Misc Draft Talk

Posted: April 18th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 105 Comments »

Quick post for now. One thing I need to stress as we talk about draft prospects is that I’m watching players every morning and every night. I’m still working on my lists and figuring out what I think. I had to move this spring and that ate up a lot of time I would normally spend doing draft research and writing. Thank god they moved the draft back this year.

I am also watching tape on players to make sure I get a thorough understanding of them. Some of you don’t like what I say about Kyle Van Noy. Others disagree with my thoughts on Kareem Martin. And so on. That’s true for many players I comment on.

Understand that I don’t watch 1 or 2 games and then move on. I watch and re-watch the prospects to make sure that I didn’t miss something. When most of the draft world loves OLB Demarcus Lawrence and I don’t, my reaction isn’t that they’re a bunch of idiots but rather…what am I missing? I’ve watched several of his games in the past 10 days to see if I’m missing something. Lawrence has grown on me a bit, but I still think taking him in the 30′s is crazy. I just don’t see an explosive athlete.

Van Noy is one of the most talked about players. I just watched games of him last night. I love the guy, but just not as an OLB in the 3-4. I don’t see someone that I think can consistently beat LTs in the NFL. I see a tough, instinctive and productive player. I’d love him at either OLB spot in the 4-3. I’d love him at ILB in the 3-4. He simply isn’t a good enough pass rusher in my book to be a 3-4 OLB. Watch his tape carefully. Then imagine that guy going up against Tyron Smith on 3rd down in a crucial game. Is he really going to beat a good NFL LT at a critical moment? Maybe, but I’m sure not confident enough about that to draft him for that role.

Martin would be a terrific 4-3 DE, but I just don’t see an OLB.

I see a guy that has great size. I see a good motor. He will chase the ball and make his share of pursuit plays. I see good athleticism, but nothing special. I don’t see a player that looks great up on his feet. I don’t see a special pass rusher. If you want a 4-3 DE with terrific length and who moves pretty well, this is your guy. I just don’t see an OLB.

The Eagles might disagree. They might love his size and feel he’s worth the risk. We know they looked at Will Clarke, who has a similar build, as an OLB. Jerry Azzinaro was at the UNC Pro Day. I assume he was there to check out Martin. That probably means the Eagles are thinking of him first and foremost as a DE prospect. I think Martin could bulk up to 285 and might be a good 3-4 DE. Taylor Hart was a good player at Oregon for Azz and went 6-6, 284. Martin is a much better athlete than him.

We’ll see what the Eagles think in a few weeks when they start making picks and the picture unfolds. For now we can only speculate and make educated guesses.

Do understand that my opinions are written in sand, not stone. I’m continuing to watch tape of these players to make sure I have informed opinions and I don’t make a rush to judgment.

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The Case For Marcus Smith

Posted: April 17th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 98 Comments »

A few months back I thought Marcus Smith would go as early as the late 2nd or somewhere in the 3rd round. The more I watch of him, the more he grows on me. And he makes a lot of sense as an Eagles target. But when will he go?

There is now speculation that Smith could even sneak into the end of the 1st round. I don’t see that as likely, but never say never when it comes to the draft and pass rushers.

If the Eagles do move back from 22, Smith could be one of the players they hope to get. He would be an excellent fit for the defense. Watch this game and check him out in action.

The first thing that should jump out at you is how much he plays on his feet. Smith is a natural LB. Trent Cole had to learn to play like that and he’s still adjusting. Brandon Graham had an even harder time. Smith played QB in high school, but moved to LB when he got to Louisville. He then moved between DE and LB over the last couple of years.

The Eagles love versatile players. That bit of background info should tell you that Smith is definitely versatile. That also shows up on tape. He plays on both sides. He lines up as a LB and DE. There are times when he lines up like an ILB. Smith can rush the passer or drop into coverage. He’s comfortable playing in space.

Smith has good size. He is almost 6-3 1/2. He weighed 251 at the Combine, but was up at 258 at the Senior Bowl. He’s fine anywhere in that range. He has 34-inch arms, which is excellent size. The Eagles would prefer someone 6-6, but Smith isn’t a short, squatty guy like Cole or Graham. He has some length.

Smith is a good pass rusher and could be the ROLB of the future. If the Eagles ever wanted to, they could move him to the LOLB spot and play him there. Smith is good enough in coverage for that role. He also can set the edge on run plays. Check out his Pro Day workout to see him on the move.

You can see that he’s not the typical DE being moved to LB. This guy is a natural athlete that can play on his feet and on the move. Chip Kelly and ILB coach Rick Minter were at his Pro Day. Smith also visited Philly. The Eagles are showing interest.

One way to look at Smith is to consider him the poor man’s Anthony Barr. Smith isn’t quite as big or athletic and that’s why he won’t be a Top 15 player (which Barr likely will). Both have offensive backgrounds. Both are complete LBs. Both were productive for good teams in 2013. Both guys were highly productive in college and used a variety of moves to get into the backfield and be disruptive.

The Eagles would love a complete OLB to put on the right side to compete with Cole. Smith could be that guy. He will play the run. He can cover. And he’s a good pass rusher, whether flying off the edge or attacking different angles as part of a blitz package. He’s not a guy that needs to line up in the same spot and fire off the edge every single play.

Smith is the kind of long, athletic, versatile weapon the Eagles would like at ROLB. I don’t see him in the mix at 22. I doubt he lasts to 54. If the Eagles move back in the late 1st or early 2nd, Smith would make a lot of sense.

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Appreciating Nick

Posted: April 17th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 118 Comments »

I was over looking around PE.com and saw they had a Player Profile up on Nick Foles. I almost didn’t watch it, but decided to go ahead and click it. Glad I did.

There’s nothing special or groundbreaking in this video. It just occurred to me while watching it that we’ve spent the last few months looking pass rushers, DBs, WRs and various other positions, but the Eagles are basically set at QB. They can take one if they want, but only if it is a player they love.

There is no need for a QB.

It felt good to watch Foles in action and know that the Eagles have a good young QB already in place. Sometimes we spend so much time and energy focused on what we don’t have and all the players we want that we forget how lucky we are to have the key piece in place. You don’t win without the right QB running the show.

I can’t wait to see Nick in action this year. His numbers won’t be as good, but I bet he’ll have a terrific season.

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Instant Impact

Posted: April 16th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 59 Comments »

Someone asked an interesting question the other day. They wanted to know what player or position would be most likely to come in and win a starting job by opening day. Sounds simple enough, but that is actually a tough question to answer. Let’s start by taking a look at the projected lineup on defense.

DE Fletcher Cox
NT Bennie Logan
DE Cedric Thornton
ROLB Trent Cole
ILB DeMeco Ryans
ILB Mychal Kendricks
LOLB Connor Barwin
S Malcolm Jenkins
S Nate Allen/Earl Wolff
CB Cary Williams
CB Bradley Fletcher

There aren’t any holes, per se. There are certainly spots that can be upgraded. NT, S and CB are iffy.

Bennie Logan showed promise in 2013, but does need to play better this year. If the Eagles spent a 1st round pick on someone like Louis Nix, it is certainly possible that he could win the starting job.

The Eagles brought Nate Allen back because they like him. That said, he’s here on a 1-year deal and isn’t a player that anyone is in love with. The right rookie could steal that job away. Earl Wolff could play either role…the guy who takes Allen’s job or the guy who loses the startin gig to the rookie.

Both CBs had ups and downs last year. A rookie who plays well could steal a job from either guy.

As much as we all want an upgrade at OLB, don’t assume that means the rookie will get Trent Cole’s job ASAP. Cole got better as the year went on in 2013. He’s a smart, tough, proud veteran that won’t give up his job easily. The rookie would have to win the job. Trent won’t be giving it away.

Obviously I’m leaving injuries out of the equation. They open doors for all rookies on every team. 

I don’t anticipate a rookie winning a starting job on offense. I guess RG and WR could be possible. It just seems like the offense played so well last year that Chip Kelly will try to keep the same players in place as much as he can. You never know when a rookie will play lights out, but that is more of the exception than the rule.

My expectation for the first couple of picks is that they’ll be somewhat like Zach Ertz. They’ll have roles and get more playing time as the season moves along. Ertz was behind schedule due to the dumb NFL rule about him not being able to practice until his class had graduated. That hurt his development. Hopefully these rookies will have more impact early on, but my point is that they won’t be forced into the starting lineup. They’ll be worked into the lineup and then be rewarded with more snaps if they play well.

Really good teams don’t have to rely on rookies. Go check out the Seahawks draftees and then think about the impact those guys had in 2013. I’m not saying the Eagles are at that level. It takes time to build up the team to get to that point. But…the Eagles are a good team that doesn’t have obvious holes in the lineup. Don’t get caught in the mindset that rookies who don’t play a ton right away are somehow failures.

I do think Kelly’s background in college means that he will be open to playing rookies, even on a good team. Some old school coaches obsess on having veterans in the lineup. Kelly had young guys playing all the time at Oregon so he’s not afraid to give young guys a chance. The Packers have done a terrific job of embracing rookies and continuing to be a top flight team.

As much as I’d love a rookie to come in and play great, it would be a better sign for the overall team if none of the new guys cracks the starting lineup this year.

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Q&A

Do you think Keith McGill is a “perfect fit” for what Eagles want at CB? Not perfect, but he has the size the Eagles love and he’s a good press corner, which is what Bill Davis prefers. McGill is 25, which hurts his value, and I don’t think he has great ball skills.

Do you see Eagles making any more trades at all, including trading up or down, this offseason?  I would be surprised if the Eagles sat still this draft. There are going to be a lot of good players available. That could mean trading up to get one or moving back because some team offered you a good deal.

Favorite non-first round OLB? Jeremiah Attaochu, who might be a 1st rounder. If not him, then Marcus Smith.

Could Mychal Kendricks move to OLB? No. He doesn’t have the frame to take on OTs on run plays. He’s also not a gifted pass rusher. Kendricks can blitz, but that’s different than rushing the passer. Blitzing is more about running and timing. Rushing the passer requires athleticism and specific skills.

What were Dawk’s limitations when he came out? Why did he go in the 2nd round? Dawk was the last pick of the 2nd round so it is even worse than you think. Dawk was a S/CB tweener. He didn’t have the ideal size for S, but didn’t have ideal skills for corner. He got bigger and stronger in the NFL and became a great player. Maybe we’ll talk more about this in the summer.

Why trade up for Anthony Barr when you can trade pick 22 for Dion Jordan? Good logic, but the problem is Miami might not deal Jordan at all. The Eagles have talked to the Dolphins. I think they’ve let Miami know they’re very interested. If no deal gets done, that likely means Miami wants to keep Jordan.

What are the odds that the Eagles move back in the draft? I really struggle with this question. I want more picks. No doubt about that. But there is another part of me that keeps reminding me that the Eagles don’t have a ton of holes. There is something to be said for staying put, or even moving up. The 2014 Eagles need quality more than quantity from the draft.

I hope the team moves back 8 to 10 spots and adds a 3rd and 4th or 3rd and 5th…something like that. This, of course, assumes that there isn’t an ideal player on the board at 22. If the right guy falls, take him there and don’t be greedy.

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You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Posted: April 15th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 64 Comments »

Chip Kelly and his coaches have ideal player types. They want tall, athletic OL. They want OLBs that can rush, cover and play the run. They prefer tall, long CBs that can press. And so on.

Wanting those players and finding those players are 2 different things.

Teams have a limited set of choices. As I like to joke, they can’t just go down to the Player Store and head to the LB aisle. “Let’s see if pass rushers are on sale this week or if maybe they’ve got the brand new models in. They’re expensive, but man are they cool.”

While Kelly and Bill Davis might want complete OLBs, they’ll have to settle for what they can get. The same is true at most positions. Safety is another such spot. Davis has talked about the fact he wants to get to the point where there is no FS or SS,  but rather similar players that are the Right Safety and Left Safety.

That is a great goal, but the draft isn’t loaded with Safeties who are complete players. The Eagles brought in Deone Bucannon for a visit. He’s 6-1, 216, which is big for a Safety. He is a physical hitter with some coverage limitations. This shows you that the Eagles are being realistic.

Would you rather have a Safety that has okay ability vs the run and pass or would you rather have someone who can be a physical presence and then needs work on his cover skills?

There is no right answer, per se. The argument for a guy like Bucannon is that he can at least stand out in one area. He might have some issues, but that might be worth it if he can be a difference-maker at what he does well. You hope that the player then develops skills in the area where he is deficient. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t.

The Eagles are being reasonable with their expectations. They have talked to a pair of OL that at 6-3, 310. They looked at Will Clarke, a DT/DE tweener, as a potential OLB. They’ve shown interest in CBs that lack the Eagles preferred size.

The interesting part of all this will be to see where the Eagles make compromises, so to speak. And then it will be interesting to see how those players work out over time.

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