So Much Better

Posted: June 16th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 112 Comments »

The Eagles receiving corps has to be the most improved unit in the league. This group looked good on paper and played that way in the OTAs and minicamp.

Alshon Jeffery played like a #1 receiver. He caught just about everything that came his way. He made contested catches. He made spectacular catches. He even hauled in a deep ball or two. The Eagles gave Jeffery a lot of money and right now that looks like money well-spent. Carson Wentz has a top shelf weapon to go to in the passing game. That could be huge for Wentz’s development.

Torrey Smith hasn’t done anything spectacular, but he’s shown the speed the Eagles lacked last year. Beyond that, Smith is a skilled vertical receiver. He and Wentz are working on the subtleties of how to complete those deep balls. Smith is teaching Wentz what he considers open to be and where to put the ball so he can go make a play on it.

Jordan Matthews, the Eagles best receiver the last couple of years, was hurt and didn’t play. Doug Pederson said he could go if this was the regular season so it sounds like the team is just being careful. Unless his leg falls off, I’m willing to count on Matthews to play well.

Nelson Agholor has embraced the challenge of this offseason. He could have pouted about losing his starting job, but did just the opposite. He has responded really well to the coaching of Mike Groh and is playing the best football of his young career. Admittedly, that bar is set low, but it is still better than seeing him struggle again. Agholor hasn’t been great. Let’s not overdo this. Simply put, he’s making plays, not mistakes. The best thing is that Agholor has played a lot in the slot with Matthews out. He now is showing he can contribute in the slot or outside. That’s important for a player who won’t be the primary receiver. He needs to be able to fit into whatever spot is open for that series or that game.

The Mack Hollins hype train seems to have settled down quite a bit. I don’t know if he did anything or people just got used to seeing him play well. Hollns has shown that he is more than a STer who has some pass-catching talent. He is a talented WR. We’ll see how he does in Training Camp, but he looks like a player that can contribute as a rookie, on offense and STs.

Bryce Treggs played well in the minicamp. I don’t know if the light suddenly went on for him or what, but he started making plays. Treggs has to stand out in order to win a roster spot. He needs to play like he did this week throughout the month of August.

Marcus Johnson has gotten some positive notes. UDFA Greg Ward has had some good moments. He could develop into a slot receiver. Donnel Pumphrey has worked as a slot receiver quite a bit. He isn’t officially a WR, but could be a contributor in the slot role this season. He’s got the potential to be a playmaker.

There are two clear disappointments. DGB and Shelton Gibson have struggled. Unlike Agholor, DGB doesn’t seem to be embracing the increased level of competition. He might be more focused on the idea that he’s going to be out of a job. Last year he made the Eagles roster because of potential. That’s not good enough this year. He has to produce. He can turn things around in Training Camp, but I wouldn’t count on it. Gibson just seems like the overwhelmed rookie. Mental confusion has led to physical problems, mainly dropped passes. He needs to play better in August to have any shot at a roster spot, or more likely, to secure a spot on the practice squad.

I don’t think anyone will mistake this group for the ’99 Rams anytime soon. That’s fine. Just make sure no one mistakes them for the 2016 Eagles.

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JP Sticking Around

Posted: June 15th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 93 Comments »

Jason Peters got an extension from the Eagles on Wednesday.

This is an interesting move by the Eagles. They already had Peters under contract so there was no real need to do this. They gained some cap space this year, but now have to keep Peters around another couple of years.

That’s great if he continues to play well, but there is always the possibility he will hit the wall and start to decline. Peters is a freak, being such a good LT for such a long time, but even he is human. I think. At some point, he will start to struggle against speed rushers. The Eagles can move him in to LG at that point, whether that is 2018 or 2019.

Peters’ extension does mean the Eagles have a boatload of money invested in their OL. That doesn’t bode well for the future of Jason Kelce. He’s got to know the writing is on the wall for him, likely next year, but possible this year.

One person who must be happy is Carson Wentz. He will have a good pair of OTs for the next couple of years. Randall Cunningham would have killed to play behind a LT like Peters.

The most fascinating bit of info was Peters referring to Jeffrey Lurie as his best friend. Les Bowen has more on that.

Peters made a point of thanking Eagles chairman Jeffery Lurie.

“We’re best friends. We talk all the time. He texts me, and we talk before every game. That’s my guy,” Peters said. “He brought me here, and he stayed loyal to me.”

Peters said Lurie is “away in Europe somewhere” but after agent Vincent Taylor initiated talks recently, Lurie “stood up for me and got the deal done.”

At the March NFL meetings in Arizona, Lurie talked of his friendship with Peters, how close they were. On the surface, a 65-year-old billionaire from Boston and a 35-year-old tackle from Texas wouldn’t seem to have all that much in common, but Lurie clearly treasures Peters as one of his franchise’s all-time greats. And Peters has made something like $80 million from Lurie since arriving in a 2009 trade.

What do they talk about?

“Football, life in general, you know,” Peters said.

Just as I predicted when watching tape of Peters playing TE at Arkansas in 2003. “I’ll be someday that kid will consider Jeff Lurie to be his best friend.” I have proof of that somewhere, but you can just take my word for it now. Right?

I love keeping Peters around. The only downside is the cap situation. The Eagles will need to do some shuffling next season to get under the cap. It might not be that hard, but having Peters big salary on the books won’t make things easy.

Still, it is nice to have this guy sticking around.

*****

Peters has a couple of reasons for wanting the deal (besides money, of course).

He has never won a playoff game. His goal is winning the Super Bowl, but at the least he has to want to have some postseason success. Just getting to the playoffs is rewarding on some level, but you want to win. You want to make a run at a title. Peters is optimistic about the Eagles future.

JP also badly wants to make it to the Hall of Fame. I don’t think he’s there right now, but if he can play another three years, and the Eagles do have some postseason success, that will help his resume.

We all like money, but Peters wants more than just that.

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Minicamp Notes Roundup

Posted: June 13th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 121 Comments »

Tuesday was the first day of minicamp (mandatory as opposed to voluntary OTAs) open to the media. Let’s find out what they saw.

First up is Jimmy Bama.

Still, even with a dominant defense, it was fun watching the offense, and more specifically Carson Wentz get cerebral. On one rep, Wentz changed the play, and then so did Jordan Hicks on the other side of the ball, followed by Jason Kelce screaming out a line adjustment. On another play, Wentz came up to the line and quick-snapped the defense before hitting an easy quick out to the slot receiver for an easy 10 yard gain. On another play, Wentz read a zone blitz and caught Derek Barnett trying to cover Darren Sproles on a circle route, which Sproles easily won. Sproles caught the pass, then headed up the field, even showing off a little high-step.

Wentz is a bright guy. He makes good pre-snap reads and adjustments. He does need to work on making quicker and better decisions after the snap. All rookies struggle in that area. I don’t know how much of this we’ll be able to see in practices and Training Camp. Actual games are a much better test for that.

We’ve seen Donnel Pumphrey on the field at the same time as Sproles quite a bit, with Pumphrey lined up in the slot. Offensively, Pumphrey could be used similarly to the way De’Anthony Thomas was used in Kansas City when Doug Pederson coached there. The Chiefs would use Thomas’ natural running ability on jet sweeps, and that element would make sense for Pumphrey.

I recently compared Pumphrey to Josh Huff. Interesting that both Huff and Thomas played at Oregon. Just can’t get away from Chip Kelly’s influence. Joking aside, both players are WR/RB/RS types that you wanted to get the ball to so they could make plays. Both showed flashes of talent in the NFL, but couldn’t sustain a high level of play. Pumphrey has been an overachiever all his athletic career so that could give him an edge the other two didn’t have.

We got our first look at rookie sixth-round pick Elijah Qualls today, who has not yet practiced because his school is on the quarters system. The obvious first thing I noticed about him today was his active, violent hands.

Make sure to read Jimmy’s piece. You need to see who he compared Qualls to. I guarantee it won’t be someone you were thinking of. And what is up with DTs? Beau Allen is hurt. Tim Jernigan got hurt last week. Destiny Vaeao was banged up and didn’t practice on Tuesday. It might be safer to be the drummer for Spinal Tap than a DT for the Eagles. If there is a time to deal with some nagging injuries, this is it. Luckily, aside from Allen, most of these injuries are just for a day or two.

Undrafted rookie running back Corey Clement won’t wow you with his speed, but he looks good cutting and changing direction in traffic.

Non-contact practices are not a good place to evaluate RBs, but it is good to hear something about Clement. He’s got a chance to push for a roster spot, but he will have to earn it.

*****

Next up is Jeff McLane.

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz opened team drills by having Curry lined up inside and Cox on the outside. The switch seemed to fool the offense’s protections up front, and Curry got in the backfield and disrupted a Darren Sproles carry. Chris Long and rookie Derek Barnett were the second-team ends. Carson Wentz once found Sproles matched up against Barnett out of the backfield and took advantage of the mismatch. The speedy running back broke away from the end and high-stepped into the end zone.

Barnett had gotten the better of Johnson a few times last week, but when pitted against him for a few plays Tuesday, the tackle held his ground.

I like this. A lot. Curry can be a mismatch on the inside. Cox is a mismatch anywhere. I think there is real value in moving those guys around. In baseball, it is hard to go from a fastball pitcher to a knuckleballer. I would think blockers would also hate to go from Curry to Cox and vice-versa. Those guys have different bodies and different skill sets. Dealing with them has to be challenging. I hope Schwartz is more creative this year with how he uses the guys up front.  Read the rest of this entry »


Maclin to the Ravens

Posted: June 13th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 50 Comments »

Jeremy Maclin visited Buffalo. Then he visited Baltimore. So his final decision came down to…

Huh? What happened.

Doug Pederson explained the Eagles side of things.

“As I’ve said, we’re always looking for talent and ways to upgrade this roster. At the time when I was asked that question, I had not talked to Jeremy, but when he was still available over the weekend, we got together as a staff and discussed it. I called him and spoke to him and had a good conversation just to see what he was thinking, where he was at,” Pederson said. “He made the decision today to sign with Baltimore and we wish him the best of luck. We feel very good about what we have at wide receiver, but again we’re always going to keep our eyes open for ways to improve our football team at any position.”

Interesting.

I think this was about the desire to add Maclin, not a WR. The organization loved him when he was here. And Maclin did not want to leave the team. It must have been very tempting for him to come home, so to speak.

He chose the Ravens. They have a veteran QB, coach and GM. They have a clear need at WR. And they have more cap space. It makes sense that he would go there.

I have no idea what would have happened if the Eagles had signed him. Would they have cut Torrey Smith or traded Jordan Matthews? It is always possible they would have kept the four of them with the idea that last year the team had arguably the worst WRs in the league and overstocking that position with talent was worth any risk in terms of how to use everyone and keep them all happy.

It is easy to wonder if Howie Roseman was having a 2011 flashback. “Go sign him!!!” But again, I think this was a special case. The Eagles aren’t out there chasing big names like Eric Decker, Darrelle Revis and whoever else is still on the market. This was a specific move. This was about Jeremy Maclin. He was a star player for the Eagles, but also a high character guy.

I don’t blame the team for having some interest and making some calls. Remember that they are trying to surround Carson Wentz with as much talent as possible. Maclin wouldn’t have been an ideal fit because of the way the roster is already built, but he would have added talent to what was a significant weak spot a year ago.

*****

Jimmy Bama has a good piece up on Dave Fipp and his desire to someday become a head coach.

“I do think that being a special teams coach in this league – and I’m not speaking about myself, but in general – there are some really quality guys, and I think it is a unique position because you get a chance to see the whole roster,” he explained. “You’re not working on the offensive side or the defensive side of the ball. On game day, you’re really involved in a lot of the decisions that the head coach is making – when to punt, when to kick, when to go for it. What are our odds of making this field goal? All those types of things I think are decisions that a head coach makes, I think a special teams coach is naturally really close to that.

“I think that their understanding of the roster and the makeup – the 53-man roster, the 46 man roster – really is different than an offensive coach or a defensive coach, because they’re just worried about their side of the ball, while a special teams guy is worried about all 46, because they all play for him.”

Fipp makes a pretty good case for why a STs coach can become a head coach.

John Harbaugh is the only guy in recent years to make that move.

Marv Levy is one of the first STs coaches in NFL history and he did okay as a head coach. He went to the CFL as a head coach before eventually ending up in Buffalo.

Bill Cowher was a STs coach before moving to being a defensive assistant. He then went on to the Steelers as head coach.

Dick Vermeil was one of the first STs coaches in the NFL. He went to UCLA to become a head coach before making his way to the Eagles.

Some GM or owner should see that Fipp has the potential to be a head coach. I just hope he stays with the Eagles for another couple of years. Having him run the STs units has been hugely important the past few years. This team would have been in big trouble without him.

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So Far, So Good

Posted: June 12th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 111 Comments »

A great offseason on paper can be very different from reality. Fans of all teams have learned that the hard way. Dan Snyder has made more splashy moves that most owners and has virtually nothing to show for it. The Eagles looked like geniuses in 2011 and went 8-8 (and needed a 4-game win streak at the end of the year to get to that point).

Most people agreed that the Eagles did a good job this offseason in acquiring talented players and good fits. We’ve only seen a few weeks of OTAs, but so far the big moves look like they were in fact good moves. I wrote about this for PE.com.

  • Alshon Jeffery looks like a stud receiver
  • Derek Barnett is pushing for a starting job
  • Torrey Smith looks like the vertical threat the team wanted
  • Tim Jernigan looks like the quick, disruptive DT the team wanted
  • Rasul Douglas is playing well and pushing for playing time

To be fair, Douglas doesn’t have a difficult path to playing time, but everyone is praising him so far so that is encouraging.

The one key player I didn’t cover was LeGarrette Blount. You can’t judge a 250-pound RB on how he looks in non-contact practices. Blount has a strong enough track record that I’m not too concerned with him. He might not score 18 TDs this year, but the Eagles don’t need him to have a career season. They have enough talent at RB to put together a good RBBC group. Things just get a lot easier if Blount does play well.

It will be great if Patrick Robinson, Chris Long, Mack Hollins, Donnel Pumphrey, and Elijah Qualls play well in their roles. I know there is a lot of buzz on Hollins right now, but let’s be patient with him.

It is more important that the big moves pan out.

You might wonder how much of a difference WRs can make to a QB. Let’s look at the rookie years of Nick Foles and Carson Wentz.

Foles – 265 pass attempts – 24 completions of 20 or more yards

Wentz – 607 pass attempts – 39 completions of 20 or more yards

Foles had DeSean Jackson for part of the year. He had Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant and Riley Cooper most of the time. Remember that Cooper wasn’t a headcase back then and flashed some potential.  Foles would have posted even better numbers, but he had no Jason Peters at LT and Dallas Reynolds was his starting C for most of the year. That’s not ideal, to put it mildly.

I don’t think I need to go through Wentz’s receivers.

Put simply, Foles had some playmakers and Wentz didn’t.

That should change this year. Jeffery and Smith are showing the skills the Eagles wanted when they were signed. Now it is up to Wentz to take advantage of them.

As for Barnett, Jernigan and Douglas, they can help push a good defense to the next level. If Wentz and his new playmakers can get the team the lead, Barnett, Jernigan and the other pass rushers can really be difference-makers.

A pick or two from Douglas would help as well. Eight of them (his total from last year) would endear him to Eagles Nation for the next decade.

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