A Learning Year

Posted: July 9th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 55 Comments »

Training Camp is still 3 weeks away, but this seems like a good time to discuss a possible starting lineup. Injuries will likely have their say on who starts, but let’s assume everyone is healthy for now (which they actually are at this point).

The lineup I would like to see:

QB Sam Bradford
RB Ryan Mathews
WR Nelson Agholor
WR Josh Huff
Slot Jordan Matthews
TE Zach Ertz
LT Jason Peters
LG Isaac Seumalo
C Jason Kelce
RG Brandon Brooks
RT Lane Johnson

DE Connor Barwin
DT Fletcher Cox
DT Bennie Logan
DE Vinny Curry
WB Mychal Kendricks
MB Jordan Hicks
SB Nigel Bradham
SS Malcolm Jenkins
FS Rodney McLeod
CB Leodis McKelvin
CB Eric Rowe

The Eagles can compete for the NFC East title this year, but that’s a combination of a solid roster and a bad division. It doesn’t mean the Eagles are on the verge of something special.

The 2016 season should be a mixture of trying to win and trying to find out if the young guys can play. So why not Carson Wentz? Notice I said “young guys” and not rookies. The only rookie I have in the lineup is LG Isaac Seumalo. The rest of the young guys are second and third year players. They have potential, but also question marks.

One thing to keep in mind is that I’m not saying the coaches should just give those jobs to young players. I’m assuming those players will win their position battles or at least be close. If Allen Barbre is a little bit better than Seumalo, is it worth putting the guy in his 30’s on the field over the rookie who has a lot more potential?

If a veteran is clearly better, you have to play that guy. Eric Rowe didn’t have a strong spring. He needs a good summer to beat out Nolan Carroll and Ron Brooks and everyone else he’s battling against. Jalen Mills did have a good spring. He needs to be even better this summer to show he’s the real deal and someone the Eagles should consider starting.

At TE, Brent Celek is still better all-around than Ertz. But Ertz isn’t going to become a better blocker by sitting. He needs to get on the field on run and pass plays. Celek was a poor blocker when he was drafted. He became good by working at it. Ertz has the potential to be a good blocker.

DE is probably the toughest spot for me. I want to reward Curry, Barwin and Brandon Graham. I went with Barwin based on the fact he is such a strong team leader. It helps when those guys are starters. I would split the reps pretty evenly among the trio, but I would give Barwin the starting nod. This is purely semantics, but there are times when that stuff matters.

I sure hope that defense can stay healthy. I want to see those guys play together in this system and for this coaching staff. We haven’t had a really good defense in a while. There were impressive stretches under Bill Davis, but not entire seasons. This could be a good year for the D.

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Pederson Mystery

Posted: July 7th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 23 Comments »

Jay Gruden led the Skins to the NFC East crown in 2015. But overall his record in the NFL is just 13-19. Jason Garrett led Dallas to the division title in 2014, but last year was the coach of a 4-12 team. Ben McAdoo has never been a head coach in his life. These are the men who Doug Pederson will battle for supremacy in the NFC East.

That’s not exactly the same thing as Buddy Ryan joining a division with Tom Landry, Bill Parcells and Joe Gibbs, huh?

We don’t know how good of a coach Pederson will be this year. He could turn out to be the next Don Shula. Or he could be the next David Shula. For those newer to the game, we want Pederson to be more like Don. Chances are, Pederson will be somewhere in the middle. Don is one of the greatest coaches ever. David was his son. And a bad coach (who almost got the Eagles job back in the 90’s).

Pederson was not a sexy hire. The Eagles didn’t have to outbid anyone for his services. That may not mean anything, though. Chip Kelly was a slam dunk, can’t miss hire…that missed. I absolutely wanted him over Bruce Arians. Oops. Older fans will remember wanting Jim Haslett instead of the chubby no-name assistant from Green Bay. How’d that turn out for the Eagles? Pretty darn good.

I still don’t know exactly what to make of Pederson. There are times when he worries me and other times when I start to get more comfortable with him. He is going to have a huge say in how the 2016 season goes. The Eagles are talented, but far from great. They need good coaching to help them win some games that are up in the air.

I do think Pederson is in a good situation.

He wasn’t hired with a ton of fanfare. That means expectations are more reasonable for him. Every move Kelly made from 2013-2015 was under a huge microscope and I think that hurt him and the team. Everyone wanted to know if the college guru could change the NFL. Pederson isn’t a coach that casual fans will care about. General writers and analysts aren’t dying to break down his gameplans.

Pederson is in a comfort zone. He played in Philly for a year. He coached here for 4 seasons. He is friendly with the owner and GM (or whatever Chip thinks we should call Howie Roseman). Pederson knows some of the players. He also benefits from inheriting some strong leaders. Connor Barwin, Malcolm Jenkins, Chris Maragos, Jason Peters and Brent Celek are veteran players who help on and off the field. One of the benefits of Kelly focusing on high character players is that Pederson got a strong locker room. He doesn’t have to come in and babysit a bunch of criminals or crazy egos.

The roster is set up to help Pederson. The Eagles should be strong on defense and STs, neither of which is an area of expertise for Pederson. The offense will need some work and that is Pederson’s area. Fixing something that is his strength should come easier for him and those around him. And you can win ugly with defense and STs. Pederson might need to win some ugly games as the players learn his offense and we wait for some young guys to emerge. Winning ugly can help a coach and his team to build some confidence.

One of the problems facing teams in this past hiring cycle is that there simply weren’t options that appeared to be great. I liked Adam Gase the most, but still had a ton of questions about him. Time will show us which teams made the right hires. I do think it is important to understand that just because a coach succeeds/fails at one spot doesn’t mean the same would be true elsewhere.

A big part of winning big is circumstances. How different would Dallas have been if Jimmy Johnson didn’t have Troy Aikman to spend that #1 overall pick on? The guys right behind him were Tony Mandarich, Barry Sanders and Derrick Thomas. Mandarich is an all-time bust and the other guys were stars, but not good enough to help a team get to the Super Bowl. How good is Seattle if Buffalo decides to keep Marshawn Lynch instead of trading him? Do the Rams win the Super Bowl in 1999 if Trent Green doesn’t get hurt? Kurt Warner might have been another Doug Pederson. Instead Warner got on the field with a team that was perfect for him. He made Dick Vermeil a Super Bowl champion and turned Mike Martz into an offensive guru.

The right coach needs the right players at the right time.

I can see the Eagles being better than expected or worse than feared. A lot depends on how good of a leader Pederson is and whether he can get the QBs to play to their potential. For now, Pederson and the Eagles are mysteries. In about a month we will start to get some hints. Maybe, just maybe, Jeffrey Lurie hired the right coach at the right time.

Keep your fingers crossed.

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Tulloch is Finally Free

Posted: July 6th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 72 Comments »

We’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting. The day has finally come. LB Stephen Tulloch is a free man.

Now that he’s free, the question becomes where Tulloch will sign.

I recently wrote about the Eagles as a possible destination. The big problem obviously is that the Eagles have a starting MLB in Jordan Hicks. Would Tulloch come here to compete for a job or to be the backup?

At first glance, that doesn’t seem likely. But the relationship between Jim Schwartz and Tulloch is a factor. See what Jimbo had to say about Tulloch when he signed him as a free agent in Detroit.

The Detroit Lions had a press conference for newly re-signed linebacker Stephen Tulloch at its facility this afternoon. Tulloch was an unrestricted free agent and signed a five-year deal to remain in Detroit on Wednesday (terms of Tulloch’s deal are currently unavailable). His family, friends and girlfriend attend the press conference in Allen Park.

Lions general manager Martin Mayhew expressed how happy he was to have Tulloch for five-years, but Schwartz fought back tears at the podium.

“I get a little choked up because I’ve known Stephen since he was 20-years old,” Schwartz said. “He came in as a fourth-round draft pick (in Tennessee) and I’ve seen him (grow). It’s like a son, or a neighbor, or a cousin, and you see him develop throughout his career.

“I couldn’t be more proud of this day for him. To see the hard work and the perseverance it’s taken him to get to this point. I need to step off this podium before it’s too much.”

Schwartz did not need to say another word.

The Tennessee Titans made Tulloch its fourth-round selection in 2006. Schwartz was the team’s defensive coordinator. It is why the two men have such a bond.

“Coach Schwartz gave me the opportunity in 2006, when everybody overlooked me because of my size,” Tulloch said. “I wasn’t big enough, my 40 time wasn’t fast enough, but (for Schwartz) to see the person I was and give me the opportunity in the film he watched … He gave me an opportunity.

“I remember being behind a guy named Peter Sirmon, itching to play, scratching at the surface to play, knowing I was ready. My opportunity didn’t come then, but not too far after, I got the opportunity and never looked back.”

Tears? What is this, Dick Vermeil time? Those two men obviously have a tight bond. That absolutely could come in to play as Tulloch surveys the market.

The recent suspension of Rolando McClain makes Dallas a distinct possibility. There are a few other teams who don’t have a settled situation at MLB. Tulloch might want to go to a contender. Or he might focus on a sure-thing opening in the lineup. The Eagles aren’t a great fit in either category. Still, you never know. He might want to come here to play for an old coach and for a defense that has the potential to be outstanding. Dallas certainly doesn’t appear to be a dominant D. On the flip side, Tulloch might get to make a bunch of tackles for them.

I would love to have Tulloch, but don’t hold your breath.

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Supplemental Draft

Posted: July 5th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 16 Comments »

The NFL will hold the Supplemental Draft on July 14th. There are 6 players eligible.

  • Eddie D’Antuono – LS – Va Tech
  • Ra’Zahn Howard – DT – Purdue
  • Jalen Overstreet – RB – Sam Houston State
  • Tee Shepard – CB – Ole Miss
  • Rashaun Simonise – WR – Calgary, Canada
  • Cameron Walton – DE – Concordia

I do not think the Eagles will spend a pick on any of these players. None are that good. In case you have forgotten, teams can select these players during the Supplemental Draft and would then lose that pick in the 2017 draft. The Eagles are already missing their 1st round pick. I don’t think they would want to use any more picks unless the player was simply too good to pass up.

I did not watch any tape of Eddie D’Antuono, but those guys are usually late round picks anyway. The Eagles already have Jon Dorenbos and a rookie at LS. I don’t see them using a pick.

Howard is 6-3, 325. He is a big, powerful player who started the past 2 seasons. He would be good as a 3-4 NT or a run-stuffer in the 4-3. Put on the tape and you’ll see some good plays, but not enough to make him a compelling option for the Eagles. He reminds me of a lesser Beau Allen. Howard had 2 sacks in his career and the Eagles prefer playmakers in the new system.

Overstreet used to play at Texas, but got the boot and went to SHSU. He has some legal issues that could make jail more likely than the NFL.

Shepard is interesting. He is hearing impaired and said that he lost playing time at Ole Miss because the coaches didn’t fully trust him on the field because of that. The coaches, obviously, deny that. Shepard has had an interesting career. He committed to Notre Dame, but instead went the JuCo route. He actually went to a pair of JC schools before transferring to Ole Miss in the spring of 2014. He then quit the team in October of 2015. Shepard announced he would transfer to Miami of Ohio, but that fell through and now he’s headed to the NFL.

There is no denying that Shepard has talent, but all that movement doesn’t look good. The Eagles already have a group of young CBs. I don’t see the need to take a chance on Shepard.

Simonise is the player the Eagles could be most interested in. He is 6-5, 205 and you know the NFL loves big receivers. Simonise posted great stats, going 65-1306-11 in just 10 games. The problem is that he wasn’t facing good competition. Simonise averaged more than 20 yards per catch, but didn’t show a lot of speed. His Pro Day is July 11th and we’ll see what he runs, but he sure didn’t look like a 4.4 speedster to me. You can be an effective downfield receiver without great speed, but I saw a player who wasn’t getting a lot of separation against mediocre DBs.

Walton was good, but played at a very small school. The Eagles don’t need bodies at DE so I don’t see them having much interest.

I don’t see any of these players as likely to be Eagles, but Simonise makes the most sense with WR being a weak spot for the team. And the Eagles would only go after him as a free agent. I think Howie Roseman will hold onto his picks. No one in this bunch is very compelling, at least in a good way.

*****

Here is Jimmy Bama’s take on the fellas.

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My Buddy

Posted: July 3rd, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 22 Comments »

Buddy Ryan is the reason I’m an Eagles fan. He first put the hooks in me when he was coaching the Bears defense. I don’t remember a specific moment that got my attention, but the 1984 Bears defense was the start of it all. There was a famous game between the Bears and Raiders. It was almost like the first version of the Body Bag Game.

The 1984 Bears were finished #1 in the league and set an NFL record with 72 sacks. They were great.

And then the 1985 Bears showed up. They took defense to a whole other level.

There were 10 games where the opponent scored 10 or fewer points. Two of those games were shutouts. The ’85 Bears had 34 INTs. That is an astonishing total. The Eagles have 46 over the past 3 years combined. The Bears didn’t just take the ball away. They scored 5 TDs. The Bears then pitched 2 shutouts in the postseason and won the Super Bowl 46-10. For my money, that was the best season by a defense in the history of the NFL.

The Bears had great players. They also had Buddy and his 46 Defense.

Mike Singletary Chicago BearsJanuary 27, 1986S 587credit:  Bill Smith - spec

I was just getting into the X’s and O’s of football when the 46 Defense took over the NFL. I was enamored with the 46. It was so creative and different from anything else being run by teams.

I was excited to see what Buddy could do as head coach of the Eagles. And he didn’t disappoint, as I wrote for PE.com.

The end result was disappointing. No playoff wins. Unfulfilled potential. Far too many “What if’s?”.

But that doesn’t erase the great memories and all the fun of the Ryan era. In some ways, it makes things even better. Think about how many people become bandwagon fans of the Lakers, Yankees, Patriots or Cowboys. Fans see them on TV. They see all the titles. They start pulling for those teams. but it is all based on winning.

I became an Eagles fan because of Buddy Ball, not postseason glory. I loved watching the Eagles play. The team was fun. They felt special, even though they don’t have the postseason success to prove that. They are like a boxer that won big fights, but never the title fights. The good moments were sensational. They just didn’t come in January.

I also think Buddy’s impact on the Eagles has been long lasting, as I talked about in the piece. He is a big reason that the Eagles are Philly’s team. It wasn’t that way when Buddy came to town, but is has been true since he left.

If it wasn’t for Buddy Ryan, you wouldn’t be reading this. I might be writing about the Baltimore Orioles or the Sixers (god forbid) or maybe something completely outside of sports. How does Tommy’s Tips To A Whiter Bathroom sound?

Buddy got a Super Bowl ring when he helped the Jets win SB III. He got another ring when the Bears won in 1985 and his players carried him off the field. When the Eagles win a Super Bowl some time in the next 37 years, I feel like Buddy will be part of that. His arrival in 1986 woke the franchise up and got it moving in the right direction. While Buddy didn’t deliver the results we wanted, his impact on the organization and the city is still here to this day.

Buddy’s impact shouldn’t be defined by rings and trophies. His impact is more about people and relationships. Buddy’s players loved him and were incredibly loyal. The fans loved Buddy’s players and continue to do so to this day. Reggie, Seth, Clyde and Jerome haven’t played for the Eagles for more than 2 decades, but those names mean something to Eagles fans. No last names are needed. Buddy loved being the coach of the Eagles. That really meant something to him.

It feels funny to use the word “love” so much when writing about Buddy Ryan, but it also seems darned appropriate.

Thank you, Buddy, for teaching me to truly love great defense and for making me an Eagles fan.

Buddy-Reggie

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