The NT Question

Posted: March 11th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 58 Comments »

One of the positions the Eagles might target in free agency is NT.  They could go for a young run stuffer like Roy Miller.  They could go for a veteran like Isaac Sopoaga.  They could take a chance on backups like Sammie Lee Hill, Ricky Jean-Francois, or Steve McClendon and project them to start.  The Eagles won’t acknowledge exactly what the system is going to be so it’s hard to know exactly what they’re looking for.

One question I haven’t really addressed is whether the Eagles will look at NT as a starting position.  Sounds crazy, but this thought occurred to me the other day.  If the base defense is on the field just half the plays (or less), you could argue that the NT is a role player.

The Eagles were linked today to free agent DL Desmond Bryant.  He played for the Raiders last year and was all over the place.  He played DE, DT, and even some NT.  Bryant looked natural at all 3 spots.  Most guys struggle at NT because they don’t fare well with double teams.  Bryant held his own.  You could sign a guy like him to start as the 5-tech DE and then mix him in at NT in some other sets.

Antonio Dixon and/or some other player could play the spot on most run downs.  Cedric Thornton could play some snaps there.  Even Fletcher Cox from time to time.  You could add a draft pick to the mix.  You could sign Pat Sims or Shaun Cody to challenge for the job.  The point is that you wouldn’t need to sink big money or an early pick to land the right guy.

If the Eagles do play the 4-3 Under, the NT will play the shade nose.  This means he lines up on the Center’s shoulder.  The NT doesn’t have to 2-gap and eat up multiple blockers on every snap.  He must be able to handle double teams, but there will be some plays where the NT fires upfield and can be disruptive.  That reduces the need for a massive player and gives you a larger pool of choices.

The NT couldn’t be just anyone.  You would need a player good enough to be effective vs the run in critical short yardage situations.  This is one reason I don’t fully trust a rookie as the NT.  College football is played by boys.  Pro football is played by men.  The first time a rookie takes on a double team by a pair of NFL blockers, it is unlike anything he’s ever experienced.  It takes time to adjust to that.

We’ll start to get an idea of how the Eagles view NT in the next week.  Do they sign a proven starter or go for a versatile player who has experience there and on the outside?

* * * * *

The Eagles went down to work out Geno Smith early today.  I’ve already written what I think of this.

A few of you had follow-up questions/comments.  Some felt that the fact Jeff Lurie, Howie Roseman, and Chip Kelly all went to West Va is a sign the Eagles truly are interested in Smith.  My response is still…no.  I think this is all part of the sales job.  The Eagles want to move back and add extra picks.

Every time I do a mock draft, I come away frustrated that the team doesn’t have extra picks in rounds 2-4.  It would help a great deal to add 1 or 2 extra picks in that area.  But wait…would Jeff Lurie bother to go to Morgantown, WV just to help the Eagles maybe get a couple of mid-round picks?  Hell yes.

Did you watch the 2012 Eagles?  Jeff Lurie’s pride and joy had a nightmare season.  Lurie is more competitive than most understand.  He’s dying for the team to get back to the top.  I bet he’ll do anything he can to help the team out.  If making a trip to WV could potentially help the team in a trade scenario, let’s go.  It isn’t like Lurie had to ride down there in a 1987 Ford Escort with me, Jimmy Bama, and only a Level 42 cassette to entertain us.  Come to think of it, that might be a great documentary for him to produce.

I do not believe the Eagles have serious interest in Geno Smith.  Some questioned why that is.  Smith does have the skill set to run Chip Kelly’s offense.  I just don’t happen to think Smith is a QB you draft early and build a team around.  I think he is a guy you take if you have nothing at QB and are somewhat desperate.  The Eagles have a young QB in Nick Foles.  He might end up starting the next 10 years or he might not start 10 more games in the rest of his career.  He at least is a young QB that has shown some promise.  Foles gives you the freedom to take a QB this year or to wait a year.  This doesn’t mean that Nick is the answer, only that he could possibly be the answer.

If Smith is on the board for pick 35, the Eagles might be very interested, but the chances of that happening are slim and none.  Smith is the top QB and some team that feels desperate will take him, whether at 2, 3, or somewhere after the Eagles.

The other point that several people raised is about whether other teams would be willing to move up.  Can’t they see the Eagles are just posturing?  That’s why you have Lurie, Howie, and Chip go on the trip.  Helps to sell the idea.  For those who still think no team will bite, just remember last year.  MIN had the #3 pick.  CLE was at #4.  The Browns coveted RB Trent Richardson.  Minnesota had a good enough poker face that the Browns traded #4, 118, 139, and 211 to move up to #3 and take the RB.  The Vikings already had Adrian Peterson, but with him coming off an ACL tear, the team played their hand perfectly and got the extra picks.

Draft trades are a game of chicken.  If the other team wants the player bad enough, they might blink and pay the price.

The final part of all this is that it doesn’t hurt the Eagles brass to go watch Geno.  Kelly wants to find a QB.  The more guys he looks at, the more he can compare them and get a feel for who he really wants.  Smith isn’t worth #4, but seeing him in action may help Chip decide between other players in the 2nd, 3rd, or later rounds.

* * * * *

Jeff Darlington reported on Twitter that the Eagles are one of the teams to watch in regard to CB Sean Smith.  Darlington admitted he got the info from agent David Canter.

Some people hear the stats on Smith and wonder why the Eagles are interested.  Smith is a huge, talented CB.  He is 6-4, 215.  He can press and be physical with WRs.  He must be used right in order to be at his best.  His weakness is that he’s stiff.  Receivers who make sharp or quick cuts can gain separation.  You have to accept that weakness in his game.  You sign Smith because you want a CB that can physically overwhelm WRs at the line and disrupt their routes and the timing of the passing game.

I think Smith would be a good, but not great addition.  There is no great CB in this FA period.

As we learned with Nnamdi, though, the key isn’t to sign the biggest name, but rather to sign the guy who fits your system the best and can succeed on the new team.  17 years ago the Eagles signed a free agent corner from the Dolphins.  Smith isn’t nearly as good as Troy Vincent, but if he turned out to be just 3/4’s the player that Troy was, the Eagles would be very happy.

Smith gets mentioned with the Eagles a lot, but we still don’t know for a fact that the team has interest.  Just fun rumors for now.

* * * * *

Nnamdi update #237

The Eagles will cut Nnamdi this week, maybe on Tuesday.  As I understand it, they are waiting for the new league year to begin.  Once that happens, the dead money on his deal will count against the new cap, which is what they want.

This is all just technical contract stuff.  Don’t worry.

* * * * *

Tired of reading my thoughts on FA?  NFL Gimpy did his free agency preview.  Find out who he thinks is good value and who isn’t.  Always entertaining and informative.

_


  • TommyLawlor

    Just saw this from Adam Schefter:

    “Four teams – SF, PHIL, DET, TB – in play on Dashon Goldson – but DET, TB considered favorites. TB also in on CBs Sean Smith, B. Grimes, DRC.”

    Interesting.

  • RAVS

    Have you heard any rumors on Bradley Fletcher and if any teams have been talking to him?

    • TommyLawlor

      Quiet with him. I’d love the Eagles to go for him.

  • http://twitter.com/PhiIs_Goodman Phils Goodman

    Completely agree on this philosophy towards the NT. Also here’s another article that backs that up with some data:

    http://igglesnest.com/2013/importance-of-nose-tackle-not-think/

    • TommyLawlor

      That is good stuff. Wish I’d seen that and could have tied it in to my post. Kyle actually did the research. I just speculated.

  • Mitchell

    Good god! A 6’4″ corner!!! I understand he is stiff and has been in the league for a bit but is it unheard off for someone like this to become “less stiff.” Like working with a certain secondary coach. I know the team has to play to the players strengths but can the player also work to get a bit better at something outside his comfort zone to become a better overall player?

    • TommyLawlor

      Really just 6’3 1/2. I round up.

      Players can always try to improve, but Smith isn’t likely to get more agile.

    • D3Keith

      Wasn’t Bobby Taylor 6’3 190?

      The reason I remember that is because I was 6-3 191 at the same time, playing corner and safety in D-III and wondering how much quicker/faster/better than me Bobby Taylor must be to have the same build but be in the NFL.

  • http://twitter.com/n3th3rman Christopher Miller

    I hear the argument for playing chicken but isn’t it also prudent for a team without a franchise qb to look and talk to the guy…say they do drop back a bit and he is still there at a point where value is more reasonable. A year can really change things and one or two of these can’t miss qb’s may have had horrific injuries, off the field issues, or just get really exposed. I don’t love Geno but I hope this is more than just a really elaborate snoke screen.

    • TommyLawlor

      Sure. The Eagles have been compiling info on Geno since last spring. The scouts have filed a handful of reports. You can bet Chip Kelly has watched tape of him. The Eagles met with him at the Combine. They’ve done their research.

  • ACViking

    Re: clarification from D3Keith

    I remarked two posts back that media reports about team interest in a player leads me to a “Default – false” setting.

    D3Keith mentioned in response that, while agent and player sources for such media reports may justify that default setting . . . if the reports are sourced by coaches or management, then they carry more reliability.

    Thanks to D3Keith for that great bit of clarifying info.

    • D3Keith

      It’s a very strange game we all play.

      Another thing that might surprise you is how often players and beat reporters text each other directly. Players are pretty reliable sources for what’s going on behind closed doors, especially with their own contracts, but are never “authorized to speak publicly about team matters.”

  • TommyLawlor

    Reuben Frank says the Eagles are interested in Goldson and Landry.

    http://eaglesblog.net/2013/03/roob-eagles-interested-in-goldson-landry/

  • austinfan

    NT: Davis used Bryan Robinson in Arizona, partially because Alan Branch couldn’t beat him out. Robinson was about the same size as Thornton, but 34-35 years old. I don’t think Thornton can handle the job because he gets pushed around too much, he’s most effective when he gets penetration off the snap, not brute forcing the play. Dixon could handle the role, he was actually pretty good in 2010, but I doubt he has the stamina for more than 30 snaps a game. Miller would be even more one dimensional than Dixon, but better against the run. I don’t think Davis wants a big slug, but a guy like Jesse Williams might be a good fit. Sammie Hill is probably the best fit among the FAs.

    Geno Smith is complex, if Chip falls in love, I don’t think Lurie and Howie will say no, the financial impact is much smaller with the new CBA, allowing you to gamble, and the opportunity cost in this draft is also lower in terms of lost talent.

    However, I see this as more of a “due diligence” visit than some ploy to trick other teams. Eagles FO wants to be sure they get the right value on Geno, do they trade down and try to nab him (or will Arizona bite at #7?), do they take him at #4, do they pass? The fact that they’ve invested about $7M in keeping Vick one more year suggests QB is not a high priority in THIS draft. But QB is such an important decision that they want all their ducks lined up.

    I’m wondering if the Eagles want their name everyone to drive up the cost of players they don’t want, and to disguise their interest in the players they do want. I’d have to think they want to move $10M into 2014 when they’ll have a much better idea of what they want in free agency, this year it’s like hammering square pegs into amorphous holes. Chip hasn’t had time to evaluate NFL personnel, or even how his schemes will work in the NFL. Howie has just had a few weeks to talk with Davis about the kind of players he might want. In that sort of situation, you don’t want to over commit and have buyers remorse next spring when some guys you know you want become available.

  • ACViking

    All this news about the Eagles’ interest in going the Free Agency route . . .

    just makes me very sad.

    Roseman doesn’t want to rebuild. Won’t even use the word. Free agents (other than the young, hungry types just finishing their first contracts) are like adding chocolate to a pasta dish.
    ______________

    T-Law:

    I don’t think the Vikings / Brown 1-move trade is a fair comparable to the Eagles and Geno Smith.

    In a comment to your Amendola post, I suggested that such moves make sense when talking about non-QBs . . . like DLs or DBs or RB or WRs.

    But when you’re talking about a QB, in today’s NFL, you just don’t pass on someone you like for draft picks.

    Every team in the NFL knows the Eagles need a long-term answer at QB. It’s not Vick. His resigning signals that Kelly has no confidence in Foles yet.

    So it just seems to me that if the Eagles like G-Smith, they take him at #4. Too risky to move down. As Iskar36 (I think rightly) argues, if you like a QB you take him regardless of what next year’s crop looks like.

    But if the Eagles are willing to discuss trading pick No. 4, even a little bit, that seems like a screaming red flag that Geno Smith is not on their radar — certainly not in that area of the Rd 1.

    Now, I buy your argument that Roseman’s conjured up this idea.

    But I also think it’s remarkably transparent and simplistic to the point of getting snickers behind his back from other GMs.

    QBs . . . good QBs . . . just don’t get moved for draft picks. Not by a team like the Eagles desperate for a long-term answer and not yet having one.

    Of course, maybe Kelly’s serious about Geno. But if so, and bringing Lurie along buttresses the illusion, then I think my point is even stronger . . . .

    NO f*%#ing way the Eagles trade the 4th Overall Pick if they like Smith. *Perceived* franchise QBs are just too rare.

    • http://twitter.com/PhiIs_Goodman Phils Goodman

      They have no choice but to try to help themselves in free agency. They have more holes than draft picks and tons of cap space.

      Agree with your take on the Geno expedition.

      • ICDogg

        Yep

    • TommyLawlor

      The Eagles don’t shop the #4 pick. They spend the next 2 months talking up Geno Smith. They create the sense that he’s very much in the mix to be picked. Draft day comes along and teams talk to each other. Someone calls to ask about moving up to 4. That’s when Howie has to do his best sales job that the Eagles are genuinely considering Smith. If the other team buys it, maybe they pay the price and move up.

      If the Eagles genuinely did like Smith, they’d take him. I don’t think they do and I don’t think they will.

      There is no guarantee the ploy will work. Doesn’t hurt to try. What if the team a few spots back gets real nervous and goes for it. That’s potentially a great move.

      In order to make someone want what you’ve got, you must convince others that you do love it. Doesn’t always happen. KC wanted to move out of the #3 spot a few years back, but found no takers and settled on DL Tyson Jackson. Eagles might be “stuck” at #4.

      My fantasy is still moving back to 7 or 8 and adding a 3rd and 4th round pick. Reasonable price. Still have great choices. Could then be more creative or aggressive with mid-round picks.

      • brza

        Didn’t the Vikings sell the Browns that someone else wanted to move up to get Richardson at the 4th pick and that they’d rather just trade with the Browns so that they wouldn’t drop too far and miss out on “their guy” Kalil?

        I don’t understand how a team could be set on taking someone at a particular pick then trade that pick to a team who they know will take “their guy” or at least the guy they were selling as their pick.

        I think the only way its a sell here is if they want to get another team to move up into the top 3 to pick Smith which will allow the Eagle’s “guy” to drop to 4.

        • http://twitter.com/BugeHalls Buge Halls

          The point is the Eagles are likely inflating Geno (while not actually wanting to select him) hoping somebody else bites and will trade for him. Their “guy” may be valued at a #7pick (for example) and they want to move back and pick up mid-round picks as Tommy points out. I’m not saying that’s the case, but that is a possibility – and my sincere hope. Geno Smith is not a #4 caliber pick – I’d put him at #20 or lower. If this was last year (I know, if the queen had balls…) he likely wouldn’t have gone in the 1st at all.

          • brza

            I think you’re missing my point. If a team thinks the Eagles want Geno they won’t try to trade with the Eagles to get the 4th pick. They will try to get one of the top 3 picks to get Geno before the Eagles can. So if the Eagles are selling teams that they want Geno then they are hoping someone will jump into the top 3 and pick him so someone else falls to the Eagles at 4.

            If the Eagles want to move back then they need to sell teams that either the Lions will pick the guy they want or that someone else is offering to move up to pick 4.

            So either the Eagles hope someone moves into the top 3 to pick Geno which will allow one player that they want to fall a spot or the Birds are just doing their due diligence.

    • TommyLawlor

      As for FA, we do have to spend some money. There is a salary floor this year. We’re not there yet (I don’t think). Could be wrong on that.

      • Anders

        I think we are at the salary floot this year, but its also a 4 year average over the next 4 years.
        But I agree, we got tons of holes on D, adding 2-3 players aint going to hurt us.

        • TommyLawlor

          Great info. Thanks.

    • http://twitter.com/JackfinBauer Jack Bauer

      While I agree with your point, I think a parallel motivation may be to bait another team to jump into the 1,2 or 3 spots to ensure they (the hypothetical “other team”) can land Geno. If this scenario occurs and the Eagles were never interested in Smith you just pushed another desirable player into availability at 4.

      At the very least that would ensure 2 of the Joeckel, Fisher, Floyd, Milliner, Jordan “popular” projections would be available at 4 if they are not able to trade out, and make the spot a more valuable trade target for non-QB needy teams.

  • TommyLawlor

    Who’s ready for the guessing game?

    Adam Caplan offered a FA hint:

    “Hint #1 for Eagles for free agency: Think joker…..more hints tomorrow. Those of you who have been following for a while will get it.”

    He later added a hint that made you think he was talking about an offensive player. I’ve got my guess.

    Thoughts?

    • Anders

      I thought maybe Reggie Bush? I know we already got McCoy, but adding Bush would be a real curve ball.

      • TommyLawlor

        Interesting guess, but sounds like ARZ or DET may pay him big bucks.

    • TrentColeHamels

      I saw his Cesar Romero tweet. If its a joker type player on the offensive side of the ball it’s gotta be Jared Cook. Caplan even said on Eagles Live that Cook would be a player that birds have interest in.

      • ICDogg

        yeah… I’m going with Cook here.

    • TommyLawlor

      I don’t think it is Cook. He fits the description, but Caplan thinks there will be a bidding war for his services.

      • TrentColeHamels

        Keller maybe? Should be a fun day tomorrow. I’ll be refreshing Eagles Blog until my F5 button craps out.

        • ICDogg

          another good guess

      • TrentColeHamels

        Come to think of it, it’s almost been a little “too quiet” with Cook. The last 3 days we’ve heard rumors about Wallace, Smith, Goldson, Talib, and others but not a word about Cook?

    • http://twitter.com/JackfinBauer Jack Bauer

      You’re all thinking about this wrong.

      Lets get inside of Caplans mind… he’s a Seinfeld fan. In the fifth episode of the ninth season Elaine falls in love at first sight with a Monks patron named Jack, who it was later discovered by Jerry as being a court jester (Joker) character “The Wiz” in a string of bad electronics store commercials, leading to Elaine dumping him and running back to Puddy, only to be rejected.

      Jack, is the real clue. To lend further credence to my point the Joker’s original name in the Tim Burton 1989 Masterpiece was Jack Napier.

      Ipso Facto the Eagles will be resigning Jamal JACKson tomorrow at 4pm

      ……Lawyered

      • TommyLawlor

        Well done. Caplan is a Seinfeld fanatic.

      • http://twitter.com/PhiIs_Goodman Phils Goodman

        Jackson also called into Ruben Frank’s WIP show the other night, according to his twitter.

    • TommyLawlor

      Should I share my guess or let you guys keep going?

      • TrentColeHamels

        James Casey!?

        • TommyLawlor

          That’s my guess. Extremely versatile. Fits Kelly’s scheme. Price will be right.

          Some think Delanie Walker, but he isn’t as good a receiver. Not sure he’d be a target.

          • TrentColeHamels

            We’ll find out tomorrow. The only reason why I think it could be Walker is because of Tom Gamble

          • D3Keith

            I actually really like Delanie Walker. I think I referred to him somewhere as the anti-Considine. Whenever he was around the ball, good things seemed to be happening.

      • D3Keith
    • bdbd20

      Landry? His size makes him a very interesting blitzer.

    • Iskar36

      Update on Adam Caplan’s FA hint:

      Watch the free agency film room for DLs and TEs as a start. RT @CoachChipper: @caplannfl you promised more eagles free agent hints today!!

      • Iskar36

        FWIW, Adam Caplan on Jared Cook, “In passing situations, [Cook] only lined up as an in line blocker 18 times. So that tells you, sort of a Flex TE, a JOKER TE.”

        • http://twitter.com/sjampendk Patrick

          Sadly, both Cook and Casey are mentioned in that video, and Keller also got the Joker tag. I want Cook, but some team is going to pay da man, and i wont and shouldn’t be the Eagles.

          • Iskar36

            Very true, but just to be clear, Greg Cossell called him the Joker TE, not Caplan (although, that obviously does not necessarily rule him out).

  • D3Keith

    So a Cowboys fan in the office just walked past me and threw out some football chatter as he normally does. After a minute of us both shaking our heads at how much better the Seahawks and 49ers just got today, I said I was excited for tomorrow, what, with $34 million to spend.

    The look on his face was one of amazement … which reminded me that not every team is looking forward to Tuesday and beyond quite like we are. The Cowboys and Redskins are just happy to be in cap compliance. We’re about to get stupid and throw money on the bed like Woody and Demi and indecent proposal.

    Okay, maybe not, but $34 million, if spent wisely on several players instead of committed almost entirely to a couple, is a ish-ton of money … and with Nnamdi on the way out, it’s more like $45m. That’s like five $8m/year players plus money for draft picks (not that we’d spend it that way, that’s just an illustration of how much there is to spend). We have a ton of holes, but this beats having a ton of holes and no way to fill them.

    Between this and the high picks in the draft, the Eagles actually could fix the defense in one offseason. Not sure why this is just now occurring to me. I’m more geeked for free agency than I was a few minutes ago.

    • deg0ey

      I mentioned in a previous thread RE fixing the D that the cap space is there to sign Quin, Chung, Fletcher and Bryant (who should all be pretty cheap). Draft Dion in the first, a CB to compete with Marsh and you’re looking at a pretty-close-to-fixed defense.

      Obviously they might not all work out the way it’s intended, but I’d say they’re the kind of guys that the Eagles should be going for – good players, but not guys that are likely to be a diva.

      • D3Keith

        I would be good with this as an offseason. The D in this case is pretty young, yet with no player who is irreplaceable, sans maybe DeMeco.

        I would love it if Marsh can play. He gets overlooked a lot, because he hasn’t done anything, but he was raw coming out and fits the “big corner” mold Davis likes.

  • shah8

    I’m not sure Smith even makes it to #4. Suspect Jax might feel that they have no choice but to cut pretty boy.

    • TommyLawlor

      They won’t cut Gabbert. He’d be competition in camp and then a backup. But you’re right…Geno could go #2.

  • http://twitter.com/benjabad Ben Hert

    Don’t know if anyone has caught this yet, but Deadspin got some access to a phone call between Bucs GM Mark Dominik and Bills GM Buddy Nix. I’ve always wondered how GM’s interact with each other in the offseason, so this was fascinating to me.

    http://deadspin.com/pranksters-record-two-nfl-gms-discussing-free-agency-ov-452366184?utm_campaign=socialflow_deadspin_twitter&utm_source=deadspin_twitter&utm_medium=socialflow

    • D3Keith

      Just heard about this. Tremendous.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000462635892 Thorin McGee

    RE Geno Smith Bluff: That would be a huge commitment of resources to a simple bluff. I get what you’re saying, but what you describe is putting all in the work to draft him without intending to draft him. It’s a lot of wasted work.

    This organization has been gutted and they’re rebuilding it all day, every day. That doesn’t leave many man hours to waste bluffing.