Some DL Talk

Posted: July 18th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

I recently re-watched some games from late last year. One of the guys I wanted to take a look at was DE Daeshon Hall.

The Eagles backup DEs will be Vinny Curry, Josh Sweat and rookie Shareef Miller. Hall showed some flashes last year, but clearly the team didn’t trust him enough to project him into a key role. I was curious to go back and take a look at him.

Hall is 6-5, 265. That’s an excellent frame for a DE. He is a good athlete. Physically, he looks like a good NFL DE. The problem is that he’s more athlete than football player. Hall is at his best on the run.

When Hall gets down in his stance and comes off the ball, not much happens. He doesn’t seem to have much of a plan for how to beat blocks. When plays go away from him and he can just chase the ball, Hall is impressive. He is a big, athletic dude. That’s what you want.

He just isn’t a technically sound pass rusher.

Watch Brandon Graham. He has studied the man who will block him and the opposing QB. Graham has a plan. Go inside. Go outside. Use speed. Use power. Use leverage. Mix up your moves and what you do with your hands.

Hall is talented enough to be a solid role player. He hasn’t shown the skill to be an effective pass rusher to this point, though. This is a critical offseason for him. He needs to impress the Eagles, or some other team. He must look like more of a polished pass rusher.

The one guy who will argue for Hall is STs coach Dave Fipp. Hall can be a terrific STer with his size and speed. You want him on the field in the kicking game. Is he good enough to carve out a Bryan Braman type of role? We’ll have to see about that.

I do wonder if some 3-4 team would give Hall a chance. Stand him upright and let him run. That’s him at his best./

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One of the things I’m curious about is how Jim Schwartz will use Malik Jackson and Fletcher Cox. Jackson has mostly played the 3-tech role in his career. That’s also where Cox lined up most of the time. Cox can move over to NT and still dominate. I’m curious about Jackson in that role.

The video above does show him 2-gapping. The Eagles don’t do a lot of that, but that is the kind of thing you might have to do at NT. The 3-tech gets to fire off the ball most of the time. The NT has to fight with blockers, often double-teams. You can’t just use athleticism in those situations. You must be able to do the dirty work.

Jackson has the size, strength and skill to play NT. It will be interesting to see how often he does it and how well he does it.

He and Cox are both big, talented athletes. They are going to give blockers fits.

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Should the Eagles consider making a move for Clowney?

This seems like a real long shot. Clowney is a terrific pass rusher and the Eagles love those guys, but Clowney would cost resources and money. I’m sure Howie Roseman has at least thought about making this move. Guys like Clowney aren’t easy to find.

The X-factor in this is that the Texans don’t have a GM. They are going to wait for the offseason to hire one. That could help or hurt the situation. Roseman could try to get a good deal by talking to someone who isn’t used to making trades. Or the acting GM could struggle to pull the trigger on such a key deal as this.

I really doubt anything comes of this. It would be interesting to know if Howie even makes a call.

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Revamped Run Game

Posted: July 14th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

The Eagles finished 3rd in the NFL in rushing in 2017. They fell off to 28th last year. That is a huge difference. There are a lot of reasons for that. The O-line wasn’t as good. The league adjusted to RPOs. The RBs couldn’t stay healthy. You don’t fall that far for just one reason. It was a mixture of things.

One other issue…the RBs just weren’t as good. LeGarrette Blount played well in 2017. Rookie Corey Clement was a terrific role player. Jay Ajayi averaged 5.8 yards per carry after coming over in a trade.

Wendell Smallwood was 5th on the team in rushing, going 47-174-1 and averaging 3.7 ypc.

2018 was a very different story. Ajayi got hurt after just four games. Clement wasn’t healthy all year. Undrafted rookie Josh Adams led the team in rushing with 511 yards. Smallwood was 2nd in rushing, going 87-364-3.

I was re-watching some games recently and focused on Smallwood. He ran hard. He ran tough. You love his effort. But in the end, he’s just not that talented.

Having Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders will be a big upgrade.

Howard isn’t going to turn into Saquon or Zeke, but he is a talented, productive RB. He will be better than the players the Eagles were feeding the ball to last year.

I know Sanders didn’t practice much in the spring, but he should be good for the summer. He was healthy and productive at Penn State.

We’ll have to wait and see what to expect from Clement. If he can get healthy and play like he did as a rookie, that will give the RBs a good boost. Clement was an excellent Red Zone weapon and gifted pass catcher. He could be a valuable role player.

I don’t know what to expect from Adams. The first thing he has to do is earn a roster spot. He could go from leading rusher to looking for a job. That’s not an insult to him so much as it is acknowledging the overall position got upgraded.

Adams did show he had NFL ability last year. If he can improve his game, he also could become a good role player.

As for Smallwood, he is back for another uphill battle. He is a 25-year old player who gives everything he has. He is the kind of player we should love. But Smallwood isn’t that talented. Heart and desire only take you so far. You can win games with him, but you’re not going to have as much offensive success as you want.

Smallwood has 258 career touches. He has six plays of 20 yards or more. Clement only has 174 career touches, but has 10 plays of 20 or more yards.

I hate to be critical of Smallwood because I love how hard he plays. He is doing everything he can to succeed. We’ve seen high picks like Danny Watkins and Marcus Smith wash out with less than maximum effort. Smallwood was a late round pick and he’s done everything he can to carve out a role.

But this is the NFL. You can’t let settle for try-hard guys. You need to find good players. You want playmakers and difference-makers.

It sure looks like the Eagles will be better with Howard and Sanders.

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Wait, what about Pump and the Boston Strangler?

I assume Donnell Pumphrey will be so good in camp that the Eagles will trade him to Joe Douglas for a 1st round pick.

Boston Scott has a chance to win a roster spot if he can catch the ball well and show ability as a kick/punt returner. I honestly don’t know what to expect from him.

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Favorite Non-Eagles

Posted: July 13th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

I’ve been reading a book called the Genius of Desperation by Doug Farrar. This is a terrific book on the men who changed the game of football. You might not know about Clark Shaughnessy or Mouse Davis, but you certainly know Buddy Ryan, Bill Walsh and Tom Landry. This book covers a lot of history and is must read material for anyone interested in the schematic development of football.

Reading the book has been a trip down memory lane, taking me back to the games of my youth. That got me to thinking about my all-time favorite players. So here is a list of my favorite non-Eagles. And this won’t be a boring list of only Barry Sanders and Jerry Rice type guys.

WR Anquan Boldin
WR Wesley Walker

I loved Boldin going back to his days at Florida State. He is one of my favorite football players of all-time and defines the phrase “ultra-competitive” for me. Boldin is one of the toughest players to ever play the game. He wasn’t afraid to work the middle of the field. Taking big shots was just the price you paid for making plays.

Walker was completely different in the way he played the game. He averaged 19 yards per catch for his career. Boldin caught 1076 career passes, including 82 TDs. Walker only caught 438 passes, but 71 went for TDs. He was a big time playmaker. One of the can’t miss matchups of the 1980’s was the Jets and Dolphins. Dan Marino would throw his bombs, but then Ken O’Brien would find Walker for a long TD. Check out this box score to appreciate just how incredible Walker could be at times. I hated the Dolphins so watching Walker catch bombs on them was especially fun for me.

TE Kellen Winslow

I loved Air Coryell as a kid and Winslow was the star of the show. He was big at 6-5, 251, but also a gifted athlete. He actually led the NFL in receptions twice. Winslow could move the chains or be a playmaker. Don Coryell moved Winslow around and used him creatively, allowing Winslow to be a true weapon. He is the first TE I remember being blown away by.

QB John Elway

There was a ton of hype surrounding Elway when he came out. Would he play baseball or football? Where would he play? Elway forced the Colts to deal him and quickly became a Broncos legend. The Elway of the 80’s carried the Broncos on his back and was good enough to get them to Super Bowls. He wasn’t surrounded by great talent or playing in a creative scheme so his numbers aren’t impressive. Anyone who watched Elway back then knows the numbers don’t come close to telling the story.

Mike Shanahan was hired as head coach in 1995 and things changed. He made good personnel decisions and brought a much better scheme for the offense. Elway no longer had to carry the team on his back. He was able to use the weapons around him and posted good numbers. Oh yeah, and Denver finally won a couple of Super Bowls.

I loved Elway because of his big arm and his ability to make plays. I also loved the way he came alive late in games. He was just fun to watch. You could maybe think of him as the 1980’s version of Brett Favre.

RB Tony Dorsett
FB Matt Suhey

I loved watching Dorsett run the ball. He was a small, speedy RB at a time when the NFL seemed to like bigger guys (John Riggins, Rob Carpenter, George Rogers, Earl Campbell, Chuck Muncie, etc.). Dorsett could use his speed to get wide on sweeps or toss plays. He was really good on screen passes. Get him into space and Dorsett could make defenders look silly.

Walter Payton can make a strong case for being the best RB in NFL history. He ran for more than 16,000 yards in his career, with many of them coming behind Suhey. In the days of the I-formation and the pro set, RBs needed a gifted lead blocker. Suhey was a really impressive FB. Not only could he block, but he was a gifted runner and receiver. In 1981, Suhey averaged 10 carries per game. Man, football has changed since then. FBs went from being key starters to role players to barely existing in today’s game.

OT Tony Boselli
OG Larry Allen
OC Dermontti Dawson
OG Randall McDaniel
OT Walter Jones

Boselli was dominant until injuries shortened his career. I loved watching him play. He could shut down edge rushers with his athleticism. Boselli could also use his strength and physicality to overwhelm DEs, in the pass game or run game. He was a bully and that made him fun to watch.

Speaking of bullies, Allen is one of the most physically dominant OL to ever play. Just watch this.

Dawson started every game for a decade. He was an outstanding run blocker, able to get movement at the LOS or to pull and blow up defenders out in space. The Steelers were a great running team in the 90’s and Dawson is one of the big reasons why. Read the rest of this entry »


Follow the Plan

Posted: July 10th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson have some very basic, but specific ideas on how to build a team. They focus on building up the line of scrimmage. They also believe in doing whatever it takes to have a franchise QB.

This is a great compliment for Roseman and the scouting department.

The Eagles invest a lot of resources in the offensive and defensive lines, but activity doesn’t always equal achievement. The Eagles make smart choices, both with the draft and in free agency.

Plenty of teams talk about investing in the lines. The Eagles put real actions behind those words. Think about this past draft. The Eagles had one of the best OLs in the league. They had some good depth pieces as well. Not only did the Eagles spend a first round pick on an OT, they traded up to do it.

Think about that. The Eagles went out of their way to acquire a player who they hope won’t play at all this year. That is serious commitment.

Jeremiah’s list is also quite a compliment to the coaching staff. Jeff Stoutland has done a good job of developing Lane Johnson, Isaac Seumalo, Big V and other young players. Stoutland also got the best out of free agents like Brandon Brooks and Stefen Wisniewski.

The DL coaches have also been tremendous. Derek Barnett played a key role on the Super Bowl team. Treyvon Hester showed good potential last year. Chris Long came to Philly with low expectations and turned out to be a terrific role player. Michael Bennett was outstanding last year.

I posted some predictions recently from NFL experts that think Carson Wentz will be the league MVP this year. The Eagles aggressively moved up in the spring of 2016 to draft Wentz and the results have been very impressive. If you go all in on a QB, you better get it right. So far, it sure looks like the Eagles have.

There is no magic formula for winning in the NFL. You need to have a sound plan for how to build your team and then go execute it. The Cowboys and Giants spent high picks on RBs and built offenses around them. Mike Zimmer loves physical CBs. For years, the Raiders were obsessed with speed. Bill Parcells always wanted big players.

The Eagles have done a great job of building their roster in just the way they wanted. They are deep and talented up front.

And they have a great young QB running the show.

*****

How cool is this?

Eagles fans are all over the place and it is a glorious thing.

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High Expectations

Posted: July 9th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

The Eagles played well down the stretch in 2018. They made strong moves in free agency and then had a good draft. All of this means that expectations are high for the team as they head into the 2019 season.

When Wentz was playing at an MVP-level in 2017, the Eagles were the best team in football. He is healthy once again. He’s got a strong O-line. Wentz has the best group of skill players he’s ever played with (apologies to Paul Turner and Kenjon Barner).

The Eagles have put Wentz in a position to succeed.

If he does, the team should be a juggernaut. Wentz makes the offense really come alive. And when that happens, it helps out the defense. They get to play with a lead. The other team gets predictable and that gives Jim Schwartz a chance to choose how he wants to play.

You could worry about how high expectations will affect a team, but I think the Eagles have the right combination of people to handle this. Doug Pederson is quiet, calm, but also confident. He will embrace the expectations, at least privately. Publicly, he will likely avoid saying anything too strong.

Wentz is comfortable in the spotlight and he’s used to having pressure. North Dakota State might not be the same as Alabama, but NDSU teams are expected to win national titles. Anything less is failure. Wentz won a pair of titles in college and then help the 2017 Eagles to win the team’s first Super Bowl. Nick Foles suited up in the postseason, but if you don’t think Wentz had a significant impact on that team, you have a lot to learn.

Schwartz isn’t scared of pressure situations. He has coached five playoff games for the Eagles and has allowed 20 or fewer points in 4 of the 5 games. Only Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski broke through that barrier when they put up 33 points in Super Bowl LII (the Eagles still won, in case you forgot).

What do fans think about this team?

Expectations are high. Sky high. That’s okay because the Eagles sure look to have the right combination of players and coaches to have another terrific regular season and then to make a run at another Super Bowl.

*****

Peter King is on vacation so he has had guests taking over his weekly column.

Colts GM Chris Ballard wrote this week’s column and it is one of the best things I’ve ever read on the draft and personnel matters. This is must read material for any serious fans.

The NFL can be overly secretive at times. The way some teams act you would think they are protecting the nuclear codes. I’m glad the Colts let Ballard write this column. He shed some light on the pre-draft process, but didn’t give away any key secrets.

It would be great if the rest of the NFL would lighten up a bit and see the value in material like this.

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