Looking for Talent

Posted: January 21st, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 66 Comments »

The East-West Shrine Game is today at 3pm and that really kicks off draft season. The Shrine Game won’t have 1st round talent, but there will be a few guys who will be Top 100 picks. Most will be late rounders and UDFAs. Those guys can be role players and some even starters.

Packers WR Geronimo Allison played well in the win over Dallas last week. He was in last year’s Shrine Game. So was WR Tajae Sharpe, who played well for the Titans. Patriots G Joe Thuney is starting in the AFC title game a year after playing in the Shrine Game. The same is true for Steelers DL Javon Hargrave. DL Dean Lowry and LB DeVondre Campbell will also play in the title games. There are players to be found.

Joe Douglas and Eagles scouts have been at practices all week. The Eagles will have some other eyes on the players.

This is a good thing. Coaches get to work with the players on the field and in the classroom. They get to see how players respond to coaching. They get to see the players interact, which can show you who the natural leaders are. You also get to see if someone is a jerk or selfish. The coaches see how quickly players pick up the schemes and what they are being taught.

East Roster

West Roster

I’m sure the Eagles will check out every WR and CB, but they will look for good players at all positions. The Eagles have a solid core of players, but the roster needs more young talent. No position can be overlooked.

Some guys I’m interested to see:

OT William Holden – Played LT. Good frame. Might be worth developing.

OL Gavin Andrews – Versatile blocker with excellent size. Eagles showed they love versatile OL.

OL Sam Tevi – Played RT at Utah, but probably a G in the NFL. Very good run blocker. Feisty, physical. Pederson’s kind of OL.

RB De’Veon Smith – 228-pound RB. Eagles need some size in the backfield. Physical runner will also go to the Senior Bowl.

RB Marcus Cox – Had a great career at Appalachian State, the greatest institution of higher learning in the known universe.

RB Joe Williams – Incredibly productive player, but has to answer questions about why he initially “retired” before coming back and having a great year.

TE Eric Saubert – From Drake. Talented TE that I’m curious to see in action.

TE Michael Roberts – Huge TE who can block and catch. Eagles could carry 4 TEs if they found the right guy.

WR Kermit Whitfield – If the Eagles insist on those annoying WR screens, at least find someone with good RAC skills. Whitfield is small, but speedy & dangerous.

WR Quincy Adeboyejo – Good receiver at Ole Miss. Has some size, athleticism and pretty good hands.

WR DeAngelo Yancey – Really like this guy. Played on terrible Purdue teams, but did everything he could to win. Good size.

WR Jalen Robinette – Had a terrific week of practice and earned an invite to the Senior Bowl. Big and athletic.

WR Gabe Marks – Always enjoyed watching him at WASU. Productive WR with good hands.

WR Austin Carr – Great player for NW. Curious to see how he does in all star format.

CB Jack Tocho – 4-year starter. Has some size and is a physical player.

CB Treston Decoud – Tall, long corner with athleticism and cover skills. Would be nice to have a CB that is 6-2, 203 and can cover.

CB Fabian Moreau – Good cover corner for UCLA. Only 5-10, but is 205 pounds. 4-year starter, but played his best as a Senior.

S Tedric Thompson – Eagles don’t need a S, but Thompson is a productive playmaker with good ball skills. Can play in the box or back deep.

DE Trey Hendrickson – C-USA Defensive Player of the Year. Good pass rusher and terrific STs player. Might be better 3-4 OLB than DE.

DE Bryan Cox – Good pass rusher at Florida, but best football might be ahead of him. Okay size at 6-3, 264.

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BGN has a list of the players Eagles scouts were seen talking to. Doesn’t always mean anything, but those lists are fun.

Turron Davenport has all kinds of Shrine Game coverage in his Twitter feed.

So does Mike Kaye.

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Speaking of Joe Douglas…good piece here by Dave Spadaro where he got Douglas to offer some thoughts on players the Eagles have added to the roster since the season ended.

Those players all have flaws. Good scouts don’t obsess on flaws. They find players who do something well and see if the coaches can find a way to use those skills. Most of those players don’t pan out, but if just one or two do, that can really help.

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Spuds had a very interesting nugget in a recent column.

A fifth-round draft pick in 2014 from Oregon, Taylor Hart has not distinguished himself much at all in three NFL seasons as a defensive tackle, playing in a total of 15 games, 14 of them in 2015, with the Eagles and San Francisco. When Hart comes back to the NovaCare Complex in the spring, he will try to make a name for himself as – an offensive tackle. The Eagles gave Hart some work late in the season on the scout team at offensive tackle and liked what they saw, enough that they’re going to see what he’s got in 2017 on that side of the football. Hart has length at 6-6, he’s a very good athlete and he’s got long arms. He was a first-team all-state offensive tackle in high school. Add Hart to the “project” department that includes Dillon Gordon, a converted tight end from LSU, working with line coach Jeff Stoutland.

Hart is big. And athletic. And physical. He hasn’t panned out as a DT, but the Eagles like his positive traits and are trying to find a spot for him. Moving from DL to OL isn’t natural or easy, but can be done. Steelers LT Alejandro Villanueva played DL for the Eagles in Training Camp a few years back. This can be done. Odds are against it, but why not take a chance. Hart is cheap. He has no trade value. You either leave him at DT, cut him or see what happens with the move to OL.

And if he doesn’t pan out at OL, maybe try him at WR.

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The L Word

Posted: January 20th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 66 Comments »

Lurie.

Leadership.

Lessons.

Losing.

From 2000-2010 the Eagles were a really good organization. They didn’t win the Super Bowl, but got there once and played in the NFC title game 5 times. Life was pretty darn good. Things have been erratic since then and that’s not lost on Jeffrey Lurie.

According to Tim McManus, Lurie has become more active since letting go of Chip Kelly.

League sources say Lurie has taken a more active approach to leadership, particularly since ousting Chip Kelly as head coach in December 2015. Whether it is personnel decisions, coaching matters or day-to-day operations, there have been instances in which Lurie has demonstrated a higher level of involvement.

Lurie is working with an inexperienced coach in Doug Pederson during a time of transition for the team. There is more opportunity — and you could argue, more of a need – for a guiding hand.

Lurie recently turned 65 and is said to be shocked and pained that the franchise has not won a Super Bowl during his time as steward. It is fair to say the sense of urgency is as high as it has ever been.

Given those factors, it is not surprising that Lurie has become a more proactive owner. The Eagles and Lurie declined comment for this story.

Go read the whole piece. McManus gives examples of Lurie taking a more active role.

Some of you may question whether the owner being more active is a good thing. Aren’t Dallas and Washington having more success recently because there owners aren’t meddling as much? There is a huge difference in meddling and being active. Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder used to play a big part in football decisions. They wanted big moves and big names. They saw themselves as pseudo-GMs.

Lurie has never been that guy. He isn’t walking into a meeting with Joe Douglas and Howie Roseman and telling them to adjust the draft board because he likes the corner from Michigan better than the one from Iowa. We’re not talking about that kind of thing. Lurie is there to be more hands on in a managerial way. He meets with Howie and Doug Pederson every week. He wants in-person updates on how things are going. He offers advice if it is pertinent. He tries to see if there is anything he can do to help solve a problem.

Chip Kelly made bold moves when he was given control of the team. Those moves did not work. Lurie didn’t interfere because he was trying to see if Kelly could pull off whatever vision he had for the Eagles. That was a one-time thing. Last year Howie pushed for the Eagles to aggressively go after a QB, another bold move. Lurie was involved in that process. You can bet that Howie had to be able to explain why using a lot of resources to move up was the right move. The Sam Bradford trade would be another move where Lurie had to give approval.

This isn’t a desire to meddle or micro-manage. Lurie’s name is on the Eagles. When they win, he’s a good owner. When they lose, he’s bad. That’s not the way it should be, but perception becomes reality. Lurie, like all of us, has an ego. He wants to win. He wants to be a respected owner of a winning team. He wants a Super Bowl.

Lurie can’t go play WR or CB, but he can try to help Pederson, Roseman and Douglas as they make critical decisions that will shape the future of the franchise. Think of it this way. You run a section within a company. There is an important decision that has to be made. Your boss doesn’t want to make that for you, but he needs you to be able to explain why you’re making the decision. If you can explain your outcome and your thinking behind it well enough, it is probably a smart decision. If you can’t explain it to someone else, you might need to do some more thinking and come up with Plan B.

The Eagles had a good offseason in 2016. We’ll see if the combination of Lurie, Pederson, Roseman and Douglas can make the right decisions to get the Eagles back to being a winning team and building toward something special in the future.

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This is actually pretty funny.

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Only if the Eagles can find some help for CB and WR.

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Keep Kelce?

Posted: January 18th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 130 Comments »

We know the Eagles are going to cut some players this offseason. One of the guys we’re uncertain about is C Jason Kelce. I’ve gone back and forth as to whether I think the team would cut him. Jimmy Bama has a source who indicates the Eagles might let go of Kelce.

The Philadelphia Eagles are considering moving on from starting center Jason Kelce this offseason, whether by trade or outright release, a source told PhillyVoice.

Kelce, who turned 29 in November, was drafted in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL Draft and immediately became the starting center, appearing in 78 regular season games for the Eagles, all of which he started.

Kelce is scheduled to count for $6,200,000 against the salary cap in 2017, $3,800,000 of which the Eagles would save if they traded or released him. Kelce is the tenth-highest paid center in the NFL, according to overthecap.com, and there’s a significant gap in pay between himself and the eleventh-highest-paid center.

Salary is a key factor in this discussion. If Kelce were cheap, the Eagles would almost certainly keep him. He’s not. Kelce will turn 30 next season and that also has to be taken into consideration.

There is another factor – Isaac Seumalo. The Eagles are very high on him. They might want to pair him with Carson Wentz so the team would have a strong C-QB duo to grow together.

Kelce remains an effective starter, and at times he is a very good player. Kelce is probably still the most athletic C in the league. He is durable, starting all 16 games in 3 of his 5 seasons. He is smart and don’t underestimate how important that is in the C position. Making line calls and adjusting for blitzes and stunts is not easy. If a C can’t do this well, all the size, strength and athleticism in the world does him no good.

Kelce has started 78 games. He has played in the West Coast Offense, Chip Kelly’s no-huddle attack and whatever you want to label Doug Pederson’s offense (bit of a Reid-Kelly combo?). You can plug him into just about any offense.

In an ideal world, the Eagles would trade Kelce. That would net them a draft pick in return and would really help with the cap situation. The Eagles wouldn’t get much of a pick due to Kelce’s price and age, but any pick can help as the team tries to bring in young talent.

Seumalo played LG, RG and RT this year, but plenty of people think his future is at C. He is big, smart and athletic. And young and cheap. That’s a terrific combination. The one downside here is that if you move Seumalo to C, you have to figure out LG. Would the Eagles keep Allen Barbre to play that spot? Could they draft someone? Is there a free agent the team might target?

Jason Peters won’t be moving to LG so don’t try planning an OL with him, Lane Johnson and Big V on the field together. We’ll have to wait and see what the team has planned, if they do move on from Kelce. Lots of dominoes to fall in the OL situation.

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Speaking of the OL…

Interesting move.

The Eagles liked Thomas heading into the 2013 draft. They brought him to Philly for a visit. He played LG and LT in college and the Eagles love versatile OL. I know Chip Kelly was the coach back then, but Howie Roseman was part of the draft process and Jeff Stoutland was the OL coach. They’re still here and might still think Thomas has some potential.

PE.com has some bio information on Thomas.

The 27-year-old Thomas was a third-round pick of the Dolphins in 2013 out of Tennessee. He started 26 games in his three-year NFL career, including all 16 contests in 2015 when quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw for a career-best 4,208 yards and running back Lamar Miller tied a career high with eight rushing touchdowns. He was Miami’s starter entering this year’s Training Camp, but lost the job in the preseason to 2016 first-round pick Laremy Tunsil.

Thomas, who is 6-5, 316 pounds, was pressed into action this season after Tunsil suffered an ankle injury. Thomas was released by Miami in October.

A three-year starter at Tennessee, he played in 50 career games, spending time at both left tackle and left guard. He allowed just two sacks in 1,296 pass plays with the Volunteers.

Thomas is the kind of redemption project you want. He has NFL talent and some experience. Things just haven’t worked out so far. He might not ever pan out, but he’s worth bringing in and taking a look at this spring and summer.

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The Misery of Others

Posted: January 16th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 475 Comments »

If the Eagles aren’t going to win the Super Bowl, I turn my attention to the teams I want to lose in the playoffs. I’m sure most of you are the same way.

On Saturday, we saw the Seahawks go down and that made me happy. The combination of Pete Carroll, those players, those team colors and that stadium has led me to hate that team. I respect the heck out of how good they are, but still hate ’em. It was especially fun to see them lose on a day when they couldn’t stop the other team. Atlanta scored 36 points on that D.

Seattle has been a lucky team in recent years. They stayed very healthy for a few years and that got them to the NFC title game, won them a Super Bowl and almost won them another Super Bowl. Think about the Eagles. In 2001 Troy Vincent got hurt in the playoffs. Correll Buckhalter got hurt in the NFC-CG. In 2002 it was Donovan McNabb getting hurt in the regular season and then looking rusty in the playoffs. Blaine Bishop got hurt in the playoffs. In 2003 Brian Westbrook got hurt in the season finale and missed the postseason. In 2004 Shawn Andrews missed the whole season and then TO got hurt late in the year. The Eagles were never the same after that.

When I say Seattle was lucky, that’s not an insult. They were healthy and took advantage of it. That’s what you’re supposed to do. How often do we see a team play dominant football and then lose early in the playoffs? Seattle played great in the postseason when they had all their weapons.

This year Earl Thomas was missing and DE Michael Bennett was banged up. The pass rush wasn’t consistent and their secondary looked human. Welcome to the world that most teams live in.

I’m glad the Texans lost, simply because that team is so miserable to watch with Brock Osweiler at QB. He is just a mess right now.

Kansas City fell to the Steelers on Sunday night. I wasn’t happy about that. I hate the Steelers and I was really pulling for Andy Reid to make a title run this year. The Chiefs finally seemed to have enough weapons on offense to compensate for Alex Smith not being a dynamic QB. The Steelers shut down Tyreek Hill all game long and kept Travis Kelce quiet for more than half of the game. With those guys limited, Smith needed to play at a high level and that didn’t happen. He was 20-34-172. You can’t throw that many passes for that few yards and win in the postseason.

When Reid first left Philly, I had mixed feelings. He was fired so it wasn’t his choice to leave, but it was still weird to cheer for him with another team. On an intellectual level, I wanted him to succeed. My gut had mixed feelings. Enough time has passed now that I can look at that sexy beast with a world class mustache and just be happy for him. I would love Big Red to win a Super Bowl one of these days.

Sunday did feature the best game (and result) of them all.

Green Bay 34
Dallas 31

The Cowboys made an amazing comeback from down 21-3, but let’s remember they did this against a team with a WR playing RB, the star WR out and half the secondary hurt. Aaron Rodgers was masterful. When he is at his best, you are going to have a tough time beating him.

Dallas went 13-3 this year. They have some really talented players, but this never looked like a title team to me. Just too many questions, especially on defense. You can’t hide part of your team in the postseason.

And now for some fun.

Always good when we can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing Dallas has been eliminated. That’s not as good as the Eagles winning in the postseason, but it will do for now.

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Bunch of Nobodies

Posted: January 15th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 255 Comments »

Free agency doesn’t start until March, but there are moves to be made now. The Eagles have added a handful of players already.

WR Dom Williams
WR Rasheed Bailey
FB Andrew Bonnet
OL Josh LeRibeus
CB Mitchell White

So that would be nobody, nobody, nobody, nobody and nobody. Right?

Most signings like this do not pan out. If the team is lucky, the player becomes an effective role player. Most don’t make the team. But every now and then you find a hidden gem. Which WR posted the most yards for the Falcons in Saturday’s playoff win over Seattle? That would be Taylor Gabriel (4-71). He tied for the team lead in TD catches this season and has been a great find for the Falcons. And they aren’t even his first team. He wasn’t good enough for…the Browns.

Farmer did keep Gabriel around and he made the team in 2014. Heck, he was productive (36-621-1). Gabriel’s numbers dropped in 2015. With Farmer out as GM and a coaching change, Gabriel was let go. He got a second chance in Atlanta and has become a key part of their offense. You may remember him burning Leodis McKelvin for a 76-yard TD at The Linc a couple of months back. (Here is a good story on Gabriel and his background if you want to know more)

Sometimes guys just slip through the cracks.

Jimmy Smith was cut by Dallas and the Eagles before he went to Jacksonville and had a great career.

Lin Dawson and Johnny Unitas were both cut by the Steelers. They did okay for themselves.

James Harrison was a UDFA signing by the Steelers. He was on and off their practice squad before going to Baltimore for a while. They sent him to NFL Europe. He ended up back with the Steelers and has had a great career since then.

I think we all know Kurt Warner’s crazy story. He was all over the place before finding a home with the Rams. Even then, it took an injury to Trent Green to get Warner on the field.

Derek Wake went from Penn State to playing in the CFL. He changed his name to Cameron Wake and became one heck of a pass rusher. Miami signed him to see if he could play in the NFL. 81.5 sacks and 21 FFs later, I’d say the answer is yes.

NFL rosters are set at 53 players for the regular season, but are up at 90 for most of the offseason. You don’t just know who the 53 best players are. You need to bring in a bunch of players to find the 53 best. Teams have detailed scouting reports on all of these players, but you never know how they will respond to a given situation. Scheme matters. Coaching matters. Teammates matter. Environment matters.

Evan Mathis was in the NFL for 6 seasons before coming to Philly. He played for 3 teams and started 22 games. He showed flashes of talent, but something still wasn’t clicking. That all changed when he got to play for Howard Mudd in Philly. Mudd’s scheme was perfect for him and Mathis became a Pro Bowl player. The talent was always there, but the circumstances hadn’t been right to get him to perform at his best.

Joselio “MmmBop” Hanson was on SF’s practice squad in 2003. He made their roster in 2004. Hanson got cut in 2005 and went to NFL Europe. The Eagles signed him prior to 2006 and he became a key role player for the next 6 seasons.

 

The Eagles did have luck with one player from the CFL, DE Phillip Hunt. He was a backup pass rusher in 2011 and 2012, totaling 3 sacks.

There is no reason to get excited by the players the Eagles have added, but the beauty of pro football is that you never know when a nobody will become a somebody.

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Crazy.

And go Packers!!!

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