway at their post-cut news conference last week.

They have the deepest and most talented team in the NFC East. They should make noise in the playoffs. And they know it.

With authentic assurance, Roseman and Sirianni acted like they hadn't sneaked into the 2021 playoffs and gotten blown out by a 44-year-old plastic surgery addict in Tampa. Instead, they acted like a confident, professional general manager and coach.

Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown before the preseason game against the New York Jets.

With good reason. They have horses.

A better stable: The obvious upgrades are only part of the reason for their certainty.

Roseman landed free-agent edge rusher Haason Reddick when bidding began in March. He traded for receiver A.J. Brown on draft night and gave him a $100 million contract in April. He signed Giants salary-cap casualty James Bradberry to run in tandem with cornerback Darius Slay in May. He traded for Saints nickel Chauncey Gardner-Johnson last week to fill a talent void at safety.

But these moves won't mean much unless the supporting cast can actually support. This one can.

This is how excellent teams are built. That's why the coach and his boss have so much belief. They strategized and they gambled a bit, and they believe the gambles will pay off.

Backup left tackle Andre Dillard grew up. He's injured at the moment, but a broken forearm suffered last week likely won't cost him even half of a season, and third-year backup guard Jack Driscoll is almost as efficient as Dillard at tackle. Rookie center Cam Jurgens arrived better than advertised. They had a blue-chip linebacker fall into their laps. They played a waiting game, letting older, more expensive options land elsewhere, and landed a starting safety for nothing.

Why they're cocksure: There's a big difference between crossing your fingers at tackle with a player like Halapoulivaati Vaitai and having a first-round talent like Dillard. Vaitai was a serviceable replacement for suspended Lane Johnson in 2016 and injured Jason Peters in 2017. After three years of immaturity and excuses, Dillard, stronger and focused, is an NFL starter by any definition. The Cowboys should trade a first-round draft pick for him. But Dillard is blocked by Jordan Mailata and Johnson in Philadelphia. He's making less than $2.2 million, which is low-cost insurance in the NFL.

Jurgens is even cheaper. A second-round rookie with a $1.2 million cap hit, Jurgens is the current understudy and certain future replacement for 34-year-old center Jason Kelce, who isrecovering from elbow surgery. Jurgens had a spectacular preseason. Don't be surprised if Jurgens is the first option if guards Isaac Seumalo or Landon Dickerson get hurt.

Wide receiver Jalen Reagor during warmups before the Eagles' preseason game against the Miami Dolphins on Aug. 27.

This might be the Eagles' best offensive line ever, and this might be the best depth the Eagles have had along any offensive line in their history.

That inspires confidence.

So does re-signing your most dependable defensive end of the previous five years. Derek Barnett might have underperformed his first-round draft slot in 2017, but he became a better tackler every season. Getting an NFL starter in his prime — he's 26 — to return on what essentially is a one-year, $6 million deal was genius from Roseman.

But Barnett even isn't the most intriguing second-line defender.

Head of the class: Nakobe Dean — the nation's best college linebacker and the best player on the best defense in recent history that won Georgia a national title — had a pectoral injury and didn't work out much before the draft. His stock fell so far that the Eagles stole him in the third round. He's raw, so veterans T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White will play more for now, but expect Dean to start more than half of the games this season.

Linebacker has been the No. 1 area of fan frustration for several seasons, but safety wasn't far behind. The Eagles immediately didn't address their safety situation — a problem since Malcolm Jenkins departed two years ago. But they watched, and they waited, and they went after Gardner-Johnson, a malcontent in New Orleans in whom the Saints had little serious long-term interest. It took only fifth- and sixth-round picks to trade for Gardner-Johnson.

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The Eagles will make him a safety, but he will add versatility to the position. Gardner-Johnson played mainly nickel corner in New Orleans. That could make him the first option if Eagles nickel Avonte Maddox gets hurt. It also means that, if outside corners Slay or Bradberry get hurt, Maddox can move outside and Gardner-Johnson can play the nickel. This assumes the Eagles have more faith in Gardner-Johnson playing the nickel and K'Von Wallace replacing him at safety than they have in Zech McPhearson playing on the outside or in Josiah Scott playing the nickel.

At any rate, after Sirianni spent his first season trying to wedge inferior players into primary roles, he now has front-line players all over the second level of his depth chart.

This season, he's got the tools to do his job.

That'll make any man confident.