Great Expectations

Posted: February 21st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 84 Comments »

Stewart Bradley tore his ACL in the summer of 2009 and MLB has been a black hole since then.  At the time, it didn’t seem like a big deal.  Omar Gaither would just slide over.  Joe Mays was in the mix.  Omar got hurt.  Joe was in over his head.  The team dealt for Will Witherspoon.  He was great in the first game, a MNF win over the Skins.  Spoon never came close to matching that level and his play faded by the end of the year.

So what?  That was just one bad year.  Stew was back for 2010 and looked good in the preseason.  Unfortunately he was a shell of his former self during the regular season.  MLB was a liability once again.  He got hurt late and rookie Jamar Chaney stepped in.  For a moment…one glorious moment…it appeared the Football Gods had delivered us a stud LB.  Chaney played well in the game where he took over for Bradley.  Chaney then had 16 tackles the following week in a win over the Giants.  Hope was alive.

And then hope got run over.  Repeatedly.  Adrian Peterson and James Starks ran wild.  We all focused on the Giants game instead of looking at the evidence of the MIN/GB games.

Coming into 2011 the plan was to go with rookie Casey Matthews.  If he struggled, the team could slide Chaney back to the middle.  What could go wrong?  Oops.  Casey did struggle.  And Chaney did move back.  And then he struggled.

In the last 48 regular season games, the Eagles have gotten less than 5 good games of MLB play.  Think about that for a second.

So now we sit in the 2012 offseason and my fellow Eagles fans are talking about the need for “an impact MLB”.  “We must get a star.”  “I can’t live with another 2nd tier MLB.”  And so on.

Uh, slow down folks.  Hold your friggin’ horses.  Getting 2nd tier play from MLB would be a good thing.  This notion that you need Patrick Willis and Ray Lewis is crazy.  I’d love to add an impact MLB, but the idea that we must have one is off base.

The reason I loved Luke Kuechly for the Eagles so much isn’t that he’s this great playmaker and run stuffer.  Luke is a tackling machine.  Simple as that.  And that is precisely what this defense needs.  Having a MLB who could “take over games” and make big plays would be great, but that simply isn’t something you need in this era of football.  If that player is available, you get him.  If not, you find a player who does what you need.

I re-watched part of the SEA/PHI debacle the other night.  There was a play to the outside where Chaney hustled over and then made such a terrible tackle attempt that I actually laughed out loud.  Luke Kuechly makes that tackle.  So do any number of LBs.  That’s what we need.

The front four will pressure the passer and be disruptive against the run.  The secondary has the players to cover well and handle that side of things.  The LBs must get to the ball and tackle.  They need to be smart.  Get in the right gap.  They need to use their hands to fight off blockers.  They need to make tackles when the ball comes to them.

At its most basic, you can say that we need a smart guy who can tackle.  Simple as that.  Chaney struggled with being in the right gap.  He was used to the 2010 scheme which let him attack.  Having to read and flow didn’t come to him quickly.  And his tackling was a major issue.  He missed some key tackles during the year.

Some fans will say that if you don’t get Curtis Lofton in FA, then the team is screwed.  We’re just looking at more of the same.  If we don’t get Luke Kuechly in the draft, the team is screwed.  Wrong and wrong.

There are going to be several MLBs in FA that would be an improvement on what we have.  Holding the Eagles to a standard of Lofton or else is silly.  Put Curtis Lofton on the team last year and we’re not guaranteed to make the playoffs.  MLB simply isn’t a position like that anymore.  And he’s not a rare player that you must pursue at all costs.  He’s the head of the class and a player I’d love to add, but let’s be realistic.  You don’t break the bank for Lofton.

Adding David Hawthorne or London Fletcher would be good.  Stephen Tulloch remains a possibility.  EJ Henderson would be interesting.  I’ve warmed to the idea of Dan Connor.  Sounds like D’Qwell Jackson will stay in CLE, but he could have been a target.  I’m still not sure what to make of Larry Grant, the Niners backup ILB.

Should the Eagles miss on MLBs in FA and be forced to wait for the draft, it isn’t Kuechly or bust.  Luke is clearly the best player and fit, but there could be other targets in the 2nd or 3rd round who could step in right away and play.  Mychal Kendricks from Cal interests me a lot.  James-Michael Johnson of Nevada could be an interesting MLB option.  We’ll see how Dont’a Hightower runs at the Combine.  Maybe he’ll prove to be athletic enough to fit in the 4-3.

Bottom line…there are options.  Jamar Chaney and Casey Matthews could be greatly improved this year, but we can’t rely on them.  They had a chance to impress, but neither did.  They aren’t out of the mix, but they will have to fight with the new players for jobs and possibly even roster spots.

The Eagles know that MLB must be addressed.  They’ve tried to find the answer in the last couple of years without success.  That means the team must be more aggressive this year.  They need to target someone in FA and/or the Top 100 picks of the draft.  They need more of a sure thing.  The time for projects is gone.  I do expect them to get us a quality MLB.  It may not be Curtis Lofton, but the new player will be an improvement on what we’ve got and should be a quality starter.

Bill Parcells old saying is “don’t let good enough be good enough”.  Generally speaking, I love that mentality.  This is one case where “good enough” would be just fine because it would be a significant improvement on the last 3 years.

As to the notion of the Wide-9 being super tough on MLBs…I’m not so sure that is 100 percent true.  The MLB is playing behind a pair of 1-gap DTs.  That’s not unusual.  The DEs are out wide and that does make it easier for OTs to get upfield to block, but that should impact the OLBs more than the MLB.  If a MLB can read plays, use his hands, and tackle, he should be able to play in the Wide-9.

* * * * *

News of the day…Cullen Jenkins restructured his deal so he will be staying an Eagle for sure.  I didn’t expect him to leave, but this is good news.  The possibility of him leaving is now out the door.  CuJo, as I like to call him, had a very good year and we need his presence up front, as well as in the locker room.

This doesn’t change the desire for a young player to be brought in behind him, even as early as the 1st round.  Jim Washburn’s system needs at least one DT who can get after the QB, but you really want 2 in case something happens to the first guy.

* * * * *

NFL Gimpy has his new MAQB column posted.  Make sure you check that out.

84 Comments on “Great Expectations”

  1. 1 Anonymous said at 1:17 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    i guess that’s why they contacted laws yesterday?

  2. 2 Anonymous said at 1:23 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    also, about the MLB’s… seems like they took a lot of “what if” risks over the years. remember the first 6 or 7 years of andy’s reign (the years with all those NFC championships), the team took many low risk, medium reward chances. they went with what they could count on every week. but then something happened after they got T.O. (or was it, controversy-alert, andy’s personal matters?), they just started taking a lot of extremely high risks for high reward opportunities. so they lose a lot of games in the beginning of the year, every year, because now they have to figure out how to fix all their holes from their failed experiments. suddenly, a 16 game schedule turns into a 10 game schedule, and instead of winning 66.7% of them, they have to win 80% of them. economically it’s a flawed system and flawed mindset.

  3. 3 Anonymous said at 1:24 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    maybe andy just got used to the limelight from the superbowl and being in the news, that he just wanted to be ore of a showman.

  4. 4 Anonymous said at 1:25 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    maybe andy just got used to the limelight from the superbowl and being in the news, that he just wanted to be ore of a showman.

  5. 5 Anonymous said at 1:32 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    I think this post represents a shift in your previous view that if we got our MLB in the draft it shouldn’t be in the second or third rounds. Even in the first round you couldn’t be sure that the rookie would be starting in the first game. It can take a whole season before a rookie is ready to start. This is why free agency is probably the way to go for starting MLB and OLB for that matter. Then you can draft the best available for the future. If a rookie or two ends up starting your still fine as long as the free agent contracts are structured appropriately.

  6. 6 Anonymous said at 1:51 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    I think my previous hesitance was due to not being comfortable with the prospects behind Luke. Kendricks has really grown on me as I’ve watched more and more Cal. JMJ got me interested at the Senior Bowl and in subsequent tape study.

    Luke is head and shoulders above them and should be the draft focus, but I don’t think you trade up to get Luke. I think you sit tight at 15 and take him. If someone else grabs him before then, you need a Plan B. Luke isn’t the kind of special MLB who should go above pick 15, but you never know what the other 31 teams are thinking.

  7. 7 Anonymous said at 2:24 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    Agree completely. Dallas, Arizona and Seattle have too many other needs at positions that are deeper. He would have to pull a sub 4.60 to get serious considerations ahead of 15. Urhlacker went 9th after running a 4.57 but he was close to 258lbs and had played safety proving he had cover skills. Dallas would be lured by the prospect of Kuechly next to Lee but they have to replace Spencer and have needs on the OL, DL and CB. The stars are aligned if the Eagles staff is as enthused Mayock.

  8. 8 Joe Malone said at 1:50 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    Now that Cullen’s Cap number inst astronomical, I will be very, very, disappointed if we are not aggressive in pursing a FA LB and/or WR (if we don’t resign DeSean). The eagles will have a large amount of cap space; so there’s no reason not to be aggressive, at least for LB. Not to mention ILB and WR are deepest positions in this FA Class.

    Now I know its probably not the best idea to go all out in FA like last year; but LB and WR will be major needs this offseason and we must go after the best. I personally feel we are only a few pieces away from being great so theres no reason not to fill the holes we have. Certainly lofton is the clear cut choice as the #1 option, but Hawthorne and L-Fletch would also be ideal. Heres hoping we get at least one of those players to man the middle.

    As far as WR goes, it really depends on what the eagles would want to do. Do they want to change directions from DeSean and get a possession guy like Bowe or Colston? Are they looking to replace DeSean with a lower risk higher reward player like a Robert Meachem or Eddie Royal? Maybe they want a combo of both and go out and get V-jax or Stevie Johnson. Personally I wouldn’t mind getting a player like Colston (Greg Cosell said to today on PE live that colston primarily plays the slot which shocked me and might be exactly what we needed) then drafting an outside guy in the 1st 2nd or 3rd. The guy who intrigues me the most(and probably most of us) is Joe Adams. Tommy, if we drafted Joe, where do you think he would line up? Would he play the role of DeSean and be the Go route outside guy or would we try to utilize his talents in the slot (something I always wished DeSean could do.)

    Alls I know is these next few weeks can’t go by quick enough. Bring me Free Agency!

  9. 9 Eric Weaver said at 3:27 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    I’m not pointing the finger at you, but I hate when a lot of fans say the flaw in the team last year was splurging on free agency. The initial splurge worked out just fine for the team (Jenkins, Asomugha, Babin). It was all those secondary guys that were unnecessary regardless. They were seen as roleplayers from the beginning and I don’t think many people saw guys like Ronnie Brown and Vince Young as being very big contributors for the season. Steve Smith is really the one true blunder by the team, but that’s really only if you assume it hamstrung the team into not being able to solve some other problem on the team, specifically the linebackers. And I’m not even sure that’s really the case.

  10. 10 Anonymous said at 6:45 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    I couldn’t agree with this more.

    Free agency was very good to us. You have to include Mathis too, who came out of nowhere, and the fact that Ryan Harris, Jarrad Page, Ronnie Brown, etc. were all low risk and didn’t hamstring us going forward in any kind of way, although they clearly affected some of last year’s games. In hindsight they spent too much on Smith and Young, but even then the book on those moves is closed now. Didn’t cost us draft picks or 2012-and-beyond money.

  11. 11 Anonymous said at 1:52 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    Great post T.insightful and funny.LMAO.Cujo stays.First good…no great move by the FO.Next let’s AS22 for a 3rd rounder and get that 9.5mil off the books

  12. 12 Anonymous said at 2:02 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    Looks like the Eagles will be in the neighborhood of 30MIL under the cap if they dump Asante. That should be more than enough to sign Desean long-term at the Eagles price (that is the key, the Eagles price) and sign a vet MLB in FA. Also, reuping Mathis. I would really like them to bring in Hayensworth like you said at the vet min and kick the tires and see if Washburn can get anything out of him. I don’t know what to think about Plax…..would love to have his size in the redzone and if they can get him without overpaying, go for it. I know Andy has loved him for years….why not? Would love to see Plax and Celek work the middle of the field.

    Tommy – I think you addressed this before, but do you think Luke could be a SAM in our system or strictly MLB? Isn’t he about the same size as Keenan Robinson? Rolle/FA/Luke? I know its a reach, just checking your opinion.

  13. 13 Joe Malone said at 2:19 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    Could actually be leaning more towards 35-40 now that Cullen Restructured.

    Losing Asante + possibly Justice, JamJax, +others (not to mention Graham Tapp and Patt are all over 2.5 mil in cap) could add 10-15 mil in cap space to the roughly 23 mil were projected to have.

    Who knows maybe hell freezes over and Vick restructures too.

  14. 14 Anders Jensen said at 2:39 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    Graham and Patt are going no where, Patt+Jenkins is a very good DT combo and Graham is the future at RDE.

  15. 15 Anonymous said at 3:09 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    “Graham is the future at RDE” … we hope.

  16. 16 Anders Jensen said at 3:15 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    I know, but you dont cut him this off season. This season his is make or break year and hopefully he makes it

  17. 17 Anonymous said at 3:50 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    i thought you were going to LOL for a second when I started reading your reply

  18. 18 Anonymous said at 9:00 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    I was throwing around the number $42.3, but completely forgot JamJax.

    $25.1 = current cap space
    $9.5=Asante (doesn’t need to be replaced)
    $1.9=J Jackson

    44.3 million of potential cap space as of today, without significantly downgrading our starting lineup.

    There are LOTS more shoes to drop here if that is the case.

  19. 19 Eric Weaver said at 10:13 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    You don’t save 9.5 by dumping Asante. Nor 4.2 for Justice.

  20. 20 Anonymous said at 12:17 PM on February 22nd, 2012:

    Asante saves $7.5M ($2m dead money)
    Tapp $2.5M
    Justice $2.35
    JJ $1.9

  21. 21 D3Keith said at 9:48 PM on February 25th, 2012:

    Apologies for forgetting/miscalculating the dead money and overall cap space.

    I thought, if you trade someone as opposed to cutting them (in the case of Asante), you aren’t dinged for the “dead money,” but I guess since you already paid the signing bonus, all you save is this year’s salary (which I got from

    The general point remains largely the same though. The Eagles have as much available money as they need.

  22. 22 Anonymous said at 2:03 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    As I pointed out before, the Eagles gave up 4.0 YPC the last 11 games.
    That was with Jordan at SLB, Chaney at MLB, Rolle at WLB.
    What changed?

    1) Matthews got benched then exiled to the nickel package
    2) Patterson got in shape and Landri got into the rotation
    3) Page got banished to STs and Allen got healthy

    Note that with those “lousy” LBs we were about 10th in run defense the rest of the season, yes, we struggled with Forte (so did the entire league), and Lynch (on 3 day rests, across the country against the hottest RB in the league). There is certainly room for improvement, but the biggest upgrade we need at LB is PASS COVERAGE. Once the safeties started tackling, those 30 yard runs turned into 10 yard runs, and you can live with that – but not with 5 yard dumpoffs that turn into 30 yard pass plays.

    So if Lofton can’t cover, don’t pay him, same with Q Jackson.
    Our SLB and MLB don’t have to be great in coverage, but they do have to be adequate.
    And they don’t have to be huge upgrades as tacklers, heck, Goff only missed two tackles in 2010 according to PFF, that would be a huge improvement right there if his knee is healthy.

  23. 23 Anders Jensen said at 2:14 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    Agree I want my MLB and SLB to just be able to make the tackle, but cover RBs alot better then what we did.

  24. 24 Anonymous said at 3:07 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    I think pretty much all of the MLB in FA are a liability in coverage…they are all run-stopping MLB…Lofton, Jackson, Hawethorn, Tulluch….Bobby Wagner would be a great SAM if you are looking for coverage. Rolle is fast enough to stick with a RB. I am intrigued by Dont’a Hightower…if they guy drops 10lbs, gets into the 250’s and runs a 4.5-4.75 40….I would love to have him at MLB…the guy is a thumper.

  25. 25 Anonymous said at 3:18 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    There’s a tradeoff between their coverage and their price.
    Run stopping just isn’t worth big bucks in a LB, the correlation between stopping the run and winning is limited, and the Eagles defense is solid in two situations, power runs and getting stuffs.

    So I think they’ll look for value in both free agency and the draft, if a top MLB is too expensive they’ll pick up some guys like Grant and Goff, if Luke doesn’t perform well enough to justify #15 they’ll trade down or take someone in the 3rd or 4th round.

    I don’t think they’re going to look at one or two players, I think they want a lot more depth in camp than they had last year.

    Even in the wide 9, DT and S are more important to stopping the run than LBs, as we saw last year (we were horrid in the beginning of the year with Page and the DTs struggling), and if you have good nickel LBs, then your starters only have to be adequate in coverage (since they’re often facing RBs who aren’t good receivers and blocking TEs).

    This doesn’t mean you don’t want good LBs, it just means you don’t want to overpay for them. It’s one thing to pay Urlacher or Willis $8-9M a year, but $7M for Lofton or $6M for Tulloch?

  26. 26 Anonymous said at 5:07 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    dont forget, antonio dixon got hurt too. he was a good run stopper…

  27. 27 Anonymous said at 11:13 AM on February 22nd, 2012:

    you’ve said this a couple times, but by my count the eagles gave up 1,088 yds on 246carries to the #1 and #2 RBs from weeks 5-16 (4.42 ypc). I didn’t count QB runs or 3rd and/or 4th string RB runs since those are largely situational and short yardage, and not indicative of the effectiveness of the run D throughout the course of an entire game.

    The games in which the Eagles run D did well during that stretch were, the first match-up with the Redskins when they were one of the worst running teams in the league; the Arizona Cardinals, who were mediocre; the struggling NYG, who couldn’t run the ball during the year and were THE WORST running team in the regular season; the NE Patriots, one of the worst running teams in the league; the NYJ, the 3rd worst running team in the league; and the last match-up against the Dallas Cowboys with no Romo, or DeMarco Murray.

    In fact, during those 6 games, they allowed a terrific 2.88 ypc. Against the Bills, Bears, Romo and DeMarco lead Cowboys, Seahawks, Dolphins, and rookie Evan Royster lead Skins, they allowed a terrible 5.53. In other words, feast or famine.

    What this indicates to me and as most people have been pointing out, more consistent tackling from the LB spot will go along way in reducing the variance of the Eagles’ performances. I don’t think they need studs at SAM and MIKE, but they need upgrades if they want to be able to stop the run in an effective way against teams that effectively run the football.

  28. 28 Anonymous said at 11:48 AM on February 22nd, 2012:

    But you’d have to take the analysis deeper, and look at other teams as well.
    Buffalo was one of the first five games when the run defense struggled.

    There were only two games of those last eleven where the run defense faltered, Chicago and Seattle.

    They got beat by Forte, who put up 22 116 against Detroit, 17 87 against Minn, 25 145 TB, before the Eagles game (really fell off after that game, think he was dinged up).

    They got beat by Lynch, traveling across country on 3 days rest (i.e. not a game you’d expect physical defense), three weeks later Lynch ran 21 107 against SF, the best run defense in the league.

    They gave up 100 yards to Bush, but almost all with the game out of reach, running against the nickel defense. Dolphins had run 10 times for 21 yards by the middle of the 3rd period, and were down 24-7.

    In the first Dallas game, Murray was 8 for 74 yards, with a 26 run on 1st down, a 20 yard draw, and 24 yards against a prevent on two carries at the end of the first half, otherwise a total nonfactor. (5 runs for 4 yards and a hold otherwise).

    2nd Washington game, Patterson and Chaney were out and Eagles weren’t exactly fired up, both this and the 2nd Dallas game are hard to read anything good or bad. 1st Redskin game they held Torrain & Helu to 10 for 22.

    My point isn’t that the run defense was great after the first five games, but that it was pretty much the same as Detroit or Tennessee in 2010 once everyone settled down. They certainly want to upgrade SLB and MLB, but they don’t need an all pro LB to become a top defense, just some competent players.

  29. 29 Anders Jensen said at 2:08 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    Is it just me there think the offseason have already been way to long and I want action right now?

  30. 30 Anonymous said at 3:11 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    Too long? No way. Remember last year? That was a loooooooong offseason. This is just right.

    But yeah…it will be great to finally get some action in 20 or so days.

  31. 31 Anders Jensen said at 3:17 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    Last year wasnt healthy for my mental state, but im also the type of person there refresh this site and BGN several times an hour to see if there is something new.

  32. 32 Anonymous said at 3:37 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    I’m with you. I check Twitter and email like a fiend, waiting to see if any news is breaking.

    I do look forward to some action so that we can quit guessing about what might happen and actually discuss moves that did happen. Plus, it will be cool to have multiple stories going up in a day.

  33. 33 Anonymous said at 3:54 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    My wife yells at me nightly…I check BGN,and Jeff Mclane’s twitter nightly before I go to bed. I told her about Cullen restructuring….and she said who cares…WHO CARES?!? I said it frees up more cap room….she said does that mean they will buy a MLB this year? I said maybe…she said good. She just doesnt get it…..She just likes to wear her Nmandi jersey and look cute.

  34. 34 Anonymous said at 9:19 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    She’s a keeper for the last line alone. And that she listens to you blab about restructuring. And knows what a middle linebacker is!

    Sign her to a long-term extension if you haven’t already.

  35. 35 Anonymous said at 5:08 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    dude, combine’s tomorrow!

  36. 36 Anders Jensen said at 6:48 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    For me the first highlight of a new season is the start of FA.

  37. 37 Anonymous said at 2:17 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    Cullen Jenkins just restructured his deal which is awesome news. That means we likely have a little more cap space and Jenkins is definitely coming back.

  38. 38 Anonymous said at 2:26 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    Off topic here, what do you think of Clinton Portis as a backup RB?

    If he came cheap, his pass-protection would be helpful. Not sure he would be happy with the few touches, but he may not have many options.

  39. 39 Anonymous said at 3:12 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    I like Portis for the role of backup RB, especially with the way we use the backup RB (not often). That said, Portis was trying to get teams to sign him last year and no one would bite. He might be done.

  40. 40 Anonymous said at 5:09 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    i’d rather get brian westbrook… he didnt look too bad in san fran. could he have anything left?

  41. 41 Joe Malone said at 2:39 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    Just saw that Cullens Base Salary for 2012 went for 7.3 mil to 1.68 mil. That is ridiculous

  42. 42 Anonymous said at 3:02 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    Jeff Mclane is reporting, he still gets his 5MIL roster bonus in March, but his base Salary dropped to 820K. His cap hit is still 5.82mil….he save the Eagles about 2MIL.

  43. 43 Anonymous said at 2:39 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    What I take away from this column is that the Eagles have seriously struggled finding the right MLB fit in FA and in the latter rounds of the draft. I cringe when I here fans say, Kendricks, or JMJ, or Franklin or Cole “could” be the guy round 3 or 4 — because I think that gives the Eagles cover to try to farm a diamond from the rough when they clearly don’t have a knack for it at this position. Fans need to be clear that we expect an investment in the MLB position. We expect them to draft Luke Kuechly if he is available, period. If we fall into the old traps that a good LB can be gotten later, don’t be surprised if they pass on the guys you named and take a Tank Carder, Chris Gallipo or Corey Williams instead.

  44. 44 Anders Jensen said at 2:53 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    Bradley looked like the MLB of the future before his knee injury at Eagles flight night.

  45. 45 Anonymous said at 5:09 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    could we get him back?

  46. 46 Anonymous said at 5:27 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    ARZ might cut him. Would love to have 2008 Stew return. Not so sure about the current guy. Might be worth a minimal deal to see if he can get past the knee injury.

  47. 47 Anonymous said at 5:46 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    I think in this scheme he’d be better suited to SLB than MLB. He’s not a real instinctual MLB, but has the perfect size, and if the knee is 100%, athleticism for SLB.

  48. 48 Anders Jensen said at 6:49 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    Well he was drafted to be the SAM for us, he just played to well in the middle and his athleticism seemed perfect for the modern day MLB

  49. 49 Anonymous said at 8:45 PM on February 22nd, 2012:

    hmmm between him and chaney, we might have a couple good MIKE/SAM’s for the wide-9… maybe?

  50. 50 Anonymous said at 3:21 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    So what happens if things go terribly wrong and all the FAs re-sign and then Kuechly is off the board when we draft? Do we magically create a talented MLB that is worthy of pick 15?

    Kendricks and JMJ aren’t projects. They aren’t diamonds in the rough. Those guys were star MLBs at the college level. They are highly thought of. Both are experienced. Both weigh in the 245 range. Both can run well. Generally speaking, guys in the Top 100 aren’t projects unless they are making a position change. Both Kendricks and JMJ were MLBs in college. We’ll find out just how athletic they are at the Combine.

    The Eagles know that MLB is a key spot to address. They won’t go for a late round solution. Will NOT happen.

  51. 51 Anonymous said at 4:06 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    I have no objection to your contingency plan, if Kuechly is off the board at 15. My objection is any off season plan that permits passing over Kuechly. He is your favorite player in the draft. He is the best draft prospect to transform the weakest area of our team. Can we please just take the lay up?

    And I too expect us to “address” LB in FA — we can’t ignore the position again with no guarantee that Kuechly will be available — but I do not expect that to dissuade us from addressing it rd.1 as well. Lets get a Hawthorne or a Conner inked and into camp! But their signing shouldn’t provide cover to take a pass on Kuechly if he is available. Lets get more talent and more competition in camp and transform our LB corps from the inside out.

  52. 52 Anonymous said at 9:36 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    “Can we please just take the lay up?”

    For real.

  53. 53 Anonymous said at 8:00 AM on February 22nd, 2012:

    Although if there’s any team capable of over-thinking this, it’s our wacky, lovable iggles……..

  54. 54 Ace said at 6:12 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    If “the guy” isn’t there at 15 (read: Kuechly), I’d expect the Eagles to move back, get another mid round pick and take the #2 MIKE on their board towards the end of the first round.

  55. 55 ChowderFACE said at 2:40 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    I really do believe that the eagles are going to sign a MLB in free agency. There are a couple solid players there this year. I agree with what you have been saying Tommy that the eagles are going to address Dline in the first couple rounds of the draft. This draft has a lot of talent at DT and DE and as Andy Reid has always said you must win the line of scrimmage to be successful in the NFL. The eagles Dline is very good up front but there is some age there and the youth behind it is a bit of a question mark with how Graham and if resigned Dixon come back from injury as well as the question mark with Laws being a free agent. I think you add at least a DT or DE with that pick at 15 depending on what washburn and company like. I think Fletcher Cox is a very interesting prospect especially for the eagles. Cox moved all over the place on the D line and I think that is something that Castillo could like. You saw near the end of the season some interesting formations that allowed the DE and DT to really move loop and stunt up front and I think Cox could really be a nice piece to that puzzle. I do realize that he needs some coaching but who better to provide that coaching then Washburn. If you can add an impact Dline player in the draft you do it. You really cant have enough quality at that position. I really believe that the eagles are going to add a MLB in free agency. That will allow them to concentrate on best player available and not draft a player based on need instead. Load up on the front 4 and I look forward to pounding any QB the eagles play this year into oblivion and that definitely includes Stupid Eli Manning!

  56. 56 Anonymous said at 2:53 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    No. I want Luke. If we do not select him, I’m taking my marbles and going home.
    Seriously, I just want to keep any learning curve to a minimum. I think that would
    be the case for LK. Also, grooming a potential leader on defense would be great.
    But, let’s wait for the combine before we pledge.

  57. 57 Anonymous said at 3:22 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    It would be great to get Luke. He’s a guy I really believe in. We’ll see what happens in FA.

  58. 58 Anonymous said at 3:09 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    I was starting to get overwhelmed by the growing “Lofton or bust” sentiment. I really, really, really want us to go hard after a top-shelf LB like Lofton. When fans starting talking about David Hawthorne, I became intrigued with the non-Lofton options.

    So I’m glad you articulated my current feelings with this post. This off-season shouldn’t be about finding an All-Pro at MLB, but finding an UPGRADE at MLB.

  59. 59 Anonymous said at 4:11 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    It should be about upgrading the talent we have in camp to compete for the starting position. No one should be given the spot before camp. May the best Wide-9 MLB talent win!

  60. 60 Eric Weaver said at 3:15 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    I frankly think it’s imperative that this team has an intelligent, anticipatory linebacker that can tackle well because, the safeties are not really tackling machines; nor do I want them doing it. Jarrett was drafted as such, but I don’t think his body can handle that load. Same for Coleman. Nate Allen is at his best being a roamer in the secondary.

    I’d prefer FA first because that allows you to do so many things in the draft, especially BPA. But if Kuechly is there and no FA has been had, you need to draft him.

  61. 61 Anonymous said at 3:34 PM on February 21st, 2012:


    There’s been lots of talk about the MLB.

    With the Wide-9, perhaps the key LB is the SLB.

    If you look a the Titans during the Fisher/Washburn era, they ran through MLBs like . . . well . . . the Eagles.

    From 1999-2008 — a 10-year period — the Titans MLB was Baron Wortham, Randall Godfrey, Rocky Calmus, Brad Kassell, Peter Sirmon, Ryan Fowler, and Stephen Tulloch.

    (The Titans made the SB w/ Baron Wortham at MLB!!!)

    That’s 7 guys in 10 years. Those numbers seem to suggest that MLB’s not the key LB in a W-9 defense. (I assume if it was, the Titans wouldn’t have had the solid defense they did for all those years. Not great every year. But pretty solid year in and year out — w/ a couple of duds I’d guess.)

    On the other hand, during 7 of those 10 years, the starting SLB was Keith Bulluck. Before him, veteran Eddie Robinson for 3 years.

    Bulluck was an All Pro. Big, rangy, physical. And he could run (for an LB). That’s the LB whom the Titans held onto. Not any of the MLBs.

    So, in talking about a new MLB, are we focusing on the right position? Should we be discussing SLB, as long as the Eagles run the W-9?

    Last off-season, even Juan said that SLB was the key position for his defense.


  62. 62 Anonymous said at 4:18 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    Great post. I think Castillo wants Chaney to fill that role – he has similar size and athleticism to Keith Bulluck.

  63. 63 Anonymous said at 4:22 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    I’m pretty sure Keith Bulluck was a WLB for the Titans.

    David Thornton was the SAM for the last couple of years they played together.

  64. 64 Anonymous said at 4:57 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    Yep. Thorton wasn’t that big, and by the time he got to Tennesse, he’d lost a little quickness. Just a solid LB.

    The other thing, when did Washburn go to the wide 9?
    He was playing a big group of DLs earlier in the decade with Kevin Carter at LDE.

    I think it was maybe 2007 when he finally realized that Henderson was only usable as a one gap DT and Tony Brown wasn’t a NT, though Kearse always played wide and rushed the QB (thus his complaints when he came to Philly).

    2010 Tennessee only allowed 3.9 ypc with McRath – Tulloch -Witherspoon, not exactly a group of all pros (I think Tulloch is overrated by PFF because he’s like a sure handed IF with limited range, if he gets to the play, he makes it, but he doesn’t get to as many plays as he should).

    You don’t need a 250 lb SLB, you do need someone with good instincts who can tackle, a Bowman type.

  65. 65 Kirk Belmont said at 10:58 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    Tommy, I am a huge fan of your stuff. I have been reading for the past two years. I am seventeen years old and what you are doing would be my dream job. I was just wondering, is football for the Eagles your full-time Job?

  66. 66 Anonymous said at 5:10 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    how do you think stewart bradley can do in the wide 9?

  67. 67 Anonymous said at 5:27 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    Tommy – any chance we go after London Fletcher….I think he will be a great 1 or 2 year stop gap if we can get him…love the way he plays and will bring much needed leadership to the locker room

  68. 68 Anonymous said at 11:40 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    He would be a wonderful addition, but there’s no inkling from down here in D.C. that the Redskins would let him walk. They need his kind of leadership & linebacker even worse than we do.

    That guy would be perfect though. Heady player, volume tackler.

  69. 69 Anonymous said at 6:11 PM on February 21st, 2012:


    Yes . . . Keith Bulluck was the RLB for the Titans — which, I guess, made him the WSLB more times than not.

    In his prime — from 2002-2009 when he started — Bulluck racked up 17 sacks, 16 INTs, and 15 forced fumbles.

    (Here’s a link to his stats:

    Clearly, Bulluck was an big-time impact player.

    So, with Bulluck in mind, should the Eagles be looking for a powerhouse OLB rather than an MLB?

    ALSO . . . speaking of MLBs . . . any interest in Raiders Rolando McClain if he gets cut loose? (Pending gun charges)

  70. 70 Anonymous said at 10:42 AM on February 22nd, 2012:

    To me, the two relevant years are 2008 and 2010, when we know Tennessee ran the wide 9 similar to how it’s being run in Philly.

    2008 – Thorton (6-2 235) – Tulloch (5-11 243) – Bullock (6-3 235)
    Bullock 75-23 0.5 sacks 6 stuffs 0 Int 6 PD 1FF
    Tulloch 64-20 1 3 0 2
    [Fowler 20-9 0 2 0 0]
    Thornton 60-18 0 6 0 6
    1.5 sacks 17 stuffs 0 Int 14 PD

    2010 – McRath (6-3 231) – Tulloch – Witherspoon (6-1 240)
    (McRath was a very fast, 4.49, college MLB)
    McRath 44-14 1.5 3 0 2 1FF
    [Tim Shaw 21-8 0 2 0 0]
    Tulloch 111-49 1 4 1 6
    Witherspoon 63-29 3 4 2 8 1FF
    5.5 sacks 13 stuff 3 Int 16 PD

    2011 (Det) – Durant (6-1 230) – Tulloch – Levy (6-3 236)
    [Durant and especially Levy are fast LBs]
    Durant 53-15 1 6 0 1
    [Carpenter 24-5 0 2 1 1]
    Tulloch 84-27 3 5 2 5
    Levy 73-36 1 7 1 1 1FF
    5 sacks 20 stuffs 4 Int 8 PD

    Eagles 2011:
    3 sacks 14 stuffs 3 Int 16 PD

  71. 71 Eric Weaver said at 10:11 PM on February 21st, 2012:


    What has caused you to warm up to Dan Connor?

  72. 72 Anonymous said at 1:09 AM on February 22nd, 2012:

    The two cases of PBR.

  73. 73 Anonymous said at 12:33 PM on February 22nd, 2012:

    Tape study. Still think he’s best suited for downhill scheme, but I see enough potential that if we had to settle for him, I wouldn’t be mad about it.

  74. 74 Anonymous said at 10:28 PM on February 21st, 2012:

    Which other teams are drooling over Keuchly like us? All the mocks I’ve seen has the next inside LB going in the 20’s to Detroit. How real of a concern is it that we won’t have Luke available at 15… and then do we consider trading down to pick him up?

  75. 75 Anonymous said at 2:52 AM on February 22nd, 2012:

    Exactly Tommy. No more “wishful thinking” and more grounded moves. No reaches and projects and “oh he will get better when his injury heals” ..”and with a good training camp he will be better” or my favorite — ” he will get better its his 2nd 3rd or 4th year”

    Make sound moves — get quality over quantity — get what you think you need ala 3 linebackers easily and 1 safety …. leave less to chance

    And then once all that is in place lets see what happens.

  76. 76 Jeppe Elmelund van Ee said at 6:56 AM on February 22nd, 2012:


    With RB Rice looking for AP money, how much would you guys be willing to pay Shady for an extension? I don’t think any player besides great QBs and Calvin Johnson are worth a 100 million dollar contract…

    It’s going to be a tough task to extend our young weapons…

  77. 77 Jeppe Elmelund van Ee said at 7:00 AM on February 22nd, 2012:

    I would give him something in the line of a 6 year (48 million $) contract averaging 8 million dollar, and 30 million guaranteed…

  78. 78 Anonymous said at 12:34 PM on February 22nd, 2012:

    Sam is the numbers guy. Maybe we can get him to write something about Shady.

  79. 79 Anonymous said at 8:09 AM on February 22nd, 2012:


    I read all of your blog posts but I don’t read all of the comments so I am not sure how much of this particular post was a direct response to my post last week concerning LB or if I was just echoing a common theme.

    Let me start by explaining that I agree with most of what you write, including your opinions in this post. A matter of fact, one of the reasons I think this team NEEDS Kuechley is exactly the reasons you state: he is a tackling machine.

    But where I think our opinions differ is how we think the Eagles will approach the problem (and I think it is a very big problem).

    There are a plethora of LB that COULD make this team better and that player does not have to be Lofton. I just think that after watching this FO for the past 13 years or so that there is more than enough evidence to indicate that they won’t do those things. Maybe I’m wrong. I hope I am, a matter of fact. Nothing would make me happier than to see the Eagles do everything they can to correct the issues they have at LB.

    BUT, I don’t think that FA is the way they will go because I don’t think they value the position enough to pay for it. Sure, they might sign (or trade for) an “unknown” in another system and try to turn him into something else (Clemons for example) or a disappointing player just trying to up his stock (Sims) or once great player coming off an injury that other teams would shy away from (Spikes) but actually identify and go after a player and (dare I say) pay a bit MORE to get that player? Not a chance.

    That leaves the draft. And yes, there is also more than enough evidence that indicates that they won’t use a first on a LB either. But the difference this year is that with the new CBA, the players are “slotted” a whole lot more reasonably and they might look at the money they are spending could now be worth it.

  80. 80 Anonymous said at 12:37 PM on February 22nd, 2012:

    This post was a response to a variety of comments that came via here, email, and Twitter. No one person.

    Absolutely understand your hesitance to believe the Eagles will go for a good MLB in FA. Don’t disagree with your logic.

    My counter would be that this is a different situation than we’ve seen in the past. Few holes in the starting lineup. Team built to win now. Andy under serious pressure. LB is clearly the biggest area of need. And we don’t have a young option in place.

    I think LB gets addressed in a good way, but the Eagles have to prove it to all of us before we’ll be comfortable believing.

  81. 81 Eric Weaver said at 1:18 PM on February 22nd, 2012:

    I think your second paragraph is key. The Eagles can’t say, “well, a lot of the guys showed growth.” Or, “so and so got hurt but this guy came in and played well.” They all were mediocre to terrible. They have no excuses but to try their best to improve the position. Now, that’s not saying they’ll just go with drafting seventh rounders again and hope it works out. But they can’t rely on what they have currently.

  82. 82 Anonymous said at 12:01 PM on February 22nd, 2012:

    Think we’ll get any interesting notes from the combine today? What’s today, weigh-ins and medical stuff?

  83. 83 Eric Weaver said at 12:17 PM on February 22nd, 2012:


    How about we go a little crazy here and talk about long snappers? haha It’d be nice to get rid of Dorenbos and free up a few 100k or at least think about where the team goes if he’s not re-upped after this season.

  84. 84 Anonymous said at 8:54 PM on February 22nd, 2012:

    Ugh, not encouraging. Now all we’re looking for is a guy that can make a tackle? Seems like the goalposts are in motion, here. I don’t see taking Kuechly as the 15th overall pick so he can make tackles 7 yards from the LOS. Doesn’t seem like a good value in the first round.

    Why get cute trying to get someone “good enough”? LB was a problem last year, just get a good player. Add other players from the draft to compete, as those players/picks are available. It’s been a problem for longer than just since Stewart Bradley–who was more promise than production, by the way.