Some Rookie Talk

Posted: May 13th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

The Eagles held a rookie camp this weekend. This is real basic practice. Some teams aren’t even practicing for rookie camp, rather just doing classroom work. The Eagles did practice, but there were no pads, no contact and it was basically an introduction to the NFL.

The Eagles posted a video, but it isn’t overly compelling material.

There were a bunch of tryout players at practice. I doubt the Eagles will sign any of them because the roster is pretty full. Still, you never know.

 

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I wrote about the Eagles UDFAs for PE.com.

I have some notes in there on a couple of players I haven’t covered here.

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One player I haven’t written about is DB Jordan Thomas from Oklahoma. He played really well in 2015, was more up and down in 2016 and mainly down as a senior. Thomas got a Combine invite and had a great workout. He had a vertical jump of 38 inches. He posted a great SS time of 3.94.

There was only one downside. He ran 4.64 in the 40, and at only 187 pounds. That’s not ideal.

Thomas is a press corner who loves to jam receivers and then run with them. That helps to make up for his lack of speed. While his workout numbers would show great quickness and agility, I didn’t see that on game tape. He struggled to change directions.

At his best, he might remind you of Jalen Mills.

I actually think Safety might be the best spot for Thomas. He has good hands and excellent ball skills. He is really good when reading the QB and attacking the ball. Thomas is a physical player and good tackler. The Eagles have him listed at CB. We’ll see if he stays there or gets a look in the deep patrol.

Thomas also had some character issues at Oklahoma and I’m sure that factored into his going undrafted. He does have NFL potential.

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One player I’m curious about is Adam Zaruba, the Canadian rugby player who is trying to make it at TE.

This is his first full offseason as a football player. He has some experience under his belt from last summer. Zaruba last year was learning on the fly and relying purely on physical ability. He has a good combination of size and athleticism.

Zaruba now has a much better feel for what he’s doing. He has an understanding of route-running. He knows the playbook. He’s been taught blocking techniques. I don’t know that Zaruba can make a real run at a roster spot, but I think he can take a big step forward. I’m interested to see what he can do now that he actually has an idea of what’s he’s doing.

TE is a position where you don’t need tons of experience to succeed. We’ve seen guys with basketball backgrounds thrive in the NFL. Zaruba doesn’t have that kind of talent, but I do think he’s got NFL ability.

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Worth Hating

Posted: May 13th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

Dallas sucks. I think we all agree on that. To most Eagles fans, this is the biggest rival. This is a team that should be hated.

What made Dallas so hateable was all the success they had from 1966-1985 (no losing seasons, 2 Super Bowls) and then 1991-1996 (3 Super Bowls). They called themselves America’s Team. They had the fan base and the trophies to back it up. Beating Dallas in those times was glorious. Beating those Cowboys actually meant something.

I remember the 31-7 domination on Monday night in October 1992. The 4th-and-1 game in 1995 was amazing. And of course, the 1980 NFC title game was darn near a religious experience for Eagles fans. Those were special moments.

Do you remember the 40-18 beat down of Dallas from 2001? I guess beating Anthony Wright wasn’t the same as beating Troy Aikman.

Do you remember a 17-3 win from 1990? The immortal Babe Laufenburg was the Boys QB in that classic game.

Do you remember getting all excited to see if Eagles players could shut down TE David LaFleur? WR Stepfret Williams? How did the Eagles ever block elite DE Shante Carver?

Beating Dallas is always satisfying, but it is a heck of a lot more fun to beat good Dallas teams. It is more fun to shut down star players than scrubs. I bring all of this up because it is important to be able to acknowledge that not every Cowboy player sucks. It is okay to admit some of their players are actually…ya know…good. If you can watch this piece with Jason Garrett and Jason Witten and not come away impressed, I don’t know what to say.

That is a great story, Cowboys or not. That is what football is all about. It is the ultimate team game. You can give Witten a hard time for never making it to the Super Bowl or whatever you want, but he is going to the Hall of Fame and had a legitimately great career. It doesn’t make you any less of an Eagles fan to admit that.

Sean Lee won’t be going to Canton, but he has had a terrific career and is the very definition of a difference-maker. This video is pretty wild.

Listen, the media can overrate Dallas players and I get how frustrating that is. You would think they have the greatest O-line in NFL history. After their rookie years, it was a question of when, not if, Dak and Zeke would be headed to Canton. That can drive you nuts.

I wonder if Cian charted the season finale when Dak led Dallas to a 6-0 win over a backup Eagles defense? Yikes.

It is fun to give Dak Prescott a hard time, but I do think he’s a good QB. I think he was somewhat exposed last year. He had no run game and iffy protection…or as Philip Rivers would call it…the last six years. Dak did not handle adversity well. If he’s truly a stud QB, he should overcome tough circumstances.

Zeke is an incredible RB. I’m excited to see how the Eagles defense does against him. Watching Emmitt go against the Eagles led to some memorable games (for both sides unfortunately).

This year should be fun. Dallas will try to bounce back from a disappointing season, while the Eagles are trying to go win another Super Bowl. Part of me will be pulling for them to go 0-16, but another part of me will actually want them to be good, so that beating them will have more meaning. It will also frustrate Jerry Jones all the more. And that’s about as good as it gets.

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Just so you don’t think I’ve gone too soft…enjoy this bit of awesomeness.

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3rd and Long Ain’t That Hard

Posted: May 10th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 2 Comments »

Defenses live to get offenses to 3rd down, especially 3rd and long. Offenses tend to struggle on 3rd and long and that means you turn the ball back over to the other team.

That’s the plan anyway. Things don’t always go according to plan.

Here are a few clips of Carson Wentz on 3rd and & 6+ throws. Great examples of his strength, vision and playmaking skills. Rare talent.

A post shared by Daniel Jeremiah (@movethesticks) on

As you watch those clips, a couple of things stand out. First, escapability. Wentz can move around to avoid rushers. He also buys time for his receivers to get open. Mobile QBs put tremendous pressure on both pass rushers and coverage guys.

The other thing really makes Wentz special and that is vision. He is hitting guys that he shouldn’t be seeing. They’re downfield or on the other side of the field or pretty well covered. Wentz finds them and then is able to get the ball to them.

Wentz has a strong arm. He can throw from different platforms. He can put good touch on his passes, making them more catchable.

This isn’t just anecdotal appreciation for Wentz.

That stat, 48 percent on 3rd & 8 to 10 yards, is hard to believe is real. It should give you an appreciation for just how amazing the Eagles offense was last season.

It certainly is fair to question whether this can be repeated. Stats like that tend to be anomalies.

Then again, the Eagles did a lot of special things last year. How many teams put up 72 combined offensive points in the championship game and Super Bowl with a backup QB, backup LT and no elite skill players?

The Eagles have a creative scheme, terrific coaches, gifted QBs, good protection, versatile players and multiple weapons. They ate up the best defenses in football. That’s no accident. That tells you they weren’t just getting lucky.

To be fair, defenses will have all offseason to scout the Eagles and figure out what they did. That’s what will make this such an interesting season. If the Eagles can repeat their offensive success (don’t focus on the Super Bowl in this specific instance), we could be talking about them as one of the great units.

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Good stuff here from Sheil and Joe. I disagree on the 5th round. I think you can find good players in the 5th round on a regular basis. The 6th and 7th rounds are a different story. That’s when the odds go down.

One problem I’d have with Joe’s comments is that the Eagles did a poor job with 6th and 7th round picks for a lot of the Reid era. If they did this study in 2007 or 2008, that might make sense. If they did this study in 1998 or 1999, I’ve got questions.

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I can see the Eagles being interested, but cost is an issue. The Eagles were looking at cheap DTs on Tuesday. McClain actually has multiple teams going for his services. He isn’t signing some minimum deal.

PFT has an update on McClain.

McClain’s injury might increase the Cowboys’ interest in free agent defensive tackle Terrell McClain, who visited Thursday but has one more visit to take.

Could that other team be the Eagles? I have my doubts because of the cost. That said, if any team can get creative and make it happen, the Eagles are that team.

From McClain’s perspective, there is an argument for and against the Eagles. For, he’d be playing on a good team that would have the lead most of the time. That would let him attack up the field on a regular basis. He’s a great scheme fit. The downside is that the Eagles already have a lot of D-linemen. McClain won’t get a ton of snaps and he isn’t likely to post big numbers. If he signs in Philly, it will be a one-year deal that puts him back on the market next March. Would the Eagles give him a good chance to get a big deal next year?

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Eagles Add a Big Back

Posted: May 10th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

Forget about Terrance West.

Let’s talk about Jones. He lists at 6-2, 239. The Eagles lost LeGarrette Blount in the offseason so adding a big back to the mix makes some sense. Jones is only 25-years old. He’s got three seasons under his belt, but only 275 career touches. He’s got a lot of tread left on the tire.

Put on the tape and you can see why some coaches and scouts just love this guy. At his best, Jones is a downhill runner with a good combination of size and speed. He does an excellent job of using his blockers when he’s out in space. Jones will be patient, wait for a hole to develop  and then use a good burst to get up the field. He is an effective receiver and looks good on screens.

So what’s the downside? Fumbles are the big issue. He fumbles the ball once every 31 carries. That’s not good, to put it mildly. Jones isn’t the most elusive runner. He’s not going to make a lot of guys miss. He averages 3.9 yards per carry for his short career. A guy with his ability should average more. The Skins O-line wasn’t the greatest in 2015 and 2016 so that has to be taken into account.

I mentioned that some people really love Jones.

Scot McCloughan is considered one of the best talent evaluators in the NFL. He was the GM of the Skins when Jones was drafted in the 3rd round back in 2015. McCloughan was let go prior to the 2017 season, but continued to profess his belief in Jones as a good NFL player.

The Skins cut Jones and he played for the Colts last year. No team had serious interest in him for the first two months of free agency. Obviously not everyone is all that high on Jones.

The Eagles are getting a young, talented runner for a cheap deal. This is a huge opportunity for Jones. His career might be on the line. He needs to hold onto the ball and to work his butt off. This is the first time in his career that Jones will be part of a really talented offense with a good line.

The Eagles have Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles and Corey Clement as locks to make the team. Jones can win a roster spot, but it sure won’t be given to him. Wendell Smallwood and Donnel Pumphrey are also under tremendous pressure in terms of keeping their careers going. That should be one motivated trio of RBs.

Doug Pederson preached competition all last year and it brought out the best in his team. The addition of Jones means serious competition for final RB spot (or two). It will be interesting to see which of these players steps it up. Could be one, or even two of them. Or none. The pressure is on.

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No surprise here. Rookies have slotted salaries these days.

No more wasted time worrying about holdouts.

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Visiting Day

Posted: May 8th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

The Eagles have a camp coming up this weekend. That means this would be a good time to kick the tires on some veteran players to see if anyone is worth bringing in for depth or competition. The Eagles did just that on Tuesday, but bringing in some free agents for a look.

These are the two names we know about. We’ll have to wait and see if any other names are made public.

Upshaw has played OLB, DE and DT in his time in the NFL. The last couple of years he was an effective rotational DT for the Falcons. The Eagles will probably add a veteran to provide depth with Tim Jernigan out for the next four to six months.

Joe Douglas was with the Ravens when they drafted Upshaw in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft. In fact, Douglas was the Southeast area scout so Upshaw (Alabama) would have been one of his kids to scout for an extended period.

Upshaw has started 56 games in his career. He just isn’t a great fit for a specific position. Upshaw is 6-2, 272. He’s strong, tough and physical. He’s nothing special athletically.

Upshaw makes sense for the Eagles. He can play DE or DT. The team believes in a heavy rotation, which is critical for him. A guy his size isn’t going to thrive at DT for 50 snaps. If you play him 20 or so, he can be at his best.

We’ll have to wait and see if he is the DT they add or if they go in another direction.

As for West, the Eagles see a player with starting experience who is a good fit for the offense. If the price is right, why not take a look?

https://twitter.com/2tallmall/status/992921375005331456

As I watched that clip, it occurred to me that he looked like a bigger, stronger version of Wendell Smallwood. West is probably about 230 pounds. He is a N-S runner. He’s not going to make any dynamic cuts, but he will run behind his pads and make it tough for defenders to tackle him.

The Eagles have a strong set of runners with Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles and Corey Clement. Things are wide open after that, with Smallwood, Donnel Pumphrey and UDFA Josh Adams fighting for roster spots. West would battle with those guys for one or two spots. He has the most experience and probably the most talent of the group.

West is another former Raven. He was drafted in the 3rd round back in 2014. Douglas was still with the Ravens then so this is another player he’s familiar with.

We don’t know if the Eagles will sign either guy (or anyone else). If they do make a move, it probably won’t amount to much, but you do have to remember that Patrick Robinson came to the Eagles as a “nothing move” last year and that worked out pretty darn well for both sides.

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Can’t wait to read this.

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