Taking Stock – Offense

Posted: July 31st, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 44 Comments »

Let’s talk about what we’ve learned about some offensive players so far.

QB – It is too early to know who will be the starting QB. The numbers for Vick and Foles are almost even, but numbers only tell part of the story. Each player has shown good and bad things beyond the stats. At least once a day you read about some player making a highlight catch. That is generally on an underthrown ball from Foles. Vick has had his moments of holding the ball too long (you’ll read that he would have been sacked in a real game) or making a questionable decision (Jimmy pointed out a recent TD pass that was a bad idea).

It doesn’t sound like Barkley is making a serious push to steal the starting job, but he has done fine for a rookie. Dennis Dixon has his moments. GJ Kinne is getting limited reps.

RB – You hear nothing about LeSean McCoy, but that’s mainly because he’s looked great. Well, Shady is supposed to look great. Bryce Brown is the clear #2 RB right now. Things are wide open after that. Chris Polk is in good shape and is having a strong camp. He looks quicker and faster than last year. He’s making plays in the passing game. He might be the #3 RB if the season started this week. Felix Jones has not gotten much in the way of positive press. When I watched some simple drills the other day, I wasn’t impressed. I wonder if Jones is struggling with going from being a starter to fighting for a roster spot. Rookie Matthew Tucker failed his initial conditioning test, but passed the second try. He’s impressed since then. If the Eagles keep 4 RBs, you wonder if he could beat out Felix Jones.

TE – Drops have been an issue for Brent Celek and rookie Zach Ertz. This isn’t a good thing, obviously. Ertz has impressed with his ability to run routes and get down the field. He looks like the real deal. James Casey has been solid. The guy who opened eyes starting in the spring was Will Shaw and that’s continued in TC. He could make a run at being Casey’s backup. Clay Harbor hasn’t gotten much attention, but I don’t know that he’s played poorly or if the media is just focused on the new guys. Emil Igwenagu has been up and down.

WR – The bad news is that Jeremy Maclin’s out for the season. The good news is that DeSean Jackson has looked terrific. He and Chip Kelly are on the same page and that might be the best news in all of Training Camp. Jackson has special potential. Kelly needed to see him buy in. DeSean did that and this could push Kelly to feed him the football. Riley Cooper is taking over for Maclin, for now. Cooper will only keep the job if he earns it. Kelly loves his blocking. Cooper hasn’t been lights out in camp, but it sounds like he’s been solid. Jason Avant is a HOF player in camp. He’s near impossible to cover in the 1-on-1 drills. That just doesn’t translate to the regular season. The drills let the QB hold the ball as the receiver uses fake after fake after fake to get open. Damaris Johnson might be the second best WR in camp and that will help him get touches. He looks like the real deal. Rookie Russell Shepard has opened some eyes in a big way. He went from hoping for the practice squad to maybe pushing for a roster spot. Greg Salas has come out of nowhere to be consistently impressive. He is a natural slot receiver.

Not everything is good news. Ifeanyi Momah has been sorta quiet. He has his moments, but hasn’t shown enough to make you think he’ll push for a roster spot. BJ Cunningham is injured and in a walking boot. Arrelious Benn should return shortly, but has missed the last few days. With Mac’s ACL tear, Benn has a chance to win a starting job. He must get back on the field and show what he can do in this offense.

OL – Jason Peters sure looks all the way back, which is great news. Jason Kelce is out there practicing and it seems he’ll be fine. He’s a bit undersized so I will feel better after seeing him in action. Todd Herremans got hurt. That opened the door for Danny Watkins. He’s had some good moments. It would help if Watkins could prove to be a solid player this year, whether as a backup or spot starter. Rookie Lane Johnson isn’t getting much attention recently. That’s a good sign. You generally don’t notice OL unless something has gone wrong. Johnson is on pace to be the starting RT.

We aren’t hearing a ton about the backups. Does anyone know if Ed Wang is even alive? Evan Mathis likes what he’s seen from backup LG Allen Barbre. Dallas Reynolds is holding down the fort as the backup C. Dennis Kelly is the backup RT. No info on guys like Nic Purcell and Nate Menkin.

Figuring out QB is the big issue for the offense. Feels like the rest of the unit can be outstanding.

* * * * *

Great piece by Les Bowen on Donovan McNabb’s legacy.

Most fans probably realize that McNabb’s legacy here is complicated. He has all the major franchise passing awards. He had far and away the best career of the five hotshot quarterbacks in the 1999 draft. One of the two Super Bowl appearances the franchise has ever managed. Nine playoff wins, which is a lot for a guy who critics say never came up big in the clutch. A fourth-and-26 bull’s-eye to keep his team alive in a playoff game, even harder to explain away in terms of non-clutchness. He was the key player on a team that he said yesterday “came together like Voltron” in dominating the NFC East for the decade of the 2000s. Find another era in Eagles history with that much winning.

But there were the four losses in five NFC title games, and there was that maddening, plodding drive that saw the Lombardi hopes slowly trickle away. There was the thing about being so determined not to throw interceptions, receivers frequently had to scoop the ball off their shoe tops. There was his goofy, oblivious grin, charming on an up-and-coming kid, jarring and infuriating on a 30-something alleged football statesman. Air guitar in the tunnel before that last blowout loss at Dallas, the wrong tone at the wrong time. And overall, a feeling that as much as McNabb accomplished, which was a lot, there was a final corner he never turned as a mature quarterback – he could have been even better than he was, could have lasted longer.

I love the point about Donovan’s grin and how that changed in meaning over time. Absolutely true. It was a strength of his back in 2000-2001, but not so much in the later years.

* * * * *

Paul Domowitch wrote a feel good story about McNabb the other day.

There is no quote to share from this. Just go read it. Parents will love it. Those of us that idolized players as kids will travel back in time to those years and dream what it would have been like to meet your idol.

I had two boyhood idols, Dr. J and Eddie Murray. I wrote Eddie a letter and got his autograph when I was about 13 or so. That remains one of my treasured possessions. Never got to meet either guy. Never got Doc’s autograph.

My dream now is for me, Derek Landri and Marlon Favorite to get trapped together in a chocolate pudding factory. “EAT TO LIVE!!!”

_


  • Daniel Norman Richwine

    That FO article about QB pressure got me thinking a lot. Last year Vick was a top 10 QB when not pressured. He got pressured a whole lot, and played poorly when he was.
    Doing a little back envelope math, I’d Vick had been pressured at the NFL average rate, he would have been a top 15 QB at least. At his best he was much better than Foles at his best. I contend if the OL is healthy and with a susspect defense, uptempo offense, and Chip Kelly designing things in his favor, Vick might just have an amazing year left in him.

    • Finlay Jones

      Does the same logic not apply to Foles? Every QB is better with a strong OL

      • Daniel Norman Richwine

        They rate all QB under pressure and not under pressure. Vick was.better than Foles in both situations. Success can be considered part of the QBs skills and part OL. both Eagles QBs are better than they showed last year due to the horrible OL.

        • Buge Halls

          You forget that Foles was without McCoy and Maclin and some other key players for several games (including at least one lineman), while Vick had them all. You can’t just say that Vick would have been better with a better line (duh) and then discount that same improvement that Foles would see.

    • Mitchell

      If that were true you would have to weigh the long term benefit. Even if he was really good THIS season, what if it only gets us 8-8. While winning is obviously what we want, wouldn’t it make more sense to go with a younger guy and perhaps get better draft position for next year. Obviously you the team wants to win and you can’t tell them you are working for next year, but it’s just a thought.

      • Daniel Norman Richwine

        I believe Chip weighs practice a lot when evaluating QB. If he thinks Foles is the better QB, Foles will start. If not, he may decide Foles just isn’t the long term answer anyway.

      • Ben Hert

        If we roll with Vick, and have a good season, we legitimize CK as a NFL coach, and roll forward with confidence he can do his thing at this level. Having that kind of confidence would do wonders for my psyche in the off-season.

    • Ben Hert

      This pretty much sums up our QB battle this year. If both Vick and Foles were to play to their ceiling in this offense, I think Vick is the easy choice, especially with his “ancillary features.” Having Vick in an offense with a Read-Option being part of the playbook just makes it that more potent. Derek mentioned this on his post yesterday about the offense:

      “Note also that Foles is carrying out his play fake, but if he’d really been reading that end — and if he had the speed to execute the read option — he’d have tucked it and gone once that guy crashed hard inside.”

      This is why I think Vick has the edge for QB, but its a matter of playing up to that ceiling, and from what we’ve seen the past 2 years, a lot of us, myself included, don’t have much faith for him to do so.

      • Daniel Norman Richwine

        My point is that, when not pressured, Vick played great, according to FO, anyway.

  • Mitchell

    I was under the impression that Benn was more suited to the slot role. I am interested to see how the slot does play out with Johnson, Avant, and Been.

  • Finlay Jones

    Tommy, how do you see the QB battle going if it is still fairly tight coming into the season. Does Kelly go with Foles for youth, or Vick for mobility. I Think both are logical.

    • GvilleEagleFan

      Also consider that Foles has a contract advantage as well. Not that Chip would care about spending the money, but I’m sure Howie will explain to him (if he hadn’t figured it out already) that paying less than a mil for your two QBs gives him all kinds of freedom to be big players in FA once Chip figures out which pieces he’s missing. While Harvin’s injury for this year sucks for them, they were still able to sign Avril and another DE to two year contracts almost solely because of the cap savings Wilson provides them for the next two years.

      • Anders

        The Eagles will have around 20 mill in cap space next year.

        • GvilleEagleFan

          But if Vick is only tied with Foles coming out of training camp and then gets the job and leads us to a 9-7 record and second in the division, do we give him a major deal? He’s already 33 and has taken more hits and refuses to go down or get out of bounds to protect his body. If we decide he’s not worth the extension, then we’re exactly where we are right now. I’m not saying hand it to Foles if he doesn’t play well enough, I’m just saying his age and the fact that Foles can’t renegotiate his contract until after the 2014 season means we can allow him time to develop without handicapping our future, thus he should be given the edge in a tiebreaker situation.

          • aub32

            If Vick cn go 9-7 with all the changes going on, I definitely want him as my starter in 2014. Think of how well he could do with his seond year in the offense, an improved LJ, an improved Kelce, some upgrades on defence, and the return of Maclin or some other legit 1a/2 WR.

        • GvilleEagleFan

          Also consider that Jackson’s contract will probably be renegotiated one way or another next seaon: for less money if he plays poorly or for a lower total value but more guaranteed money if he plays well. With our OL the age that it is, I expect Kelly to be trying to seriously contend in the next 3 years, and we might need every cent of cap space we can get to make that happen.

          • holeplug

            Vick ain’t getting a Joe Flacco deal if they make the playoffs next year if thats what your afraid of. They’ll be fine cap wise.

  • Zach Reese

    The point about McNabb’s grin reminds me of the chiclets that RG3 is always displaying. He’s got that wonderful love of the game that show’s through in his youth. However, if he doesn’t lead Washington back to the promised land over time, will the media turn his casual confidence against him as well?

  • eagleyankfan

    It’s still early but a QB not grabbing the reigns is a concern. If QB’s can’t bring their “A” game to practice where there’s not fear of being hit, how can we expect and “A” game during the season? Still, it’s early. The grind of camp will get someone…

  • Jarrod

    Hey Tommy, could you do an article on the Patriot’s offense and how it could compare to the Eagle’s? I ask because the main receivers in the Patriots offense (from my amateur fan perspective) over the past few years were a slot receiver, tight ends, running backs and one outside receiver with very little if anything out of the second outside receiver. With the loss of Maclin there could be some parallels to what the Eagles might run. It seems the current Eagles roster has this combination of receivers. Not at the same level of the Patriots but it could be an interesting comparison.

  • Jernst

    Great piece by Bowen. He alludes to one thing that I always felt was at the heart of Donovan’s relationship with the city, but falls short from actually saying it. Anyone who has lived in Philadelphia knows that the one thing we respect more than anything is genuineness. You can be rude, crude, insulting, doesn’t matter…just don’t bullshit us. Not everybody gets that about Philly. Southerners especially fail to recognize the charm of genuineness.

    I remember I lived in Texas for a summer and I couldn’t get over how nice everyone was. You’d walk into a convenience store and the lady or guy behind the counter would greet you with a big smile and in such a pleasant accent say, “why how do you do today, sir…how can we help you today?” So nice…so pleasant. And, then I remember returning home to Philadelphia and walking into a Wawa to order a hoagie and I asked the guy making my sandwich how he was doing today, as I had grown accustom to doing in Texas. His response went something like this, “Mannnnn, how the f#$k you think I’m doing, I’m stuck in this sh@%ty @ss place makin sandwiches all day for a bunch of hard ons.” And, I busted out laughing…I was home! I missed that realness of interactions. And, I laughed and made some joke back to the guy about how sh@%ty he was at making sandwiches and he laughed back and gave me extra pickles. as nice and pleasant and courteous as the people down south were, there was a phoniness to it that left part of the fun of being a person out of living. People who had grown up in the south would never have enjoyed that interaction though, they would have stopped and been completely offended by what the man said and they would have left and told all their friends how rude those people from Philadelphia are.

    Not to get too off topic, but the point is that Donovan’s personality, relationship with the fans, his statements, his antics…whether the content of any of them were right or wrong…they always seemed forced, never genuine. He spends every interview trying to convince us that nothing bothered him, yet without being prompted talks endlessly about all the trials and tribulations that he had to deal with. For someone so “unfazed” by it all he spends so much time focusing on it and vaguely complaining about it. His air guitar…no one cares that he danced out of the tunnel with an air guitar…it was the weird noodle armed spaz out girly run over to the fans that seemed awkward and forced. He smiled like a goof ball all the time, but rarely seemed to actually be having fun. The man had his number retired and his whole press conference was depressing, like he was talking about a bad abusive marriage that he still hasn’t fully recovered from. He always seemed like he was trying so hard to convince us that he didn’t actually feel the way he really did and every comment he makes is made so unskillfully so as that it totally reveals what he actually thinks and feels even though it completely contradicts the actual words coming out of his mouth. This leads to people constantly questioning him and all his statements. Whereas Dawkins…there’s no question: He bled green, he was devastated how they treated him at the end of his career, he truly cared about the fans and his relationship with them, he reached out and thanked them continuously and when he was ready to get over it at the end of his career he put it behind him, made amends and truly moved on. I wish Donovan would do the same.

    • http://www.insidetheiggles.com/ CalSFro

      Man, I laughed pretty hard reading the first part of you post because I had a very similar experience. I lived in Colorado for the last 7 years, and loved it at first because everyone always seemed so nice. But after a while I realized it was just kinda. . .phony. Like, “If we’re all really nice to each other and pretend like everyday is great, then everyday WILL be great”, kinda thing. At least that’s how it eventually felt to me.

      No one was really and truly honest. And I missed that brutal honesty. I missed people telling me how it is, not trying to make everything seem all sunshine and lollipops.

      When I left, I tried to explain to people who were from there why I wanted to leave. They all thought I was crazy.

      Glad to hear there are other people out there who can understand that feeling.

    • TommyLawlor

      Funny. I just had a talk yesterday with some guys about being in the South vs the North, with one of the points being friendly to strangers.

      • xlGmanlx

        don’t forget you don’t have to ask for sweat tea – the ladies love that

        • Ark87

          Ladies would most certainly not appreciate sweat tea, sir!

    • Ark87

      Dawk was a slightly different deal. He was a free agent. Eagles offered him a deal, Broncos offered more. Eagles couldn’t or wouldn’t match. Dawk took the money. See at the end of the day, he didn’t see eye to eye with the FO, but he had a choice. The team just replaced Don, he didn’t get a choice.

      As for the southerner thing, I won’t talk for Texans but….how should I illustrate this…

      Outside: http://images.wikia.com/logopedia/images/8/8f/KFC_Logo.png

      Inside: http://deadspin.com/eagles-wr-riley-cooper-at-concert-i-will-fight-every-979470075

      Not specifically racist, that stereotype is overplayed, but definitely a dislike of outsiders, snowbirds, Hispanic, you name it. Took me maaany years living in the community to finally be accepted in (and thus get to see that side of things).

  • Flyin

    Here’s a little more on Cooper from Chip’s PC… The last sentence really stood out to me…

    What did Cooper show you in the last couple days in practice?

    COACH KELLY: “Our evaluation of Riley is not, all of a sudden Mac is not here so let’s start looking at what Riley has been doing. I’ve been watching
    Riley since I got here in January.

    He’s a big, physical player. I think one of the attributes he has is that his size is a weapon for him. He catches the ball really well. He’s an outstanding blocker. He’s a real technician in terms of what he wants to get done. He’s
    another guy that lives and breathes football. He’s here all the time.

    It’s an opportunity for him to kind of step up in a more expanded role.
    It’s not like he wasn’t going to have a big role in our offense anyway.”

    http://www.philadelphiaeagles.com/news/article-1/Head-Coach-Chip-Kelly/8d71ce25-e255-472a-8f82-0d8bbec10aba

  • Anders

    Im a little surprised by a tweet I saw. Apparently Damion Square is the backup NT right now and seems to be a doing a good job.

  • TheRogerPodacter

    i didn’t see this in here yet so it must be done.

    for those that may have forgotten…

    http://bloggingthebeast.com/2012/08/17/redskins-sign-marlon-favorite-the-the-superman-of-defensive-tackles-and-roster-transactions/

  • the midatlantic
    • Duracell

      I was already rooting for Benn to get healthy and take his spot (though I’m guessing they both make the team with Maclin out), but this really hammers it home.

      I would like to see Jackson, Johnson, Benn, Avant, and Shepherd, with maybe one more wild card (Momah, Salas, etc.).

    • xlGmanlx

      Bwahaha

    • Ark87

      Disappointing to say the least. Maybe he was overcome by the country spirit?? (Sorry country fans)

    • the midatlantic

      I was trying to figure out if he was trying to use the word generally, to refer to any and all people (as I’ve seen done), or to one race in particular. Then I realized…how does it matter? Just awful behavior from a grown man in the public eye.

      • Ark87

        i was wondering that too. But given the location….and prevalence of the r at the end….yeeeaaaah no, this seems like, well maybe? yeah it’s bad

  • xlGmanlx

    do you think the igg’s try and trade Avant if salas and co shows well for picks or would Kelly try and get a player in return?

  • nickross23

    Just read the article on Riley Cooper dropping the N word at a concert. As a young African American male im deeply saddened and hurt that a member of the football team that i love so much would say a such a thing. It was only a couple of days ago he was speaking about how he felt sorry for his good buddy Macklin i just wonder how Macklin and his teammates would react and treat mr. Cooper going forward. I don’t want to turn this into a race issue today and rather keep the focus on football, i’m just extremely disappointed in this news.

    • Michael Winter Cho

      It is deeply disappointing and it’s hard to like someone like that. On the other hand, we have to realize that teams are going to have some good guys and some not-good guys. Taking it to another level, giant people whose profession involves charging down the field and nailing other giant people at top speed are not necessarily going to be “normal” or otherwise fully inhibited by societal norms. Like at any other workplace, the Eagles players are going to probably have all sorts of different personalities.

      • nickross23

        The thing that really disappoints me is that he comes off as a nice guy, and i dont know him personally obviously and he very well could be a good guy and teammate. Since Mac went down I wanted him to do well, but i find it hard to now cheer for him. The apology is bogus imo athletes who get caught doing or saying something have to apologize cuz we live in a 24/7 got ya media world. I hope his teammates are a little more forgiving then i am currently

  • xlGmanlx

    Coop is just sorry he got caught, bad form.

  • Dragon_Eagle

    Tommy,

    I was wondering if you (or others) would comment on the additional metrics the coaches might be using to evaluate the QBs. Here’s what I mean. The reporters continually report completion percentage and the occasional great/awful throw. But, in this offense in particular, completing a pass is one thing. Completing a pass and putting it in the best spot for the receiver to get YAC is another. What was the phrase for Barkley – repetitive accuracy?

    What sorts of little things/details and additional aspects are going to matter here for Chip & his offense beyond the crude stats we see?

  • GEagle

    I think it’s very valuable to have such a strong monster of a man is Soap going up against Kelce Doggy Dogg in practice. Kelce is the truth but the knock is he is undersized…Get used to taking angles and the proper technique to push Soap out of the way, and he should be fine come the season

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