More Reasons to Like Carson Wentz

Posted: May 12th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 148 Comments »

QB is the most important position in pro sports, which makes it so crucial to have a good one. The Eagles spent the second overall pick on Carson Wentz because they think he can be a star and the key to the franchise for the next decade or so.

Robert Klemko wrote a great piece on the background of QBs and their families. Wentz was part of the story.

In North Dakota, they don’t share Ginn’s optimistic appraisal of high schoolers. In 2011, the year Carson Wentz graduated from Century High School in Bismark, there were two Division I recruits in the entire state, making it a boom year. The offensive lineman from Fargo signed with Missouri, and the defensive end from Wahpeton signed with Toledo. Wentz, who was drafted No. 2 overall by the Eagles, didn’t have a Division I offer.

Wentz had been groomed to be Century High’s quarterback since he was in the fifth grade: his throwing ability, leadership and football cognition made him a standout. “He always had that workman mentality that he wanted to get better every day of every practice,” says Nick Walker, former Dickinson State quarterback and Carson’s QB coach in high school. “The other thing is his intelligence was off the charts in terms of what you could give him. He was so smart, but his work ethic and leadership set him apart.”

Wentz’s model? His father was an all-conference linebacker at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Still, playing high school ball in North Dakota presented mountainous challenges. Hopping in a car for a tour of college camps was unrealistic, and there was no access to offseason football, but the biggest hindrance was a shoulder injury that Wentz suffered as a varsity baseball pitcher that prevented him from playing quarterback during his junior season. He played wide receiver and defensive back until finally getting the opportunity to start under center full-time as a senior. He capitalized, earning North Dakota 3A Player of the Year honors in 2010. He landed at North Dakota State and started winning national championships, passing for 5,115 yards in his season-and-a-half as the starter (he broke his wrist six games into his senior season).

For Carson Wentz, there was no offseason football in his formative years. No camps. No powerhouse high school program or influence-wielding coach. He didn’t have multiple college offers, which gives the quarterback an opportunity to pick the offense best suited to his skills and ambitions. It shouldn’t have worked out for Wentz, but it did. He refused to let his circumstances dictate what was possible, and his prodigious arm led the way.

“It was very clear to us, even at a young age, that he could make every throw we could ask him to make,” Walker says. “And that’s something that has carried him. He’s a leader, of course, and he can put the football wherever he wants.”

That piece has some really interesting info. Make sure you go read the whole thing.

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Some of you are numbers guys (and girls). I am not.

When you get into serious statistical discussions, I look on with no real sense of what is being presented. I had a similar feeling while reading this RotoViz story on rookie QBs and their likelihood to succeed. They used a variety of factors to figure out who is most likely to pan out.

Carson Wentz just barely beat out Jared Goff on this list.

Obviously it doesn’t mean anything, but it makes for some interesting reading. And you always like it when some study says your highly drafted QB isn’t going to totally suck.

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More on Bradford

Posted: May 10th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 234 Comments »

Football is a game. Professional football is a business.

You have to keep this in mind when discussing players and contracts. The Eagles have been an organization for a long time. Jeffrey Lurie has owned the team since 1994. Players only have a short time to be part of the NFL so they have to live in the moment more than the rest of us.

I don’t hate Sam Bradford. I’d drink a PBR with him and argue Terminator vs Terminator 2 or whatever interesting discussion we could conjure up.

I do hate stupidity. And I think Bradford and agent Tom Condon did some stupid things this spring.

We don’t know anything for a 100 percent fact, but it sure seems like Bradford saw an opening in Denver and decided he would rather be there than Philly. I don’t blame him for that. They have a better team and he would likely prefer living in the Rockies to the east coast. Fair enough.

I think Bradford and Condon botched the situation. Rather than working behind the scenes to create a trade, they went with the nuclear option. They backed the Eagles into a corner. John Elway wasn’t going to give up good compensation, knowing pressure was on the Eagles to move Bradford due to the holdout.

I’m sure Condon tried the subtle approach at first, but he sure didn’t seem to give it much time. As soon as Bradford’s holdout became public knowledge, Howie Roseman had no leverage. He was either going to give away his starting QB or keep an expensive distraction around.

Some of you have questioned just how much Condon could do. The Eagles didn’t give him permission to seek a trade. But you’re being very naive if you don’t think Condon talked to teams. Agents talk to GMs and coaches all the time. Condon is paid to know the market and to do the best for his client. The Eagles limited what he could do officially, but tampering goes on all the time.

Bradford and Condon tried to spin the situation in an utterly futile PR campaign that backfired and made Bradford look dumb and unsympathetic. Coaches and executives around the league were turned off because it sure appeared Bradford was scared to compete. That’s an oversimplification, but as Pat Shurmur so brilliantly said last year…this is a game full of PE majors. Sometimes simple becomes the truth.

And as for Bradford’s teammates, some of them were not happy with the trade demand. Teammates understand the business side of things, but they also understand the phrase “know your place”. Bradford was given a generous contract by the Eagles despite not being a star or anything close. If Bradford was an underpaid player, teammates would sympathize with him. If the team had somehow screwed him over, teammates would sympathize. That just wasn’t the case.

Let’s talk about Bradford’s treatment by the Eagles.

They went out and paid huge bucks to Brandon Brooks to make RG a strength. Stefen Wisniewski was added for OL depth and to challenge for a starting spot. They signed WRs Rueben Randle and Chris Givens to add depth. Givens best ever NFL season came with who at QB? Bradford. The team bolstered the defense with free agent moves and then added a pair of OL and a RB in the draft.

The Eagles did get rid of DeMarco Murray, Riley Cooper and Miles Austin. Is anyone gonna miss that trio?

It sure feels like the Eagles tried to fix the problem areas from last year. At the same time, they didn’t go nuts and make wholesale changes. They tried to upgrade rather than just making changes for the sake of making changes.

I don’t blame Bradford for wanting to go to Denver.

I do blame him for how he handled the situation and then how he and Condon tried to spin things. That just didn’t sit well with me. As I pointed out earlier, if Bradford plays well, all will be forgiven. If he doesn’t, the boos are going to be endless.

Who knows. Maybe the added pressure will  bring the best out of Bradford.

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Fletcher Cox is still staying away from the Eagles.

Cox is one of the best players in the league and is trying to get a long term deal. I have no problem with him or how he’s handling the situation.

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I’ll write a full post on Joe Douglas and the personnel situation once that becomes official news (and I finish all my research).

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He Caved

Posted: May 10th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 121 Comments »

Sam Bradford changed his mind and reported to the NovaCare Complex on Monday. I wonder what made him do that? Did he talk to someone who offered new perspective? Did he have a drug-induced revelation? Did he see the light on the way to Damascus (or Delaware)?

No. Reality set in.

Sammy had no real choices. He could have retired. But that would have cost him precious time and money. He could have waited for the state of Oklahoma to form its own league, where he would lead the Oklahoma Awesomes to 3 straight championships. Or he could suck it up and come back to the Eagles.

Bingo.

Sammy badly misplayed his hand. He didn’t get what he wanted and now he has to deal with the fallout from those actions. The good news here is that Sammy quit being an idiot soon enough that no real damage was done internally. He missed one week of voluntary activities. The coaches can live with that. They are happy to have their veteran QB return.

Teammates will give Sammy a hard time for a bit, but most will forgive him the first time he hits Zach Ertz down the seam with a tight spiral. In the end, players want to win. Chase Daniel is the plucky underdog and knows the offense better than anyone on the team. Carson Wentz is super talented and the future of the franchise. But the QB who gives the Eagles the best chance to win games right now is Sammy.

Here is a statement from Bradford:

“I’m excited to be back on the field today with my teammates and coaches. The business side of football is sometimes a necessary consideration. My attention and efforts are focused on the participation in and preparation for a championship season: I am committed to my teammates and the Eagles organization for nothing less.”

So I guess we’re going to win the Super Bowl. That would be cool.

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Les Bowen offered his take on the situation and made some great points.

As we go forward, every interaction between Bradford and Wentz is going to be scrutinized endlessly. Everything Wentz says is going to be deconstructed to highlight any differences between his personality and Bradford’s, or any implicit criticisms of Bradford. We’ve already seen this dynamic at work, when Wentz was asked about quarterbacks he admired and he (gasp!) didn’t include Bradford.

Everything Bradford says will be parsed for digs at management, Pederson, or Wentz. Every Bradford incomplete pass, every stalled drive, will bring grumbles from the stands.

To an extent, all of this was on tap even before the trade request. But now, with agent Tom Condon having proclaimed that Bradford “doesn’t view himself as a stopgap quarterback . . . He doesn’t want to be there holding a placecard, and then wondering where he’s going to go at the end of the year,” the microscope will zoom in much tighter.

Boy is Les right about that. Bradford will be living under a microscope. QBs in Philly get a lot of scrutiny on a good day, but he’s about to deal with a level of scrutiny that will make his life fairly miserable. Bradford can work his way out of that by playing at a very high level, but anything less and he’ll be answering utterly inane questions all season long.

And…

The hand played by Bradford and Condon seems to have held some lukewarm Broncos interest, and . . . uh, nothing. Condon didn’t have a trade in his back pocket. Bradford, owed $18 million this season, wasn’t willing to sit out long term. And if he had been, it’s hard to see how some team picking him up late in the process, months from now, would present a better opportunity for Bradford’s future than could be forged by playing well as the undisputed 2016 starter here.

Yet, in a podcast interview with former agent and Eagles executive Andrew Brandt recorded on April 28, Condon openly questioned how much clout Bradford will have with his teammates and predicted he would only be the starter “until the rookie is ready to go.”

Just what you’d want your agent to say on your behalf in such a circumstance, no doubt. Yet Bradford continues to let Condon shape how he is viewed.

Finessing the minefield that lies ahead with the Eagles and Wentz is going to take a lot of savvy, thoughtful navigation by Bradford – a guy who two weeks ago decided the best way to get around a roadblock was to drive his career into a tree.

I don’t know who is at fault more, Bradford or Condon. I get that Bradford wanted to go to Denver. That’s closer to home and is more his type of place to live. The Broncos are the reigning Super Bowl champs. But you can’t hope your way there. You have to know for a fact they’ll make a move. Howie Roseman wasn’t going to just hand over a starting QB for nothing. Condon had to work the phones and do a better job of feeling out that situation.

Either Condon was giving bad advice or Bradford was being ridiculously obstinate. That’s over now and it is humble pie time.

Don’t just nibble. Dig in and eat the whole damn thing.

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The New Guys

Posted: May 9th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 41 Comments »

This certainly seems like good news.

Rather than do a bunch of writing on these guys right now, I want to share a good story I came across.

Here is an in-depth look at how Joe Douglas and Andy Weidl helped the Ravens scout Joe Flacco.

It isn’t a short piece and offers plenty of interesting details. I think you’ll come away impressed by Douglas and Weidl. I’ve got plenty more research to do, but it sure feels like Howie Roseman made a pair of outstanding hires.

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All About the Passing Game

Posted: May 9th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 202 Comments »

Once the draft is over, I like to go back and look at the picks from a variety of angles. If you study them, you sometimes will see patterns emerge. I think I found one for this year.

My newest PE.com column is on how the Eagles used the 2016 draft to focus on the passing game, both on offense and defense.

Think about the 2015 Eagles. They had 23 TD passes. Opponents had 36. The Eagles had a QB rating of 85.6. Opponents were up at 92.8. Whether we are talking about volume or efficiency, the Eagles did not throw the ball well enough, nor did they defend the pass well enough.

Wentz is obvious.

Think about Seumalo. The Eagles took him over Le’Raven Clark, a player some thought might be a 1st round pick. Clark is an outstanding athlete and good run blocker, but he is highly erratic as a pass blocker. Instead, the Eagles took a G/C who is a good pass blocker. The Eagles also passed on C/G Graham Glasgow. He is a better run blocker than Seumalo, but isn’t as good a pass protector.

The Eagles took RB Wendell Smallwood in the 5th round. They passed on bigger or more physical RBs like Jonathan Williams, Alex Collins, Kelvin Taylor and Darius Jackson. Smallwood caught 68 passes at WVa. He lined up in the slot or as an outside receiver at times. He also showed the ability to be a solid pass blocker. The other backs were good runners, but less proven in the passing game.

Big V was the next pick. He was an OT with good feet. The Eagles took him over Fahn Cooper, a RT from Ole Miss. They passed on Sebastian Tretola, an OG who is a mauling run blocker. Vadal Alexander could play RT or OG and was a terrific run blocker. The Eagles got Vaitai, with his outstanding feet and potential to become a starting LT.

The Eagles added a pair of versatile DBs in Blake Countess and Jalen Mills. Right now both are listed at Safety. The Eagles passed over Jeremy Cash, who was a terrific run defender and big SS. They ignored Tyvis Powell, who had cover skills and good size. The Eagles wanted Safeties with man cover skills.

I know a lot of fans were upset with the team for passing on Cash. I watched almost all of his games for the past 2 years. Cash is a gifted player, but is made for the NFL of 10 years ago, when a SS could live in the box and play a defined role. Think Mike Zordich. Cash doesn’t have the quickness, agility or man cover skills teams want these days. That said, I’m still shocked he wasn’t drafted.

The other picks were DE Alex McCalister and ILB Joe Walker. McCalister is a pass rusher that might be able to contribute right away. I’m sure the Eagles were happy he was still on the board at that point. The Eagles chose Walker over players like Dominique Alexander, Jared Norris, Eric Striker, Steve Longa and Terrance Smith. None of those players came close to his combination of size, speed and agility. Walker is more likely to help in the passing game than those players.

A lot of teams talked about wanting to get bigger and more physical during the draft. They focused on size, strength and power. The Eagles wanted athletes who could help the passing game or help stop the passing game. Based purely on picks, it looks like the Eagles did a good job. Now we have to see how the players perform.

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