Are the Eagles Close?

Posted: January 26th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 250 Comments »

Some of the fans who comment here, on Twitter or who hit me up via email think the Eagles are a descending team, not that far from coming apart. Jason Kelce thinks the Eagles are close to being a great team. I agree with Jason.

2014 was a disappointing season, but I think some people have trouble putting that in perspective. The O-line was a mess all year. The starting QB only played 8 games. The team led the league in turnovers. And yet that team went 10-6 and just missed going to the playoffs.

The Eagles just had the most guys in the Pro Bowl.

Have you ever seen a greater collection of football talent?

The Eagles have the best STs in the NFL.

They have one of the best offenses.

Chip Kelly is at the very least a good coach, maybe a great one.

Are there issues with this football team? Yes. Heck yes. But that is true of 30 or so teams. Because we follow the Eagles closely, we obsess on the trouble spots for this team. We say that the OL is getting old (and it is). But 2 of the starters are good young players. Change one more guy and the OL is mostly young. Some fans act as if all 5 starters are 34. Lane Johnson and Jason Kelce are young players who will be Eagles for quite a while.

Kelce sees the cup as half full, as the Eagles being close to greatness.

“I really believe that,” Kelce said on Friday following Pro Bowl practice for Team Carter at Scottsdale Community College. The Pro Bowl is played on Sunday night and Kelce, a first-time Pro Bowl player, is enjoying his time in Arizona with the game’s best players. “We won 10 games this year and there were a lot of points during the season when we were really, really good. Really what it comes down to is consistency and we know that.

“We need to make a couple of corrections in this offseason, get a few pieces and I think we’ll go from a good team to a great team.”

Kelce is exactly right about the need for consistency. The Eagles have the talent to be a 12-win team. They just didn’t play consistently well. They were sloppy and made way too many mistakes. The 2013 team didn’t make those mistakes and it helped them to get to the postseason.

I have no idea why the 2014 team made so many mistakes. There weren’t just one or two people to blame. The group took turns making mistakes. At least that shows togetherness, right?

It is easier to work with talented players on fixing mistakes than it is to go acquire talent. The coaches do have a challenge in getting this group to play better, but would you rather be Chip Kelly with that task or Gus Bradley with trying to find 22 guys who can play?

As Kelce mentioned, the Eagles do need to add talent. No one would tell you the Eagles are good enough as-is. At least half the secondary must be replaced. Players, coaches, fans and the media all know this team needs some help.

The key here is that there is a very good foundation in place. Kelly has got his program running and the Eagles are moving into Year 3 of Kellyball. The STs are the best in football. The offense is close to being a great unit. The front seven on defense is close to being outstanding. The secondary is a complete mess that needs a lot of work. Hopefully the hiring of Cory Undlin as DBs coach will be the first step in getting that group to be “okay”, if not better.

I wish the Eagles were the defending Super Bowl champs making a run at their second title. Unfortunately that’s the Seahawks. The Eagles are trying to get to that point. They need the current players to play better in 2015 and they need some outside talent if they are going to take the next step forward.

The Eagles aren’t there yet, but they are close.

Disagree with me all you want, but you can’t disagree with the sexiest man in Philadelphia.

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Closing in on Chris Polian?

Posted: January 25th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 147 Comments »

Chip Kelly’s search for a personnel director might be progressing.

Polian is not my preferred choice for the job, but there is a case to be made for him. First, he certainly has the experience. He began working in the NFL in 1994. Obviously Polian got into the league because of his dad, but he stayed for 20 years. Chris was fired by Indy after the 2011 season. He was then hired by the Falcons for the 2012 season. Longtime friend Dave Caldwell got the GM job in Jacksonville in 2013 and brought Polian along to be his Pro Personnel Director.

Chris worked with some really smart, really successful people. Guys like Dom Anile, Tom Telesco, Dave Caldwell, Tom Gamble and Thomas Dimitroff are all excellent personnel evaluators with strong track records.

Chris had chances to leave the Colts while working for his dad, but didn’t.

Dom Anile calls Chris Polian “the best research-and-development guy I’ve ever seen.” In recent years, his duties have grown to include contract negotiations, and he has helped modernize the team’s personnel department, aiding the transition to computers in a way that not only streamlined the college scouting process but helped merge it with the pro player-personnel system into one seamless whole.

When the Miami Dolphins came calling two years ago with an opportunity in their front office, owner Jim Irsay stepped up to convince the younger Polian to stay in Indianapolis. After talking with his wife about the possible new job, Chris Polian didn’t need much convincing. “I was talking with her on the phone and she said, ‘If your name was Joe Blow, and you were somewhere else, and had a chance to work with Bill Polian and Tony Dungy in Indianapolis, what would you do?’ I said, ‘We’d put the house up for sale and we’d get our ass up there.’ That settled it. One, she was right. Two, I guess other people’s interest in me confirmed that I had some competency. I’ve kind of made my peace with the fact that I’ve only worked for my father.”

Tom Gamble worked for the Colts from 1998-2004, alongside Chris. Chip Kelly thinks highly of Gamble. You wonder if he reached out to him to ask about Polian. There are some rumors that the reason Gamble left the Colts is that Chris got promoted over him and some others. I have no idea if that is true or just idle speculation.

I would not want Chris Polian to come to the Eagles as “The Man”. He had that role for 3 years in Indy and things did not go well. In his defense, the Colts were cutting back on scouting costs and he didn’t have the kind of resources the team used when they were built into a juggernaut.

Chip Kelly is looking for someone to be his right-hand man. He needs someone that can gather, organize and prepare information for him. I do think Polian can handle this task. He did a lot of that in Jacksonvill over the past 2 years. This video interview offers some good insight into his role.

Polian failed in Indy. You can bet that was a huge piece of humble pie for him and he’s going to be a very different guy if given another position of power. That could also help in dealing with Kelly and stepping into an awkward front office situation.

My preference is still Scott Fitterer from Seattle, but it just doesn’t seem like that is going to happen.

* * * * *

Rick Gosselin put the Eagles as the #1 STs unit in the NFL. I wrote about that for PE.com. Beyond the good play, I wanted to look at how the group was built. It took a couple of offseasons, but Kelly fixed that unit. Let’s hope he can do the same with the defense.

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More On Day

Posted: January 24th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 441 Comments »

Ryan Day is the new QBs coach for the Eagles. Most of us didn’t know him prior to Thursday, but now there are lots of opinions. I can’t tell you if this is a good or bad move. I trust Chip when it comes to just about anything involving his offense. That’s his baby. Not everyone is on board, though.

It is absolutely fair to be skeptical of this hire. BC isn’t known for great QB play.

But Chip is too smart to make a move without there being good logic behind it. I’ll offer up some thoughts on what he might be thinking.

First, Chip does have a relationship with Day and it must be a good one. Chip coached him and then worked with Day for a year at New Hampshire. This isn’t about friendship. Chip spent 5 years coaching/working closely with him and obviously thinks highly of Day. He knows what kind of a person Day is and how committed he can be to doing what it takes to being successful. Plus, who better to teach Chip’s QBs than a man who was taught by Chip?

Chip has kept his eye on Day for quite a while. Check out this quote from when Day was hired to be Boston College’s OC.

Addazio called Day “one of the bright young minds in college football. He knows Boston College and he is thrilled to be back.”

That sentiment was echoed by Oregon’s Chip Kelly, who coached Day at UNH and then worked with the Manchester, N.H., native on the Wildcats’ staff under Sean McDonnell.

“I think that he is one of the best young coaches in the country and it was just a matter of time before he was running the show, offensively, somewhere,” said Kelly after practice Thursday.

 

The two men do have a good friendship, as you can tell from this interview from when Day talked about Kelly taking over as head coach of the Eagles.

“He’ll take the best things the Eagles can do and he’ll use them. One of his greatest strengths as a coach is he’s a great thinker on his feet—that’s accurate. His players love playing for him. I played for him 10, 12 years ago and he’s one of my closest friends in college coaching. I can thank him for everything in football that I’ve had. He leaves an impact on people’s lives.”

I think Chip may have wanted to go with a young guy for another reason as well…continuity. Lazor and Musgrave were veteran NFL assistants that were hired away after a year. Other teams wanted to know about the Chip Kelly Magic so they took his QB coach. Day isn’t as likely to be plucked away quickly. No one is going to make him their OC in 2016. And he can’t change teams for just a lateral move.

Chip can take a chance on a young coach because he and Pat Shurmur are there to help with the QBs. If this were Rex Ryan or some other defensive guru, this move would be a total head-scratcher.

There may also be some offensive reasons to hire Day.

Chip might want to get Day’s help in other areas. You can never have enough smart minds on a coaching staff.

* * * * *

Want to know about Ryan Day the college QB? Read this.

There is no doubt. The UNH football team has four captains — Day, center Jason Ball, defensive end Jon Oosterhuis and strong safety Bryce Scottron. But ask any player, including the other captains, and they say the same thing: Ryan Day is the leader of this team.

“Ryan’s just a natural leader,” said senior wideout Brian Mallette, who will miss the next 3-6 weeks with a separated shoulder. “He just knows how to go up there and make things happen. He may not be the fastest guy or have the strongest arm, but he’s so competitive and so determined.

“He wants to get things done, and he does it. It means a lot to us. Everybody leads off him. They see how he goes out there and how competitive he is.”

Coaches need to be good leaders and teachers. Sure sounds like Day has the leadership part down pat.

* * * * *

Day was a tough player, fighting his way through injuries. He had that same mindset as an assistant coach.

Boston College wide receivers coach Ryan Day climbed out of bed Wednesday morning, took one step and fell to his knees in excruciating pain.

By 11 p.m., Day was undergoing emergency surgery to remove his appendix at a Boston hospital. The following morning, after taking a heavy dose of pain killers, he turned on the TV in his hospital room and saw one too many promos for the No. 2 Eagles’ ACC showdown at No. 8 Virginia Tech on Thursday night.

So Day did what any maniacal college football coach would do. He picked up the telephone and checked available airline flights to southwest Virginia. Day found a flight — he had to fly from Boston’s Logan Airport to New York’s LaGuardia and then to Roanoke, Va. — and didn’t have much time to get there. He climbed out of bed and left his room wearing electrodes and the same clothes he’d arrived at the hospital in the day before.

“The doctor told me, ‘Officially, I can’t clear you for this flight,'” Day said. “If it wasn’t Virginia Tech and wasn’t Thursday night, I wouldn’t have done it. My wife didn’t want me to go, God bless her. But she gave me her blessing at the end. I told her all week that I just had a feeling something special was going to happen.”

And, boy, did something special happen to the Eagles at Lane Stadium on Thursday night. After being exposed as yet another team not worthy of the No. 2 spot in the BCS standings for nearly the entire game, Boston College rallied from a 10-0 deficit with two touchdowns in the final 2:11 to stun the Hokies 14-10 in front of a rain-soaked, sold-out crowd of 66,233.

That’s pretty insane. He was really committed to the cause.

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Coaching Staff Update

Posted: January 22nd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 362 Comments »

Chip Kelly has added someone else to the staff.

That name won’t mean much to you, but Chip knows him. Day was a QB at the University of New Hampshire from 1998-2001. Kelly hadn’t fully configured his offense back then since he was the OL coach in 1998 and just took over as Offensive Coordinator in 1999. UNH was a zone running team back then and Kelly was just mixing in different ideas of how to attack in creative ways.

I can’t really judge this move since I don’t know much about Day. Kelly obviously feels some young blood needed to be added to the mix. Kelly and Pat Shurmur are still veteran coaches who will impact the QBs a lot.

Bill Lazor was a good QB coach. Bill Musgrave didn’t seem to have as much of an impact. Losing him isn’t a big deal. Day lacks NFL experience, but he is used to working with young QBs. The Eagles will likely have 2 of 3 young QBs, and possibly all 3. There is something to be said for finding someone who can connect with young players.

Day’s bio from BC

* * * * *

Chip was at the North practice this morning. I got to the stadium at 920am (very empty for some reason) and Chip was down in his usual spot in the far end zone. He stood there and talked to John Dorsey for more  than 2 hours. Dorsey is the Chiefs GM.

The Eagles had some interest in Chris Ballard, who works for Dorsey. Nothing happened with that. I don’t know if Chip was trying to get that situation back open or if he was just picking Dorsey’s brain on other potential candidates. Dorsey used to work for Green Bay so he knows Eliot Wolf and Alonzo Highsmith, who both could be of interest.

It is possible Kelly was just picking his brain in general and wasn’t talking specific people. Dorsey is a veteran personnel guy who knows how to run a team. There is a lot to be learned from talking to someone like that.

There is a connection between Kelly and Dorsey. Kelly played at UNH from 1981-84. John Dorsey played at UConn, then a small school, from 1980-83. They could have just been reminiscing about the old days.

But that’s boring. Let’s hope Kelly was picking his brain.

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Some DB Talk

Posted: January 22nd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 150 Comments »

One of the questions I’ve been throwing at various people in Mobile is whether Cary Williams will take a pay cut or not. He’s due $8.1M this year and clearly isn’t worth that. While it might be nice to let him go entirely, there is an argument to bringing him back for one more year at a reduced rate.

No one I’ve talked to has a good feel for Williams and what he’ll do. He is a very proud guy so you can see him rejecting a pay cut and telling the Eagles to just cut him. But Williams is also a smart guy (off the field). He may realize that the offer from the Eagles will be about as good as what he might get on the open market. Plus, he wouldn’t have to move, change teams and learn new systems. If his family is happy in Philly, Williams just might be willing to stay and play for less.

* * * * *

A couple of you have asked where Jimmy Bama is writing these days. He is now the lead Eagles writer for a new site called PhillyVoice. Over on the right hand side of this site there is a link to his writing at PV.

Jimmy spoke to someone who covers the Seahawks to ask about CB Byron Maxwell, who we expect to be a key free agent target for the Eagles. The guy Jimmy talked to is Danny Kelly, who knows football and isn’t just a typical writer. His opinion means something.

Kelly said good things about Maxwell. This part stood out for obvious reasons.

The main tenet for Pete Carroll’s system is to not get beat over the top, and Maxwell is fundamentally sound in that area. In fact, the only time off the top of my head that I can remember him getting beat deep was in last year’s Arizona matchup in Week 16, where Michael Floyd made a miraculous catch in the back corner of the end zone even after Maxwell had gotten a hand on the pass and deflected it. So, he does his job well, and that’s evidenced by Seattle’s second straight season giving up the fewest passing yards in the NFL.

I’m guessing Pete Carroll won’t be going after Nate Allen or Bradley Fletcher this offseason.

Make sure you read the whole piece. Good job by Mr. Bama.

* * * * *

Here are my notes on the South’s practice from Wednesday.

It wasn’t a great day for DBs. S Clayton Geathers was the centerfielder a few times and had trouble locating some deep balls. Part of that may be due to the fact the passes were off target and his back was to the ball. The receivers were able to adjust and then Geathers had to react to them.

I need to study Cody Prewitt and AJ Jefferson a lot more. Both guys have looked solid in Mobile.

* * * * *

The best barbecue in Mobile is at a place called The Brick Pit. It is almost a 25 minute drive from the stadium but it is worth it. I got there and the place was full of locals and Giants scouts. I got my food to go and then ate in the car. I had pulled pork, potato salad and beans. Fantastic. 5-stars. Like heaven in your mouth. Make sure you go to The Brick Pit if  you ever come to town.

And now for your daily Alex Flanagan update…we stood near each other on the field. I think she was trying to hit on me as she interviewed several players. That’s her version of playing hard to get, right?

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