Learning Day

Posted: May 28th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 176 Comments »

The Eagles OTAs were open to the media. Chip Kelly held a press conference. That means we got a lot of information today, even though it wasn’t particularly significant. We’re football fans trapped in the wasteland of the spring. That means any scraps of info become key nuggets for us to soak in and obsess over.

Let’s cover some items of interest:

* This morning I wrote about Nolan Carroll being the CB opposite of Byron Maxwell with the starting defense. Chip Kelly singled him out as a player that had a strong offseason and impressed the coaches. Then Kelly mentioned that there were 50 other guys he could have talked about. The fact Carroll was the first name for him to mention has to be somewhat noteworthy.

* Walter Thurmond is now taking reps at Safety.

Kelly said that Thurmond made sense at S because of his ability to play in the slot as well as his intelligence, instincts and the fact he’s always around the ball.

Kelly didn’t mention the fact that the Eagles are so thin at S that they need to be creative to find possible solutions. Chris Maragos was opposite of Malcolm Jenkins today with the 1’s. I love Maragos, but he is meant to play on STs and be used only in emergencies on defense.

Earl Wolff is limited while rehabbing from a knee injury.

Chris Prosinski and Thurmond were the backup Safeties. Jaylen Watkins and Jerome Couplin were the #3 group.

* Allen Barbre is playing LG with Evan Mathis skipping the voluntary OTAs. Matt Tobin is one of several guys playing RG. This is interesting to me.

Mathis is expected to be the LG this year. Barbre would then play RG. Why not let him spend as much time as possible there this summer so he can get as comfortable as possible? Every rep is a chance to work on footwork, technique and things like that.

Does this mean Tobin could win the RG job?

Or does this mean something could happen with Mathis and the starting OGs could be Barbre and Tobin? You don’t want to read too much into something like this, but it does seem interesting to me.

* Tim Tebow is playing QB. He won’t be a FB/H-back/TE or anything else. And G.J. Kinne is working at WR.

PE.com has lots of depth chart info.

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The Kelly PC is entertaining. He offered good nuggets on a variety of subjects. The hottest topic is Shady McCoy’s dig at Kelly for getting rid of black players (stars). Kelly said he called McCoy twice, but neither call was accepted. Kelly also said he got word to Shady’s agent to let him know Kelly would like to talk to his former star RB. Nothing has happened so far.

Kelly said race plays no part in his decisions. Jay Glazer offered his take on Twitter.

Really disappointing that Shady made those comments.

* * * * *

I have no idea how Sam Bradford will play this year, but listen to his chat with the media and you can see why Kelly loves him. Bradford mentioned a couple of times having to ignore outside things that were being said and written about him. He stays focused on what he can control.

Bradford is coming along well in his rehab from the torn ACL and seems genuinely excited about his chance to play in a dynamic offense. The Rams offense was…well…offensive. But not in the good way.

* * * * *

Jimmy Bama wrote about the practice.  A couple of nuggets that stood out.

• The limited participants in practice were Sam Bradford, Earl Wolff, and Marcus Smith. Bradford jogged around a little and made some easy passes, but did not play in team drills. From the little I saw of him, his quick release is obvious. Earl Wolff remains a constant on the “limited participation” front. I don’t want to write him off in May, but the coaching staff can’t be thrilled that he’s seemingly always missing practices and games.

• Tim Tebow was picked off on a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage by rookie DE Brian Mihalik. Tebow’s windup takes a lifetime. It’s fairly easy for defensive linemen to get their hands up to bat passes when it takes the QB eight seconds (estimated) to get the ball out of his hands.

Remember that last year Mark Sanchez looked awful in the spring, but was much better by the summer and then posted solid numbers during the season.

* * * * *

Jeff McLane offered his own practice thoughts. This was interesting.

— With so many new inside linebackers – the Eagles also signed Brad Jones and drafted Jordan Hicks – it looked like Emmanuel Acho had made a full-time move to outside linebacker. The outside linebacker group was down a man with Marcus Smith sidelined with a “leg pull,” per Kelly.

With Marcus Smith out today, Acho might have moved simply because they needed someone to eat reps. Or maybe the new depth at ILB has forced Acho to move outside. He had 8 sacks in college, which is a solid total for a player who wasn’t a primary pass rusher.

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Nolan Carroll

Posted: May 28th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 248 Comments »

We know Byron Maxwell is one starting CB. The other? The Eagles have a few months to figure that out. It will be an open competition between now and mid-August. For now, Nolan Carroll is on the field as the other starter.

Why Carroll?

He has the best combination of size, experience in the scheme, ability and versatility. Walter Thurmond is new to the team. EJ Biggers might be a CB or he might be a S. And he’s also new. Eric Rowe is a rookie. And poor old Brandon Boykin is thought of as a slot guy. He’ll get some chances outside, but would need to be spectacular to convince the coaches to go with him.

The fact Carroll is out there now doesn’t mean anything significant. He’s leading the Indy 500 after half a lap. That’s it. Carroll can keep the job if he plays well, but being on the field with the 1’s isn’t a big deal to Chip Kelly. He tells us that every summer when we obsess on the depth chart. As he points out, the players set the depth chart with how they play. If Carroll is “starting” for the first week of Training Camp, that will be a more important sign.

Dave Spadaro provided the nugget that Carroll is out there and wrote about him.

The overhaul is complete. The aim is to play press coverage, to challenge wide receivers. And Carroll is competing like crazy to stand out.

“For me, honestly, it’s just work. I’ve come in with the mindset that I’ve got to work harder than everyone else.” he said. “It was the same situation for me in my last year in Miami (2013 season). They added a couple of guys in free agency and they drafted a couple of guys. I have the same mindset now that I had then. I can’t control anything but what I do.

“Cory is asking more from us. He is asking us to compete against ourselves every day, to be better every day. It’s not about competing against the other guys at our position. It’s about competing to be better as a player every day. He’s harping on that. He’s demanding that we give more than we gave the day before. He’s teaching us every single day. He isn’t taking a day off from teaching and from helping us improve so he expects effort from us, too. We have a growth mindset. We don’t have a fixed mindset. We never feel like, ‘Oh, I’ve got it. I don’t have to worry about it.’ We’re pushing every day.

“For him, it’s been about, ‘Everybody is talking about us being the weakest link in the defense. Let’s change that from the back end.’ For the cornerbacks, we want to be able to challenge the receivers and get up in their faces and stop giving up those explosive plays. We’re constantly thinking about not giving up explosive plays. We’re not relaxing out there at all. We’re out there stripping the football, trying to make plays. We’re establishing that mindset now that will carry over into the preseason and into the regular season.”

Carroll could benefit from the presence of Undlin. You have a veteran player and a veteran coach. They could bond well and quality coaching could bring out the best in Carroll.

* * * * *

Greg Bedard wrote a piece on Chip Kelly for SI.

If you aren’t an Eagles fan, this might be highly informative. But the Eagles are the most heavily covered NFL team. There are a ton of beat writers and the national guys cover the team aggressively as well. There is little in this piece that is new. The talk about how Kelly and Bill O’Brien became friends is the best takeaway for me.

This was also of interest in regard to QB.

Kelly also has predecessors when it comes to making controversial roster moves. In 1981, Walsh knew that he could probably win with quarterback Steve DeBerg, an accurate passer. But he traded DeBerg for a fourth-round pick and went with his gut at QB, giving the job to a former third-rounder who had a 2–6 record as a starter: Joe Montana. Eight years later, when Johnson was just five games into his first season in the pros, he traded away the league’s reigning No. 2 rusher, Herschel Walker. And in 2001, Belichick stuck with a skinny sixth-round backup QB named Tom Brady even after starter Drew Bledsoe recovered from an injury. Bledsoe was traded the next season.

“Jimmy realized that you could replace a Herschel with a near-Herschel and still be pretty good,” former Cowboys personnel exec Gil Brandt says of the old Dallas coach. “Chip realizes the same thing, and he has an eye on the cap. This guy didn’t come in on the turnip truck. He was talking to NFL people, picking their brains, getting ready for this for a long time. He’s a lot more tuned in to personnel than people know.”

That doesn’t make the Sam Bradford move any less risky, but it does offer some perspective.

* * * * *

Kelly will be speaking today at noon. I’m sure he’ll have one or two interesting things to say.

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Agholor Off To A Good Start

Posted: May 27th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 211 Comments »

Nelson Agholor has only been an Eagle for about a month, but he is already impressing his teammates. Jordan Matthews had some good things to say about him yesterday.

“The one that’s going to obviously jump out is Nelson,” Matthews said. “You hear a lot of great things, but then when you actually get him out there on the field you see what type of guy he is [and] you’re like, ‘OK good kid, he gets it.’

“Instead of taking the regular rookie shuttle he takes a taxi to get here early to the facility. That’s a kid that gets it. That’s not a façade. That’s somebody who’s saying, ‘OK, I want to go here, get in the building early, I need to learn what I want to do and I want to go out and compete.”

Matthews, picked 42nd overall by the Eagles last year, leaned on veteran wideout Jeremy Maclin while he acclimated to his new surroundings. Now he’s become the same kind of resource for Agholor, who hasn’t hesitated to ask questions.

“He’s been really aggressive with his studying,” Matthews said. “He’s always hitting me up. If he needs like signals, if he needs information, he calls me whenever and we’re able to talk over it. We haven’t even gotten into how he is on the field. The kid is explosive. I’m not going to ruin it for everybody, I just want everybody to see how talented he is.”

We don’t know if Agholor is going to pan out (as we expect him to), but we do know the young man is doing all the right things to make himself successful. He’s showing the right attitude and doing things he can control in the right way. That doesn’t guarantee success, but it puts you in position to be successful.

I can’t wait to see him running around in an Eagles jersey and flashing the speed and skills that got him picked in the 1st round.

* * * * *

Speaking of former USC receivers…Marqise Lee is having a tough time due to knee issues. He played in 13 games last year (8 starts) and was 37-422-1. The knee was a problem last year and is keeping him out of OTAs for now. Lee is the player that a lot of people thought the Eagles would draft in the 1st round last year. Luckily, Chip Kelly was focused on Jordan Matthews as his receiver of choice.

No reports on Marcus Smith from Eagles OTAs so far. He has bulked up by about 15 pounds, but we haven’t heard anything beyond that.

* * * * *

Anyone miss this guy?

I miss JJ. And the 4-3 defense.

* * * * *

We talked a bit about Tim Tebow yesterday. Is he really an improved passer?

From what I’ve heard, there is a definite difference. He spent 12 to 15 months working on his motion. In the past, he worked on it for 3 to 4 months at a time. That’s all the down time there was between the end of one season and the beginning of the next. Since Tebow was out of the league entirely last year, he was able to really work on his motion.

The fact it is better doesn’t mean he’s an NFL quality passer. We have to see how he does throwing the ball as part of a team.

The other issue here is the mental side of things. Can he consistently make quick, smart decisions? In the past, Tebow was like so many other young QBs. He waited until someone was open and then got him the ball. Good QBs anticipate. They see things happen before they actually do. Most young QBs react. They wait for someone to be open. That’s fine in college, but isn’t going to work on a regular basis in the NFL.

I am genuinely curious to see how Tebow performs.

* * * * *

WR John Harris is my favorite UDFA. I think he’s got a legit shot to win a roster spot. BGN covered him today and talked about how good a blocker he is.

That is one of his strengths and it does give him extra value to a team like the Eagles that is committed to running and values WRs who can really run block.

Here is the post I did on him a few weeks back. Fun player to watch.

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OTAs To Get Underway

Posted: May 26th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 172 Comments »

OTAs begin today for the Eagles. This isn’t football, it is football practice. And it is just a limited, non-contact version of even that. But OTAs still have value.

This is a time for the players to learn. They are setting the foundation now. They will build on it in future OTAs and then in minicamp. Training Camp is when things really get going. Players can actually hit. Preseason games will be the next step. And then we’ll get to see the finished product in September.

There isn’t a lot to take away from them, but it is still good to get our first glimpse at the new team. We all want to know who lines up at Safety opposite of Malcolm Jenkins. We all want to see Nelson Agholor catch a pass from Sam Bradford. We all want to see Tim Tebow throw a pass. And so on.

OL and defenders are fairly limited. They get valuable reps that help them with technique and working on the scheme. Still, that’s a long way from learning in a live drill.

DBs will get their first on-field coaching from Cory Undlin. I really think he could prove to be a very underrated offseason acquisition. He is a proven NFL coach. John Lovett was a college coach and something wasn’t clicking between him and the players.

It will also be interesting to find out the status of some injured players.

Sam Bradford
Kiko Alonso
DeMeco Ryans
Earl Wolff
Walter Thurmond
Miles Austin

Who practices? Who is close? Who is still on schedule?

The media can’t watch until Thursday, but hopefully some stories will leak out before then.

Zach Berman wrote a quick primer on the OTAs if you have simple questions.

* * * * *

Jason Kelce thinks the OTAs are especially important due to all the changes.

“Any time you have more pieces coming in, especially on offense, obviously the OTAs [organized team activities] mean a lot more,” Kelce said. “If we were returning everybody on offense, there’s a certain amount of chemistry. But whenever you have incoming pieces, you have to focus to incorporate those pieces into the offense.”

Every rep those guys get together can help.

Kelce talked about his rehab.

“I’ve done a lot of work this offseason so far,” he said. “I’ve stayed in Philly for the entire year, pretty much. I started actually doing some Pilates, believe it or not, to help with the recovery in my groin and my core, based on some of the recommendations I had from Chip and some of the other guys around here. And on top of that I’ve just been working out in the weight room the entire offseason.”

Kelce doing Pilates? That’s Sports Science for you. Think outside the box and find a solution that works.

He also had some good things to say about his fellow OL.

“We have plenty of guys who obviously got playing time last year,” he said. “Allen Barbre is a guy who’s played a lot of snaps for us. … I think we’ve got some pieces that can fill in. Who knows what will transpire, but I guess we’ll find out.

“I know Matt Tobin and Andrew Gardner can go in there and compete well enough for us to win games. I mean, I think Matt Tobin actually exhibits, on a lot of occasions, some extremely exciting potential. Andrew Gardner is about as good as you’re going to get in one of these backup roles. He plays both tackle and both guard positions, and when he played for us last year, he did an outstanding job starting too.”

We knew he wasn’t going to rip his teammates, but his praise for Tobin is interesting. That might be a player the Eagles like more than fans realize. With Evan Mathis sitting out these OTAs, it will be interesting to see who gets reps at LG. Tobin would make the most sense.

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Success and Failure

Posted: May 25th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 95 Comments »

We love to judge NFL players. Mike Mamula is a bust. The guy was a Workout Warrior and the Eagles wasted a pick on him. Reggie Brown was a bum. Another wasted pick. Chris Gocong? Why did the Eagles spend a high pick on some kid from a small school? So dumb.

Mamula started 64 games in his career and had 31.5 sacks. He’s nowhere close to being a bust. He wasn’t worth the #7 overall pick, but that’s a different argument. If not for injuries, Mamula would have had an even better career.

Brown paled in comparison to the man who replaced him, DeSean Jackson, but Brown still caught 177 career passes and had 17 TD catches. He averaged 14.5 ypc for his career.

Gocong started 67 games in the NFL. He had 9.5 sacks, 21 TFLs and 5 FFs. He was the starting SAM LB on 3 Top 10 defenses.

When you start for multiple seasons and have some level of success, you aren’t a bum or a bust. The average NFL career lasts something like 3 seasons. And the average player isn’t starting for multiple years. There are far more failures than successes.

I wrote about the difficulty of making it in the NFL for PE.com.

One of the things that fascinates me is that some guys who are legitimate draft busts were still great players in college. I wrote about Jaiquawn Jarrett and Freddie Mitchell in the piece. Mitchell was incredibly good at UCLA. In his Junior season he was 77-1494-9. And that is playing in a pro style offense, not the spread attacks that boost numbers today. Mitchell played in 63 NFL games and had 5 TD catches. How does a guy go from one extreme to another?

That’s the beauty of the NFL.

A guy like Mitchell who was a star at UCLA can flame out while a kid from tiny Monmouth University can thrive. Miles Austin has 36 career TD catches. The NFL doesn’t care that he wasn’t the MVP of a bowl game or never played on national TV.

The NFL is all about the here and now. How do you do playing with the best of the best and against the best of the best? Some players embrace the challenge and it brings out the best in them. Others struggle. It can be hard for some players who are used to dominating having to adjust when they go up against guys their size, speed or talent level.

I think Matt Barkley has really struggled with being “just another guy”. Not only was he a great player at USC, he was vital to the team. When Pete Carroll left, Barkley was making phone calls to recruits to make sure they were still coming to play there. He was an important leader on and off the field. In Philadelphia he is the #3 QB, one of the most forgotten spots on the team. That has to be incredibly difficult.

I give GJ Kinne a lot of credit for his decision to try and play other positions. If you watched him in the preseason games, you saw a guy play hard and show some athletic ability. What you didn’t see was a consistently good passer. Kinne is willing to try something else to find a place in the league. Good for him. He’s still got an uphill battle, but I don’t think he was ever going to make it as a QB.

Another big challenge with the NFL is that you constantly have to fight for your job. Jon Runyan started every game from 2000-2008. Part of that was his workman-like attitude and desire to be on the field. Part was on the feeling that he wanted to be out there to help his teammates. But the biggest reason…he didn’t want to let some other guy get on the field and steal his job. Runyan wasn’t going to get Wally Pip’d.

That constant pressure gets to some players. Others use it to motivate them and stay on top of their game. Think of all the pass rushers drafted after Trent Cole in 2005. Victor Abiamiri, Bryan Smith, Brandon Graham, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, Ricky Sapp, Vinny Curry, and Marcus Smith. The guy who got to Cole was Father Time. Graham will start in his place, but only because of age. If you could take the toughness, competitive spirit and drive from Cole and put it into the rest of the team, the Eagles would be a juggernaut. Cole isn’t the biggest, fastest or most athletic, but he was special in his own way. You have to love players like that.

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