Practice Talk

Posted: May 18th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 110 Comments »

The Eagles practiced on Tuesday, but I didn’t get a chance to read all the practice notes from beat writers and comment on them. Let’s do that now.

First, these are OTAs. Some players are rusty. Some are new. You cannot make too much of what happens, good or bad. My interest is more just in trying to get a feel for things rather than trying to make any definitive conclusions.

Wendell Smallwood is a good receiver, per Jimmy Bama.

Wendell Smallwood was not on my radar. In 2015, Smallwood had 26 catches for 160 yards (a low 6.2 YPC average), and a long reception of just 15 yards. Over his college career, he didn’t have a single receiving touchdown.

However, after watching Smallwood in practice at the Eagles’ first OTA session, it’s a lot more clear why the Eagles like him. That guy can catch the football. With Darren Sproles staying away from voluntary practices, Smallwood got a ton of reps, both with the twos and threes. He made the most of his added work, catching at least a dozen passes all over field, some more difficult than others, in the rain. He was very impressive in that regard.

I went back and re-watched Smallwood from earlier in his WVa career, when he would line up in the slot and play some receiver. You could see Smallwood was comfortable running routes and catching the ball away from the LOS. Swings and screens are generally soft passes. Catching the ball in the slot 10 yards up the field is very different. Smallwood can handle all those throws.

More from Bama…Leodis McKelvin is agressive. And vocal.

Leodis McKelvin had a good day. He stripped Josh Huff and had a nice pass breakup down the sideline. After his pass breakup, he loudly yelled obscenities. McKelvin, I should note, wears these super baggy pants during practice. They’re the pants equivalent of Sam Bradford’s sleeves.

You love DBs that play with some attitude. For some reason, that position is one place where having a big mouth and being a bit delusional is a good thing.

Rodney McLeod made his presence known, per Tim McManus.

New Eagles safety Rodney McLeod gets the better of him (Bradford) moments later, though, using good anticipation to jump a Bradford throw and return it for a “pick-six.”

One of the things I like about McLeod is that he can play back and then attack the ball. He has good speed and instincts.

All the writers had good things to say about Sam Bradford’s overall performance. It sounds like he started a bit slow and then got better.

From Jeff McLane.

Daniel hooked up with Celek on a number of downfield throws. The quarterback looked far more familiar with the offense, understandable so. … That being said, Bradford had a strong practice, especially late. He just throws the ball better than the other quarterbacks at this stage.

From McManus.

11:46 — 7-on-7s. Bradford slips a pretty pass between a pair of linebackers and into the mitts of Rueben Randle over the middle. New Eagles safety Rodney McLeod gets the better of him moments later, though, using good anticipation to jump a Bradford throw and return it for a “pick-six.”

Following a Matthews catch from Bradford along the left sideline, a coach yells to the group: “Hustle back!” It’s receivers coach Greg Lewis, who was maybe the most vocal of the coaches Tuesday. Surprised me a bit.

12:19 — Bradford finishes practice on a strong note. Lofts a perfect deep ball to Matthews along the right side, and the receiver hauls it in for a big gain.

I didn’t like the attempt to force the Eagles into a trade, but if Bradford plays well….I think I’ll find it in my heart to forgive him.

No one had anything too compelling to say about Carson Wentz. He looked like a rookie QB just trying to figure things out. I’ll be much more interested in where he is in August. At that point, he’ll have had time to figure out the playbook and to adjust to the speed of an NFL practice. We’ll have a better feel for where he really is at that point.

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Jimmy did a fantastic job with depth chart info in his article. Some things stood out to me.

Taylor Hart was a starting DT. This was purely due to Fletcher Cox sitting out. Beau Allen also missed practice. I’m curious if Allen or Hart would have “started” had both been there. Hare was a DE for Chip Kelly, but can play DT in the new scheme.

Connor Barwin is listed as the starting RDE. That put Brandon Graham as the backup at that spot. It will be interesting to see who is the starter in August.

Rookie DT Destiny Vaeao played with the second and third team. He is a big, talented player. He’ll have a chance to win a roster spot this summer.

The Eagles had Jaylen Watkins playing Safety. I do not get that. He is not a good tackler. It is critical for a S to do a good job in run support in this system. I much prefer Watkins at CB in this scheme.

It is very early and this doesn’t mean anything long term, but it is interesting to see what the team is thinking right now.

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Sam Speaks

Posted: May 17th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 155 Comments »

Sam Bradford finally had to face the media. He was hammered with all the expected questions about fear of competition, his relationship with Carson Wentz, trying to be a leader on the team he wanted out of and why he demanded the trade.

All in all, I thought Bradford handled himself well. He was contrite, within reason. He was honest enough that his comments could be taken seriously. It would have been fun to see Bradford go full on Jake Blues.

LOCUSTS!!!

But alas, Bradford kept things within reason and played it safe. He did blame agent Tom Condon for being the brains behind the request for the trade. I doubt any reasonable person fully buys that.

Maybe the most interesting thing to me was when Bradford talked about A.J. Feeley. Bradford was asked whether he would help out Carson Wentz. He then told the story of Feeley being the veteran starter when he was drafted and how helpful Feeley was to him, despite the fact Bradford was there to steal his job.

I believe Bradford when he says he will help Wentz. Veteran players usually do help younger guys. That’s a football tradition. And the help Bradford gives Wentz isn’t likely to make much of a difference right away. The hints and tips are probably more about development than playing well immediately.

Bradford gave a smart answer when asked about the fans anger at him. He said he understood and that there’s nothing he can say to change that. He talked about the key being his actions from here on out. And he’s right. If Bradford plays well, all will be forgiven. If he struggles, fans will be relentless.

Here is the video.

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Doug Pederson also spoke to the media. He reiterated that Bradford is the starter. Pederson said he understood the situation and had already moved on. He didn’t want Bradford looking over his shoulder, but rather focusing on the game in front of him.

That’s about all Pederson can say. There’s no point to ripping his QB publicly. Pederson wants to win games and the QB who gives him the best chance to do that right now is Bradford.

Pederson said that Allen Barbre is the LG for now. Based on what I’ve heard, that is very much written in pencil. The Eagles need better LG play this year. If Barbre can do that, fine. If not, someone else will get a chance to play.

Pederson also talked about players and injuries. Nolan Carroll was limited as he works his way through rehab. Jordan Hicks is dealing with some leg issues, but the team doesn’t seem concerned.

Here’s the Pederson video.

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Gordon’s blocking needs a lot of work. A lot. Eagles obviously like something they saw on tape.

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Ty Powell is a great athlete coming off a knee injury. He could challenge for a backup spot at SAM or MLB.

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Pederson said he’s stayed in contact with Sproles and that he expects him back soon.

As good as Sproles is, I wouldn’t mind if the Eagles dealt him. All you are getting is a late round pick, but you also create a roster spot and playing time for young players. If I thought the Eagles could compete for a title, I’d say keeping Sproles is absolutely worth it. I don’t see the Eagles being on that level this year. I wouldn’t blame them for making a deal so they can get a look at Kenjon Barner, Wendell Smallwood and Byron Marshall.

Sproles won’t be here for ever so auditioning his replacements does make some sense. It wouldn’t improve the 2016 Eagles, but could help down the line.

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CB Brandon Boykin got cut by Carolina. Still no idea what’s going on with him. He was an outstanding nickelback in 2013-14. Boykin was frustrated by his lack of an opportunity to play outside. The Eagles dealt him and now Boykin is struggling to keep any job. Weird.

The Eagles don’t have anyone locked into the slot spot right now. I doubt they go for Boykin, but you never know.

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Five Guys

Posted: May 17th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 240 Comments »

Bigger. Nastier. Maybe even younger.

The Eagles OL will be different in 2016. Brandon Brooks will take over at RG. He’s 26 years old and is an imposing 6-5, 343.

The LG spot is wide open. Right now the battle is between incumbent Allen Barbre, free agent Stefen Wisniewski, second year player Malcolm Bunche and rookie Isaac Seumalo.

You would think the veterans would have a significant advantage. That’s not really the case. Doug Pederson was the offensive coordinator in KC for three years. They started a rookie OL each of those years. One was an OT, one an OG and last year they had a rookie C. When Pederson was in Philly, the Eagles started 6th rounder Jason Kelce at C as a rookie.

The best players got on the field. The coaches weren’t looking for the five best resumes. They wanted the five best players.

Barbre wasn’t really challenged in 2015 and I think that reflected in his play. He had some very good moments, but was entirely too erratic and didn’t have a good season. Wisniewski is here to provide veteran competition for him, as well as possible depth at C.

The most interesting thing to me is the young guys in the mix at LG.

Bunche is 6-6, 320. He played OG and OT in college. You can watch him at RT in this video and see that he is a big, strong, physical blocker. His pass protection needed a lot of work. I’m sure that’s a big part of why he was undrafted a year ago and then moved to OG.

The Eagles have more experienced players in Matt Tobin, Dennis Kelly and Andrew Gardner. But remember what Pederson has talked about this year. He wants physical, nasty blockers. Bunche has that kind of size, strength and temperament.

The coaches talked last summer about Bunche’s ability to move his man off the ball. The Eagles have lacked that kind of physicality and power up front in recent years.

The more I watch of Seumalo, the more his physicality stands out. Watch him play RG against Stanford.

That wasn’t Seumalo’s normal position so he’s awkward on some plays. but you can see his natural ability and his strength.

The Eagles are having a true competition at LG this spring/summer. No one will be given a job. I’m sure the Eagles would love for Seumalo to win the job. I’m curious to see if Bunche can take the next step. He was exposed to the NFL last year. Now is the time to show whether he belongs or not.

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Les Bowen wrote a good piece on the OL. He got quotes from several guys, including Bunche.

“I know I’m not going to mess with JP (left tackle Jason Peters) and (center Jason) Kelce. They brought in Brandon (Brooks to start at right guard),” Bunche said. “I see left guard – I’ve been there the last couple weeks and I feel comfortable there. I like it there. I’m doing a lot better since last year, just developing and growing.”

What did the coaches want him to do better, to get on the field?

“Basically, my football IQ,” Bunche said. “Another year of gaining information, as far as reading (defenses). A good guy to talk to about that is Kelce – he’s one of the smartest offensive linemen I’ve ever been around. Just stayin’ in the playbook, in the film room with ‘Stout,’ because my coach tells me all the time, I’m gifted. I’m strong, I can move my feet. That’s there, that’s God-given. But the game is a lot mental.”

There is no question that Bunche has the size and strength to play in the NFL. He’s got to show he knows who to block and can do all the little things well.

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Don’t read too much into this. Looks like purely a way to lower his salary. Tobin will be battling this summer. He needs to play lights out just to get in the mix to become part of the LG battle. Tobin would love to start, but he’s not even a lock to make the team.

The Eagles really wanted Tobin to win the RG spot last year. He let them down in a big way. Is this the year that the light goes on…or is that never going to happen?

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A Year Ago

Posted: May 15th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 183 Comments »

It can be interesting to look back and compare the present with the past. I decided to look back a year and see what was going on.

  • Tim Tebow was an Eagle
  • Evan Mathis was skipping OTAs
  • Walter Thurmond was moving to FS
  • DeMarco Murray was the new RB
  • We were still getting used to Sam Bradford as an Eagle
  • We were introduced to the term “reconditioning”

Tebow…next question.

Chip Kelly did not like Evan Mathis holding out. That situation got out of hand and it hurt the team. OG became a problem area once Mathis was cut loose.

Thurmond played pretty well and that move worked out better than hoped.

Murray…next question.

Bradford was a likable person, but disappointing player last spring.

Reconditioning was a term listed as part of Shaun Huls job title. It was just a new word to us.

2016 is very different.

Sam Bradford is now a public enemy, after trying to force his way off the Eagles. As for the disappointing player angle, we’ll have to wait and see on that.

LG is still a mystery. RG should be a strength, with Brandon Brooks now manning that spot. Instead of just handling LG to Allen Barbre, he’ll be battling Stefen Wisniewski, Malcolm Bunche and rookie Isaac Seumalo for the job.

Chip Kelly didn’t handle the Mathis situation well. This year Fletcher Cox is skipping the OTAs. Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman are saying all the right things and being patient. Mathis was an older, descending player. Cox is in his prime and is one of the best players in the league so that has to be kept in consideration, but it still feels good that the new guys are handling this the right way. Being adversarial with your players just doesn’t accomplish a whole lot.

Safety looks like a strength right now.

Murray is gone after a horribly disappointing season. Ryan Mathews is the man for now.

Last year the notable backup QB was Tebow, for all the wrong reasons. This year that will be Carson Wentz, and for all the right reasons.

The biggest change of them all is going from trying to decipher every comment and move by Chip Kelly to wondering if new coach Doug Pederson can get the job done.

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While looking back at last year, I stumbled across this prediction.

Is there anything worse than Jimmy Bama being right about something?

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Rookie Talk

Posted: May 14th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 135 Comments »

I hope everyone is excited for Eagles rookie minicamp. This is arguably the most important weekend of the year. Of course, that assumes the year starts on May 10th and ends on the 20th.

Nothing big is going on. The rookies, select veterans and some tryout players are getting their feet wet. The most exciting thing so far is that we got to hear from Carson Wentz. Here is his first PC as an Eagle.  I’m sure you’ll be shocked to find out he said all the right things. We don’t know if Wentz is going to be the player the Eagles want, but we can already tell he’s not Johnny Manziel.

The biggest takeaway for me is that Wentz wants to be on the field, but is also willing to be patient. His time at NDSU served him well. Wentz redshirted a year and then sat on the bench for 2 seasons before he became the starter. He understands that sometimes you have to wait for your opportunity. He’s going to do everything he can to convince the coaches he’s ready sooner rather than later, but he seems to get the big picture.

There is a fine line between being patient and complacent.

You need players who are willing to sit, but who don’t want to sit.

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Jalen Mills is going to play CB this weekend. I’m not sure if he’ll stay there or move to S when the full team starts practicing together. Mills talks about wanting to play CB. The team’s roster lists him at S.

Nothing is set in stone at this time of the year. At this time last year we thought Walter Thurmond was a CB. The team shuffled some pieces around and boom…he became the starting FS.

The Eagles have a pair of good starting Safeties. They need depth. If Blake Countess looks like he can be a quality backup, then having Mills play CB would make a lot of sense. CB is one spot where the Eagles have bodies, but no standouts. Mills might just be a body as well, but you never know until you give the player a chance.

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Halapoulivaati Vaitai is working at RT for now. I think he has LT potential, but the Eagles are starting him at the less challenging spot. RT certainly isn’t easy, but LT remains the harder spot because you tend to face the best pass rushers and you have little help on that side.

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The Eagles brought in former Notre Dame and Florida State QB Everett Golson for a tryout. He is a big name because of where he played, but beating out McLeod Bethel-Thompson won’t be easy. MBT has been in and around the league a few years. He understands the speed of the NFL. Golson might be more naturally gifted, but the NFL is completely new to him.

I think sometimes we forget that players we list as scrubs or camp bodies are still very talented, very accomplished players. If Golson wants the #4 QB spot, he has to earn it.

Jimmy Bama did like what he saw of Golson’s arm.

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I think I’m going to end up liking Isaac Seumalo quite a bit. He was interviewed at his locker on Friday. Seumalo came across like a typical O-linemen. He was humble and didn’t have much to say, but did show off a good sense of humor. He joked about Carson Wentz, who he trained with before the Combine. Sounds like those two are already friendly.

*****

I know it’s only the rookie minicamp, but based on everything I’ve seen and heard, I can say without hyperbole that…

The Eagles will win the Super Bowl.

Carson Wentz is going to the Hall of Fame.

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