Coaching Changes

Posted: January 19th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 56 Comments »

Chip Kelly finally made some moves. And good ones.

John Lovett is out as DBs coach. He will move to a pro scouting position. Cory Undlin was hired to take his place. Undlin was most recently the DBs coach for Denver. The Broncos faced the most passing attempts in the NFL this year, but only gave up the 9th most passing yards. They were 8th in opposing QB rating. Teams threw a lot, but didn’t have much success.

Here is more from Undlin’s Broncos bio:

With the Broncos in 2013, Undlin coached a unit that overcame losses of perennial Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey and starting safety Rahim Moore to injuries. The secondary featured young contributors in cornerback Kayvon Webster and safety Duke Ihenacho as well as steady performances from cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr. and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Undlin was part of Denver’s defensive staff in 2012 that helped the club rank third against the pass. The Broncos finished the 2012 regular season as the only NFL team that didn’t allow a 300-yard passer in addition to limiting opponents to a league-low 30.6-percent third-down conversion rate.

While coaching the Jaguars’ secondary in 2011, Jacksonville’s defense allowed just two individual 300-yard passers to tie for the fourth fewest in the NFL in addition to surrendering only 43 pass plays of 20+yards (T-2nd in NFL).

I like this move a lot. Lovett was a solid college coach, but seemed to struggle in the NFL. Undlin has coached NFL DBs and has had good success. He’s worked for Bill Belichick, Jack Del Rio and John Fox, 3 highly respected defensive coaches.

Don’t think this means the secondary is instantly going to be better. However, there were too many players underachieving for coaching not to be part of the issue. The Eagles have been lousy at developing DBs for a while now. That has to change. They can’t rely on free agency every time change is needed. Undlin has developed young talent for a couple of teams.

The Eagles also moved Ted Williams to pro scouting. They promoted Justin Peelle to be the TEs coach. Williams is 71 and the Eagles may have moved him for fear of losing Peelle. Clearly Williams is coming to the end of a terrific coaching career. He’s worked with RBs and TEs in his 20 years with the Eagles.

And now for even more coaching news…

Congrats to Bill on the job.

Chip Kelly now needs to hire an assistant DB coach and a QB coach.

Peelle was the assistant TE coach, but that’s not a standard position and he might not fill that.

* * * * *

I am in Mobile. Jimmy Bama is here as well. The trip has already been a rousing success. I made eye contact with Alex Flanagan…twice. I wasn’t stalking her, as far as the authorities are concerned.

Here is a Senior Bowl preview.

That isn’t an Eagles-centric preview.

You know I’ll be all over DBs and QBs this year. Bryce Petty is the QB I’m most fascinated by. Blake Sims is also of interest.

There are lots of DBs to like. I’m excited by the Safety group – Kurtis Drummond, Clayton Geathers, Jaquiski Tartt. I’d love to see any of them end up with the Eagles.

I’m off to have some PBRs and dig for rumors.

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Problem Solving

Posted: January 19th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 311 Comments »

The Eagles must fix the secondary.

The problem is obvious, but the solution isn’t easy. In theory we’d like to replace both CBs and Nate Allen. There are a couple of problems with that. First, you would have a secondary with 3 new starters, which is far from ideal. After the OL, the secondary is the unit that needs stability the most. All 4 starters would be getting used to each other and 3 of them would be learning the system. The goal is to quit having confused DBs and blown coverages.

Nate Allen has to go. Bradley Fletcher needs to go. That leaves Cary Williams as the player to consider keeping. He has a high cap figure this year (about $8.1M) and there is no way the Eagles will pay that. Would you keep him if he took a pay cut?

I’m far from Williams biggest fan, but there is something to be said for keeping him, signing a top free agent and then drafting a CB early. The goal is to build a secondary that has some talent and some depth. Nolan Carroll and Jaylen Watkins could challenge for starting roles in 2015, but you sure can’t count on that.

Fletcher is a free agent. Is there any way he comes back? The coaches like him, but even they know his limitations. The only way I can logically see his return is if the Eagles make adding a top Safety a priority. They would need someone with instincts and range. That would make a difference. For instance. the new Safety would know to cheat to Fletcher’s side when he’s singled up against Dez Bryant. Allen only figured that out after a couple of big plays hurt the team in each game.

At this point, I think Fletcher needs a change of scenery to see if he can save his career. Maybe playing in a different system can help him to play better.

If Williams won’t take a pay cut, the Eagles have to release him and will be looking at 3 new starters. The other hard part of that equation is finding 3 good players in one offseason. The Eagles tried that in 2013 when they signed Williams, Fletcher and Patrick Chung. Williams has been so-so, the other two not so much.

The Eagles need to be creative and aggressive in fixing the secondary. I mentioned this the other day when writing about CFL corner Delvin Breaux. Use a variety of resources. Don’t add one star player and assume the situation is fixed. The Jets spent 1st round picks on CBs Kyle Wilson and Dee Milliner. Both have struggled in the NFL and their secondary remains a problem. Dallas spent big money on FA Bradon Carr, who has struggled. They added Sterling Moore from the scrap heap and he did some good things for them.

Think back to August.

CB: Cary Williams, Roc Carmichael, Curtis Marsh
CB: Bradley Fletcher, Nolan Carroll, Jaylen Watkins

Watkins was a rookie. Marsh had never started a game and had broken up 2 passes in his career. Carmichael had 2 career starts and had broken up 5 career passes. That’s not ideal competition.

Carroll is the kind of guy you want for competition. He played well in the summer. It is a huge shame that he got hurt and couldn’t really challenge Fletcher for his job.

Some of you may point to the 2013 moves as a sign the Eagles don’t know how to fix a secondary. That’s a fair point, but I don’t think it is entirely accurate. They didn’t invest big money in either Fletcher or Williams. You can argue that the Eagles should have gone after Brent Grimes or Steve Smith. Grimes was coming off a major injury. I don’t know why they passed on Smith.

You also have to remember that the Eagles had just cut DRC and Nnamdi Asomugha, a pair of pricey outsiders. The team may have felt going after big time corners in free agency wasn’t the way to go.

This time around Chip Kelly and Bill Davis should have a better idea of what they are looking for. They have 2 years of tape to study. They know what worked and what didn’t. And the good news is that they will have options. There are some free agents of interest. The draft has several big CBs who can cover. The Eagles can pursue Breaux, if they’re comfortable with the results of his physical (serious neck injury in the past). The Eagles have the cap space to go get free agents. They have all their early picks and an extra 4th rounder.

The key to all of this is for the Eagles to make the right decisions. Using resources on a problem doesn’t guarantee a solution. Fixing the secondary is crucial to the future and will be a huge test for Kelly and the front office.

* * * * *

One thing to keep in mind is that the Eagles aren’t going to find Richard Sherman on the market. They will have to overpay for a free agent who isn’t going to be a shutdown corner. That’s what happens when you’re desperate and there aren’t great players available.

Keep your expectations realistic. The goal is to find a starter, possibly two. Expecting star corners is a bit much. There are no Troy Vincents to be had in this free agent class.

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GM Update

Posted: January 18th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1,014 Comments »

The Eagles search for a new personnel guy continues. The team had interviewed Brian Gaine from the Houston Texans and there was reportedly interest, but Gaine got a raise and a promotion from Houston. The Texans had already lost another executive (to the Jets) so I’m guessing they felt they had to keep Gaine around.

My two favorite candidates for the job were Gaine and Scott Fitterer. Gaine is out now and the Eagles haven’t been able to interview Fitterer yet. He’s off limits until the Seahawks lose. Should that happen today, we’ll see what happens.

Some readers have asked about Eliot Wolf of the Packers. I haven’t seen anything official, but it sure sounds like he is staying in Green Bay. The Packers are a top notch organization and Ted Thompson is a great GM. That team also lives and dies with the draft so scouts likely feel a special connection to that organization. There are some teams around the league where scouts are treated like second class citizens. They work relentlessly all year only to see coaches and other executives get into the process late and ignore their research. I only know of this happening once with the Eagles (in the Reid-Kelly era), when Andy Reid drafted Jaiquawn Jarrett in the 2nd round in 2011. Scouts had him rated lower than that.

The Eagles can simply promote Ed Marynowitz if they think he’s the answer. I think he could do a good job. My guess is that Chip Kelly is taking his time with the search to make sure he doesn’t overlook someone. There isn’t a mad rush to make the hire. The scouts have worked all summer and fall long in doing reports on prospects. The pro scouts have done their work.

As to the Senior Bowl…those practices are videotaped and teams get copies of everything that happens. The only thing that would be missed is player interviews, and it is possible that the team records them. The new personnel guy needs to be here and ready to roll when decisions have to be made. Ideally you’d like him already in place, but that isn’t a necessity. There is no reason to rush this decision.

One odd note to this whole situation…Tom Gamble remains unemployed and I haven’t seen any report of him getting looked at by another team. I don’t know if teams are nervous about talking to him due to stories that might be floating around or if possibly Kelly is still trying to work out something to bring him back. I doubt that happens, but this has been a strange situation so never say never.

In the title I called this the “GM Update”. The job won’t really be a GM, but that is much easier to use in a title than “New Player Personnel Executive”.

* * * * *

LeSean McCoy came out and threw his support behind Nick Foles as the Eagles QB.

“I like Nick. The person and player that everybody thought he was, he is. There were a lot of injuries this year, Nick, obviously got injured. He gets all of the blame and he shouldn’t,” said McCoy, who finished third in the league with 1,319 yards rushing in 2014. “I think Nick’s a good quarterback. He’s the leader of our team. Things just didn’t work out for him this year due to injury, but we’ve got his back. As a team, we didn’t play well enough to win and get into the playoffs.”

While this is good to hear, it is fairly meaningless. Who else is McCoy going to support? Matt Barkley? Mike Vick is a distant memory. Mark Sanchez is a free agent.

McCoy did the right thing by supporting his guy. There is a very good chance that Foles will be the starter in 2015 so anything less than an endorsement would have only stirred the pot and created an easy story for the media to beat into the ground for weeks, if not months.

* * * * *

A lot of you donated money for my trip to the Senior Bowl. Thank you very much for the support. I can’t tell you how grateful I am.

I’ll see what I can do about smuggling a DB or two out of town with me.


Talent Shows

Posted: January 17th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 144 Comments »

At 4 pm there will be 2 all star games.

NFLPA Bowl – ESPN2

East-West Shrine Game – NFL Network

There won’t be stars or elite prospects in the games, but there will be some players of interest.

Here are some names in the Shrine Game that I’ll be focusing on for the Eagles.

QB Taylor Heinicke

OT Darian Miller

WR Devin Gardner

WR Tre McBride

LB Jake Ryan

CB Justin Coleman

CB Damian Swann

ILB Taiwan Jones

OLB Tony Washington

DB Josh Shaw

Obviously all DBs will be of interest.

It is a shame that both games are at the same time. I’ll be focusing on the Shrine Game, but will have the other TV on the other game. There are some interesting QBs and DBs in that as well.

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Be Creative

Posted: January 16th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 142 Comments »

We all agree the Eagles must fix the secondary. But how? Do you try to get Cary Williams to take a pay cut and keep him? Do you sign a pair of free agents? Do you spend multiple high picks on CBs?

There is no set formula for how to fix a secondary.

The biggest thing for me is that the Eagles need to be creative and aggressive. With that in mind, I was happy to read this.

Breaux is a star DB in the CFL and he’s now getting all kinds of NFL interest. He is 6-1, 196. He has good feet and breaks quickly on the ball. Breaux shows good coverage instincts. He is a willing tackler and will mix it up on run plays in traffic.

Russ Lande has worked as na NFL scout and is currently the GM of the Montreal Alouettes.

The line about physicals is referring to a serious neck injury that sidetracked Breaux’s career.

I don’t know if Breaux’s neck will check out. I don’t know if he’ll turn out to be a good player. I do know that the Eagles need CB help in a big way and Breaux is a very interesting option. He won’t cost a draft pick. He won’t demand a huge deal. But he could help right away. At the very least, he could be good depth.

I hope the Eagles are aggressive in looking into this situation and strongly consider signing Breaux.

* * * * *

One interesting angle to this is the process of negotiating. How will that happen right now?

Les Bowen wrote a good piece about how agents aren’t sure who to talk to right now. Chip Kelly might have the power, but he’s not a guy that is used to talking to agents about players. This is something the Eagles need to figure out soon. No major business happens at the Senior Bowl in regard to contracts. The Combine is when things really start to happen. That said, it still would help for agents to have a clear picture of who to call before then.

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