Chip Kelly’s most famous phrase as an Eagles coach is this…”Big people beat up little people.”
Andy Reid’s fastballs are gone. Kelly believes in size. He loves speed as well, but not enough to sacrifice size. I see nothing wrong with Kelly’s theory and it has worked pretty well so far. As the Eagles head into the offseason and prepare to bring in another set of new players, the desire for bigger guys gets more complicated.
2013 was all about filling holes. You could settle on some guys that were “good enough”. This season is more about improving. That means finding players that are good as well as big, which is obviously more difficult than just adding size. Let’s talk about OLB and Safety for instance.
Most people are in agreement that the Eagles need a pass rushing OLB. Right now Trent Cole has that job. He goes about 6-2, 260. The guess is that Kelly would prefer that LB to be about 6-4, 260. Does that mean that Kelly won’t settle for anyone less? Of course not. There will be some sliding scale between size and performance. Look at these 3 OLB prospects
* Dee Ford – Auburn – 6-2, 243
* Jeremiah Attaochu – Ga Tech – 6-3, 252
* Chris Smith – Arkansas – 6-1, 268
Ford is the fastest. He is the best pass rusher of the group. He was terrific in Senior Bowl practices this week. But Ford is also the lightest and has the shortest arms.
Attaochu has more career sacks than any current college player (31.5). He is the tallest of the trio and has the 2nd longest arms.
Smith is the shortest of the trio. He’s also the heaviest and has the longest arms. He had 8.5 sacks this year and had some good moments in Mobile.
Which guy would Kelly prefer? Is Ford too small for him? Will Kelly substitute height for arm length? How important is bulk? Obviously the real key here is performance. Just how good does an undersized player need to be in order to make size irrelevant?
There are no definitive answers to these questions. We will speculate for now, but we need more drafts and free agency periods to figure out just how obsessed Kelly is with size.
There are similar questions at Safety. The Eagles could go for bigger guys like Calvin Pryor and Clinton Ha-Ha Dix or they could go for a smaller guy like Lamarcus Joyner. Just how critical is size? Joyner is only about 5-8, 190. That is small. But this guy isn’t a normal player. He led Florida State with 5.5 sacks. He also had a couple of INTs and 3 FFs. Joyner made one standout play against the read-option in the national title game. He focused on the RB and at the last minute saw the QB keep the ball. Joyner spun and tackled the QB on the spot. Amazing play.
Dix wasn’t all that much of a playmaker. Pryor had 3 INTs and 2 FFs this year so he made some plays. Joyner is the biggest playmaker of the trio. How much do you value production vs size? Do you think Joyner can make those same plays in the NFL? I do think his situation will be helped by how well the Honey Badger played for the Cardinals. Both guys are similar in that they lacked ideal size, but were instinctive playmakers. I’d love the Eagles to take a chance on Joyner.
The Eagles are arguably the most scientific team in the league. At the Senior Bowl they measured players at the wrist and the knee. The reason for this is that it can give you an idea about a player’s frame and growth potential. The Eagles might see some players that need to get bigger or stronger and have the frame to do it. Those players are going to be of more interest than guys that are maxed out already.
We talk all the time about size, but the numbers don’t always tell the whole story. Trent Cole was 6-2, 243 at the 2005 Senior Bowl. He had a medium build and the frame to hold more weight. Dee Ford is the same size in terms of numbers, but he already has a thick, muscular build. I don’t think Ford can bulk up much beyond where he is.
Obviously the Eagles coaches and training staff will know this stuff infinitely better than me. I use the eyeball test to determine who looks as if they could get bigger. That’s where the weigh-in is important. It also helps to go down on the field and stand next to the players. You get a feel for how big they are when you’re right there with them.
I’m probably asking more questions than I am giving answers, but Kelly and his ideas are still very new to us. I don’t want to act as if I’ve got the answers when right now I’m learning this stuff just like you.
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I still have a lot of learning to do when it comes to the CB class.