Thank You Cards

Posted: February 23rd, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 178 Comments »

The Eagles won the Super Bowl for a lot of reasons. Carson Wentz got the team off to an amazing start. Nick Foles was sensational during the playoffs. Doug Pederson proved to be a brilliant coach. The defense was stifling for most of the season. You can go on and on and list all kinds of reasons.

There are some non-Eagles to thank as well. The team should consider sending out Thank You cards to some folks.

The Rams

It is funny how important the Rams were to the Eagles success. I won’t even get into the Sam Bradford angle. That’s a long, complex part of the story. The Rams did the Eagles a huge favor by drafting Jared Goff first overall and letting the Eagles “settle” for Carson Wentz. Goff had a terrific year and might win a Super Bowl of his own in the future, but Wentz was the perfect choice for the Eagles. He fits this team and this city. He looks like a special player.

The Rams also cut Nick Foles, after making his life miserable. That sent Foles to KC last year and helped him want to come back to Philly this year. Foles had fun in Philly early in his career. He got to experience that and so much more in his return this past season. If Foles hadn’t been so miserable with the Rams, he might have focused on going somewhere he could battle for a starting job.

I also think the December game in L.A. was important. The Rams really pushed the Eagles that day, but the Eagles came from behind and won the game. It was actually similar to the Super Bowl, where the Eagles led most of the way, but fell behind late before coming back to win.

Chip Kelly

The Chipster played a key role in the Eagles winning the big game. Unfortunately for him, it isn’t all for good reasons. If he didn’t turn so cold and awkward in his time in Philly, Jeffrey Lurie might not have been so focused on finding a coach with “emotional intelligence”. Pederson might not have been a key candidate if not for Kelly’s demeanor in 2015.

Chip fought for control and then pooped the bed when he got it in 2015. Those moves helped the Eagles to have a bad year and played a big part in Lurie firing him. If Chip hangs on to LeSean McCoy, maybe the Eagles go 9-7 in 2015 and he keeps his job. His own bad moves paved the way for his demise. Chip’s bad moves also helped the Eagles land good draft position. That gave them a chance to move up to 2nd overall. If the Eagles are starting off in the 20’s, I don’t know if they could have pulled that off.

Chip banished Howie Roseman for 2015 and that turned out to be the best thing ever for Howie. He got a huge serving of humble pie and I think that turned out to be a good thing in the long run. He also has been a different person since coming back. He had his job taken away and then given back. That gives you a new perspective on life and your situation. I don’t know if old Howie could have made things work with a personnel guy like Joe Douglas. New Howie has made it work and the results are pretty great.

On the plus side, Chip hired some good coaches that are still with the Eagles. Jeff Stoutland and Dave Fipp are key members of the staff and played a big role in the Eagles championship success.

Chip brought Sports Science to Philly. I have no concrete proof of that making a huge difference, but it sure feels like it has had an effect. You see guys playing later into their 30’s and still performing at a high level in some cases. Sports Science can’t do anything about broken ankles or torn ACLs, but it does feel like the Eagles deal with fewer nagging injuries.

The up-tempo attack was a good thing. I think Chip was wrong to build his whole team around it, but going up-tempo is a useful weapon for the offense and the Eagles do it well. There are coaches and players here from Chip’s tenure and you have to think their time under him has helped the Eagles when it comes to playing at warp speed.

The Vikings

They traded for Bradford, paving the way for Wentz to get on the field in 2016.

They drafted Dalvin Cook, a player the Eagles had some interest in. If the Eagles had made a play for him, who knows what the RB group would have done.

I think it was important that the Vikings had a great season and pushed the Eagles. If the Eagles had clinched HFA a week or two earlier, the team might have gotten sloppy. The Vikings pushed the Eagles until the end and I think that helped the Eagles stay at a high level.

Oh yeah…thanks for not showing up in the NFC title game.

The Oddsmakers

I don’t think the underdog status played a big role, but if it helped with one block, one tackle or one catch, then it was a good thing. It did give the players a fun angle and the fans certainly ate it up. The Eagles were never going to overlook a postseason opponent thanks to hearing about the point spreads for the games.

The Dolphins

Howie trading Kiko Alsono and Byron Maxwell so he could move up in the draft was simply amazing. He unloaded players the team didn’t want and got the Eagles close enough where they could then go get Carson Wentz. Thank you Miami.

The Dolphins didn’t feel that was enough so they graciously traded Jay Ajayi to the Eagles in October.

The Bengals

Imagine if Cincy had kept rookie PK Jake Elliott and put some other guy on the street. I’m not sure the Eagles win the Super Bowl. Who knew such a simple move by the Bengals could be so crucial to the Eagles winning a title.

The Bills

Thanks to Jim Schwartz, the Eagles feel like Buffalo South at times. From Corey Graham to Nigel Bradham to Schwartz himself, former Bills played a big part in the Eagles success. Ronald Darby made key plays in the wins over the Giants and Raiders late in the year. Without those wins, the Eagles might not have had HFA.

The Browns

Cleveland had the #2 pick in the 2016 draft. They decided Carson Wentz wasn’t worthy of that spot so they dealt the pick away. The Eagles paid a lot for it, but that proved to be a bargain when you look at the results since. The Browns are 1-31. The Eagles are champions.

Cleveland decided that giving Wentz to the Eagles wasn’t enough so they fired John DeFilippo. He came to Philly and did a great job of coaching Wentz, Foles and Nate Sudfeld. Very generous of the Browns to give the Eagles a great QB and a great QB coach.

Andy Reid

Believe it or not, the Eagles road to the Super Bowl began in 1999 when Reid became the team’s head coach. He brought a professionalism and structure to the organization that had been lacking since the Dick Vermeil years. Reid brought in Pederson to be his QB. That obviously strengthened their bond and Pederson wouldn’t be where he is today without Reid.

Reid drafted and coached guys like Jason Kelce and Brent Celek. He was here when the Eagles traded for Jason Peters. Those veterans are key leaders for the team, in part because of the way they were developed by Reid. Nick Foles was part of Reid’s final draft class (along with Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry and Mychal Kendricks). Reid only spent a year with Foles in Philly, but they developed a good relationship and Foles joined him in KC in 2016. Reid played a major role in Foles deciding not to retire, which was pretty important to the Eagles winning the Super Bowl.

Lurie had Reid in mind when he began his coaching search in January of 2016. Lurie wanted to find someone who knew football, but just as importantly, someone who knew people. He saw that kind of potential in Pederson, who many joked was Andy Reid Jr. Nobody is laughing now.

 

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Interesting Idea

Posted: February 22nd, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 208 Comments »

We know the Eagles need to get under the salary cap. That means re-working some deals and making some cuts. It could also mean possibly trading a veteran, if the circumstances were right. PFT had a link to a story yesterday about the Colts transitioning to the 4-3 defense. They want to be a fast, attacking Tampa-2 style defense. One problem…they don’t have much at DE.

Interesting.

The Eagles could talk to them about a trade of Vinny Curry. The Eagles would save $5M and help to create a better cap situation. The Colts would have their starting RDE. Frank Reich is the new coach in Indy and might like bringing over a guy from the Eagles to help establish the right culture. The Colts are projected to have a ton of cap space. They could go sign a free agent, but this isn’t projected to be a great crop to choose from.

You wouldn’t get great return for Curry. You could ask for Indy’s 4th round pick. Would you do it for a 5th? Keep in mind that their pick is at the top of the round.

The NFL Combine starts on Tuesday and teams will begin discussing deals…in Indy. This is where the groundwork of most major deals happens.

The Eagles could talk to Curry about taking a pay cut. If he would agree to do that, they might prefer to keep him. Curry’s sack numbers weren’t great to be sure, but he was an outstanding run defender and got good pressure on the QB. He’s not worth his current cap price of $11M to the Eagles so something has to happen.

The other X-factor here is whether the Eagles think Derek Barnett is ready to seriously push for a starting job. If so, they might want to move on from Curry. That would allow them to save money and then add a young DE to the mix. Brandon Graham and Chris Long aren’t young so adding a young player might make a lot of sense.

It sure feels like the smart play would be to move on from Curry. I’d hate to see him go, but that’s the business of football.

*****

So AJ played all year with a torn rotator cuff? Wow. Tough dude. Les has some details.

Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery has undergone surgery to repair his right rotator cuff, a source said Wednesday, confirming an NFL.com report. The goal is for Jeffery to be ready for the 2018 regular season, though he could return during the preseason if all goes well, the source said.

Jeffery, 28, one of the Eagles’ biggest Super Bowl LII heroes, was injured on the first weekend of training camp but played every game of the 2017 season, catching 57 passes for 789 yards and nine touchdowns. He played 82 percent of the Eagles’ offensive snaps.

Jeffery did not experience significant discomfort during the season or the three-game postseason, the source said. In the playoffs, Jeffery caught 12 passes for 219 yards and three touchdowns, including a spectacular 34-yard score from Nick Foles in the Super Bowl.

Two questions came out of this. First, how was he never on the injury report. That last paragraph from Les tells you the key info. The injury didn’t really affect him that badly. He practiced and played at a high level. The Eagles didn’t gain any competitive advantage. The league could talk to the Eagles about this, but it looks like they should be okay by the letter of the law.

Should the Eagles have signed AJ to the contract extension knowing he was hurt? If he was a starting QB or pitcher, no. As a WR, not a huge deal. He obviously played through the injury and made some huge catches. The Eagles don’t win the Super Bowl without him. This is an injury that should completely heal after surgery so I don’t see this as some major risk.

He will miss some preseason and Training Camp time. That will provide a huge opportunity for Shelton Gibson, Mack Hollins and other young receivers to show what they can do.

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Groh to OC

Posted: February 20th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 132 Comments »

The Eagles made their decision on what to do at offensive coordinator.

This is a smart move. Groh had a hand in gameplanning last year so expanding that role should come naturally to him. He does have OC experience at the collegiate level. That was a decade ago and you can bet that Groh is much better prepared for the role at this stage in his career. He’s been part of some great coaching staffs, helping Alabama to win a national championship and also helping the Eagles to win the Super Bowl this past season.

Groh could be a head coaching candidate down the road, but hopefully he can provide the Eagles some stability at OC for the next couple of years. Doug Pederson has some young coaches he is developing (most notably Press Taylor) and it would be good to give them time to grown into their roles.

Pederson will run the offensive side of the ball and will call plays, but Groh will play a key role in building the gameplan and helping to…coordinate the offense (if only they had a title for that). Pederson believes in splitting up duties so Groh will need to oversee some of that and help the different coaches work together.

Duce Staley was the other candidate who got interviewed for the job. I’m sure he’s disappointed, but Groh had the better background for this role. The Eagles did show how much they appreciate Staley and what he’s meant to the team.

Since there is no salary cap on coaches, I’m sure he’s getting a raise as well.

One of the challenges that success brings is trying to reward people and keep everyone happy. The Eagles did the best they could with this situation. I hope they give Staley a chance to be more involved with gameplanning so that he’s ready for an OC role the next time one comes available, here or elsewhere.

I do think Staley has a legitimate shot to be a head coach. He is a natural leader and has a great relationship with players. He can be tough and demanding, but does it in the right way.

*****

Here is Jimmy Bama’s take on the moves. He also has an update on the overall coaching staff.

The Eagles will need to hire a WRs coach. We don’t have any clues on that yet. There is a coach on the staff with some WR experience. Trent Miles most recently was the head coach at Georgia State, but has coached WRs at Notre Dame, Stanford, Hawaii and Fresno State. He was also the WRs coach for the Packers in 2000. Pederson was in Cleveland that year so they didn’t work together.

The team will need to hire or promote someone to take on Press Taylor’s role of offensive quality control/assistant QBs coach. They do have someone on staff named Spencer Phillips who helped out with the QBs the past two years. He played QB for small colleges and then spent time working for a passing academy before breaking into college coaching at Samford. He sounds like an interesting young coach.

*****

This is heaven.

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Are the Kids Alright?

Posted: February 20th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 121 Comments »

The Eagles have some interesting decisions to make at several spots on the roster. One of the key issues with these decisions is youth vs. experience. If you have been paying attention over the past two years, you can see that Doug Pederson isn’t afraid to take chances on young players.

The most notable decision is whether to go with Jason Peters or Halapoulivaati Vaitai at LT. There is no question that Peters is the better player, but circumstances matter. Peters is 12 years older than Big V. Peters is also coming off injury and vastly more expensive.

Whoa, based on that you can’t go with Big V. The problem is that I don’t fully trust PFF so I don’t fully trust those numbers. Also, numbers need context.

There is no question that Big V struggled at times. He played RT as a rookie and the Eagles had him spend more time at LT last spring and summer. He still split reps and was being trained as the swing tackle. Vaitai hit the field in the middle of Game 7 and then became the starting LT the next week. There were some ugly games in there, but Vaitai did get better as the season went along. His run blocking took a huge leap forward.

Vaitai played his best game in the NFC Championship, when he shut down DE Everson Griffen. That one game doesn’t mean he’s ready to be a stud LT any more than struggling vs Seattle means he can’t be a starter.

We have to be accurate in evaluating him now and also looking forward. Vaitai was an effective starting LT. He started 12 total games and the offense scored 31 or more points nine times. The offense had six games of more than 415 yards of offense. That doesn’t happen if you don’t have a functional LT. Oh yeah, the team also managed to win the Super Bowl.

Vaitai showed progress during the season so it is reasonable to assume he will improve if he spends a full offseason training to be the starting LT. There is a real argument to be made for bringing back him at LT and Stefen Wisniewski at LG to have as much continuity as possible on the O-line.

What is Vaitai’s ceiling? That’s a much tougher question. It certainly isn’t anywhere close to Peters level of play. I like Vaitai and think he can develop into a good starting LT, but Peters is a special player. He’s got an outside shot at the Hall of Fame.

You can bet that Pederson, Howie Roseman, Joe Douglas, Jeff Stoutland and Eugene Chung will have some long talks about the LT situation. This would be the perfect time to move on from Peters, but there is the risk that Vaitai will flat-line and stay about where he is now. Peters could come back and play at a high level for another couple of years. Vaitai in his prime might not match Peters on the decline.

The X-factor here is Peters the person. He’s close with Jeffrey Lurie. Peters is respected by all of his teammates and the coaches love him. It would be hard to release or trade him. Pederson already said that Peters will be his LT in 2018, but that was very premature. You can’t ignore the business side of things. The Eagles are over the cap and Peters is set to make $10.67M each of the next two years. Vaitai is about $10M cheaper.

Big V is just one of several young players the Eagles must figure out. Teams love to go with young players because they have a future and they are cheaper, but the Eagles decision-making has to be affected by the fact they have a chance to pursue greatness. They just won the Super Bowl and have a chance to win another. Do you cut Torrey Smith and give his job to Mack Hollins? Is Hollins ready for that role and that kind of pressure?

The Eagles aren’t naive. They saw how Isaac Seumalo failed to handle LG this year. That won’t stop them from taking chances on young players, but you can bet they’ll have options behind those guys. Wiz proved to be a key player for the Eagles.

It is going to be interesting to see how things shake out in the next couple of months. I don’t envy some of the decisions that Howie and Doug have to make.

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Offensive Coordinator Update

Posted: February 19th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 121 Comments »

My guess was that Doug Pederson would bring in an outsider to be the offensive coordinator in 2018. It sounds like Pederson has other ideas.

The Eagles love Duce Staley and I’m sure they would have some interest in giving him a promotion. As I written before, there is just the question of whether he is ready to help build gameplans. That’s something he hasn’t done in the past. Staley has helped with the process, but hasn’t been a primary architect.

Groh has only been with the team a year, but he did an amazing job with the WRs. Peter King wrote a great piece on the game-winning TD in the Super Bowl. Groh played a key role in designing the play. He was an OC at the University of Virginia from 2006-2008 so Groh has a background in building gameplans and calling plays. He has a thorough understanding of the passing game through playing and coaching QBs, as well as coaching WRs at the college and pro level.

Normally I’m not a fan of splitting duties like that, but this could work with the Eagles. Doug Pederson is the play-caller and he mixed things up last year. Frank Reich was in charge of the 2-minute offense. John DeFilippo was in charge of the Red Zone offense. Jeff Stoutland basically ran the ground attack. Pederson is a believer in using all of his resources and knows how to make that work.

We’ll see what happens.

*****

LeGarrette Blount has won Super Bowls each of the past two years. I’m guessing money will be a key issue for the free agent RB when it comes to choosing a team. He seems to like the Eagles quite a bit and had great things to say about Duce Staley. You really get the feeling they have a good relationship.

The Eagles might have serious interest in bringing Blount back, but the trick is making it work financially. He made $1.25M in 2017. You know he wants more than that this time around, but the RB market might be a problem for him and other free agents. There is another strong class of draft prospects and teams are showing they can win big without spending big at RB.

The Eagles line of thinking could be affected by the absence of a 2nd and 3rd round pick. If there are areas they want to add depth, they have to choose very carefully now. This might be a case where you bring Blount back for one more year and then address RB next year. That would also give you a chance to see just how good Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement can be.

It is also possible the team slow-plays this. They could see what happens with the draft and UDFAs and then decided whether to bring back Blount or add some other veteran RB. You could have some talented veterans looking for work in May and June.

Darren Sproles could also be a factor in the situation. Wendell Smallwood probably won’t. Sproles made $4M last year. If he comes back, it won’t be for anything close to that. I’m sure the coaches have some interest, but I just don’t see how it makes a lot of sense with his age and injury situation. Smallwood was a major disappointment in 2017, but he is cheap and young. And versatile. That gives him some value.

*****

The Eagles are high on Sudfeld.

I’m just not sure if they think he’s ready to play in key games if Wentz is hurt. They love him as a long term player, but is he ready now?

The coaches got Wentz ready to start in a very short time. Sudfeld doesn’t have anywhere close to the same level of talent as Wentz, but he’s been with the team since September and did get playing time in the season finale. It is possible he could be ready to be the backup in 2018.

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