Rather than writing a new post, I’m going to answer some questions you guys have had over the last few days.
Could the Eagles have a surprise candidate for DC, like Teryl Austin or Don Martindale? You know what I know. I wish I had a scoop on the DC situation, but I’m flying blind just like you (apologies to any blind pilots who read IB). The names mentioned in the media are Ed Donatell and Ted Monachino. I mentioned Jim Leavitt for the simple fact he’s a veteran coach who Chip has dealt with in college. They might not be friends, but Chip knows who he is. Also, Chip may want someone that is a former HC on the staff. He’s got Shurmur on offense. Leavitt could be that guy on defense.
I haven’t mentioned Teryl Austin or Don Martindale because neither guy is a compelling candidate. That doesn’t mean Chip Kelly won’t surprise me and hire them. Anything is possible. Both guys are veteran coaches with some good qualities. I just don’t see anything special about them and they aren’t getting mentioned in the media.
As I wrote the other day, I expect we’ll hear something about DC early this week. Assuming the coach is on one of the Super Bowl staffs, there’s no reason for anymore delays.
What kind of pedigree do I like in draft prospects? Tough question. There is no perfect answer. Every now and then I’ll look for trends. Last spring I wrote that most of the Eagles good LBs in the last 25 years had come from the Southwest (Seth Joyner – UTEP, William Thomas – Texas A&M, Byron Evans – Arizona, Jeremiah Trotter – Stephen F Austin, Carlos Emmons – Arkansas State). That’s no hard and fast rule. Just something odd that occurred to me one day.
I don’t think players have to come from great teams or great programs. Reggie White went to Tennessee. Clyde Simmons went to Western Carolina. Hugh Douglas went to Central State. Trent Cole went to Cincinnati. Those programs couldn’t be more different and diverse.
It is easier to judge players that go to a big school. You get to see them play great competition. You can see how they stack up. There is less projection. At the same time, there is no guarantee that going to a football factory means squat. The Eagles have had better luck with players from Cincinnati than USC.
QB is the one spot where I do have serious concerns. A truly special QB can usually put a team on his back and get them to play at a high level. Ben Roethlisberger led Miami OH to a 13-1 record in his final year. Aaron Rodgers led Cal to a 10-2 record in his final year. Tom Brady had Michigan at 10-2, with a big bowl win and 2 narrow losses. You don’t have to win the title or the Heisman Trophy, but a QB must have a serious level of accomplishment. If not, I think you question how good he truly is and have to downgrade him.
There are some schools that make me nervous. Kids from Texas, Ohio State, and Clemson have a very mixed record in the last decade. Texas players are worshiped. Mack Brown runs a good program, but it’s known to be soft. Those players don’t always handle the grind of the NFL well. Think about how few Texas stars pan out. Vince Young, Cedric Benson, Michael Huff, Roy Williams, Mike Williams, and Marcus Tubbs are a few of the guys who clearly had NFL talent, but underachieved for character/personality reasons. The guys who have done well tended to be kids that overachieved at Texas and already have a grinder mentality…Brian Orakpo, Aaron Ross, Justin Blalock, Brian Robison, and Henry Melton. I don’t think Ohio State guys are quite the same. I don’t get the sense that they’re feeling entitled to success. I think the problem there is maybe that they play with such talent that we get false positives on how good they truly are, especially when factoring in the marginal Big Ten competition they go against. Ted Ginn and AJ Hawk were great college players. Both are solid at what they do in the NFL, but nowhere close to being worth Top 10 picks. As for Clemson…that is Texas Jr. The players there are worshiped and I think come out with the sense of entitlement. This may be changing. Dabo Swinney took over in 2008 and since then players seem to be doing better.
What do you think of QB E.J. Manuel as a prospect? He played well in the Senior Bowl game and created a buzz with many fans. Manuel didn’t look good in the practices though. I need to study his tape thoroughly before making a final conclusion, but I’m not a big fan. He has talent, but he is a project. Guys coming from major schools that got pretty good coaching and remain projects scare me. A 4-year player at Florida State shouldn’t have his issues. If he came from Florida A&M or FIU…I’d feel different. I won’t be upset if the Eagles take a flyer on him because I trust Chip Kelly right now. If that’s who he wants, so be it. Manuel would not be the player I want. One of the key questions here is value. If the Eagles took Manuel in the 4th round, that’d be okay. Will he last that long? Hard to say. The knee-jerk answer is no, but Kirk Cousins did last year despite buzz that he could go as high as the late 1st or early 2nd round.
If we go 3-4, how do you value the OLB, DE, NT, and ILB positions in the draft? I don’t know what Chip and the DC think, but I focus on OLB and NT. You must be able to rush the passer and that means good OLBs. Over the years we’ve seen some crappy 3-4 defenses and it usually happens when there isn’t much of a rush. Take away Clay Matthews and the Packers become pedestrian. Don’t skimp on OLBs. Better to over-spend there and make do elsewhere.
NT is critical because without the right guy you will not play the run well. The difference here is that you don’t always need to spend a high pick to find the right NT. Sometimes you can use a late pick. You can sign a veteran free agent. You need someone that is tough and can handle getting double-teamed. Functional size and strength are important, but not so much quickness or athleticism.
Good DEs can put a defense over the top. Look at JJ Watt with Houston. The Packers have really missed Cullen Jenkins, who was a DE for them. Aaron Smith was a huge player for the Steelers. Look no further than SF without Justin Smith. He got hurt and suddenly Aldon Smith couldn’t get near the QB.
I do wonder if ILB isn’t becoming more important. Daryl Washington, Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Lawrence Timmons, Brian Cushing, and Sean Lee are key players on their defensive units. They’re able to play the run, cover, blitz, and everything in between. All of them run very well. In the old days I think you could get away with a couple of 255-pound pluggers at ILB, but with the passing in today’s NFL…speed is huge for top shelf ILBs.
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Going back to yesterday’s topic for a second…
My point wasn’t that Chip had no speed at Oregon. I was trying to kill the notion that he had recruited a bunch of track stars and simply put a team on the field that ran by the competition due to being faster. That is absolutely not what Chip did.
Chip schemed to get his players in favorable matchups. He was able to get his fast players in space so he could take advantage of the speed they did have. Think of the card game War. If you lay down a 3, I only need a 4 to win. Chip was able to find a way to use his players so that they often faced players or situations where they could win. A WR who runs 4.65 won’t look great vs a 4.5 CB, but if you get him against a Safety that runs 4.7, the WR can win.
Chip was able to manipulate the game to get his guys favorable situations due to numbers (run when both Safeties back, pass vs an 8-man front), but also due to the matchups he created. Doubters wonder if Chip will be able to do this in the NFL, but I don’t think enough of them realize that it is the same basic principle that all 32 offenses are trying to use. Some are just better at it than others. Chip was great at scheming at Oregon. I think he’ll do just fine in the NFL.
The other key, as I wrote yesterday, is that Oregon played fast and was able to wear down opponents. Oregon was able to get defenders on their heels. At that point, doesn’t matter if you run 4.3 or 4.6. You won’t play fast if you’re hesitant, confused, or flat out scared. Some teams handled Oregon’s attacking style just fine. Stanford did and beat the Ducks. Most teams really struggled with it. Getting an opponent out of his comfort zone can be a huge factor in a game.
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One of our friends across the pond wanted UK Eagles fans to know about his site.
The lack of Rosie Jones pictures was truly disappointing, but looks like a pretty good site.