Posted: March 6th, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 18 Comments »
In the last few days I’ve written my scouting reports on some free agent prospects. Remember that these are just my opinions. Scouting players isn’t a black and white situation. I don’t know what the Eagles think of these players.
When I was trained by a scout years ago, the most critical piece of advice he gave me was “write what you see”. So that’s what I do. I watch the players in several games and write down the specific details of what I see the players do, good or bad. I go into each game with an open mind and not pre-conceived notions. I have no agenda on whether to write a glowing review or a less thrilled one. Write what you see.
You can read other opinions on free agent prospects. Some will differ from mine. That’s fine. I might watch a play and come away with one take while someone else watches the same play and has a different read. You just have to figure out who to trust. Obviously you can trust me. The fact that my top free agents are all named Tommy or went to Appalachian State University is merely coincidence. Oh, and don’t trust that awful Jimmy Bama.
When I do read opinions from people I respect that differ from mine, my first thought is “What did they see that I didn’t?” I might go back and watch some more tape to just make sure I didn’t miss something. You never know when you saw a player have a bad game that’s an anomaly or if he struggled due to an injury or something like that.
Enough talking. I’ve got more free agents to go study.
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Sheil Kapadia, who you can trust, wrote about some non-Orakpo/Worilds OLB targets the Eagles could look at. Maybe the most interesting player is…
Everson Griffen, Vikings (26) - A fourth-round pick in 2010, Griffen has never played more than 60.1 percent of his team’s snaps in a single season, per Pro Football Focus. But he was a productive pass-rusher last year and has 13.5 sacks in the past two seasons.
The question with Griffen is whether teams view him as a 3-4 OLB or a 4-3 DE. Per ESPN 1500 in Minnesota, he might prefer the former:
That’s because Everson Griffen, a fourth-round pick in 2010 who is due to hit the free-agent market this offseason, would probably be more likely to return to the Vikings if they go to a 3-4. He’d also become a better player.
Griffen’s eyes lit up last summer when he was asked about getting the opportunity to rush the passer from outside linebacker. Griffen was asked to play some linebacker in 2012 for the Vikings but he clearly wasn’t comfortable doing it in a 4-3. It would be a different story if he was standing up and rushing the passer.
In a PhiladelphiaEagles.com video, Greg Cosell of NFL Films said he thought Griffen had the athleticism to play in a 3-4.
At 6-3, 273, Griffen has good size, and he is a young, ascending player. Given the market, he’ll probably have his fair share of suitors. But if the Eagles want to make a splash, he could be someone they look at.
Posted: March 6th, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 102 Comments »
I finally got done watching several games of TJ Ward, the potential free agent target from the Browns.
Age 27…will turn 28 in December
4 years in the NFL
Missed 8 games in 2011 and 2 games in 2012.
5 career INTs
5 career FFs
24 career pass deflections
24 career TFLs
3.5 career sacks
248 career solo tackles
I had high hopes when I put on the tape, but must admit to being slightly disappointed. Ward is a tough, physical Safety and I loved that side of his game, but he simply missed too many tackles for me to come away overly excited. Ward is an aggressive tackler. He likes to go low on his targets and that leads to some misses. Sometimes players fight through the contact. Other times players are able to side-step or go over him.
Ward is a physical player. Put him in the box and he’s right at home. He will take on O-linemen if needed. He will fight through traffic to get to the ball. Ward does have some pop when he hits and tackles. Calvin Johnson caught an intermediate pass over the middle and Ward was able to knock the ball loose. This wasn’t one of those jarring hits where the DB ran 10 yards at full speed (Brandon Meriweather or Dunta Robinson). Ward was near CJ and just exploded into him. This kind of short area explosive hitting isn’t common. Ward can “uncoil” and offensive players will feel it.
I didn’t see Ward as undisciplined or stupid with his hitting. He wanted to punish runners and receivers, but did so under control. That’s important in today’s NFL. Gone are the days when Wes and Andre could patrol the middle and level receivers any way they wanted. I don’t know the penalty stats on Ward for the year, but he was pretty clean in the games I watched.
Ward is versatile. Cleveland played him down in the box a lot, but not exclusively. They liked to show 8-man fronts on some plays and then would have Ward retreat at the snap and get 20-25 yards deep. He has good feet and is a solid athlete. Ward was able to quickly get good depth on those plays and be an effective downfield cover guy. Other times he covered the TE 1-on-1. Ward did a good job of this on underneath routes. I didn’t see him going downfield in man coverage, but he certainly has the speed to run with most TEs.
I didn’t get a good feel for Ward’s ball skills. He didn’t have any picks or drops in the games that I watched. On a side note, his 2 INTs in 2014 came vs MIN and BUF, a pair of teams with bad QBs. Ward only has 5 INTs for his career so clearly he’s not a ballhawk. I don’t know if that is a part of his game that can get substantially better.
Ward looked like a pretty smart player. He seemed to read plays well. He took good angles to the ball. I didn’t see any obvious mental mistakes in coverage. Before the snap, he does talk to his teammates and help to get everyone lined up correctly.
It was fun to watch Ward and see the physical element to his game. He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but he’s tough and he’s “springy”. Seeing that frame and ability to explode into players reminded me of Brian Dawkins a couple of times. The difference is that Dawk had great hands and was instinctive, which made him more of a ballhawk. Ward is best used in the box. Dawk could be the SS, FS or even nickelback and excel in all 3 roles. If we could find a way to combine TJ Ward and Jairus Byrd, we’d have Dawk Jr.
Ward makes sense as an Eagles target because he is versatile and Bill Davis likes that. He has talked about wanting to play his Safeties as the Right Safety and the Left Safety, meaning they are interchangeable. Byrd is more of a pure centerfielder. Ward can go back and play centerfield or Cover 2. He can play in the box. Ward does miss more tackles than you want, but to be fair…part of that is because he’s such an active tackler. Byrd was more efficient, but also was more selective about tackle attempts.
The biggest argument against Ward is that he’s got 5 INTs and 5 FFs in 4 years. Safeties that break the bank need to make impact plays…aka create turnovers. I don’t know that Ward is worth big money if you have a young guy like Earl Wolff already on the roster (a player that will hit and tackle).
I certainly won’t be upset if the Eagles go after Ward, but I think it would surprise me.
Posted: March 5th, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 40 Comments »
If you don’t like one rumor, keep reading a while and you’ll find one to refute the rumor you don’t like.
That’s it. Vick is out.
Mike Florio also says the Eagles remain open to a return by Vick. Honestly, I don’t know why the Eagles would rule Vick out. If the market doesn’t play out as he’d like it, seems to me that you would be willing to talk to him about returning as a backup. I don’t anticipate Vick coming back. I do think some team will give Vick a chance to be their starter or at least compete for the starting role.
I still want to see Vick go to the Raiders. That has been rumored as a possibility. We’ll see what happens.
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Here’s a Jairus Byrd update.
I think they will have interest. Just not sure how high they’ll bid, if it gets to that point.
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For those wanting some good news on the DeSean Jackson front, you’ll enjoy Jeff McLane’s report.
The Eagles are not actively shopping DeSean Jackson, nor do they have any intention of parting with their Pro Bowl wide receiver this offseason.
Jackson isn’t close to being cut, and even if he was one misstep away from forcing the Eagles to move him, they most certainly wouldn’t release him without getting something in return.
The Eagles, of course, don’t respond to rumors. It wouldn’t be within their best interest to feed a reporter the above information without attribution – e.g. as a “team source” – because refuting speculation would be acknowledging it.
But after talking with almost a dozen sources from around the league, it’s clear the Eagles aren’t interested in dealing the 27-year-old Jackson – not by a long shot.
That is pretty definitive and I hope he’s right, but all I can tell you is…we’ll see. Jeff is a good reporter and works his sources, but you just don’t know if the sources he talked to know what the Eagles are thinking. After all, if they do move DeSean, that’s a move out of left field. It isn’t like this is something that anyone saw coming (as opposed to the cutting of Avant).
For now, DeSean is an Eagle and it sure sounds like those around the league expect him to stay here.
Posted: March 5th, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 101 Comments »
Offseason activity has already begun. The only surprising move so far is the re-signing of Jason Peters. He’s older and pricey, normally a combination the Eagles don’t embrace. The fact they extended him caught many of us off-guard. Those are the kinds of surprises fans want to see.
Unfortunately, things don’t always work that way. If history tells us anything, it is that this offseason will feature a couple of decisions that are minor head-scratchers at the very least. Hiring Bill Davis didn’t make much sense last year. Bringing back Mike Vick was odd. And then drafting Matt Barkley didn’t make sense since we all knew Chip Kelly wanted a mobile QB. Oops.
During the offseason a lot of rumors and reports will pop up. I wrote about this last year in News vs Noise. You have to understand what the message is and who the message is coming from. Does the writer/reporter have an agenda? Does their source? Is the story passed off as fact or speculation?
Many of you got upset at Jimmy Bama the other day for his column that talked about the Eagles possibly trying to trade DeSean Jackson. Some of you got mad at me for writing about his writing. I can assure you that Jimmy didn’t just make this up to stir the pot and get attention. He studied the moves made by the Eagles and how they affected the roster and payroll. He then wrote about one possible meaning. Jimmy was very reasonable and logical in what he had to say. He also has generally been pretty positive about DeSean in the past. It isn’t as if Jimmy has something against him and is hoping this happens.
I have no problem at all with someone in the media speculating like that if they have logical info and present it correctly. Jimmy did both. If his theory was based on some ridiculous ideas, I would have ripped it to shreds. Jimmy and I love to argue. And I love to rip his bad ideas.
One reason that the offseason is so mysterious is that we simply don’t have all the facts. Remember the 2002 draft? The Eagles took Lito Sheppard, Sheldon Brown and Michael Lewis. At the time, the Eagles had the best secondary in football. No one expected the first 3 picks to be DBs. The Eagles saw the guys getting older and had the feeling that they wouldn’t be able to re-sign them once they hit FA. They drafted for the future and that turned out to be a terrific draft.
I remember being shocked when John Welbourn went nuclear right before the 2004 draft. The Eagles dealt him to KC on draft weekend because the relationship had gotten so toxic that they felt things couldn’t be worked out. Trading Welbourn would have been a shocking idea just a week earlier.
The offseason officially starts on March 11th. Be ready for a few surprising moves. These could come in the way of signings, cuts, extensions or draft picks. Things should be okay for the next few days. Think of it as the calm before the storm. Then again…I guess unexpected moves can happen at unexpected times.
The minute I hear that the Eagles are trying to trade Jimmy Bama, I’ll let you know.
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I watched some TJ Ward last night, but only 2 games. I’ll post my notes when I’ve seen more.
Some of you are asking about free agent CBs. I haven’t watched any. For whatever reason, I don’t think the Eagles are going to sign FA CBs. They already have a pair of veterans in place. My guess is that the Eagles would rather add CBs in the draft. I’ll try to watch a few CBs, but I’m not going to focus on them heavily unless we hear some direct rumors.
Peter King mentioned the Eagles should have interest in Alterran Verner, but that is pure speculation on his part.
Posted: March 4th, 2014 | Author: Tommy Lawlor | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 45 Comments »
The Eagles have released Jason Avant.
We knew this was going to happen. Avant is getting older and simply no longer fits what the Eagles are looking for on the field. Off the field, Jason Avant is everything any NFL team would want. He doesn’t get in trouble. He is a leader that understands you can get the job done leading by example or talking to your teammates. Too often in sports, volume is mistaken for leadership. That’s not the case with Avant.
I’m going to miss Avant making clutch catches and blocking for others. He still has some of the best hands in the NFL. Avant made his share of memorable catches over the years. He could go up and get the ball or pluck it just above ground level. He could extend with 2 hands and snare the ball or reach out desperately with one hand and make a phenomenal circus catch.
Avant really shined as a blocker in 2013. The Eagles led the NFL in rushing and piled up a ton of RAC yards in the passing game. Avant had a hand in many of those yards. Some receivers don’t function well when the ball isn’t in their hands. Avant took care of business. He didn’t care if he was blocking a LB, S or CB. Avant was going to go hit someone and do his part to spring a teammate for a big gain.
Arguably the best compliment you can give an athlete is to say that he made the others around him better. Jason Avant did that on and off the field. He was a terrific player and I’m going to miss him.
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Avant will catch on with some team that uses the slot receiver in a more conventional way. He still has good short area quickness and runs excellent routes. Avant can get open and catch the ball. The problem is that he’s slow and isn’t much of a playmaker. Even if you get him the ball in space, he’s not going to make a play most of the time.
I’d love to see him go to KC and be reunited with Big Red or to go to a top contender. Avant is one of those guys you would love to see get a Super Bowl ring.
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Just for fun, here is my pre-draft write-up on Jason.
Excellent college player. Jason makes big catches and is very good in the Red Zone. Always seems to deliver in clutch situations. Nice size and good hands. Can make tough catches. Works the middle of the field well. Can adjust to poorly thrown balls. I don’t see a whole lot of athletic ability. Lacks top end speed and getting seperation in the NFL will be tough. Can take big shots. Hands catcher. Will run guys over, but lacks top speed. 2 time Big Ten All Academic. Catches a lot of 3rd down passes and balls in the Red Zone. Runs very good routes. Sells fakes well. On one play vs OSU, shuffled his feet prior to running a slant and got CB Ashton Youboty so off-balance that he fell down.
Jason is the most polished WR in the whole Draft. Could be an excellent #3 type WR. Despite the lack of pure speed and athleticism, Jason could develop into a solid starter in the right system. He knows how to get open and has excellent hands.
He pretty much became in the NFL what he was in college. The one big difference…the Red Zone. Jason never became much of a RZ threat in the NFL. I think part of that was on Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid. AR called some strange pass plays in the RZ and Donovan struggled with throwing the ball to players in traffic over the years. Had Avant played in a different offense or with a different QB, he might have been more productive in the RZ as a pro.
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Here is the PE.com story with some official quotes.