Agholor Off To A Good Start

Posted: May 27th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 191 Comments »

Nelson Agholor has only been an Eagle for about a month, but he is already impressing his teammates. Jordan Matthews had some good things to say about him yesterday.

“The one that’s going to obviously jump out is Nelson,” Matthews said. “You hear a lot of great things, but then when you actually get him out there on the field you see what type of guy he is [and] you’re like, ‘OK good kid, he gets it.’

“Instead of taking the regular rookie shuttle he takes a taxi to get here early to the facility. That’s a kid that gets it. That’s not a façade. That’s somebody who’s saying, ‘OK, I want to go here, get in the building early, I need to learn what I want to do and I want to go out and compete.”

Matthews, picked 42nd overall by the Eagles last year, leaned on veteran wideout Jeremy Maclin while he acclimated to his new surroundings. Now he’s become the same kind of resource for Agholor, who hasn’t hesitated to ask questions.

“He’s been really aggressive with his studying,” Matthews said. “He’s always hitting me up. If he needs like signals, if he needs information, he calls me whenever and we’re able to talk over it. We haven’t even gotten into how he is on the field. The kid is explosive. I’m not going to ruin it for everybody, I just want everybody to see how talented he is.”

We don’t know if Agholor is going to pan out (as we expect him to), but we do know the young man is doing all the right things to make himself successful. He’s showing the right attitude and doing things he can control in the right way. That doesn’t guarantee success, but it puts you in position to be successful.

I can’t wait to see him running around in an Eagles jersey and flashing the speed and skills that got him picked in the 1st round.

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Speaking of former USC receivers…Marqise Lee is having a tough time due to knee issues. He played in 13 games last year (8 starts) and was 37-422-1. The knee was a problem last year and is keeping him out of OTAs for now. Lee is the player that a lot of people thought the Eagles would draft in the 1st round last year. Luckily, Chip Kelly was focused on Jordan Matthews as his receiver of choice.

No reports on Marcus Smith from Eagles OTAs so far. He has bulked up by about 15 pounds, but we haven’t heard anything beyond that.

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Anyone miss this guy?

I miss JJ. And the 4-3 defense.

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We talked a bit about Tim Tebow yesterday. Is he really an improved passer?

From what I’ve heard, there is a definite difference. He spent 12 to 15 months working on his motion. In the past, he worked on it for 3 to 4 months at a time. That’s all the down time there was between the end of one season and the beginning of the next. Since Tebow was out of the league entirely last year, he was able to really work on his motion.

The fact it is better doesn’t mean he’s an NFL quality passer. We have to see how he does throwing the ball as part of a team.

The other issue here is the mental side of things. Can he consistently make quick, smart decisions? In the past, Tebow was like so many other young QBs. He waited until someone was open and then got him the ball. Good QBs anticipate. They see things happen before they actually do. Most young QBs react. They wait for someone to be open. That’s fine in college, but isn’t going to work on a regular basis in the NFL.

I am genuinely curious to see how Tebow performs.

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WR John Harris is my favorite UDFA. I think he’s got a legit shot to win a roster spot. BGN covered him today and talked about how good a blocker he is.

That is one of his strengths and it does give him extra value to a team like the Eagles that is committed to running and values WRs who can really run block.

Here is the post I did on him a few weeks back. Fun player to watch.

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OTAs To Get Underway

Posted: May 26th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 171 Comments »

OTAs begin today for the Eagles. This isn’t football, it is football practice. And it is just a limited, non-contact version of even that. But OTAs still have value.

This is a time for the players to learn. They are setting the foundation now. They will build on it in future OTAs and then in minicamp. Training Camp is when things really get going. Players can actually hit. Preseason games will be the next step. And then we’ll get to see the finished product in September.

There isn’t a lot to take away from them, but it is still good to get our first glimpse at the new team. We all want to know who lines up at Safety opposite of Malcolm Jenkins. We all want to see Nelson Agholor catch a pass from Sam Bradford. We all want to see Tim Tebow throw a pass. And so on.

OL and defenders are fairly limited. They get valuable reps that help them with technique and working on the scheme. Still, that’s a long way from learning in a live drill.

DBs will get their first on-field coaching from Cory Undlin. I really think he could prove to be a very underrated offseason acquisition. He is a proven NFL coach. John Lovett was a college coach and something wasn’t clicking between him and the players.

It will also be interesting to find out the status of some injured players.

Sam Bradford
Kiko Alonso
DeMeco Ryans
Earl Wolff
Walter Thurmond
Miles Austin

Who practices? Who is close? Who is still on schedule?

The media can’t watch until Thursday, but hopefully some stories will leak out before then.

Zach Berman wrote a quick primer on the OTAs if you have simple questions.

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Jason Kelce thinks the OTAs are especially important due to all the changes.

“Any time you have more pieces coming in, especially on offense, obviously the OTAs [organized team activities] mean a lot more,” Kelce said. “If we were returning everybody on offense, there’s a certain amount of chemistry. But whenever you have incoming pieces, you have to focus to incorporate those pieces into the offense.”

Every rep those guys get together can help.

Kelce talked about his rehab.

“I’ve done a lot of work this offseason so far,” he said. “I’ve stayed in Philly for the entire year, pretty much. I started actually doing some Pilates, believe it or not, to help with the recovery in my groin and my core, based on some of the recommendations I had from Chip and some of the other guys around here. And on top of that I’ve just been working out in the weight room the entire offseason.”

Kelce doing Pilates? That’s Sports Science for you. Think outside the box and find a solution that works.

He also had some good things to say about his fellow OL.

“We have plenty of guys who obviously got playing time last year,” he said. “Allen Barbre is a guy who’s played a lot of snaps for us. … I think we’ve got some pieces that can fill in. Who knows what will transpire, but I guess we’ll find out.

“I know Matt Tobin and Andrew Gardner can go in there and compete well enough for us to win games. I mean, I think Matt Tobin actually exhibits, on a lot of occasions, some extremely exciting potential. Andrew Gardner is about as good as you’re going to get in one of these backup roles. He plays both tackle and both guard positions, and when he played for us last year, he did an outstanding job starting too.”

We knew he wasn’t going to rip his teammates, but his praise for Tobin is interesting. That might be a player the Eagles like more than fans realize. With Evan Mathis sitting out these OTAs, it will be interesting to see who gets reps at LG. Tobin would make the most sense.

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Success and Failure

Posted: May 25th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 95 Comments »

We love to judge NFL players. Mike Mamula is a bust. The guy was a Workout Warrior and the Eagles wasted a pick on him. Reggie Brown was a bum. Another wasted pick. Chris Gocong? Why did the Eagles spend a high pick on some kid from a small school? So dumb.

Mamula started 64 games in his career and had 31.5 sacks. He’s nowhere close to being a bust. He wasn’t worth the #7 overall pick, but that’s a different argument. If not for injuries, Mamula would have had an even better career.

Brown paled in comparison to the man who replaced him, DeSean Jackson, but Brown still caught 177 career passes and had 17 TD catches. He averaged 14.5 ypc for his career.

Gocong started 67 games in the NFL. He had 9.5 sacks, 21 TFLs and 5 FFs. He was the starting SAM LB on 3 Top 10 defenses.

When you start for multiple seasons and have some level of success, you aren’t a bum or a bust. The average NFL career lasts something like 3 seasons. And the average player isn’t starting for multiple years. There are far more failures than successes.

I wrote about the difficulty of making it in the NFL for PE.com.

One of the things that fascinates me is that some guys who are legitimate draft busts were still great players in college. I wrote about Jaiquawn Jarrett and Freddie Mitchell in the piece. Mitchell was incredibly good at UCLA. In his Junior season he was 77-1494-9. And that is playing in a pro style offense, not the spread attacks that boost numbers today. Mitchell played in 63 NFL games and had 5 TD catches. How does a guy go from one extreme to another?

That’s the beauty of the NFL.

A guy like Mitchell who was a star at UCLA can flame out while a kid from tiny Monmouth University can thrive. Miles Austin has 36 career TD catches. The NFL doesn’t care that he wasn’t the MVP of a bowl game or never played on national TV.

The NFL is all about the here and now. How do you do playing with the best of the best and against the best of the best? Some players embrace the challenge and it brings out the best in them. Others struggle. It can be hard for some players who are used to dominating having to adjust when they go up against guys their size, speed or talent level.

I think Matt Barkley has really struggled with being “just another guy”. Not only was he a great player at USC, he was vital to the team. When Pete Carroll left, Barkley was making phone calls to recruits to make sure they were still coming to play there. He was an important leader on and off the field. In Philadelphia he is the #3 QB, one of the most forgotten spots on the team. That has to be incredibly difficult.

I give GJ Kinne a lot of credit for his decision to try and play other positions. If you watched him in the preseason games, you saw a guy play hard and show some athletic ability. What you didn’t see was a consistently good passer. Kinne is willing to try something else to find a place in the league. Good for him. He’s still got an uphill battle, but I don’t think he was ever going to make it as a QB.

Another big challenge with the NFL is that you constantly have to fight for your job. Jon Runyan started every game from 2000-2008. Part of that was his workman-like attitude and desire to be on the field. Part was on the feeling that he wanted to be out there to help his teammates. But the biggest reason…he didn’t want to let some other guy get on the field and steal his job. Runyan wasn’t going to get Wally Pip’d.

That constant pressure gets to some players. Others use it to motivate them and stay on top of their game. Think of all the pass rushers drafted after Trent Cole in 2005. Victor Abiamiri, Bryan Smith, Brandon Graham, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, Ricky Sapp, Vinny Curry, and Marcus Smith. The guy who got to Cole was Father Time. Graham will start in his place, but only because of age. If you could take the toughness, competitive spirit and drive from Cole and put it into the rest of the team, the Eagles would be a juggernaut. Cole isn’t the biggest, fastest or most athletic, but he was special in his own way. You have to love players like that.

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Saturday Notebook

Posted: May 23rd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 170 Comments »

Eagles OTAs start soon, which will give us our first look at the team. Are you excited to see players in shorts running around in non-contact drills? It isn’t football, but we’re all desperate for news on the new players and the young players we hope improve from last year. This is where we start to get our first nuggets of info, even though much of it is useless.

Jimmy Bama wrote a good piece (even a broken clock is right twice a day) on the OTAs and some positions to watch. I thought he had a really good breakdown of the Safety position.

Safety: Hard to keep track of what’s going on there

The Eagles are set at one safety spot, with Malcolm Jenkins. And then there are all kinds of contenders to be the “other safety,” which are broken up into three buckets:

1) Actual safeties: This would include guys like Earl Wolff, Jerome Couplin III, and Ed Reynolds. Wolff is clearly the leading contender to start among this group.

2) “Versatile guys” who have played safety at some point, or could get some looks there: This would include Jaylen Watkins, Nolan Carroll, Walter Thurmond, E.J. Biggers, JaCorey Shepherd, and Randall Evans.

3) Special teams mavens who also play safety: Chris Maragos and Chris Prosinski

There could be 11 or more guys competing for the starting safety job opposite Jenkins. That’s going to be a confusing competition.

It hadn’t occurred to me to split the players into sub-groups, but that’s actually an interesting way to look at them.

The 2 guys I’m most interested in are Couplin and Prosinski. Couplin has a good combination of size, athleticism and physicality. I’m just not sure he covers well enough for the Eagles and their style of defense. Prosinski came here during the season and made his mark on STs right away. He’s had time to learn the defense. Can he challenge for playing time or is he another guy that lacks the man cover skills?

I think the 2 key players are Wolff and Watkins. They feel like the guys with the best chance of winning the starting job.

Make sure to check out Jimmy’s article to see his ideas on how to take advantage of the Eagles depth at ILB. Typical Bama creativity.

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Eric Rowe had some interesting things to say about his first meeting with Chip Kelly and the Eagles.

“[Kelly] wasn’t doing anything, he just had his arms crossed,” Rowe said. “He didn’t ask any of the questions. Everything I would say, he was jotting it down. It was just really intimidating.

“When I left the room, I was just like, ‘man, that was tough.’ They were asking me questions left and right.”

“I remember a question like, ‘how many tackles have I missed,’ and when I gave him my answer he was challenging my answer. It was intimidating.

“I said, ‘In the past year, I’ve probably missed four or five tackles.’ And he just kept challenging me, saying ‘So if I look back at all of the film, only four or five?’ I was like, ‘yes.’ He said, ‘The whole season? If I see over five in there, I’m challenging your answer.’ “

According to the article, Rowe said Kelly has gotten much more friendly since then. Rowe also likes Bill Davis and the way Davis is bringing along the young guys.

I think it is smart for a coach to challenge a player on some of his answers. Agents teach players what to say and how to act these days so you have to find a way to cut through the BS and get real answers. That’s the only way you’ll know what’s genuine and what’s a polished interview performance.

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Here is some perspective on the Eagles OL from someone who focuses on evaluating that position.

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From the Humor Dept.

FakeWIPCaller might be my favorite person on Twitter. So relentless and always entertaining.

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LJ at LT

Posted: May 22nd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 175 Comments »

Did the Eagles want Dion Jordan in the 2013 Draft? We won’t know until Chip Kelly writes his memoir (after winning Super Bowls and then taking over as head coach at New Hampshire). The Eagles drafted Lane Johnson. Whether they “settled” for him or got their guy, it turned out to be a great pick.

Johnson started all 16 games at RT in 2013. He played well after a bit of a slow start. He then got suspended for 4 games in 2014. Johnson returned and started the final 12 games. He started a bit slow, but got up to speed pretty quickly and had a good year.

Heading into Year 3, Johnson has established himself as one of the better RTs in the NFL. Johnson isn’t complacent though. He went out to LA and worked out with Jay Glazer in the offseason. Glazer isn’t just the top inside source in the NFL, he also is a MMA training guru. Sounds like Johnson had a quiet, pleasant trip to Cali.

“First of all, Lane is an elite athlete, and he got right into the program. He was awesome,” Glazer said. “What we do have is we will grind you out, and grind you and grind you until somebody just says ‘get Randy Couture off me (in the ring).’ And that’s what we kind of do is utilize that, so a guy like Lane who threw up nine times in the first three days because he’s never been through something like this. So he came to us at 310 pounds, and he left at 310.

Yikes. I’ve also thrown up a few times in my offseason trips to Cali. PBR training isn’t the same as MMA training, but it can be equally tough on the body.

This next bit is pretty cool.

“And he’s totally changed his body composition. He told me that when he went in to test (at the start of the offseason conditioning program at the NovaCare Complex), he had the highest new muscle growth, the highest fat-loss change and highest body composition change of anyone on his team. And the highest velocity output and the highest force output for anybody in his position, so all the big guys. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

That’s really impressive for an OT.

Maybe this is the season that Johnson takes the next step and becomes a dominant player. That would be fun to watch. He is a very good run blocker. I think DeMarco Murray will enjoy going to that side at least a couple of times a game. Here’s one good example of Johnson’s run blocking.

Not too shabby.

As for the future, Lane Johnson is talented enough to take over for Jason Peters at LT. Johnson is a terrific athlete and has worked hard to become a good pass blocker. Johnson played both LT and RT in college so moving to the other side wouldn’t be completely foreign to him.

The Eagles have the flexibility to think of Johnson as the LT of the future or to keep him at RT and draft someone else for LT. Maybe the Eagles take a guy that is 6-7, 330 and doesn’t have great feet. Plug him in on the right side and slide Johnson over. Or maybe they find a guy that is 6-5, 300 with great feet. Put him at LT and keep Johnson right where he is. That flexibility is a huge asset when planning for the future.

God forbid something happens to Jason Peters this year, I would guess that Johnson slides over to that spot and then Andrew Gardner or Matt Tobin would likely take over at RT.

Peters is 33. In theory, his career should be winding down. But Peters is a bit of an anomaly. His combination of size and athleticism is beyond rare. Try freaky. Maybe he plays just this year. Maybe he’s good for 2 more years. Maybe 3. Who knows? The coaches will watch him closely. You don’t want to stick with a player too long, especially at a critical position like LT. It will be interesting to see when he starts to show definitive signs that age is becoming a factor. He is human, after all. Right?

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Speaking of Peters, many of you have asked about converting players to OL. Peters did it. About that…Peters played TE at Arkansas. But he was 6-4, 323. There was no question he would be an OL in the NFL.

Eric Tomlinson 6-6, 263

Andrew Gleichert 6-5, 264

Those guys have the frame to play OL, but would need to add 25 pounds to even become small OL. I think Tomlinson has good TE potential so I doubt they do anything with him. Gleichert played TE and even some FB. I’m not sure if he’d be comfortable as an OL. I don’t see either guy as a convert at this point.

DL Travis Raciti could be interesting as a conversion candidate. He is nasty, physical and athletic. The Eagles like his potential as a DE for now, but if things get crowded or he struggles…who knows. Maybe they’d try a move.

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