Monday Night Misc Items

Posted: May 12th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 328 Comments »

The Houston Texans surprised some people on Monday when they cut Safety D.J. Swearinger. He was a 2nd round pick in 2013 (57th overall) and started 22 of 32 games for the Texans. They tried to trade him this spring but found no takers. Now he’s there for the taking.

Will the Eagles have interest?

Highly doubtful.

One of Chip Kelly’s best friends is Bill O’Brien, who just happens to be the Houston coach. He is the man who just cut Swearinger. We don’t know for a fact what the problem is. There are reports that he refused to play on STs. There are some character issues with him. He was a talented, but flawed Safety.

I was not a huge fan of his coming out of South Carolina. Swearinger played too out of control for my taste. That might have been okay 10 years ago, but it won’t work in today’s football. You have to play under control. Big hits are still good, but killshots are no longer part of the game.

There are some reports that Tampa put in a claim on him. If that happens, it doesn’t matter if the Eagles are interested or not. I’m doubting they are, but we’ll see if we hear anything on the subject.

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The Eagles lost Jeremy Maclin in the offseason.

They drafted Nelson Agholor. They signed Miles Austin. They added a pair of UDFAs who could push for roster spots, John Harris and Devante Davis. They signed free agent Seyi Ajirotutu. They return second year players Josh Huff and Quron Pratt.

Is this enough to get Riley Cooper out of town?

I don’t think anything happens until the players get on the field this summer. 2014 Riley Cooper isn’t a guy you feel compelled to keep. But what if the guy from 2013 shows back up? You want that guy.

The pressure is going to be on Cooper. He can be cut after June 1st.

For whatever reason, Chip Kelly feels differently about him than most of the rest of the world. This year that will be tested. Kelly didn’t add all these receivers for the heck of it. He wants them to push each other so he can find the best 5 or 6.

Will Murphy got cut last week. I don’t know if Jeff Maehl has been re-signed. They list him on the roster, but I haven’t seen news of his re-signing. Kelly is making changes at receiver this spring. Guys have to earn spots, not to mention playing time. That is true for Riley Cooper just as it is for everyone else.

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Reuben Frank has a few good nuggets in his 25 Points column.

3. I’m not sure what any of this means, but it’s fascinating to me: This will be the first time since 1997 that the Eagles’ leading rusher won’t be a player the Eagles drafted. The last 17 years, the Eagles’ leading rusher was Donovan McNabb once, Duce Staley four times and Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy six times each. The last player the Eagles didn’t draft to lead the team in rushing was Ricky Watters in 1997.

4. Even crazier, there’s a chance no player the Eagles drafted will even get a carry this year. None of the Eagles’ running backs was drafted by the Eagles, and of the quarterbacks, only Matt Barkley was. Unless Barkley makes the team and gets in a game and gets a carry … or unless Riley Cooper, Nelson Agholor or Josh Huff has an end around … or unless the Eagles re-sign Anthony Toney … this will be the first time since 1943 no player drafted by the Eagles has a carry for the Eagles.

5. Similarly, unless Barkley gets in a game and gets a passing attempt, this will be the first year since 1984 no player drafted by the Eagles throws a pass for the Eagles.

I’m betting drafted players will run and pass this year. I’m guessing it will be receivers who do this. Josh Huff will throw the pass. Nelson Agholor will get the carry.

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Undrafted But Very Talented

Posted: May 11th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 259 Comments »

Texas WR John Harris signed with the Eagles as a UDFA. Watch this highlight clip and you’ll wonder how the heck that happened.

Nobody drafted that kid? Really?

He shows good hands, body control and physicality. That’s what you want from a WR who goes 6-2, 213.

His Pro Day workout wasn’t spectacular, but these are solid numbers:

40 – 4.59
BP – 19 reps
VJ – 33.5
3C – 6.82
SS – 4.45

That is a poor short shuttle time. Based on the good 3-cone time and the agility he shows on game tape, I’m betting he just did a poor job of running that drill as opposed to being so slow and stiff that he genuinely is that bad at the drill. Think of this as someone who knows the material and just happens to do poorly on the test.

Harris wasn’t on anyone’s radar as recently as last summer. He caught 9 passes in his first 3 years at Texas. He injured his foot in 2011 and that limited his playing time that year. He struggled to challenge for playing time in 2012. The coaches had him bulk up to 225 in 2013 and give TE a try. That didn’t work.

The funny thing is…you can see his talent. Watch this pre-halftime Hail Mary vs Iowa State from his Junior year.

That is one heck of a catch. I’d want that guy on the field.

Harris got lucky that there was a coaching change at Texas. New coach Charlie Strong wasn’t impressed with Harris at all initially. He saw talent, but not the consistent practice performance that coaches crave. The WR coach challenged Harris to step up. That helped a lot. So did a change at QB. Harris had caught a lot of scout team passes from Tyrone Swoopes prior to 2014. When Swoopes became the starter, the two of them clicked and that helped Harris to have a breakout season.

68 – 1,051 – 7 … 15.5 ypc

Harris is a good fit for the Eagles. He can play in the slot or on the outside. He will need to work on his route-running and making better cuts, but that is true for most college receivers. I love the fact he catches the ball so naturally and is such a physical player. He’s not afraid of contact and can take some good shots. He will catch short passes and work the middle of the field. He has good RAC ability due to a combination of some elusiveness and the ability to break arm tackles.

While Harris isn’t a burner, he is an effective downfield receiver. He locates the ball well. He can make contested catches. Harris can battle with a DB for a 50-50 ball and make the grab. That’s critical if you don’t run 4.4. You’ve got to be able to battle for the ball and win.

Harris is coming to the Eagles as a UDFA. He’ll have to work his butt off to have a shot at the roster. Harris played on STs at Texas and was an outstanding blocker. Those are areas where he can stand out even if the ball isn’t coming his way a ton in practice. He will need to do all the little things well if he is going to push for a roster spot.

Here are a couple of games from Harris. You can see he’s not just a highlights guy. He has good game tape.

Impressive player.

I don’t want to make Harris out to be something he isn’t. He isn’t 6-4, 225. He doesn’t run a 4.3. He wasn’t a college All-American.

At the same time, this is a much better UDFA receiver than the Eagles have had in a while. He’s far more than just a camp body. I do think Harris has the potential to play in the NFL. I’m really looking forward to seeing him play this summer.

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I wrote about the draft picks for PE.com, trying to take a look at how they fit in.

I said some good things about JaCorey Shepherd. The more I watch of him, the more impressed I get. The Eagles might have gotten very lucky in finding that guy in the 6th round. Sure feels like a major steal.

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Sunday Stuff

Posted: May 10th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 83 Comments »

Let’s talk about a variety of things today.

First up is the Sports Science group.

What the heck is reconditioning? Here is a good definition.

RECONDITIONING is a performance-based model for training athletes following injury or surgery. It is directed by a performance team and medically supported. The program design begins with the end goal in mind, which is a return to competition. We then design a progression backward to the surgery. This process allows the performance team to address all aspects of athletic development immediately post-injury or surgery to best prepare the individual for the true demands of competition that lay ahead.

Reconditioning follows a functional path immediately post-injury and continues this progression until the athlete has returned to competition. We recognize that a serious joint/tendon/muscle injury should be looked upon as a neurophysiologic dysfunction, not just a basic peripheral musculoskeletal injury. With this in mind we must train movements, not muscles during all stages of post-injury care. Most protocols that restrict motion, brace joints, assist motion (CPM), or restrict loading are affecting the normal patterning that an athlete needs in order to best prepare for higher quality training in the weeks and months to come. The best “brace” for any injury is neuromuscular control and coordinated movement patterns. These CAN be developed early and often if encouraged to do so. Unfortunately I find many rehabilitation protocols are more centered on what an athlete CAN’T do versus what an athlete CAN do. This is often designed to protect the healing tissue, but I find the limitations imparted compromise the short and long term movement qualities of the athlete.

Training Around the Injury: The reconditioning model respects doing no harm and maintaining joint homeostasis, but encourages more creative ways to train the athlete in all phases of recovery. Because reconditioning is performance based, we prepare the athlete- not just treat the injury. Whether the response is physiological and/or psychological the outcomes are excellent. I find the medical model of rehabilitation focuses more on the injury and underestimates the positive healing response of training the entire individual.

Here is more info.

Injuries are extremely frustrating to athletes, forcing them to modify their lifestyle while they’re healing. Following rest and healing, they often discover that they’re still not able to participate in an activity without risking further injury. This injury/rest/re-injury process is all too common for many athletes. The key to stopping this vicious cycle is to understand the aspects of reconditioning.

Conditioning and Reconditioning

Reconditioning after an injury requires the athlete to modify his/her conditioning program in two ways:

  1. Carefully control work intensity.
  2. Use residual pain to monitor acceptable levels of intensity.

And

The Reconditioning Process

Flexibility – Strengthening -Functional Rehabilitation

  • Start the reconditioning program with exercises that involve static, pain-free stretching.
  • When flexibility has improved, use a program of progressive resistance exercise (weight lifting) to increase muscle strength.
  • When sufficient strength has been obtained, gradually add intensity within the movement of your sport.

Within each stage of the reconditioning program the athlete must be very careful to select an intensity level that does not increase the Type I or Type II pain. As an athlete continues to recover from injury, the Exercise Window will widen and the athlete will find that he or she can once again challenge Type I pain with minimal Type II pain.

Following these procedures will allow the injured athlete to break out of the injury/rest/re-injury cycle.

Obviously the Eagles focus on something like this is part of why Chip Kelly is willing to take a risk on players coming off injuries. He must feel the Eagles can do a better job than many other teams at getting the player all the way back to where he needs to be.

We really need another year or two to see how this works. Jeremy Maclin came back from his ACL and looked as good as ever. We’ll see how Kiko Alonso, Sam Bradford and DeMeco Ryans look this year.

If you like reading this kind of material, this site is full of ACL info. It covers reconditioning, but also different types of surgery and all sorts of technical stuff.

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Weirdest draft trend of all time?

If that continues next year, it will be pretty Freaky Friday.

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I’m glad to hear the Eagles will be doing this again. I think it helps the players. They get tired of playing against each other. I think it also helps to get the competitive juices flowing when you go against someone in a different uniform.

It also helps that the Ravens are a good team. You want to practice against quality competition so you can get a feel for where your players are.

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Allen Barbre is now Dr. J?

Good to see the Eagles basketball team is still going strong without Nick Foles. He looked like their best player in previous years. Barbre the dunking machine? I just didn’t expect to read that.

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From Dave Spadaro.

  • Ed Reynolds, a fifth-round draft pick last year, is taking part in this weekend’s activities. He needs the reps. Reynolds never caught up after missing OTAs last year while his Stanford class graduated, so Reynolds will eagerly gobble up reps any time he is able to do so.
  • There are two guard prospects I’m watching through Training Camp: Josh Andrews, who was on the practice squad last year after signing in the post-draft period, and Brett Boyko, an undrafted rookie from UNLV. Boyko has great size and reach and is said to be a very good athlete.

I still have my doubts on whether Ed Reynolds ever develops, but I’m glad he is in there early. I was kinda hoping Jerome Couplin would be in there as well, but he’s not. I don’t know if that’s by choice or the coaches limit who can be there.

Reynolds needs every rep possible. He’s got to show something this summer. He is exactly the kind of Safety I think the Eagles need…a centerfielder/ballhawk type…but he’s got to play well. There are no excuses at this point. He’s got to show NFL ability. I hope he does. Would be a nice boost to the Safety position.

As for the OL…Andrews is an overlooked guy. He doesn’t have Chip Kelly’s ideal build at just 6-2, 311, but he is a solid athlete and he’s versatile. He played OT in high school. He began his career at Oregon State as a Center and then moved to LG. He is strictly a G/C in the NFL. I don’t know if he’s a serious candidate for a roster spot, but he has been a bit overlooked.

Boyko is an interesting OG prospect. I don’t see anything special athletically, but he is a tough, physical run blocker. He does have a great frame. He did his best playing LT in college, but he is meant to play OG.

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Finally…Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there.

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Brian Who?

Posted: May 9th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 110 Comments »

The Eagles took Boston College DL Brian Mihalik in the 7th round. Brian who?

For the first 3 years of his career, Mihalik was a backup. He started his whole Senior season, but got off to a slow start. The coaches challenge him (and the whole defense) to step up. Mihalik played his best football down the stretch.

The Eagles picked him based more on potential than production. Mihalik was an awkward fit in BC’s 4-3 defense. He looks awkward playing in space. I saw multiple games when he was running free to the QB and couldn’t hit him. The QB was able to make a simple move and Mihalik didn’t have the agility to adjust and finish the play.

But then…there are some plays when you see really good things from Mihalik.     Read the rest of this entry »


Culture Club

Posted: May 8th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 226 Comments »

If Chip Kelly were a mom, there is no question what peanut butter he would buy for his family. Choosy moms choose Jif, after all. And you can use a lot of words to describe Kelly – maverick, genius, risk-taker – but choosy better be one of them.

Players need to have a certain size.

Players need to have a certain skill set.

Players sure as heck better fit into Kelly’s idea of a good football culture.

Paul Domowitch wrote a good piece this morning about the importance of players “buying in”.

Kelly wants players who are willing to “buy in” to his system and are smart enough and driven enough to take what he teaches them and use it to make themselves better players.

“For Chip, it’s about getting the right guys in place,” said ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay. “Every time I talk to Chip, the phrase he always uses is ‘guys that buy in.’ He brings it up every single time I’ve talked to him. He wants to make sure he has a roster full of guys that are buying in.

“Whether it’s the sleeping regimen or the nutrition or the mental aspect of it, he feels like now, more than ever as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, he has players in place that buy into what they want to do there and that, moving forward, are on the same page.”

One of the most important books on Kelly’s bookshelf isn’t Bill Walsh’s “Finding the Winning Edge” or Vince Lombardi’s “What It Takes To Be No. 1″ or Tony Dungy’s “Quiet Strength.”

It’s Carol Dweck’s “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.” Dweck never coached football. She’s a 68-year-old Stanford psychology professor who teaches courses on personality and social development.

Her book, published in 2008, deals with growth mindset vs. fixed mindset, which you probably don’t care about, but is at the heart of what Kelly is looking for in the players he is bringing into the Eagles organization and many of the ones he is weeding out.

A fixed mindset, according to Dweck, is believing that all of your qualities, including intelligence and ability, are carved in stone and can’t change in any meaningful way, which she says results in “trying to convince yourself and others that you have a royal flush when you’re secretly worried it’s a pair of 10s.”

A growth mindset, she wrote, is believing that “the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. Growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.

“Do people with this mindset believe that anyone can be anything, that anyone with proper motivation or education can become Einstein or Beethoven? No, but they believe that a person’s true potential is unknown [and unknowable]; that it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil and training.”

Kelly referenced growth mindset vs. fixed mindset last week when he was talking about his first-round pick, Agholor, who is the son of Nigerian immigrants.

“He’s just dialed in as a football player,” Kelly said. “He’s in the Jordan Matthews category in terms of his approach to the game. Always striving to get better. I think the great thing about Nelson is he has a growth mindset and not a fixed mindset.

“He’s one of those guys that’s really a student of the game. I think you get excited when you’re around guys like that. He’s just trying to soak up everything that you can spit out in terms of being able to give him coaching points. He’s always trying to get better, whether it’s from a physical standpoint, improving himself physically, or a route-running standpoint, or just a mind standpoint in terms of how to run routes, how to do things and how he fits into the [offensive] scheme.

“He’s exactly what we’re looking for in a football player.”

Think about how important visits have been for draft picks. Kelly drafted Bennie Logan and Matt Barkley in 2013 in part because he loved the meetings they had with those guys at the Combine. In 2014 all of the Eagles draft picks were guys who made visits to the NovaCare except one…Josh Huff, who Kelly recruited and coached at Oregon.

Every player drafted this year came to the NovaCare for a pre-draft visit.

It is crucial for Kelly to get to know the players he is drafting. This isn’t to say he’s got to love them personally or they have to be choirboys, but the players have to be the right type. They must fit in. They must buy in.

There is a lot to be said for this kind of thinking. Football is the ultimate team game. Players must function well together. They need to be on the same page. This is true whether talking about stars or players that are on the fringe of the roster. If you have the right type of character guys, this happens more easily than if you have individualistic players.

We talk about how teams that “win the offseason” don’t always do well in the actual season. This is often due to the fact that the players have strong individual talent, but they lack the chemistry and cohesion to play well as a group. This isn’t baseball where you can just plug ‘n play guys. It is much harder for new players to fit in on a football team.

While all of this does sound good and make a lot of sense, that doesn’t mean it will work. Chip Kelly’s ideas might not pan out the way he wants them. No one questions whether he can win in the NFL. But can he win big? Can he build a legitimate title contender?

I don’t think we’ll get the answer this year. I think Kelly needs one more year of roster building before we’ll have a good idea of whether he can win or win big. Obviously the health of the team and the play of the QBs will be crucial, but even flawed teams can have the right vibe. The 2002 Eagles had Koy Detmer and AJ Feeley start the final 6 games of the season. The team went 5-1 and won 3 of those games by 13 or more points. That team had the right feel, but not the right QBs.

We’ll start to get a feel for Kelly’s ideas and how they are working on this team. Longtime Eagles Trent Cole and Todd Herremans are gone. That leaves a leadership void. There is a new QB. Jeremy Maclin and Nate Allen weren’t vocal leaders, but were highly experienced starters. One of them could be replaced by a rookie. The other, well that’s still a mystery. More and more, this is becoming Kelly’s team.

Here is the projected lineup for now:

WR Nelson Agholor
WR Riley Cooper
WR Jordan Matthews
RB DeMarco Murray
QB Sam Bradford
TE Brent Celek
LT Jason Peters
LG Evan Mathis
OC Jason Kelce
RG Allen Barbre
RT Lane Johnson

DE Fletcher Cox
NT Bennie Logan
DE Cedric Thornton
LB Brandon Graham
IB Mychal Kendricks
IB DeMeco Ryans
LB Connor Barwin
S Malcolm Jenkins
S Jaylen Watkins or Earl Wolff
CB Byron Maxwell
CB Walter Thurmond or Eric Rowe

12 of those guys are Kelly players. You can argue that Thornton and Cooper are Kelly guys because they didn’t become full-time starters until he took over. Kendricks and Cox only played one year for Andy Reid and are now entering Year 3 for Kelly. Ryans only played a year for Reid, and either he or Kendricks could be replaced by Kiko Alonso.

Kelly wasn’t trying to run off Reid guys. Trent Cole would still be here if younger. Same for Herremans. Maclin just got offered too much money. Obviously Kelly has strong feelings for some of the high quality guys that Reid left in place. He flat out loves Celek, Kelce and Ryans.

Building a high character team is nothing new. Kelly goes beyond that and is very specific with the fit he is looking for. I’m really curious to see if this works as he expects or if Kelly is too limiting and passing on talented players is going to come back to haunt him.

There is no magic formula for building a winner in the NFL. You just need to find the right guys to make your ideas work. Kelly wants players to buy in to his ideas. Fans just want guys that will help the Eagles win games.

2015 is going to give us an idea of whether or not Kelly is headed in the right direction.

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