Coaching Target?

Posted: January 11th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 69 Comments »

Greg Lewis is out. So who will take over as WRs coach? We can joke about TO or Todd Pinkston or Billy McMullen, but I’m guessing Doug Pederson will try to hire someone good and with coaching experience so put your former Eagle dreams on hold. I know many of you would love the chance to yell at Pinkston every week, but it just isn’t going to happen.

You can check out Lal’s biography here.

Let’s keep it simple and talk about WRs who played well under his tutelage.

2016 – BUF – Marquise Goodwin

2015 – BUF – Sammy Watkins

2014 – NYJ – Eric Decker

2013 – NYJ – Jeremy Kerley, David Nelson

2012 – NYJ – Jeremy Kerley

2011 – OAK – Denarius Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey

2010 – OAK – Jacoby Ford

2009 – OAK – Darrius Heyward-Bey, Louis Murphy

Not all of those guys had 1,000 yards or 10 TDs in a season. That would be great, but would also miss the point. Lal has had success with a variety of WRs, with most of them not being elite talents. He was able to get the most out of his players that he could. That’s exactly what Greg Lewis didn’t do.

Lal had success with big guys. He also had success with small, fast guys. He was able to cobble together a solid set of WRs when injuries hit and he had to play guys that had limited talent. Lal had success with rookies, young players and a couple of veterans as well. He doesn’t need one specific type of player or receiver to make things work.

Lal isn’t the best WRs coach in the NFL. He’s not a magician. If the Eagles do bring him in, he would help the current group, but clearly only a talent infusion will get the Eagles the kind of help they need at WR.

That said, I still do think the Eagles would like to see what Nelson Agholor and DGB could do with better coaching and better QB play. Doug Pederson already started the process of changing position coaches. Carson Wentz should take a step forward in 2017 and that will help his receivers out. A smart, accurate, experienced QB can be a big help to less than great WRs.

The realistic goal at this point is to see if Agholor and DGB can be good role players. Ted Ginn was a 1st round pick who failed initially, but has since found a way to stay in the league as a productive role player. Agholor and DGB do have some talent. Agholor needs confidence and a lot of help. We can’t really evaluate DGB fairly since he had very little time with the team before the season. 2017 will tell us if he’s a tease or if someone can coach him up and get him to play well.

Stay tuned to see if Lal is the new WRs coach or if the team is looking around at other targets.

*****

Jimmy Bama has some info on the newest Eagle.

LeRibeus was a third round pick (71st overall) of the Skins in 2012. He has appeared in 28 games over his career, starting 12, 11 of which were in 2015. He was released by the Redskins at final cuts in 2016, and was unable to latch on with another team.

LeRibeus has guard/center versatility, which Doug Pederson obviously likes, however, he is a long shot to make the roster in 2017.

A young player with some experience and some upside is always worth taking a look at. But I agree with Jimmy that LeRibeus would be a long shot to make the team.

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Help for the WRs?

Posted: January 10th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 108 Comments »

The Eagles are going to make a coaching change.

https://twitter.com/CharlesRobinson/status/818495013306978304

I don’t think the second half of that tweet is accurate. No one in their right mind would look at the roster, the stats and the game tape and say “Greg Lewis is the only thing holding this group of receivers back from becoming stars.” That’s silly.

The firing of Lewis boils down to a simple point. You are either part of the problem or part of the solution. The Eagles obviously felt Lewis was more problem than solution. I can totally see where they are coming from. Dorial Green-Beckham was the same player in December as he was in September. Heck, maybe worse. Josh Huff showed no progress this year. Nelson Agholor had a torturous season, for him and us. Bryce Treggs highlight moment came in his first game.

The job of an assistant coach is to get the most out of his players. Lewis might have gotten the most out of Paul Turner that he could. That’s it. Everyone else would have to be labeled an underachiever, on some level. Jordan Matthews is a terrific young player, but he still has those moments (not getting the second foot down in the end zone) that frustrate you because he should be better.

No one expected this group to suddenly look like Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Az Hakim and Ricky Proehl, but there was simply too much underachieving.

The Eagles are going to add resources to the WR position this year. You don’t want to turn them over to an assistant coach you don’t believe in. I mean, you wouldn’t give the Glengarry leads to bad salesmen would you?

Jeff McLane wrote an interesting piece on the firing of Lewis.

It was the most dubious of the staffing hires made after Doug Pederson was named head coach last January, and was emphasized in this space at that time. But it became increasingly apparent that Lewis was unsuitable for the task at hand, as two instances before the season suggested.

The first occurred during training camp. Agholor, who entered the season after an underwhelming rookie season, was dropping passes on almost a daily basis. During one particular drill, the receiver was uncovered deep. The pass landed in Agholor’s hands, but he juggled it for a few steps before pulling it in and running into the end zone.

The play elicited cheers from some fans in attendance, but Agholor knew it wasn’t a catch worthy of praise. He pounded the football as he ran back toward his group. Lewis, though, walked out, met him, and patted him on the back with a smile.

Should Agholor have been admonished instead? Maybe not. Perhaps a teaching point was conveyed in the film room. But Lewis’ initial reaction was consistent with the Eagles’ public coddling of the receiver and with the position coach’s occasional rapport with his players.

For example, on the day that Paul Turner was signed to the Eagles practice squad, the undrafted rookie drew a pack of reporters to his locker stall. Lewis, one of the few assistants to regularly venture into the locker room, stood behind the cameras and made faces and gestures to get Turner to laugh.

It worked. But was it behavior befitting a first-year assistant trying to teach rookies and second- and third-year players how to thrive in the NFL? There’s nothing wrong with lightheartedness, and maybe the 36-year-old Lewis was stern behind closed doors, but repeated mistakes implied that his message wasn’t getting through.

Young assistant coaches have to balance out trying to befriend their players with trying to be an authority figure. It sounds like Lewis was too nice and wasn’t able to “command the room” as the saying would go in coachspeak. Duce Staley is another former player who became an assistant, but he has had no such issues. Staley can be very tough on his guys. He isn’t a jerk for the sake of it, but is demanding. Staley has become a good assistant and he could one day become a head coach.

Lewis might have a future in coaching, but it sounds like he’s got some learning to do.

The WR position will get some talent and a new coach. Let’s hope that combination is enough to get this group from the bottom of the NFL closer to the middle. Carson Wentz needs help.

*****

From PE.com.

White, listed at 5-11 and 185 pounds, has played in the Canadian Football league since 2014. After two seasons with the Montreal Alouettes, White was named an All Star with the Ottawa RedBlacks, taking home a Grey Cup championship.

White was undrafted out of Michigan State in 2013, and after spending a short amount of time with the Oakland Raiders, White headed north of the border to pursue a career in the CFL. The Eagles also went to the CFL route last offseason to add cornerback Aaron Grymes, who shined for the Eagles in the preseason before a shoulder injury resulted in him being waived. Grymes re-signed with the Eagles later in the season and will compete for a roster spot heading into 2017.

CFL guys rarely pan out, but it is always smart to take a look. You never know when you might get lucky.

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Target Talk

Posted: January 8th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 288 Comments »

Everyone has a wish list. You might hear…the Eagles must go get a stud RB like Dalvin Cook. No, they need to go get an explosive receiver like DeSean Jackson. I’m old school…let’s get more good players for the line of scrimmage, whether OL or DL.

People love to ask me who I want or what I think the Eagles should do. I’m working on that. There are so many players to target and so many variables that it is hard to offer up a good scenario and one that is also realistic. There’s no fun in just throwing out a bunch of big names. I prefer to come up with an interesting combination of names.

Since I’m still doing a lot of research and thinking, I’m just going to offer some quick thoughts on a variety of players that interest me or that people have asked about.

Leonard Fournette is a dominant college RB, but I don’t see him as a good fit for the Eagles. Fournette would be great for an offense built around the power run game, but I don’t think he would be good value for the Eagles. Doug Pederson wants to use multiple RBs and wants guys that have complete skill sets.

Dalvin Cook is the one RB that I would even consider spending a 1st round pick on (for the Eagles). Cook is a big play machine, consistently delivering runs of 20 or more yards. His style should adapt well to the NFL He also is a good receiver. I generally don’t like RBs in the 1st round, but there are some players who are worth it. I felt that way about Ezekiel Elliot. He was special. Cook isn’t as good as him, but is more than just a good RB. I lean against the Eagles going for a RB in the 1st, but Cook is so good that I would have to strongly consider it.

I would love the Eagles to get a RB with some size. Jamal Williams from BYU is a player that interests me. So is Kareem Hunt from Toledo.

There is no WR that I think the Eagles “must get”. After hearing Howie Roseman, I lean against veterans like DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Brandon Marshall, etc. They are good players, but they would be good for 2017, not the next 3 to 5 years.

Tim McManus wrote a piece on WR Kenny Stills being a good target for the Eagles.

Stills (6-foot, 195 pounds) seems to fit the bill.

The 24-year-old out of Oklahoma had 42 catches for 726 yards and nine touchdowns for the Dolphins this season. A fifth-round pick by the New Orleans Saints in 2013, Stills was traded to Miami for linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and a third-round pick prior to the ’15 season and has proven to be an asset for the Miami offense, particularly this season. The Eagles are in desperate need of a receiver that can stretch the field, and that happens to be Stills’ specialty. Possessing sub-4.40 second, 40-yard speed, Stills averaged 17.3 yards per catch in 2016 — good for third in the NFL behind DeSean Jackson (17.9) and Chris Hogan of the New England Patriots (17.9).

Stills is one of the possible targets on my list. He has a good combination of size and speed. He is good downfield, something the Eagles lack now. He doesn’t have great hands, but is a reliable receiver. Stills is young and a player on the rise. Miami has Jarvis Landry and just spent a 1st round pick on Devante Parker so they aren’t likely to spend money to keep Stills. His price won’t be cheap, but should be reasonable compared to Alshon Jeffrey and the other top guys.

The free agent WR who fascinates me the most is Terrelle Pryor. He could cost in the $10M per year range and only has one season of being a full time WR. That’s a big risk. He needs work on route-running and other technical issues. That said, put on the tape and you see a player with special potential. He is huge at 6-4, 223 and is a great athlete. He is an offensive weapon. I doubt the Eagles pursue him, but he’d certainly be worth checking out and having a long discussion over.

Clemson star Mike Williams is very intriguing. He goes about 6-4, 220 and is athletic. He is a skilled WR that plays to his size. He missed most of 2015 due to a neck injury and that has to be factored in. He will get a ton of attention from doctors at the Combine. If he does check out, Williams is worth serious consideration.

Western Michigan’s Corey Davis is terrific. He has great RAC skills and is the kind of highly competitive player I can see Joe Douglas and the scouts loving.

There is no O-lineman that I’m in love with yet. I don’t think the Eagles will add any vets. This feels like purely a draft area.

The Eagles will be cutting Connor Barwin, unless they can trade him. That means there will be an opening for a DE. They’ve already got a lot of money in Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry so they are likely to bargain shop or use a draft pick here. There are a slew of good draft targets, including non-1st rounders.

I don’t know what is going on at DT. Will Bennie Logan be back or not? The Eagles like him a lot, but can’t afford to hand him a huge deal. Will some other team offer him a huge deal?

I’m still doing research on free agent CBs. Stephon Gilmore from Buffalo is one of the big names and did play for Jim Schwartz, but Gilmore wants huge money and isn’t coming off a great year. I haven’t seen a CB yet that I would break the bank for.

That is Texans CB AJ Bouye, who is on my list of corners to study. Just have to make sure he’s not a product of the system and would be worth a good investment. Learn from the Byron Maxwell move, right?

CB is another spot where there are some very good draft targets. Corn Elder from Miami doesn’t have good hands, but he can really hit and tackle and he’s aggressive. Desmond King from Iowa has excellent ball skills. Rasul Douglas of West Virginia led the nation in INTs and is a defensive playmaker. The Eagles can go a number of different ways, depending on which CBs they fall in love with.

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Tough Guys

Posted: January 7th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 219 Comments »

I wrote about Joe Douglas recently and mentioned that he is likely to want guys that are big, strong, tough and physical. A few people wondered if that wasn’t the same thing Chip Kelly wanted. You know, big people beat up little people. There is a definite difference.

Kelly loved size. He loved measurables. I think Douglas is more about attitude. Think about the difference in Connor Barwin and Terrell Suggs. Think about the difference in Anquan Boldin and Miles Austin. The Ravens didn’t just want guys with size. They didn’t just want guys with strength. They wanted people who would literally beat up other guys. They wanted guys who played with an edge.

Size without attitude is just a number.

Ravens players are tough. They have an attitude. The Ravens might praise a player they liked as “a blood-and-guts, relentless guy”. That description was for LB John Simon, a player that Douglas and Andy Weidl coveted. He didn’t pan out for the Ravens, but kept grinding and became a good LB for the Texans.

Effort, toughness and attitude are key traits. Players must be highly competitive.  Douglas is that kind of guy himself.

It comes as no surprise that Douglas is extremely competitive, especially in football. “I am not an outwardly screaming kind of guy, but I do whatever it takes to win the game,” he says.

That’s the same type of drive the former NFL football scout looks for in his players — people who hate to lose more than they enjoy winning. “I look for that desire to win. That mental toughness,” he says. “The NFL will humble everybody. You have to be able to pick yourself up when the going gets tough. I’m looking for guys that love football, that make great teammates and that hate to lose.”

Here’s another good story about Douglas and toughness from his Ravens days.

On a May afternoon following the 2007 NFL Draft, several Baltimore scouts were meeting in the office of Joe Douglas, who at the time, was in charge of cross-checking all offensive line prospects the Ravens deemed draftable.

Without notice, then-director of college scouting Eric DeCosta walked into the room and made a silent, yet attention-striking statement.

Picking up a Dry Erase marker, DeCosta quickly scribbled something on Douglas’ whiteboard. Never uttering a single word, he then turned around and exited the office – leaving behind a message that had his scouts beaming.

YANDA = TOUGH-A**

DeCosta’s declaration came fresh off his return from the Ravens’ first offseason rookie minicamp. In practice that day, a young Marshal Yanda had made an immediate impression – one that began validating the Ravens’ decision to utilize a third-round pick on the promising Iowa Hawkeye.

Receiving high grades from every Ravens scout who evaluated him for months, Yanda exhibited outstanding intelligence, an exceptional work ethic, a desire to excel, and most importantly, a level of toughness that went beyond extremes.

Recalling Baltimore’s initial evaluation of Yanda, Douglas states: “We knew we could win with this guy on our offensive line.”

Yanda will battle you on the field, but he would also out-work you off the field. He will do anything to win. That’s the kind of relentless, tough player that Douglas wants. Toughness can be physical, mental or emotional.

*****

I have mentioned a time or two the need for stability. That has been a huge part of the Ravens success over the years.

The NFC personnel director states, “What Baltimore does, they play a certain way, and they find pieces that fit the way they play. They don’t re-sign guys above the value they’ve assigned them, and they find players who fit roles, even if some of those guys have issues. They feel like they can work those out because they have a strong locker room. Ozzie knows what he wants in a player, and he goes and gets it. They miss like everyone else, but they have a plan and they’re good at executing it. … Everyone there is so clearly on the same page, and that’s key. They work well together, they’re consistent in what they’re looking for and they haven’t changed much. They just find people that fit, and when guys move on, they find other people to fit in.”

The Ravens and their continuity in their front office leads me into my next point, head coaches and general managers should be allowed to play out their vision. Teams hire these guys and then sometimes they’ll end up being fired two years into the job, which doesn’t even really give players time to buy into the coach’s system or the coach time to fill the roster with the kind of players he needs to succeed.

In short, the Ravens have a vision and they stick to it. They play the long game. They are patient. That fits in to what Howie Roseman talked about earlier in the week and it is the smart philosophy for this team. Howie, Douglas and Doug Pederson are on the same page in terms of how to build the Eagles.

That plan won’t do them any good if they can’t find the right players. Knowing how competitive Douglas is, you can bet he will do anything and everything he can to find some tough guys and turn the Eagles around.

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Overnight Success

Posted: January 6th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 149 Comments »

Brandon Graham is a good football player. Damn good, in fact.

In some ways it feels like he got good in a hurry. It is easy to forget that when Graham started his first game for the Eagles, Kevin Kolb was the team’s starting QB. That seems like ages ago.

Graham was disruptive in that game, starting at DE and sliding inside as a DT in Nickel/Dime sets. He played pretty well as a rookie, but got hurt late in the year and that seemed to completely throw his career off track. Graham only played in 3 games during the Dream Team season of 2011. He came back in 2012 and proved to be an effective situational pass rusher.

Then Chip Kelly took over and Graham moved to OLB. He was borderline awful at first. Graham says that Kelly wanted to cut him and keep Travis Long. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it didn’t happen because Long got hurt. Graham didn’t play a lot in 2013 because he just wasn’t a good LB.

I was shocked at how much better he was in 2014. You weren’t going to mistake Graham for Seth Joyner, but he was functional as a LB and remained a disruptive pass rusher. He became a starting OLB in 2015 and had a good year. Graham got to move back to 4-3 DE when Jim Schwartz took over and he had a terrific season.

Graham didn’t post gaudy sack numbers, but all you have to do is watch the tape and you see him in the backfield over and over.

It is good we didn’t rush to judgment on BG. After 5 years, he had 13 starts and 17 sacks. Graham had to deal with different coaches and schemes and lots of overall changes. He kept his nose to the grindstone and worked himself into being an outstanding player.

I would love to tell you Marcus Smith could do the same kind of thing, but Graham showed serious flashes from the first game he ever played. Smith is way behind that schedule and has never looked more than average. Maybe the light comes on for him, but Graham is the exception and not the rule. Most guys who don’t pan out early on don’t pan out at all.

I have a lot of respect for Graham because of how hard he’s had to work to get to this point. He had challenge after challenge and none of them were self-inflicted. He wasn’t out of shape. He wasn’t partying too much. He wasn’t distracted by fame. Life put a lot of obstacles in Graham’s way and he overcame them all. I hope Eagles fans appreciated what a good player he has become.

Kudos, BG.

*****

Congratulations Mr. Wentz. You won’t be winning the award, but it is still good to be considered.

*****

I can’t believe I didn’t see this picture until the other day. I assume she watched the Body Bag Game in 1990 and decided she had to get some Eagles gear. Clearly a classy princess.

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