The New Normal

Zach Berman wrote a story yesterday about the efforts the Eagles took to evaluate Damaris Johnson's character:

A coach normally tasked with uncovering punt protections was tasked with determining why the NCAA's all-time leader in total yards would jeopardize his future, and whether that player was sincere in his remorse.

Johnson returned home to the New Orleans area, where April was also raised. April started to dig. He spoke to teachers and civic leaders, coaches and friends. He met Johnson's girlfriend and guidance counselor. And he spent time with Johnson, watching the 5-foot-8, 175-pound prospect catch passes from a machine and run across the Tulane practice field. Then, he looked Johnson in the eyes and heard his story.

Berman doesn't mention it, perhaps because he's only been on the beat for a short while, but (putting Michael Vick aside, a special case if there ever was one) the Eagles haven't historically been interested in players like this with serious character concerns. Even at the end of the draft and in free agency where the risk is lower, this indicates a clear change in strategy.

Moreover, this isn't the first time this year we've heard stories about how much the Eagles dove into the character of a draft prospect. First round pick Fletcher Cox predictably got this treatment from Jim Washburn. But the other time was with late-round flier Bryce Brown. So not only has the Eagles policy toward character issues changed, but they're willing to go into the weeds on figuring out if those issues are real even for fringe prospects. Good to know.