Polk on the Move?

Posted: August 18th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 24 Comments »

Yesterday Marty Mornhinweg mentioned in his PC that the Eagles had considered using Chris Polk as a lead blocker.  Interesting development.  Let’s not make this out to be more than it is.  They haven’t tried it yet.  It is just something the coaching staff is kicking around.  Why?

You always want to keep the 53 best football players.  There are times when you might keep a lesser backup OL and cut a good backup DB.  You do need certain numbers at positions so you can’t truly keep the best 53.  That’s just the goal you’re working toward.

Think about the RB/FB situation.  Shady McCoy is a keeper.  Dion Lewis has been terrific this summer.  Bryce Brown has been very impressive.  Chris Polk has played well.  Stanley Havili has been okay.  Emil Igwenagu has had some good moments, but has clearly also shown his limitations.  The only reason to keep Havili or Iggy over Polk is that they can play FB.  Those guys have not outperformed him this summer.  If you want to keep Polk…what about him as FB?

Polk was 224 pounds at the Senior Bowl.  He then dropped weight for the Combine and was 215.  The Eagles list him at 222.  I don’t know if he’s truly back up there.  Having just completed Training Camp I wouldn’t think he would be over 220.  This is important because most NFL FB’s are 245-pound sledgehammers.  Their primary job is to be a lead blocker and blow up the LB in the hole, so that the RB can get into the heart of the defense.  Could Polk do this at 215 or 220?

I’ve had a few readers ask about Polk at FB for a while and I’ve shot it down because of his size and also the fact that Chris has shoulder problems.  A FB must engage the LB with his shoulder so that he can ideally move the player back a step.  At the least, the FB wants a draw.  FBs take a huge pounding because of lead blocks.  That truly is like being in a car crash.  Shoulder and neck problems are always a possibility.  Polk already has bad shoulders.  I just don’t know if he could handle the job for a full season.

The argument for him is that the FB now only plays 10 to 15 percent of the snaps in a season.  There are only going to be a handful of plays a game where he would need to be the lead blocker.  The Eagles love to run from 2 TE sets and also 3 WR/1 TE sets.  FBs aren’t on the field in either grouping.

So why even bother with a FB?  The times you do need a FB are critical.  3rd/1.  1st/Goal from the 2.  Stuff like that.  Those are situations where you need a lead blocker.  Some coaches will go from a one-back set in those cases, but a majority of coaches will tell you that a FB is needed.  The defense expects run.  Defenders are trying to shoot gaps.  If someone breaks free, you want the FB to be there to take him on.  That still gives the RB a chance to get the yard or two that he needs.  With no lead blocker, any defender who gets penetration has a free run at the RB.  Not good.

If Polk was 230 pounds and had good shoulders, I’d be totally on board with him at FB.  At 220 and with troubled shoulders, I’m just not sure about the wisdom of the idea.  The fact the Eagles are discussing this tells me that they do like Polk and aren’t overly impressed with Havili or Iggy.  Those two need to play well in the upcoming games to secure a spot.

* * * * *

I wrote a TC review for PE.com.  I focused on the guys who stood out (and mostly were backups/young players).

* * * * *

Paul Domowitch wrote about Clay Harbor and how he could be more of a key player for the Eagles this year.  Good stuff.  Harbor was a quality blocker in the past, but inconsistent as a pass catcher.  This summer Harbor worked long and hard to improve his receiving skills. He looked good up at Lehigh.  Now the challenge is to show that in game situations.  If he is significantly improved, the offense will have another weapon in the mix.

* * * * *

Sheil Kapadia put up an interesting piece on the defense.  Yes, there is reason for optimism, but there are some things to keep in perspective.

One point Sheil brings up is that Juan Castillo having the short offseason is negated by the fact that Wade Phillips had the same circumstances and was able to turn the Texans defense from a joke to an elite unit.  Sheil is off target with this point.  Wade Phillips is a legitimately great Defensive Coordinator.  Wade was the DC under Buddy Ryan with the Eagles for 3 years.  He has been a DC or head coach for 30 years.  Wade has a proven system that he’s honed over the years.  He knows how to teach every part of it.

Juan had never coached defense in the NFL.  He was learning about that at the same time he was teaching his system to new players.  Juan had incredibly difficult circumstances.

Now, if you want to blame Andy Reid for making the choice, go for it.  But comparing Juan to a veteran DC like Wade isn’t fair.

* * * * *

DRC got fined $21K for hitting the Steelers QB last week.  DRC deserved to be fined.  You just can’t launch yourself at the upper body of a QB.  Dumb.

DRC had previously said he didn’t agree with any penalty/fine, but he changed his tune and acknowledged that he did launch himself.  He wasn’t happy when he learned about how much the fine was.  “$21,000?  I ain’t even got that.”  DRC had a bit of a smile as he said this.  He knows he screwed up.  Something tells me he’s got $21K.  If not, we can start a PayPal drive for him.

* * * * *

One loyal reader has started a new blog…about Dodgers baseball.  Kinda crazy, I know, but some of you are big baseball fans and might enjoy his material.  Very stats oriented.  He is a loyal Eagles fan so go check out the site and see what you think.  He posts under the name of BG.  Good luck to him.

* * * * *

Kevin Kolb had another rough outing.  Last night he struggled vs Oakland.  The Raiders said he looked “scared”.  Someone on Twitter said that if Kolb holds the ball any longer he’ll have to start calling it “Wilson!!!”.  Thought that was a good line.  Hate to see Kolb falling apart like this.  Not good.

* * * * *

Finally, the Marlon Favorite update of the day.  Here is what our hero had for breakfast today.  I replied to him on Twitter that it wasn’t complete.  He’s missing little chocolate donuts.


24 Comments on “Polk on the Move?”

  1. 1 Dave_King said at 2:39 PM on August 18th, 2012:

    If the fullback is there for only 15% of the snaps anyways, why wouldn’t you take the best FB? Polk might be the most talented of the three, but currently he’s probably least suited to play FB. Everyone makes a big deal about his blocking compared to the RBs, but he still has far less experience than Havili and Igwenagu, and Havili has the ability to be the multipurpose threat that Reid wants while also having some semblance of lead blocking. I don’t know enough about Emil to say anything, but I believe he’s in a similar boat.

    Again, if you’re only playing a fullback situationally in those short yardage situations and goal line dives, does it make sense to place all your faith on a smaller guy who isn’t as good of a lead blocker as the other options?

    An option I’d be content with is putting Polk on IR, letting him get his shoulder fixed, then letting him bulk up in the spring so he can also legitimately compete at FB.

  2. 2 TommyLawlor said at 2:46 PM on August 18th, 2012:

    Eagles are just kicking around the idea of Polk at FB.

    Part of key here is that Polk might be the best blocker of the trio. Not sure. He isn’t a normal FB to be sure, but he is tough and physical. Havili isn’t the most physical guy in the world.

  3. 3 T_S_O_P said at 3:48 PM on August 18th, 2012:

    And if Harbor is the best blocking player in those situations, what then?

  4. 4 Tyler Phillips said at 2:41 PM on August 18th, 2012:

    Moving this from the previous post:

    I have been giving some consideration to this FB thing. It really just comes down to what they want out of the position this year, because the guys they are considering aren’t exactly Weaver clones. Generally the FB needs to have serviceable combo of abilities (Owen Schmitt) or be excellent in a particular area that the coaching staff values and adequate in the others (run blocking, carrying, receiving, pass protection)

    Rushing: Least Important
    Does it really matter what they bring to the table when carrying the football? Particularly when you have Shady, Lewis and (likely) Brown? I’d suspect this is the least important, at least for us, but would be a nice bonus.

    Run blocking: Less Important
    Normally this would be pretty high on the list of desired traits, but with our blocking scheme its just not that critical that they be great at it. Adequate skill at this is plenty IMO.

    Receiving: More Important
    This is likely a skill we would like for our FB to have. It sure would be nice for our FB to be a legit threat as an outlet receiver. Ideally Weaver-type skills, but must be a solid target when called upon.

    Pass Protection: Most Important
    This is probably the most important skill our FB should possess. If you cannot protect the QB, you cannot be in our backfield, period.

    Verdict: We haven’t seen enough to make any decision one way or the other yet, but I honestly think Harbor is probably the best option in this type of role. It would get him more snaps and create mismatches. I need to see more from Havili, but I think the best option would be to try to improve Harbor, so they can have that extra spot for someone they want to keep as opposed keeping Havili just because he is the best of a bad crop.

  5. 5 TommyLawlor said at 2:43 PM on August 18th, 2012:

    Interesting breakdown. Logical.

  6. 6 Tyler Phillips said at 2:51 PM on August 18th, 2012:

    One other point of interest on this. Let’s say they decide Harbor can fill this role because of how he has played thus far in TC/Preseason. They want to get him on the field (I hope), this kills 2 birds with one stone. More playing time for Clay and opens a roster spot.

    The open roster spot would presumably go to someone who has ST value. I wonder who that could be. Could it end up coming down to Havili vs ST contributor? Or would his ST abilities be enough so that he gets that spot anyway?

  7. 7 Matthew Verhoog said at 4:15 PM on August 18th, 2012:

    I know this is like putting Vick on punt returns, but what about Derek Landari as the short yardage fullback?

  8. 8 TommyLawlor said at 4:40 PM on August 18th, 2012:

    Could work. Played FB in high school. Might have been used there on occasion by Jags. Not sure about that.

  9. 9 Anders said at 4:43 PM on August 18th, 2012:

    Didnt we already go down that road with Dan Klecko?

  10. 10 D3Keith said at 7:09 PM on August 18th, 2012:

    I don’t think you can emphasize this enough:
    ” If you cannot protect the QB, you cannot be in our backfield, period.”

    I’ve long been saying that we could possible keep 4 RBs and Havili not be one of them, but bottom line, you have to have a guy on the team that you can trust out there to block, in short yardage at the very least, and to not get Vick killed if ever the FB is on the field for a pass play with more than a three step drop.

  11. 11 ACViking said at 2:50 PM on August 18th, 2012:

    RE: Polk / Kolb

    Being the old-time purist, I’d love to see the Eagles run out of the “pro set” — the T formation, with a TE, FL, and SE — with two backs who present both a run-and-receiving threat. That would be vintage Bill Walsh WCO circa 1985. But, as many readers have commented over the past couple years, with Mudd’s blocking style, a 2-back set — save on short yardage — is not all that necessary.

    But what about Polk in lieu of Havili as a blocking FB? I don’t see it for all the reasons outlined by T-Law — most especially the shoulder problem. But if the Eagles want to run Polk out of a 1-back formation, then okay. Keep Polk and let Havili go.

    But if the Eagles were to do that (and keep 4 RBs), the team would also need a 3rd TE — especially one that could block like a sledgehammer.

    Last year — of the 12 playoff teams — the Patriots, the Steelers, Texans, and Lions had no true FB. They used a TE to fill the roll. Even the Giants would not infrequently use TE Bear Pascoe in place of true FB Henry Hynoski. The roster for each of those playoff teams had least 3 TEs.

    Maybe Polk stays. Maybe he lines up with McCoy. But not in the I-formation. He’d be banging heads with LBs who’d have a sizable weight advantage.

    But if Polk can be a lead blocker on the move, then I could see this happening — just like Walsh’s 1985 49er team with the underdersized FB Roger Craig and short but solid HB Wendall Tyler. No I-formation. Strictly the classic “pro set.”

    Kevin Kolb . . . he took his lumps from the fans while in Philadelphia. But I don’t remember anyone ever expressing concern about *happy eyes* or *happy feet* — while McNabb was here.

    But I seem to remember during the Eagles’ 2010 training camp and preseason some concern being voiced that Kolb was quick to abandon the pocket.

    Then came his concussion against Green Bay on opening day (in Kelly Green). And he’s not the been remotely close to the same player since.

    When the Eagles signed Trent Edwards, T-Law recounted the beating Edwards took while QB’ing in Buffalo. And, at some point, Edwards lost his pocket presence. Maybe Edwards has overcome that fear. I don’t know.

    But Kolb seems to have progressed geometrically up the “fear” scale.

    T-LAW . . . any thoughts?

  12. 12 ICDogg said at 3:11 PM on August 18th, 2012:

    As far as it not being fair to compare Castillo to experienced coordinators, that may be true but it doesn’t mean he gets a handicap. He has to get at least pretty good pretty fast or we’re in trouble again.

  13. 13 TommyLawlor said at 3:48 PM on August 18th, 2012:

    This year Juan is under the gun. Get the job done or lose your job. No question about it.

  14. 14 Alex Karklins said at 10:54 PM on August 18th, 2012:

    I think that hiring Todd Bowles also sends a message that there is a backup plan if Juan struggles early on. A midseason DC replacement is not out of the question.

  15. 15 JRO91 said at 3:17 PM on August 18th, 2012:

    What about the idea of keeping three TE’s and no FB. When they need a FB, Harbor fills the role. That way they could keep Brackett as the third TE. Could you imaging a formation with Brackett/Celek/and Harbor all on the field? That is a LB/SS nightmare to defend……

  16. 16 TommyLawlor said at 3:51 PM on August 18th, 2012:

    Harbor is a possibility. He’s lined up at FB in some gimmick sets in the past. The argument against him at FB is that he might be too valuable as a blocker on the LOS.

  17. 17 D3Keith said at 7:07 PM on August 18th, 2012:

    And also if he misses a game, we lose the FB and our No. 2 TE. The same way it helps save a roster spot up front, it might lead to costing you one the week you have to promote Ikey and a TE from the PS.

    not that fear of injury should stop anyone from doing what’s best.

  18. 18 austinfan said at 3:43 PM on August 18th, 2012:

    The Wade Phillips comparison was silly, Phillips was in the same situation in Houston that Capers was in GB, taking over a talented defense with personnel more suited to the 3-4 than the 4-3
    Smith, Watt (11th) and Cody (2nd) on the DL, only weakness was lack of a true NT, but in his one gap system, he wants someone like Cody anyway.
    Barwin (2nd), Mario and Reed (2nd) as OLBs, Cushing (1st) and Ryan at ILB
    Joseph, Jackson (2nd), Manning and Quin at S.
    Jason Allen (1st) on the bench,
    The only new players were two high draft picks and Joseph.
    Similarly, in SF Fanzio had only two new players, Rogers and Whitner, and took over a talented but underachieving defense playing a 3-4.

    A better comparison would be the following new DCs
    Jauron – Cleveland
    Ryan – Dallas
    Allen – Denver
    Horton – Arizona
    Gray – Tennessee

  19. 19 Mark Sitko said at 3:52 PM on August 18th, 2012:

    Castillo built a top 10 D in his first attempt at being a DC and without an offseason – what more does Sheil want? Wade also had a lot more horses to work with in Texas – especially LBs…Sheil is way off base…why not compare with the runty retarded brother of Rex Ryan…he turned Wade’s old Dallas D into a steaming pile of trash talking sissies…THAT is a much better comparison…plus – who cares about defenses in the AFC…when the Texans make it to a superbowl that argument will be relavent…until then tell Sheil to get off Juan’s back!

  20. 20 Anders said at 4:46 PM on August 18th, 2012:

    You got it all wrong, JC have no clue about defense and therefor its a miracle we had a top 10 defense. Also Castillo had a better defense then defensive masterminds: Spags, Williams, Belichick, Capers etc.

  21. 21 Skeptic_Eagle said at 4:47 PM on August 18th, 2012:

    Castillo is getting a one-to-one comparison to other defensive coordinators in the NFL every Sunday. The box score doesn’t accept excuses. He’s gotta come out on the winning end of some of those comparisons, eventually, if the Eagles hope to do anything this year.

  22. 22 TommyLawlor said at 8:26 PM on August 18th, 2012:

    You’re mixing arguments. The argument I made was about circumstances. There is no question Juan had some of the craziest circumstances in the history of the NFL…he was one of the craziest hires in the NFL and in a lockout season!

    This isn’t an excuse for failure. Either he gets the job done this year or he’s got to be replaced. Last year was just bizarre for all the reasons we’ve discussed over and over.

    Too many people see a sympathetic comment toward Juan and instantly mistake this for some blanket excuse where he won’t be held accountable. That’s not the case. You can judge the crazy situation for what it is. Juan will keep his job if he has a good year. If the results aren’t good enough, Andy will have to make a change. This is the NFL. You produce or you walk.

  23. 23 Cafone said at 10:34 PM on August 18th, 2012:

    On Castillo, I wanted him fired last year as much as anyone. But he’s now in a great position to turn it around and I won’t be shocked if he does well. Three or four years from now we might be calling Reid a genius for sticking with him.

    Also, if you guys aren’t listening to the podcast – do it. It’s good.

  24. 24 Anders said at 5:20 AM on August 19th, 2012:

    Tommy, I got a question regarding tackling. How come the Eagles seems to always to struggle with tackling (Last time I remember we did a good job of tackling was back in 2008 when we also had Dawkins and Mikell as safeties and Bradley, Gocong and Gaither as LBs and had a good tackling CBs in Brown and Hanson). Is it a coach problem or a player problem?