Q & A

Posted: March 22nd, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 75 Comments »

You guys have asked some questions in the past week or so and I’ll address as many as I can.

Do you think the Eagles draft Dalvin Cook at 14? No, I don’t. I am not a big fan of spending 1st round picks on RBs. As I’ve written here, Cook is the kind of special player that could make me make an exception to that. He was a great player for Florida State the past 3 years and would be a terrific fit in the Eagles offense. But…there are just too many issues with him. Character. Medical. Fumbles. Bad showing at the Combine. Cook is incredibly talented, but you want a pick that high to be someone you’re really comfortable with.

All that said, I am judging things from the outside. The Eagles met Cook. They talked to him. They had their doctors check him out. They could come away from that feeling different. It is possible he will be in the mix at 14, but I think that is a long shot.

What will happen at RB? Howie Roseman talked about aggressively addressing the position. That doesn’t mean pick 14 will  be used. Heck, that doesn’t even mean it will be a 2nd round pick. The Eagles are checking out a lot of RBs and they will have a few targeted. They might like a guy who is going to be a 4th round pick. Or they might hope Cook slides into the 2nd round and they’ll go get him. They know it is important to find a talented RB to pair with Wentz. They will choose a few and hope to land one of those guys.

McCaffrey is a terrific player and he would be a real interesting addition to the offense. I know some people doing mock drafts have had him going to the Eagles at 14. I like McCaffrey, but I just don’t know that he’s the 14th best player in this class. That feels a bit rich to me. You question the wisdom of using a pick that high on a RB. The argument for him is that he also is a gifted receiver and returner so he can handle multiple roles. I would be surprised if the Eagles went for him at 14.

In regard to character questions, didn’t the Eagles show you what they think by signing Mike Vick back in 2009? Fair question. The answer is yes and no. That did show that Jeffrey Lurie is willing to keep an open mind and take chances on players. At the same time, Vick was coming out of federal prison. He had paid for his crimes in a major way. That’s different that hitting a woman and facing relatively minimal repercussions.

Also, the Eagles didn’t invest anything in Vick. He didn’t cost a draft pick. He was cheap to sign. If the Eagles spend a 1st, 2nd or 3rd round pick on a turd and he gets in trouble, that’s essentially throwing that pick away. That can hurt a franchise for several years. I do think Lurie will have an open mind and listen to his football people, but this is a very different situation.

Won’t happen. Revis wants good money. I’ve read somewhere that he won’t play for less than $8M per year. I could be off on the amount by a little, but it was a report I saw recently. I have no interest in Revis at that kind of price. If he was available cheap, maybe. Honestly, though, the Eagles really should focus on finding long term solutions at CB. The constant shuffling of starting CBs is bad. They need to find a couple of guys they can play and develop. There would be some growing pains, but that would really benefit the team in the long term.

I’m sure the Eagles would love McCalister to take a big step forward. He has a terrific frame and he has bulked up from last summer. I do not know if he is big enough and strong enough to handle NFL blockers. McCalister is a natural pass rusher and showed good potential at Florida so there is something to work with. This isn’t hoping some slappy at the bottom of the roster magically finds talent. McCalister does have NFL ability. It would certainly help if he could contribute this year.


A few of you have asked about pass rushers in the 1st round. I think there is a decent chance the Eagles take a DE. Derek Barnett from Tennessee is the most logical target, due to value, fit and the whole package. I will write up a post on DEs that the Eagles could consider at 14.

I know a lot of people think the Eagles will go CB at 14. That is a great fit in terms of need. The Sidney Jones injury takes away a player who would be the right value. I’m not sure about other CBs being worth pick 14.

I will say that the more I watch Marlon Humphrey from Alabama, the more he grows on me.


The Complexity of Character

Posted: March 20th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 501 Comments »

Eagles fans want a Super Bowl. At any cost.

It is easy to say that, but reality is so much trickier. Are fans willing to cheer for players with serious questions in their past?

Football is a brutal, primal game. We talk all the time about character, but the clean guys Chip Kelly loaded the roster with didn’t exactly win a ton of games. It is unfortunate that sometimes the best players are highly flawed human beings. Reggie White was the anomaly, not the norm. He was a guy you could be proud of on and off the field.

Think about a pair of recent Florida State QBs. E.J. Manuel had no character issues at FSU. He had a good career, going 25-6 as a starter. He was a good student. Manuel was drafted in the 1st round, but that was a mistake. For all his good traits, he was a flawed prospect on the field. Jameis Winston is a very different subject. He was a great college player and led his team to the national title. There was no question that he deserved to be a high pick.

Except for character.

Winston was accused of rape. He avoided prosecution, but did settle a civil suit with his accuser. Beyond that horrific situation, he had other legal issues. There is also the fact that he handled the rape allegation so poorly. He never seemed to grasp the gravity of the situation and acted as if nothing happened. Even if he was innocent, being accused of something like that should be overwhelming and really affect the way you act.

I will never be comfortable with Winston. I’ll always think of the rape accusation when I think of him.

If I had to choose either Manuel or Winston to lead a TD drive to save my life, there is no question that Winston would be the choice. He is an infinitely better football player. And that’s what makes football and character such a complex marriage. If you want to win games, you simply cannot have the best people. You must be willing to embrace some turds, for lack of a more eloquent phrase.

Will the Eagles do that this year?

Ezekiel Elliott would seem to be heading to the turd category right now, but he had a brilliant rookie season for Dallas and is already one of the best RBs in the NFL. He’s a special player so he might be worth the headache. You know the Eagles front office had to be thinking about Elliott when they brought in Dalvin Cook for a visit. He could be their talented turd/star runner.

The Eagles could go for CB Teez Tabor in the 2nd round. He hasn’t assaulted anyone, but apparently has multiple positive drug tests. That’s also reportedly an issue with Alabama pass rusher Tim Williams. Michigan CB Jourdain Lewis was recently charged with domestic violence. The Eagles could use CB help, but is he a guy you want to draft?

Oklahoma has a pair of very talented prospects. Dede Westbrook is one of the best receivers in the draft. Joe Mixon has 1st round talent and looks like a special RB at times. But boy do they have issues. Westbrook had a couple of troubling incidents.

Before he was recruited by Oklahoma and his improbable rise to college football fame, Sooners WR Dede Westbrook was twice arrested on family violence complaints, according to documents obtained by the Tulsa World.

Westbrook was accused of throwing the mother of his two children to the ground in 2012 and biting the same woman’s arm and punching her with a closed fist in 2013, according to the report. Westbrook was never convicted in either incident, however.

Mixon is well known at this point. He punched a fellow OU student back in 2014, leaving her with 4 broken bones. The video is troubling to say the least. It is one thing to hear about arrests or drug tests or charges, but seeing the incident makes it feel so much more real.

It would be easy to say the Eagles should take all of these players off their draft board. Who wants to cheer for guys like that?

Kansas City took a chance on Tyreek Hill last year and he turned out to be hugely important for them. Hill was kicked out of Oklahoma State for choking his pregnant girlfriend. That’s about as troubling as it gets. He went to West Alabama and finished his college career. KC took him in the 5th round and he was a key reason that team got to the playoffs last year. Without Hill, they don’t make it.

Should they be embarrassed by having Hill on their team? Should they apologize for his success?

We all have to decide what we can live with.

I don’t believe in drawing a line in the sand. I know it is a cliche, but I do believe things have to be done on a case-by-case basis. One of the issues here is that we’re talking about young men. I was a better, more responsible person at 25 than I was at 20. Part of that is due to learning from mistakes. I never choked a pregnant woman, though, and that’s a huge difference. Being a knucklehead who drinks too much beer is worlds different from someone who is violent, especially with women.

In some cases, circumstances matter. Laveranues Coles had multiple issues prior to the NFL. Assault. Academic suspension. Theft. Improper benefits. He was finally kicked off the Florida State team. Quite the scumbag, right? It turns out he was sexually abused as a kid and that affected him for a long time. Becoming an adult and getting into the environment of professional football brought out the best in him. To my knowledge, he never got in trouble in the NFL and was generally considered a good player and good teammate.

Coles is the anomaly for the most part, but that’s why it is important for teams to judge players as individuals and not just draw a line in the sand.

I think one of the keys to taking a chance on a player with character issues is that you need to put that guy in the right environment. Think about Hill in KC. He had a strong head coach in Andy Reid. Alex Smith is a veteran QB and good leader. Jamal Charles, Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali and Eric Berry were the kind of team leaders who create a strong environment and police themselves. That’s a good situation for Hill.

Are the Eagles ready to handle a troubled player?

Carson Wentz is a young QB, but has already proven to be a good leader. Darren Sproles, Brent Celek, Jason Peters and Malcolm Jenkins are big time team leaders. Doug Pederson is only in his second year as coach, but he learned under Reid and seems to have a good feel for the locker room. I don’t think Pederson would bring in a questionable player if he thought his players couldn’t handle the situation.

The Eagles took players with some issues late last year. Jalen Mills and Alex McAlister each fell in the draft due to character concerns. Spending an early pick on Cook or the other players mentioned above would be a completely different story. That player would have high expectations and would be under a microscope. Every action would be heavily scrutinized.

The flip side is that the Eagles would be adding a key talent that could make the team better. Maybe much better. Risk. Reward.

Howie Roseman, Joe Douglas, Doug Pederson and the rest of the front office have to decide if this is the right time to take a chance on a player and if that player is in this class. Trying to balance having a team the city can be proud of and a team that can win games is a tough task. I don’t envy them some of the decisions they’ll have to make in the next month.


Focus Up Front

Posted: March 19th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 28 Comments »

The Eagles have to spend pick 14 on a CB, right? That is a critical position and the Eagles don’t have much there. Or maybe the team will add an impact runner or receiver, someone to play with Carson Wentz for the next 5 to 10 years. That would certainly make a lot of sense.

Don’t forget that football games are usually won in the trenches. My PE.com column this week is about how the Eagles have addressed the OL to make that a strength and now need to do the same for the defensive line.

There is talent needed at both DE and DT.

The DE class is loaded, the DT class isn’t. There are only a couple of possibilities for DT at 14. The first would involve Alabama star Jonathan Allen falling. That may seem unlikely due to his reputation, but there are some concerns about his shoulders. If Allen were to slide, the Eagles would have a chance to take a terrific, but flawed prospect. The only reason he would slide is if teams were genuinely worried about how arthritic his shoulders truly are.

I don’t anticipate Allen sliding, but it is possible. Allen is a gifted DL and would be interesting to pair with Fletcher Cox. Even though I don’t think it will happen, I’m sure the Eagles will discuss what they would do if Allen did tumble down in the draft.

Malik McDowell is a more realistic possibility. The 6-6, 295 Junior from Michigan State would be a really interesting addition to the Eagles.

The question with McDowell is value. He won’t be a 1st round pick to everyone. Others will see him as a Top 20 guy. I think he would interest the Eagles. I don’t know for a fact they like him, but he makes sense. Jim Schwartz loves long, tall DL. McDowell is 6-6 and has arms that are almost 35 inches long. He is versatile. McDowell can play nose tackle, under tackle and end.

McDowell didn’t have a great 2016 season. The whole Michigan State team was down. Ideally, you would like a talented veteran like McDowell to play well and make the guys around him better. Instead, he didn’t play consistently well and also missed 3 games due to an ankle injury. McDowell is a Top 15 talent, but he didn’t play anywhere close to that level last year.

The Eagles talk about wanting hard-working, tough guys that are highly competitive. McDowell’s 2016 season did not show him to be that guy. There would be risk in taking a player like him. At the same time, if things click, he could be an inside force to pair with Cox for the next 5 years.

My point here isn’t to say the Eagles should draft McDowell, but I think we can get trapped in a cycle of talking about the same prospects over and over. The Eagles might have some player in their sights that we’re overlooking.


While this isn’t a great DT class, the Eagles will have targets in other rounds. Nazair Jones has a very similar build to McDowell and is a talented DT. He is more of a mid-round target.

Jones isn’t much of a pass rusher. He is more of a run-stuffer, but that might work well with Cox. We don’t really know what the Eagles are looking for. Jim Schwartz loves pass rushers, but with Graham, Curry, Cox and whoever the team adds at DE, he might like a run defender to add to the mix.

We’ve got a lot to learn with Joe Douglas being new to the draft this year and Schwartz also having some say about who he wants.


Understanding Visits

Posted: March 19th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 78 Comments »

Lots of visit info in the past couple of days.

The Eagles are taking a look at some really talented runners and receivers. But what do the visits mean?

Players cannot work out when they go to team facilities. That has to be done on the campus of the prospect. Teams bring prospects to them usually for a medical or character concern. Davis has an ankle injry. Fournette missed time this year with an ankle injury. Cook has medical and character concerns. Williams had a serious neck injury that cost him almost all of 2015.

No matter how much you love a player’s game tape, you have to check out these other factors before assigning that player a draft grade. Durability and character are critical to success for pro prospects.

Teams are not going to waste visits. They are allowed to bring in 30 prospects (plus all the local kids they want). Teams need those 30 visits to count. Now you have to understand that not all visits go well. The team can have genuine interest when they meet with a prospect and a couple of hours later they can be removing him from the draft board. That happened with one prospect last year.

Just because the Eagles brought in Cook doesn’t mean they will take him at pick 14. If anything, I would bet against that.

There are some smokescreen visits. Tom Heckert admitted to this a few years back. Since Howie Roseman learned from him, I assume the Eagles still do this. It isn’t something you would necessarily do every season and you certainly wouldn’t do it much because there are so few visits. Still, it is something to keep in mind.

The key thing to take away from all of this is that visits don’t mean the Eagles love those prospects. They had questions and wanted some answers.

Visits do matter.

Carson Wentz
Nelson Agholor
Marcus Smith
Lane Johnson

All those prospects visited the NovaCare Complex. All were 1st round picks of the Eagles. Just because you come to Philly doesn’t mean you will be drafted, but if you are drafted early by the Eagles, you probably did visit. Does that make sense?

Chip Kelly really drafted guys that visited. That was true of 1st round picks, but also Jaylen Watkins, Ed Reynolds, Taylor Hart and even a UDFA like Travis Raciti. Chip loved to meet with players and lock in on them.

Last year late round guys like Blake Countess, Alex McAlister and Wendell Smallwood all visited the Eagles. Be sure to pay attention to who comes in for a visit, but be careful not to draw any definitive conclusions.


What we know so far this year.

WR John Ross
WR Corey Davis
WR Mike Williams

RB Dalvin Cook
RB Leonard Fournette

DE Ryan Anderson

LB Reuben Foster

CB Marlon Humphrey


A few of you have asked me to list my top 15 or 20 prospects. That way you can have an idea of who the Eagles might be looking at for pick 14. I am still working on my draft research, but will do that soon. I will tell you now that I won’t have any QBs in that group, but there could be one or two that go before the Eagles pick. Heck, it is possible three could go if teams are desperate enough.


The Eagles had assistant DL coach Phillip Daniels at Wisconsin’s Pro Day. I’m sure he was checking out T.J. Watt, J.J.’s little brother. Watt played OLB for the Badgers in their 3-4 scheme, but would be a DE in the 4-3. Watt is 6-4, 252 and a good athlete.

You can see where Jim Schwartz might have some interest in that guy.


Divin’ Into Dalvin

Posted: March 17th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 340 Comments »

The Eagles haven’t taken a RB in the 1st round since Keith Byars in 318 B.C. At least it seems that long ago. Might have been 1986. I mention that because…

There are a couple of points to discuss here. First, is Dalvin Cook worth pick 14? Second, is any RB worth pick 14?

Cook is a complicated subject, to put it mildly. I think he is the best RB in this class. Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey are special in their own way, but Cook is the best back of the trio.

Cook’s combination of vision, footwork, balance, body control, power and speed make him a special RB. He had a ton of 20-yard runs in his career at FSU. Chunk plays like that are huge, especially in the NFL. It is really hard to move the ball 4 to 5 yards at a time. Just watch the 2016 Eagles in case you’ve forgotten that.

Cook had an awful showing at the Combine. He wasn’t quick, agile or explosive. He could post much better numbers at his Pro Day, but if he doesn’t, this is a legitimate concern. You have to balance the athletic concerns with his game tape, which is outstanding. He ran for 4.464 yards in his career. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry and ran for 46 TDs in 3 years. He caught 79 passes and averaged 12 yards per reception. He produced big numbers for 3 years.

Then there is the off-field stuff. Cook was arrested for assaulting a woman. He won his court case, though. Go read this story and you come away wondering if he did something wrong or if this is a case of someone going after a star player. I wasn’t there and clearly don’t know if he punched the woman or not. I do know that he turned down plea bargains and that his parents were with him in the courtroom. That tells me he wanted to try to prove his innocence and that he’s smart enough to have his parents there. This wasn’t a felony case or huge trial, but he still took it seriously.

Part of the reason the Eagles are bringing Cook in for a visit is to get a better feel for him as a person. It is impossible for me or you to sit on the outside and know whether Cook is a guy who was more wrong place/wrong time or a troubled young man who has escaped punishment because he is a gifted athlete. The Eagles have done a ton of research on Cook and want to get a feel for him in an extended job interview.

Would the Eagles really take a RB early?

The Eagles brought Ezekiel Elliott in last year for a visit. I can tell you they had serious interest in him. Obviously things changed when they got the number 2 overall pick. They were locked in on a QB at that point. Had the Eagles stayed back, who knows?

I generally don’t think it is smart to take a RB in the 1st round. You can find impact runners all over (Shady, Westy, Wilbert Montgomery). But I also don’t believe all RBs are created equal. Cook is too good to dismiss casually.

“Why waste a 1st round pick on a RB?”

If you meet with him and come away concerned, pass. If he has a lousy Pro Day, pass. But don’t just pass on him because he is a RB. Cook has big time potential and would be a great fit in the Eagles offense.

I don’t know if Dalvin Cook is worth pick 14. I do know he’s worthy of taking a long look at. And the Eagles are doing just that.


There is also the added value of making other teams think you like Cook. If some other team covets Cook, they could always try to trade with the Eagles if they really want the talented runner.


It is possible that Cook won’t interview well and/or will have a poor showing at his Pro Day. If he slides down to the 2nd round, that could make him a player the Eagles would want to take a chance on.

Florida State’s Pro Day is on March 28. That workout will have a huge bearing on where Cook goes. He could redeem himself or he could be in for a big slide in late April.