Now and Then

Posted: November 23rd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 64 Comments »

Back in 1995 the Eagles got off to a 1-3 start. New coach Ray Rhodes benched franchise QB Randall Cunningham and the team went 9-3 the rest of the way. Rhodes had a variety of role players step up for him that year. It remains one of my favorite Eagles teams and football seasons because of how strange it was. That roster was as unique a group as I can remember.

This year the Eagles have a new coach. They started 1-3. The franchise QB didn’t get benched, but a new QB took over and the team got hot behind him. This roster is much more stable than the 1995 team, but still is an interesting, diverse group.

Both coaches were able to get good performances from a variety of players. There is one huge difference. Rhodes caught lightning in a bottle. He had a veteran roster that was built for the short term. Kelly has a young team. He’s getting production from young role players. These are players who can be part of the future as well as the present.

Rhodes brought in 31-year old Kurt Gouviea to be his MLB. The Eagles added 30-year old Daniel Stubbs to be a backup pass rusher. 34-year old Ed West was the TE. I won’t even go into all of the role players.

Kelly brought in a handful of veterans in Isaac Sopoaga, Connor Barwin and Cary Williams. Only Sopoaga was over 30. And he was added to help with the transition to a new scheme. Kelly has added young talent as well. Guys like Roc Carmichael, Najee Goode and Jeff Maehl have helped on offense, defense and special teams. These guys can be part of the future. There are no guarantees they will become starters or anything like that, but if they can be reliable role players in the future, there is real value in that. You build a really good STs unit that way. And the 1995 Eagles were awful on STs. Awful. No group in the Reid era was anywhere close to that bunch.

To really see the differences in the teams, look at in-season WR additions. Rhodes added Art Monk. Kelly added Brad Smith. Monk was ancient. He was a slow possession receiver, but Rhodes saw value in a veteran with his pedigree. Kelly added a versatile player in Smith that can step in and be a core STer right away. Monk was 38 years old when the Eagles signed him. Smith will turn 30 in a few weeks, but is still in excellent shape and deserves to be on an NFL team. The only reason he was available was injury. Monk was on the street because he was old and slow.

Rhodes got instant results with his methods. The Eagles went 10-6 and won a playoff game. They went 10-6 the next year as well. They won only 9 games in the following 2 seasons combined and he was fired. You simply can’t rotate in guys that are in their 30′s and expect to maintain success. You must be able to get young players who can develop over time.

Look at the QBs for each coach. Rhodes had 29-year old Rodney Peete. Kelly has Nick Foles. Rhodes did draft a young QB named Dave Barr in the 4th round, but he didn’t even make the roster. I honestly don’t remember much about Barr, but that must have been one awful draft pick. Kelly already had Foles, but still drafted Matt Barkley.

There is value in having veterans on the roster. Sopoaga helped young guys like Bennie Logan and Damion Square. Jason Avant helped Russell Shepard quite a bit. Avant was also crucial in getting the team through the Riley Cooper situation. Michael Vick is a very good teammate. He’s said and done the right things in front of the camera, but also in the locker room. Young players can see how Vick is handling a frustrating situation and learn from that.

I doubt the 2013 Eagles will win 10 games like the 1995 Eagles. That would require a great finish. I do think the 2013 Eagles are better set for the future. Kelly has mixed in young players and given them a chance to show what they can do. Those that play well get more snaps and more responsibility. You can’t just throw a bunch of young players on the field and say “Show me watcha got.” You need players to earn playing time.

Football is a tough balancing act in terms of age. You don’t want to sacrifice today for the future. You don’t know what will happen in a given year. Just ask the Atlanta Falcons. You also can’t overdo with a “win now” mentality because football is a young man’s game. If a team gets too old at the same time, it can really fall apart. Just look at the Steelers.

Kelly has done a good job of mixing young and old. He’s trying to win now, but has plenty of young players helping this team to win. That’s what you want.

* * * * *

Najee Goode has played well in his 2 games of ILB action. I don’t think he’s stolen Mychal Kendricks’ job, but Goode has shown enough that he deserves to get on the field.

I would love to see Bill Davis come up with some creative way to use Kendricks with Goode getting snaps at ILB. Maybe Kendricks could get some snaps at OLB. Maybe you could find a way to use him as a Safety. Goode is a pure ILB. Kendricks is a gifted athlete that could be interesting in some different roles.

* * * * *

I’m curious to see how Brad Smith gets mixed into the offense in the future. He only got one snap last week. Smith won’t be a significant player at WR, but could be mixed in to some packages effectively. Might be good to see him as a Wildcat QB when the team is trying to protect a lead in the 4th quarter. That lets you run the ball and have an athletic QB on the field.

* * * * *

If you haven’t read this Grantland piece on Connor Barwin, make sure you do.

This isn’t about Barwin the LB, but Barwin the person. He is a fascinating guy. He’s exceeded my expectations on the field and I’m becoming a big fan of his off the field. You need the right guys to build a strong locker room. Barwin seems like a valuable piece to have, on and off the field.

I also have to like a guy who I’m sure has had his share of PBRs.

_


  • mksp

    This is a really likable team. I’m having a hard time thinking about who I’d actually want to upgrade from next year.

    On defense, I think we need a clear upgrade at OLB, though I really like Trent Cole, and his leadership has clearly been important during this transition year. And frankly, he’s playing well for the most part.Do we keep him next year even at a high salary? Does he restructure his deal to stay?

    I think we upgrade at CB as well (ALTERRAUN VERNER). I don’t think Cary Williams will be here next year.

    Safety is tricky. Nate Allen & Earl Wolff have played well, do we really need to spend resources there?

    We also definitely need to develop an ILB to take over for Demeco, though I think he’s back next year at a minimum.

    Offensively, Guard is a clear need. We need to get younger at a minimum, and I wouldn’t mind replacing Herremans. And a slot receiver that fits the system better. I love Jason Avant, but he’s having a bad year.

    • theycallmerob

      I agree with most of your post. If I had to rank the needs, I’d go:
      1- OLB. A dominant rush OLB is simply key to to make a good 34 defense a great one. Great to see young DL getting pressue, but not their primary responsibilities. You’re right- love Cole, but think he’s situational at best going forward.
      2- S DB in general, but CB talent can often be found late. This goes out the window if Byrd or other FA is signed
      3- WR not necessarily slot. Great talent, size and depth in the upcoming draft according to most. I doubt Kelly will ever complain about having too many weapons
      4- OL G does have priority, but Peters is getting older as well. Tackle depth is mostly uncertain, unless Kelly/Stout feel different about DKelly/Tobin/Bamiro
      5- ILB although, IMO, not a lot of talent in the upcoming draft. maybe a guy drops. Maybe Kelly still wants QB.
      Just please, baby jesus….no more kickers

      • iceberg584

        Yeah, I want two or three undrafted free agent kickers brought in next spring. Then an open competition with those guys and Henery.

      • tball_man

        I want a wildcard home game and then a trip to new Orleans. Last year the ruminations over the draft were at week 12 were justified. This year let’s just enjoy the now.

    • TheRogerPodacter

      isn’t Cole still signed for next season? couldn’t we still draft a guy to replace him, but also keep Cole? allowing us to develop the young guy a little slower rather than throw him into the fire and give Cole the opportunity to mentor a young guy and really show him how its done on and off the field.
      then, if during training camp or during the year, if Cole loses enough of his game or the rookie really shines, you replace him.

      • GEAGLE

        I. Dying to find out which free agents are going to join the nest and which players will we draft

    • Insomniac

      If we sign Verner and we’re not in the position to draft Mack or Barr then we better draft OL or trade down.

      • GEAGLE

        Those aren’t the only OLB that would provide a serious upgrade…If we don’t draft an OLB, there are only a handful of players I would even want in round 1:
        Mike Evans
        Sammy Watkins
        Jordan Mathews
        Cyril Rich OG Baylor
        Luis nix III NT
        Haha Clinton Dix Safety
        Shede Hagemen DL

        Those are the only players I would be ok with us drafting if we pass up on an OLB

        • Anders

          I want no part of Nix tbh. a 340 pound guy with knee problems?

          • Igglez

            ND’s D-line looks great…BUT then again they have a mediocre schedule, and Nix tends to disappear for large chunks of games. He has first-round potential and this is his first big injury. I hope he stays for one more year so we can get a feel for him.

    • GEAGLE

      I think Cary,Brad and Boykin will be our CBs for a few years.

      Because we have a ridiculously rich CB tradition in this city, I could see Howie “Splash” Roseman trying to. Sign a young stud in Verner…..I. Don’t think we will add a CB, just to add a CB, I expect to take a flier on one in round 4 or later….but if an opportunity arises to add a really good young CB, Howie prob won’t blink

      Cary and Brad should be fine once you stick a pass rush menace in front of them, and a playmaking safety behind them

    • Jernst

      Agree with almost everything you said:

      - Safeties next year might very well be Nate and Wolff. Which surprisingly I’d be fine with. Safety play has not been an issue this year. Both have played well. I doubt we break the bank for Byrd.
      - OLB: A pass rushing OLB is our biggest need on defense. Love Trent Cole, but that’s the biggest need for upgrade. This is a 1st round pick or major FA signing/trade.

      -CB: Our second biggest need. Sconces needs to be upgraded. And, I really like Fletcher, but he can’t stay healthy. I expect a decent infusion of talent at the CB position.

      - Oline: 3 starters over 30, Herremans and Peters both showing signs of age. At the least I expect Herremans to be challeneged with a draft pick
      - WR: We go 3 WRs so much, we need 3 good WRs and Avant, as much as I love him, just isn’t cutting it. I’d love to see Cooper as the 3rd WR with someone else as the WR2. Ideally, I’d like to spend a high pick on a WR (first 3 rounds), someone with size and speed and resign Maclin to a 1 yr prove it deal.
      - I’d also like to upgrade Polk

      That’s it

    • Anders

      We got the potential replacement for Avant in Benn. He is bigger and more dynamic, but he needs to get healthy.

  • theycallmerob

    Between the grantland article, and his direct insertion into RGIII’s nightmares the next few weeks, Barwin has earned his place as my avatar. If I see him at a Union Transfer show over the holiday break, I’ll test your PBR theory.

    • TommyLawlor

      You’re a good man.

  • T_S_O_P

    Three good/great players from the Texans who like the Falcs, aren’t handling adversity well at this moment. Missing leaders?

    • Lewwyn

      Those cap casualties prove just how important the money side is to this game.

  • deshawnbentley

    If Foles is the starting QB wouldn’t it make more sense to put Michael Vick in instead of Brad Smith when running the ball to hold the lead?

    • Alex Karklins

      I understand your reasoning with running lanes, etc. but Michael Vick and “holding a lead” do not belong in the same sentence. He’s far too careless with the ball.

      • Insomniac

        To be fair, he didn’t really turn the ball over much…this year.

  • TheRogerPodacter

    I’m curious to see how Brad Smith gets mixed into the offense in the future. He only got one snap last week. Smith won’t be a significant player at WR, but could be mixed in to some packages effectively. Might be good to see him as a Wildcat QB when the team is trying to protect a lead in the 4th quarter. That lets you run the ball and have an athletic QB on the field.

    this has me a little intrigued. i’m not a fan of the wildcat. at all.
    but mix that in with what Chip wants to do on offense, it might give you an interesting formation, like you said – for the 4th quarter.
    then, we could have the option of handing the ball off, or using the back as a lead blocker for Smith.

    • BlindChow

      This is true, especially if we are switching to 75% runs in the 3rd quarter. At least then if the QB keeps, he’s got a chance to get more yards.

  • TheRogerPodacter

    off topic:
    the Barwin article noted that Celek owns the Prime Stache in Old City?! what?! i was just there a few weeks ago! (this is weird for me, living in north jersey, probably less so for the rest of y’all)

  • Jamie Parker

    “You simply can’t rotate in guys that are in their 30′s and expect to maintain success. You must be able to get young players who can develop over time.”

    I wish someone could pound that into Reuben Amaro jr’s head.

  • Vick or Nick

    Cardinals at home.
    Lions at home.
    Vikings away.
    Bears at home.
    Cowboys away.

    I know everyone keeps saying 9-7.
    But i see a 10-6 finish if everyone can remain healthy.

    Give me win against Cardinals. Loss to Lions. and Wins against Vikings, Bears, and Cowboys.

    Carson Palmer is just an avg QB right now. And Larry Fitz has been taken out of games this year. Vikings are a one man show with Peterson (our run D is our strength). Bears have issues at QB (and we play well against zone coverage, tampa 2 defense). We stopped the cowboys offensively last time. And if theres huge pressure on Romo on a win-and-in game, Ill take my chances that he throws a pick to lose the game. Foles will also want revenge.

    The only thing that scares me rest of the way is Stafford to Megatron. He’s proven that he can beat double, triple coverage. Just a tough match up.

    • Lewwyn

      After reading Tommy’s piece, I was coming down to the comments to say exactly this. I think 10-6 is very doable and possibly even likely. The only difference is I think the Lions are a very possible win. Yes, Megatron is scary, and as a team the lions are pretty talented, but the issue is that I see them making dumb plays. They are undisciplined. They are as likely to beat you as they are to implode. Right now, and this is kind of crazy given where we were just last year, I see the Eagles as the more consistent team.

      The cardinals is the must win game if we want to go 10-6 though. Their defense is strong and Fitz is always killer. Chicago is scary because its Chicago and we always play badly against them, but I actually think that with this new consistency the eagles have that the Bears are less of a threat then they’ve been. Plus we don’t have to play at Soldier Field.

      This team is just really impressing me.

    • GEAGLE

      Run the table…I fear none of these teams!!!

  • Vick or Nick

    You can always upgrade your roster everywhere (depth, special teams).

    My two biggest needs:

    1. Athletic OLB pass rusher (Von Miller, Clay Mathews- type player/potential)
    2. Secondary (S, CB)

    The offense has been rolling for the most part but still needs to be upgraded:

    1. Big, Fast WR (6-5, 215, 4.4-4.5 speed)
    2. OG (Herreman’s days are numbered)
    3. OT (Don’t know how long Peters will continue to play)

    Again, depending on how well Nick Foles plays you may want to add QB. But I believe in Foles and think he’s the real deal.

    • GEAGLE

      I need:
      1) 12 plus sacks from a OLB
      2) A safety who would be the most talented player in our secondary
      3) WR, maybe two
      4) OG
      5)Dline

      I really like the guard Cyril, from Baylor, but I have zero interest in drafting a guard or CB in round 1

      • Jernst

        Dline?

        • ICDogg

          Generally I don’t prioritize drafting for “need” if there is an opportunity to get a superior player. Superior talent is too valuable not to take by being too fussy about “needs”. Therefore I am open to drafting just about any position as long as he is a great fit for this Eagles team.

      • Anders

        I say ILB depth over DL. Only thing we really need is a NT backup and Thornton can do that right now.

    • Anders

      There isnt a WR with that size/speed combo in this draft. Evans got the size, but he is rumored to run 4.7+.

      For OT I really like Cedric Ogbuehi from Texas A&M.

  • disqus_jB7dl5fzvO

    Arizona 42-17 Oregon

    Guess Chip has no choice but to keep Nick the starter

    • holeplug

      Their new coach ain’t looking so hot. Overwhelmed by Stanford again and then blown out by a mediocre Arizona squad.

      • Anders

        Agree, seems the players are less focused than under Kelly. Really doubt Kelly would have lost those two games.

        • OregonDucker

          Chip would NOT have lost those games!

    • BlindChow

      Actually, this is all part of Chip’s master plan: Mariota knows, now that the Eagles have been doing well, if he kept playing like a superstar he’d be taken early and not be reunited with Kelly. Now there’s a good chance he’ll fall…

  • BobSmith77

    Tommy – I don’t see many parallels to the ’95 team and this team though besides the new coach, the records, and a workhorse at RB (McCoy and Watters) who were the focal points of the offense.

    Peete was a poor QB and this team won in spite of him and not because of him especially in ’95. Role players really didn’t do much on that team though especially on the defensive side of the ball. Even Gouveia had the been the starting MLB the previous 2 years for the ‘Skins and their man guy at MLB on their ’91 SB team. Eagles only brought him in because they learned Evans (one of my favorite Eagles’ players and still bummed his career got cut short) might not ever play again after his traumatic injury in ’94.

    Eagles’ D was already a solid unit in ’94 that already had a bunch of good/very good pieces including a line anchored with Harmon and Fuller and a solid LB core with W. Thomas and Romanowski. Even the secondary wasn’t completely devoid of talent with ‘Mighty Mac’ at CB and capable S in Zordich and G. Jackson. Got a nice boost too from Taylor at the other CB spot replacing E. Allen and Mamula who wasn’t nearly as bad as people make him out to be.

  • Jyolteon

    This is more relevant to the last post about Foles, but I wanted to share a line by Chris Brown from this summer:

    “Often, we associate being great with being spectacular, but that’s the secret about playing quarterback — great quarterbacks seek the banality of perfection. It’s about avoiding the bad play, hitting the right receiver, making the right read, and throwing an accurate pass, every time.”

    The article was about young, promising QBs taking the next step to greatness. Tremendous read, like all of Brown’s pieces. Definitely read it if you’ve got the time. And then ask yourself: Can Foles master all of those skills and become great?

    http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/9590729/how-new-class-promising-nfl-quarterbacks-reach-greatness

    • austinfan

      Great story. And why I think most QBs are over drafted due to scouts enamored with legs and arms, and not focused on intelligence and personality (i.e. character). NFL QBs throw the ball over 20 yards from the LOS only 10-15% of the time, most throws are short and completed within 3 seconds – and if your QB is scrambling for a lot of yards, it usually means he’s not seeing the field.

      • bill

        The only thing I’d say is that it is wrong to call it “intelligence,” especially with all the freight that term carries in general. I think it has more to do with pattern recognition in the form that Gladwell has written extensively about. The best parallel is his writing about Gretzky and how he would see the pattern instead of the individual parts and therefore make quicker, better decisions. This pattern recognition ability seems to be partially innate, partially trained, and it’s possibly subject specific, from what I’ve learned. So I don’t think it’s the equivalent of intelligence (whatever that term may mean to anyone), but more like an athletic ability.

        Regardless, I agree with your point that it’s clear that arm-strength is over-emphasized in predicting ability at the NFL level.

        • A_T_G

          Intelligence in general can be defined as the ability to recognize patterns and apply them to unfamiliar situations. And intelligence can be defined as subject specific.

          It seems it is a correct term to use, but I agree with you that it invokes connotations that give comments the wrong feel. Funny how hang ups over historical racial and socio-economic stereotypes have made people, myself included, use other terms.

          • bill

            Obviously, “wrong” was too strong a word, but I’ve been involved in many, many debates on the issue over the years, and there are so many different ways one can be “intelligent” in the way that term is commonly used that I reflexively avoid the term any more. Memorization, problem-solving, ability to learn quickly, conceptualization, imagination, ability to organize, ability to synthesize – all of these are examples of what people think superior skills = intelligence, and that’s a non-exhaustive list. I really don’t want to re-hash that argument (it always ends up circling the drain), just wanted to clarify my point there.

    • A Roy

      That’s a great phrase…the banality of perfection…

  • austinfan

    The most important thing that Chip has brought is not his offense, but a cohesive approach to rebuilding, much like AR in 1999 when he was a young coach, full of ideas, with no emotional ties to veterans. Chip focused on building, not winning, installing both a new offensive scheme and defensive scheme, hiring coaches who are primarily teachers, not strategists, and jettisoning a lot of veterans.

    The fact that the Eagles are winning is a bonus, more importantly, other than the OL, almost every unit is dominated by players under 30, in some cases players 25 and under (RB, WR, DL). Shoring up the future of the OL is the key off season priority, along with adding more talent to the defense. If your lines are young and deep, you can patch at skill positions on both sides of the ball while you develop young athletes.

    A lot has been made of Chip’s offensive scheme, but this was an offense that had been putting up 25 points and 350+ yard per game for years before injuries crippled them in 2012 – the talent was there, it’s not like Casey, Ertz and Lane put them over the top – Chip just took it to another level.

    The defense has been a revelation, the only serious FA they brought in was Barwin, guys like WIlliams, Fletcher, Chung et al were not players you expect to save you. They only used a 3rd and 5th rd pick, yet both are starting. Davis has been maligned, but so far he’s doing a masterful job of handling a tough transition from a wide nine to a two gap 3-4, about as drastic a change as you could imagine.

    PS: great story about Barwin, seems Howie is stressing character even more under Chip, much like the 76ers, character is both personality but also intelligence and work ethic, both teams play hard, play smart and maximize their talent. Barwin isn’t the 10 sack guy some in the media projected on him, he’s the guy they signed, the $6M a year second tier SOLB who won’t dominate as a pass rusher, but does the little things (like timing blocked passes, holding the edge against the run, smoothly dropping into coverage) that help you win but go unnoticed by most fans and the national media.

    • GEAGLE

      Good stuff…I think it’s nothing short of incredible that this college coach with no experience came in, took over one of the most dysfunctional organizations I have seen, and completely UNITED us..I. Haven’t seen this type of unity and Charecter in some time now…he kept us together through the Cooper mess, QB competition, and overcame two, 2 game losing streaks when last years team would have Quit….

      This was all about Howie and Chip laying a foundation for a new era of eagles success and in one offseason, it’s remarkable just how much they accomplished. This time last year we were in shambles as an organization,,,365 days later and it looks like Chip will grow into a heckuva NFL coach, a staff to get excited about, a personel department that is doing a good job, the QB of our future is already on the roster, and we have about 70% of an eventual TOP defense already in place…..I’m Blown away and so damn excited about our future

    • ICDogg

      Not sure how much the Eagles like their current backup O-linemen, so it is just possible they may already be developing a couple of the next generation of Eagles O-linemen. We just don’t have any way of knowing. And with Mathis and the backup Barbre, they may not be young but they are in good shape and low-mileage. So, their priority as far as O-line is up in the air IMO.

    • iceberg584

      Exactly, I feel like Andy was simply just trying to continuously plug leaks since 2005…

  • GEAGLE

    This blows…I hate BYE weeks…gonna have to watch the skins/eagles aganin

    • ICDogg

      I find Cowboys/Giants irresistible to watch. I hope for a very violent game with lots of body bags.

  • Joseph Dubyk

    I think our finish is going to rely SQUARELY on Foles and his development. We saw what this team is without QB play vs the Giants and Cowboys. We also saw how good this offense is when we have good QB play.

    We know our defense is flawed and our S/T is great in spots, but I wouldn’t call it it a huge advantage either. So, really, if Foles can continue playing smart football and our offense keeps clicking I’m thinking 10 games is do-able only because of our weak schedule… I could just as easily see 8-8 or 97 too though

    • GEAGLE

      The defense will force turnovers…if FOles continues to be incredible at taking care of the ball, and his weapons aren’t having balls tipped off their fingers or laying the ball on the floor, we are going to win games…

  • Anders

    http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/eye-on-football/24275315/report-rg3-asked-coaches-to-stop-showing-negative-plays-on-film

    wow. Seems the Skins are going doing the drain.

    I really think Shanahan is the worst thing to happen to RG3.

    • ICDogg

      So does Donovan

      • Andy124

        RG3 approves this message.

      • iceberg584

        Some of the unsolicited, “cautionary” advice that McNabb was trying to push on RGIII this past offseason regarding the fickleness of the media, etc. doesn’t seem as crazy anymore.

        • Anders

          Didnt seem crazy back then. He also had strong words about the scheme after he was drafted. Again seems he was right.

          The whole problem was he somehow made it about him and then of course he is McNabb, so no matter what he says will be scrutinized.

  • ICDogg

    Not impressed with Geno Smith so far.

    • Andy124

      Remember when Roseman and Lurie and company took a road trip to see him in person? Guess they weren’t too impressed either.

      • ICDogg

        He’s so predictable. I watch him, I know what he’s going to do somehow, and apparently the Ravens do too, so far.