Something Special

Posted: February 16th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 126 Comments »

Dave Fipp is a darn good coach.

Not only does he have the eyes to back that up (and steal your soul), he’s got the stats.

I remember the 1995 Eagles, where STs were a joke. Tommy Hutton had a punt blocked and returned for a TD. Gary Anderson hit 73 percent of his FGs, and he was a weak-legged kicker at that point who specialized in accuracy. His longest FG was 43 yards. 43!!! Those Eagles allowed a pair of PRs for TDs. They gave up 26 yards per KOR.

Ray Rhodes loved veteran players so he loaded the roster with those guys. Players in their late 20’s and early 30’s are not great STers for the most part. They want to play on offense or defense. If they weren’t the worst STs in the league, they were close.

The current Eagles are worlds different.

The Eagles impacted the game in every way on special teams this past season. The Eagles ranked second in the NFL with a franchise-record 27.3-yard per kickoff return average, thanks to a promising rookie year from Wendell Smallwood. Philadelphia led the league with five kickoff returns of 50-plus yards, and was the only team with multiple kickoff return touchdowns. The Eagles also finished second in punt return average (12.9 yards per return) with Darren Sproles leading the way. Another benefit from the special teams unit was that the Eagles had the best field position following a kickoff on both offense (27.2-yard line) and defense (22.7-yard line) in 2016.

Kicker Caleb Sturgis also made history for the Eagles’ special teams. In his first full season with the team, he connected on 35 field goals, both a career high as well as the most by any Eagle in a single season. Sturgis began Training Camp in a battle with Cody Parkey, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2014 but was placed on Injured Reserve with a groin injury the following season. Sturgis won the job and Fipp is excited about the future with him.

Fipp is a very good coach and the organization uses resources to build up STs. They traded for Darren Sproles. They signed Chris Maragos and Bryan Braman. They added Kamu Grugier-Hill last summer because they thought he could be a stud on STs.

I’m interested to see what happens this offseason. Braman is a UFA. Will the Eagles bring him back or will they try to find a 4-3 LB to fill his role? Braman played a little defense this year as a DE, but was almost exclusively a STer.

Sproles has said this is his final year. Will the Eagles try to add someone to learn for a year or will they wait until next offseason and just fully replace him at that time? Could Byron Marshall and/or Kenjon Barner be his replacment(s)?

Doug Pederson was very wise to keep Dave Fipp around. He’s done a terrific job of working with the kickers/punters, the cover guys, the blockers and returners. I can’t imagine where the Eagles would have been the past 3 years if they had mediocre or bad STs. Things were hard enough with them being an elite unit.

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Gregg has a feel for these things. That doesn’t make him right, but he’s worth paying attention to.

I don’t want the team to be overly-active. I want them to be smart shoppers. As fun as it is to see them make a lot of moves in March, offseasons like that rarely pay off. You need to add a big piece or two and then find some good fits.

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A lot of times we see teams get active before the Scouting Combine. That starts on Feb 28th this year. Cuts could happen next week or early the next week. Teams cut veterans they know they can’t deal before free agency to give those players a chance to shop themselves. That’s how you maintain good relations with players and agents.

It would be nice if the Eagles were able to deal guys like Mychal Kendricks, Connor Barwin and Jason Kelce. I think Barwin is cut. The other two I think will be dealt, but that might happen in March or it might drag out a bit. We’ll have to wait and see.

The Eagles will be making some cuts soon. They need the cap room.

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An Interesting Question

Posted: February 14th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 246 Comments »

Albert Einstein was a pretty smart dude. He enjoyed “thought experiments”, where he would think about a problem, come up with a hypothetical solution and then try to imagine the consequences, good and bad, of what might happen.

Here is an interesting Eagles thought experiment. Think about the 2016 Eagles. Imagine you could swap out Julio Jones for Nelson Agholor. Or you could swap out Richard Sherman for Leodis McKelvin. Okay, now throw a glass of water in your face and come back to reality.

The question is which player would make the 2016 Eagles better. The team went 7-9 as is. With which player would they have a better record?

I’ll post my thoughts later. For now, I’d like to know your take on Big Al’s Eagles question.

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Some RB Talk

Posted: February 14th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 102 Comments »

The Eagles will need to do something at RB this offseason. Ryan Mathews was the primary back in 2016, but he will be cut in the near future. The team has a good group of runners in Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, Kenjon Barner, Byron Marshall and Terrell Watson, but there is no lead dog.

The Eagles have some options. They could add a high quality veteran to be “the man” for the foreseeable future. They can spend an early pick on a RB. They can add a RB in the mid to late rounds and try to build a RB by committee type of group.

The team could also take a chance on a veteran who has boom or bust potential. Eddie Lacy would be an interesting target of this variety.

Lacy is a free agent this offseason, and while you never know about these things, he’ll probably have limited value on the NFL’s open market. Teams are aware of his weight problems, and he’s coming off an ankle injury that required surgery and ended his 2016 season after five games.

So there’s a good chance Lacy will have to sign a one-year deal to prove to the league his ankle is fine and he can get, and keep, the weight off.

I contacted an agent who has studied the running back market because of a client hitting free agency, and he guessed that Lacy will get a deal worth about $2 million plus plenty of incentives. Maybe it will end up being more, but if it’s even near that range, that’s low risk for the Packers.

It’s worth a last shot because Lacy is one of general manager Ted Thompson’s most talented picks of the last several drafts and at age 26 (27 in June) isn’t quite old even for a position that ages like dog years. When he’s healthy and not carrying too many extra pounds, he can be a difference maker.

If the Packers do it, they should make a couple of commitments as well. One is ensuring they’re not in any way enabling Lacy. The other is something Thompson failed to do last year: Hedge the bet by drafting a running back.

There’s reason to be a Lacy skeptic. He had everything to play for (i.e., a new contract) in 2016, but after losing weight early in the spring he slowly put it back on until by the start of the season he looked like he was pretty much back where he’d ended 2015. Then several months of limited activity after ankle surgery made the hill climb even higher. Based on his last sighting during media availability in the locker room in January, he if anything has added a few pounds.

Why would you want a fat guy with a gimpy ankle?

Lacy is talented. He is a big, power runner who would be interesting to pair with Sproles and Smallwood. Lacy is very physical and that’s something Mathews brought to the offense last year. It would be good to have a physical presence in the run game.

This would be a complete roll of the dice. Lacy might not work out at all. But you only try this on a cheap, one-year deal. You see if you can catch lightning in a bottle.

I will admit to kicking around the idea of Adrian Peterson, who the Vikings may be cutting. He’s going to turn 32 in 5 weeks and is a declining player. Adding him would hardly be building around Carson Wentz. At the same time, it would be interesting to see how AP would do playing behind a good OL and in an offense with a functional passing game. The days of feeding him the ball 25 times a game are over. If you made him part of an offense instead of The Offense, AP might have a couple of good years left.

A team that is a serious contender is more likely to look at AP as a short term fit. The Eagles want to be better in 2017, but also have an eye on the future as well. Calling this a long shot would be putting it mildly. Still, it is fun to close your eyes and imagine AP wearing midnight green and just running over Dallas Cowboys.

I know more than a few people would say just draft Dalvin Cook and you’ve solved RB for the next 5 to 7 years. This isn’t a great RB class, but there are some very interesting options, early and late. I do hope the Eagles go after someone with some size/strength. The run game was very impressive at times last year. Sproles and Smallwood have some shake ‘n bake. I think the focus should be on a more downhill runner with some pop. Cook is so good that he can do it all. I just don’t know if the Eagles will like him enough to spend a Top 15 pick on him.

I don’t think the team has to invest heavy resources at RB this year. They have enough talent that they could have a functional running game as is. Obviously you’d like more than that. The beauty of RB is that you can find great players all over. Ezekiel Elliot was a Top 5 pick. The Eagles found great players after that, LeSean McCoy in the 2nd round and Brian Westbrook in the 3rd. Some elite runners weren’t even drafted. Priest Holmes and Arian Foster were both UDFAs.

Because of the RBs already on the roster, the Eagles can take a chance this year if they want. Darren Sproles says this will be his final year. That means next year there will be more pressure to have a good player to pair with Smallwood. The Eagles could decide they want to see what they have in Smallwood, Barner and Marshall. Sometimes that answer is right there in front of you.

Lots of options.

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MK on the Block?

Posted: February 12th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 186 Comments »

The Eagles would love to clear cap space and add draft picks. Trading LB Mychal Kendricks would accomplish both and according to Jimmy Bama the team is looking to do that.

According to a source, the Philadelphia Eagles are willing to move on from Mychal Kendricks this offseason, and it is anticipated that teams around the league will have interest in acquiring Kendricks via a trade.

Kendricks will count for $6,600,000 against the salary cap in 2017, $1,800,000 of which the Eagles would save if they released or traded him. Kendricks would count for $4,800,000 in dead money. As PhillyVoice reported a few weeks ago, the Eagles are expected to free up significant cap space this offseason.

There are several angles to this situation. Let’s start by talking about Kendricks. He is a talented LB. Kendricks played well from 2012-2014. His average season was 88 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 FFs, 5 PDs, 1 INT and 6 TFLs. That’s the kind of playmaking you want from an ILB.

Things went sideways in 2015. The Eagles added Kiko Alonso and Jordan Hicks to the ILB group. That meant more of a rotation and fewer snaps. Kendricks did not handle this well. It seemed to bother his confidence and that affected his play on the field. Kendricks posted okay numbers, but anyone who watched him play could see his struggles.

Those struggles continued last spring and summer. Nigel Bradham, a natural 4-3 LB and a former player for Jim Schwartz in Buffalo, was signed in free agency. He became the SAM LB and eventually joined Jordan Hicks in the Nickel defense. That left Kendricks as the WLB. He played in the base defense and a couple of specialty packages, but he wasn’t in the regular Nickel (4-2-5), which the Eagles played the vast majority of the season. That’s not a Jim Schwartz quirk. Most NFL teams use 3 WRs and a single RB so defenses play the Nickel against that.

And that brings us to the second point. Other teams should have interest in him. Kendricks is still talented. He’s young (26) and is healthy. He’s just not a key player for the Eagles anymore. Kendricks is at his best when he can blitz and attack on a regular basis, as Jimmy pointed out in his article. I would think 3-4 teams would be more likely to want him.

There is no guarantee the Eagles will be able to work out a deal, but I could see a team in need of a LB giving up a pick for Kendricks. We aren’t talking about a super high pick. The Eagles once got a 4th for Bryce Brown. Could they pull that off again? Maybe a 5th?

If the Eagles are able to trade Kendricks, that will create a new hole in the lineup. Is that a smart thing to do? Yes.

As mentioned above, Kendricks is a starter in name only. He is really a role player. You can’t pay a part-time LB more than $6M. That kind of money needs to be spent on a starter or key role player Kendricks was on the field about 17 snaps a game.

The Eagles could spend a mid-to late round pick on an OLB. They also have Kamu Grugier-Hill on the roster. He was only a STer this season, but could be someone they want to play on defense in the future. There will be some free agency options at a reasonable price. If Kendricks had a reasonable salary, he wouldn’t be going anywhere. This is all about making the best use of your resources. The Eagles would like someone cheaper to play his spot. And if they can get a draft pick in the process, that’s great.

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Howie Roseman does a great job when it comes to trades. It will also help the Eagles that players they dealt last spring (DeMarco Murray, Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso) played well or reasonably well for their new teams.

Roseman isn’t looking to dump dead wood on some other team. He’s got a solid asset. He just needs to find someone that needs a LB and is willing to make a deal with him.

I’m sure the talks will be hot and heavy at the upcoming NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

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A Tale of 2 Jeffs

Posted: February 11th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 115 Comments »

Jeffrey Lurie wants the Eagles to get back to being a title contender. He knew that meant getting a QB so he backed Howie Roseman’s aggressive moves last year to land the Eagles Carson Wentz. Now Lurie wants to give his young QB some weapons.

Could Jeffrey Lurie back the move to sign Alshon Jeffery? They disagree on Jeffrey vs Jeffery, but if they can agree on a contract, that would offer a significant boost to the Eagles passing game.

NFL insider Jason La Canfora says the Eagles are interested.

But (DeSean) Jackson isn’t the only option. Several league sources anticipate the Eagles being in on Alshon Jeffery (Bears) and Philadelphia was aggressive in exploring trade options in-season on other receivers as well, like Torrey Smith (San Francisco), and they need to add more than one pass catcher this offseason.

La Canfora is friendly with Roseman so anything he writes in regard to the Eagles has to be taken at least somewhat seriously. Obviously Roseman isn’t going to fully give the Eagles offseason plans away to someone in the media, but he might at least offer some hints.

Jeffery does make sense. He is big at 6-3, 230. Some NFL sites list him at 6-4, but he measured 6027 prior to the draft. That is 6-2 and 7/8. I doubt he’s grown an inch since hitting the league. He has 33-inch arms. That and his frame give him a big catch radius. And Jeffery isn’t just big on paper, he plays to his size. There is nothing more frustrating than a big guy who plays like he’s 5-11, right DGB?

Jeffery will turn 27 on Tuesday so he is still very much in his prime. He is a very good player. I don’t think you can call him great. Guys like Julio Jones and Antonio Brown are at another level. Still, Jeffery is good enough to build a passing game around.

2012 – 89-1421-7
2013 – 85-1133-10

Those are big time numbers. Watch him play and you can’t help but be impressed.

Doug Pederson has talked about his preference for big WRs. If the Eagles did sign Jeffery, they would have a big group. DGB is huge. Jordan Matthews has good size. Nelson Agholor would be the runt of the group and he’s 6-0, 198.

The downside to Jeffery comes down to 2 things. He was suspended 4 games this past season for a PED violation. As the Eagles saw with Lane Johnson, the next suspension can be a situation where the player doesn’t think he’s doing the wrong thing, but it can devastate the team. Jeffery seems to be a solid veteran player so I wouldn’t anticipate him doing anything to risk that situation.

The other issue is cost. The Eagles don’t have a ton of cap space. Signing Jeffery will eat a lot of that. I know the team can be creative if they want, but the Eagles don’t sign players to crazy deals that create huge issues down the road. The Eagles might feel WR is such a need and that Jeffery is such a quality target that it is worth it to go get him.

La Canfora does mention in the piece that a lot of NFL people think the return of DeSean Jackson is a near lock. Obviously the team isn’t likely to get both. Jackson would cost much less, but he’s not as good a player at this point. He’s also older. Recently Jackson has been talking a lot about his desire to stay with the Skins.

We’ll have to wait and see what happens.

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La Canfora has another piece on free agency and talks a lot about the Chiefs.

They have a pair of big time free agents in NT Dontari Poe and FS Eric Berry. The Chiefs want both back, but they don’t have much cap space. They will be cutting RB Jamaal Charles to help the situation.

I wonder if they will consider cutting Jeremy Maclin.

If he hit the market, the Eagles could have some interest in him. He will turn 29 this spring, but is a high character, quality veteran receiver. He’s being way overpaid right now and is coming off a down year.

Jeffery is in a class by himself. If the Eagles can’t land him, they will need options.

*****

Cold blooded.

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