A LB Corps

Posted: February 27th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 34 Comments »

Yesterday the focus was on offense, but a lot of the offseason focus is on fixing the defense. We mostly talk about the immediate future, but there is also a need to think long term.

In my latest BGN piece I wrote about the need to build a LB corps. You need 4 good starters, but you also need depth. LBs are the heart and soul of the 3-4. Invest in LBs every year to build up a group that is deep and talented. A good 3-4 defense that has sustained success will have a lot of good LBs. They will come and go due to injuries, age and contract issues. You can’t just find a couple and stop there. It is an ongoing process. There will be some bad signings and bad picks, but don’t stop investing in the LB corps. After all, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

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Q&A

Why don’t you write about Jordan Matthews? I don’t know him as well as I should. I didn’t see much Vandy this year and simply haven’t had a chance to focus on him. He was solid at the Senior Bowl, but didn’t jump out at me as a compelling player. The biggest knock on Matthews is that he has too many drops. Watch a game and he’ll put the ball on the ground a couple of times. I’m trying to figure out what to make of that. Matthews did have a great career and then had a terrific performance at the Combine. He is a quality WR prospect.

Should the Eagles have interest in Safety Thomas DeCoud if the Falcons do cut him? The short answer is…maybe. I need to do some research on the guy. I liked him coming out of Cal. He played well in 2012 for the Falcons. So why is he being cut? You always wonder what teams are thinking when they let go of a functional (or better) starter.

Did the Eagles overrate the guys they re-signed/are about to re-sign? Fair question. I don’t think so. Peters is a unique talent. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. Kelce is arguably the most athletic C in the league. He still needs to improve his overall game, but he is a very good fit for Chip Kelly’s offense. I don’t think that’s up for debate. Riley Cooper had a breakout season. The only way you could be critical of re-signing him would be if the Eagles overpay. We haven’t heard any details, but I’m confident the team wouldn’t aggressively make a move if the value wasn’t right. Jeremy Maclin is probably going to get a 1-year deal so that contract won’t be an issue.

With Mac, Coop and DJax together, who will play in the slot most of the time? Tough question. First, understand that Kelly will move all 3 around. Both DJax and Coop played some in the slot this year. Kelly spreads the field a lot so the slot receiver isn’t playing as much in traffic as in other offenses. There is still room to work with. Coop could be the slot guy if the team wants size. Mac would make sense because of his quickness and overall athleticism. My guess would be Mac, but that is just a guess.

If the Boys cut DeMarcus Ware, should the Eagles have interest? Really tough question. He’s going to turn 32 in July. He missed 3 games this year and struggled with injuries for most of the season. You have to understand you wouldn’t be getting the Ware who terrorized the Eagles for so many years. You’d be getting an older, beaten down version. I lean toward no,  but if the price was reasonable there is part of me that wonders if Kelly’s sports science stuff could help him.

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  • chloroformdreams

    Gone are the days where Andy Reid would trot a bunch of 5th round picks out on the field at LB just for them to be manhandled and abused time and time again.

    Now we expect competition at EVERY position, and not just between scrubs

    Bright days ahead in Philly, I hope (I’m still not fully convinced that I’m not trapped in a perpetual acid trip or something).

    • the midatlantic

      This is actually happening.

      Unfortunately, you’re also stuck in a perpetual acid trip. Tough draw.

      • ShadyCrockett

        Unfortunately…?

    • ACViking

      Seeking, and actually having, competition at every position does not mean the same thing as finding — and, more important, paying — for impact players at every position.

      DEs in Kelly’s 34 defense are nothing like DEs in Reid’s scheme. Being an impact pass-rusher is not a requirement now.

      With the salary cap, compromises will eventually have to be made at some position. You just can’t afford a ’70s Steelers Defense — with multiple All Pros — anymore. At least not for more than a couple years.

      PS — Sorry to spoil your acid trip.

  • meteorologist

    One thing I think everyone has overlooked with the signings is: we don’t want our free agents going to other teams and spoiling our temporary “sports science advantage”.

  • Mike Roman

    PFT is now reporting that the Eagles want to sign Mac to a multi-year deal and Mac only wants one year. Totally the opposite of what we all thought.

    • mark2741

      Makes sense to me to try to sign Mac to a lower pay multi-year deal.

      • Insomniac

        It’s obvious that Mac is chasing the money. I don’t mind if Mac wants a prove it deal. We don’t even know if he’s the same player right now.

  • Mike Roman
    • shah8

      I would not say that Geno Smith is better than Bridgewater, but he’s very easily better than Bortles or Manziel. I think the real complaint about the draft is that there’s only one guy with a pretty arm, Derek Carr, and there are reasons to be wary of him otherwise. Geno Smith doesn’t actually have a specially strong arm, but it’s stronger than everyone this year aside from Carr. Moreover, Geno was a relatively complete prospect–drawbacks are long delivery, coming out of spread system, and in every game I’ve ever watch Geno in the pro, he does have some pretty nice throws. Dude simply has had some terrible games (none of which I saw, @ ATL, NE1, MIA2, CAR).

      The whole Bortles thing is mystifying. If Bortles were to be drafted no. 1, he’d be the weakest QB to be picked number one since Alex Smith. He wouldn’t be all that ready to play from game one, like the majority of QB, and he isn’t a toolsy guy you can afford to sit on the bench and learn for a year. So Ima gunna wait with baited breath to see if the Texans are actually that stupid to pick Bortles over Bridgewater or Clowney.

      • Mike Roman

        Your analysis is much more coherent than Phil’s. That guy just bugs the crap out of me.

      • Jerry Pomroy

        I think Bradford was just as weak, if not a weaker QB prospect than Smith.

    • Jerry Pomroy

      That goes without even saying.

  • shah8

    Reading Falcons forum, it seems like the issue is that DeCloud is a ballhawk only, and is a poor tackler, with limited situational awareness.

    I’m inclined to think he may be worth signing on a reasonable deal. We have slow and big CBs. A ballhawk behind them, with limited responsibility for the run game might be advantageous here. I’m certainly more ticked on than the thought of Malcolm Jenkins…

    • anon

      can teach fundamentals.

      • Insomniac

        He’s been in the league for awhile though. Old habits die hard.

  • ACViking

    Re: Speaking of OLBs . . . Is 6’2″ Enough?

    During the 22-year run of the Steelers’ 3-4 defense under DCs Dom Capers and Dick LeBeau, their OLBs have followed a pattern that seems the opposite of, or at least not consistent with, what I understand Chip Kelly wants for the Eagles.

    From 1992-2007 — 16 seasons — the Steelers nearly always had their LOLB (or Jack ‘backer) measuring at least 6’4″: 13 seasons of Jerrol Williams, Jason Gildon, Clark Haggans. The other 3 seasons had 6’3 Kevin Greene at LOLB. Then in 2007, the 6’2″ Lamar Woodley took over the LOLB position for Pittsburgh.

    Conversely, at the ROLB position — the PASS RUSHER — the Steelers, for all but 2 seasons, never had a player over 6’2″. They’ve used: Greg Lloyd, Chad Brown, Joey Porter, James Harrison, Jarvis Jones and Jason Worlids

    Each of those 6 players was 6’2″, except James Harrison who was generously listed at an even 6’0″.

    The lone exception at Rush LB for Pittsburgh came in ’98-’99, when 6’5″ Carlos Emmons played the position. But after he maxed out with just 6 sacks in ’99, after getting just 3.5 in ’98, Pittsburgh let Emmons walk in free agency to the Eagles, where he excelled in the more traditional OLB role of the 4-3 defense.
    _________________

    In 2013, the Eagles — like the Steelers — used their tallest OLB in Conner Barwin at the LOLB spot. At 6’3″, Barwin would just about fit Pittsburgh historical model of putting the tall guy at the Jack ‘backer position.

    So I wonder, how important is having a long and tall ROLB to rush the passer? Seems the Steelers have proven over and over again, that a 6’2″ ROLB is not just okay. But with the right guy, a great decision.

    Again, just wondering . . . because shortening expectations for the Rush OLB position (sorry, no pun intended) seems to create so much more flexibility on draft day.

    • Flyin

      Great info as always! Thanks!

    • http://www.corcommunity.com/ theycallmerob

      and yet, in this particular draft, that doesn’t add to many names to the board that may otherwise be crossed off due to height concerns. Obviously, much has been made of the ever-rising Dee Ford (6’2″), but the only other names I saw close the cutoff were Shazier (6’1), Chris Smith (6’1 but 34″ arms), and Sam (who for reasons other than height I think would struggle here). These DE/OLBs are monsters this year.
      http://mockdraftable.com/players/2014/

    • Jerry Pomroy

      I think Aldon Smith & to a lesser extent DeMarcus Ware have recently shown teams that a longer, more athletic ROLB can use that length & athletic ability to match up better against LTs that are in themselves becoming more athletic and agile (our own Jason Peters for example). They can also create mismatches against the lesser athletic LTs still out there. Plus the ability to drop into and be effective in coverage has to come into play as WRs are getting bigger/stronger and TEs are becoming larger versions of WRs. In a league gearing towards the pass & more and more players evolving from being brutes to freakish athletic genetic specimens, I think you’ll continue to see evolution on the part of the position.

  • Greg

    How amazing would it be if we signed DeMarcus Ware on a cheap 3-4 year deal, he has a renaissance and wins DPOY and a ring with us? I can only imagine the sweet, sweet Dallas Cowboys tears.

    • Insomniac

      Cowgirls, Lolskins, and the Gnat tears would be icing on the cake if that did happen. Realistically, I expect Ware to sign with a SB favorite like the Seahawks/Broncos if he gets cut.

      • Jerry Pomroy

        I guess another question is what type of defense would he want to play in. He’s scheme versatile but getting older so maybe a 3-4 would be less his preference.

        I’ve got Cowgirls, Deadskins and Gints as my call signs for our lowly division foes. Not exactly sure if Gint is a real word. Kinda made it up myself, but my definition would read “opposite of giant, miniscule; unimpressive, less than average”.

  • bsuperfi

    Assuming all the WRs are resigned, I’d still like to see a big WR with a lot of potential early on. Brent at Eaglesrewind did some nice work recently on the window that the team will have. DJax won’t be the same in maybe 3-5 years. Without him, this WR corps looks weak. And he could get injured at any time.

    There has been some talk that we now don’t need mega-talented WRs because of the “system”. I don’t buy it. WR is a premium position in today’s NFL. There’s a reason Shurmur was brought in. This offense would thrive with a top tier WR. As it stands, I don’t think DJax is it. He’s a serious weapon when used the right way, but he’s not fully versatile.

    So, I like the signings assuming they’re within financial reason. It frees us up not to spend on a WR early, and I’d like to see what Maclin really has post-injury. But I still want a big bad WR in the draft.

  • Flyin

    Here are a couple good quotes from Chip Kelly regarding measurables. ACViking posted some great info about the the Steeler’s OLB’s over the past 20 years that reminded me about Chip’s last PC…

    You signed a big nose tackle in the offseason and eventually traded him and ended up with Bennie Logan primarily playing at that spot. But he’s versatile. You can move him all around. Do you have a preference of what you want at that spot? Do you want a strict nose tackle or do you want someone who’s versatile?

    COACH KELLY:
    I don’t get into specifics. You would wish everybody could be
    versatile. I wish we had a 6’7″, 350 pound guy that ran 4.2. But does it
    exist? You have to work with what you have. One of the things that
    allowed us in that situation was Bennie’s versatility, and what you saw
    [from] him every single day in practice, but also [Damion] Square and
    also Clifton [Geathers], is that we felt confident in our young guys at
    that position that we could make that move. You don’t always get the
    ideal at any position what you’re looking for.

    You talked last spring about having specific measurables for
    players at specific positions. Have those changed at all now that you’ve got–

    COACH KELLY: The measurables never change, but you still have to get a guy. You just can’t say we want a 6’3″, 220 pound safety. Well, there are none. Well, we’re not going to play with 10. This is what we ultimately will continue to look for and continue to strive for, but you still have to make concessions.

    But I think you just can’t drop your guard everywhere and just say, well,
    we’re going to be a little bit short here, a little bit short here, a
    little bit short here, then all of a sudden your team is going to get
    run over. I have said big people beat up little people. We believe that.
    But it’s a different league. This isn’t recruiting where you can go out
    and offer and try to get them to come. There’s a selection in the draft
    process and we’re not going to pick until the 22nd. There’s 21 other
    guys that we may covet but we don’t have an opportunity to get them.

    You have ideals and you have parameters in terms of what we’re looking for,
    but sometimes it may not be exactly what you’re looking for, but you
    make do with it.

    http://www.philadelphiaeagles.com/news/article-1/Quotes-HC-Chip-Kelly/28b9e7ba-bd72-4463-882f-325b3b68a162

  • Vick or Nick

    So lets get to it.

    Riley Cooper:
    I wasn’t happy when I heard we signed Cooper to 5 year deal for 25 million?!?

    Then you read the fine print and it says 10 mill guaranteed, 4 of which is his signing bonus and another 4 base salary. Then its like a mill per season.

    I will preface this by saying that I was (and still am) a firm believer that we need to UPGRADE the production from WR2 not settle with Riley.

    With this deal, maybe Riley really breaks out next season. He has experience, he knows the offense, most of all he knows Nick Foles.

    GREAT deal for both sides. Eagles have no long term commitment, but if Riley is a fluke this coming year than well, Eagles paid that 10 mill for pedestrian production. Either way its a great, educated gamble.

    Jason Kelce:
    This was a no brainer. I’m not sure how much they committed to him financially, but I wouldn’t care if Jason is now top 5 paid centers in the NFL. He deserves it. He makes the protection calls. He is a vital part of the offense.

    Pending Maclin Deal:

    Surprised to hear that its the EAGLES who want a multiyear deal. I can understand that. I also believe Maclin returns to his elite self this upcoming year which would make negotiations extremely difficult. And then why lose him for only a compensatory selection. Have to remember Maclin was a 1st round pick. He’s valuable.

    • SteveH

      Makes sense to have most of the money up front, we are in a great cap space situation this year, may as well use some of it up to lock up guys and free up money on the back end of the deals.

      We’re basically doing the opposite of the Cowboys, who for some reason have massive amounts of money tied up on the back ends of their deals.

    • Mitchell

      I think it would be foolish for the front office to ignore receiver in arguably one of the deepest drafts for WR’s in quite some time. I’m gonna go ahead and say we get Martavius Bryant.

      • Vick or Nick

        Absolutely. I hope Eagles come away with at least 1 if not 2 WRs. I’m sure there will be some diamonds in the rough FA’s as well.

        I’ve been on record saying I want Kelvin Benjamin round 1.

        Especially if Clinton-Dix, Pryor, J. Gilbert, are off the table which I believe they will be.

        • Mitchell

          I know we need a safety but if Gilbert is there you really have to take a good hard look at him. He increases our corner depth and instantly and vastly improves our return game which I think is being a bit overshadowed here. We really need a dependable return man.

          • Vick or Nick

            Getting a Corner or WR who can also return will be huge.

  • A_T_G

    I would like to see us get Maclin signed to at least a two-year deal, if just so we can renegotiate with him next year before free agency starts. That rule about not being able to resign guys after a one-year deal until free agency starts makes me want to avoid them.

  • Mitchell

    I woke up from a dream and we had traded our first rounder for the 9′ers and they gave us a 3rd. Good value? Probably.

  • Jerry Pomroy

    Building a LB corps is exactly why I want us to come away with both an ILB & ROLB. While we have more young talent on the inside right now, this is a talented class of ILBs. I wouldn’t even be upset if we drafted 2 OLBs & 1 ILB, to go along with a WR, S/CB & OG. I really like the prospects of a KVN or Jones that could play both inside and out. If we were to nab one of those two, than coming away with 2 LBs (1 ILB/1 OLB) would be bountiful enough for now.