Posted: March 7th, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 13 Comments »
A few of you have talked about me comparing the free agent targets to some existing Eagles to provide some perspective on the situation. That’s an excellent idea so let’s do it.
For one of the Saints games I studied to see Malcolm Jenkins I used the wildcard game against the Eagles. That allowed me to see Jenkins and Nate Allen. There is no question that Jenkins is substantially better. And so are TJ Ward and Jairus Byrd, as you would expect. Allen does some things well, but his tackling is mediocre. If he were a top ballhawk, this might be okay. Allen does have good ball skills, but lacks the instincts and athleticism to make many plays in the passing game.
The x-factor with Allen is whether he’ll get better in 2014. Some of you will dismiss this idea in about .1 seconds. I get that mentality, but you have to remember that Allen made big strides from 2012 to 2013. His tackling went from very bad to mediocre. That is a jump. He was benched late in 2012 and I’m sure confidence had to be an issue for him heading into last season.
Allen finished 3rd on the team in tackles in 2013. He had an INT, a sack, a FF, 6 PDs and 2 TFLs. Those aren’t impressive numbers, but they are a step up from 2012, when he barely made any plays.
I think bringing Nate back makes sense and would be a smart move. Sign him for a couple of years and let him fight for a spot. Hopefully he’d be competing with Earl Wolff, a free agent signing and a draft pick. That’s the kind of competition the Eagles need at Safety. We’re not talking about giving Nate much money. If he is better and earns playing time, great. If not, cut him.
I have not watched Wolff since the season ended. He showed enough to make me think he can be a solid starter in the future, but you certainly can’t count on him being a starter right away. He deserves a chance to fight for a spot, but isn’t going to be given a job.
Let me be clear in reference to the other free agents I reviewed. Those guys would all be major upgrades for the Eagles. The Safety position last year was the weakest part of the whole team. The reason I didn’t write “the Eagles must get these guys!!!” is because I don’t know if they will be worth handing huge deals to. The Eagles could go sign both of them and instantly have a terrific pair of Safeties, but they’d also have about $20M invested in that position. Most teams don’t want to spend that kind of money at Safety.
The reason I like Malcolm Jenkins as a target for the Eagles is because of fit and value. Jenkins isn’t the kind of playmaker that Byrd is or the kind of hitter that Ward is. Teams looking for those type of Safeties will focus on Byrd and Ward. The Eagles may want a ballhawk. If so, Byrd will be the top target. Jenkins isn’t the same level of player, but he also won’t cost as much money. His skill set fits what the Eagles want to do on defense. Many free agent busts are due to players not fitting the new scheme.
The goal is for the Eagles to get better at Safety. It would be great to land an impact type of player, but it isn’t as simple as paying Byrd big money and instantly getting great play. Nnamdi Asomugha didn’t solve our CB problems did he? Look at the Panthers and S Mike Mitchell. He was an afterthought last March, but became a terrific player for Carolina. He fit their scheme and played the best football of his life. It also helped quite a bit that he had the right players around him.
These are all talented players who could help the defense. I prefer to focus on value since the top guys aren’t perfect fits, but the Eagles might covet Byrd’s ball skills and feel that he’s the kind of guy you adjust to. I have my doubts on Ward as a target, but I could be dead wrong. Starting next week, we’ll hopefully get some clues as to what the Eagles want at Safety. I won’t be bothered if they go for any of them.
Posted: March 7th, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 77 Comments »
I have a few guys to talk about so I’ll make these write-ups a bit shorter.
Could be a great fit for the Eagles. Jenkins won’t command mega-bucks. He is a good player and has the size and versatility that I think will attract Chip Kelly and Bill Davis.
Jenkins was used all over the field by the Saints. He played centerfield, in the box, in the slot and even some outside CB. You have to love the fact you can put him in these roles and he’s talented enough to get the job done. The downside…there is nothing great about Jenkins. He lacks the pop of TJ Ward as a hitter. He lacks the ball skills of Jairus Byrd.
Jenkins is a solid hitter and tackler. He’s aggressive and will hit runners/receivers. He takes good angles to the ball. Jenkins looks comfortable playing in traffic or out in space. There were a couple of plays where he made tackles downfield that prevented TDs. This is the most under-appreciated role a Safety plays. Even if you get the guy down at the 1-yard line, make the offense earn the TD.
In the first Carolina game, Jenkins lined up at CB on a play inside the 10-yard line. He pressed and did a solid job. He regularly played in the slot. Eagles coaches could really value that. Brandon Boykin didn’t have a true backup last year. No one was a good slot guy other than him. That’s why you saw Patrick Chung forced into action there a couple of times.
Jenkins is a good leader. The Saints developed a pair of young Safeties last year. That makes him expendable, but you can bet he helped those players develop. The Eagles have 2nd year players in Earl Wolff and Keelan Johnson. They are basically a lock to draft at least one Safety this spring. Jenkins could help bring those players along. Jenkins played on good teams in New Orleans and back at Ohio State. I think he would fit in well with Kelly and the program he’s developing in Philly.
Mitchell was a 2nd round pick of the Raiders back in 2009. The pick was so unexpected that Mike Mayock basically said “Who?” Mitchell had a great Pro Day workout and a couple of teams loved his athletic ability. The Raiders were the first to pull the trigger. Mitchell had a non-descript career there, but had a breakout year for Carolina in 2013.
4 sacks, 4 INTs, 2 FFs, 9 PDs
Those are elite numbers. But the game tape doesn’t show Mitchell to be an elite player. Good. Talented. Not elite. Last year was a bit of an anomaly. The Panthers had a great season on defense and Mitchell posted great numbers. The team who signs him can’t count on that production.
Mitchell played deep Safety a lot for Carolina. He has pretty good range. He’s got some pop as a hitter, but isn’t an impact hitter. Solid tackler. He will come down aggressively to help vs the run. Showed okay man cover skills when going up against TEs.
I liked what I saw from Mitchell and have definite interest, but he does need the right pieces around him. If Carolina offers him decent money, he’d be wise to stay there. He’s clearly a great fit for them.
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DE Michael Johnson – Many ask about him. Johnson is a better run defender than pass rusher. I’m sure the Eagles love his length, but I see a 4-3 DE and not a 3-4 OLB.
DE Everson Griffen – Only a backup in MIN so I need to watch him more, but he would be risky. Griffen would be new to the team, the scheme, the role of LB and being a starter. That’s a lot of change. Can you pay that guy big bucks? Too much risk for me. I would have interest in him if the price were right, but I’ve got a feeling a 4-3 team will offer him good money.
Posted: March 6th, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 17 Comments »
In the last few days I’ve written my scouting reports on some free agent prospects. Remember that these are just my opinions. Scouting players isn’t a black and white situation. I don’t know what the Eagles think of these players.
When I was trained by a scout years ago, the most critical piece of advice he gave me was “write what you see”. So that’s what I do. I watch the players in several games and write down the specific details of what I see the players do, good or bad. I go into each game with an open mind and not pre-conceived notions. I have no agenda on whether to write a glowing review or a less thrilled one. Write what you see.
You can read other opinions on free agent prospects. Some will differ from mine. That’s fine. I might watch a play and come away with one take while someone else watches the same play and has a different read. You just have to figure out who to trust. Obviously you can trust me. The fact that my top free agents are all named Tommy or went to Appalachian State University is merely coincidence. Oh, and don’t trust that awful Jimmy Bama.
When I do read opinions from people I respect that differ from mine, my first thought is “What did they see that I didn’t?” I might go back and watch some more tape to just make sure I didn’t miss something. You never know when you saw a player have a bad game that’s an anomaly or if he struggled due to an injury or something like that.
Enough talking. I’ve got more free agents to go study.
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Sheil Kapadia, who you can trust, wrote about some non-Orakpo/Worilds OLB targets the Eagles could look at. Maybe the most interesting player is…
Everson Griffen, Vikings (26) - A fourth-round pick in 2010, Griffen has never played more than 60.1 percent of his team’s snaps in a single season, per Pro Football Focus. But he was a productive pass-rusher last year and has 13.5 sacks in the past two seasons.
The question with Griffen is whether teams view him as a 3-4 OLB or a 4-3 DE. Per ESPN 1500 in Minnesota, he might prefer the former:
That’s because Everson Griffen, a fourth-round pick in 2010 who is due to hit the free-agent market this offseason, would probably be more likely to return to the Vikings if they go to a 3-4. He’d also become a better player.
Griffen’s eyes lit up last summer when he was asked about getting the opportunity to rush the passer from outside linebacker. Griffen was asked to play some linebacker in 2012 for the Vikings but he clearly wasn’t comfortable doing it in a 4-3. It would be a different story if he was standing up and rushing the passer.
In a PhiladelphiaEagles.com video, Greg Cosell of NFL Films said he thought Griffen had the athleticism to play in a 3-4.
At 6-3, 273, Griffen has good size, and he is a young, ascending player. Given the market, he’ll probably have his fair share of suitors. But if the Eagles want to make a splash, he could be someone they look at.
Posted: March 6th, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 102 Comments »
I finally got done watching several games of TJ Ward, the potential free agent target from the Browns.
Age 27…will turn 28 in December
4 years in the NFL
Missed 8 games in 2011 and 2 games in 2012.
5 career INTs
5 career FFs
24 career pass deflections
24 career TFLs
3.5 career sacks
248 career solo tackles
I had high hopes when I put on the tape, but must admit to being slightly disappointed. Ward is a tough, physical Safety and I loved that side of his game, but he simply missed too many tackles for me to come away overly excited. Ward is an aggressive tackler. He likes to go low on his targets and that leads to some misses. Sometimes players fight through the contact. Other times players are able to side-step or go over him.
Ward is a physical player. Put him in the box and he’s right at home. He will take on O-linemen if needed. He will fight through traffic to get to the ball. Ward does have some pop when he hits and tackles. Calvin Johnson caught an intermediate pass over the middle and Ward was able to knock the ball loose. This wasn’t one of those jarring hits where the DB ran 10 yards at full speed (Brandon Meriweather or Dunta Robinson). Ward was near CJ and just exploded into him. This kind of short area explosive hitting isn’t common. Ward can “uncoil” and offensive players will feel it.
I didn’t see Ward as undisciplined or stupid with his hitting. He wanted to punish runners and receivers, but did so under control. That’s important in today’s NFL. Gone are the days when Wes and Andre could patrol the middle and level receivers any way they wanted. I don’t know the penalty stats on Ward for the year, but he was pretty clean in the games I watched.
Ward is versatile. Cleveland played him down in the box a lot, but not exclusively. They liked to show 8-man fronts on some plays and then would have Ward retreat at the snap and get 20-25 yards deep. He has good feet and is a solid athlete. Ward was able to quickly get good depth on those plays and be an effective downfield cover guy. Other times he covered the TE 1-on-1. Ward did a good job of this on underneath routes. I didn’t see him going downfield in man coverage, but he certainly has the speed to run with most TEs.
I didn’t get a good feel for Ward’s ball skills. He didn’t have any picks or drops in the games that I watched. On a side note, his 2 INTs in 2014 came vs MIN and BUF, a pair of teams with bad QBs. Ward only has 5 INTs for his career so clearly he’s not a ballhawk. I don’t know if that is a part of his game that can get substantially better.
Ward looked like a pretty smart player. He seemed to read plays well. He took good angles to the ball. I didn’t see any obvious mental mistakes in coverage. Before the snap, he does talk to his teammates and help to get everyone lined up correctly.
It was fun to watch Ward and see the physical element to his game. He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but he’s tough and he’s “springy”. Seeing that frame and ability to explode into players reminded me of Brian Dawkins a couple of times. The difference is that Dawk had great hands and was instinctive, which made him more of a ballhawk. Ward is best used in the box. Dawk could be the SS, FS or even nickelback and excel in all 3 roles. If we could find a way to combine TJ Ward and Jairus Byrd, we’d have Dawk Jr.
Ward makes sense as an Eagles target because he is versatile and Bill Davis likes that. He has talked about wanting to play his Safeties as the Right Safety and the Left Safety, meaning they are interchangeable. Byrd is more of a pure centerfielder. Ward can go back and play centerfield or Cover 2. He can play in the box. Ward does miss more tackles than you want, but to be fair…part of that is because he’s such an active tackler. Byrd was more efficient, but also was more selective about tackle attempts.
The biggest argument against Ward is that he’s got 5 INTs and 5 FFs in 4 years. Safeties that break the bank need to make impact plays…aka create turnovers. I don’t know that Ward is worth big money if you have a young guy like Earl Wolff already on the roster (a player that will hit and tackle).
I certainly won’t be upset if the Eagles go after Ward, but I think it would surprise me.
Posted: March 5th, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 40 Comments »
If you don’t like one rumor, keep reading a while and you’ll find one to refute the rumor you don’t like.
That’s it. Vick is out.
Mike Florio also says the Eagles remain open to a return by Vick. Honestly, I don’t know why the Eagles would rule Vick out. If the market doesn’t play out as he’d like it, seems to me that you would be willing to talk to him about returning as a backup. I don’t anticipate Vick coming back. I do think some team will give Vick a chance to be their starter or at least compete for the starting role.
I still want to see Vick go to the Raiders. That has been rumored as a possibility. We’ll see what happens.
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Here’s a Jairus Byrd update.
I think they will have interest. Just not sure how high they’ll bid, if it gets to that point.
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For those wanting some good news on the DeSean Jackson front, you’ll enjoy Jeff McLane’s report.
The Eagles are not actively shopping DeSean Jackson, nor do they have any intention of parting with their Pro Bowl wide receiver this offseason.
Jackson isn’t close to being cut, and even if he was one misstep away from forcing the Eagles to move him, they most certainly wouldn’t release him without getting something in return.
The Eagles, of course, don’t respond to rumors. It wouldn’t be within their best interest to feed a reporter the above information without attribution – e.g. as a “team source” – because refuting speculation would be acknowledging it.
But after talking with almost a dozen sources from around the league, it’s clear the Eagles aren’t interested in dealing the 27-year-old Jackson – not by a long shot.
That is pretty definitive and I hope he’s right, but all I can tell you is…we’ll see. Jeff is a good reporter and works his sources, but you just don’t know if the sources he talked to know what the Eagles are thinking. After all, if they do move DeSean, that’s a move out of left field. It isn’t like this is something that anyone saw coming (as opposed to the cutting of Avant).
For now, DeSean is an Eagle and it sure sounds like those around the league expect him to stay here.