Retro Day

Posted: May 26th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 10 Comments »

The Eagles have had lots of good pass rushers. There was only one Reggie White. He was truly special.

I know it hurts to see him in the Packers uniform, but that was a great day. Reggie got his ring. It wasn’t the same thing as him winning with the Eagles, but it was still great. He was my favorite player and that’s the happiest a Super Bowl has ever made me. My guy got to be a champion.

Keith Jackson was on that team as well so that also helped.

I have no idea what Bill Parcells and his coaches were thinking in terms of their gameplan, They really thought Max Lane against Reggie was a good idea, even when it was clear Reggie was killing him? Crazy. Not Tuna’s best game.

Can’t talk about Reggie without seeing some Eagles clips.

*****

Seth Wickersham of ESPN has a great story up on the Seahawks and the dysfunctional relationship between Richard Sherman and those around him. Go read that. Really an outstanding piece.

I bring it up here because the piece talks about how the offense and defense don’t get along, specifically lots of animosity toward the star QB, who many feel is put on a pedestal.

Where have I heard of something like that?

The Eagles, 1986-1993. Seth Joyner and the defense against Randall Cunningham and the offense.

As I read that story, all I could think about was Mark Bowden’s great book.

If you love Gang Green, do yourself a favor and read the book. It will frustrate you at times, but there are so many great stories and Bowden is a brilliant writer. Eagles fans are so lucky they got to have him cover the team for a season and then write a book about it.

Seattle has a lot of fiery, volatile personalities on that team. They are lucky Pete Carroll was able to guide them to a title and almost to another one. The Eagles were also volatile, but that team only won a single playoff game. Buddy Ryan could never find his version of Marshawn Lynch. Buddy wanted to run the ball and play D, but he built mediocre O-lines and couldn’t find a good RB.

It would have been fun to watch those Eagles teams if they did have a gifted back like Lynch to feed the ball to. The one team that did win in the postseason had the 1-2 punch of Herschel Walker and Heath Sherman at RB.

_


The CB Mystery

Posted: May 25th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 75 Comments »

The Eagles had a good offseason. Maybe a veyr good offseason. Time will tell on that. You can look at the roster and make a solid argument that the team is better at every position group than last year with one exception.

CB.

You can make the argument the Eagles are better at corner, but there is a lot of hope that goes into that thinking. Right now there is a lot of mystery as to how things will shake out.

Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas could form a dynamic duo for the next 5 years, but we’re not sure what will happen in 2017. Doug Pederson said Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson are the starters for now. Ron Brooks is the projected slot corner. The Eagles would love Douglas to win a starting job, but since he’s a 3rd round rookie it isn’t fair to pencil him into the lineup. You need to see him in action first.

Mills only started twice last year, but played extensively. He finished 5th on the team in tackles, so that should give you an idea of how much he was on the field. Mills was inconsistent. He would show a lot of promise on one play and then a lot of issues on the next. The coaches loved his confidence and the way he attacked things. Mills wasn’t afraid to make a mistake.

Mills has a solid combination of size and athleticism, but he’s not special in any way. He is the kind of player who needs smarts and instincts to help him play well. You can see where having a year of experience under his belt will make a big difference for him. That isn’t to say he will suddenly turn into Troy Vincent this year, but he will have a better understanding of the Eagles scheme and what offenses are doing so he should play at a higher level. The Eagles just need him to be an effective starter.

Robinson has been a good starter. He’s also struggled at times, both with his performance and with staying healthy. Robinson has started 49 games in his career, including 6 last season. He is physically gifted (former 1st round pick) and at his best is an aggressive CB who can make plays. The problem is that his confidence becomes an issue at times, causing him to become hesitant.

The Eagles DL will be the best that Robinson has played behind in the NFL. That could make a big difference. Robinson played on some awful Saints defenses. To be fair, he was part of the problem. But they were awful in terms of coaching and talent. Playing with more talent and in a more stable environment could help to bring out the best in Robinson.

Mills and Robinson could be effective starters. But there is risk. One is a late round pick and the other a career underachiever. That’s not a compelling duo.

If Mills was able to crack the lineup last year, shouldn’t Douglas be able to do that this year? One would hope so. Mills was a 4-year starter at LSU. He faced top competition, in practice and in games. That really helps you to get ready for the NFL. Douglas played at a junior college for 2 years. He was a backup at West Virginia in 2015 and finally became a starter last year. He doesn’t have anything close to the same resume as Mills.

But Douglas is bigger, better and more skilled. Douglas had a terrific showing at the Senior Bowl, where he did face some really good receivers. He fits the Eagles scheme and like Mills, is a confident, aggressive player. It is possible Douglas will push for a starting role.

In an ideal world. the Eagles would probably love Douglas and Mills to start on the outside, with Robinson taking over in the slot, a place where he has played well in the past. Ron Brooks was effective there last year, but Robinson is a better CB than him so you would think the team would prefer Robinson to win that job.

There are others.

Dwayne Gratz started 13 games back in 2014 so he has some experience. Gratz is a good athlete and would love to show he belongs on the field. The Eagles aren’t counting on anything from him, but would love to see Gratz play well and win a roster spot, if not push for playing time.

C.J. Smith surprised me with how well he played last summer. He won a roster spot, but didn’t get onto the field much at all. Aaron Grymes had a good summer, but got hurt late and that ruined his season. He might have gotten some playing time if not for the injury. Grymes could be a player to watch this summer. If he can build on what he did last year, Grymes could challenge for a role. Mitchell White is here to compete. He’s been around the league a few years, but most of his experience came from the CFL.

UDFAs Randall Goforth and Jomal Wiltz want to shock people and steal jobs. None of us thought C.J. Smith was going to make it last year. You never know how a player is going to respond to the pro environment. It brings out the best in some guys.

In some ways, CB feels like WR did last summer. Before you get too depressed, hear me out. There are a mixture of young players and low-budget veterans. Remember how the Eagles signed Reuben Randle, Chris Givens and T.J. Graham? None of those guys impressed us at all. That could happen again this year with Robinson, Gratz, Grymes and White. But there is a difference.

The WRs were dealing with Frank Reich and Greg Lewis. The DBs will be dealing with Jim Schwartz and Cory Undlin, a pair of proven coaches who are also very demanding. Lewis tried to be Mr. Nice Guy with his players last year and it didn’t work. Schwartz and Undlin don’t know who Mr. Nice Guy is. They’ll be hard on the DBs as long as they can.

The results might still be the same.

They might. But there won’t be a lack of effort in trying to get Robinson, Gratz and the others to play their best.

I also think having a good pass rush is going to help this year’s CBs. A good pass rush can make a world of difference for DBs. There is no equivalent factor for WRs. Good QB play certainly helps, but at the end of the day, the WR still has to get open and catch the ball. As Mills proved last year, a pass rusher can hit the QB as he throws, causing the ball to miss an open receiver by a few yards and the closest CB can still take credit for that.

Robinson, Mills and Douglas are going to be huge factors in getting this to be an effective secondary in 2017. But so will Jernigan, Cox, Graham, Barnett, Curry and Long. If the pass rush is good enough, that will help the CB mystery to have a happy ending.

_


Practice Talk

Posted: May 24th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 130 Comments »

No tackling. No real hitting. But something resembling football took place at NovaCare on Tuesday.

Let’s start with some quick nuggets.

There were 4 players absent. These are voluntary workouts so players are allowed to skid if they want. Jason Peters, Fletcher Cox and Donnie Jones all did that. Those are proven players so it isn’t a big deal. Marcus Smith also was absent.

Maybe Smith is saving his legs for the summer and fall. Or maybe he’s just an idiot. I hope he has a good reason for this. Proven vets can skip workouts, but underachievers like Smith need every rep possible to try and prove why they should be on the team.

***

Isaac Seumalo is your LG. Maybe. He worked there with the starters, but that was partly because Allen Barbre was hurt (calf injury). The coaches want Seumalo on the field and LG makes the most sense. Doug Pederson mentioned Seumalo will also get some work at C this summer. Jason Kelce will start there, but Stefen Wisniewski and Seumalo will get a chance to show what they can do.

One bit of bad news on the OL.

Sticking with C…Les Bowen has a piece on Jason Kelce and the challenges he’s dealing with.

***

Brandon Graham was the LDE. Vinny Curry opened at RDE and Derek Barnett was behind him. The coaches will let Curry and Barnett fight for that job. The team has a high pick spent on one player and a big deal on the other so the Eagles don’t care who wins. They just want someone to play well.

***

With Cox out and Beau Allen sidelined, DT was a tad thin. Destiny Vaeao started with Tim Jernigan. Rookie Elijah Qualls would help quite a bit here, but he can’t practice because of the NCAA’s ridiculous rule that requires him to wait for UW’s graduation day. This is an issue with several PAC-12 schools because they run on the quarter system and their schedule is different from most colleges.

There will be lots of reps for Vaeao, UDFA Winston Craig and Justin Hamilton. It will be interesting to see if any of them can take advantage of this.

***

 

Our intrepid Philly reporters were on the scene and shared their practice notes.

We’ll open with Jimmy Bama’s thoughts on rookie DE Derek Barnett.

After the draft, there was quite a bit of negativity surrounding the Eagles’ selection of Derek Barnett. We addressed them all in a post a few weeks ago. Some of the concerns were downright ridiculous, while others were valid. Among the valid concerns was a lack of an extensive pass rush move repertoire.

Barnett’s best pass rush move, by far, is his dip/bend around the edge. Because many offensive tackles in college overplayed that move, Barnett would often get sacks with inside moves, though they weren’t exactly flashy or visually impressive. One move that was typically ineffective when he tried it was his inside spin move.

At practice today at RDE, working against Lane Johnson (playing LT), Barnett had an inside spin move that was better than anything I had seen from his games in college. If he can develop a go-to inside move, he’s going to be difficult to block.

In other Barnett observations, Barnett smoked Dillon Gordon around the edge after he was able to smack Gordon’s hands down. Gordon got an ear-full from Jeff Stoutland after the rep.

Barnett’s spin move at Tennessee wasn’t bad, actually. It was terrible.

But that’s the beauty of pro football. If you have a talented prospect and a smart coach, the coach can often teach the player how to do something or how to improve something. You can’t make a player bigger or faster or more talented, but you can teach him how to improve specific skills. It sounds like Chris Wilson has done a good job with Barnett and working on his spin move. That’s important for someone who loves to fly off the edge. He must have a counter move to use on OTs that sell out to protect the edge. They are vulnerable to the inside, which is where a spin move would have Douglas aimed.

***

Tim McManus wrote about the WRs.

In one sequence, Wentz took a quick drop and fired an intermediate pass to Jeffery that was a little high-and-outside. With linebacker Mychal Kendricks quickly descending on the play, Jeffery extended his long arms and snatched the ball out of mid-air, prompting Kendricks to slap his hands together in frustration.

“It’s been great with him,” said Wentz of Jeffery. “He plays on-time, he knows what he is doing. His catch radius is impressive; that’s the first thing that jumps out at me. So I’m just looking forward to continuing to build on that relationship.”

Last year the hope was that the receivers would catch the average pass. Now they will be expected to do that and the hope is that they will make difficult catches, like the one mentioned above. The WR corps can be drastically better.

Per everyone’s practice notes, the WRs were much better, with one small exception. Or maybe I should say a big exception. DGB struggled all day.

The Eagles receivers needed some tough coaching after last year. If the guys can handle that, they can play better on Sundays. If they can’t handle tougher coaching, get rid of them and find some new guys. This is just one day so don’t make too much of it, but I hope DGB got the hint. This ain’t 2016. There is real competition this year and you have to earn everything.

***

More on the WRs from Brandon Lee Gowton.

• You probably won’t believe me — and I don’t blame you at all — but I think Nelson Agholor might have had his best practice I’ve ever seen today. I didn’t see him drop or bobble a single pass. He actually made some tough catches and ran crisp routes. Agholor has a long, long way to go before he’s seen as a good receiver. But this was a good start for Day 1.

• Mack Hollins is the only Eagles wide receiver who wasn’t wearing gloves. He had some sticking out of his pockets but I didn’t see him put them on. I don’t know if this really means anything but I just think it’s weird/noticeable when a receiver is catching with their bare hands. JMatt has done it at practice in the past. Anyway, enough glove talk. Hollins looked pretty good to me. Nothing overly flashy but no big mistakes.

While DGB didn’t handle the situation well, it sounds like Nelson Agholor did. Good. He really struggled last year, but the kid has talent. It would be great if things clicked for him and he played well.

***

Jeff McLane has his practice notes here.

I was more interested in his depth chart posted here.

That means very little because it is mid-May, but I’m always interest to see who is playing where and where they are slotted in the rotation. Steven Daniels was the #3 MLB. Not of interest to most, but fascinating to me. Dillon Gordon was the backup LT. I love seeing stuff like that.

***

The guys from PE.com put up some practice notes. Fran Duffy and Chris McPherson did a good job, as you would expect.

1. If I had to list the biggest observation from the first day of Organized Team Activities, it would be that LeGarrette Blount‘s size and physical running style could potentially be a “tempo-setter” for the offense if he can be as productive as he was in 2016 with New England. Listed at 6-0, 250 pounds, Blount has a linebacker’s build as he charges toward the line of scrimmage. He is going fit in nicely, especially once the weather turns frosty in Philadelphia. Fran Duffy noted that Blount busted off a couple of big runs in the 11-on-11 action today, and after one big run head coach Doug Pederson made it a point to give a fist bump to the newest option in the Eagles backfield. – Chris McPherson

7. Rookie receiver Mack Hollins was a player who I wanted to really focus in on today and he did not disappoint. Not only did he look the part with a chiseled 6-4, 220-pound frame, but he moved really well for his size. When comparing the way he got in and out of breaks with other bigger receivers on the roster, it was noticeable how fluid the rookie from North Carolina was in drills. I didn’t see him drop a pass all afternoon. On special teams, he practiced with the first-team kickoff coverage unit and was nearly unblockable. I could hear two Eagles defenders commenting about how they didn’t want to have to block him in the special teams period at one point. Philadelphia is going to like this kid (and he gets bonus points for not wearing gloves although he said he will wear them once Training Camp begins). – Fran Duffy

250 for Blount? Wow. I thought he’d be like 235 or so. That’s huge. Can’t wait to see him in the preseason.

Hollins seems to get everyone’s attention. Let’s hope he continues to play well. He’s big, fast and tough. That sounds like a pretty good WR.

_


Hints, Not Conclusions

Posted: May 23rd, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 63 Comments »

Real OTAs begin today. Players can actually do some football things. No hitting or tackling mind you, but this isn’t just 1-on-1’s and lots of positional group work as we’ve seen in recent weeks.

We will see the first team offense and defense. Who will those players be? You and I have some good guesses, but today we’ll actually see who the coaches want at those spots. What we see today won’t give us any definitive answers, just hints. Is Derek Barnett with the starters? Is he on the left or right side? Who will play LG on offense?

It is always fun to get an idea of what the coaches want to see.

It will be interesting to see how the CBs are used. I would project Patrick Robinson and Jalen Mills as the starters on the outside, with Ron Brooks in the slot. Maybe Rasul Douglas has shown enough that the coaches want him on the field with the 1’s to see how he does. Maybe Aaron Grymes or C.J. Smith will get work in the slot.

Last year dropped passes were a theme all spring and summer long. Will the presence of a stud receiver like Alshon Jeffery have a transcendent effect and bring out the best in the others around him? You also wonder about the desperation factor. Nelson Agholor and DGB aren’t just out there practicing this time around. They are competing for jobs. Sometimes the prospect of being unemployed will bring out the best in an inconsistent player.

The star of the show will be Carson Wentz. He ran the third string offense this time last year. Now he is the big dog and all eyes will be on him. It will be interesting to see if he looks like a polished veteran or still looks like a young, erratic QB. Wentz did work on his mechanics this offseason. I don’t know if you’ll be able to tell that right away.

MISC

I’m curious to see how DE Alex McCalister looks. Howie Roseman mentioned him this offseason as “looking great”. That meant bigger and/or stronger. Now we’ll get a chance to see him moving around. There is going to be a lot of competition for DE jobs. McCalister, Marcus Smith and Steven Means will be probably be fighting for one roster spot.

There was talk of Mack Hollins looking really impressive recently. I haven’t talked much about that because offseason hype can become very annoying. I am curious to hear what people think of him once they see him in action this week. The Eagles had him rated highly and think he has big potential.

Dillon Gordon had an impressive showing last summer and won a roster spot. This is a huge time for him. He has to show that he can build on what he did last year and be even better this time around. I’ll be interested to find out if he’s in top shape and where the Eagles play him. Gordon could be the backup LT. They could also put Allen Barbre or Matt Tobin at that spot. Gordon has the least experience of the trio, but he’s got upside and the coaches may want to really test him.

Destiny Vaeao has a chance to get good playing time this year. Beau Allen’s injury opens up the #3 DT spot and Vaeao could fill that role. He showed promise last year, but will have to step his game up for the Eagles to give him increased snaps.

I think we’re all curious to see how the Eagles use Donnel Pumphrey and how he performs. Will he be a RB most of the time or will they use him in the slot a lot? Pumphrey should excel either way in this setting.

*****

We heard yesterday that Vinny Curry said he was slowed last year by an MCL injury. You can bet there will be a lot of attention paid to Curry and how he moves around out there. More than a few people are questioning Curry’s comments. Why didn’t we hear about this last year? Is this just an excuse for his lack of production (2.5 sacks)?

I don’t know Curry. I’ve not heard any bad things about him so I’m willing to take him at his word.

Honestly, I wondered if he was hurt. Curry remained disruptive, but he struggled to finish plays. He needed that last bit of burst to get to the QB or to get him down. Curry wasn’t getting that done.

There will be a lot of pressure on Curry this year. The Eagles added Derek Barnett at DE so that gives them a top talent to pair with Brandon Graham. Curry then becomes an expensive backup. If he bounces back and plays at a high level, the Eagles will gladly keep him around. If he struggles, they will have a long talk about what to do with him after the season.

I think Jim Schwartz could help Curry out by mixing him in at DT more in passing situations. That is where Curry can be so tough to block because of his quickness. OGs struggle to get their hands on him cleanly.

Curry says he is 100 percent now so he needs to look really good this spring and summer.

_


Carson, Carson, Carson!

Posted: May 21st, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 115 Comments »

You have to wonder if Donovan McNabb ever finds himself jealous of Carson Wentz. Both were the second overall pick. It was widely accepted that Wentz would be the Eagles pick so fans and the media were ready for it and most were on board with him as the choice. McNabb had to deal with The Dirty 30, the vocal group who attended his draft and booed his selection because they wanted RB Ricky Williams.

McNabb had to sit until Week 10, when he finally got to start. He ended up starting 6 games as a rookie. Wentz was the #3 QB for the spring and summer, but became the starter in September when Sam Bradford was traded.

McNabb did not have much to work with his first few years in the league.

1999 – Duce Staley, Eric Bienemy, Charles Johnson, Torrance Small, Luther Broughton

2000 – Staley, Stanley Pritchett, Darnell Autry, Brian Mitchell, Chad Lewis, Small, C. Johnson, Todd Pinkston

I don’t think you need to be an expert to know those are not great players. McNabb carried that 2000 team on his back and they went 11-5. He finished 2nd in the MVP voting (to Marshall Faulk). That’s what happens when you are the team’s QB and also lead in rushing yards and rushing TDs.

I wrote my PE.com column on Carson Wentz and how the Eagles really helped him out this offseason.

Dave Spadaro had a quote from Howie Roseman in a recent piece that stuck with me.

“We gotta make sure that we don’t sit here in Philadelphia five, 10 years from now and say, ‘You know what? We did a disservice to Carson Wentz.’ We take that very seriously,” Roseman said in January during a SportsRadio 94WIP appearance. “We wake up every day, we come in and we talk about making sure we surround this guy with the right talent, to give him a chance to play in games like (the conference championship games).”

Andy Reid was very patient and tried to build around McNabb. It feels like Roseman and Pederson don’t want to be as patient. They still want to build around Wentz, but instead of just drafting players or signing someone with upside (like the Eagles did with James Thrash), they went after the top WR on the market and landed Alshon Jeffery.

The organization still added a pair of rookie WRs and a rookie RB. They already had several young WRs and a young RB in place. They have a couple of young TEs already on the roster. It isn’t as if the Eagles are in panic mode and making crazy moves. There is a difference in being aggressive and being reckless. The Eagles didn’t trade away future picks. They didn’t give out dangerous contracts. They didn’t sign players with major character issues. These feel like smart, reasonable moves.

But still aggressive.

McNabb developed into an outstanding QB despite having such limited weapons around him for the first few years. It will be interesting to see how Wentz performs now that he has really good talent to work with.

One thing is for sure. The pressure is on Wentz. He’s been given the tools to succeed.

Can he deliver?

_