A Developing Situation

Posted: November 25th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 51 Comments »

Chip Kelly and his coaches have caught some flak for how they do things. I was one of many people that didn’t understand why they had Vinny Curry sitting for 2 weeks while Damion Square did nothing on the field. Could those lunatics not see Curry was better?

Time has proven them right and me wrong.

Curry was the better player back then. I was right about that. The coaches were right in regard to how they handled things. They didn’t want to blindly reward Curry’s talent. They went with the player who did what they wanted and how they wanted it done. To some fans and members of the media, this still doesn’t make sense. To good coaches, it makes total sense.

Coaches want talented players that they can control. Remember when everyone got so excited by Gus Bradley last year? It was his epic “Do your F’in job” rant that fired most people up.

Notice that Bradley doesn’t rant about playing with more heart or more toughness or making plays or being clutch. He tells his guys to do their job. That is the backbone of defensive football. Doesn’t matter about 4-3 vs 3-4, 2-gap vs 1-gap, or Tampa 2 vs Cover 4. Guys must be in the right place and functioning correctly in the scheme in order for it to work.

Curry looked great in the preseason, but he didn’t do it within the context of the defense. So he sat.

Curry showed enough progress in practice to get on the field. He has gotten better each week and is now a key member of the defense. Curry needed to be held back by the coaches in order to understand what he needed to do and how he needed to do it. The coaches made a highly unpopular decision back then, but it turned out to be the right decision.

Kelly’s staff has done a great job with player development. I wrote about that for PE.com. In that piece, I highlighted Nick Foles, DeSean Jackson, Nate Allen and Curry. I chose them because they are such different players, in terms of background, skills and overall talent. The coaches are getting a lot of different guys to play good football. This isn’t one assistant coach or one system that is working. This is a really good staff.

There were some questions about why the coaches have used Brandon Boykin the way they have. I addressed that in a piece for BGN.

The one thing we can clearly see from the Curry and Boykin situations is that the coaches have specific plans. They aren’t just flying by the seat of their pants and hoping. The coaches are balancing the system with the individual. Vinny Curry played 30 snaps in the last game. His partners on the backup DL, Square and Geathers, totaled 32. Curry is playing with them, but also getting mixed into the Nickel and Dime. The coaches want him to be a 2-gap DE at times, but aren’t ignoring his ability as a 1-gap attacker. When they have those types of situations, they try to get Curry in the game.

Boykin only played 26 defensive snaps on Sunday, but that is because the Skins are one of the few teams that doesn’t do much with 3 WRs. Boykin has had other games that almost double that total. The coaches could force Boykin into the lineup by shifting other players around or coming up with a hybrid role for him, but they think it is best to keep him as the nickel corner.

It takes patience and discipline to bring players along slowly. It would be much easier to throw them to the wolves and see what the guys can/can’t do, but that can hurt the player’s development. Bad habits can set in and they are very hard to get rid of. We see some of that with Bryce Brown. The coaches have made progress on his ball-handling and fumbling, but Brown still has some bad habits as a runner. He’s too quick to want to go outside. In recent weeks he’s shown progress with getting his shoulders square to the LOS and running behind his pads, but Brown is still very much a work in progress.

There is no magic formula for developing players. The coaches mixed in Zach Ertz and Earl Wolff more aggressively. Lane Johnson has been the RT from almost Day One. The coaches feel out who is ready early and who needs time. It is also helpful when the team has adequate players at that spot so the rookie can learn at his own pace. We saw that with Isaac Sopoaga and Bennie Logan. Sope wasn’t a liability, but he wasn’t good either. Logan got to the point where the coaches felt he was ready to be the starter. They made the trade and put Logan in. He’s been terrific ever since.

This coaching staff isn’t perfect, but they have done an excellent job of developing young talent and even fixing some veteran players. That’s critical since the Eagles haven’t had that same kind of development in recent years. A lot of people love to point to draft picks and rip on Howie, Andy or the scouting staff, but part of the equation is the coaches didn’t do a good job of developing those players.

The current staff is going to be a good friend to Howie, Tom Gamble and the rest of the Personnel Dept.

* * * * *

Speaking of Howie and draft picks…there was a recent discussion in the comments section about how to judge recent drafts since Jeffrey Lurie made those comments that absolved Howie of the blame for some bad picks.

The first thing you need to understand is that the GM is going to control rounds 4-7 about 95 percent of the time. Andy Reid was very hands on with the draft and he certainly watched tape of every player the Eagles took, but Andy based his opinions of those players on a lot of information that was provided to him by Howie and the scouts. Andy isn’t visiting a bunch of colleges and doing the grinder work on those guys like the scouts do.

Andy didn’t go to the Senior Bowl, but you can bet he watched those tapes over and over and over. He read the practice reports and got info on who the team interviewed and how those meetings went. Andy did go to the Combine. He was in on those interviews. Andy then met with any key prospects who were brought to Philly for a visit.

Like most coaches, Andy knew the top of the draft pretty well. Andy did have a better knowledge of the bottom of the draft than other coaches, but his knowledge still paled in comparison to scouts and personnel people who had studied those prospects for months and months.

As a general rule of thumb, you can credit the 2010 and 2011 picks in rounds 4-7 to Howie. The last couple of years, Howie did have control of the drafts.

Now, that isn’t to say that Howie didn’t object to all the players from the first 3 rounds in 2010 and 2011. I’m sure both Howie and Andy wanted Brandon Graham. Who wouldn’t? The guy was a coveted pass rusher. Danny Watkins is a trickier subject. I’ve heard/read different things. I know Reid wanted him. My guess is that Howie was fine with that pick as well. Jaiquawn Jarrett is the one guy that Big Red pushed on everyone. Some Eagles scouts had 5th round grades on him. Others felt different, but Reid is the guy who pushed for Jarrett that early.

I have no idea about Curtis Marsh and Daniel Te’o-Nesheim. Marsh feels like a scout/GM pick. Teo feels like a coach’s pick. Neither guy worked out as expected.

And while Howie did control things the last 2 years, he still worked with the coaches to make sure they were involved in the process. The Eagles have never had one guy making decisions all on his own. There has always been a lot of give and take. That’s how the front office worked so well for so long. It wasn’t until recent years that things got a bit awkward.

Howie and Chip are on the same page right now and that bodes well for upcoming drafts. It also helps that the staff is doing such a good job of bringing out the best in the players.

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  • Vik

    I hate when people say we should have taken Earl Thomas/JPP before BG. The coaching that we have had for the past 3-4 years (this year not included), has been terrible. We could have brought in Earl Thomas and due to the lack of proper coaching, he could have gone the route of Nate Allen. With Pete Carroll and Gus Bradley coaching Thomas, he has become an All-Pro. With Juan Castillo coaching, he could have become a Jaiquawn Jarrett.

    • Sean

      That’s certainly possible, but the almost universal expectation when the Eagles traded up was that it would be for Thomas. Graham was an unconventional pick in the sense that almost no one expected it. We can discuss the hypotheticals, but Earl Thomas is currently a much better player than BG by any standard other than PFF rate stats.

      • D-von

        Also Reid was better at drafting offensive players than defensive players over the his term with the Eagles

      • Vik

        I agree. I thought the same thing too when we traded up. I was also disappointed when we didn’t take Thomas. But I think we are mistaken to think that he would be such an impact player with the us as he is with the Seahawks. I do dream though and would have loved to have an all-pro playing center field.

    • bdbd20

      Totally agree. I wanted Earl Thomas, but I do have to concede that he probably would have been a mess playing with Nate, Nnamdi, and DRC.

    • ICDogg

      BG just had horrible knees, otherwise I think we’d have a different opinion of the pick today.

  • D-von

    If Andy controlled the first three rounds of the 2012 draft then he did a helleva job.

    • TommyLawlor

      No. Howie did that. I mentioned Andy doing that in 2010 & 2011.

      • D-von

        Than Howie did a helleva job. That was a great draft

        • iceberg584

          So that implies that there was some level of curtailment of Reid’s draft sovereignty following the 2011 debacle…

          • TommyLawlor

            Yes.

  • TheRogerPodacter

    As a general rule of thumb, you can credit the 2010 and 2011 picks in rounds 4-7 to Howie. The last couple of years, Howie did have control of the drafts.

    Since i had to look up who was picked in these rounds both years, i figured i’d share with anyone else out there. From http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/phi/draft.htm

    2011:
    4/116 – Casey Matthews
    4/120 – Alex Henery
    5/149 – Dion Lewis
    5/161 – Julian Vandervelde
    6/191 – Jason Kelce
    6/193 – Brian Rolle
    7/237 – Greg Lloyd
    7/240 – Stanley Havili

    2010:
    4/105 – Trevard Lindley
    4/121 – Keenan Clayton
    4/122 – Mike Kafka
    4/125 – Clay Harbor
    5/134 – Ricky Sapp
    5/159 – Riley Cooper
    6/200 – Charles Scott
    7/220 – Jamar Chaney
    7/243 – Jeff Owens
    7/244 – Kurt Coleman

    • Patrick

      Kelce and Cooper stands out as great picks. Chaney, Coleman, Havili and Henery seems like good picks, after all they were late players that started for us. Harbor, Clayton, Lindley, Rolle, Vandevelde and Matthews seems like players who were good enough to take a flyer on, with Matthews obviously providing good ST play. You wonder if Rolle could have panned out differently if he hadn’t gotten his head lost up his rear. Sapp, Owens and Lloyd were injury guys if i remember. Oh and lets not forget that Ced Thornton was a UDFA in 2011.

      Overall i don’t thinks its bad. We got a very good center and and good WR so go along with some good role players and special teamers. Obviously you would like to be the team who constantly find gems, but to be honest i much prefer that we get a couple of drafts were we hit on our picks in the first 3 rounds, thats were you make your team great.

      • TheRogerPodacter

        i’d say its a pretty decent haul of picks, overall. obviously, not all of them are going to make the team. they are late round picks after all.

        excellent point about the UDFAs.

      • anon

        Really only upside with late round picks.

  • A_T_G

    You definitely sucked me in with the headline. I thought there was a bye week bombshell.

    • TommyLawlor

      I didn’t mean the headline to be salacious. Thought it was clever.

      • A_T_G

        It was. And, to be fair, it isn’t like I wasn’t going to read the entire article and all the comments that follow at my first available moment anyway. (And by “first available moment” I mean the first chance when I won’t get called out for what I was expected to be doing before reaching the end.)

        • TheRogerPodacter

          you mean when you need to do some business in the bathroom for a few minutes? lol

    • P_P_K

      Same here. T-Law, watch out for that wily varmint.

  • LawEagle

    “Jaiquawn Jarrett is the one guy that Big Red pushed on everyone. Some
    Eagles scouts had 5th round grades on him. Others felt different, but
    Reid is the guy who pushed for Jarrett that early.”
    You state this as fact. How do you know it to be true? I don’t know it to be wrong, but I am wondering what inside info you have that confirms this statement as fact? Thanks.

    • TommyLawlor

      I have sources. I can’t come out and tell you where I get every nugget. The sources would quit giving me info.

      Not to be callous, but you either have to trust me or not trust me. I make sure not to post every rumor I hear so that people can trust that when I do say something, they can feel pretty good about its accuracy.

      • ICDogg

        JJ last I saw was starting for the Jets, and playing pretty well from what I hear.

        • BlindChow

          He’s not starting. Looks like he’s playing between 10-15% of the snaps on defense.

      • GEAGLE

        Tom…did you ever hear anything about SPYGATE?
        ..
        What I heard was that the pats weren’t filming our walk thru! they were filming TO run routes…

        • TommyLawlor

          I had no sources back then.

      • LawEagle

        Fair enough. I continue to read your stuff, and while no Eagles fan is truly objective (if you were you wouldn’t be a fan!) I think you call them like you see them. I just wondered if there had been something that came out (like when Lurie credited Roseman about the drafts) that I had missed. Keep up the good work. As an aside, I think bloggers like yourself and a number of others provide more information, better analysis, and greater insight than was ever available in traditional media. The information available now for fans in multiple times better than what it was just five years ago, but I suspect it would not be that way if not for the work of guys like yourself. I think traditional media (newspapers and tv) reporting was content to put out the same shallow stuff they always had, and wouldn’t change at all if it wasn’t for new media reporting driving change. Thanks for doing this.

  • pkeagle

    I love this coaching staff – a good mix of college and pro experience and many old heads with some having been head coaches themselves.
    One of the biggest problems (if not the biggest problem) over the previous 4-5 years was AR’s reliance on promoting internal candidates and hiring unsuitable coaches who didn’t mesh with the overall organization.
    Chip hasn’t been afraid to bring in people with different viewpoints/philosophies in order to get the right balance.

  • Donald Kalinowski

    The 2010 draft was supposed to be the foundation of this team. We had 1-1st round pick, 2-2nd round picks, 3-3rd round picks, and 2-4th round picks. It was a good draft with a lot star players and deep talent, unlike the 2011 and 2009 drafts. Still makes me a little frustrated when I think about it. What happened to our original 1st and 2nd round picks? It went to Dallas for Dez Bryant and Sean Lee.

    • http://www.aceandson.com/blog Richard O’Connor

      Wasn’t that the draft that the Eagles traded for Jason Peters?

      • iceberg584

        No, that was in 2009. They had two 1st round picks. They traded one for Peters and drafted Maclin with the other.

        • http://www.aceandson.com/blog Richard O’Connor

          Right on.

  • Donald Kalinowski

    2 years from now we’ll be saying “Chip Kelly only had success because of Reid’s players!”

    LeSean McCoy
    DeSean Jackson
    Jeremy Maclin
    Jason Kelce
    Riley Cooper
    Brent Celek
    Todd Herremans
    Fletcher Cox
    Mychal Kendricks
    Vinny Curry
    Nick Foles
    Brandon Boykin
    Bryce Brown
    Cedric Thorton
    Alex Henery (hopefully)
    Brandon Graham (hopefully)

  • ACViking

    Re: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

    The coaching staff appears to be doing a great job of getting the players to execute consistent with the scheme. (How much the team’s performance on both sides of the ball is a function of the quality of the opponents is for someone else to answer.)

    Here’s my point.

    QB Coach Bill Lazor is, via Foles performance, earning the tag of “QB Guru.”

    How long before we hear . . . “Introducing Bill Lazor, our new HC of the Maryland Terrapin football team.” (Or some other sagging college program.)

    And Billy (time to call him “Bill” yet?) Davis leaves as a HC for some other down-and-out team, NFL or NCAA?

    The Eagles’ production under Andy Reid, players and team, began to sag with the loss of his best assistants.

    I begrudge no man his opportunity . . . but I hope Lurie will up the salary of Kelly’s best assistants to make it harder for them to leave.

    It’s a heck of a lot cheaper to pay more to coaches than throw money at free agents. A LOT cheaper.

    • TommyLawlor

      Bill Davis isn’t going anywhere for several years. The Eagles defense is still low in several key categories. Most of the defensive assistants are older guys so that group should stay together.

      Lazor is the key young assistant on the whole staff. And with Kelly and Shurmur as offensive gurus, there is some level of protection there.

      But your point is well taken. The fear in building a top staff is losing them to better jobs.

      • GEAGLE

        Bill “the Foles Whisperer” Lazor

    • TheRogerPodacter

      also, correct me if i am wrong, but there is a cap to the money you pay the players, but not for what you pay the coaching staff.

      • TommyLawlor

        Right.

  • ICDogg
  • GEAGLE

    Here’s my thing with Howie..

    Even if Watkins,BG,Jarrett,Teo,and marsh were all 100% his picks, Howie was learning on the job. He was probably a GM before he should have been and to some degree I’m sure he had to grow into the position. If he did make all those mistake, the past two drafts sure seem to suggest that he learned from his mistakes…Howie has taken a lot of heat in this city, and I think it really says A lot about him, not letting his ego get in the way and going out to bring in a highly respected personel guy from the Niners…He has proven that he won’t be crippled by his ego, he is a bright, and aggressive, smart guy who will learn from his mistakes.
    ..
    Tom, this was prob one of my fav articles of yours…really enjoyed this one man,

    • A_T_G

      And to build on your point, we can’t get those picks back, regardless of who pushed for them. Past performance is only relevant in terms of predicting future success. If they were someone else’s or if they were Howie’s picks, and he learned from these mistakes (and trends lead me to believe he did), it doesn’t make much difference.

  • SteveH

    Anybody else watching RG3 and 7 sucking up the joint tonight?

    • ACViking

      Maybe Griffin’s doing a personal “tank” to get rid of his nemesis . . . Mike Shanahan, et al.?

      One thing’s for sure, though.

      If Shanahan’s canned by Snyder, the first cornerstone of Robert “COACH KILLER” Griffin III will have been set.

      • anon

        Haha they aren’t tanking to improve their draft pick :)

        • SteveH

          Redskins to trade 2015 and 2016 firsts to move up and take Teddy Bridgewater with the #1 overall pick the first round…

          • Insomniac

            RG3 to the Giants?

  • anon

    Frankly i think it has a lot more to do with coaching than it does with drafting.

  • anon

    Frankly, I didn’t like Ray Lewis while he was a player. But he needs his own talk show — i think he’s the best / smartest commentator out there right now. His knowledge of the game is crazy — maybe that’s because he’s so close to it.

    • ACViking

      Example?

      • anon

        I don’t have just one more a feeling hearing him talk defense generally on monday nights.

  • dislikedisqus

    What a great, great post. Only want to add one thing: coaches have to stay humble and flexible. When a coach starts believing his system is what’s winning games, he jumps the shark. The system is what makes the players fit together well as a team but the team wins the games on the field not the whiteboard. The coach needs to teach the players why the system makes them best so they buy in. I know you agree, I just don’t want this staff to turn into the Andy Reid era that drafted the Jeremy Blooms and Danny Watkins of the world and trading up for McDougle and playing Chris Gocong out of position, always thinking they were smarter than everybody elae in the game.