Final Week of OTAs

Posted: May 31st, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 8 Comments »

Today the Eagles begin the final week of OTAs. This isn’t the time of year for making conclusions. This is Lorenzo Booker and Sean Considine season. 90 players are running around in shorts and trying to both learn the scheme and impress the coaches. This isn’t real football.

Focus on the basics. Are QBs throwing the ball well? You want receivers to run crisp routes and then catch the ball. You want RBs to look smooth and show good physical skills. O-linemen can show good footwork and agility. They aren’t allowed to come off the ball and attack defenders so the whole physical side of blocking is left out.

D-linemen are using the most basic of pass rushing moves. LBs need to be in the right gap on run plays and then show they can cover well on pass plays. DBs probably have the most to show. They need to diagnose plays quickly and be in the right spot. They also need to cover well. They aren’t allowed to play bump ‘n run, but the DBs can show you a lot with their instincts and movement skills.

Some writers may talk about Kenjon Barner looking like a starter or Carson Wentz being the smartest QB. Pump the brakes on that stuff. If you have followed football long enough, you know we hear reports like that every year and they rarely turn out as expected.

You can get a lot of false reads in the spring and summer. Remember a few years back when Chris McCoy played lights out and we thought he was a lock to make the team? The guy was great in the preseason. He was a terrific pass rusher. And the Eagles cut him. The Jags signed him and then cut him. McCoy has never played in a real NFL game.

Whether it is seeing someone look great in shorts or beat up on third stringers, this is the time of year when a lot of us can get fooled.

*****

Jeffrey Lurie spoke to Jenny Vrentas for the MMQB on the Eagles QB situation.

5. I think the Eagles’ quarterback strategy comes down to playing the odds, at least as Jeffrey Lurie explains it. “We see it differently than I guess some other people may,” Lurie said at the league meetings. “We see Sam [Bradford] as absolutely the right guy to quarterback the team. We are so rarely able to draft in the Top 5 in the draft. It’s only been twice in about 15-20 years. So we saw the opportunity, and we liked two quarterbacks. We had to make the move to secure having a potential franchise quarterback for many, many years. Having a lot of assets at the most important position in the NFL is a good strategic move for now. And it can only benefit us. Because in the NFL, it’s the one position you can’t just go get. And so when you have an opportunity, you’ve gotta take your shot, and you’ve gotta be bold. Otherwise, if you say to yourself, you know, it is probably a 50-50 shot that maybe the quarterback will be really good, you can’t let that deter you. So that’s how I look at it: You either have a really good QB and you compete for the Super Bowl, or you don’t and you are probably not competing for the Super Bowl. And that’s simple.”

I think most Eagles fans have figured this out as Lurie, Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson have talked about QBs this spring. But just in case…

The Eagles are going back to the old SF/GB model where you load up on QBs. The key to that working is bringing in the right players. Time will tell if the Eagles did that.

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Bounce Back

Posted: May 29th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 125 Comments »

Mychal Kendricks was disappointing last year. Even he agrees with that. Some people try to rip him apart for how he played. I think those people must have missed the 2009 Eagles LBs. That was some bad LB play. Kendricks certainly had his share of bad plays, but he also made some good ones. He did have 3 sacks, one FF and 6 TFLs. In 2009 the entire Eagles LBs corps totaled 4.5 sacks and 3 FFs. No single LB had more than 3 TFLs.

Kendricks wants to get back to where he was in 2014, when he looked like a possible Pro Bowl candidate. Jeff McLane wrote a good story about Kendricks and his need to play better.

Schwartz’s run defenses have historically been solid. Kendricks said that he was still trying to pin down why that is. Linebackers in a 4-3 “under” scheme should specialize in moving downhill north to south. The two-gap 3-4, which often has linemen hold up blockers and read before reacting, is catered more to east-to-west linebackers who can run down running backs in the open field.

“We may see more people in our face, which means we would have to be more physical,” Kendricks said. “I’m all for it.”

To prepare for the physicality of the coming season, Kendricks has bulked up. He said he now weighs 250 pounds. He typically played at around 235.

“I feel strong. I feel fast still. But I’m a lot more stout than I was,” Kendricks said. “I think you can tell. I’m pretty big right now.”

The Eagles would take healthy and consistent.

I think the new scheme fits Kendricks better than some realize. He has one gap to control. There is less thinking and more attacking. Kendricks can do that.     Read the rest of this entry »


Longer Look at Quentin Gause

Posted: May 28th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 34 Comments »

I was mad when the Eagles drafted Ike Reese back in the spring of 1998. I don’t remember who I wanted them to pick, but Reese was a player I didn’t think much of. I didn’t see starting ability in him so spending a 5th round pick on him seemed like a waste.

I was right about the fact that Reese never proved to be a starter.

I was dead wrong about the pick being a waste. Reese was a key player for the Eagles for seven years, serving as a backup LB and being the leader of the team’s outstanding STs units.

The Eagles didn’t spend a pick on Quentin Gause. They signed him as a UDFA shortly after the draft. If he could turn out to have a career anything like Reese, that would be great for him and the Eagles. Like Reese, I don’t see Gause becoming a starter at the NFL level. He also reminds me of Reese in the fact that he is high character, a good leader and is willing to do the dirty work. Gause could find a home on STs.

Let’s talk about Gause the player. He played OLB at Rutgers. He lined up both on the LOS and back off the ball. Gause isn’t a flashy player or special athlete. He’s one of those guys who does his job without a lot of fanfare. He does a good job of setting the edge on run plays. Gause will extend his arms into the blocker and play with good leverage. He was put out in space in some sets. Gause did a good job of fighting through blocks on WR screens and other quick passes.

Gause was least effective when playing off the line and between the tackles. He is better playing through contact than reading plays and chasing the ball. He is a tough, physical player. Gause is a very good tackler. He wraps up his targets and puts then down forcefully.

I think he is a good fit for Jim Schwartz’s defense. Gause can control one gap. He is smart and disciplined. He also is better as a N-S player than an E-W player. I wonder if Schwartz is reminded of a former player of his, LB David Thornton. The Titans signed Thornton as a free agent in 2006. He was their SAM/LLB. He was taller and a better athlete, but overall is similar to Gause.

The downside with Gause is that he’s a limited playmaker. He had 3 sacks, 1 FF and no INTs in college. Gause has the skills of a SAM, but the build of a WLB. He had a good Pro Day, but you don’t always see that athleticism on tape.

The Eagles have moved Gause around to try him at different spots. Despite his lack of ideal size, I think SAM is his best spot. Gause will need to show the Eagles he could be effective at multiple spots. If he were to make the team, he’d be called on to play where needed in a game. I’ll be interested to see if they use him at MLB. I don’t think Gause fits there, but sometimes you have to try things to know for sure. Maybe in this system Gause could fit there.

Gause has an uphill battle to make the team, but he does have a legitimate chance. The Eagles are thin at LB. Gause fits the scheme and he’s a smart, tough player who won’t be overwhelmed by the situation.

Eagles bio

Some highlights from 2015. Gause wears #50 and moves around quite a bit.

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Work to be Done

Posted: May 26th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 100 Comments »

Expectations are high for the Eagles defense this year. Jim Schwartz is an outstanding defensive coordinator. He will have a very talented DL, with Fletcher Cox as his star up front. The LBs are talented. The Safeties have a chance to be one of the best tandems in the league. Cornerback is a mystery, but there is enough talent for the Eagles to have effective starters.

Right now the defense is a work in progress. They struggled mightily when the media got to watch practice on Tuesday. There were far too many blown coverages and missed assignments. There is no hitting or tackling at this time of the year so the focus for defenders is being at the right place at the right time.

That would be fine except that Eagles defenders are learning a new scheme. Some guys are changing positions. Then you have quite a few rookies and second-year players in the mix. To put it mildly, this group has a long way to go.

But that’s the point of these OTAs. The coaches get to install their schemes and also get a feel for their players. Mistakes are okay. Players are learning. When July and August get here, the players better know where to be and what to do in just about every situation.

It is never fun to read things like this.

Jimmy Bama – The Eagles’ defense stunk today. There were wide open receivers all over the field, and the defensive line must have jumped offsides on at least a half dozen occasions.

Jim Schwartz –  I have my own worries. You guys saw how crappy a practice that was: We’ve got enough worries on defense right now.

Ouch.

The good news is that we’re still in May. This is the time of year when Sean Considine and Lorenzo Booker look like stars. Don’t get too worried about a unit having ups and downs, especially with all the change.

I have confidence in Jim Schwartz. His scheme worked in TEN, DET and BUF. The guy knows how to teach and how to coach. The Eagles have smart players and key leaders. Give these guys some time and the defense should get a lot better.

*****

Mistakes were being made by Denzel Rice and Joe Walker, among others, on Tuesday. Rice is a second year corner and Walker is a rookie MLB. As Schwartz would say, “their heads are swimming right now”.

Jordan Hicks also made a mistake on one play. Per Tim McManus.

Jordan Hicks is participating after sitting out last Tuesday’s team drills with leg tightness. Kenjon Barner just found some daylight off the right side, and Hicks is not happy with himself as he runs off the field.

“I f___d that up. I f___d that all the way up,” he tells Schwartz.

I have faith in Hicks. He picked up the defense very quickly last year. He played multiple roles at Texas. He also will hold himself accountable. Some players have excuses when things go wrong. Hicks wants to get things right and isn’t hiding from his mistakes. Coaches love players like that.

Dave Spadaro wrote a piece on Hicks and the new defense today.

“It’s a lot different. Just the philosophy in general is different. Our D line two-gapped and our linebackers played a little bit side to side,” Hicks said. “Everybody’s got a gap this year and it’s your responsibility to take control of it.

“Coach Schwartz and everybody will tell you that his focus is to make it easy for the D-line, make them just go. He’s told the linebackers to play off of them and that’s what we’re taught to do and that’s what we do. I’m excited. Can’t wait to get out there Game 1 to get out there and show the progress that we’ve made as a team and all of the training and everything that we’ve gone through in the offseason. We’re still in the mix of things and still have Training Camp coming up, but it’s exciting and I’m real proud of everything that has gone on so far.”

Just stay healthy.

*****

If Schwartz can be anywhere near as good as Jim Johnson was in Philly, the Eagles defense will be very good and a lot of fun to watch.

I do look forward to the Eagles having a Top 10 unit that can take over games.

As for Bill Davis, he was dealt a tough hand in Philly. I honestly don’t think we know if he can coach or not. I think he can be a good assistant, but his stints at DC have all been under some serious hard luck conditions.

I will eternally be grateful for the 2014 shutout over the Giants.

That was glorious.

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Coaching Talk

Posted: May 26th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 66 Comments »

Jim Schwartz got to hold his first extended press conference on Tuesday. It went on and on. Heck, I’m not sure it’s over yet. I kid, I kid. The PC lasted almost 28 minutes and Schwartz covered all kinds of topics, offering lots of interesting thoughts.

He seems very excited by the duo of Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. Schwartz said they would be one of the best Safety tandems in the league. He mentioned several times in the PC that you can’t judge players based on these limited practices, but then went rogue.

“I’m sort of violating my own rule of judging too much into this time of year, but … both of those guys are veteran players and you can see in them right away that they’re both multi-dimensional,” Schwartz said. They communicate very well, they can cover a lot of ground, they can blitz, they can play man, they can play zone – I’d be very surprised as the year went on if they’re not one of the better safety tandems in the NFL. They’ve been very impressive so far.”

You can actually get a good feel for Safeties in these practices. You can see them get players lined up correctly. You can see them diagnose plays. You can see them cover. You can see how quickly they come down to the LOS on run plays. You just can’t see them hit or tackle. Jenkins and McLeod are both proven hitters/tacklers so that’s not a concern with them.

I liked the fact Schwartz talked about experimenting with players. If he wants to get a good feel for Jalen Mills, he needs to see Mills go against the starters. That means Mills got some reps with the 1’s. It doesn’t mean the player ahead of him did anything wrong. Coaches have to move guys up and down to see them go against different levels of competition. The coaches were tired of seeing Mills cover rookies. They wanted him covering some veterans. Sounds like Schwartz saw some good things.

Yeah, it’s a little too early to put anything on him. He’s been impressive so far. But we haven’t really even started yet, to tell you the truth. He’s got a lot to learn, and his head’s probably swimming a little bit. But what he has shown is he’s a very good athlete. He can play the ball, and he’s comfortable being on an island. I think if you were check-marking things for corners, those would be three near or at the top.

I also think Mills is smart and instinctive in coverage. That helps him a lot.

Schwartz said the coaches are still figuring out how to use the LBs. They could either declare them to be LLB-MLB-RLB or SAM-MLB-WLB. That means either left-middle-right or lining up based on the TE and strength of the formation. Schwartz has done both in the past.

Schwartz said good things about UDFA LBs Quentin Gause and Myke Tavarres. He hedeged rather than over-praising them, but it sounded like he was happy the Eagles were able to get both on board after the draft. Tavarress got the bigger bonus. He is a better athlete and has more upside. In college, he played more like a DE. He’s now adjusting to moving off the ball and attacking.

We got some real good insight on 7th round pick Joe Walker, who is the backup MLB.

You know, Joe has — it’s very difficult to play linebacker, and I’ll throw [Blake] Countess in there too, safety. Those are positions that you have to know where all the pieces fit together, and you’ve got to be the guys that are making calls on the run. Joe’s going through a little different experience going from the system he played in college where he was a lateral player. He wasn’t attacking the line of scrimmage, north-south guys, more lateral. So he’s learning on the way. But he’s shown he can make a play in the passing game. He’s a good athlete, he’s long, he’s hard to throw. He didn’t have a very good day today, but it starts to creep up on those guys. They feel comfortable with one thing, and all of a sudden you’re adding three more defenses. They’re going out and trying to execute those. All their heads are swimming right now. But they will start to come back.

Walker can be up and down for now. Training Camp is when the pressure will be on. If he’s still struggling at that point, the team will need to add a veteran to back-up Jordan Hicks. Stephen Tulloch is still a Lion, but keep your eyes on that situation.

Schwartz offered some encouragement in regard to Marcus Smith.

I think the biggest thing when you’re talking about a young player is allowing him to grow at, I guess, at the right pace. I don’t know if that’s the best way to put it. But first of all, let’s reserve judgment on any of those guys until the pads come on. But this is a scheme that greatly limits what he’s asked to do. Very easy in theory, difficult in execution, but easy in theory. Should allow him to play fast, attack spots, you know, give him a little bit less responsibility but hopefully allow him to make a greater impact. He’s very athletic. He’s got great size. He’s done very well so far, but let’s reserve judgment on any of these guys until we get pads on them.

Clearly Smith did not pan out as a 3-4 OLB. That still surprises me. I thought he had really good LB skills and a nice mixture of size and athleticism. Something just didn’t click. Playing DE for Schwartz gives him one of the simplest jobs in the NFL: Go get the QB. That’s literally it. Those guys are taught to “play the run on the way to the QB”.

Forget about Smith as a former 1st rounder for now. If he can become a good backup DE, he’ll help the 2016 Eagles. Brandon Graham was in a similar situation a few years back. That was mainly due to injury, but the point is the same. He became a valuable role player and then moved up to being a starter. Smith has had a painfully slow start to his career, but this is a chance for him to re-make himself and contribute on defense.

PE.com has all the quotes here.

Or you can go watch the PC here.

*****

There has been some talk about Sam Bradford as the #1 QB because of comments by Schwartz and OC Frank Reich. To me, this is much ado about nothing.

Schwartz said this.

You know, there’s a lot of things. I think I probably would say similar to some of these other questions I had. Don’t judge him on somebody else, and then also don’t predetermine the results of the race. Just let him go play. Don’t put pressure on him.

BGN has the details on Reich’s comments.

Angelo Cataldi: We’re getting the sense, Frank, that that’s not going to happen, that there isn’t a quarterback competition, that Bradford is the No. 1. Is that the right impression?

Frank Reich: “No, that’s probably not the right impression. I’ve been around this business a long time as a player and as a coach, and one of the things I’ve really come to appreciate is it’s not a contradiction to say you’ve got to have order. Because if you don’t order it’s chaos. So, if you’re the head coach you gotta come in and you’ve gotta establish order. There has to be organization, there has to be order, but the other thing that — as coaches — that you’ve got to establish is a culture of competition. This is one of the most competitive industries in the world and so, to say that there’s not competition, that’s just the furthest thing from the truth. So, I don’t see the problem with creating order and competition at the same time, personally. Every one of us as a coach and a player, you’re working harder to get better, but in that process you have to establish order and things have a way of working themselves out.”

Some people want to take these statements and turn them into assistant coaches undermining Doug Pederson. I don’t see it that way at all.

When Howie Roseman and Pederson talk about Sam Bradford being the #1 QB and this being his team, they are assuming that he’s going to play well, to win the competition. Do you really want them to have to play the semantics game with every comment? Didn’t we just get rid of Chip Kelly in part because he obsessed over semantics?

The head coach can’t throws “if’s and but’s” into every thing he says. At some point, he’s got to say, “Sam is our QB. This is his team.” That’s simple and direct.

Anyone with half a brain knows that comment doesn’t mean “Sam is our QB no matter how he plays. I don’t care if Chase Daniel and/or Carson Wentz look better. This is Sam’s team.”

You also have to understand that a head coach is trying to build confidence in his players, especially at QB. Doug Pederson knows there is a legitimate chance Bradford could struggle this year. You don’t talk about that publicly, though. You build up your guy’s confidence by saying things like “He’s our starter and this is his team.”

I was and remain a Chip Kelly fan, but the thing I hated the most was when he became Mr. Semantics. How often did we hear him say something like “Sam is our QB for today. I don’t know if he’s going to get hurt or abducted by aliens or whatever so there is no use in naming him the starter for anything longer than the next 34 minutes.” ?

All depth charts are written in pencil.

The NFL is all about competition. The best players will play. Right now Sam Bradford is the Eagles best QB. That might change in a week or a month. Pederson will only stick with him as long as he’s the best option to put on the field.

Much ado about nothing.

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