Before They Were Eagles

Posted: May 31st, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

It is always interesting to look back to my old scouting reports and see where I was right and where I was wrong. With that in mind, let’s see what I had to say about some Eagles when they were random draft prospects.

LB NIGEL BRADHAM – FLORIDA STATE – 6-2, 241

Athletic LB with good size, but struggles with the physical side of things. Struggles to fight off blocks. Really struggles to shed blocks once he’s engaged. Plays well when he’s kept clean. Led FSU in tackles the last couple of years.  Had 21.5 career TFLs and 3 INTs.

Space LB. Keep him clean and let him run. Really looks the part. Great frame and body. More hitter than tackler. Does have some pop. Will engage blockers. Just has a hard time shedding. Makes some impressive, athletic tackles. Pursues pretty well. Does a good job of attacking targets when he’s on the run.  Better as backside player than POA guy.  Huge hit vs Miami WR drew a flag, but it was a clean hit. Great play by Bradham.  Made impressive diving INT vs Oklahoma.

Has the potential to be a good NFL player, but only if he embraces the physical side of the game.  Must learn to shed blocks.  Doesn’t lack ability.  Skilled LB.  Very good Combine workout.  Should go in the 3rd or 4th round.

G BRANDON BROOKS – MIAMI (OH) – 6-5, 346

4-year starter.  Has seen time at LG, RG, and even OT.  Huge player who looks dominant at times, but inconsistent at others. Based solely on numbers you would think he could be a 1st round type talent, but wasn’t even invited to the Combine so that tells you how mixed teams were on his game tape.

Limited as a run blocker, in terms of variety.  You rarely see him pull or trap.  Blocks to his right, left, or goes straight ahead.  At his best, can be a dominant run blocker.  Has the size and strength to move DL off the ball.  Has really good hand punch.  Does need to do a better job of using his hands to lock onto defenders.  When Brooks plays with good pad level, it is hard for DL to handle him.  Sometimes can be too upright, which negates his power.

Brooks can be a good pass blocker.  Sheer size makes it tough to get by him.  Anchors very well, as you might imagine.  Defender might move him a little, but not much.  As with run blocking, needs to be better with his hands.  Can overwhelm rushers when he gets control of them.

Brooks went to the Shrine Game and was excellent in both the practices and the game.  Many people were shocked when he didn’t go to the Combine.  Had a great performance at his Pro Day.  Did 36 reps.  Ran in the 5.00 range, which is amazing for his size.  Did well in just about every test.

Brooks has big time potential, but his game tape is a bit erratic.  Some team could fall in love with him and take him in the 2nd round.  I have him graded as a 3rd round prospect.  Will certainly appeal to teams that like massive OGs with athletic ability.

WR ALSHON JEFFREY – SOUTH CAROLINA – 6-3, 216

Junior. Huge WR. Can make some plays that will impress the heck out of you. Other times he’s awkward. Not a fluid athlete. Can eat up ground with his long stride, but lacks ideal agility and burst. Struggles to get separation in college and that will continue in the NFL. The good news is that he’s big enough to go over most DBs. Inconsistent hands. Can make spectacular grabs, but isn’t a natural pass catcher. Reminds me of Terrell Owens in that sense. TO had a great work ethic and made himself into a top receiver despite having so-so hands. Not sure about Jeffrey.

Tough player to evaluate.  Had a great year in 2010 (88-1517-9).  Was disappointing in 2011, only going 49-762-8.  Didn’t get ideal QB play either year.  Admitted that he played heavy in 2011.  There were reports he weighed in the 240-pound range in January, but showed up at the Combine at 216.  That should have been a great sign for him, but refused to run or workout and that once again made people nervous.

There is no question that Jeffrey can be a good NFL receiver.  He has the size, strength, and skill set to be a quality big receiver.  Is he willing to pay the price to be in top shape so that he can compete with NFL DBs and even LBs?  Huge question.  Some team will roll the dice on him in the 2nd or possibly 3rd round.  Big time potential, but somewhat of a project.  Not a player I believe in.

*****

Some Quick Notes

Rasul Douglas – 6-2, 209 – RCB. Inconsistent tackler. Wraps up at times. On other plays he will grab and reach. Sloppy feet. Too handsy at times. Can press and play off. At his best pressing. Doesn’t always jam, but solid with turning and running with receiver. Has a knack of getting his hands on the ball or breaking up passes. Strip of RB after run. Great hustle play. Does a good job of reading routes when playing off. Does a great job of breaking on the ball when he plays off.

Sidney Jones – 6-0, 186 – LCB. Smooth, fluid CB. Can be very physical with receivers at the LOS. Can mirror receivers. Good burst to ball. Good hitter/tackler.

*****

As for a few non-Eagles

Summary for QB Andrew Luck 

Luck is the #1 prospect. He has the size, skills, and athleticism to be an NFL star. Also has great intangibles. He can be happy feeding the ball to his RBs or throwing for 400 yards. Is loved by his teammates because he acts like one of them and not the BMOC. You get the feeling that mentally and emotionally he’s closer to being an OL than a typical star QB. I don’t the team taking Luck has to worry about him going Tim Couch or Cade McNown and trying to date Playboy playmates. Luck is much closer to a Peyton Manning type that will grind away, doing anything possible to help his team win. He will have laser-like focus when it comes to football.

I got this right, but failed to predict an early retirement.

Summary for RB Trent Richardson 

One of the Top 10 players in the draft, at the least. Might not get drafted that high simply because RB is devalued in the league right now. 1st round RBs can be overrated at times, but Trent looks like one of those special players who genuinely deserves to be taken early. Best RB to come out since Adrian Peterson back in 2007.  Didn’t work out at Combine due to medical procedure.  Could affect his value a bit, but there was no significant injury so it won’t be a major factor.

I had no idea how highly I thought of Richardson until looking back at this. And boy was I wrong. Ouch.

Notes on LB Zach Brown

Great athlete, good LB. Special player on the move.  Has the speed and movement skills to cover a lot of ground.  Natural cover guy.  Looks like a Safety at times.  Very gifted player.  His highlights will make you think Brown is a special player – sacks, INTs, great plays on the run.
Unfortunately that is only part of the equation.  Simply put, he’s a finesse LB.  And that is about the worst thing you can say about a LB.  Uncomfortable when playing in traffic.  Put on the Clemson tape and you’ll see Brown unable to get off blocks of TE Dwayne Allen, at TE who isn’t known for blocking.

Also a highly inconsistent tackler. Doesn’t always get his feet under him and then attack the target squarely. Reaches, grabs, and pulls instead of wrapping up and taking down his targets. Prefers to be a shoulder tackler when he’s on the move.  Did lead UNC in tackles in 2011.  Still, not nearly as productive as a player with his ability should have been.  Only had 143 solo tackles in 4 years.  Luke Kuechly had 102 in 2011 alone.  Lavonte David had 150 solo stops in just 2 years at Nebraska.

That bad tackling showed last year on the Vernon Davis TD in the season opener. Ugh.

Notes on CB Josh Norman

The one issue with Norman is…speed. He only ran 4.66 at the Combine. That number was better at his Pro Day, but not substantially. Normally, that means you must play in the slot or Safety. I think Norman is a guy who plays faster than he times. I didn’t see receivers getting by him. The x-factor is that he was facing Big South competition. Norman did shut down NFL type players at the Shrine Game. I also think he’s helped by the fact he’s smart. Norman is in the right position. He sees the field well and does a good job of reading plays.

Norman is a big, physical, press corner so he is the one guy who has a shot at still playing outside and being good despite the lack of ideal speed. Brandon Browner played well for Seattle last year and he’s slow. Browner is bigger than Norman, but is also a physical CB. I didn’t get a chance to see Norman play in the slot so I’m not sure how he would project in there. I think Josh should be picked in the late 3rd or 4th round. I’m normally not a fan of 4.6 CBs, but he is solid enough in the other areas that he is a guy I’m willing to take a chance on.

Norman’s lack of speed didn’t hurt him until the last couple of years. Solid pro career prior to that.

Notes on D’Andre Hopkins

Good hands. Catches the ball out away from his body. Does a good job working the middle of the field. Good blocker. Lots of effort. Shows a good feel for getting open. Excellent ball skills. Able to make tough catches. Excellent balance. Can take shots and stay upright. Solid RAC skills. Great concentration. Really focuses on the ball when it’s in the air. Locks in. Natural receiver. Doesn’t seem to make dynamic cuts. Adjusts well to the ball. Tough. Goes full speed. Shows suddenness. Burned David Amerson with double move and caught long TD. Talented player, but plays with an overachiever’s personality. Fights for every ball. Fights for every yard.

Still fights for every ball and every yard.

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Real Life

Posted: May 30th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

I got home from work on Friday night and tried to think of something to right. After scanning Twitter and seeing the chaos around the country, I just couldn’t think of anything to say.

I woke up Saturday morning and once again struggled. How am I supposed to talk about promising rookies or roster holes after seeing this?

That is powerful. And real, very real.

Carson Wentz shared some thoughts on Twitter.

I’m sure being around Malcolm Jenkins the past four years had something to do with that. You can’t be around a strong leader like Malcolm and not have some of that rub off on you.

Good on Carson for speaking up. There isn’t much to be gained from that, but it was the right thing to do. So many athletes are calculating, careful to guard their “brand”. Will I lose my marketability if I speak up?

I know you don’t want me getting into politics and issues like this. Trust me, I don’t want to. I’m a lot more comfortable discussing defensive ends than civil rights. Seeing the George Floyd video and everything that has ensued has gotten to me.

Black people have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Friends, teammates, coaches, teachers, neighbors, co-workers, bosses and on and on. My basketball hero is Julius Erving. Baseball is Eddie Murray. Football is Reggie White.

It hurts me that the Black people in my life are hurting, overwhelmed by grief and anger at another insanely unneccessary killing. Ike Reese shared some of his thoughts on what’s going on.

There are no simple answers to this situation. What can we do? Ike asked that people speak up and offer their support. That seems like a good place to start.

It would also help if we simply treat each other with decency and respect.

It would certainly help if the renegade cops out there quit doing stupid things like this.

I have a lot of friends that are cops. It sickens me to see things like this because there are far more good cops than bad cops, but these jerks will affect all due to guilt by association.

You make a bad situation worse with stunts like that. You undermine public trust. And simply put, you piss people off. Being a cop isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination, but wrong is wrong.

Ugh.

I’ll get back to writing about football in the next post, but I felt I needed to share some non-football thoughts.

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A True Impact Player

Posted: May 28th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

The Eagles traded for cornerback Darius Slay in March. They paid a fair price and then gave him a contract extension. This wasn’t a casual move. The Eagles wanted Slay and saw him as a key addition.

Good CBs can almost be transcendent. That’s not true of every position. Jason Babin had 18 sacks and 3 FFs in 2011. That’s insanely good production. But I don’t think many people remember him being a great player. And the defense wasn’t anything special.

Troy Vincent signed with the Eagles in March of 1996. He was the team’s best CB until he left after the 2003 season. The Eagles went to the playoffs multiple times and had some outstanding defenses. Vincent was a huge reason.

Asante Samuel signed with the Eagles in March of 2008. Lito Sheppard had become too erratic and Sheldon Brown wasn’t a consistent playmaker. Samuel had 23 picks in four seasons with the Eagles. He helped the team boast a Top 5 defense in 2008 and the team just missed a trip to the Super Bowl.

Patrick Robinson signed with the Eagles as a cheap “let’s see what he’s got left” player in the spring of 2017. Robinson was awful in minicamp, but came alive in Training Camp and then played great in the regular season. He led the team with 18 PDs and 4 INTs. He also made a key play in the postseason, if memory serves me correctly.

Such a glorious moment.

CBs can be real impact players. That position is crucial because of the importance of the passing game. If you can take away a player or part of the field on a consistent basis, QBs and coaches will change their gameplans. You limit what they can do.

Darius Slay has a chance to be a real impact player this season. Jimmy Bama wrote an excellent piece on Slay. This isn’t blind hope. Jimmy went back and studied all of Slay’s snaps from last year. He explained everything he saw, good and bad.

There is risk. I liked the move because I felt the Eagles had to get a veteran corner, but there are no guarantees it will work out. We’ve seen more than a few offseason additions that made sense on paper and didn’t work in reality.

The Eagles have not had a true #1 CB for a while. They thought Ronald Darby might be that guy, but he only played in 28 of 48 possible games. He picked off 6 passes in three years. He also got burned on some big plays. There were flashes, but no consistency.

If Slay can be a legit #1 CB, that changes a lot. He’s not going to shut everyone down. He’s not Deion Sanders or even Troy Vincent. Slay is a good cover corner and he will make you work hard to beat him. QBs won’t have nearly as many easy throws. They’ll have to earn their yards when throwing his way.

Also, Slay is the type of skilled, aggressive corner who can make CBs pay. Howie Roseman mentioned one of the things the Eagles really liked about Slay is that he is a player who can get the ball back for the offense.

In the last three years, Slay has played in 45 of 48 possible games. He has 13 picks in that time. The potential is there for him to be exactly what the Eagles were looking for.

He also should be playing behind the best pass rush of his career and that can’t hurt.

*****

There is one hole in Slay’s game. Tackling. Read Jimmy’s piece for more on that. Not…ideal.

*****

Rob Rang wrote a review of the Eagles draft for SI. Rob is a good draft analyst. I’ve been following his work for 15 to 20 years. He doesn’t just throw up a grade. Rob tries to look at the picks and offer an insightful evaluation.

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Rookie Comparisons With a Twist

Posted: May 24th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

We love to compare rookies to NFL players. It is useful for imagining what the rookie can become. It is also fun to try and figure out who a young player reminds you of. Rather than use the whole NFL, I’m going to compare current rookies to former Eagles.

1 – WR Jalen Reagor – Fred Barnett

Arkansas Fred, as Buddy Ryan liked to call him, was an outstanding deep threat. He averaged 15 yards per catch in his time with the Eagles. Fred didn’t just go deep. He had the ability to go up and get the ball.

When I first watched Reagor, the guy he reminded me of was Steve Smith. Both lacked ideal size, but played big because of athleticism and willingness to attack the ball in the air. Barnett is the Eagle who best fits that description (not being undersized, but going up for the ball).

The Eagles talked at length about valuing Reagor’s speed and ball skills. Hopefully he’ll deliver some of the highlight plays that Barnett did.

2 – QB Jalen Hurts – Donovan McNabb

Both players were outstanding dual threat QBs in college. They posted big numbers and led their teams to a lot of success. They have similar builds (Hurts is 6-1, 222 and McNabb was 6-2, 225). McNabb was the more polished passer, while Hurts played in a more explosive offense.

Each player came to the Eagles with some controversy. McNabb was a player that most people wanted, but there was a vocal minority that wanted the team to take RB Ricky Williams (how insane does that seem now?). McNabb was booed by the fans who came to the draft and he never let go of that fact. Hurts didn’t have to deal with in-person booing, but he did have social media, which might be worse.

Hurts was tested by his benching in college and that should give him the mental and emotional toughness to handle any negative stuff that fans may throw his way.

McNabb was an elite prospect and franchise QB. Hurts is more of a project so please don’t see this as me saying he’ll turn into a borderline HOF player like McNabb was. They do have similar builds, skill sets and backgrounds.

3 – LB Davion Taylor – Keenan Clayton

Younger fans will say…who? Clayton was a mid-round pick back in 2010. He was S/LB tweener with outstandng athleticism. He flashed big ability at times, but never could develop into a consistent player. Taylor played a hybrid role in college, but the Eagles think he can be a starting LB in the NFL. They love his speed and explosive ability.

Taylor will have an advantage in that the game seems to be played more in space now than ever. That gives athletes a leg up.

4 – S K’Von Wallace – Quintin Mikell

Mikell was a UDFA who played his way onto the team back in 2003. He focused on special teams at first and became a core STer. Mikell then developed into a role player on defense. He eventually became the starting SS and was a good starter for several years. Mikell wasn’t great at anything, but was pretty good at everything.

Wallace comes in as a mid-round pick, but is similar. Mikell was 5-10, 204, Wallace is 5-11, 206. Both have good man cover skills. Both are good in the box. Both are physical tacklers.

Mikell took several years to develop. Wallace will have a chance to earn playing time right away.

Please don’t compare Wallace to Brian Dawkins. That’s not fair to either of them.

4 – OL Jack Driscoll – John Welbourn

The Eagles spent a fourth round pick on Welbourn in 1999 and plugged him in at RT. He tore his ACL in the season opener. Welbourn moved to LG in 2000 and became a Pro Bowl type of player. A contract dispute sent him to KC in the spring of 2004.

Driscoll played RT at Auburn, but we don’t know the Eagles plan for him. It was mentioned that he could be the team’s swing tackle, replacing Big V. He could end up at OG or even C depending on how things go. Driscoll has a good combination of size, athleticism and experience.

5 – WR John Hightower – Todd Pinkston

Some will cringe at the mention of Pinkston. I get that, but all joking aside, he was a productive receiver in the NFL for several years (184 career catches). Pinkston averaged 18 yards per reception and had 18 TD catches over his final two years in college. Hightower averaged 18 yards per catch and had 14 TD catches in his two years at Boise State.

They are similar in the fact that they are lean receivers who win with speed. There are some key differences. Hightower is 15 pounds heavier and more of a versatile player. He was a KOR and also was 24-317-2 as a runner. Pinkston was a pure WR. One other difference…I was furious when the Eagles drafted Pinkston. He was not my cup of tea. I was quite happy with the Hightower pick. Good fit and good value at that point.

6 – LB Shaun Bradley – Jamar Chaney

Chaney was a sixth round pick out of Mississippi State. He was productive and highly athletic. He fell in the draft due to injury concerns and also not being the most physical player.

Bradley is a productive and highly athletic LB. He lasted until the sixth round for different reasons. I didn’t think he was very instinctive. He also struggles at shedding blocks, like Chaney.

Chaney played in the league for five years, starting 23 games. It will be interesting to see if Bradley can ever develop into a starter.

6 – WR Quez Watkins – DeSean Jackson

Jackson used explosive speed to make a name for himself in college. Watkins did the same thing at Southern Miss. Both guys were productive and averaged 15 yards per catch for their careers. Both were good returners as well. The difference is that Jackson was a eliter returner (6 punt return TDs at Cal), while Watkins was a level (or two) below that.

Both guys ran 4.35 at the NFL Combine. Jackson was 169 pounds at the time. Watkins ran his at 185. Neither player is big by any stretch of the imagination.

Jackson won a starting role very quickly in the NFL. Watkins has to make the team first and then carve out a role for himself. They are similar in build and athleticism, but Jackson was a special talent. Watkins is nowhere close in that regard.

6 – OT Prince Tea Wanogho – King Dunlap 

Both guys were starting LTs at Auburn. Each came to the NFL with issues. Dunlap was benched as a senior and that raised red flags. What did he do to make the coaches pull a move like that? That led to some character questions.

Wanogho is considered a high-character guy. His issue is injuries. Wanogho started 32 games at OT for the Tigers and played at a high level, but there are injury conerns with him. He played through a knee injury during the season, but a medical check at the Senior Bowl knocked him out of the game and got the NFL’s attention.

Dunlap slid all the way to the seventh round, but ended up starting 65 games in the NFL and proved to be an effective OT. Wanogho could play LT, RT or even OG. Without the injury, he had a serious chance to be a Top 100 pick.

7 – DE Casey Toohill – Steve White

Way back in 1996, White was a sixth round pick by the Eagles. He was 6-2, 260 and a LB/DE tweener. The Eagles drafted him to be a backup to DE Mike Mamula. White had been a productive player at Tennessee. He had a terrific showing at his Pro Day. He was the kind of small, athletic player you wanted at RDE.

Toohill is 6-4, 247. He was productive at Stanford, but caught people off-guard with a strong showing at the NFL Combine. I liked him as a LB, but the Eagles want to try him at DE first.

Ray Rhodes wasn’t a huge fan of rookies and White never played for the Eagles. He went to Tampa and played their for six years, as a role player on some great defenses. Toohill joins a crowded group of DEs, but he has the kind of athleticism the Eagles like in their pass rushers.

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The Run Game

Posted: May 21st, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

There is an ongoing debate in the football world over the importance of running backs. Should you draft one early? Should you pay one big money? What is the best way to address the position?

One thing not up for debate is the value of the run game. The Ravens led the league in rushing and scoring. They won 14 games. The Niners were second in rushing and scoring. They made it to the Super Bowl and probably should have won the game. The Titans were third in rushing. They had their best offense in years and made it to the AFC title game.

It isn’t as simple as run the ball and you win, but good teams can usually run the ball well.

In previous eras, the run game was mostly about the RB. You got a star and fed him the ball. Emmitt. Barry. LT. And on and on. Things have changed a bit.

You can still get a stud RB and feed him the ball. Dallas has done that. They built their offense around Top 10 pick Ezekiel Elliott and he’s been very productive.

Go back to the three teams I mentioned earlier. Baltimore used a dynamic QB to build their run game. Lamar Jackson led the team with 1206 rushing yards. Mark Ingram ran for more than 1,000 and Gus Edwards topped the 700-yard mark.

The Niners had three RBs with more than 500 yards. They used motions and formations to outsmart defenses. SF also had WRs carry the ball 15 times. TE George Kittle ran the ball 5 times. They focused on creativity.

Tennessee fed the ball to monster RB Derrick Henry. He ran for more than 1500 yards and bludgeoned anyone who got in his way.

Those coaching staffs and scouting staffs worked together to combine scheme and talent and deliver outstanding results.

The Eagles have been a good running team under Doug Pederson. The one exception was 2018, when injuries at RB and on the OL hurt the team. The Eagles use both scheme and strong line play to move the ball on the ground. They have been judicious when it comes to investing in RBs.

Watch this fantastic video with Fran Duffy and Jeff Stoutland and you’ll get an idea on just how important scheme and technique are to running the ball.

Stoutland doesn’t really go into the players too much, but there is no question that the Eagles have one of the best lines in the league. Jason Kelce is an All Pro center. Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson are all star players. Isaac Seumalo has quietly become an above average LG. The one mystery right now is LT. We’ll have to wait and see what happens there.

The Eagles run game is enhanced by the play-calling of Doug Pederson. As Stoutland explains in the video, the Eagles have a pass play to mirror every run play. That puts added pressure on defenses. The Eagles also mix in RPOs. Again, that puts pressure on defenders. They must read plays and make instantaneous decisions. The Eagles used motion effectively in 2019 to put pre-snap pressure on defenses.

Now to the RBs. The team has largely used the RB by committee approach, finding ways to use a variety of runners and running styles. Going from LeGarrette Blount to Darren Sproles isn’t easy for defenders. Or Jordan Howard to Miles Sanders. Coach Duce Staley has gotten the most out of whatever group of players the team has given him.

Right now the Eagles have a group that I like.

Miles Sanders
Boston Scott
Corey Clement
Elijah Holyfield
Michael Warren

The team is reportedly looking to add to the mix.

While you don’t need an elite runner, the Eagles RBBC approach would be seriously challenged if anything happened to Sanders.

Freeman is the best player, but he’s reportedly asking for decent money. The Eagles might not offer what he wants.

Hyde makes sense. He’s big and strong and would complement the other RBs well. If needed, Hyde could be a workhorse.

Shady? He struggled in 2017 and 2018, but played better in a backup role for the Chiefs last year.

https://twitter.com/LanceTHESPOKEN/status/1179131831351943168

I would prefer going younger, but it would be interesting to see Shady in this offense.

The Eagles aren’t in a rush to make a move. They could wait and see if any other RBs come available. They’ll make a decision and add someone at some point.

What’s Tony Hunt up to these days?

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