Going Inside

Posted: April 15th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 3 Comments »

We know the Eagles will take DeVonta Smith. Or Patrick Surtain. Or Jaycee Horn. Or maybe they’ll come away with Jaylen Waddle, the most explosive receiver in the draft. We obsess on these four candidates. They make the most sense.

What if the Eagles go in another direction?

Fletcher Cox will go down as one of the greatest Eagles of all time. He’s been a dominant force in the middle for almost a decade. Assuming he’s a mere mortal, Cox will start to slow down at some point. With that in mind, could the Eagles look for his replacement?

Christian Barmore is the top DT in the draft. He was a disruptive force for Alabama and will be a first round pick. Let’s see how he stacks up vs Cox.

Barmore

6-4, 310 … 4.97 in the 40 … 1.76 in the 10 … 4.75 SS … 7.81 3-C … 33 5/8 arm … 10-inch hand

Cox

6-4, 298 … 4.78 in the 40 … 1.65 in the 10 … 4.53 SS … 7.08 3-C … 34 1/2 arm … 10 1/2 hand

Barmore is heavier, but Cox is easily the better athlete. It really is insane to see just how athletic Cox was. How did so many teams pass on him? And thank god they did.

Cox played 36 college games. He had 24.5 TFL, 7.5 sacks and 2 FF.

Barmore played 22 college games. He had 15.5 TFL, 8 sacks and 3 FF.

Barmore was the better college player and more of an impact player. Cox was the better pro prospect because of his dynamic athleticism. Barmore got off to somewhat of a slow start in 2020. Some draft analysts have him rated in the 25-40 range.

Barmore will turn 22 this summer. He’s lacks ideal experience and is raw. He’s also got a tremendous combination of size, strength and speed. He could be come a disruptive force in the NFL. Barmore is ideal for a 1-gap scheme and could thrive in the Eagles new defense.

Why take him at 12?

NFL teams get rid of the ball very quickly these days. Getting pressure up the middle is more important than ever. Cox and Javon Hargrave are gifted pass rushers, but there is logic in adding another talent to the interior DL. Barmore would be hitting his prime right as Cox starts to fade.

You can also mix in Cox at DE if you want to get him, Barmore and Hargrave on the field at the same time.

I’m not saying the Eagles should make this move, but there would be some logic to it. That’s especially true if the draft board doesn’t go as the Eagles hope.

This dude has tremendous potential. He could be someone like Cox or Chris Jones, and those guys are real difference-makers.

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Context

Posted: April 13th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 6 Comments »

Unnamed sources can be tricky. You want to believe the reporter who has put an interesting piece in front of you, but you also have to wonder who they are trusting. Does someone have an agenda? Is this person trying to be honest and just stretching things as we all do when we tell stories? Does this source only know part of the story?

The scathing piece done by Sheil Kapadia, Bo Wulf and Zach Berman drew a lot of praise. There was some pushback by some fans wondering…who were all the unnamed sources and can they be trusted?

Were they fair to Jeff Lurie and Howie Roseman?

Let’s talk about a few things to give this all context. First, no one is saying Lurie and Roseman are idiots. No one is saying the Eagles are the worst organization in the league. The Eagles won the Super Bowl three years ago. They made the playoffs in 2018 and 2019. This isn’t an awful organization.

It is dysfunctional. Highly dysfunctional. And you can argue that winning the Super Bowl made things worse. Lurie and Roseman now feel vindicated that they have the right ideas and that others in the organization should really buy into them.

There needs to be checks and balances between different groups. If you have a building full of sycophants, you’re not going to have much sustained success. You need open dialogue and a genuine exchange of ideas. That means both sides listening and trying to value what is being said.

You can support Lurie and Roseman all you want, but the dysfunction is real. Just look at the known facts.

  • Star QB demanding to be traded.
  • Super Bowl winning coach fired.
  • Coaching staff turnover for four straight seasons (not counting the total change of 2016 or 2021).
  • Multiple medical staff changes in the same time.

That isn’t healthy. That isn’t one bad apple. That’s a dysfuctional organization.

***

Let’s talk about the writers. Sheil Kapadia is a terrific writer and is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. He’s so nice it is almost offensive.

Zach Berman is a terrific writer and is also an incredibly nice guy.

Bo Wulf…is a terrific writer.

These are not “gotcha” journalists. This isn’t Manesh Meta trying to create controversy and build a name for himself. These guys are all outstanding journalists. They would rather be writing easy articles on a 12-win team than having to do a deep dive on how a team went from winning the Super Bowl in 2017 to completely falling apart in 2020. When the Eagles fell apart this year, that forced the guys to do their best Woodward and Bernstein impression. You can write softball pieces on winners. When things go bad, you need answers.

This is not a hatchet job. This was an analytical piece on what is wrong with the Eagles, focusing on the top of the organization.

Sheil went on a podcast and gave some additional thoughts on the piece. Check this out to get a better feel for his thoughts.

***

As to the sources, I can tell you this isn’t just a bunch of disgruntled people let go by the organization. Sheil, Zach and Bo don’t work like that.

You can feel free to question the story if you want. You can wonder if it is slanted. It isn’t. If anything, this is a very nuanced piece that was fair to everyone involved.

Am I biased toward Lurie and Roseman? I’ve never met or interacted with Lurie. I used to think he was one of the best owners in the league, but that opinion has gone down in recent years. He’s made plenty of great decisions in the last 27 years and brought us a Super Bowl. Recent years have not brought out the best in him.

Howie and I have a mixed track record. I have a lot of respect for the way he climbed the ladder from intern to GM. And he made some great moves and I’ll forever be grateful for him building the Super Bowl winner. Howie sent me an email after my dad passed away, offering his condolences. That was very nice and not something he had to do. Things haven’t been so smooth in recent years, unfortunately. I’ll leave it at that.

I tend to be positive. That’s my personality. But both men have not performed their duties well in the past few years. If not for playing in the worst division in football, the 2018 and 2019 seasons could look very different. I think we can all look at those years and see the issues building. We thought things would be different in 2020.

They were, but not the way we expected. We saw things completely fall apart, on and off the field. That doesn’t happen overnight.

And it doesn’t happen unless there are issues from the top down.

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The Emperor’s New Clothes

Posted: April 12th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

Jeff Lurie and Howie Roseman were on Cloud Nine after winning the Super Bowl in February of 2018. They had a star QB in Carson Wentz. Their investment in a good backup QB helped deliver the Lombardi Trophy to Broad Street. They had a cutting edge coach who embraced analytics and made the Eagles seem like the smartest organization in football.

Lurie and Roseman won it all and they did it their way.

They truly were the smartest guys in the room.

That little fantasy didn’t last long. The Eagles started slow in 2018 and 2019 before using a weak schedule to help them claim a late entry into the playoffs. Wentz had injuries in both seasons and made people question if he was the answer. Doug Pederson seemed to push all the right buttons in 2017, but he struggled to replace coaches who left and suddenly the staff was as much of an issue as a strength.

2020 was supposed to be a bounce-back year. Instead, the team went over a cliff and completely fell apart. They finished 4-11-1. The Eagles trailed by 10 or more points in the majority of their games. They were a bad team. They were boring.

The new normal was supposed to be competing for Super Bowls. Instead, the new normal was being dysfunctional.

How the mighty have fallen…

Read that article.

Sheil Kapadia, Zach Berman and Bo Wulf wrote a masterful, devastating look at the dysfunction of the Eagles front office. Lurie and Roseman come off very badly. You can see their micro-management issues and also highly troublesome people skills. Both men can be amazing when they want to, but also highly dismissive when they don’t care.

Their treatment of Pederson is troubling, to put it mildly.

Four weeks into the 2019 season, Doug Pederson sat down for his scheduled inquisition.

The Tuesday tribunals with team owner Jeffrey Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman were a weekly occurrence during Pederson’s five-year tenure as Eagles head coach. In the meetings, Lurie and Roseman questioned Pederson about all aspects of his game management the week prior. Fourth-down decision-making, play calling, personnel choices — everything was on the table.

Days earlier, the team overcame a 10-0 second-quarter deficit to beat Aaron Rodgers and the Packers 34-27 and even its record at 2-2. The offensive key to the win was a steady dose of the running game that took advantage of Green Bay’s defensive game plan.

Apparently, that wasn’t good enough. Lurie, who has long advocated the use of analytics, wanted to know why Pederson hadn’t called more passing plays. The interrogation was the same after another win that season — this time in Buffalo on a day with 23 mph winds.

“(Pederson) was ridiculed and criticized for every decision,” one source told The Athletic. “If you won by three, it wasn’t enough. If you lost on a last-second field goal, you’re the worst coach in history.”

There is probably some hyperbole in that comment, but the gist matches up things we’ve heard elsewhere.

I have no problem with Lurie wanting to meet with his coach and review the previous game. If you’re a hands-on owner, it is smart to meet regularly and talk to your coach. But trying to nitpick how he called/managed the game on a weekly basis? That’s nuts. The coach makes decisions based on things he has seen and felt over the course of a week of preparation. He makes the decisions in a high stress enviornment in real time.

The owner has the benefit of hindsight and is under no pressure to be right. At the end of the day, he’s still a billionaire. Each of the coach’s mistakes move him closer to the unemployment line.

This is not a fun read if you’re an Eagles fan. These problems go beyond fixing the coaching staff and drafting better. Lurie and Roseman do not come off well.

The fact this piece was in The Athletic was interesting. Plenty of people are going to read a terrific piece in the Inquirer, but this got a lot of non-Philly readers. People throughout the football world were checking this out. You can bet other owners and GMs will read this.

I’m curious about Lurie and Roseman’s reaction. They didn’t comment in the article, but they are both image driven and this piece will bother them. Will it lead to any changes? That’s the magic question.

I don’t know.

Lurie and Roseman are smart men. They’ve done some terrific things with the Eagles and no matter what, you can’t take away Super Bowl LII. That really happened. But these men are destroying the good will they built up with that amazing feat by making bad football moves and bad people decisions.

I hope this piece proves to be some kind of wakeup call. I’m not holding my breath, though.

Lurie and Roseman need to show they can change. If not, the Eagles are going to remain a flawed organization unless they can pull off another miracle like 2017. And trust me, the further we get away from that season, the more we see it was a miracle.

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Eagles Mock 1.0

Posted: April 12th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 4 Comments »

The draft is just over two weeks away. I’ve been busy studying college prospects to find a bunch of future Hall of Fame players for Howie Roseman and the scouts to take. Here is my first edition of an Eagles only mock draft. If there are any picks you don’t like, please blame Jimmy Bama, Howie Roseman, Joe Flacco or Joe Carter.

1st Round – WR DeVonta Smith – Alabama – 6-0, 170

I’ve talked a lot about my love for Smith in the past few months. He is small at just 170, but he is tough. Smith will block. He will play on special teams. As a receiver, he is a smart, polished player. The Eagles drafted fast guys last year. Now they add someone who knows how to run routes and get open. Smith has elite body control, the most important trait for receivers. He can play in the slot or outside. Smith is the kind of guy you want on a team that is rebuilding. Smart. Tough. Dedicated.

2nd Round – CB Kelvin Joseph – Kentucky – 6-1, 192

The Eagles have issues at corner. Darius Slay is still a solid starter, but his best days are behind him. This team needs talented, young corners. Joseph was an elite recruit coming out of high school. He went to LSU, but things didn’t work out so he transferred to UK. Joseph is a gifted athlete and talented DB. He has the potential to be an outstanding CB in the NFL.

https://twitter.com/PFF_College/status/1378756435803258889

He’s also a playmaker, something the Eagles desperately need on the back end.

3rd Round – DE Rashad Weaver – Pitt – 6-4, 259

Brandon Graham can’t play forever and we don’t know if Derek Barnett is a long term answer so the Eagles would be smart to bring in a talented pass rusher to add to the mix. Weaver had 7.5 sacks and 3 FF in only 9 games last season. He really stood out to me at the Senior Bowl, showing the ability to win off the edge and to play on the inside. He would take on double-teams and fight to hold his ground. Most DEs slide inside and the first time two guys come for them, they melt into the ground. Weaver is tough.

Production is one thing, but going inside the numbers is important. Weaver doesn’t just get to the QB, he gets there in a hurry.

3rd Round – CB Ambry Thomas – Michigan – 6-0, 191

Thomas sat out the 2020 season due to Covid concerns. He played well in 2019 and then had a solid showing at the Senior Bowl. Thomas has a good combination of size, athleticism  and playmaking ability. Nick Sirianni has talked about takeaways being a point of emphasis. The Eagles want DBs who can cover and also catch the ball when it comes their way. Thomas picked off three passes in 2019. Thomas also has kickoff return experience.

4th Round – DT Jonathan Marshall – Arkansas – 6-3, 310

Marshall racked up 1.5 sacks in college, hardly an inspring number. But he is a hot name due to a terrific showing at his Pro Day. Arkansas used him mainly as a NT so he didn’t have as many chances to make plays. When you study the tape, you see real potential.

The Eagles have good starters in Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave. They have Hasaan Ridgeway and T.Y. McGill after that. That’s not ideal depth. Marshall could challenge for a backup spot right away and might develop into a starter down the road.

5th Round – OL Robert Hainsey – Notre Dame – 6-5, 302

Versatility. Versatility. Versatility. That’s what Jeff Stoutland wants in his O-linemen and Hainsey has it. He played both OG and OT for the Fighting Irish. Hainsey got some snaps at C at the Senior Bowl and looked terrific in there. He could play anywhere other than LT. Hainsey could be Jason Kelce’s replacement in a year or two.

6th Round – OT Dan Moore – Texas A&M – 6-5, 315

We don’t know if the Eagles are willing to trade Andre Dillard, but it is possible. At the very least, the team needs to bring in competition at OT. Moore was a 3-year starter and played LT for the Aggies in 2020. He is a solid athlete, but is a better run blocker than pass protector.

I don’t know if he’s good enough to start in the NFL, but he could develop into a good swing tackle. Moore had a solid showing at the Senior Bowl. He played mostly LT down in Mobile.

6th Round – S JaCoby Stevens – LSU – 6-1, 212

I might have Stevens way too low. It is tough to get a read on him. We don’t know if Stevens is meant to be a S or a LB. We do know he is a great athlete and played good football in the SEC. This is absolutely the type of guy you take a chance on. Maybe Stevens becomes a starter. Maybe he’s just a role player and STer. Either way, he’s good value if he does last this long. I think he would be an interesting SS for Jonathan Gannon to work with.

6th Round – LB Tony Fields – West Virginia – 6-0, 222

I like Fields and think he should go higher, but he just might fall to this point in the draft. He lacks ideal size and isn’t a special athlete. Fields is tough, physical and instinctive. He was a star LB at Arizona before transferring to WV last fall. He played well for the Mountaineers and then had a good showing at the Senior Bowl. The Eagles took projects like Davion Taylor and Shaun Bradley last year. I don’t look at Fields as a project at all. I think he can play MLB or WLB.

Fields is more football player than athlete. The Eagles need someone like that to add to the mix.

7th Round – RB Chris Evans – Michigan – 5-11, 211

This isn’t a compelling class of RBs. There isn’t a late rounder that I’ve fallen in love with. Evans is interesting because he’s got some size and is a good pass catcher. He is a north-south runner with good athletic ability. He was 216 pounds at the Senior Bowl so I tend to think he’d play up there or even in the 220 range. The Eagles could use a young runner with a bit of size. Jordan Howard is back, but he’s not guaranteed a spot.

7th Round – TE John Bates – Boise State – 6-5, 259

Zach Ertz is still on the roster, but that will change sometime this offseason. We know Dallas Goedert will start. Richard Rodgers could be brought back as a backup. The Eagles have developmental guys in Jason Croom, Caleb Wilson, Hakeem Butler and Tyree Jackson. Those guys are undersized athletes. Bates is a big boy and he is a good blocker. The team could use someone with his skill set. He is another player that had a strong showing at the Senior Bowl. Bates showed that he’s a better receiver than his stats would indicate.

*****

No QB? I’m not a big fan of the guys outside the 1st round. Maybe the Eagles coaches have someone they like.

Only one WR? I don’t think the team will load up. They took three last year. They’ve got Travis Fulgham and Greg Ward. Adding a big time talent is more important than adding multiple guys.

I’ve mentioned this before but it bears repeating. The Eagles aren’t going to fix every problem this year. There will be roster holes. One draft class doesn’t fix everything. The goal is to find some good players and fix some key spots.

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Saturday Notebook

Posted: April 10th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 6 Comments »

There isn’t a huge topic for today so let’s talk about a few different things. There was some speculation on Friday that the Eagles might be a suitor for Deshaun Watson, once his legal situation is under control.

This was purely speculation. I get it. The Eagles love star QBs and Watson is one of the Top 5 QBs in the league. If he became available, looking into the situation would make a ton of sense.

Watson’s situation is complicated, to put it mildly. I’m not going to talk much about it because I hate legal issues and I haven’t spent time trying to fully understand it. The last time I checked, there were 21 massage therapists making complaints about him. There were also 18 massage therapists supporting him. No matter who you believe, that’s a lot of massage therapists. That is a red flag in and of itself.

Watson’s attorney came out and said there were some consensual sexual relationships between Watson and therapists. That makes things even more complicated.

The big question now is if there will be criminal charges. Until that side of things is cleared up, everything else is meaningless.

Never say never in the NFL, but I don’t think Watson to Philly is going to be happening any time soon.

*****

Should the Eagles have interest in free agent CB Steven Nelson?

Sure, at the right price. Nelson was due to make $8M when the Steelers released him. They had cap issues and simply couldn’t afford that price. Nelson thought he would hit the market and get signed quickly. He was cut more than two weeks ago and is still on the market.

My guess is that Nelson is asking for more than teams want to pay.

Nelson is a solid player. He’s been a starter for the past five years, playing for the Chiefs and Steelers. Nelson breaks up a lot of passes, in part because a good amount of passes come his way. He isn’t anything special, but Nelson is an effective starter. He will hit and tackle. Nelson lacks ideal size or speed, but he is highly competitve. He’s 28-years old and should be a solid starter for multiple years.

The Eagles don’t have a lot of cap space right now. They need some for signing the rookie class so deals have to make sense and be structured just the right way. We’ll see if Nelson lowers his asking price.

*****

What about current Eagles CBs?

Michael Jacquet and Craig James have shown potential, but have also struggled when playing on defense. They’ll be given a chance to earn roles, but you cannot count on them for anything more than competing for roles.

You never want to give up on a guy too early (like Chandon Sullivan), but I think these guys played enough that we know they aren’t CBs to develop for future starting roles.

*****

What will happen with Caleb Farley?

He is the most talented CB in the draft. Farley is a terrific prospect. Unfortunately, he’s got a back issue.

If healthy, Farley might be my ideal target at 12.

Agent Drew Rosenhaus says he’s fine, but take that with a grain of salt. Team medical reports are the key here. Some teams will be fine with the risk. Others won’t. I have no idea how to value Farley. Maybe the Eagles take him at 12. If he falls, I’d have interest in the Eagles trying to trade back into the 1st round to get him.

*****

Could the Eagles take a LB early in the draft?

The Eagles have not focused on the LB position in a long time. New DC Jonathan Gannon came from teams (MIN, IND) that did put more emphasis on LBs. That could force a change with the Eagles.

I could see the Eagles looking at 2020 as a year of evaluation. With Alex Singleton, Eric Wilson and T.J. Edwards, there is a solid trio to work with. You have Davion Taylor, Shaun Bradley and Genard Avery behind them. You also have Joe Bachie and Rashad Smith.

The coaches might want to find out what they think of this group instead of spending key resources.

If the team does decide to go for a LB, they will have good options. There are some terrific players in the first few rounds. I don’t anticipate a LB going early now that Wilson has been signed, but you certainly can’t completely rule it out. If there is a prospect the team loves, go get him.

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