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Eagles Film Review: Kenny Pickett, Zack Baun, and other new players

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By: Jonny Page

Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Analyzing some free agent additions.

Right, the main part of NFL free agency is essentially over. If you have missed any of my player breakdowns, then please check them out.

Bryce Huff / Saquon Barkley / Devin White / CJGJ (written last year).

The Eagles did make a few other signings, but I need to get into draft prospects, so I don’t have the time to watch all of these players in-depth like the other 3. However, I did want to briefly check them out, and I’ve posted some thoughts on each one below. If the Eagles make another big signing, I’ll probably watch them in-depth too.

This is part 1, and I’ll get to the others in part 2.

QB Kenny Pickett – The Eagles gave up a 2024 third-round pick and two 2025 seventh-round picks and received Pickett and a 2024 fourth-round pick

I am really interested in the acquisition of Pickett because I liked him coming out of Pitt. I got that one wrong, but I do think things could have been different if Pickett wasn’t drafted by the Steelers. He just never looked comfortable in the pocket with the Steelers and didn’t play well. It was a bad system, but he missed basic throws too often and really struggled to find any sort of rhythm.

This is what I said about Pickett when he came out of college (gulp):

Kenny Pickett looks the part of a good quarterback. He has the tools, can throw with anticipation and create outside of structure. He throws intermediate routes with anticipation really well in particular and shows some precise ball location. He does need to clean up his pocket presence and he will be overaggressive at times when he should check it down, but I believe in the talent overall.

It’s worth remembering that Pickett did receive AP Offensive Rookie of the Year votes in 2022 and didn’t play badly. Last year, he completed 62.0% of his passes, for 2,070 yards, and six touchdowns to four interceptions. Throwing 4 interceptions in 12 games is pretty good, but just 6 touchdowns is pretty terrible. Pickett now has 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2 seasons.

This play sort of sums up the issues with Pickett in the NFL. It’s great that he can get off his primary read and get to the backside, but it takes him too long which means he misses an easy throw. He needs to be coached to speed up his processing speed and hopefully, Kellen Moore can help him do that.

And here you can see the struggles with pocket awareness. He just looks uncomfortable.

It’s interesting looking at Pickett in the preseason of 2022, and how much better and calmer he looked overall. This is the kind of play that summarises why I liked him coming out. The casual fake and anticipation throw is impressive for a rookie.

However, I do think Pickett has upside as a good backup and if the Eagles can try to turn him back into the player he was in college, I think this is a really smart signing. Pickett can provide the Eagles with a good backup for 2 years on a low salary, but won’t create any quarterback controversy!

QB Will Grier, 1-year deal.

Yeah… Will Grier has been in the league since 2019 when he was drafted in the 3rd round (what were the Panthers doing?) and has thrown 52 career passes in 2 games. In those 2 games, he managed to take 6 sacks and throw 4 interceptions. Grier is just a camp body who can help teach the other quarterbacks as he’s played under Kellen Moore before.

OL Matt Hennessy, 1-year deal.

This is a classic Howie Roseman under-the-radar signing. Guess who he was compared to pre-draft by Bleacher Report? Jason Kelce. I didn’t watch Hennessy pre-draft, but this was his scouting report.

Hennessy is a remarkably efficient mover who doesn’t take a play off and has the kind of tenacity teams want in a leader of the line. He has a fairly thin overall frame, and facing NFL-caliber beef up front might prove to be a tall task early in his career. However, Hennessy is all effort and has managed to win thus far despite his limited frame. If he’s able to build functional strength throughout his core, there’s no reason he can’t develop into a high-level starter. He’s a smooth pass protector and lives for lateral blocks in space. He personified tough and was recognized for it in college, which suggests he has the work ethic to build the body his new team wants.

If that doesn’t sound like an Eagles interior offensive lineman, I don’t know what does. Hennessy has played the majority of his career at center but has also played at left guard. He should be a versatile backup at center and either guard positions. He hasn’t played much the past 2 years due to knee injuries, but when he played in 2021 PFF ranked him as the 3rd best run-blocking center in the league. However, he struggled in pass protection and gave up a league-high 28 pressures.

I’ve seen a few comments about Hennessy potentially starting this year, but I would be very surprised. Despite liking the scouting reports of him coming out, he hasn’t played much in the past 2 years and struggled in pass protection when he did last play. I see him as a good versatile backup, rather than a starter.

LB Zack Baun, 1-year deal

This is a fascinating signing. Zack Baun was a pass-rushing EDGE in college and I remember liking him coming out. Now, he hasn’t had a great career so far since being drafted by New Orleans but I’m not sure he’s had a fair chance. This was his scouting report coming out by Bleacher Report.

Baun is a project as an off-ball NFL linebacker, but he’s a versatile prospect who will add value as a third-down pass-rusher in addition to his upside at the position. He’s an impressive athlete with a high football IQ and great motor, which typically adds up to an NFL starter. The key will be whether his defensive coordinator has a plan for using and developing him.

Oh, and guess who who his pro-comparison was? Haason Reddick.

I didn’t see Baun as an off-ball linebacker, but the Saints obviously did. He played in the Saints base 4-3 packages and rarely played at EDGE. This surprises me because Baun looked like a decent pass-rusher coming out of college, and even had 12.5 sacks in his final year at Wisconsin. Baun was an off-ball linebacker until last year when he finally got the chance to rush the quarterback. His PFF pass-rushing productivity ranked 71st, and he ended up with 2 sacks, 2 hits, and 11 hurries on 137 pass-rushing opportunities.

When asked about playing off-ball linebacker for the start of his career, Baun recently said this…

“At times. I think I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t [frustrating waiting for my opportunity],” Baun said. “But I just put my head down and kept working and if I didn’t get opportunities on the edge, I’d get them elsewhere, on special teams or inside linebacker and work on my craft that way.”

It’s pretty clear to me that Baun wants to rush the quarterback. I think Baun should be able to use his experience as an off-ball linebacker to provide the Eagles with depth at EDGE, and he fits as someone who can rush the pass and drop into coverage when needed. I think he’s a great scheme fit for EDGE in a Fangio defense, and he could end up being a meaningful rotation option next year.

Just give this man a chance to do this.

LB Oren Burks, 1-year Deal

Burks is an interesting signing because we know how light the Eagles are at linebacker. The 49ers like fast off-ball linebackers, and Burks fits that mold. His athletic profile is extremely strong.

The Eagles seem to like signing athletes at off-ball linebacker, don’t they?

Burks is meant to be a special teams ace, which isn’t surprising when you look at this athletic profile. I think he could end up playing snaps at off-ball linebacker too if the Eagles struggle with injuries. Burks was a 3rd round pick back in 2018 by Green Bay, but he rarely played until the 49ers signed him in 2022. Last year, Burks was the 49ers 3rd linebacker behind Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw and he ended up playing 433 snaps last year, including 71 snaps in the Super Bowl as he replaced Greenlaw. Burks doesn’t have great instincts and is more of a backup at this stage of his career, but I still like the signing if it prevents the Eagles from having to add someone like Shaq Leonard during the season.

Also, he picked off Dak Prescott, which is pretty cool.

I had to end with that play… until next time.

Originally posted on Bleeding Green Nation