I was listening to an interview with the Carolina Panthers play-by-play announcer Mick Mixon on Thursday. Mixon had a few interesting things to say. He was asked what would be the key difference from John Fox to Ron Rivera. Mixon said that under Fox the Panthers were very basic and showed little imagination. Mixon talked about how the offense was old school – run and play it safe. That is going to change with the new coaching staff. They want to be more of a throwing team. Then Mixon talked about how exciting it would be to have Rivera and Sean McDermott running the defense. They would blitz, attack, and be aggressive. He genuinely sounded excited about having coaches come in that would be less basic and more innovative.
We Eagles fans grew frustrated with the defense in the last couple of years because it seemed overly complex. Players were coming and going play after play. We ran all kinds of fronts and did lots of exotic things. McDermott was innovative. Too innovative, it seemed. On offense we get frustrated with Big Red when it feels like most 3rd/2 plays are passes. Why not just stay basic and run behind your big O-line?
I guess the old saying is true … the grass is always greener on the other side.
How you do things isn’t as important as doing them well. Execution is king. The Carolina offense was terrific in 2008. They ran the ball great. Jake Delhomme had a very good season. Steve Smith was Steve Smith. Life was good. Delhomme hasn’t been the same player since his playoff disaster against the Cardinals. The O-line had a lot of injuries and wasn’t nearly as effective. That hurt the passing game and the running game suffered as well. Back in 2008 the Panthers were 7th in scoring and 10th in yards gained. Last year they were dead last in both categories.
Mixon, and many Panthers fans, may want innovation and creativity, but they really need better execution than anything. Just look at Mike Martz and the Bears. That offense didn’t take off last year until Martz simplified things and ran the ball more.
The Eagles are going to be more basic on defense. I think that is a good thing, but the real key is better play from the back seven. It doesn’t matter what your playbook looks like when LBs and DBs are sloppy in coverage and tackling.
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There’s been some good talk in the comments section about Ike Taylor and Nnamdi Asomugha. Going back to the comment from Greg Cosell that “they aren’t as far apart as many would think”, we don’t know exactly what Cosell meant because we don’t have a full set of detailed comments. I follow him on Twitter and listen to him in interviews so I think I know what he was getting at. Asomugha is the #2 CB in the entire NFL. He and Darrelle Revis are in a class of their own. However, Taylor is a better player than many people realize. There is a definite drop-off from Asomugha to Taylor. It isn’t great player to mediocre player, though. Taylor is a good CB. I watched several of his games and came away impressed.
Cosell certainly wasn’t implying that Nnamdi is “just” an above average player. He wasn’t trying to make Ike Taylor the #3 CB in the NFL. I think he was simply showing some support for Taylor, who he feels is underrated or maybe under-appreciated. I think we tend to love guys that have big time man cover skills or guys that are playmakers. Taylor doesn’t fit either category. He’s played more man coverage in recent years, but Dick LeBeau likes to play it safe with his coverages for the most part.
I think the Eagles will make a call to Asomugha’s agent, but I think they’re going to be scared off by the asking price. Or maybe the agent has already leaked an asking price to some teams and the Eagles know it’s not a number that they’re comfortable with. I’m sure Andy Reid, Howie Roseman, and Juan Castillo would love to have Nnamdi. He is a blue chip player. You always want those guys when they come available. There’s only so many of them in the league.
Money will also be a factor with Taylor. He wants a big payday. How big? That’s the key question with him. The Steelers don’t pay CBs big money because they don’t use their guys in tight man coverage all the time. LBs rule the roost in Pittsburgh. That’s where the money goes. The Steelers would love to keep Taylor, but they aren’t willing to pay top dollar. Taylor has already said there won’t be a hometown discount. He’s got his rings. He wants some cash.
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Someone in the comments section asked about the Eagles pursuing Titans MLB Stephen Tulloch once free agency starts. Not likely. I think the Eagles want to build a LB corps. They’ve drafted 5 guys in the last 2 years. I know Tulloch has plenty left in the tank. He could be the MLB for 5 years. I just don’t see the Eagles going after him. Just a guess on my part. Maybe they’ll throw me a curveball and go after him.