Still A Lot To Learn

Posted: July 31st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 24 Comments »

Training Camp has been very interesting so far.  We’ve seen good and bad things.  It is too early to know anything definitively, though.  There is a long way to go.  And some young players we still have questions on.

Brett Brackett – I am impressed with him as a receiver.  Brett has good hands and looks natural at catching the ball.  He’s very good on intermediate and even deeper routes.  That allows him to use his speed and WR skills.  I’ve seen some good things from Brett on underneath routes, but I’d like to know more.  A lot of TE routes are short and take place in heavy traffic.  Can Brett catch the ball in traffic and take hits from LBs?  One good thing for him is that the Eagles to use the TEs downfield more than some teams.

The other question with Brett remains blocking.  Honestly, I don’t think TC will answer that.  The Eagles don’t have big DEs or LBs.  We’ll need to see Brett in a preseason game before we can know what kind of real blocking potential he’s got.

In an interview on Monday he said all the right things.  He reported to camp at 253 pounds.  He did note that players lose weight every day and he’s fighting to stay close to his original figure.  Brett could get down to 245 and be okay, but you don’t want him below that.  STs is going to be another challenge for Brett.  He did recover an onside kick Monday.  Next up is showing he can be a factor on coverage units in PS games.

Casey Matthews – Can Casey play?  Can he be trusted?  We need Casey to become a reliable backup MLB and good STer.  I thought he was okay on Sunday.  I liked what I saw on Monday.  Casey made some good tackles.  He played aggressively, but stayed under control.  Finding that balance has been a challenge for him.

God forbid anything happens to DeMeco Ryans…we need a good plan in place.  We could shift Mychal Kendricks in there, but he’s just a rookie.  Not sure how wise that would be.  We could put Jamar Chaney in there, but he struggled as MLB last year.  It would be great if Casey could quietly get better and better to the point where the coaches would be comfortable with him if he was called upon to start for a game or two.

Casey came alive on STs in the middle of 2011.  We need that to carry over to this year.  Having a good LB or two on the cover units can make a world of difference.  Casey has the size and mentality to be a very good STer.

Cliff Harris – What do we make of him?  Rookies sometimes get over-praised in camp.  We get excited when Harris makes plays and does something right.  Is that because we have such low expectations or because he’s really played that well?  Tricky.  If you were to argue that Harris is the team’s 5th best CB right now, ahead of Curtis Marsh and Brandon Hughes, I could be talked into that notion.  The flip side is that I think you could argue he’s down at 7, behind those guys.

I like a lot of what I’ve seen from Cliff.  He has natural cover ability.  He has very good ball skills.  I have no idea if he can play the run/tackle or not.  He got run over by FB Emil Igwenagu the other day.  That wasn’t encouraging, but you never want to make too much of one play.

The arrow is headed in the right direction for Cliff.  Of that, I’m sure.  How good he truly is still remains a mystery.

Fletcher Cox – It would be great if Fletch was the talk of camp and was unblockable, but that hasn’t been the case.  He’s more of a typical rookie.  You see flashes of big time talent, but also plenty of issues with learning the proper techniques.

If things start to click, Fletch could push for a starting role.  He’s that kind of a talent.  He’s not ideally suited for NT, but Jim Washburn could rotate he and Cullen Jenkins between UT and NT to keep either one from getting too worn down by double teams.  Fletch and Wash have a good rapport and the rookie has shown the right attitude.

The flip side is that Fletch won’t be over-used because the Eagles have a lot of DL bodies.  He has to earn playing time.  I liked some of what I saw yesterday.  Fletch is making progress.  We just don’t know if he’s going to be the rookie role player or if he’ll force his way into the lineup and be a playmaker early on.

Dion Lewis – I honestly wondered about the wisdom of having Dion as the primary backup RB.  Turns out the Eagles might have made a good decision.  Remember the jump that Shady made from year one to year two?  I wonder if we’ll see something like that from Dion.

Keep that in perspective, now.  Shady was 155-637-4 (4.1 ypc) as a rookie.  In 2010 he averaged 5.2 ypc, ran for 1080 yards, and scored 7 TDs.  Dion was 23-102-1 (4.4 ypc) as a rookie.  I’m not projecting him to become an All Pro RB.  I’m now wondering if he can become a good to very good role player.

The Eagles have to give Dion touches before he can prove anything, but it helps if he is so good they want to get him the ball.  In camp, Dion is deadly when catching screens and getting the ball in space.  He’s broken plenty of long plays.  I’d love to see him do something like 100-500-4 as the #2 RB this year, while also making some plays in the passing game.

Dion has potential as a blocker.  He’s got to show he can do it consistently.  Beyond that, the question with his has shifted from “can he be the #2 RB” to how good he can be?  Always good when young players step up.

* * * * *

Jason Babin is now going to be out 2 to 3 weeks with the calf strain.  This isn’t a big deal to me. Get him healthy.  Babin is always in elite shape.  He knows the scheme better than anyone besides Washburn.  Let the other guys have the reps to learn and show what they can do.

If the calf issue doesn’t heal right, then we’ve got a problem.  Give him rest now so that we can get him back for the real games.

* * * * *

Braylon Edwards signed a 1-year deal with Seattle so take him off your WR radar.


24 Comments on “Still A Lot To Learn”

  1. 1 Alex Karklins said at 12:45 PM on July 31st, 2012:

    Is there a chance that Cliff Harris could make it to the practice squad? Or would another team with CB needs swoop in and grab him, due to his impressive training camp? I’m really intrigued by his talent and playmaking, but I’m assuming he needs to add some bulk if he’s going to be asked to play press coverage. A year on the PS and training with Barry Rubin would probably help him a lot.

  2. 2 TommyLawlor said at 12:48 PM on July 31st, 2012:

    All depends on PS games. If he is impressive in those 4 outings, very unlikely he’d get to the P-squad. If Cliff is up and down, maybe.

  3. 3 Brett Smith said at 4:40 PM on July 31st, 2012:

    I would guess with the recent injuries in NY and with DET cutting CBs left and right Cliff Harris will not be on the Practice Squad.

  4. 4 ian_no_2 said at 3:13 PM on July 31st, 2012:

    I think it’s highly unlikely he stays on a PS now, because the major questions have been character and not ability.

  5. 5 Skeptic_Eagle said at 1:02 PM on July 31st, 2012:

    I’m partial to the idea of bringing Cox along slowly. Landri was very good as the NT last year, and I’d prefer to see him paired up w/Jenkins on the “Alpha” line. Cox can be the UT for the “Bravo” line, alongside either Dixon or Thornton (didn’t think Dixon would be out of consideration as the starting NT so early, maybe he won’t even make the team!). I worry that putting him in there against double teams is not using him to the best of his ability and skill. If he’s going to play anything other than 3 technique DT, I’d probably prefer it was DE on running downs. Just don’t see him as a NT.

  6. 6 sa_eagles said at 3:12 PM on July 31st, 2012:

    There’s been a lot of talk about Cliff Harris, but I haven’t heard much about Brandon Boykin. I assume he’s the fourth CB you have ahead of Harris, so he must be doing ok. How has he been used in camp so far? Does he actually have a shot to supplant Hanson as the nickel corner, or is he mainly just going to be a ST guy?

  7. 7 T_S_O_P said at 3:25 PM on July 31st, 2012:

    Fletch is playing a position were rookies rarely make an impact.

    How suited would Harris’s skillset be to a redzone sub package?

  8. 8 ACViking said at 3:34 PM on July 31st, 2012:

    RE: CB position


    Two questions.

    1. Nnamdi and DRC are locked at starter right now. At what point do the Eagles decide whether to re-signing DRC is the right move? By all accounts he’s a different player this TC playing on the outside . . . but is his “contract year” the catalyst or is he just finally showing up?

    2. If one of the starting CBs goes down, who’d step in?

    It’s hard to see Hanson on the outside. (I think he’s been there before with mixed results.)

    Is Boykin equipped to play on the outside? While he lacks height, he seems make up for it with physicality, quickness, and pretty good speed. (The Jets’ Reavis has proved height’s not everything, if you’re made of glue.)

    But if BB is the backup outside CB, then that could mean Hanson would make the team. Who else among the Eagles’ CBs can play the slot?

    (Are the Eagles using anyone other CB on the inside right now? [Ok . . . 3 questions.])

  9. 9 Anders Jensen said at 4:16 PM on July 31st, 2012:

    DRC play lights out at TC last year as well. I remember him being the first CB I have seen stay with Jackson on a go route (Cliff Harris is the other)

  10. 10 ACViking said at 5:22 PM on July 31st, 2012:

    I don’t remember if, during 2011 TC, Juan had DRC in the slot or not. Will have to scrounge around the internet.

    I’m with you on DRC and D-Jax.

    Going into the 2008 NFC Title Game, I vaguely remember DRC talking some trash about being faster than D-Jax. And, for nearly the entire game, he was.

    But with 10:45 remaining in the 4th Q, and the Eagles trailing 24-19, D-Mac let loose on a long pass to D-Jax, whom DRC was trailing by a couple of steps. DRC ate up a bunch of ground to get right in front of D-Jax just as the ball arrived — but he missed what I think should have been a PBU . . . and D-Jack made a beautiful juggling catch for a TD that put the Eagles ahead — after scoring 3 unanswered TDs and 19 points — with just under 11 minutes to go. The Eagles defense had dominated the Cardinals through the entire 3rd quarter. But then came the Cardinals’ heart-breaking 8-minute for the go-ahead, and ultimately game winning, TD . . . on an 8-yard screen pass — A FREAKIN’ SCREEN PASS — to the Eagles’ right against a basic 4-3 defense. That play still makes me cringe. (The call seemed to come right out of the Patriots’ 2004 2nd-half SB game plan when they killed the Eagles with screens — particularly to the defense’s right.)

    Here’s D-Jax’s 2008 NFC title game TD at 2:10 of the video.

  11. 11 Skeptic_Eagle said at 5:33 PM on July 31st, 2012:

    yikes, good recounting of a bad memory.

    Juan did have DRC playing the slot last year in TC (and some Pre-Season games, too, I think) but he was so bad there in terms of lack of physicality, it was a relatively short-lived experiment.

  12. 12 A_T_G said at 9:52 PM on July 31st, 2012:

    To follow your analogy, I seem to remember Hanson being made of rubber to Revis’ glue when playing outside. I hope Marsh shows enough to be the backup outside. He seems to be the first choice when Nnamdi moves inside so far.

  13. 13 ACViking said at 4:07 PM on July 31st, 2012:

    RE: 3 Tight Ends

    As T-LAW’s remarked from time to time during the past few months, the off-season talk about the Eagles going to more 2-TE sets — particularly in light of B-Celek’s injury — makes having a *quality* third TE on the roster very important.

    Brackett seems to have the necessary receiving skills and the kind of height you love in a TE (though keeping his weight up may be a challenge).

    FA rookie Emil Igwenagu sounds like he great potential as a blocker and a pair of decent hands, along with impressive athleticism. But he’s not particularly tall, much like Harbor.

    Chase Ford, if he makes the team at all, looks like a PS guy.

    Question: Will the Eagles keep 3 TEs on the 53 man roster, along with a FB?

    Or do the Eagles roll the dice with 2 TEs plus a FB and hope they’ll be able to choose from among Brackett, Ford, and Igwenagu after final cuts for the PS.

    One of these days, the Eagles need to go back to having the long-snapper be a TE (Mike Bartrum-type).

  14. 14 Kristopher Cebula said at 4:11 PM on July 31st, 2012:

    adding a question about something you mentioned, do many other teams waste a roster spot on a guy who does nothing but long snap? also, how come the starting center (or backup center) cannot be a long snapper? is it that difficult of a skill to learn?

  15. 15 ACViking said at 5:37 PM on July 31st, 2012:

    Great question.

    I defer to T-Law . . . but it seems that the long-snapper position has become a specialist job just like PK and P.

    In fact, out of curiosity I checked to see whether Eagles C Jason Kelce did the long-snapping in college for the Cincinnati Bearcats.

    The answer is “No.” Even in college — although, granted, the roster is 85 players — coaches use “specialists.”

    Here’s a story on the Bearcats:

  16. 16 aceandson said at 7:18 PM on July 31st, 2012:

    The long snapper is key on at least 12 plays per game. Those are either scoring plays or changes in possession.

    How many snaps does the fullback play? The #4 WR? The #3 Safety?

    The L.S. is at least as important as those positions. Hardly a “waste” of a spot.

  17. 17 Anders Jensen said at 4:17 PM on July 31st, 2012:

    Lets not forget that Dion Lewis was a very good RB in college an was actually more productive than McCoy. Had Lewis been 5-10/11 instead of 5-8 and 20 lbs heavier he would have been drafted alot higher

  18. 18 ACViking said at 6:01 PM on July 31st, 2012:

    RE: D-Lew v. D-Sproles

    In another year or so, after some more work with Barry Rubin, I think D-Lewis will be built just like Darren Sproles — short, stout, quick and powerful. (Assuming Lewis doesn’t pull anymore boneheaded moves like falsely shouting fire to the Fire Department.)

    Like Sproles, Lewis is showing great skill in executing the screen pass and on quick hitters between the tackles.

    That’s not to say Lewis has the vision, explosion, and strength of Sproles.

    Time will tell. But I think Reid’s giving Lewis every chance to be the Eagles’ “scat back”.

    Historical note: In the late-’80s, Bill Parcells magnified the role of the short, stout 3rd down scat-back with Dave Meggett (U-MD Eastern Shore) — who was also a great return specialist. Meggett signaled a new generation of 3rd-down RBs.

    From ’78-’81, Dick Vermeil used Eagles RB Billy Campfield, from Kansas, in the 3rd-down specialist role (and as the primary KR, replacing Wally Henry). But Campfield, at 5’11 200 lbs, was built more like oseph Addai than a Darren Sproles.

    Buddy Ryan figured out the antidote to Meggett, who joined the Giants in ’89. In the Eagles’ first game against the Giants in 1989 (5th game of the season), Meggett killed the Eagles with 6 catches for 89 yards.

    But in the last three games that in which Buddy Ryan was head coach against the Giants, he completely neutralized Meggett. In 1989 Game-2, Megget had 1 catch to 2 yards. In 1990 Game 1, Meggett had 1 catch for (-1) yards. And in the last game, Megget had only 3 catches, though he picked up 61 yards. That totaled 5 catches for 62 yards.

    Buddy would send a blitzer straight at Meggett to force him to stay at home to pass-pro.

    Now, it seems that’s that what Ryan schemed for Megget is a common defense tactic against players like Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy, and Darren Sproles.

  19. 19 phillychuck said at 7:44 PM on July 31st, 2012:

    In the video Brackett is shown long-snapping. Can he do that? Has he done it in games before?

  20. 20 PhillyFollower said at 12:17 AM on August 1st, 2012:

    He’s learning to do it in order to increase his value to the team. I don’t believe he’s ever done it before.

  21. 21 A_T_G said at 10:06 PM on July 31st, 2012:

    I was at Lehigh yesterday. Great time. First time out for myself, my dad, and my boys, 7 and 5.

    I am certainly an untrained eye, but a few observations:

    1. When I see a defensive back with Harris written above the numbers it takes me a moment to get down the list past Al and Macho to Cliff, but if he keeps playing like he is, that wont last. The go route where he stuck with Jackson looked a little under thrown to me, Jackson didn’t shift into high gear to catch up to the ball, but Harris was right with him

    2. Kafka worried me at first. The first time I got to watch him was the 2’s against each other in two-hand touch. He looked to have happy feet and be running away constantly. Upon consideration, I realized our second string dine is a lot better than our second string oline. He didn’t have a choice.

    3. Brackett, D. Johnson, and McNutt impressed me as receivers. Lewis looked good with the ball.

  22. 22 A_T_G said at 10:14 PM on July 31st, 2012:


    4. My younger sons favorite part was when Nnamdi, who’s jersey he was wearing, tackled Shady, who’s jersey his brother was wearing.

    5. I didn’t see it mentioned, but R. Johnson was carted off with a cast on his leg. It didn’t look good when he rolled it and seemed to really be hurting. Avant was the first player at his side on one knee. If Avant was a few tenths faster, he would be Philly’s favorite athlete.

    6. Chas can really throw the ball, making that fake punt last year all the more frustrating.

  23. 23 TommyLawlor said at 10:46 PM on July 31st, 2012:

    #4 is awesome. Glad you and your family had a good time.

  24. 24 Eagles Q&A said at 11:37 PM on July 31st, 2012:

    […] case you missed it, check out the comments section from the previous post.  There was some good stuff in there.  As you might expect, a quality discussion mixed with […]