Ready to Go

Posted: May 21st, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

Carson Wentz was rehabbing a torn ACL at this time last year. That injury cost him lots of offseason work and even a couple of regular season starts. Wentz broke his back last season, but this injury has healed better and shouldn’t slow him down too much this spring and summer.

Fingers crossed.

Wentz played at an elite level in 2017. One of the reasons for that is that he had a full offseason of work. Wentz was ready to go when September rolled around. He had great chemistry with his receivers, both within the offense and when freelancing.

Wentz was more up and down in 2018. He didn’t play at all in the preseason. He was limited in Training Camp. Wentz missed the first two games. When he finally returned, Wentz wasn’t the same. This wasn’t a question of talent, but something was off. Whether it was timing, decision-making, chemistry with the receivers or not being completely in sync with the coaching staff, something was off.

Practice matters.

The Eagles need Wentz to return to his 2017 form for the offense to get back to being one of the best units in the league. In order to do that, Wentz needs to be on the field practicing with his teammates.

Wentz has never thrown a pass to DeSean Jackson or J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. He hasn’t thrown a pass to Mack Hollins in about a year. Wentz hasn’t played with Jordan Howard or Miles Sanders. Practice reps can make a huge difference.

AI might disagree, but football and basketball are very different sports. Practice is the foundation for gameday success in the NFL.

Wentz has to be incredibly excited to get on the field. This is the most offensive talent he’s ever had around him. Who wouldn’t want to be out there calling plays and slinging the rock to DeSean, Alshon, Zach and the rest of the crew?

And Wentz is a very driven, ultra-competitive player. Sitting and watching had to be killing him last December and January. That’s two years in a row now. You know Wentz wants to be on the field as soon as he can and as much as he can.

*****

Chip Kelly had some interesting theories on football, but they didn’t work all that well in the NFL.

Doug Pederson has embraced some of Kelly’s ideas, but has married them with a traditional football background. Pederson understands that offense and defense work together. You don’t want to neglect one side of the ball.

By controlling the clock on offense, the Eagles have protected their defense. That has helped the team win a lot of games.

I feel confident in saying this…Doug Pederson is a better coach than Chip Kelly. There is your hot take for the day.

*****

Let’s hope this team stays healthy this year. That really does make all the difference in the world.

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Long Gone

Posted: May 19th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

In or out? That’s been the question with Chris Long for the past few months. Part of him wanted to keep playing for the Eagles, but he also weighed his options.

We have our answer.

Rather than focusing on Chris’s career, I want talk about what this move means for the Eagles.

The team is set with the starters. Brandon Graham is an impact pass rusher and Derek Barnett is a player on the rise.

The Eagles brought back Vinny Curry to give them a veteran backup. Curry started for Tampa last year and the Eagles in 2017. He was a backup and situational rusher for the Eagles from 2012-2016.

Curry can be an effective starter. He is a good run defender. He was an effective pass rusher in the past, but had a down season in 2018. Was that him adjusting to a new team, a new scheme and playing hurt…or has he started to decline? The Eagles obviously think he can return to his previous form.

After that, things are wide open.

The team spent a fourth round pick on Josh Sweat. They loved his size and athleticism. Sweat’s potential is through the roof. While that sounds good, Sweat is purely a projection at this point. He compiled 14.5 sacks in 35 college games. He barely played on defense as a rookie and didn’t have any sacks and only one QB hit.

It is easy for those of us on the outside to wonder if Sweat is going to be one of those athletic teases that never pans out. He showed so little last year that it is hard to get excited about him. The Eagles coaching staff has a much better feel for things. They know about his work ethic and mindset. No one knows if Sweat will pan out, but the coaches know what they think of him.

The Eagles drafted Shareef Miller in the fourth round this year. That would tell you they likely project him more as a role player than a future starter. I wrote about him and the other young DEs in a recent post.

Miller played in a scheme at PSU that moved him around. He understands how to line up wide or in-tight. He understands how to rush in space or in traffic. Miller can play LDE or RDE. He even got some snaps at DT (not many). I feel like he should be more ready to contribute right away than Sweat was.

Sweat used athletic ability to succeed at FSU. Miller was more of the standard college player. He got better each year, based on experience and also getting bigger/stronger. He developed over time. His best season was 2018. He is an ascending player.

That said, you can’t count on him being anything more than a role player, and even then you can’t count on him being a good role player. He might be much more than that, but we won’t know until we see him play.

After Sweat and Miller, the Eagles have Daeshon Hall and Joe Ostman. I actually like Hall and think he could be a player to watch. Hall had half a sack in the game vs Houston. He stood out on STs a few times. He will have a full offseason in the scheme and I think he’ll open some eyes.

Ostman feels like Steven Means 2.0. He’ll be great in practice and his teammates will rave about him. At the end of the day, I just don’t know if he’s good enough to play in the NFL. I would love for him to make me eat my words (with Funyons on the side). We’ll see how Ostman does this summer.

Are the Eagles being careless by having Curry as #3 DE and so little behind him?

That’s a fair question. I would say no because you have to take chances when building a roster and the Eagles are taking a reasonable chance. Brandon Graham hasn’t missed a game since 2011. He hasn’t missed a start due to injury in the past three years. Barnett is coming off an injury, but didn’t miss any time due to injury as a rookie and didn’t miss any games in college. Curry was very durable as an Eagle. He last missed a game in 2013.

Beyond that, the team has spent resources to build depth. They drafted Sweat in 2018 and Miller in 2019. They signed Hall as a pro free agent. Ostman was a UDFA a year ago.

We don’t know if these guys can play, but the only way you find out is to put them on the field. Beyond 2019, the Eagles need some youth up front. They need to find out what they have in Sweat and Miller. Graham and Curry can’t play forever.

The other point here is that the Eagles have an outstanding overall D-line. Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson are two of the best interior rushers in the game. That makes it easier for edge rushers to have impact. The QB can be driven to the right or left by pressure up the middle.

Should there be an injury at DE, the Eagles could also consider playing Cox on the outside. They would have Jackson and Tim Jernigan as the DTs. You wouldn’t want Cox out there all the time, but he could eat up some snaps and let the Eagles give teams different looks.

In the past few years, the Eagles have often moved DEs to the inside in some rush situations. With Cox and Jackson there, DEs can stay outside this year. That will also factor into the equation of how much to play the starters.

There really are a lot of moving parts to this equation.

Would I rather have Long back this year? Of course. He’s a proven commodity and a likable person.

But now he’s gone and the team is going to lean on young guys. It is possible that Sweat, Miller, Hall and/or Ostman will disappoint us and hurt the team. That is a risk the Eagles are taking. I am okay with that risk because the Eagles need to develop young talent up front. I think the combination of talent and scheme will lead to someone proving to at least be an effective role player.

If things do go wrong, Howie can always check out the free agent market or look for someone to trade for. I think the key for now is to get a better feel for the young players already in place.

*****

If Howie does want to sign someone for depth/competition purposes, the two guys who make the most sense right now are Derrick Morgan and Andre Branch.

Morgan has been the better pro, but Branch should have more tread on the tire. I lean toward Morgan.

Neither is compelling.

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Ups and Downs of Spring Football

Posted: May 18th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

It is mid-May and that means a couple of things. The long cold winter is behind us and OTAs are in full bloom.

Dave Spadaro made an interesting point in a recent column. He was talking about the OTAs and offering some useful reminders.

Remember last spring when defensive backs coach Cory Undlin rotated a handful of players through the nickel cornerback spot? De’Vante Bausby emerged from the spring as a leading contender to play the position, based on what the media saw, and he didn’t even make the 53-man roster.

This is important for a couple of reasons. First, Bausby got a lot of reps with the starters so people read into that. Spring time depth charts can be highly deceptive. Coaches aren’t always sure what they’ve got so players may get a lot of looks, but that doesn’t mean the guy is locked in.

Bausby did play well, which caught everyone’s eye. But that’s another thing to watch. We can get a lot of false positives in the spring.

The Legend of Donnel Pumphrey was based on some spring practices. Pump was deadly in space and looked quick and athletic. He got to the preseason and didn’t do anything. Putting on pads and playing in game situations or actual games made a significant difference.

Other times, we read things incorrectly the other way. Patrick Robinson looked horrible in the spring of 2017. Some wondered if the team might let him go before Training Camp. Robinson stayed and got better. Once he moved to the slot, he became a standout and ended up making one of the most significant plays in Eagles history.

I hope you didn’t mind having to sit through that again.

A lot of people forget that Nick Foles did nothing in the summer of 2017. His elbow was hurt and he missed virtually all of Training Camp and didn’t play in the preseason. Here’s what one hack had to say.

It cost the Eagles $7 million in dead money this offseason to get rid of Chase Daniel. In other words, Daniel is counting for $7 million against the Eagles’ salary cap this season to play in New Orleans. Foles, meanwhile, will count for $1.6 million against the Eagles’ cap in 2017, and $7.6 million in 2018.

Acquiring Daniel for the contract he signed was clearly a major miss. If Foles’ arm is simply not going to reliably cooperate, his signing will just add kerosene to the Chase Daniel dumpster fire.

When asked if Foles would play next week in the fourth preseason game against the Jets, Pederson didn’t know.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t made up my mind yet and where I’m at with that. [That’s] kind of where I’m at right now with that one.”

It’s a bad sign if Foles misses the entirety of the preseason because of “soreness.”

Things worked out okay.

It was fair to wonder about Foles and his arm. He was a ghost that summer. The Eagles were cautious with him because he was a veteran and knew the system. They didn’t feel the need to run him out there for summer games when the risk wasn’t worth the reward.

Sometimes things do match up.

Kamu Grugier-Hill had the best spring and summer of his young career in 2018 and that carried over to the regular season. Nelson Agholor looked like a changed man in the spring of 2017 and that proved to be right on the money. Dallas Goedert stood out last spring. You could just see he was the real deal.

That’s what makes spring football so complicated. It really can be hard to figure what is legit and what isn’t.

It will be interesting to see which players shine this spring and which ones are for real. Sounds like that might be a good topic for a post.

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Douglas on the Move?

Posted: May 15th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

The Eagles have done a great job of acquiring good pieces this offseason, but they might be about to lose one. The Jets fired GM Mike Maccagnan today, giving coach Adam Gase control for now. Gase needs a personnel man to help him run the team.

Maybe.

Going to the Jets would give Douglas the chance to be the top personnel guy for the first time in his career. That’s absolutely a goal of his. He would be joining a team with a talented young QB and some good pieces in place.

But this isn’t a sure thing.

There is the question of control. Who would control the 53-man roster? Douglas would likely want to control the roster, but Gase might also want that. Douglas and Gase are friends from their time together in Chicago in 2015 so this might not be an issue at all.

There is the question of structure. Douglas spent most of his career working for the Ravens and Eagles, two teams with defined power structures and strong ownership. The Jets don’t exactly match either description.

There is the Jets factor. This organization has had one winning season in the current decade. Douglas wants to be a GM, but he has to wonder if this is the right job.

If things do work out and Douglas heads to NY, that would hurt the Eagles. The team has built up a deep scouting staff and front office so this wouldn’t be devastating, but Douglas is a veteran scout and good football mind. He could take Andy Weidl with him, or possibly some scouts. It is possible that Weidl would want to stay and step into Douglas’ current role. Or that could go to Andrew Berry, who the team hired back in February. The Eagles will have some good options.

While I’m sure Douglas wants the position, he does have to decide if this is the right fit. Usually, you only get one chance to be a GM. If things don’t work out, you go back to being a senior scout or some other semi-executive role.

We should get answers pretty soon.

*****

Joseph had done an excellent job for the Eagles in recent years. The team made a lot of good signings, some involving big money and others involving cheap veterans who proved to be excellent value and sometimes even outstanding players. Patrick Robinson and Chris Long are the standouts here.

We’ll have to wait to see who takes over as the head of Pro Scouting.

*****

We do know Max Gruder will be involved.

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More on Kessler

Posted: May 14th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

The signing of QB Cody Kessler seemed to really confuse some people. One idea thrown around is that this was some kind of panic move by the Eagles because Carson Wentz wasn’t healthy. Sometimes people connect dots that just aren’t there.

The Kessler signing really wasn’t that complicated.

So Kessler is in and Luis Perez is out.

The Eagles have a lot of faith in Nate Sudfeld. They obviously liked Clayton Thorson enough to draft him.

But the coaches and front office wanted some kind of veteran to push Sudfeld and Thorson. The Eagles didn’t see the right guy in free agency. Rather than just sign someone, they were patient. They picked up Perez when the AAF folded and gave him a chance.

Once Kessler was released, the Eagles let go of Perez and signed Kessler. He is a young veteran that can challenge for a roster spot. Nothing more, nothing less. If Kessler has a great summer, he could win the backup job over Sudfeld. That isn’t likely to happen, but it is possible.

The Eagles wanted competition. Now they have it, with Sudfeld, Thorson and Kessler fighting for roster spots and playing time.

*****

Roob has a good story on Blake Countess and his contract.

The Eagles are brilliant when it comes to creatively structuring deals. They find a way to give the player something, while also leaving the team in a favorable situation.

You have to be careful with this. Back in the 2000-2004 era, the Eagles would re-sign young players to favorable deals. The players would see they were being underpaid and this led to some awkward situations, most notably John Welbourn forcing his way out of Philly.

The Eagles seem to do a better job of keeping players happy these days.

*****

BGN has a good piece up on the Eagles making the playoffs and winning a game despite having an incredibly banged up team.

Doug Pederson took a lot of heat in the middle of the season, but he really did a masterful job in retrospect.

And anyone questioning Jim Schwartz…you just aren’t giving the man the credit he deserves.

*****

Man, Mike Quick was a long-strider who could really eat up some ground. What a play.

And I do love those uniforms. What a great look…

*****

Gibson is a big, physical blocker. I don’t think he’s got the athleticism needed to play in the NFL, but the Eagles wanted another body to add to the mix up front.

*****

Some of you wondered why I didn’t have Stefen Wisniewski penciled in at RG when I did a depth chart for the O-line.

If the Eagles were playing a game tomorrow, clearly he would have that job. I listed him as the backup C to look at the guys who are likely to compete for playing time at RG until Brandon Brooks comes back. This is the time of year to give young guys reps so you can see what they do.

The Eagles know what Wiz can do at OG. Big V is unproven as a guard and Matt Pryor is still a mystery. I’m sure the Eagles want to know more about them as potential RGs.

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