Posted: May 18th, 2013 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »
In the lengthy Chip Kelly post I mentioned that I was skeptical of the Bill Davis hire. I hope he turns out to be a terrific Defensive Coordinator, but his track record is mixed, to put it mildly. His 2 years as DC for the Niners and 2 years as DC for the Cardinals yielded results that were less than ideal. Chip Kelly is a smart coach so what would make him hire Bill Davis? Clearly this is a case where Kelly went beyond the numbers.
One thing I think will help Davis is the defensive staff. Let’s look back at his first 2 stops. The SF staff had good coaches, but wasn’t a good fit for a first time DC like Davis. The head coach was Mike Nolan, who really ran the defense. The assistant head coach was Mike Singletary. Davis has stated since then that it was frustrating trying to do what Nolan wanted and not having total control. This isn’t an insult to Nolan, who I think very highly of. This is similar to Brad Childress trying to be the Eagles OC with Andy Reid as the HC. Childress clearly preferred a more conservative running attack, but he ran the offense that Andy wanted…lots of passing. The results were good enough that Childress wasn’t negatively affected. Davis was and Nolan let him go after the 2006 season.
In Arizona Davis had total freedom, but just not a staff that was very good. Recognize these names?
DL – Ron Aiken
OLB – Ryan Slowik
LB – Matt Raich
DB – Teryl Austin
I’ve heard of Austin, but that’s it. He’s now a coach on the rise, but back then wasn’t a coach with a big reputation.
One of the big problems with that staff is a lack of experience. None of the 4 key assistants had ever been a DC or HC. Davis went from tons of experience around him in SF to none in Arizona. Compare that to the Eagles staff.
DL – Jerry Azzinaro
OLB – Bill McGovern
ILB – Rick Minter
DB – John Lovett
All 4 of those coaches have been a DC. Minter and Azzinaro even had HC experience. Coach Azz only ran a small, small program for one season, but even that gives you a certain perspective that other coaches don’t have and can’t understand.
Davis is now an experienced DC and he’s got a veteran staff around him.
Just as important, I think the personalities fit well. As we learned, the 2012 staff did not have the cohesive bond that you want. There was Jim Washburn and his DL…and there was the rest of the defense. Todd Bowles was new to the team and hoping to turn a good showing into a DC or HC gig for 2013. Mike Caldwell was the LBs coach and just trying to get his feet under him as a young coach. Juan Castillo was in charge and trying to run the show, despite great credentials or communication skills.
The 2013 staff is a group of veteran football coaches. No one is pushing for another job. No one is a star on the rise. Chip Kelly brought Azz here from Oregon. Azz worked with McGovern at UMass. Azz worked with Minter at Marshall. Lovett is the lone outsider. He did run the Maine defense in 1994. Azz was on the UMass staff that year and the two schools played each other. Lovett was the Clemson DC when Minter was an assistant at South Carolina in 2004. This doesn’t make them buddies, but coaches do tend to know about coaches that are local to them. Sometimes they’re recruiting against each other. One other key selling point for Lovett is that Tommy Tuberville hired him at 3 different stops. When a coach is willing to hire you that much, it generally means you’re a good guy and a good coach.
The bottom line here is that I think this group will be cohesive. There shouldn’t be a problem with egos and agendas.
Davis will have good teachers around him. I think that is going to be a tremendous help. Coaches are like players. There are good ones and there are special ones. John Elway could put an entire team on his back and take them to the Super Bowl. Trent Dilfer needed one of the greatest defenses in NFL history to win the big game. Guys like Wade Phillips, Dick LeBeau, Bill Belichick, and Rex Ryan are defensive gurus that don’t need great pieces around them. Compare that to a guy like Steve Spagnuolo. When he had the right circumstances in NY, he put out top defenses. In St. Louis they were mediocre. With the Saints…historically bad in 2012.
I think Bill Davis is in a good situation…off the field. On the field? We can debate that from now to September, but nobody really knows. There are just too many unknowns. I do think the defense has more potential than some people give it credit for. If the unit does struggle in 2013, which certainly is possible, you can bet that side of the ball will get a ton of help next offseason. One of the keys for 2013 is finding out who can play and who can’t.
It is easy to pick on Bill Davis and question the hire, but I do trust Chip. He’s betting some of his job security on Davis doing a good job of running the defense. If Chip is willing to do that, who am I to doubt.
BILL DAVIS > buddy ryan
Is that going too far?
* * * * *
Bob Grotz of the DelcoTimes reported that Clay Harbor will get some snaps at LB.
This is a good and bad sign for Harbor. It is bad because he’s entering the 4th year of his career and when you start getting looks at a completely different spot at that stage, it isn’t a good sign.
The positive angle is that moving Harbor around shows the Eagles have interest in him. If the coaches simply wanted him gone, they’d cut him. Harbor has size, toughness, and athletic ability. This is a guy you want to keep around if you can. The TE depth chart is now crowded.
Y – Brent Celek … Zach Ertz
F – James Casey … Emil Igwenagu … Derek Carrier
Harbor’s best chance to make the team is probably if he can make the transition to LB. Or if someone else gets hurt. Harbor does have the potential to be a good LB. He’s big enough to set the edge. He can play in space. Whether he can hit, tackle, and rush the passer is the big mystery. No idea on that stuff.
As many have pointed out, Dion Jordan was a WR/TE at Oregon before becoming the 3rd overall pick in this year’s draft. It is unlikely that Harbor can make the transition at a functional level, let alone anything close to that, but the point is that this isn’t impossible. We’re not moving Brent Celek to FS or Nate Allen to LT.
I’m interested to see how Clay does, whether at LB or TE. The pressure is on for him. Either he plays well this summer or he’s out of the NFL.
Posted: May 16th, 2013 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 66 Comments »
When it became clear that Andy Reid was on his way out, Chip Kelly became my #1 target to replace him. I wasn’t sure that Kelly would succeed in the NFL, but I felt he was the right guy to replace Big Red. The Eagles needed change. Hiring another NFL coach would have meant some change, but not the culture shock that Kelly has brought. I didn’t anticipate Kelly’s personalized smoothies, reorganized locker room, and things like that, but I knew that he would be distinctly different. This is like a knuckleball pitcher being replaced by a guy who throws 100 mph. The change is so dramatic that it has extra impact.
I fully acknowledged that Kelly was a risky hire. What works in college does not always work in the NFL. Steve Spurrier is the most famous college-to-NFL failure. There have been plenty of others. I felt the risk was worth it because Kelly reminded me a bit of someone that did make the transition successfully, Jimmy Johnson.
Since the hire, I’ve been mostly impressed by Kelly. My biggest concern is the hire of Bill Davis as the Defensive Coordinator. Davis doesn’t have a great track record as a DC. It is hard to get excited by him. I’m also nervous about the hybrid defense. Trying to use the 3-4 and 4-3 Under can be tricky. Hybrid defenses have failed more than they’ve succeeded in the NFL. Too often, coaches think Bill Belichick’s ideas can be copied, but don’t realize you need a brilliant coach like him to teach them, run them, and make adjustments to them.
Fast forward a bit. The last month or so has gotten me to completely buy-in on Chip Kelly. The more I see him in action…the more I hear from him at press conferences…the more I find out about him…the more I like him.
Last week’s PE.com column focused on many of the reasons I’m so excited by Kelly and what he’s doing.
So that you know I’m not completely delusional, this week’s PE.com column is a reminder that even with Kelly doing good things, we do need to remember that the Eagles are a work in progress.
Beyond those columns, there are additional reasons for optimism and excitement.
Check out this blurb from Michael Vick in a recent interview:
Cole: You say you’re satisfied, but you sound like a guy who knows the results are still not exactly what you wanted them to be.
Vick: Right, and I won’t go into detail about it because Coach Kelly told us as a team, “Don’t talk about winning the Super Bowl, just put in the hard work to get there. You talk about if you get there.” So I don’t think about winning the Super Bowl anymore. I just think about working hard as I can and whatever’s in the future is going to come.
I love this.
We have no more dream team talk. We have no more dynasty talk. Kelly has beat it into the players heads to quit talking about how great they are and what’s going to happen down the road. Kelly has sold the players on his philosophy…”win the day”. Players are focused on the here and now. Nothing was more infuriating in recent years than hearing the players talk about how talented the team was and how great they could be…right after a bad loss.
The players seem to genuinely be enjoying Kelly’s coaching. Tim McManus covered this recently and had a good quote from Jason Kelce.
“It was always an uptight conversation whenever I had one with (Reid). Whereas Chip is a lot more — at least at this point — one of the guys. He’s still the head coach and you still have great respect for him, but he converses with everybody, he strikes up conversations. He’s much more of a loose guy to be around than Andy was, that’s for sure.”
You don’t want the coach to be buddy-buddy with the players, but you do want him to have good interaction with the players. Kelly seems to be doing a good job of walking the line right now. The players are following his lead. You don’t hear complaints about the changes he’s making. Kelly is very cognizant of the importance of leadership. He isn’t trying to be popular. That would be no good. Kelly knows how to sell his ideas so that players will embrace them.
One of the things Kelly preaches to his coaches is to always be able to explain to players why something is being done. Think about how often kids ask parents, teachers, and/or coaches why something is being done. The standard answer is either “because” or “because I said so”. Kelly tells his coaches that if they can’t explain why something is being done, then it probably shouldn’t be done.
I think too often outsiders see the unique things Kelly does and don’t understand that there is logic behind all of it. Everybody made a big deal out of the loud music at practice. Kelly mentioned at his PC that there was science behind that. The loud music may have made things fun, but Kelly had proof that it worked in a positive way.
Kelly truly sees the big picture. Remember when Reid came to Philly with the blue binder and had all his plans mapped out? Kelly goes beyond that. He has everything mapped out. He takes being a control freak to a whole new level.
Here is when we practice. Here is how we practice. Here is what we listen to at practice. Here is what you eat before practicing. Here is what you drink after practicing. And so on. This could be a major issue if Kelly was a domineering perfectionist, but that’s not the case. He tells players that he understands they will make mistakes. It is up to Kelly and the coaches to correct them. Players will be held accountable if the mistakes continue.
It is also crucial that Kelly is able to sell his ideas so well. If he came in pushing these methods on players like a dictator, there would be some sense of revolt. Les Steckel coached the Minnesota Vikings in 1984. He was a Vietnam vet who believed the team needed discipline and drew upon his Marine background for how to run the team. Steckel was 38 years old and the youngest coach in the NFL at that time. He wanted to do things his way. The Vikings went 3-13 and that doesn’t tell the whole story of how disastrous the season was.
Kelly is more salesman than bully. He understands that the ideas are worthless if players aren’t on board with them. It probably helps that Kelly had great success with these methods and ideas at Oregon. The offensive players are excited to play in Kelly’s offense. They watched Oregon move up and down the field and score points left and right. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?
Kelly’s teams were among the leaders in plays per game. They didn’t just rack up plays and yards, though. Over the last 3 years, Oregon was 2nd in the nation in Red Zone TD percentage. The Ducks led the nation in TDs scored (154). For comparison’s sake, Penn State scored 79 TDs in that same stretch.
Even defensive players can get excited. Think about the last 5 drafts. LB Dion Jordan was taken 3rd overall this year. DBs TJ Ward, Patrick Chung, and Jairus Byrd were all early 2nd round picks. MLB Kiko Alonso was a mid-2nd round pick this year. There were several other LBs drafted in the mid-rounds. Oregon’s defense also led the nation in takeaways over the last 4 years. Kelly is an offensive coach, but his defenses and defensive players have had some success.
I think one of the key’s to the success is that Kelly preaches the importance of competition. He said something great at a recent PC, “…if anybody came in here and said they were really vying for a backup job, then they would probably be on the bus down 95 pretty quick.” This might sound like B.S., but Kelly comes from the college world. We regularly see 5-star recruits that never pan out and walk-ons who become star players. Kelly will give all players a chance to show what they can do. It is up to them to win a job or playing time.
Competition will keep a sense of entitlement from setting in. DeSean Jackson got benched in 2011, but it should have happened earlier. Amazingly, DRC and Nnamdi Asomugha never got benched last year. Reid did bring them in for a talking-to. We don’t know how Kelly’s attitude in this area will translate to the NFL. There are no signing bonuses in college. In the NFL, economics do get factored into decisions. Still, I like the fact that Kelly wants his players to always feel that the guy behind them is a threat. If you don’t play up to his standards, he will give someone else a chance. No one gets a free ride.
I guess you could say that I’m a fan of Chip Kelly and what he’s done so far. I can’t wait to see the team in action. There will be ups and downs, but I really think we’ve got the right coach to get this team headed back to the top.
Don’t just sip the Chip Kelly kool-aid, chug it.
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If you’re tired of my yakking about Kelly, go check out this recent column by Derek at Iggles Blog. Derek doesn’t grace us often enough with his thoughts, but when he does…he always provides great stuff.
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There is still time to go and support the Eagles Almanac. You’ll get brilliant writing from all the usual suspects. There are rumors about a Sheil Kapadia centerfold, but I have my doubts. His agent would probably want way too much money for that.
Posted: May 15th, 2013 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 24 Comments »
Sheil Kapadia wrote a very good piece yesterday about something new that is coming to the Eagles offense – option routes.
The first time I remember reading about option routes was with the Run ‘n Shoot offense. That offense featured 4 WRs that were spread out, which led to defenses having to play some creative coverages. Rather than having the WRs run static routes, the coaches had options built into plays so that receivers could adjust based on what the defense was doing. In theory, this should lead to a receiver always being open or having a favorable situation.
From a logic standpoint, this is a no-brainer. Coaches should always do something that gives the offense an advantage.
From an execution standpoint, this is very, very tricky. The QB and the WR have to read the same thing on every play. Eagles fans love to pick on Eli Manning for some of his bizarre INTs. Some of those are due to option routes, plays where the WR read one thing and Eli saw another. At that point, the QB is throwing to a spot, not a player.
The QB must have the confidence to throw to a spot. Too often QBs want to throw to a player. It takes discipline, trust, and confidence to throw the ball in anticipation of a receiver being in a certain place. Young QBs struggle with this more than veterans.
How will the Eagles QBs do? I have no idea if Michael Vick will be good at this. We have seen him anticipate some pass plays over the years, but it isn’t something he’s done on a regular basis. Vick certainly has the most experience and should be the most advanced at reading defenses and knowing what’s going on. We’ll find out if that’s the case. From what I’ve read, option routes were a part of Nick Foles offense at Arizona. He and WR Juron Criner were very good with them. Matt Barkley and USC used some option routes, but I don’t think they were a major part of the offense.
How about the Eagles WRs? Option routes will probably be new to DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant, maybe Riley Cooper. Jeremy Maclin may have used them at Missouri. Damaris Johnson should know them from Tulsa. I have no idea if Arrelious Benn has run them. I doubt Ifeanyi Momah did much with them at BC. Basically, this group has a lot of learning to do.
You must understand there will be mistakes. Option routes are a calculated risk. You know sometimes they will lead to incompletions or even INTs. You accept that since the expectation is that they’ll benefit you much more than they’ll hurt you.
What we’re talking about is adjusting to what the DB does. If the DB plays 10 yards off, the WR should run a short route. If the DB presses, the WR should try to get by him deep. If the DB has inside leverage, the WR should break outside. And so on. You are essentially taking what the defense gives you.
I am curious to see how the QBs and WRs execute this.
* * * * *
Let’s talk about Brandon Graham for a minute. Too many people read the previous post as overly negative.
I can’t stress this enough. Graham had a good showing in 2012. He played well and I’m hoping he’s better in 2013 and beyond. My point wasn’t that he’s a bust or has no shot in the new defense. I do think some people have over-praised what he did last year.
That said, let’s remember who we’re judging him against. Context is always crucial. Since becoming an Eagles fan I’ve seen the following players at DE:
Jason Babin (2011 version)
Those guys were star DEs that offenses had to account for. They could take over games. They produced over the course of a 16-game season. They were stars.
Graham wasn’t on that level last year. His PFF stats are very impressive, but the eyeball test is very different.
I don’t know what Graham will do in 2013. My goal was to understand why he was the backup SAM. Just a week ago I had Graham pegged as the Predator with Trent Cole as his backup. Instead, the coaches have Cole as the Predator and Graham as Connor Barwin’s backup.
Chip Kelly would be quick to point out this is just mid-May and a lot can change. If Graham plays lights out, he’ll start, whether at SAM or Predator. If Graham lives in the backfield, they’ll get him on the field.
I do think it tells us something that Graham is beginning as a backup. Were the coaches not blown away by his 2012 tape? They certainly weren’t blown away by Cole’s great year. Maybe this is simply a motivational ploy to keep Graham fired up. I don’t know why Graham is the #3 pass rusher for now. But he is.
If we’re lucky, Graham, Cole, and Barwin will all play well and this will be a good problem.
* * * * *
Someone asked about Graham’s agility before the ACL injury. Here is part of a pre-draft write-up that I did:
“There will be plenty of 3-4 teams who value him as a LB. His size and build will be perfect for some schemes. He can play in space if needed. Made a real impressive play against Terrell Pryor in the OSU game. Pryor was on the run. Graham showed great agility and COD skills to handle the fakes and still make a solid tackle in space. Graham is an athletic defender and a top flight pass rusher. His ability showed up in workouts as well. Ran a 4.71 at the Combine. Had a solid showing at the Combine. Only came up short in the VJ (31.5). Great career production. 29.5 sacks and 8 FFs.
Had a monster performance at the Senior Bowl, both practices and in the game. Looked like a dominant player.
1st round prospect. Could go real high if teams are okay with his size and build.”
I don’t think his agility is nearly the same. That doesn’t mean Graham can’t fit into a role as primarily a rush LB. You don’t have to be a great athlete. You must be a functional athlete and good pass rusher.
Be patient. Let’s see how he does.
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The Pats cuts DL Brandon Deadrick and Kyle Love in the past couple of days. Should the Eagles have interest?
Deadrick was claimed by JAX.
Love is a tough subject. He was just diagnosed with Type-2 Diabetes and that helped lead to his being cut. Still, his playing time declined last year. It seems the Pats weren’t thrilled with him. One of the guys he lost time to…Deadrick.
Love was impressive a couple of years ago. His emergence allowed them to move Vince Wilfork away from the NT spot. Vince could play 3-4 DE or 4-3 DT and Belichick could get creative. Love is 6-1, 320 (or more). He is a NT.
I don’t anticipate the Eagles being interested. The Eagles have Isaac Sopoaga at NT. Antonio Dixon is fighting for a roster spot. Bennie Logan is the NT of the future. You could cut Dixon and replace him with Love, but I think the Eagles want to give Dixon a shot. He showed good promise in 2010. He’s back in a scheme that fits his skill set. And he is in the best shape he’s been in in a while.
Remember that the Eagles like Sopoaga. He is a veteran player and natural leader. With Mike Patterson gone, the guys up front need a leader. Sopoaga is a short term player here, but does have value in getting the foundation laid in the new defense and in the way Chip Kelly wants things done. While he hasn’t played for Kelly, Sopoaga isn’t an Andy Reid holdover who will talk about how things used to be. Embracing the new stuff will come easily to him.
Posted: May 14th, 2013 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 60 Comments »
We’ve talked quite a bit about Brandon Graham this offseason. Is he a SAM or Predator? Is he a starter or backup? Trade him or build around him?
If the Eagles were playing a pure 4-3, Graham would be the LDE and there would be no questions. For better or worse, that won’t be happening. The Eagles will switch between the 3-4 and the 4-3 Under. Graham’s future is now a mystery.
The simple case for Graham is that the Eagles drafted him 13th overall back in 2010 and saw him as someone to build the defense around. Even this offseason, Howie Roseman referred to Graham as a cornerstone player. Graham is coming off his best season. He played in all 16 games. He had 5.5 sacks, 3 TFLs, 2 FF, and 38 total tackles, all career highs. Pro Football Focus said Graham had the “best pass rushing productivity of any defensive player”. They didn’t stop there. PFF’s number crunching had Graham #1 in the league at drawing penalties. Remember that drawing penalties is good, getting them is bad. All of this sounds pretty darn good.
The simple case against Graham is more complicated. There are no simple numbers to tell the story. We will start with size and fit. Graham is 6013. That means he is 6-1 and 3/8. Chip Kelly prefers tall players. Graham also has short arms so he can’t make up for the lack of height in that area as some others can. Graham is now moving to linebacker, a position he hasn’t played full time in college or the NFL. Graham has more experience at DT than LB. So Graham isn’t Kelly’s ideal size and doesn’t have the experience to play his new position.
What about all the good stats? As we all know, stats can be misleading. I decided to go re-watch several of Graham’s games from 2012. I wanted to take a fresh look at him and think about his fit in the new scheme.
While Graham was productive as a pass rusher last year, no one did anything special for him. He was almost always single-blocked. There were plenty of plays where TEs were assigned to block him. Compare this to the treatment that Trent Cole and Jason Babin got. Offenses gameplanned for them, in terms of playcalling and blocking.
Graham’s 2 best games were against Cincinnati and the second Dallas meeting. He went against a struggling Doug Free and Andre Smith. While Smith is a dominant run blocker, he is a mediocre pass blocker, which is part of why he sat on the free agent market so long this year. In those 2 games, Graham had 12 tackles, 4 sacks, and a FF. Take those games away and we’re talking about a different season.
I watched those games and Graham was terrific. I also watched the Tampa game. Graham had 2 solo tackles. He flushed Josh Freeman with a good inside move, which led to a sack by Cox. Beyond that, Graham was somewhat quiet.
We can’t get caught up in numbers. We must put Graham into the proper context. Just how good is he?
The biggest thing I look for in a pass rusher is whether the player is explosive. Graham isn’t. He wins with good burst and great leverage. He is very good with the bull rush. There are some plays when he’s able to get his hands in the chest of the blocker and jolt him. Graham can then get by the blocker. Graham uses the rip move very well, which ties in to his use of leverage. Graham tried spin moves in a couple of games and had mixed results.
One of Graham’s best assets is his motor. He doesn’t give up when initially blocked. He will fight to disengage from the blocker and then will chase the ball all over the field. He makes hustle plays.
Graham is a talented player and had a good season in 2012. That said, any talk of him being a crucial defensive player is premature. Graham showed good flashes last year. He must show that he can be a regular force in 2013. The coaches have him slated to be the backup SAM for now. Graham doesn’t have the cover skills or size for that role, but he’s there for now. Trent Cole is the Predator. Cole is coming off his worst season, but he has a terrific track record aside from 2012.
We’ll see how things end up in September, but the fact that Cole is projected ahead of Graham for now is very interesting. I know some of Brandon’s strongest supporters think Kelly and Bill Davis are either nuts or stupid. I think Kelly and Davis watched the tape. They saw Graham doing some good things, but not playing to the level that the PFF stats would lead you to believe.
I hope Graham emerges this year as a stud pass rusher and a guy that offenses have to fear every week. Nothing would make me happier. Sometimes I get accused of being anti-Graham, but that is completely untrue. I’ve been a big fan of his since he was at Michigan. Anyone who watched him in college loved him. He was a machine. Here is something I wrote back in March of 2010 (pre-draft):
“Brandon Graham is a player we all love. The question is how good he’ll be in the NFL. Brandon was great for Michigan this year and then looked dominant at the Senior Bowl. One concern I have is that he played in a system that allowed him to be on the move a lot. He slanted to the inside more than most DEs. That worked great for him, but NFL teams won’t always let their guys just attack upfield. I do have concerns about whether he is best suited for LB or DE. He’s more fast than quick. He makes a ton of hustle plays. He lacks ideal height or long arms. That all sounds like a LB.
4-3 teams have to really be thinking hard about Graham. He’s such a good player that you don’t want to overthink this and get lost in the measurables. The bottom line is that when you put on the Michigan tape you’ll see #55 playing in the backfield a lot of the game. That is the most important thing. I hope wherever Graham goes that he plays for a creative defensive coordinator who will adjust to Brandon’s skill set. He’s not a standard player, either in results or style.”
I feel pretty confident that Graham will get a chance to really show what he can do. His ACL injury is ancient history. Graham is coming off a good season. His confidence has to be pretty high. The new coaches may question Graham’s fit in the LB role, but there will be some situations where the Eagles run a 4-man line and Graham can get in a traditional DE spot. The Eagles would love to see Graham have a strong season and prove that he’s the disruptive force they hoped for on draft day in 2010.
One reason Graham may not be the Predator is that he has played mainly at LDE in college and the NFL. Graham is used to going up against RTs. There is generally a big difference in beating a RT and a LT. Graham is a physical run defender and plenty of run plays do come to the right side (LOLB/LDE). I think he’ll do a good job of setting the edge.
I’m really looking forward to seeing Graham play this year. I hope he tears it up and has a great year.
* * * * *
While watching Graham, I also checked out Vinny Curry. You could really see that Curry was a rookie. He was thinking a lot out there and it led to him being hesitant on some plays and not attacking enough. You could also see that he must play stronger and more physically. There were a few times when TEs were able to get the best of him. Jason Witten downblocked on Curry and put him on the ground. It was funny to see that since Brandon Graham ate TEs up when they tried to block him. He used Witten as his own personal blocking sled and drove Jason backward regularly.
The point here isn’t that Curry is weak. He was just a rookie that was completely unsure of himself. That led to him being cautious rather than aggressively engaging blockers and attacking upfield. There were a few plays when Curry did let loose and he was impressive. The raw skills are there.
I must say that after watching him I think he should be playing LB and not 5-tech DE. Jerry Azzinaro coached him for a year at Marshall and knows what he’s doing, but to my eyes, he just looked more like a 3-4 LB. For now, I have put my total trust in Chip and the staff.
Geoff Mosher mentioned to me on Twitter that Curry was the backup RDE at practice on Monday. I think Curry will find some role on this team. He did everything at Marshall. He’s even got a bit of DT experience. Curry has the frame that Kelly likes. Now it is just a matter of finding the right spot for him.
* * * * *
I watched a bit of Phillip Hunt. I’m really curious to know what Kelly thinks of him. Hunt is a shade under 6-1 (6005). He goes about 260 pounds. He never got on the field regularly under Jim Washburn. Hunt has shown good flashes, but has a total of 3 sacks in 2 years. Kelly wouldn’t have kept Hunt around if he didn’t think there was at least some chance that he could make the team. Hunt will need to look very good on STs and be disruptive on defense.
Posted: May 14th, 2013 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 53 Comments »
The Eagles signed RB Felix Jones to a 1-year deal. No word on the money yet, but I’m willing to bet it is a tad less than a mega-deal. Could be vet minimum with some incentives.
Jones is a good addition. The Eagles have an elite RB in Shady McCoy. Bryce Brown had a strong rookie season and has big time potential. After that, things are less certain. Chris Polk has potential, but must show he can handle the wear and tear of the NFL. UDFA RBs Miguel Maysonet and Matthew Tucker are completely unproven.
Jones is here to fight for the #3 RB job, but his presence can also help keep Brown focused. Think of all the young players we’ve seen have a sophomore slump because they didn’t handle rookie success well. I hope Brown is hungry and driven, but there are no guarantees. Polk and the UDFAs will battle Jones for roster spots and playing time.
The Eagles might keep 3 RBs. They might keep 4, but that will only happen if there are 4 guys who deserve the spots. In the Reid era keeping that many RBs was a waste, but things will be different under Chip Kelly. He wants to run more plays and he wants to run the ball more.
Last year the Eagles ran 67 plays a game. That breakdown might go like this. Shady was the RB for 50. Brown for 10. The other 7 would be empty sets or some odd formation with a WR in the backfield. Kelly hopes to run 75 to 80 plays a game. He might have Shady on the field for 45 snaps, the backup 20, and the #3 RB for 10. These are just guesstimates, but it gives you an idea of how things will be different.
Here is some stuff I posted over on EaglesBlog when the Eagles worked Jones out recently.
Interesting news. There were many who thought Jones should have been the Eagles primary target in the 1st round in 2008. Ray Didinger was on the Jones bandwagon in a big way. Here’s what he had to say back then:
“Draft Felix Jones, the electrifying running back from Arkansas. I actually like him better than his more celebrated teammate Darren McFadden, who will be drafted in the top 10. Jones is 5-10, 207 pounds and unlike McFadden, who is all straight line speed, Jones has explosive lateral quickness that, in my opinion, will make him more dangerous at the next level.
Jones averaged 8.7 yards per rushing attempt last season at Arkansas, the highest average in college football in more than a decade. He outran some of the fastest defenses in the nation in the SEC and he also excelled on special teams. He set the school record for kickoff return yardage, and he tied the conference mark (previously set by Tennessee’s Willie Gault) with four kickoff returns for touchdowns.
So Jones would help the Eagles immediately as a kick returner, and, as a clone of Brian Westbrook, he could share the load in the backfield. Like Westbrook, he is almost impossible to defend in space, and although they didn’t throw the ball to the backs much in the Razorback offense, he has proven he has good hands. (He actually started several games at a wide receiver the past two seasons).
One other thing: If the Eagles can’t acquire another wide receiver, either via trade or draft, drafting Jones could help fill that void. How? Put together an offensive package with Jones lined up in the backfield and Westbrook at wide receiver. I’m not suggesting that should be the base offense, you wouldn’t want to put that much pressure on a rookie, but you could certainly design a set of plays with both of them on the field, and it would be a nightmare for a defensive coordinator.”
Jones had an up and down career with Dallas. There were times when he looked special, but he could never play to that level on a consistent basis. The Eagles would look at Jones as a role player and possible KOR.
Jones is an odd player. He had big time speed and made some explosive runs, but has only scored 11 rushing TDs in 5 years. Think of him as the anti-Emmitt Smith I guess. Smith lacked top speed, but was a TD machine and workhorse back. Jones has 569 career carries. Smith would hit that total in 1.5 years.
The other interesting note is that despite having 5 years of experience, Jones just turned 26 years old. He’s not a guy that has been over-used, but wear and tear has affected Jones. His yards per carry and yards per KOR were the lowest totals of his career in 2012.
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In order to sign Jones, the Eagles cut WR Marvin McNutt.
In my 2012 draft preview I had him listed as a player for the Eagles not to draft. McNutt was being talked about as a 3rd, maybe 4th round player. I didn’t see that level of talent. He struggled as a Senior when going up against good CBs. That was a red flag to me. Could he handle NFL corners? The Eagles took him in the 6th round, which didn’t bother me. At that point, he was okay value. Sadly, he never did pan out as hoped.
Here is his one “highlight” as an Eagle. (h/t to BleedingGreenNation)
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I’m working on a Brandon Graham post for later today. He is the backup SAM for now, but as Chip Kelly would say…it is just mid-May.
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Jimmy Bama has a good post up on yesterday’s practice. Wait til you see his QB artistry. Michael Vick is hilarious. Truly great stuff.
Sheil Kapadia put up a great piece on practice. He told it in the form of a timeline story. Must read material.
Les Bowen wrote about the QB Battle and practice.
Jeff McLane shared his observations.
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As always, keep checking EaglesBlog for updates on misc topics.