Corner Questions

Posted: April 9th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

The Eagles are in rebuilding mode, as we’ve discussed throughout the offseason. They are looking for younger, cheaper solutions to the holes in the roster. You can see that in the players they let go and the free agents they’ve added.

One spot they haven’t addressed is CB. What’s going on there?

There were some interestng CBs on the market, but they got paid more than we anticipated. There aren’t a lot of guys left and the ones available aren’t very compelling. The Eagles may simply be playing the waiting game. Make a few low offers and see who bites. Players are trying to decide what to do. They can grab offers now or wait for the draft. If teams miss on a spot in the draft, they could make some players more attractive. The flip side is that teams could cut veterans if they land certain players and that could expand the free agent market. What do you do?

I think the Eagles need to add a veteran CB at some point, but the level of activity tells us the team is focused on adding talent in the draft. Because the Eagles have such a high pick in each round, there should be good options available.

1st Round

Jaycee Horn – The most talented corner prospect. Horn is a very good player and an elite athlete. He’s big as well. He’s got a few things to work on, but his potential is through the roof.

Greg Newsome – My favorite corner in the draft. Smooth. Plays the deep ball better than anyone else. Newsome has had some minor injuries in multiple seasons and that has to be factored in. He’s not worth pick 12.

Patrick Surtain – The consensus top corner, but I’ve got concerns. Had a great Pro Day, but that athleticism doesn’t always show up in games. Gave up long TDs vs Florida and Tennessee. Watch him vs Ohio State and Chris Olave runs by him multiple times. That’s a concern for me. Maybe I’m focusing too much on some negative plays, but the more I watch Surtain, the more nervous he makes me.

2nd Round 

Here is where we have to wonder what the Eagles are looking for. Asante Samuel is small at 5-10, 180. Jonathan Gannon had bigger CBs in Indy and Minnesota so I tend to think he’ll prefer those guys. If the Eagles are going to play Avonte Maddox in the slot, that takes Elijah Molden off the board. Maybe Gannon will love Samuel and Molden and want them. We’re doing some guessing here because we don’t have a full history of information to work with.

Kelvin Joseph – Big, long, athletic and talented. So fluid and natural on the move. Tremendous potential. Joseph was an elite recruit and went to LSU. He transferred to Kentucky. There are some possible character questions with him, but I don’t know any details. What I do know is that he’s got 1st round ability. He could be an outstanding NFL corner.

Tyson Campbell – Instinctive corner who gets in a receiver’s hip pocket and stays there. He’s too grabby (like all these guys) and that has to be worked on, but Campbell is very talented.

Ifeatu Melifonwu – Big dude. Not many corners are 6-3, 212. Melifonwu is an above average athlete so don’t have Rasul Douglas nightmares. Melifonwu uses his size well. He plays big. Can be an excellent hitter and tackler. Doesn’t have ideal long speed, but he’s no Douglas.

3rd Round

Eric Stokes – Speedy corner from Georgia had 4 INTs last year. Can hit and tackle. Good prospect. Some might have him in the 2nd round.

Ambry Thomas – Sat out 2020. That will bother some teams, not others. Talented player. Has okay size and good speed. Talented prospect.

Keith Taylor – Love watching him in coverage. Had a good season and then was terrific at the Senior Bowl. Good size. Big issue is that he never had an INT. Not much of a playmaker. Dude can cover, though. Really sticks on receivers. Doesn’t have great speed.

Shaun Wade – Some thought he had 1st round potential coming into the season. Had a down year. Now we hear he might have been playing with a bad toe. Is that legit? How much did it affect him? OSU has put a lot of good DBs into the league. Wade is talented, even with the disappointing season. Could be good NFL corner.

Benjamin St-Juste – Another big dude. Goes 6-3, 200. Only runs about 4.5 so some might prefer him at safety. I think he could play corner. Looked good at the Senior Bowl.

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I’m going to stop there for now. These are my rankings. Other sites/people may be very different.

I went back and re-watched Rasul Dougas at WV to see what he looked like compared to these big CBs. Douglas had great ball skills, but you could see his speed issues and where he wasn’t a gifted athlete. He ran 4.59. Most people will tell you that 4.55 is the cut-off for CB. Anything above that and you need to play safety.

It might be wise for the Eagles to double-dip at CB. Take a couple of talented players at that spot. Darius Slay isn’t getting younger and you don’t want one player seen as the solution to a spot that has troubled the team for a while.

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Matt Alkire wrote some thoughts on CB prospects.

You can see where he and I agree and where we have differences.

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Smart Moves

Posted: April 7th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 7 Comments »

The Eagles have not had much cap space this offseason, forcing them to be very careful shoppers. After letting the market settle down, they made a pair of smart moves on Wednesday.

Let’s start with Wilson. The 6-1, 230 LB started 10 games over his first three years. He didn’t do anything special, but showed some promise. An injury opened a starting spot last year and Wilson started 15 games and had the best year of his career. Wilson led the team in tackles and TFLs. He finished second in INTs and QB hits. Wilson made a lot of plays.

The tape shows a solid player, but nothing special. There is a reason a 26-year old LB coming off a career year doesn’t have much of a market. He doesn’t have great size or speed. He’s not special in any way. His tackling can be a bit sloppy. There are times when he reaches rather than aggressively wrapping up.

While he isn’t Seth Joyner or Byron Evans, Wilson is a good addition to the Eagles. He fits in terms of age and price. Wilson is versatile. He can play up on the LOS, in the middle or out in space. He will know the scheme or at least parts of it.

He also can help young players like Davion Taylor and Shaun Bradley develop. Wilson made the Vikings as a UDFA. He began as a STs player, then got mixed in as a starter when needed and finally started a full season last year. This is a guy who earned everything as he made his way up the NFL ladder. And he did that as part of a good defense.

I think the Eagles will play Wilson at WLB.

SAM Alex Singleton … Genard Avery
MLB T.J. Edwards ….. Shaun Bradley
WLB Eric Wilson ……. Davion Taylor

As you can see in these clips, Wilson does have talent.

As you can see in the last clip, Wilson also helps on STs. Wilson gives the Eagles enough capable players that they can draft a LB if they want to, but aren’t forced to make a move. They can still see what happens with Edwards, Taylor and Bradley.

If Wilson has another strong year, the Eagles can sign him to an extension and look at him as a long term answer. If he’s just so-so, they can walk away next offseason. This isn’t an exciting move, but it is smart.

*****

As for Howard, there is nothing remotely exciting about his return. I still do see some logic in it.

I can see plenty of people rolling their eyes at Howie bringing back another player. That’s been a weakness of his in recent years. There is a difference. Howard won’t turn 27 until November. This is very different than bringing back Jason Peters, DeSean Jackson, Vinny Curry, Corey Graham, Darren Sproles, etc. Those guys were all in their 30’s.

Howard is here purely as a role player. He and Miles Sanders formed a good duo back in 2019 so bringing him back to be part of RB by committee is something I can live with. The RB class in the draft isn’t compelling and the Eagles don’t have much money to spend. They will add a RB in the draft or as a UDFA and see if he pans out. Howard is an insurance policy for that.

Howard had a bizarre season in 2020. He had 28 carries for 33 yards, which is awful, but scored 4 TDs. The Dolphins basically used him as a short-yardage sledgehammer. He’ll have the chance to do that with the Eagles, but will have a chance to do more as well. The team has a new offensive scheme, but you can bet Jeff Stoutland will still be using many of the same run plays that helped Howard get off to a strong start in 2019.

As I said with Wilson, the age and price are right. Howard is also a scheme fit.

When you’re shopping on a limited budget, you don’t look for steak. You load up on turkey pot pies and Hot Pockets. Just make sure you have enough money left over for some PBR.

*****

Good for him. I hope Sudfeld finds a home there. His Eagles career was just odd. The team either had too much confidence in him or none at all. Very bizarre.

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No Bananas!

Posted: April 7th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

Nick Sirianni was basically unknown when the Eagles hired him. He wasn’t one of the hot assistants who gets mentioned every year. He came out of nowhere to land the Eagles job. His first meeting with the press left a lot of people wondering what Jeff Lurie and Howie Roseman saw in him.

Sirianni had another press conference and came across better in that. Now we’ve gotten another look at him.

This is the new coach talking to Fran Duffy for 25 minutes and breaking down game film to explain some of his offensive concepts.

This is fantastic stuff.

If Sirianni’s interview was more along the lines of this, you can see where it impressed Lurie and Roseman. He seems smart, genuine and passionate, three traits you want in a coach.

You have to be careful about judging a coach by how they talk to the media or how likeable they are. Every year when I’m down in Mobile for the Senior Bowl, there are people from a lot of team websites hanging out together. They swap stories. The guys from Jacksonville raved about Gus Bradley. He sounded like an incredibly good man. He treated everyone around him with respect and was as nice as possible. He went 14-48 in four years.

Doug Pederson was always seen as a friendly, likeable guy. He won a Super Bowl. There is no rhyme or reason to this.

I do think it is important for the coach to be himself. Sirianni seems to get that. I think the guy you see in that video is who he really is. You can call him dorky if you want. You can tell him to quit getting so excited over little things. But that’s who he is. As long as you’re real, players can handle it. They see right through fake people. Go back to the Marty Mornhinweg stunt in Detroit with him riding away from practice on his motorcycle. That was so staged and fake that it was like a stunt Michael Scott would do if he were an NFL head coach.

There was one thing I took from the Sirianni piece in terms of football. He’s really going to embrace yards after the catch, an area where the Eagles struggled under Pederson. That just came across as an area that wasn’t emphasized. And that’s fine. Not all offenses are the same.

Whether the Eagles target a WR in the first, second or third round, they will likely look for someone with big time RAC ability. A few names that jump out at me…

1st Rd – DeVonta Smith
2nd Rd – Rashod Bateman
3rd Rd – D’Wayne Eskridge

Those three guys excel when the ball is in their hands. You’ve seen plenty of Smith clips already.

There are plenty of other guys. This trio just stands out to me. The Eagles should have good options, as long as they address receiver in the first three rounds.

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Ripple Effect

Posted: April 6th, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 4 Comments »

The Eagles moved back from pick 6 to pick 12 for multiple reasons. The biggest was obviously the desire to pick up an extra first round pick in 2022. I think one of the other keys is that they felt one of their targets might still be on the board all the way down at 12.

I agreed with the thinking, but things got a bit more complicated on Monday.

The Panthers have the #8 pick. They were expected to take a QB. That now changes. And that could affect the Eagles.

Let’s walk through the top picks.

1 – JAX – QB Trevor Lawrence

2 – NYJ – QB Zach Wilson

3 – SF – QB Trey Lance

4 – ATL – TE Kyle Pitts

5 – CIN – WR Ja’Marr Chase

6 – MIA – OT Rashawn Slater

7 – DET –

8 – CAR –

9 – DEN –

10- DAL –

11- NYG –

The first six picks aren’t a lock. That’s my educated guess. Penei Sewell could be the first OT. I just happen to like Slater better. It is possible the Bengals and Dolphins could both take OTs, knocking Chase down a pick or two.

It feels like the Eagles would be targeting:

WR DeVonta Smith
WR Jaylen Waddle
CB Jaycee Horn
CB Patrick Surtain

Other guys who could go in that range:

QB Justin Fields
QB Mac Jones
OT Penei Sewell
OL Alijah Vera-Tucker
DE Greg Rousseau
LB Micah Parsons
LB Zaven Collins
LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah

It is possible that all four of the top guys are gone. I don’t anticipate that happening. I expect someone to take Sewell and at least one of the other QBs. If that happens, one of the top four guys will be sitting there at 12.

The Broncos reportedly were in the mix for Sam Darnold so they could go for a QB at pick 9. Drew Lock has been a major disappointment so far.

I don’t think the Eagles will go OT, but we can’t rule it out. Slater, Sewell and Vera-Tucker are all terrific prospects. The Eagles OL might actually be the strength of the team, though. With so many other holes to fill, going elsewhere would make more sense. Lane Johnson isn’t getting any younger so you could always look at the pick as being about the future. I’m just thinking 12 will be something other than OL.

I do wonder what will happen if Chase falls a few spots. How much do the Eagles like him? We know Howie isn’t afraid to make trades, up and down the draft.

A less likely scenario would be moving back, but anything is possible. That would make sense if the Eagles targets were gone and they felt the best value was moving back a few spots.

*****

Jimmy Bama did an Eagles mock.

Waddle

Newsome

Basham

If Howie could pull off that trio of picks without making crazy trades, I’d be ecstatic. The problem is that Newsome should go in the first and Basham could sneak into the late first as well.

As for the rest of the picks, why would Howie draft four punters? Seems highly unlikely.

I’ll be putting out my own Eagles mock in a couple of days. All the picks will be brilliant. I’ll try not to put too many players from Appalachian State in there, but I make no promises.

*****

Harsh, but true.

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New Eyes

Posted: April 3rd, 2021 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 4 Comments »

The Eagles front office thought enough of Jeremiah Trotter to spend a third round pick on him back in 1998. Head coach Ray Rhodes and defensive coordinator Emmitt Thomas didn’t play Trotter much at all as a rookie. The Eagles were an awful team, but Trotter couldn’t get on the field. He played in eight games and was credited with three tackles.

That changed when Andy Reid and Jim Johnson took over in 1999. They gave Trotter a chance to earn a starting job, which he did. Trotter then became a Pro Bowl linebacker. Reid knew how to coach him and Johnson knew how to use him. Trotter thrived under them.

Coaching changes can have a huge impact on players.

Jermane Mayberry was seen as an underachiever after the first three years of his career. He bounced between guard and tackle. He bounced between the left and right sides. The Eagles finally put him at RG in 2000. Mayberry started 47 of 48 games, helped the team get to the playoffs each of those years and he went to his first Pro Bowl in 2002.

Brian Dawkins was a good player from 1996-1998. He was an up ‘n coming DB. No one talked about him as a Hall of Fame talent, though. Jim Johnson got creative with Dawkins and turned him into Weapon X. The rest is football history.

Doug Pederson and his staff weren’t able to get Nelson Agholor turned around in their first season together. Pederson then hired Mike Groh as WRs coach and Agholor had his breakout season.

Trey Burton was a STs ace when Pederson arrived. Burton became a good role player at TE and eventually was signed away in free agency as a starting TE.

It will be interesting to see if Nick Sirianni and his staff can come into Philly and have a major impact on some players. Let’s take a look at some candidates who could breakout under the new staff.

DB Avonte Maddox – Like Mayberry above, Maddox has been held back due to position changes and injuries. If the new coaching staff can let Maddox settle into one role and he can stay healthy, he could become an above average starter. I think this is possible in the slot or at free safety.

LB Davion Taylor – You can see a comparison between Taylor and Trotter. Both were third round picks who struggled to get on the field as rookies. The big difference is that Taylor is more of a raw talent because he played so little football before college. He’s still got a lot to learn. Taylor is a good athlete and should be a good fit for the modern game, where playing in space is so critical. Having a full offseason should be a huge help in his development.

WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside – The new Eagles staff has done good things with wide receivers at previous stops. This might be their biggest challenge. JJAW has shown next to nothing in his NFL career so far. The coaches need to see if they can turn him into an effective role player. The Colts had success with bigger receivers in the slot. Maybe JJAW can find a home on the inside. He needs to show something somewhere. If not, his time in Philly will be coming to an end.

SS K’Von Wallace – New DC Jonathan Gannon helped develop good safeties in both Minnesota and Indy. Wallace got on the field a little bit as a rookie, but not nearly as much as everyone hoped. If anyone can get the best out of Wallace, it should be Gannon. The hope is that Wallace can become a solid starter. Please forget the comparisons to Dawkins. Let Wallace be Wallace.

RB Jason Huntley – Sirianni had success in Indy with RB Nyheim Hines (5-9, 196). Huntley is 5-9, 193. Both are athletic runners and good receivers. Huntley has yet to show anything beyond flashes in the NFL. The coaches know how to use a player with his build and skill set so he should have a chance to succeed, if he can put it all together.

LB Genard Avery – With all the talk of positionless football, Avery is proof you still have to line up somewhere. The Browns and Eagles tried him at DE. Avery showed flashes of real talent, but couldn’t do anything with consistency. The Eagles are moving him to LB, hoping they can find a role for the talented player. The 2019 mid-season trade for him looks awful right now. We’ll see if the new coaches can change that. Playing in a scheme where the LBs blitz more could be a good fit for him.

TE Hakeem Butler – There was a time when Butler was thought to be a potential first round pick as a WR. He fell to the fourth round and never got on the field for the Cardinals. The Eagles picked him up and moved him to TE. Butler was a big, physical receiver so the transition to TE makes sense. He was 6-5, 227 at the Combine. Butler has big hands and 35-inch arms. He can add bulk and carry it well. Can he learn to play in traffic in the middle of the field? Can he become an effective blocker? Butler is an interesting project.

TE Tyree Jackson – TEs come from all kinds of places. Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham were basketball players. The Cardinals spent a fourth-round pick on QB Logan Thomas. That didn’t pan out for them, but Thomas converted to TE and had a breakout year for Washington last year. Jackson will try to follow in his footsteps. Jackson has the size (6-7, 249) and athleticism (4.59 in the 40) to make the conversion. He has to learn how to catch passes and block. It could take a while for him to develop those skills, but Jackson does have potential and is worth working with.

Any time  you make a list like this, most of the guys are going to fail. That’s not a knock on these players or the team. It’s simply the reality of life in the NFL. Most guys don’t pan out.

If the coaches can one or two of these guys to develop as hoped, it would help the Eagles efforts to bounce back. You can’t rely on just outsiders. You need current underachievers or nobodies to turn into something if you want to turn a team around.

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Some of you are really into numbers. If so, check out the players who are changing numbers and enjoy.

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Matt Alkire wrote a good post on some late round targets for the Eagles.

Let’s hope Howie and the scouts can find some late round gems. This team needs to hit on as many picks as possible.

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