Indy PCs

Posted: February 25th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

Coaches and GMs hold press conferences at the Combine in Indy. Today we got to hear Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman speak. There were no real highlights, but we got a few interesting nuggets.

Let’s talk about what the two of them had to say.

LT / JASON PETERS

Howie was asked about the LT situation and wouldn’t commit to anything. He praised Jason Peters as a Hall of Fame person and player. Doug flat out said he wanted Peters back. He compared this to saying he wanted Darren Sproles back.

What does this mean?

It is possible this is just Doug and Howie praising a great player and not wanting to be critical of him in any way. If either one of them said it was time to move on, they would be hit with all kinds of questions about the situation.

It is also possible they have some concern about Andre Dillard and are genuinely open to bringing Peters back. I tend to think that isn’t the case, but never say never when it comes to the NFL.

Doug loves his players. He wanted Sproles last year. Clearly Sproles should not have been brought back. I’m sure Doug would love to keep his veteran LT. That’s no insult to Dillard. Peters is a unique guy and Doug would love one more year. It is Howie’s job to say no. No. Absolutely not. No. Can’t happen. No. Bad idea. No.

I don’t want to make too much of today’s comments, but it would make me feel a lot better if these guys could let us know they really will move on from the veterans. Howie talked about the need to get younger. Stand by that. You aren’t insulting Peters, a legitimately great player and possible HOF’er. Football is a young man’s game. You have to move on from everyone eventually.

NEW COACHING STAFF

Doug was asked if Jeffrey Lurie had any part in coaching decisions. He said “no”. Doug let it be known that he made the decision to fire Mike Groh and then who to hire. He was asked about the comments at the end of season PC when he said he wouldn’t be firing anyone, only to reverse course the next day. Doug said that was simply due to him not having finished his evaluations.

Maybe.

I do think Doug mis-spoke at the PC. He really struggles with certain answers and I don’t think he was trying to lie. It felt weird to me at the time. That said, the quick reversal sure did make it feel like there was some pressure on him. Heck, Lurie could have simply told him to not let the situation linger. We won’t find out the real details until someone writes a book 10 years from now.

I know some people are worried about the new set-up, with no offensive coordinator. I don’t see the changes as all that big of a deal, in terms of duties and how things will work.

The Eagles have had a collaborative process since Doug got here. Jeff Stoutland has been in charge of the run game. That hasn’t changed at all. Press Taylor will oversee the pass game, which the OC used to do. Rich Scangarello has a bit of a new role, but nothing crazy.

The Eagles have been very effective with having specific assistants focus on third downs, Red Zone and so on. They have always done things as a whole staff. Remember that Press Taylor was just a low-level offensive assistant when he came up with the idea of Philly Special. That didn’t come from the OC or QBs coach.

I have no problem with the new format. The game of football is constantly evolving. Why do you need someone with the title of OC when you have an offensive head coach who calls plays? He truly is the OC.

The Eagles offense wasn’t some kind of disaster last year. The offense put up 30 or more points in six games. There were some really good games.

The problem was consistency. There were times when the offense just disappeared, often early in games. That has to get fixed.

I think the Eagles have some really bright minds with a variety of backgrounds. I’m excited to see what they can put together.

And I absolutely believe in Doug Pederson as a play-caller.

FREE AGENCY

The Eagles were mostly bargain shoppers the past few years. They spent some money on Alshon Jefferey, Torrey Smith, Mike Wallace, DeSean Jackson and Malik Jackson, but really focused on trying to find cheap, short term fits.

Patrick Robinson
Chris Long (also re-signed him)
Stefen Wisniewski (also re-signed him)
LeGarrette Blount
Corey Graham (also re-signed him)
Haloti Ngata
Zach Brown
Andrew Sendejo
LJ Fort
Jonathan Cyprien

You could maybe throw the trade for Golden Tate in there. And maybe bringing back Sproles a couple of times.

Howie said the team would look at free agency differently this time around. They would not look for temporary solutions, but rather players who could come in and be part of the team for several years.

That means spending more money. It also means the team likely won’t be getting comp picks, but they are okay with that. Comp picks were needed when the team was low on draft picks. The Carson Wentz trade is completely off the books by now so the days of only using five draft picks in a year should be over.

The Eagles aren’t just going to throw money around wildly, but they will be more aggressive shoppers.

WR

Both men were asked about the need to upgrade at receiver. Neither gave compelling answers.

They know they need help.

LEARNING

Howie was asked about learning from previous draft failures. He said the team needed to study past drafts to see what went wrong so they could learn and improve.

I would love to have him talk about the struggles at CB. That’s a spot where the team has invested in free agents, draft picks and trades. They have struggled to build a good set of CBs. It would be interesting to see if Howie had learned anything or had a theory on the struggles.

*****

Howie opened up a bit more when talking to Mike Florio and Chris Simms of PFT. He told a couple of good stories. Still nothing groundbreaking, but worth watching.

 

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Combine Talk

Posted: February 25th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

All the key members of the Eagles coaching and scouting staffs are in Indianapolis this week for the NFL’s Scouting Combine. You’ll hear a lot of talk about measurements, 40-times and who bench-pressed the most, but the real keys are medical checks and interviews.

Back in the 70’s (19, not 18) there was a player named Nolan Cromwell. He had been a star at Kansas, but had injury concerns. Teams were having trouble with his schedule because all of them wanted to bring him to their facility for testing. The teams realized there was a solution to this problem. Bring all the draft prospects to one location and do the medical checks there. The Combine was born.

It has changed a lot over the years. It used to be a secretive event. Now it is on TV for everyone to see. This year, for the first time, the workouts are being held in prime time, for your viewing pleasure. We’ll see how that goes.

While the workouts are valuable, the medical checks are the most important part of the process. Players get good care at their schools, but this takes things to a whole other level. Players will find out they have degenerative shoulders or knees. They’ll find out they broke a bone as a kid and never knew it. Crazy stuff.

These aren’t just players. They are a huge investment of time and money. Teams do not want to take someone that will be a medical risk. Sprained ankles and broken arms heal. Teams are more focused on players who have lingering issues. A kid can be healthy at 22, but have issues that will really affect him at 28. Pro football doctors and specialists have become pretty good at finding players with issues.

As for interviews, they are also important.

Eagles coaches loved what they saw of Wentz when they studied his game tape. This was their chance to really grill him on football and find out how his mind worked and also how he interacted with them.

It is harder and harder for teams to talk to players. Agents coach these guys up on what to say and how to act. You have to fight through that wall to get to the real person. My favorite story happened about a decade ago. A player told one team that he had left school early to take care of his mother. He played up being the good son and made himself out to be the football version of Mother Teresa. Someone from the team then asked him why the first thing he had done was get an advance from his agent and buy a fancy sports car. Silence.

Teams do their homework. They know a lot about these kids. Now they want to see how they interact with them. Sometimes the teams will be all buddy-buddy. Other times they will be more adversarial, trying to see how the player reacts.

Let’s hope some receivers give the right answers when they meet the Eagles.

*****

Jimmy Bama wrote a piece on the WR prospects at the Combine.

*****

As I said, teams have done their homework on all of these players. Bo Wulf wrote a tremendous story for The Athletic, giving us a day in the life of an Eagles scout. I’m not sure enough people understand how much goes beyond tape study and the game of football. This was an interesting part of the story.

After meeting with the academic advisors, Wolking steals some time to type out more notes in the lobby. These conversations are some of the more important ones a scout will have because they inform how a team can best coax the most out of a player at the next level. His knowledge of the staff paid off as he met separately with one academic advisor who recently relocated from a school in Florida.

The advisors answer questions like “What’s his best learning environment?” “How does he treat women?” and “Would you be surprised if you got a call late at night that he was in trouble?” Some scouts enter those conversations with preconceived notions about the player and ask leading questions. The good scouts are the ones who actually listen to the answers.

“It’s like speed dating but not with the person,” an advisor says.

Of course, the Eagles are not looking to hire someone to groom as an accountant. There is a difference between “smart” and “football smart.” Often, the academic advisors have more insight into maturity levels and life skills than anything else. And immaturity isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“It’s stuff they’re gonna grow out of, right?” Wolking says. “You’re not killing the kid to say, ‘Oh, he wears his mood.’ It’s just, ‘Hey, if you like him, just know this is the type of kid you’re gonna get.’”

As Wolking puts his tablet away and walks out of the lobby, a student working at the building’s front desk notices his jacket and lights up before a hearty “Go Birds!”

Teams need to know the type of people they are potentially bringing in. This goes beyond 40-times and scoring TDs. The best scouts are the ones who can find the right fits for their teams, on and off the field.

Make sure you read that story. Great job by Bo.

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Cornering the Market

Posted: February 24th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

The problem with mock drafts and talking about draft plans in February is that you have no idea what is going to happen in free agency. The Eagles have some very definite needs right now, but that could and should change in a month. We all expect the Eagles to add a starting receiver and a starting corner when free agency starts.

I spent some time this weekend studying the free agent CBs to see who I liked and who would be a good fit. Good news. There are multiple players for the Eagles to go after. Let’s talk about some players.

BYRON JONES

Jones is the top CB on the market. He is big, fast and very athletic. Jones will turn 28 in September so he’s in the prime of his career. You put on the tape and see a player with outstanding man coverage ability. He gets in a receiver’s hip pocket and stays there. When receivers try double moves or hard cuts, Jones is athletic enough to recover and stay close. He is a really gifted CB.

Jones is physical and tough. He will hit and tackle.

So what’s not to love? Ball skills. Jones has 2 interceptions in his career, and they both came when he played safety. You are not getting a playmaker.

Rasul Douglas has started 50 fewer games and has 5 career picks. Of course, you also have to factor in that QBs go after Douglas while they avoid Jones.

There is a real case to be made for going after Jones. He could lock down one half of the field basically. He’s not an elite player, but is very good. The big question really is whether he’s worth giving mega-bucks. I don’t know how much the Eagles scouts and coaches like him, but Jones would be a major upgrade for the team. Howie Roseman better be talking to Jones’ agent to at least feel out the situation.

JAMES BRADBERRY

Bradberry would make a lot of sense for the Eagles. He has good size at 6-1, 212. He’ll turn 27 this summer so he’s the age you want. Most importantly, Bradberry is a playmaker. He has 47 passes defensed and 8 interceptions in his four-year career. He plays the ball.

Bradberry is a solid athlete, but he’s nowhere close to Jones. Bradberry’s strength is reading receivers/QBs and anticipating when/where the ball will be. He is a smart, instinctive corner. Bradberry is aggressive and can get burned. If you watch his tape vs the Eagles in 2018, you see some issues. Still, Schwartz seems to love corners who will take chances and attack the ball.

BRADLEY ROBY

Back in 2014 there were a trio of safeties hitting free agency. Most people saw Malcolm Jenkins as the #3 guy. I thought he was a great fit for the Eagles and predicted they would go after him. Most people wanted the other safeties. The Eagles did go sign Jenkins, seeing him as the best fit. Jenkins has been a fixture for the team ever since.

Roby isn’t the top corner on the market, but boy does he seem like an Eagles fit. He can play in the slot or outside. He can line up in the box in a specialty package. Roby loves to jump routes and has good ball skills. He averages more than 11 PDs per season and has 9 career INTs. Roby will hit and tackle.

Roby wasn’t a full-time starter in his first four years, but did start the past two seasons. He’s been productive as a role player and starter.

I don’t feel as strongly about Roby as I did Jenkins when I saw him as an Eagles target, but I really do think Schwartz would like him quite a bit. Roby isn’t a special CB by any stretch but he would be an upgrade on what the Eagles had last year. Roby could also have a more reasonable price tag.

TRAE WAYNES

Waynes is the best hitter and tackler I saw this weekend. He is really tough and aggressive. We know Schwartz loves that in his DBs.

Waynes will turn 28 this summer. He’s not coming off a great year, but he has started 53 games and he’s a solid CB. As with Roby, I think he would be a good fit for what the Eagles like.

LOGAN RYAN

Ryan is 29 years old and mainly plays the slot so he’s not an idea target. That said, he is a playmaker. In 2019 he picked off 4 passes, broke up 18, had 4 FF and had 4.5 sacks. That is incredible production for a slot corner.

I would have more interest in Ryan as a safety, but he is worth discussing as a nickelback. Playmakers can be difference-makers. The flip side to that…would Schwartz use him creatively enough to make him a smart target?

CHRIS HARRIS

Harris is versatile, productive and has outstanding cover skills…BUT…he will turn 31 in June. I just don’t think he’s a guy the Eagles should go after. He might be very good in 2020, but he’s going to start declining at some point. The Eagles need to get someone who can be a solution for several years, not a band-aid.

It is possible the team could do their research and decide Harris is a player worth adding because they believe he will last several years, but I hope they go elsewhere.

*****

Jimmy Bama wrote a piece comparing Byron Jones to the Eagles current corners. This is smart. You need to compare what you might go after to what you have. You need to make sure the target really is worth pursuing.

I watched tape of the Eagles corners this weekend to see how different they looked than the guys above. Big difference. Douglas especially…he just doesn’t have long speed and receivers can really get separation when they make hard cuts.

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As the World Turns

Posted: February 22nd, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

It sure feels like this will be the offseason of Alshon. Will he be cut? Is there any way he could be traded? Will he leak any comments to Josina Anderson to unleash to the public? Are we talking football or the plot of a soap opera? So many questions, so few answers.

Jets reporter Connor Hughes had an interesting tidbit in a piece in The Athletic.

The Eagles are looking to move Jeffery, league sources confirmed to The Athletic. And Jeffery would welcome the change of scenery.

There is no question the Eagles would love to move Jeffery. That’s not news.

The other comment is interesting. You wonder who said that to Hughes, or was he making an educated guess?

I assume Hughes heard something from Jeffery. Or his agent. Or Josina Anderson. And it does make sense. I’m sure Jeffery would like to get out of Philly. Things have gotten awkward so I can see him wanting to move on.

Jeffery’s agent responded to this report.

That’s kind of interesting. Jeffery is a long shot to return to the Eagles so he’s got the freedom to speak his mind.

His agent made the standard PR move in acting as if all is well. You wonder if that is the agent just trying to make Jeffery more appealing to other teams. “He won’t be a distraction!”

Is it possible Jeffery actually is okay with the Eagles and does have interest in staying put?

Jimmy Bama wrote a thorough piece on Jeffery and his complicated situation. Why Howie, why? It that contract wasn’t guaranteed, Jeffery would have one foot (the healthy one) out the door already.

There is an argument for the Eagles keeping Jeffery because the team is so thin at WR right now. That aside, I think the Eagles have to cut him. Stories about Jeffery are probably going to keep popping up. We don’t know he was the source for this item, but the point is that there is a lot of noise surrounding Jeffery and that isn’t likely to go away. He will be a distraction.

The Eagles need everyone on the same page and working together. Having a star player leak complaints just isn’t healthy.

This isn’t some TO type of circus with a star player dividing the locker room and ripping the team apart. This is a veteran player griping to sources when he’s not happy. That certainly isn’t a good thing, but Jeffery isn’t nuts. He’s just not happy, for whatever reason.

Keep your fingers crossed that a new CBA gets approved so the Eagles can cut Jeffery and it won’t hurt as much.

*****

Fair question.

Howie was part of the front office when they drafted DeSean Jackson. Howie was the GM who gave DeSean a huge extension.

Howie was part of the front office when they drafted Jeremy Maclin. They tried to sign him to an extension, but couldn’t get that done.

Neither guy was a big receiver.

Howie did draft these players between 2010 and 2014.

  • Riley Cooper … 6-3, 214 … late round pick
  • Marvin McNutt … 6-4, 216 … late round pick
  • Jordan Matthews … 6-3, 214 … early pick

Howie went away for 2015 and was brought back in 2016, when Doug Pederson was hired as coach.

  • Dorial Green-Beckham … 6-5, 225 … cheap trade, but DGB became starter almost instantly
  • Alshon Jeffery … 6-3, 218 … got big contract from Eagles
  • Mack Hollins … 6-4, 221 … mid-round pick who played regularly as a rookie
  • Shelton Gibson … small receiver … late round pick who was strictly a STer
  • J.J. Arcega-Whiteside … 6-2, 225 … early pick

I don’t have any definitive proof about Howie vs Doug and who prefers what, but it sure feels to me like Doug puts an emphasis on size. Since he came on board, the team drafted three receivers that were 220 pounds or more.

It is possible that over time Howie developed more of a preference for bigger players and this is mostly on him.

Either way, the two most important guys in the front office do seem to like big receivers.

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A WR Corps

Posted: February 21st, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 3 Comments »

The Eagles need to address WR in a big way in 2020. We all agree on that. How they go about doing that is up for debate.

There has been some recent talk that the team might go after Amari Cooper. He is the top available receiver so the team that needs receiver help the most would make sense as a suitor. Unfortunately things aren’t that simple. The Eagles already have a lot of money invested in Alshon Jeffery so this isn’t a situation they can just throw money at. I mean, they could, but it wouldn’t be wise.

There was a report the team could be interested in Demarcus Robinson, a role player for the Chiefs over the past four years. He would certainly make good sense from an economic standpoint. You just wonder how good of a player he is. Robby Anderson is a player that gets mentioned as an Eagles target on a regular basis. He has outstanding speed.

Michael Kist wrote a good piece for BGN on Breshad Perriman as a target for the Eagles. Perriman has a ton of upside and might be worth taking a gamble on.

The real key to this is for the Eagles to come up with a plan. They aren’t collecting talent. They need to find the right pieces.

Let’s assume that a CBA gets done in the coming weeks/months and the team is able to release Jeffery. We know Nelson Agholor is gone.

DeSean Jackson will be back. So will Greg Ward and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. That’s three receiver spots out of a group that usually is six deep.

Do the Eagles target two free agents and one player in the draft? Do they add one veteran and target multiple receivers in the draft?

Should the Eagles consider keeping seven receivers on the roster?

They need to have a plan.

If the Eagles were to go after someone like Perriman or Anderson, who are speed guys, that could affect their draft plans. Most people give the Eagles Henry Ruggs in mock drafts. Ruggs is the most explosive player in the draft and could be a dynamic player in the NFL. Do you load up on speed with him, Perriman/Anderson and DeSean?

Doug Pederson has seemed to prefer big receivers over the years. I’m not arguing for or against that, just noting it. If the Eagles do add a speed guy in free agency, maybe they focus more on size in the draft. There are some really interesting big receivers in this draft class.

It would be nice if the Eagles could count on a breakout season from the big receiver they already have on the roster, but Arcega-Whiteside didn’t show enough as a rookie to inspire much confidence. I hope he takes a huge step forward in 2020, but you can’t count on it.

There is a good chance the Eagles aren’t going to have a traditional #1 type receiver in the upcoming season. That would be okay. Carson Wentz was at his best in 2017 when he spread the ball around. He didn’t feed the ball to any one WR or TE. The offense changed from game to game, heck from series to series. That can be a very effective attack.

The Eagles will have Robert Davis, Deontay Burnett, Marken Michel, Shelton Gibson and Marcus Green as part of the 90-man roster. Davis and Burnett showed some potential late in the season and they could compete for roster spots. At the least, they offer some depth when the inevitable injury occurs.

The Eagles could also spend a late pick on a receiver, with the idea that guy might be practice squad material and someone to develop for the future.

It really is crazy to think back to September. The Eagles were considered to have the best group of receivers in the league. Alshon got old and then hurt. DeSean got hurt. Nelson fell apart. JJAW didn’t develop. Mack Hollins regressed. What a disastrous group that turned out to be.

There is a chance for a major turnaround. There are some free agent options. There might also be some trade options (Stefon Diggs?). The draft class is loaded and the Eagles have plenty of picks. It is up to Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson to put together a smart plan for the WR corps and then to go make the right moves.

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