Answering a Couple of Questions

Posted: August 16th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 19 Comments »

I’m busy with the DGR, but wanted to take a minute to answer a couple of questions.

What’s up with Brandon Graham not getting a chance to start? Why isn’t he fighting Trent Cole for a starting job?

Brian Baldinger made mention during the game that Graham had freelanced a bit last week. I forget the exact phrase, but he was making the point that Graham wasn’t playing within the scheme as the coaches wanted. He was trying to make plays. Baldy likely heard this from a source and it matches up with some stuff I noticed. Graham has been an attacking DE since his college days. His instinct is to fly off the ball and make things happen. He’s now in the process of adjusting that and playing OLB. Beyond physical skills, the player must buy into the new scheme and execute his assignments correctly. Brandon has to do that before he can even think about pushing for a starting role.

Graham is the team’s best pass rusher right now. I’m sure the coaches want him on the field. They need Brandon to show that he can be disciplined and reliable. It is easy for us on the outside to be excited when he makes a play, but the coaches will only be excited if he made that play within the context of the defense.

As to why Brandon is at LOLB and not the right side…I’ve mentioned this before. My best guess is that Brandon has mostly played LDE in college and the NFL and that’s the side he’s most comfortable on. Switching sides and positions at the same time can be a bit much.

Could Cole or Graham be traded?

It is cheaper for the Eagles to keep Trent Cole than to trade him. When they gave him that new deal, there were bonuses that make it costly to trade or cut him. Trent made progress in the CAR game so he’s headed in the right direction. He’s also a strong veteran leader and I think Kelly will keep him around this year. This could be his final year as an Eagle, though. Trent has to show he can play OLB to stay.

Graham is a tough subject. He has trade value since he’s young and a good pass rusher. That also makes it tougher to give up on him. What if Brandon just takes a bit more time to adjust to the 3-4? Do you want to give up on him?

As we talk about players you also have to remember that what they do in practice is very important to where they sit on the depth chart and what the coaches think of them. Are the players assignment sound? Are they smart? Are they coachable? Cole is someone the coaches are going to love and want to keep. I’ve not heard bad things about Graham, but I don’t think he’s in the same class as Cole in terms of being a good locker room guy. Think of it this way. Cole is a good influence on others. Graham is a young guy who needs someone to be a good influence on him. In time he’ll become more of a leader.

Is the lack of pressure from OLBs a concern? 

The defense did make progress this week, but the only LB that consistently pressured the QB was Graham. Barwin dropped back to cover a lot, but still wasn’t disruptive off the edge when he did rush. He and Cole have to get better for this defense to be solid, let alone good. The 3-4 is predicated on good OLB play. This is a definite concern.

Why was Vinny Curry with the 3rd team vs the Panthers? 

Curry made a lot of plays in the opener, but is still behind UDFA Damion Square at RDE. Square doesn’t make a bunch of plays, but he is in the right spot all the time. I think Curry is still a bit erratic on this. As I said with Graham, you can’t just look at results. You must see how the player got them. Did they come within the context of the defense? Shooting gaps against backup blockers might look good in August, but come September you must execute your specific assignment. The coaches need to see that in practice and games.

What about Brandon Boykin as a starter? 

I think Boykin would have to really outplay Williams and Fletcher to start. The reason why is that Boykin can be so valuable in the slot. The coaches don’t seem to want him playing inside and outside this year. That might change, though, if he’s impressive enough.

I think Williams and Fletcher played well enough vs CAR that they’ll stay the starters.

Is Jimmy Bama a complete hack? 

Wait…who snuck this question in here? How dare you attack my friend’s character like that.

(answer is…YES)

You should still go read Jimmy’s piece on the return units and how they’re looking vastly improved.

Back to the DGR for me.

_


  • Mike Cappelli

    I thought that the 4-3 under was predicated on having cole/graham rush the passer most of the time but it seems the play that we’ve seen/judged them on has been a lot of dropping back in coverage. It would fly directly in the face of the “play to the players strengths” mantra we’ve been hearing about the Chip Kelly regime if Billy Davis comes out in the regular season and does anything other than rush cole or graham every play.

    • Neil

      Indeed, but now is the time to see if they can cover, so I’m not very worried.

    • TommyLawlor

      The coaches have directly said that the preseason is a time for evaluation. They are trying to see who can do what. They know Graham can rush the passer. They still like Cole as a pass rusher. They are using these games to see how those guys do at other things.

      This will all change in the regular season. Evaluation is done at that point and you play to win.

      • Mike Cappelli

        I get that Davis is just evaluating. It just feels a little weird that he’s been doing so much (what seems like) exclusive evaluation of where the limitations of the outside linebackers are. If it was me I would want to find out if, when played to all their strengths, the defense is cohesive and strong as a unit. Maybe that’s what the 3rd preseason game is for, or maybe we just won’t know until the redskins game.
        I guess I don’t know enough about the difference between the linebackers responsibilities in the 3-4 vs 4-3 under to really grasp what is going on with cole and graham.

        • BreakinAnklez

          Wouldn’t you rather know what the defense can’t do in meaningless preseason games than at a decisive moment in Week 1, 5 or 16?

          • Mike Cappelli

            We’ll see in this next preseason game what Davis does with them. I don’t think we need to do any more experimenting to tell us that those guys can’t cover.

    • TommyLawlor

      Bill Davis:

      On dropping Trent Cole in coverage: “The preseason will be all about fact-finding. Most of what we’re doing is just seeing what the guys can and can’t do in the preseason mode and making adjustments because at the same time everything’s about what we can or can’t do against Washington.”

    • planetx1971

      I have to say Mike, this is what has been REALLY grinding at me for some time no. If, I am taking your statement in the right context that is. I know it’s pre-season. I won’t even PRETEND to have a fix on how things are going to shake out. But what has stuck in my craw so to speak, is that from DAY 1,we’ve been told that the systems being installed would absolutely tailored to fit the given talent we currently have on either side of the ball. That makes perfect sense. But with the defense it hasn’t felt that way from the start. It’s felt far more forced to me. I know we need to see the guys on the field, but there are quite a few instances it seemed more than obvious to me that certain guys (like Trent) that just aren’t designed for coverage. What I personally hoped for was a careful transition to the 3-4 knowing it will take a couple of drafts & player acquisitions

  • SteveH

    Curry must be really effing up somehow to be behind Square still, because he’s been our best pass rusher from any position so far this preseason.

    • xlGmanlx

      Or he is a known quantity and the coaches are trying to see him in other positions or pairings.

  • Lukekelly65

    I know this is slightly off topic Tommy but I was wondering about the CB situation… Like you mentioned fletcher Williams and Boykin will be our starters but behind them I’m very unsure.. Im kinda thinking that chip will keep 5 CB’s but i could be wrong there. I’m not a huge Curtis marsh fan and I know he had x rays on his hand during the game so I’m not counting on him making the team but I did like the way Eddie Whitley played against CAR do you think he could make the team as the 4th or 5th CB?

    • TommyLawlor

      Depth at CB is a concern. Need to finish tape study before commenting too much on the backups.

    • Brendan Ekstrom

      Whitley definitely played well enough to give me a bit of a “who’s that guy” moment.
      I thought Williams looked downright bad at times but I didn’t really go back and rewatch. And I definitely trust Tommy’s evaluation over mine.

      • Lukekelly65

        Williams didnt play well but it was his first game back in a new scheme im going to cut him some slack and see how he plays in a game or two i have trust in Cary Williams to be a average to above average CB once week one Vs Was comes around… i also think the toughness he brings is a plus him and Patrick Chung are slowly going to teach our D to have a mean physical streak… well hopefully they do haha

        • Brendan Ekstrom

          Yes I have some hope Williams will pick it up a bit since he did miss quite a lot of practice. Admittedly seeing him get thrown on the ground kind of made me chuckle though.

  • Weapon Y

    Chip makes the offense work by catering to his players’ skillset. Why should the offensive players get special treatment, but not the defensive players? Vick does better with deeper passes and not at full speed. Foles does well with short and intermediate passes at an all-out fast pace. A heavy zone running offense caters to Shady’s freakish running ability and the offensive line’s tremendous athleticism. With the defense, it’s the total opposite. Graham, the team’s best pass-rusher, isn’t going to play during the season because he doesn’t fit the scheme. Curry has been hands-down the best defensive player in the preseason, but Chip is publicly thumbing his nose at him. Cox will play, but he isn’t going to get very many opportunities to do what he does best: attack the quarterback. I understand the idea that you won’t cater a defense to one guy’s skills at the expense of the other ten. But when none of your eleven guys benefit from your scheme, you have to change the scheme or get out of the way. Seriously, name one guy on the Eagles defense who would do better in a two-gap, 3-4 defense than a 4-3 under. I’ll give you the answer: nobody. It’s so obvious that a 4-3 under better fits the Eagles than a two-gap 3-4, it’s ridiculous.

    The attitude is “my way or the highway.” I don’t see the kind of innovation or adaptability on defense that you see on offense. Chip isn’t a defensive guru, so he doesn’t know how to cater to his defensive player’s strengths. To do that, you need to be knowledgeable of all of the schools of thought on that side of the ball (like Chip is on offense). It takes a very special coach to do what Chip is doing on offense. It might just be good enough without a defensive revolution accompanying it. But why wouldn’t you try to make your entire team better?

    • TommyLawlor

      Many football coaches think the 4-3 is on the way out. Offensive coaches will tell you that they fear the 3-4 and hybrid defenses much more than the 4-3. If Kelly agrees with that, which it seems he does, it is better to move to it now and find out who can play vs who can’t. This isn’t going to be a SB year. Use this to find out who’s worth keeping and who can’t make the transition.

      If the defense had been great when Kelly took over, he’d have stuck with it. The Eagles were 29th in scoring defense last year. Kelly didn’t see anything so compelling that he saw the need to change his plans.

      If he keeps the 4-3 and Cox/Graham get hurt, then Kelly is running a system he doesn’t believe in with mediocre players. Make the switch. Go with the system you want and see which guys can adapt.

      I’m not a 3-4 guy, but I think Kelly was right to go ahead and make the move. Keeping the 4-3 would have been short term thinking and I’m not sure we’re so good that would have been a prudent move.

      • Weapon Y

        I can see that point of view, and I personally like the 3-4, but only with the right players. Like you said, the Eagles have very little talent on defense. But they do have a handful of players capable of emerging as superstars if they are used properly just like LeSean McCoy, Vick, Foles, and DeSean Jackson on offense. If you could have Fletcher Cox become the next Warren Sapp, why would you make sure that can’t ever happen (remember Sapp struggled in a 3-4 with the Raiders)? If you could have Brandon Graham outdo Jason Pierre-Paul (and we could finally shut up Giants fans), why would you make sure that can’t happen? There is no one right way to run a defense. The Steelers and Jets would have a hard time running a 4-3. The Vikings would have a hard time running a 3-4. Yet they all have had good defenses for awhile. Chip caters to his offense’s strengths. He’s capable of running both a West Coast and Spread offense. I just hate the double standard on both sides of the ball.

        By the way, I know I took an angry tone earlier. None of that was directed to you, Tommy. You do a great job on IgglesBlitz.

        • TommyLawlor

          I took no offense.

          We’re Eagles fans. We want good defense. Another year of up and down D is not a pleasant thought.