OTAs Preview

Posted: May 22nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 21 Comments »

Today the Eagles begin Organized Team Activities (OTAs).  This is non-contact practice with no pads on.  That may not sound like much, but it can be huge to young players or guys that are new to the team.  You can be on a football field, get coaching, and line up against players instead of just blocking dummies or cones.

The thing I’m most interested in initially is who lines up where.  Who is the starting WLB?  Where does Fletcher Cox play?  Where is Casey Matthews?  Who is the backup FS?  Is Dennis Kelly the #3 LT or RT?  Who is the backup C?  And so on.

We can’t make too much of anything here.  Jamar Chaney was at WLB at this time in his rookie year.  Part of the beauty of OTAs is that coaches can look at certain things and make decisions without wasting valuable practice time.  OTAs are when you experiment and move guys around.

Things will be especially interesting since some starters/key players are out.  Mike Patterson isn’t practicing.  Nor Jamar Chaney.  Brent Celek will see limited reps.  So who is the starting NT?  We don’t know where Chaney will line up so his absence doesn’t affect just one spot.  With Celek being limited, that gives extra reps to Clay Harbor, Brett Brackett, and Chase Ford.  Can Brackett and/or Ford make the most of that?

We have to be careful about what we see in terms of actual play.  There is no hitting, tackling.  There is supposed to be no contact.  This means that athletes can shine and bigger, stronger, more physical players are at a disadvantage.

The good side of this is that you can identify who your good athletes are.  SAM LB Mychal Kendricks and CB Brandon Boykin were both terrific in the rookie camp.  That makes sense since both guys are so quick/fast/athletic.  How will Matthews look at 250 pounds?  You should see a drastic difference in him and Kendricks.  Matthews is an okay athlete who has bulked up.  Kendricks is a top shelf athlete in peak shape.

Let’s talk about some specific players:

* Jaiquawn Jarrett – He had a rough rookie year.  JaiJar needs to play well starting today.  He needs to show a command of the playbook and that he can be a good pass defender.  A slow start from him will help Kurt Coleman out and could push the Eagles to go add a veteran SS to the mix.

* Danny Watkins – He made big strides last year.  The guy we saw in August and the guy we saw in December looked very different.  He’s now got a firm handle on the playbook and scheme.  He’s had plenty of time to adjust to playing OG and on the right side.  Danny needs to look “natural”, something he never did last year.

* Demetress Bell – We get to see our new LT in action.  It would be great if he could look awesome.  It would not be good for him to look slow and awkward.  I’ve heard nothing but good things this spring so I’m optimistic.

* Mike Kafka – Mike didn’t get one of these last year so I’m sure he’s stoked.  He gets to throw to good receivers, but doesn’t have to face a real pass rush.  This is the setting for QBs and WRs to shine.  Kafka needs to show the coaching staff that he is truly ready to be #2 this year.  A good start to the OTAs will be a very positive sign.

* DRC – Last summer he looked terrific at Lehigh.  Then the season came around and he was lost in translation…as he tried to play the slot.  Now he’s the LCB.  DRC should thrive in this setting.  A good showing from him will get things off to a good start.

* All the WRs after the big 3 – I’m not listing all these guys individually.  This camp is a setting in which they should do well.  Riley Cooper needs to stand out, not just be solid.  Marvin McNutt didn’t generate much buzz in the rookie camp so it will be interesting to see if he can make progress now that he’s got an idea of what’s going on.  Mardy Gilyard, Ronald Johnson, Chad Hall, and Damaris Johnson are probably the guys fighting for the #6 spot right now.  It would help quite a bit if one of them would emerge.  Damaris was good at the rookie camp, but was going against mediocre competition.  Can he rise to the challenge here?

* Antonio Dixon – He could be the #1 NT with Patt out.  Dixon is here on a 1-year deal.  The Eagles love his potential, but he’s got to show that he can thrive in the new system.  The light bulb started to go on last year in the game he got hurt in.  Does he impress?  Will he look a step slow?

* Cedric Thornton – Like Dixon, the Eagles love Thornton’s potential.  He was very raw last year and got by mainly on natural ability.  This summer Thornton needs to show significant progress if he is to push for a roster spot.  His quickness off the ball should be evident in this setting.

* FBs – Stanley Havili should look terrific since he won’t have to actually block anyone.  So what is there to learn from him?  Well, one test for young players is seeing if they do well when they’re supposed to.  That shows focus.  If Havili drops passes, runs sloppy routes, and makes mental mistakes in this camp, he’s in trouble.  He needs to stand out.  UDFA Emil Igwenagu has the skill set to also thrive.

* RBs – Dion Lewis should be #2.  Bryce Brown will likely be #3.  Can he continue to shine?  Will Chris Polk also look good?  Brown is the guy I think we’re all interested in.

* P/K – Alex Henery had a good overall year.  He needs to carry that over.  Chas Henry had a mediocre year, but finished well.  He needs to build on that final few games.  A slow start from him will get the Eagles attention.  They’ve already brought in competition for him.

As always…stay healthy.  knock on wood

* * * * *

The 2 players who fascinate me the most are TE Brett Brackett and LB Monte Simmons.  Both guys have made position changes since college.  Brackett was a WR.  Simmons was a DE.

Brackett has the size and athleticism to be an NFL TE.  And that is a position where some players can take a year or two to figure things out.  Can Brackett actually push for a starting role?

Simmons is 6-3, 226.  He can get after the QB.  He’s got some height, which is nice in a SAM LB. Is he a good run defender?  Can he cover and play in space?  He was good enough to be on the Niners PS last year.

I’m not pushing these guys as anything more than they are.  Both are longshots to make the roster, let alone ever do anything in the league.  I’m just fascinated by them and curious to see how they pan out.

21 Comments on “OTAs Preview”

  1. 1 wilbertmontgomery said at 11:37 AM on May 22nd, 2012:

    LOL – “Non-Contact practice.” Don’t tell Shanahan that! Got to love seeing the skins top FA acquisition taking out the head coach in the first practice.

  2. 2 Anders Jensen said at 11:39 AM on May 22nd, 2012:

    Tommy you think the Eagles will go 6 WRs and 2 TEs again?(The only way I can get the numbers to fit)

  3. 3 TommyLawlor said at 11:53 AM on May 22nd, 2012:

    You have to see how the players play. We know for a fact that the Eagles will keep 4 WRs. They are a virtual lock to have 5 (McNutt likely to be that guy). Only way they keep a 6th is if someone earns the spot.

    We know the Eagles will keep 2 TEs. Only way they keep a 3rd is if someone earns it.

    What happens if 3 TEs, 6 WRs all play well? Not sure, but good problem to have. Maybe you go light elsewhere.

  4. 4 Anders Jensen said at 12:56 PM on May 22nd, 2012:

    The only way I can fit in 6 WRs and 3 TEs is if they only keep 3 RB/FB (without sacrificing depth at OL, QB, DL)

  5. 5 TommyLawlor said at 1:00 PM on May 22nd, 2012:

    Do you have to keep 10 OL on the roster? Or are you going with 9?

    Think about who the best 53 players are. Don’t become obsessed with positions. The Eagles kept 7 WRs a couple of years back.

    Also think about which 45 guys will be active on gameday.

  6. 6 Anders Jensen said at 7:33 PM on May 22nd, 2012:

    My problem is that I want 10 Dlinemen. I cant remember we have ever used that much roster space on that spot and even with 10 Linemen, I fell somebody will be left out

  7. 7 A_T_G said at 8:59 PM on May 22nd, 2012:

    Don’t forget, you may select up to two players for the IR (ingenious redshirt) list.

  8. 8 M0rton said at 11:45 AM on May 22nd, 2012:

    If it’s anything that I’m particularly concerned about this year, it’s the secondary.

    The defensive line has enough depth and quality to be beastly regardless of any setbacks.

    The linebackers will probably not be great, but with the players added, they should at least be solid, and that’s all you need from your LBers in this day and age to have a good defense.

    The secondary is comprised entirely of question marks, however: Is Asomugha on the downside of his career and was last year a sign of this or does he have more years of elite level play left in him? Is DRC going to be more effective on the outside than he was on the inside last year or does he just not give a rip about solid fundamentals at the CB position? Are they going to start a rookie at one of the most critical positions on defense today – the nickel corner? Is Nate Allen’s knee going to hold up for the season or will it slow down the only physically NFL caliber safety on the Eagles roster? How will the slow and slower duo of Kurt Coleman and Jaquian Jarrett acquit themselves this year after showing signs of being painfully overmatched in the NFL last year?

    And the most important question of all: will any of these DBs show the willingness (and ability) to tackle? Asomugha has shown the willingness, occassionally, but also terrible form. DRC wants no part of the tackling aspect of the NFL game. Kurt Coleman give it his all, but is basically a runt who lacks 1/4 of the athleticism of everyone else on the field. Jacquian Jarrett wants to tackle, but, due to his foot speed being that of your average cement mixer, finds it hard to even be in the vicinity of the intended target. Nate Allen is better known for getting trucked by RBs than anything else. If Juan Castillo & Todd Bowles can’t somehow impart the importance of tackling into these DBs, the defense has the potential to once again be disappointingly shoddy. You can’t have a good defense in the NFL if you don’t want to or can’t tackle in the secondary.

  9. 9 the guy said at 1:50 PM on May 22nd, 2012:

    I get what you’re saying, but I’m not very worried about the defense. If they just get a bit better overall, especially with mental mistakes and tackling, then that’s enough to make it to the playoffs. Especially these days in the NFL.

    Essentially, I think the D has every reason to be significantly better this year. My concern is much more focused on the offense. I’m not sure they do have reason to be a lot better, aside from the possibility that all those turnovers were a fluke.

    Our hopes are that our franchise QB finally learns something about his position at the age of 32, that our WRs finally live up to their potential on the field, that consistency on the OL will make up for losing one of the best LTs in the league, and that we have a NFL-caliber RB aside from Shady. Maybe most of all, that the offense (and team as a whole I suppose) finally proves to be “clutch.”

  10. 10 TheRogerPodacter said at 4:22 PM on May 22nd, 2012:

    i’ve been saying it all offseason – cut down on the turnovers and you will see a great team out there. imagine how much better our D could be if the O wasnt coughing the ball up so often last season?

  11. 11 D3Keith said at 9:51 PM on May 22nd, 2012:

    I have a completely different set of concerns, and I tend to me more optimistic than ol’ M0rty.

    — What if LeSean gets hurt and has to miss several games?

    — What if Demetress isn’t 2/3s as good as Peters?

    — I’m fairly confident Vick will make an effort to throw the ball away in certain situations, to diagnose blitzes better, take fewer hits, etc. But I also have no idea what kind of QB that makes him into. Part of Vick’s brilliance is when he holds the ball too long and makes a 53-yard run out of a 7-yard loss. If he can be taught not to do that in the 2nd quarter, but do it in the clutch, great, but how many of us can turn our instincts off and on?

    — What if DeSean wasn’t crappy last year because of the contract, but just because he’s a runt and a one and a half trick pony who can be taken out of games whenever a defense decides it wants to?

    — DeMeco Ryans doesn’t have a very good backup (we think). Nor does Nate Allen (though I guess it would be Kurt).

    There are SO many more reasons to be optimistic than pessimistic about this team.

    Not the least of which is that there is no defensive scheme change or offensive line scheme change this season. And all the noobs and younguns can get on the same page this time around.

    Defensively, I think we’ve seen the worst this group can do. I don’t think there’s enough data on Jarrett or Graham to know one way or the other can they play or not, but nobody’s expecting a whole lot from either of them.

    Kendricks + Ryan + Whoever Will = improved tackling. The improvement at LB should take the pressure off the safeties.

    Oddly, I’m not concerned about Asomugha or DRC, although we know what we’re getting with the latter. He’s a non-tackler, but he broke on some balls last year that could’ve been pick-6s; I tend to think he’ll make a few huge plays that will excuse him from what he sucks at, not unlike Asante.

    Guys like Jarrett, Graham, Curry, Boykin, Cox, Brown, Cooper, Harbor … we’ve got a pretty good team even if they’re just meh. If any of them breaks through or stands out, it’ll be a bonus, and perhaps the difference between staying home and playing in January.

  12. 12 Mac said at 12:57 PM on May 22nd, 2012:

    Thanks for all the updates and insightful nuggets Tommy.

    Your last post got me thinking…
    What if Chad Johnson would have played on the Colts with Peyton? He was exposed last year in a complex system for his lack of ability to work within a complex scheme. Would he have developed into a potential HOF WR in a simpler scheme where (in my mind) his athletic talent could have taken over?

    Struck me as interesting, and thought the guys might enjoy a debate.

  13. 13 TommyLawlor said at 2:15 PM on May 22nd, 2012:

    Chad isn’t dumb. Problem he had was the precision of the offense. He needed to know where to be. He needed to run the correct route. He needed the timing to be precise. And he needed to do this in a way that impressed Brady and Belichick.

    Chad was an old dog learning new tricks. I don’t know that he embraced the situation properly. Precision offenses require hard work. Chad was used to Carson Palmer and the two of them being on the same page. In NE he was the new guy and had to adjust to the team. That’s humbling and frustrating. Chad must not have handled it well enough to get on the field.

  14. 14 Mac said at 2:36 PM on May 22nd, 2012:

    So you’re saying that Chad’s lack of production at NE is mostly related to age and a lack of time to develop chemistry (due to a shortened offseason)?

    Makes sense given the fact that Branch already had chemistry (since he was also hampered by the age thing). And the other guys in the WR corps seemed to have chemistry with Brady too.

    It’s hard watching stars disappear so quickly.

    Better debate???

    Who had the better 2011 season with his new team Chad Johnson or Steve Smith?

  15. 15 TommyLawlor said at 3:00 PM on May 22nd, 2012:

    There are no winners in that discussion. That’s like choosing between being burned to death or drowning in a pool of Sumo wrestler butt sweat.

  16. 16 TommyLawlor said at 3:01 PM on May 22nd, 2012:

    RE: Chad…

    His issues were affected by the lockout, but that is no excuse for a guy of his experience and skill. I don’t think he bought into the change the way he needed to. Think of him as the Donovan McNabb of WRs. Chad was used to doing his thing in Cincy. In NE he had to do their thing and didn’t embrace that fact.

  17. 17 Kevin_aka_RC said at 3:06 PM on May 22nd, 2012:

    What an appropriate comparison as both players came up dreadfully short in the Super Bowl. *punches wall*

  18. 18 izzylangfan said at 1:41 PM on May 22nd, 2012:

    With Asante now gone, do you think the Eagles will want to or be able to have Nnamdi cover the tight end and still have enough coverage on the outside?

  19. 19 TommyLawlor said at 2:12 PM on May 22nd, 2012:

    They can still do that. Brandon Hughes and Curtis Marsh could slide outside for him. Eagles still high on both guys. If going vs just 2 WRs, possible that Brandon Boykin could move outside.

  20. 20 GeorgeFleep said at 5:16 PM on May 22nd, 2012:

    Some thoughts i jumbled together from beat writers on twitter. Kafka beat out Trent in day one of OTAs. Players that look significantly bigger: Watkins, DRC, Allen. Adam Caplan said Phillip Hunt, even in a pulled back session, looked really good. Fast as hell. As we thought Cox is getting tons of positional rotation DE and DT. McNutt seems to catch everything near him.

    and now LBs. Jamar Chaney can play all 3 LB spots while Casey Mathews was told to learn all 3 spots. Chaney will spend time at WLB. Remember Rolle has game time at that position. Chaney has gametime at the others. I’m thinking chaney is just to push Rolle. Chaney is good in space but Chaney just doesnt shine. Spud tweeted: LB Mychal Kendricks said he is lining up as starter at SAM, with Chaney as backup. Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen starting S.

  21. 21 D3Keith said at 10:00 PM on May 22nd, 2012:

    I thought Chaney wasn’t participating due to surgery. So do you mean Clayton, or is this all based on …

    Nevermind, I Googled. So he IS practicing. Hmm. Sensing the pressure?