Ya’ll ready for some schoolin’? Rather than have me write a bunch of stuff about the defense, who would like to watch a PowerPoint presentation by Ravens coaches on the 3-4 defense, with a mixture of fronts, blitzes, and coverages?
They don’t refer to the 4-3 Under. They just call it the Under. Beginning at slide 9, they’ll show you how the 3-4 base changes into the 3-4 Under, which is the same thing as the 4-3 Under. I know that is confusing to some, but it really is true.
This presentation goes back to 2005 so you can’t take all the coverage concepts as gospel. The NFL passing game is constantly changing, for both offenses and defenses.
Bill Davis has never coached for the Ravens, but the basic concepts are the same.
As Domo points out, things started okay for the defense last year, but fell apart after Juan Castillo was fired. From that point on, the defense allowed 26 TD passes and had 1 INT. Domo seems to think that’s bad. I’m trying to get confirmation. For now we’ll say that it is slightly less than awesome.
It wasn’t that Castillo was some genius, the problem was making changes at midseason. Todd Bowles went from DBs to DC. That hurt his ability to focus on the DBs, which was compounded by the fact that he decided to make coverage changes. The DBs were more confused and didn’t have someone to spend enough time with them, trying to sort out the problems. That led to…26 and 1. Ouch.
It is easy to see the comments by Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen and be a little skeptical about the changes (didn’t they say good things last spring and in the summer before that?), but this defense will help them. The DL will play some 2-gap. The front seven is bigger. That stuff will help to eat up blockers and slow down the run game. DBs can focus on coverage.
I wasn’t at practice today. I’m basing my comments off what I saw on Eagles Live and what I read from the beat writers who shared some thoughts on Twitter. And I’ll make the obligatory warning that this was just guys running around in shorts. Okay, that stuff is out there so now let’s talk about the day.
We’ll start with the offense. Nick Foles was the first QB on the field for team activities and got more snaps with the 1′s than Mike Vick did. Vick had that role last week. I think this is a case of Chip Kelly mixing things up and putting guys in different situations. I don’t think this was a promotion for Foles. Matt Barkley got most of the #3 reps.
PEcom wasn’t able to show much of the QBs. They can show the players getting loose in the individual period, but not doing team stuff. You just can’t judge much off a couple of throws. Some said the QBs looked good. Some said they looked sloppy. It doesn’t sound like anyone stood out.
* New TE Will Shaw looks athletic. He cuts well and is a fluid athlete. I can see why the Eagles were interested.
* One player that I’m very curious about is WR Damaris Johnson. He’s got the potential to be a very good fit as a slot receiver for Kelly. You could see just how quick and fluid he looked on one catch today.
* Ed Wang was the starting LT today, since Jason Peters missed a flight due to weather issues. In the regular season either Todd Herremans or Lane Johnson would man that spot.
* Johnson was the backup RT. This doesn’t concern me a bit. If we’re in the second week of Training Camp and Johnson is with the 2′s, that’s when I’ll get nervous.
* Nic Purcell remains the OL I’m most fascinated by. I’d love to know if they think he has LT potential. Or RT or OG or what. I don’t mean as a starter right away, but as a developmental project.
* LeSean McCoy left practice after tweaking his knee. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but Any sentence with McCoy and knee does make you a bit nervous.
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Now for the defense. Once again the starting LBs were Connor Barwin (LOLB) and Trent Cole (ROLB). The backups were Brandon Graham and Phillip Hunt. Graham had one memorable coverage play. He tried to cover Jason Avant on a downfield pass play. Avant caught a 40-yard TD pass. The good news…Avant showed deep speed. The bad news…it was against a 265-pound LB. Joking aside, no pass rushing LB is expected to really cover WRs 40 yards downfield.
Fletcher Cox was absent due to flight problems. Clifton Geathers started at DE. I think he was at LDE with Ced Thornton at RDE. Geathers is a massive player that has some potential. It was odd how easily the Colts gave up on him, despite the fact he just played his best football for them. Will be fun to see if Geathers can play or not.
* SS Patrick Chung also had flight issues and was absent. Kurt Coleman started in his place.
* Antonio Dixon does look to be in better shape than last year or 2011. Good sign. You want him big and bulky as a NT, but last year he was too big and that hurt his play. Not getting NFL paychecks will get your attention.
* The ILB I’m most curious about is Jake Knott, the UDFA from Iowa State. There is no tackling, but I’d love to know if he’s showing good instincts or looks like a typical rookie and is highly erratic. Didn’t hear about or see Knott in action today.
“A new look on defense, which we’ll write more about later this week: a 3-3-5. Geathers plays nose tackle, with Thornton and Cole on either side as defensive ends. DeMeco Ryans and Kendricks are the inside linebackers. Barwin and Brandon Graham rotate as outside linebackers, but are not on the field at the same time.”
Jim Johnson’s Okie package was a 3-3-5. The MLB was the Joker position. Bill Davis version will be different. With JJ, it was all about having a dynamic pass rusher at MLB to move around the field and blitz from anywhere. Sounds like Davis has his best rusher at OLB. I’m sure Davis will move that OLB around, but he’ll still be more likely to rush off the edge, or at least start from that point.
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Michael Vick did an interview with Mike Missanelli on 97.5 The Fanatic a few days ago. Sheil Kapadia (doesn’t that McManus guy ever do anything?) wrote up a post on it.
Vick didn’t like people being so critical of him, especially in regard to reading defenses and holding onto the ball.
“I’m really tempted right now to just say no comment to that because like I said a second ago, you don’t last 12 years in the NFL not being able to read the defense,” Vick said. “Those people who are talking and saying that are just ignorant, and they know nothing about football. Unless they turn on the film and watch my game and see what goes on, then they’ll replace those comments with the right comments.”
Vick is both right and wrong, as is so often the case with players. Fans do tend to go to extremes. If the guy couldn’t read defenses, coaches would have given up on him a long time ago. That said, it isn’t something he does consistently well. Part of this is due to ingrained habits. Vick has always been a playmaking QB. That often meant holding the ball and waiting for plays to develop. Going from that to getting the ball out quickly and accurately is a major change. Vick has shown progress, but it still isn’t a strength for him and likely will never be.
I’m sure the Vick detractors will want to rip the guy, but do remember that both Eli Manning (2011) and Joe Flacco (2012) did offseason interviews where they came off as defensive in regard to how good they were. Their critics ripped them. Then those guys went out and won the Super Bowl. I’m not holding my breath on Vick winning the SB this year, but the point is that we just get too extreme with QBs. Vick isn’t nearly as good as his fans think and he’s not nearly as bad as his critics think either.
My advice to Vick would be simple. Throw TDs. Win games. Don’t throw INTs, take sacks, or fumble the ball. Fans will ease up on criticisms.
Speaking of fumbles…one thing that does give me some hope for Vick is that he seems to be listening to Chip Kelly. Vick has a bad habit of running with the ball in a very loose manner. It has led to some fumbles. Kelly got on him the other day and showed Vick how he wanted the ball carried. If Vick embraces Kelly and his ideas, it will help his cause. If Vick is reluctant to make changes, that will help Nick Foles bid to win the QB job.
The Eagles have OTAs again today and the media is allowed to watch. We should get some good practice nuggets. I’m sure we’ll also get bombarded with song lists.
There is little to no contact so these are not true football practices. Judging defensive players is very difficult. You can see athletic ability, but the lack of hitting and tackling leaves us with little to judge. We’re getting icing, but no cake. I made a joke last week about Bennie Logan dominating a trash can.
One of the readers, Baloophi, responded to that with a great piece in the comments section.
Tommy, you’ve cautioned that rookie camp shouldn’t be about evaluation, which is why I don’t think we should make a big deal about Bennie Logan dominating a trash can: it’s Trash Can’s first day in the NFL!
I, for one, am excited about Trash Can. At 33″ tall and 55 gallons in volume, he’s got prototypical size and rare lack of movement. As you can see in the video, you’re not going to move him off his spot. Also, I think we can already see how he earned the nickname “Brute” – he plays a little dirty.
Does he come without question marks? Of course not. He had a few issues in college: getting caught holding up a pong table after curfew, and getting suspended for filling himself with ice to house a keg. But, to his credit, after his Sophomore year he really screwed his lid on tight.
At the combine his diameter measured 26 1/2″… and you simply can’t coach that kind of size! Sure, the rest of his combine numbers aren’t spectacular (vertical and broad jumps of 0′ 0″, and a glacial 19 seconds in the 3 cone). He also chose not to lift, but now that he has access to an NFL weight room and cafeteria, you have to think he’ll be able to at least improve his strength.
Yes, Trash Can is raw, but the Eagles were fortunate to get him as an UDFA. Gil Brandt says he heard the Cowboys were trying to trade to the top of round 2 to take him.
While there’s no guarantee that he’ll earn a roster spot, at least he has the right attitude. When Les Bowen asked how he’s adjusted to Chip Kelly’s fast-paced practice he said, “I’m expecting to get vomited in quite a bit.” Sounds like an Eagle to me.
Material like that is why you should always read the comments section. Truly great stuff. Hopefully Trash Can has a good showing at the OTAs.
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The Eagles made it official, cutting rookie RB Miguel Maysonet. The team signed TE Will Shaw, who had a tryout at the rookie camp.
Maysonet was one of the top UDFAs in the league and got a $10,000 signing bonus from the Eagles, but he failed to impress the team in some way. We don’t know if it was physical, mental, or having to do with effort.
Shaw, 6-2, 242, played collegiately at Youngstown State. He began at a junior college and then played 3 years at YSU. He was a Safety in 2010 and then moved to TE in 2011. This season he led the team in receiving, going 35-429-5.
Interesting move. There seemed to be good depth at TE already. The Eagles must have been impressed with Shaw.
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I finally finished the Ifeanyi Momah video. This is his performance vs NW from the 2011 season opener. I only got 5 of his 8 catches (shortened version of the game). I also included one interesting incompletion. One of the catches is shown twice. My editing skills need some coaching from Chip Kelly.
The news came out the other day that Jason Avant was taking some snaps at DB. We had previously found out that Clay Harbor took snaps at OLB. This led to some discussions about how much of this had been done in the past. Geoff Mosher had the best nugget, when he mentioned to me on Twitter that Bruce Perry had switched positions. For those who don’t remember, Perry was a RB from Maryland. The Eagles drafted him in the 7th round in 2004. He didn’t play that year, but was on the team in 2005 as a RB and KOR. He was 15-70 in the 2005 season finale. Nice showing. Perry was also the KOR in the final 2 games of 2005 and averaged 27.3 yards per return.
The Eagles moved him to CB in the 2006 offseason. With Westy, Buck, and Ryan Moats all healthy, there was no room for a 4th RB in Reid’s offense. CB was Perry’s best hope to get on the field. I don’t know if Perry ever played a snap on defense. I don’t think so. He was the KOR for the 2006 season opener (3-57), but only played in 3 games that year. RB to CB is a rare move at the NFL level.
Josh Parry came to the Eagles as an undrafted MLB. He was moved to FB after failing to make the team as a LB. Parry took over when Jon Ritchie got hurt in 2004. Parry started at FB for the rest of that year and 2005, before he lost the job to Thomas Tapeh and was traded. Moving from ILB to FB is actually a common deal.
Dan Klecko is the one established veteran player who Andy Reid moved from one spot to another. Klecko was signed to come to Philly and play FB. He was then moved to DT in the summer. At midseason, he was moved back to FB. Klecko had played DL, LB, and FB in his time in New England and Indy prior to being an Eagle so there was some precedent for moving him around.
For my money, having Avant and Harbor take defensive snaps is unlike anything Reid ever did. Those are established offensive players, not young projects. I know Harbor is just a #2 TE, but he plays a decent amount of snaps and has started. I don’t mean the Reid/Kelly comparison here to be bad or good for either one. I’m simply comparing the unique nature of the moves.
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Speaking of moving players…Vinny Curry is moving to 3-4 DE. PE.com has an interesting interview with him. The great Bo Wulf got Curry to talk about his weight (280 pounds) and the differences in the 4-3 and 3-4. Nothing groundbreaking, but good stuff. There are some highlights shown during the interview. They certainly chose well. Those are the plays that will make you think Curry can play in the 3-4 as a DE.
PE.com also has up an interview with Brandon Boykin. Brandon is a well-spoken young man. He won’t have as much of a schematic adjustment this year. As he says, “Nickel is nickel.” There are some highlights shown during his piece as well. I think you’ll notice that the best plays came early in the year. Brandon was fresh and confident at that point. I don’t think his play slipped all that much, but I don’t think it progressed at all. It’s gonna be interesting to see what kind of jump he has in 2013. As for him the KOR…he needs to be challenged in a big way. He was unimpressive last year. I do think some of that was the adjustment to the NFL. Either that’s gone this year and he’s much better as a returner or he’s simply not meant to handle that job in the NFL. We’ll see.
Too often we forget that football players are people. Real live human beings. We see a fringe player cut and the reaction is “big deal…he sucked anyway”. Or a guy is signed and he’s “just a camp body”.
Those statements are often true, but do need to be put in context. We’re talking about the lives of young men. Since we only know them as a backup defensive linemen or the 5th string QB, it isn’t a big deal. To those young men, their time in the NFL is a huge deal, whether measured in weeks or years. They’ve worked for years and dreamed of making it in the NFL. If they make it, that’s great…a dream fulfilled. If the player fails, at least he knows that he had a chance to make his dreams come true. What to us is a minor transaction, to them is a life-changing event.
Let’s look at some individuals from the world of football, young and old.
Ronnie Cameron was recently cut by the Eagles. He was a backup DT/DE. I don’t know if Ronnie has NFL ability, but he is a young man with a bright future. Chris McPherson wrote an excellent piece on Ronnie for PE.com. Read that and you’ll understand that he’s not your typical football player. As an Eagles fan, I’m disappointed that he didn’t pan out for the team. The world might be better off if he’s able to put all his time and effort into other things. It will be interesting to follow him and see what happens with Ronnie. Give him a follow on Twitter.
The flip side of this is Rolando McClain. He is “retiring” after just a few years in the NFL. There is no question about McClain’s NFL ability. Coming out of Alabama, I thought he had the size, athleticism, instincts, and playmaking ability to be a star LB. His time in Oakland was a mixture of big plays and big problems. McClain was cut this spring and signed with the Ravens. He then got into trouble down in his hometown in Alabama and decided to retire. I don’t know McClain. I don’t have any inside info on him. I can say from afar that he is a troubled young man. McClain might be doing the smart thing in stepping away from football. He needs to get his head right and his life in order. The one concern is whether he’ll surround himself with the right people so that he can pull that off. If he’s hanging out with sycophants and people who are there for his money, McClain isn’t likely to turn things around.
Remember Cecil Martin, the FB from early in the Reid era? He’s spending a lot of time in England, helping to grow the game of football over there. Football was a godsend for Martin. The crazy story with him is that he was living in a homeless shelter with his family while being recruited by colleges. Martin went to Wisconsin and then had a solid NFL career. He’s now a football ambassador, so to speak. You can follow Cecil on Twitter.
The NFL will never be as international as the NBA in terms of players, but it is a growing segment. Just think of the recent draft. Ziggy Ansah came from Ghana. Menelik Watson came from the UK. Margus Hunt came from Estonia. These guys were high picks. There were others beyond them. The best English athletes (insert joke here) are still more likely to choose Manchester United over the Minnesota Vikings, but football is making progress. There is already a dedicated site for the Eagles run by British fans. I give Cecil Martin all the credit.
Speaking of Eagles FBs…Kevin Turner continues his battle with ALS. Kevin had a terrific NFL career, but his body took a pounding. The question is whether that pounding has anything to do with his condition. Some think there is a link between football players and ALS. Kevin is holding a local golf tournament in early June. The even will be at Medford Village Country Club in Medford, NJ on June 2-3. You can go here for some details. Support Kevin and his cause if you can. He’s a genuinely good guy dealing with a horrible situation.
If you can’t support Kevin’s golf tournament, you can interact with him on Twitter. He loves hearing from fans. Give him a follow and just let him know you’re an Eagles fan that remembers him. That stuff seems to mean a lot to him. Moral support goes a long way when you’re dealing with something like ALS. It may only take you a minute or two to send a message, but you never know how much that can mean to someone who is having a bad day. I lost a family member to ALS. There are a lot of bad days.
One final person of note is a guy I didn’t know much about…former Jets WR George Sauer. He died recently and there was an interesting story in the New York Times about him. Sauer was a talented player, but he didn’t care for all the BS that goes along with playing football. He played in an era when coaches were were true control freaks. They ruled with an iron fist. It was their way or the highway. So Sauer chose the highway.
Football isn’t for everyone. You spend a week practicing to go play one game. Practice is long and hard. Coaches can be bullies and perfectionists, always a fun combination. Football is hard. It isn’t a surprise at all that someone like Sauer grew tired of the NFL life and walked away.
Sorry for the heavy subject, but I do think it is important from time to time to reflect on the fact these guys are real people, not just characters in the NFL world. I’ll be back with normal stuff either tonight or tomorrow morning.
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