The Eagles brought in OL Chris Williams on Wednesday. He was recently cut by the Bears. Williams was a 1st round pick out of Vanderbilt. The Eagles liked him quite a bit as a LT prospect, but the Bears took him 14th overall and the Eagles ended up dealing their 1st rounder to the Panthers (who then picked Jeff Otah).
Williams struggled at LT so the Bears moved him around. He did have some success at LG. He had been on the bench for a couple of games and his release seemed like a mutual decision. Williams wasn’t happy on the bench and the Bears didn’t see him in their future plans.
What would Williams do if he signed here? He could take over at LT. Demetress Bell has shown progress, but isn’t playing at a high level. An interesting possibility would be to plug Williams in at LG and then move Evan Mathis to C. Dallas Reynolds has struggled since taking over for Jason Kelce.
The Eagles could try something drastic and move Todd Herremans to LT, then Mathis to RT, and put Williams in at LG. That would make me nervous. Too much change on the OL can be a bad thing. Continuity is something you want up front since the players have to work together.
It is hard for me to say what the best option is since I don’t know what kind of potential Mathis has at C or RT. Right now I think Mathis is the Eagles top performing OL. I’m only moving him if I think he can upgrade at C or RT. I can count on Mathis at LG. I don’t want to move him and then have that spot be a question mark, as well as LG with someone new taking over there.
Williams is visiting the Cardinals today. They could make him the LT. They’ve given up 28 sacks, which leads the league. Michael Vick has “only” gone down 17 times.
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Let’s talk about the Eagles OL as it stands today.
D BELL – Went from complete liability to functional LT. Is getting more and more comfortable in the Mudd system. Able to use his athletic ability now. Effective pass blocker. Inconsistent run blocker. Biggest issue for him is knowing who to block. Has let some rushers / blitzers go free to the inside. That’s a no-no. Isn’t playing so well that you’re comfortable with him at LT, but is functional.
MATHIS – Eagles best and most consistent OL this year. Good pass blocker. Anchors well when he locks on and gets his feet set. Good run blocker. Can reach block and seal off backside DT on runs to right. Can handle DT on runs to his side. Able to get to the second level and block LBs. Will get beaten at times, but those tend to be few and far between.
REYNOLDS – Struggled a lot in his first start (ARZ). Problem was double A-gap blitzes. And Calais Campbell. Played better against the Giants. Had a good game vs Steelers. They have bigger NTs that lack the quickness to win battles with lateral moves and/or upfield bursts (how Campbell beat him). Reynolds has pretty good size/strength. Put a man in front of him and he’ll execute the block. Reach blocks are tough against quick DTs. Reynolds has okay lateral agility. Struggles on the second level. Either flies up there and is out of control or stays under control and is too late. Detroit was a bad game for him. Had snap issues on 3 plays. Struggled with blocking Suh and Fairley. They had the strength/quickness combo to get the best of Reynolds. He wasn’t able to slide to the side and block them. Either he was too slow with the slide or he was quick, but off balance.
Reynolds big problem is that he’s not physical gifted and he’s also inexperienced. Players like him need to know the little tricks it takes to win 1-on-1 battles. He’s learning on the job, but can’t fall back on his athleticism to win those battles while he learns. Reynolds is tough, mentally and physically. As bad as he’s been beaten in some games, you still see him busting his butt out there. He lacks experience, but is a mature player (28 yrs old). I think he can be a functional player, but will struggle when facing top DTs.
WATKINS – We have a couple of different discussions when analyzing Danny. The Eagles took him in the 1st round to be a good RG. He has been disappointing and hasn’t come close to playing to the level where it was worth spending a 1st round pick on him. I don’t think anyone would dispute that.
That said, we can’t hold that over his head forever. At some point you forget about draft status and just deal with the player. Don’t compare him to Shawn Andrews or Jermane Mayberry. Compare him to Harry Boatswain, Steve Sciullo, or Doug Brzezinski. Suddenly Watkins becomes a much more attractive option at RG. You can still be mad at Roseman, Reid, and/or Mudd for the pick, but don’t hold that against Danny.
As for Watkins play, there is progress. Derek from IgglesBlog and I talked about him on Twitter. We both were very impressed by him at times. I think Watkins looked good on 22 or 23 of the 25 plays in the 3rd Qtr. There were some blocks that were textbook quality.
The problem is that Danny remains inconsistent as a pass blocker. He struggles with athletic DTs or pass rushers. Danny can lock on and anchor really well, but he doesn’t always get his hands on the rusher and that leads to some lookout blocks…as in “Hey Mike, look out!!!” I think Danny is worth keeping on the field since he does have potential and is still learning. I know he’s old for a young player (would that be an oxymoron?), but he is showing progress. It just isn’t at the pace we expected. The one thing I can’t speak to is work ethic. Is Danny committed to being the best football player he can? Does he have the competitive streak to not settle for “okay”? I don’t know, but think those are fair questions based on the first 1.5 years of his NFL career. Clearly he’s not lazy. Getting to the top in the NFL goes much beyond that, though. It takes special commitment. Not all players have that.
HERREMANS – Todd should be the top OL on the team right now. He’s athletic. He’s strong and tough. He’s experienced. I have no idea why his play is off in 2012, but it is. I’m not saying he’s a bad player. Todd clearly isn’t. He is disappointing because he’s not playing up to his normal level. Did getting the contract extension this spring have some negative effect on him?
The issues with Todd’s play aren’t physical. When he’s focused and “on”, he can still be a shutdown pass blocker and very good run blocker. Todd just seems out of it on some plays. He’s gotten beaten to the inside several times. He got beat off the edge in OT on Sunday and gave up a huge sack. He complained in the opener about not being able to hear the calls and adjustments from Kelce. That struck me as odd. Cleveland has good fans, but it isn’t anything like a dome or Seattle where it can be deafening.
I don’t know if Todd is distracted by something or what. Maybe he’s just having an off year. We can’t all be at our best every season. I’m hoping Todd comes out of the bye week and plays like his old self. We could use that guy, whether at LT or RT.
DUNLAP – It is worth noting that we’re 2-0 with King starting at LT. Of course, Kelce was also the C in those games. King did a solid job. He can be a good pass blocker. Bad run blocker. Height hurts him on those plays. Also, not the most fiery guy in the world.
I do wonder if he gets the LT job back anytime soon. I don’t know that King has been 100 percent and he’s not the guy you want out there when hurt. He’s not a great player when fully healthy. The other point is that he’s not much of an upgrade on Bell, if he is one at all. That was different when Bell was a headcase, but Bell’s playing better football now.
PETERS – I think his return is an extreme longshot, kinda like me getting a phone call from Olivia Wilde. Theoretically possible, but probably not in this particular universe. Jason is a very gifted man. Great natural athlete. He will never be mistaken for Jerry Rice when it comes to practice and preparation. I find it hard to believe he’ll rehab his Achilles, stay in great shape, and be ready to get back on the field in the next month. That’s asking a lot. Guys who return quickly tend to be freaks like Rice or Rod Woodson or Adrian Peterson. Peters has freaky gifts, but he’s still an O-lineman and those guys don’t have the same kind of body as the other guys I mentioned.
D KELLY – Howard Mudd is very high on Kelly. Would he try to find a spot for him in the lineup? Possible. Kelly could play LG if they want to move Mathis to the middle. Kelly could take over at RT if they wanted to move Todd to the left side. I don’t think Dennis Kelly is ready for LT at this point. Kelly has played in some goal line sets. He’s had a couple of good blocks, but those were short yardage run plays where he could fire off the ball. Much different than dropping back in pass pro and reacting to someone like JPP, DeMarcus Ware, or Haloti Ngata.
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I think the Eagles can win with an OL of Bell-Mathis-Reynolds-Watkins-Herremans. The key is that they need some help. That comes from 2 main places: Marty/Andy and Mike Vick.
Marty/Andy need to build more realistic gameplans. No one says you have to abandon the deep ball. You can still mix them in. You must focus more on rhythm passes. Those are short and intermediate routes: slant, out, screen, dig, deep out, cross, shallow cross, etc. It would also help to run the ball more often. That will build the confidence of the OL and keep DL guessing rather than teeing off.
Vick can help by getting rid of the ball quicker. Ron Jaworski recently noted that he had Pro Football Focus time the release of all 32 QBs in the NFL. Vick was last. He held the ball on average for 3 seconds per pass play. I cannot find the date online, but I think he said the next QB was at 2.5 seconds. That shows you a significant difference in Vick and other QBs. He doesn’t do as well pre-snap and he doesn’t anticipate plays well. Vick needs to see it. That means holding the ball and letting plays develop. Part of that blame does go to the coaches for throwing deeper passes. Call shorter plays and Vick should get the ball out quicker, which helps him and the OL.
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So what about Mudd? He’s supposed to be an OL guru. Is he at fault?
Yes and no. I think Mudd is hurt by Vick’s play. OL can’t thrive when holding blocks that long. A good QB can help an OL, just as they help him. Does Tom Brady always magically have the best OL? Heck no. He gets good protection because he’s part of the protection. He runs the no-huddle and gets the defense tired. He throws plenty of quick passes to wear them out and discourage them. Brady moves well within the pocket. He’s able to sense pressure and slide a foot or two away. Same is true for Peyton Manning.
Guys like Vick and Aaron Rodgers are playmaking type QBs. They hold the ball. That means taking sacks. Rodgers has gotten sacked 23 times this year, Vick 17. It doesn’t matter who the OL are or who the coach is if the QB isn’t part of the solution. He must get the ball out quickly. Mudd got away with less than great players in his OLs in Indy because Peyton made such a difference with getting the ball out quickly.
Mudd might be at fault with some of the confusion. My biggest complaint this year is all the rushers and blitzers that have gone free due to confusion and/or missed assignments. I’m not going to get mad when DL beat our guys in a 1-on-1 matchup when they’re better. That’s football. I do get frustrated when rushers come free and we’ve got the numbers to block them. That is a missed assignment. The blitz might be well-designed, but OL should recognize it. They should anticipate some of the blitzes and looks they’ve had to deal with.
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There is no magic bullet here that will solve all the problems. The coaches need to do a better job. Vick needs to get the ball out quicker. The OL must communicate better. The OL must block better. Not every sack is due to Vick holding the ball or Marty dialing up a deep pass. We’ve had too many plays where the guys up front just got beat, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
It will be interesting to see what changes are made, lineup or otherwise. The Eagles need better OL play if they are going to get where this team wants to go.