Stewart Bradley, Jamar Chaney, and Casey Matthews are 3 very different players. Those are the 3 candidates the Eagles have to be the starting MLB in 2011. Let’s talk about what they do well and how they would function in the new system.
Stewart Bradley is the biggest of the bunch. NFL.com lists him at 6’4, 258. Even if that is off a bit, he’s still the biggest. Stew runs well for a guy his size. If you put on the 2008 tape you see a LB that is tough and physical. He’s able to shed blockers and get to the ball. Stew is underrated in terms of coverage skills, but can be awkward at times in space. At his best, he’s a vertical player. He is a short area guy that wants to attack North-South.
The new system is going to have the MLB play off the ball and be more of a read and react player. This requires a LB that is more of a horizontal player. Jamar Chaney has the speed and range to make plays all over the field. Chaney wasn’t very good in college at getting off blocks, but the coaches worked with him a lot last summer and I was very impressed with the progress he made. Chaney had the physical tools to shed blocks. He just needed to work on technique. He did that in practice and it showed on the field. Chaney is athletic, but didn’t show much of a feel for pass coverage. I’m sure that’s the area the coaches will focus on when the lockout does finally lift.
Casey Matthews is the most instinctive player of the trio. Casey is lighter and slower than both Stew and Chaney. Casey makes plays because of his eyes. He has good field vision. He trusts what he sees and then goes for the ball. Bradley likes to attack immediately. Chaney doesn’t have ideal key and diagnose skills. He reacts to what is in front of him, but doesn’t process things as quickly and smoothly as Casey. I think Casey has the best cover skills of the group. He knows how to handle man coverage, but also how to get in the passing lanes and make things happen. I guess I should temper that and say that he knows how to do this at the college level.
Casey is totally unproven in the NFL obviously. He plays faster than he times because of his instincts and ability to know what will happen. If those instincts don’t work as well in the NFL, Casey might not have the speed to be a good starting MLB. Casey also has to show that he can handle blockers. That was a weak point for him at Oregon. He’s a physical player and should be able to improve in this area, but it does need a lot of work.
The new scheme requires the LBs to read the play and then go get the ball. You cannot just attack at the snap. Ernie Sims head might explode if he tried to fully embrace this concept. Hesitation just isn’t in his nature. Stew has the physical ability to play in the scheme, but I don’t know if he can adjust his style of play. Old habits die hard.
One thing all 3 guys have in common is great intangibles. All 3 are leaders. All 3 are highly competitive, something that is critical at MLB.
I really think Chaney will be the WLB. Stew and Casey then would battle for MLB, assuming Stew sticks around. It is possible he’ll go to another team. I think the stability of staying here will make it tough to leave unless he’s blown away by an offer. We’re making changes in scheme and on the staff, but he still knows Andy Reid and his teammates. Stew would still be in a comfortable environment and part of a successful tradition. Were he to try and go to Carolina or Cleveland and meet up with an old coach, he’d be surrounded by strangers and less than ideal circumstances. If he wants a 1-year deal, the Eagles are his best match.
We still don’t know if the Eagles want Stew. I’m guessing they do for 2011, but that’s just a stab in the dark. This isn’t like Quintin Mikell where you can read the tea leaves and see that he’s a goner.
So much uncertainty and confusion on July 1st. This lockout mess is insane.
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Adam Caplan recently responded to the talk of a Kevin Kolb trade to Arizona. Caplan said he didn’t see the Cardinals giving up on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. He did throw out the name of LB Daryl Washington. Interesting.
I don’t know if the Eagles would have serious interest in Washington. He would fit the new system quite well as a WLB. Daryl is a gifted cover LB. I remember watching TCU against Clemson in the fall of 2009. He broke up a downfield pass. I made a note to find out about the Safety from TCU who had the impressive PBU. That pass break-up didn’t come from a S. It was Washington. He’s not just a finesse cover ‘backer. Washington played inside a lot in college because TCU ran a 4-2-5 scheme. It’s possible he could play MLB in our new system.
Washington had a solid rookie year for the Cardinals. He started 11 games and played in all 16. He had 78 total tackles, 6 TFLs, 1 FF, 1 INT, and 2 PDs. By comparison, Stew had 60 total tackles, 4 TFLs, 1 sack, 6 PDs, and 1 INT. He played in fewer games, of course.
Washington would give the Eagles a boost in the LB department and that does make him an interesting potential trade target. The flip side is that we just drafted 2 LBs last year and 3 more this year. We’re rebuilding our LB corps already. That may make Washington less important.
The other key point here is that we’d have to get a pretty good pick with Washignton in a deal for Kolb. Would Arizona pay that price?
I don’t see Washington as a likely target for the Eagles. He could be a second or third option if the right picks aren’t available and DRC is truly off the table. I just don’t anticipate Daryl playing for us in 2011.
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After the recent discussion about Ike Taylor and some other CBs, someone on Twitter got on me for earlier saying the Eagles would pursue a top CB. Let’s examine this for a second.
The Eagles have Asante Samuel, who most think is a Top 5 CB in the NFL. Even if you disagree a bit, he’s still Top 10. The Eagles are looking for a #2 CB, someone to play the right side.
The notion that this is Nnamdi Asomugha or bust is silly. Nnamdi is the #2 CB in the entire NFL. He’s the guy you get and then build your secondary around him. That’s drastically different than what we require.
Do I still love the thought of signing Nnamdi? Heck yes. It isn’t a “must” though. Adding someone below him doesn’t mean the Eagles are settling at all. Ellis Hobbs was the kind of guy we settled on last year. He was purely a fallback option. Had he been on the market, do you think multiple teams would have pursued him. No way – as a starter at least. Good KOR and role player, but marginal starter.
The CBs I mentioned the other day were DRC, Ike Taylor, Carlos Rogers, and Josh Wilson. All of those guys would be upgrades on Hobbs. All will have offers from multiple teams. All of those guys are or have been the top CB on a defense. Those are the kind of targets we should have at RCB.
I understand how as fans you fall into the “Nnamdi or bust” mindset, but holding the Eagles to that standard isn’t fair. If we needed him, the Eagles would do whatever it took to land him. That’s how they went after Troy Vincent in 1996 (great job by Joe Banner with a poison pill). That’s how they went after Asante Samuel in 2008 (great job by Banner and the coaches who recruited Asante).
We might want Nnamdi Asomugha, but we don’t need him. We need better play at RCB. There are other options that might fit the better overall plan for the team and the offseason. I would still love to see the Eagles work something out and land Nnamdi, but he’s a luxury item at this point.
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Newest PE.com column is up. I was doing some research recently and got to thinking about the Colts, Pats, and Eagles. What will Indy and NE be like without Manning/Brady? We’ve already had our change and things are holding strong.